Every day life.

 

 

 

Ekaterina sat back on her heels in the water, Patch stroking the soles of her hind feet.

  “I can feel everything now, everything!”  Ekaterina sobbed.

         “I know,” Patch replied, “Lovely isn’t it.”  Ekaterina curled her toes, her pads bunching beneath her mate’s touch, Patch pressing the ball of her right foot, Ekaterina gasping with pleasure and excitement.

        “This is amazing!”  She gasped.

        “Bare feet are wonderful things,” Patch replied smiling, counting her toes.

          “They are wonderful indeed,” Ekaterina replied slightly breathlessly.

        “Your pads will become wrinkled very shortly,” Patch replied.

       “If I curl my toes tightly, I can help them along the way,” Ekaterina replied laughing slightly.

        “You are the most beautiful creature on four paws,” Patch said.  Ekaterina whimpered with pleasure as Patch drew his paws down the wrinkled soles of her feet and counted her toes, gently uncurling them, then stroking her somewhat smoothed soles.  Ekaterina wriggled with pleasure, loving her mate’s touch.

        “I could stay here forever,” Ekaterina sighed, getting out of the bathtub, Patch following her, stroking her hind feet, both bears crawling to the shower room.

     “Thank goodness for the lower infrared sensors for the use of cubs,” Ekaterina said as they were soaked by the shower, “it means we can keep in touch while we shower.”  Patch laughed and kept stroking her feet, Ekaterina pressing her foot into Patch’s paws, Patch lying on his chest behind her, his paws cradling and stroking each of her feet in turn from heels to toes, Ekaterina leaning forward, her weight on her paws, enjoying how having her foot cradled in Patch’s paws thrilled her.  Patch blocked the flow of water over the sole of Ekaterina’s right foot with his paw, the water backing up in his cupped paw, rising up the pads on the sole of Ekaterina’s foot, Patch letting the water go, the water gushing over Ekaterina’s toes, the she bear curling her toes, the water flicking off them and splashing onto the tiles, Patch watching it, then repeating his actions, Ekaterina shivering with pleasure as she and her mate played with the water and with her foot, the sensations making her happy but tearful.

       “This is true play!”  She said, “I love it!”  Patch grinned broadly.

        “I love playing with you Ekaterina,” Patch replied laughing...

        “Foot and paw play is wonderful Patch,” Ekaterina replied dreamily.  Patch washed Ekaterina from ears to feet, the she bear almost purring with pleasure.

       “Can you teach me solo foot play as well as group play?”  Ekaterina asked.

       “I will,” Patch replied smiling, “I’ll help you by demonstrating what you could do.  You could lock your toes together; press your heels together too.  then we could press heels and toes together also, then play silly bicycle games, pedalling with our feet in a pedalling motion, left right, left right, really fast, until our feet slip.  .I will show you how.  Silly games, then there’s a sea saw game, where we each push each other’s feet both feet together, bending each other’s legs back and fourth, back and fourth.  Very silly games.”  Ekaterina shook with laughter at Patch’s descriptions of the games.

       “I would love to play those games,” Ekaterina said, her eyes sparkling.

        “If we really get into them, your pads will become damp, and we will have to shower all over again,” Patch said.

       “I’m all for that too,” Ekaterina giggled.

        “Your new feet are very good playthings,” Patch replied.

      “I think I will enjoy this new play,” Ekaterina replied smiling.

       “I know I will,” Patch replied, “I’m looking forward to teaching the games I last taught Jess years ago.  She and I learnt how to play with our paws and feet.”  Ekaterina said:

       “Patch, would you do something for me?”

       “What?”  Patch asked.

       “Teach me like you would a cub?”

         “You mean show you by repeating the games over and over?”  Patch asked smiling.

       “Yes, please,” Ekaterina replied.

         “I’ll get into a position, and then you can touch me, and try to copy me,” Patch replied.  Ekaterina washed Patch, exploring him from his ears to his feet, taking care to keep the soap out of his eyes and mouth.

          “You can really make a bear feel loved,” Patch said as Ekaterina worked her paws over his hind feet, his toes curling tightly.

         “I love this,” Patch said, stretching under the showers.

      “I’m looking forward to playing the bicycle game,” Ekaterina mused, drawing circles on the pads of Patch’s right foot, Patch’s toes curled slightly, his pads bunched, Ekaterina loving the feel of his pads beneath hers.

        “Now let’s get dry, and then we can touch heels to heels, toes to toes, and see what happens,” Ekaterina said, “I want this so much Patch!”

         “I’ll show you your paws and feet Ekaterina,” Patch said smiling, leaning forward and kissing her nose.

        “I’ll start with you sitting down and touching your feet with your paws, exploring your pads and toes,”  Patch said, “I’ll ask you to do things with your paws and feet like spread the digits of all four paws, then curl them, then explore with your paws to find out what your feet do when you curl your toes.”  Ekaterina, wildly excited, embraced Patch tightly.

        “I want to know how to do all that,” she whispered, “Patch, show me everything!”  Patch helped Ekaterina to the drying room, then gently helped her to dry her feet and paws, Ekaterina lying on her back, lifting her paws to warm air, then letting Patch lift her feet up one by one to dry her pads and toes in warm air, Ekaterina squirming with pleasure, curling and stretching her toes with bliss as Patch moved her foot through the warm air dryer.  Patch knelt in front of Ekaterina to work on her feet.

      “This is amazing!”  Ekaterina gasped, “I love this, I love this!  I more than love this!!”  Ekaterina curled her toes tightly, Patch gently rubbing the ball of her right foot to encourage her to uncurl them, Ekaterina gasping with emotion.

       “My toes want to curl, they want to curl!”  She roared, “I can’t control my toes, I don’t’ want to control my toes!  I want to make my pads bunch forever!”  Patch stroked Ekaterina’s bunched pads, Ekaterina whimpering with emotion.

         “I think I will explode with this!”  Ekaterina panted, Patch laughing merrily.

       “You won’t explode my love,” he replied, “but I haven’t even started yet.  This is just exploration, gentle exploration of my working area, of the place you allow me to work on.”

        “Work on my whole body!”  Ekaterina roared, “But take your time over my paws and feet mostly, if you want me to uncurl my toes, you’ll have to work harder than you are to overcome my wish to curl them!”  Patch kissed the heel of Ekaterina’s right foot, which he held in his paws, Ekaterina’s toes relaxing completely, Ekaterina squealing with surprise.

       “Oaoaoaoaoaoaaow!”  she yelped, Patch laughing merrily and kissing the heel of her left foot, the toes on Ekaterina’s left foot uncurling as swiftly as those on her right had, the she bear pedalling the air with both feet, Patch holding her right leg in his paws, letting it move through his grip, kissing her toes as she pushed her foot forward, then blowing on her heels as she withdrew her foot, Patch rocking with her, his knees protected by a pad.  Ekaterina, feeling what he was doing, could not stop laughing.  Patch alternated his attentions; first her right foot got kissed and tickled by his breath, then her left, while Ekaterina pedalled the air with her feet, lying comfortably on her back, finding Patch’s attentions irresistible.

         “My feet love your attentions!”  Ekaterina yelled, “Indeed, I am too!”  Patch replied by blowing on the toes of her left foot, Ekaterina squealing with cubbish joy at his play.

        “I love this so much!”  Ekaterina whimpered, “Patch, you know how to send me to the edge and pull me back again so you don’t exhaust me.  This is so dam good!”  Ekaterina roared lustily as Patch cradling the heel of her left foot in his right paw, reached with his left and gently folded down the toes of her left foot one by one.  Once he’d folded down all five, