by David ‘Prismo’ Piccola
Story ©2010 David Piccola

Characters: Tom ©2006 Equestrian Horse Wrangler
Tazel ©2007 David Piccola
Sexy Dance ©2010 Nicole Riley, Alley Encounter ©2010 Dojo

Home -=- #29 -=- ANTHRO #29 Stories
-= ANTHRO =-

This story is a sequel to Helping Hands, by Equestrian Horse Wrangler

   “Don’t you ever play darts normally?”
   I smirked at Patrick, who was leaning against the side of the fire station rec room wall. He’s a golden retriever; I’m a rabbit. He shook his head as I flung another set of three darts at the board.
   “What can I say? I happen to like efficiency,” I said, my smirk growing. “You’re just jealous I can actually hit what I aim at.” My long ears twitched as I heard the canine sigh, muttering something about ‘rabbits’ and ‘luck’. Didn’t catch all of it, though.
   I stepped back from the line, and with a sweeping gesture of my upper left arm, allowed Patrick to step up for his turn. “Your turn, Sahib.”
   I could almost hear Patrick rolling his eyes as he took his dart and aimed it. “You’re such a weirdo, sometimes,” he said. “And I don’t mean the arms.” he continued, grinning.
   I grinned back, propping myself up on a table with my lowers while my upper left hand reached for a drink. I knew he didn’t mean the arms, but sometimes it’s just nice to hear a ‘normal’ person say that to you. Makes you feel like you’re a normal person yourself.
   As Patrick continued to abuse the board with his errant shots, I thought back to recent events: The apartment fire, the raccoon child I’d saved, the Fire Department’s huge media extravaganza where they gave me medals and paraded me in front of more cameras than I could count. It would be nice if this kind of thing happened every time a life is saved—God knows there are heroes like that every day, who deserve more recognition than a simple rabbit doing his job—but the department insisted. They wanted the world to know they not only had a hero, but one with The Condition (the common name for the genetic aberration of being born with four fully functional arms) working for them.
   I sipped my soda and ran my upper right through my hairfur. A day or so ago, I was lamenting the extra arms, believing that they’d always make me an outcast, that I couldn’t do anything worthwhile with them—accepting the fact that I would always be a freak, and a target of ridicule.
   It took a single fire to change that—now the phone won’t stop ringing with all these TV stations wanting to do interviews with me. I think I have a better voice than image, so I wouldn’t mind radio or phone interviews as much—but of course, nobody could see all of my arms on the radio. Doesn’t help that I’m still camera-shy, either…
   “Tom? Tom! Wake up, bunny!”
   I snapped back into the present with an undignified “Huh?” Patrick was standing in front of me, jerking his thumb at the board. “Get your darts—it’s your turn!” He smirked briefly. “What, you been daydreaming again?”
   I put my soda down and pushed myself off the table with my lowers, then deftly picked up all three darts with three separate hands. “Yeah, yeah… been thinking about the last couple of days.” I replied to him, as I approached the line. “The whole ceremony deal, all the phone calls…”
   I could see Patrick nod. “Yeah, it’s been crazy here. But hey, man, if it helps, you don’t have to prove anything else, y’know?”
   I stopped and turned to him. “What do you mean?”
   Patrick shrugged, then looked around to make sure nobody else was nearby. Then he continued in a more hushed tone. “Guys like Darren, they gotta feel superior by tearing down someone else, right? But that won’t fly here. We gotta support each other.”
   He put his hand on one of my right shoulders. “You saved Darren, too—we heard about it from Cappy, cause Darren’s keeping his muzzle shut. No wonder; I mean, after all the crap he’s put you through, you still saved him. That says a lot, man. And you’ve got the respect of the whole station for that. Whatever that mook says, you’re a hero to that raccoon kid and her mom, and you’re always welcome here.”
   I smiled, a respectful and warm smile. “Thanks, Pat. That means a lot to me, too.” I said, as I turned back to the board. “Let’s see… I need a sixteen and an eighteen to win, so…”
   I raised my two right hands, a dart in each one, and simultaneously speared them at the board… and grinned with satisfaction as the darts hit their marks perfectly.
   I could hear Patrick groan, burying his face in his hands. I smiled and handed him the unused dart in my lower left hand: “There! Didn’t use all three at once. And you’re buying tonight,” I said, gently poking at him with my upper left index finger.
   Patrick went wide eyed. “Of all the lucky shots…” he grumbled, his eyes narrowing at me. I felt a little nervous—those damn prey instincts rearing up again—but I knew he wasn’t going to attack or anything.
   I shook my head. “Nuh-uh! Not luck. See, in all this, I just had the upper hand,” I quipped, waving my uppers at him.
   The tortured groan I heard was worth it. Worth it all.

   After shift change, I was a white-furred dervish in my room, grabbing several pieces of clothing at once and trying desperately to find something that was clean and presentable enough to wear in public. Yes, we rabbits are quick—that’s mostly how we escaped predators before the desegregation laws passed—but when you have to try to coordinate four arms into dressing and you’re in a hurry, it detracts somewhat from your speed.
   “Hey, puffball! Hurry up! We’re gonna be late!”
   Ben’s melodious basso voice belied his species—a rat should sound meek and squeaky, but Ben’s voice was deep and forceful. Really, he should be doing voiceover for movie previews and commercials; with his commanding tones, you’d have a hard time ignoring him, if not obeying out of sheer awe.
   Luckily, Hollywood’s loss was our gain; I just knew him as another one of the guys. “I’m coming! Keep your shirt on!” I called back down, as my lowers grabbed some jeans and slid them on, and my uppers tried to open the hem of a pullover polo shirt with four sleeves.
   Time was that I sometimes tried to hide my extra arms under a too-big shirt, keeping the lowers glued to my sides. But ever since the fire and the publicity, I’ve found that I don’t want to hide them as much. I get the same amount of looks, yeah, but I also get some respectful glances and whisperings from people who had seen the TV reports, the ceremony or the newspaper.
   They knew I wasn’t just some four-armed weirdo. They knew the city called me a hero, and there had to be a reason for that.
   “Tom! Speed! Now!”
   Dammit—“Almost ready!” I called back. I quickly slipped my spray deodorant up my shirt and sprayed under three arms, then switched to another hand and got the fourth. (As a matter of fact, I do get jibes about how I go through the stuff twice as fast as anybody else). Then I yanked my shirt on, and let it fall over my outstretched arms.
   I reached for my wallet on the dresser, and BAMF!! I winced and held my lower right hand in pain, as it too went for the dresser and smacked right into it. I growled softly and slowly picked up the wallet and keys. That’s what I get for trying to maneuver quicker than my body’s comfortable with.
   Shaking off the pain, I flew down the stairs to an impatient Ben, looking at his watch. “Come on, fuzzy! The others are waiting for you!” he said, sprinting off towards the outside. I followed suit, slicking my hair back a bit.
   Outside, Patrick, Preston and Cliff were waiting in the idling van. They lit up when I came out. “Finally!” Patrick said. “Let’s go, guys!” Ben and I piled into the back seat, and Preston drove us away before we could even close the door.
   I sat in the back bench seat and looped the seat belt around my waist. “Where are we going?”
   The fox in the driver’s seat just smiled, while Patrick turned back to me and chuckled. “You’ll see.” Cliff was chuckling, too—being the newest fireman on our team, he got the back back seat duty, but he seemed to be taking it in stride.
   “Yeah, Tom,” he chimed in, the tabby’s tail waving anxiously. “You’ll like this. We found a place just for you.”
   I know I wasn’t in any danger, but those prey instincts were starting up again. I knew these guys were up to something! I put my upper right hand to my forehead. “You’d just better not embarass me.” I said, smirking.
   The whole van laughed as we drove on. And twenty minutes later, we pulled up to a slightly dilapidated establishment. I peered out the window to read the sign: ‘SensualiTease’.
   My ears drooped. “Oh, no,” I said, closing my eyes and shaking my head. “Not a strip club…” I looked around at all the grinning faces, and immediately felt my fur stand on edge around my neck.
   Yup: I was in trouble.
   “It’s about time we got to have a little fun. Come on!” said Patrick as he left the van. I looked at Preston, who just shot me this grin—the grin of vengeance. Guess I drummed my fingers a bit too long for him.
   “I’m gonna get you back for this.” I said under my breath, and Preston smiled even wider.
   We all went inside; Cliff bouncing in the front, Ben and Patrick, then me, all four hands in my pockets as I slouched, being corralled by Preston in the back. Now, I’m as straight as they come, but I don’t enjoy nudie bars, and never have. I just don’t care for the attitude, the tactless leering and the girls who put themselves on show for money.
   Some guys got their jollies doing this; I didn’t. I happen to think love and sex and all the romantic notions are worthwhile, but they have to be done right. Not like this.
   The place was not seedy, but it wasn’t high class either. More like it wanted to be high class, very much so, but hadn’t figured out how to do it. It was a mishmash of styles—Roman columns, steel fixtures, polished brass booths. I’m no designer, but it all seemed like the place’s decor was an afterthought, as everything circled around a huge stage with poles propped up on it.
   We got ourselves a table, and this feline waitress came over… almost totally naked, save for a strip of cloth over her chest and in between her thighs. Cliff was just about shaking in his chair. I put all my elbows on the table and buried my head in my arms. “What will you fine studs be having tonight?” she purred. She was probably the definition of the word ‘tease’.
   Patrick, the funnyman, grinned. “How about you?” he said with a wink. She laughed and poked him with her pencil eraser.
   “That’s a special you can’t afford, hon,” she shot back. The others chuckled as Patrick went red in the face and ears, but he laughed along with them regardless. Despite all their kidding around, this was a good bunch of guys to be around.
   Drink orders came and went, and when she got to me, I raised my head. “A coke, please,” I said, smiling. She nodded, then she saw my extra arms. “Oh! You must be here for Tazel.”
   I blinked and looked at her—what an odd question. “Tazel? Who’s Tazel?” I said, genuinely confused.
   The waitress made an ‘ahh’ face and nodded, winking to me and the boys. “You’ll see.” she said and sashayed off. Cliff was gripping the table in a hormonal frenzy, watching the waitress’ every move.
   I turned to Preston and elbowed him twice, lightly. “Who’s Tazel?” I repeated. Preston just shrugged and smiled. I looked around at the others—and got nothing but grinning stares back at me.
   Great. A conspiracy.
   I looked over the room at the clientele—and found exactly what I expected to: Single men, mostly, staring into their drinks, and looking for something more exciting to look at. The place smelled of liquor and a bit of sweat. I saw bikers, construction workers, guys in suits and the like. I swivelled my ears around to pick up the sounds of businessmen talking into their cell phones—one told his wife that he had to ‘work late at the office’. Pathetic.
   The waitress came back, much to Cliff’s delight, with our drinks. I sipped my soda as the others did the same with theirs, glancing around. They were talking with each other, about the recent fire, the football game on Sunday—guy talk, mostly. Preston elbowed me back. “Cheer up, gloombunny!” the fox said with a grin. “You’ll like this, I promise.”
   I looked back at him and smirked. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” I replied.
   It was then that the lights began to dim, and a voice came over the sound system. “And now, gentlemen, we present for your ogling pleasure—the ladies of SensualiTease!” And with that, the stage filled with very attractive women, in all manner of costumes to satisfy almost every kink out there. A rabbit in a cop uniform winked at me before she swung around on her pole and took out a set of handcuffs, winking suggestively. I chuckled. “Gonna need more than that…” I murmured, to the whooping delight of my friends.
   While every one of these women was extremely beautiful, I just couldn’t get into the ogling, nor did I find a reason to get my hands involved with money like the others were. This was like any other strip club I’d seen, and if there was anything ‘special’ here, so far I’d missed it. “So guys, when does this ‘special’ girl come out? I’m getting hungry,” I said. It was a lie, but it would be a good excuse to get out of there and go somewhere else.
   When the last of the ladies left the stage, the voice came back over the speakers: “And now, gentlemen, SensualiTease is proud to present our star attraction! Put your hands together for… Tazel!”
   The room, which had previously been imbued with an air of anticipation, now seemed to erupt in hearty applause, catcalls and whistles. My table joined in the noisemaking as I looked on stage.
   The music system was playing a tune from the Middle East—possibly Indian in nature, or maybe Moroccan. I saw the spotlight on the stage come on at the curtain, then a long, slender arm emerged, covered in indigo fur. The hand at the end had one of those finger cymbals, which clicked in time to the music.
   It was actually a nice piece of music, and I was beginning to be intruiged. The arm came out, lightly covered in a gauzy veil of silk—the sleeve of a harem girl’s outfit. When the rest of her came out, I smiled.
   A blue/indigo vixen emerged with a veil over her muzzle, and sheer, transparent silks crossing around her body at almost all angles. She had a similar cybalette in her other hand; both clacked to the rhythm as she stepped fully out from behind the curtain, using every step to accentuate her long-legged beauty, her sinuous motion.
   I could hear moans and murmurs coming from the patrons, including my own table. I could understand why—this girl knew how to move, how to get her way simply by swaying.
   The dance continued as she went to the center of the stage, her cymballettes clicking. But I thought something was wrong—there was too much clicking. These ears of mine pick up a lot of sounds, and right now, it was like an echo of the cymbals… coming from behind her.
   She started moving her arms up and down, like a Tibetian dancer might do. And I saw why I was hearing four cymballettes: She had four arms! The lower arms (expertly hidden by the costume) came up and worked in flawless motion with the uppers, the dance continuing as the music started to speed up.
   She had The Condition, too! And she used it to devastating effect.
   The audience was entranced, some of them not appreciating the art of the moment and focusing on more obvious things: “Show off those boobs, honey!” “Can you give me a hand or two, darlin’?” I rolled my eyes. Those people just can’t wrap their minds around anything but the sex or the freak aspect.
   The music changed slightly, becoming more sensual. Definitely harem music. She deftly started undressing, much to the pleasure of the patrons, leaving just a piece of gauzy cloth covering her chest. Only… it was a rather wide piece of cloth. She didn’t seem to be extending out that far with her breasts…
   But the silk was translucent, and I clearly saw what made Tazel so exotic… well, more exotic than the extra arms. The Condition went the extra mile for her: She had four breasts—the top pair was the larger, but even the bottom two were still prominent.
   Hoots and catcalls filled the room at that sight. I was amazed; I think I read where there were very, very rare cases of polymastia with the Condition, but they were not as well formed and simply outstanding as what we were seeing on the stage.
   Star attraction, indeed.
   Tazel shimmied up to the side of the stage, where most guys had their hands stretched out, money waving in the air. Tazel found a businessman offering two ten-dollar bills, and slid up to him, sensuously stroking his arm with all four of her hands. You could almost see him melt. He seemed to be a regular, because she winked at him and lifted up her cloth on her dual chest, showing off both pairs of cleavage. The man dutifully stuck one bill in each set of cleavage, as Tazel let out a soft murr and blew him four kisses at once.
   I was less interested in the obvious teasing than in the dance and the girl herself. She came back up and looked over to our table, and her hazel eyes found me. She looked surprised for a moment, like she recognized me, and then her face lit up as she swung around the pole (grabbing with a couple hands) towards us.
   It was then I felt something pressed into one of my right hands—a ten-dollar bill. I looked over and found Preston grinning again: “Go ahead, Tom. She’s waiting for you.” I gulped and looked back at Tazel, who was now hovering over me, grinning.
   Did I mention how much I hated nudie bars? That instinct was screaming in my head: “YOU HAVE A STRANGE FOX LICKING HER LIPS OVER YOU! RUN!!” And then another instinct rose up in me—one that was more interested in playing than fleeing… I shook my head briefly as I looked up, and saw Tazel’s hands—all four of them—outstretched to me.
   I couldn’t resist. I raised all four of my hands, and touched their palms to hers. She lit up again, and closed her hands over mine, squeezing them, one taking the money out of my hand. My heart was beating so loud I couldn’t hear much else, except the murmurs of some less-than-delighted patrons that there was ‘another one’ here. I sighed inside—they would never accept us, I feared.
   Tazel took the money and stuck it in her upper cleavage, and blew me four kisses at once, and added a wink. I smiled and returned the blowing kisses gesture to her—a gesture she seemed quite impressed with. She was beautiful, of course, but also there was a sadness in her eyes. To see her work at a place like this, I can understand the sadness.
   Some of the bikers were jumping up, trying to get Tazel to take their money, and possibly cop a feel. But the vixen wisely avoided them. Apparently this did not sit well with some of them, one of them calling her a stuck-up bitch. I glared at them, my hands balling up into fists… and it was the first time in a while I could remember my flight-or-fight feelings pushing me to ‘fight’.
   To protect Tazel? Maybe. I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that my instincts were yelling at me that something was going to happen.
   Ben was the first to notice my reaction. “Tom…” he murmured in his low voice, “ease off. They’re not worth it.”
   I glared back at the rat. “She doesn’t deserve the names they’re calling her, Ben. It’s wrong, and you know it.”
   Ben pursed his lips and bowed his head.
   Yes, he knew.
   Then the music died down and the voice came back over the crackly P.A. system: “We thank you all for attending. Our next show will be tomorrow at the same time! Hope to see you back again!” The lights came back up and waitresses bustled about, refilling drinks and bringing tabs.
   The other guys were talking about something—I didn’t hear what, I wasn’t paying attention. I was scanning the area, looking for that vixen. I wanted to talk to her, about her arms, her condition, her life here. I wanted to simply know more about her.
   “…Isn’t that right, Tom?”
   Another undignified, “Huh?” came from me as I turned towards Cliff. The others looked on expectantly. “Sorry, I wasn’t listening.”
   Cliff exchanged glances with the others. “You okay, man?” Preston asked. “You seem distracted.”
   Patrick grinned. “I told you guys Tazel’d glaze him over, didn’t I?” he crowed. Preston waved him away and looked concernedly at me. “Seriously, Tom, you okay?”
   I nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just… I want to talk to her.”
   Patrick’s smile got wider and the others just grinned. “Man, she did lock you down, didn’t she?” asked Cliff.
   I was about to reply to Cliff when I heard Ben growl—I still can’t get used to a small rat giving a growl that would make a lion quiver. “Dammit, we gotta get back to the station! I’m missing the playoff run tonight!” The others groaned and protested, but Ben stood up and headed to the car. It was amazing we were able to pry him away from his basketball games enough just for this night.
   Everyone else reluctantly rose up, paid their bills (Patrick got mine, as he promised), and followed the rat outside. The canine hung back and looked at me. “You coming, Tom?”
   I looked back at the curtain where Tazel had disappeared to. “You guys go on, I’m going to see if I can talk to her.”
   Patrick grinned again and shook his head. “Man, she did glaze you, didn’t she? Well, get back soon; second shift’s gonna need duty relief.”
   I nodded and double-patted his back. “Thanks, Pat.” I rose up, left a tip, and made my way back to the curtain area. On the way, I stuck one of my left hands in my front pocket and felt for my cell phone. I pulled it out and checked the battery… Yup, still good. It was a quality model, with all the bells and whistles; GPS tracking, loudspeaker, and so on.
   Time to make my move.
   When I got to the curtain, I started to duck behind it, only to run into a wall of muscle and fur. I looked up—way up—into the face of a rather large bear, very muscular, with the word ‘Security’ emblazoned on his black t-shirt. “Sorry, pal. Nobody goes backstage but performers and staff.”
   Drat. “But I just want to talk to her, that’s all.”
   The bear made a ‘pfft’ sound and chuckled. “Yeah, that’s what they all say. You wanna talk to her, gotta wait outside like everyone else.”
   I sighed and nodded, and made my way outside through the rest of the tacky establishment. The night had fallen with a vengeance, dark clouds obscuring what light there was. And I found myself staring up at the clouds, and the stars that twinkled in spots between them.
   I always find it a surprise to see anyone else with the ‘Condition’ in public, but to be this overt about it? Wow! At least Tazel had a great body. But those eyes… I really wanted to know why she was demeaning herself like this. Maybe she didn’t know any better. Maybe she—
   My ear twitched as I heard a door close. But not the front door—it was a side door to the club. I peered around the side, and saw Tazel, dressed in a long coat (despite the warmish weather) being let out by the security bruin. “Night, Taze.” he said, smiling.
   She turned back and smiled to him. “Night, Victor. Thanks,” she said back. She had a very pretty voice—not quite a singer’s voice, but pleasant. The door closed and Tazel made her way towards the back of the club.
   I felt my hands rub against each other, wringing. It’s now or never, Tom, I reminded myself.
   And quickly, I found myself sprinting down the alleyway. “Tazel!” I shouted out.
   The vixen whirled around and backpedalled a bit—a fearful response to her name—but when she saw it was me, she relaxed. “Oh, it’s you! The four-armed bunnyboy!” she said, stepping towards me.
   I grinned sheepishly. “Uhh, yeah, I just wanted to say, um, that was a hell of a show. I don’t go to these clubs often—my friends kinda dragged me in here, y’know. I think it was on a bet or something, and…” I shut my muzzle for a moment and blushed deep pink in my ears. “God, I’m rambling. Sorry…”
   Tazel laughed and swished her tail under the coat. I could see two hands grabbing at its edge. The other two were probably hidden in the folds of the coat. So she wasn’t that overt about it. “It’s okay. I didn’t expect the hero of the city to come here.”
   That blush came back twice as hard. “Hero? Oh, the fire… you recognized me?”
   “Not that many four-armed buck bunnies out there,” she pointed out. “Even fewer whose face was plastered over the newspapers and TV screens.”
   I sighed. “I swear, I never wanted all that attention.”
   “Not to worry. Your name was… Tim? No, Tom!” she said, snapping her fingers.
   I nodded. “Well, guess we don’t have to worry about introductions, hmm?” I looked at her hands. “Can I buy you a cup of coffee or something?”
   Tazel looked at my face—stared, almost. “No.” she replied. My heart sank—I was really hoping to talk to her.
   “Oh, I understand. I’m sorry if—”
   She put up one of her hidden hands in a ‘stop’ gesture. “But you can buy me a drink.” she continued, grinning.
   I stopped blabbering and grinned back. “Oh, s-sure! Here? Or somewhere else?”
   “Somewhere else, if you don’t mind. I don’t like getting drinks where I work.” She leaned forward and whispered, “I think the bartender waters down the liquor.”
   I laughed and smiled, and extended two right hands out to her. “Madam, I’d be honored to have your company.” Oh yes, I could be charming when the time came. Curiously, I wasn’t even thinking about it. It was happening automatically.
   Apparently it was the right thing to do, as Tazel smiled and took her two left hands and put them in mine. “Monsieur…” she replied back, smiling.
   I couldn’t believe my good fortune—here was a very beautiful femme willing to let me buy her a drink. On top of that, we both had the Condition, so conversation should be very free-flowing.
   That’s when my fortune took a wrong turn: Two unfriendly figures were silhouetted at the entrance of the alleyway. The glare from the alleyway’s single bulb reflected off their leather jackets, and their chains jingled omniously.
   I took Tazel’s two hands in mine a little more protectively, now. “We’re not alone.” I whispered to her.
   The two figures stepped forward, and two more filled in behind them—the four bikers from the club earlier had apparently waited as I had for Tazel. Only I was sure their intentions were less amicable than mine.
   “Welllll, just look what we got here, boys,” one of them—a mottled rottweiler—leered: “A freakshow!” he spat out, to the chuckles and grunts of his cohorts.
   My instincts were screaming at the top of their imagined lungs for me to run like the wind. One wolf wore a set of brass knuckles, and another wolf behind the leader was brandishing a serrated knife. This was not good. Tazel saw that, too; her eyes went wide and she shivered visibly.
   Instincts be damned, I wasn’t going to let Tazel get hurt! I stepped in front of her, putting myself between them and her. I put my upper hands out in a defensive pose, the lower two at my side. “Hey, c’mon, nobody wants to get hurt here.” I said. Great, Tom—way to instill confidence in everyone. Might as well have handed them a daffodil.

   The rottweiler narrowed his eyes and spat at me. “Correction, freak,” he said, stepping forward as Tazel and I backpedalled. “You two don’t wanna get hurt. But we ain’t gonna feel a thing when we pound you into rabbit food and get our money’s worth outta that bitch!”
   I could feel Tazel’s hands—all four of them—on my shoulders, squeezing. “Tom… just go. I’ve been in this before. I’ll be alright. I don’t want you hurt.” she whispered.
   There must be some sort of ‘macho’ part of the brain that kicks on whenever a male is defending a female, so no matter how much sense a suggestion might make to anyone else, the only one who doesn’t get it is the intended subject. I stood my ground, putting a hand on one of hers. “I’ve got a plan. We just have to stall them.” With that, a left hand slipped into my pocket and pressed a particular button on my cell phone.
   “Yeah, let the bitch go! Whassa matter, whore? We ain’t good enough for you to take our money on the stage?” shouted out one of the wolves. “Gonna put all those hands and tits to good use, ain’t ya?” shouted out the other, all of them getting riled up—I saw one of them fondle his crotch.
   “Follow my lead,” Tazel whispered into one of my ears. I narrowed my eyes at the assailants, but inside I was worried. What did she have planned?
   She stepped out from behind me and threw open her coat. “Okay, but you know I’ll only give a private performance for the strongest and most virile man, so… which of you lucky guys is it going to be, hm?”
   I smiled inwardly and looked at Tazel like I didn’t believe her. In response, she cracked a tiny smile with the corner of her mouth that faced me. She wasn’t some dumb stripper, that’s for sure.
   Predictably, every member of the biker group decided he was the biggest and baddest. Of course, each one was starting to argue with the others, even getting to shoving and severe name calling. It was like throwing four bullies into a pit and letting them go at each other.
   Perfect distraction, I thought at her. Now, if only my end comes up…
   The rottweilers barked out, “All of you shut up!” Apparently, he was the alpha, as the others quickly quieted down. “I run this gang, so I get her first!” He whipped out a pistol—a .45—and brandished it around. “Any complaints?”
   That really shut everyone up, including Tazel and I. But then I heard my salvation approaching in the background.
   “And you, you four-armed freak of a rabbit? You got 3 seconds to get the hell out of here before I make you normal by blowin’ off two of those arms.”
   I gulped. There was that instinct again—run, you idiot! run!—but I fought it back heavily and stepped in front of Tazel. “No. You want to get to her, you’ll have to go through me. If you shoot me, you could hit her, and then you won’t have any fun.”
   The rottweiler bared his teeth and put away the gun. “Have it your way, dead man.” he said, and pulled out a knife from his boot. He was advancing on me, and I was surprised at how calmly I was taking my imminent death. I looked at Tazel’s face; if I was going to die tonight, I want her face to be the last thing I see…
   Then one of the wolves behind the leader grabbed his shoulder. “Teek! Sirens—the cops are coming!”
   The rottweiler turned and perked his ear. “What?! Aw, shit! Someone must’ve 911’d us!” The others were starting to run for their bikes as the siren’s wail grew louder and louder.
   The rottweiler—’Teek’, apparently, not that I cared—was the last to leave. He really wanted to stick that knife in my gut, and stick something else in Tazel… but without his posse to back him up, he didn’t feel as confident. “Next time, bitch, you’re mine,” he growled as he flung the knife at her. I quickly pulled her to me, the knife barely missing her left shoulders, as the dog quickly scurried around the corner. I could hear motorcyles revving up and peeling out in addition to the growing volume of sirens. I could even see the flashing lights.
   After the bikers had left, I hugged the vixen tight, and she hugged me back. “My Hero,” she whispered to me. Then she put a kiss on my cheek.
   I think my ears were on fire; they were blushing so hard you could have seen them from space. For once, I didn’t have a thing for any of my hands to do as they laid limpy at my side. “I… urrm… uugh…” Apparently my vocal chords were in similar dire straits.
   The sound of doors slamming and men running brought me out of my haze. One of the men noticed us. “He’s over here!” I heard a voice shout. A low, commanding voice, that sounds just like—
   “Ben!” I shouted out gleefully, and walked Tazel hand in hand… in hand in hand… to the front to meet up with my firefighting friends and co-workers. The others from the group came over and smiled as one. “Man, we can’t leave you alone for five minutes, can we?” quipped Preston. Cliff went back to kill the siren and lights.
   Tazel went wide-eyed. “How did you know to come back?” she asked the fox.
   I smiled and fished in my pocket for my phone, which was on a call. “One-touch dialing,” I replied, gesturing to Patrick, who fished out a similar phone from his pocket. “We all have an ‘emergency’ button that broadcasts where we are, in case someone becomes unable to use the phone to call for help. Kinda like those ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ things, y’know?” he explained.
   Tazel nodded as Patrick continued, “We got updated models that also hook our phones up to a GPS system in the truck. When we were driving back, we got Tom’s signal, so we came back, with sirens and lights to get us here quicker.” The retriever looked significantly at the mouth of the alleyway. “Looks like we were just in time.”
   I nodded, putting a hand on a shoulder of all four of my comrades. “I owe you all one. Thanks,” I said, smiling.
   “Hey, we’re a team,” Ben replied. “You’d do the same for us. You two okay?”
   Tazel nodded. “Tom helped save me from those bikers. Wasn’t for him, I might have been killed,” she said, blushing. The others nodded and chuckled. “Yeah,” Preston continued, despite a warning glare from me, “He’s going headlong into the hero business, it seems!”
   More atomic blushing from my ears. I turned back to the blue vixen. “You sure you’re okay?”
   She replied by kissing me. On the muzzle. For a brief moment, all my hands just flailed everywhere, and I think my ears and tail fuzzed out to twice their normal fur length. I think I heard the others whooping and clapping, but otherwise, all my senses were shut out. When she let go, I was really glazed over. “Bahhu… huaa…” I grunted out.
   Tazel laughed gently and mussed my hair with three of her hands, while slipping a card into my pocket with her fourth. “Call me. Soon.” she whispered, giving me a squeeze. Then, raising her voice to speak to everybody: “I’m alright, boys. I’m gonna go home. Thanks for the help.” She winked back at me and walked back down the alleyway.
   I just stood there, muzzle hanging open, all my hands at my sides, totally unresponsive. Preston came up, stuck his finger under my chin, and pushed upwards. “For the future, that’s a better look for you.” he said, grinning. I snapped out of my daze and shoved playfully at the fox.
   “So, didja get her number?” Cliff asked. “And does she have a sister?”
   I glared at the tabby and grinned. “I’ll see her again. But not here.” I said, fishing out the club’s business card. Chuckles all around flared up as I silently read what she had written on the back: ‘I mean it, Hero. Call me.’ And then her number. When did she have time to write that down?
   The others got back into the truck, and I followed suit. I’d had enough of this place, and was eager to get back to the station, even if I was getting on-shift. It didn’t matter—I knew that even if nothing happens between me and the vixen, that this break from routine was just what I needed to get back into the swing of things. I could easily have taken abuse from Darren for a week after that.
   I would call her. Oh, yes. And invite her to dinner. Hopefully without needing a truck full of chaperones to accompany me.
   As we drove back to the station, I thought about how lucky I was.
   I looked down at my four hands, and smiled. No, I reminded myself, it wasn’t luck.
   I just had the upper hand.

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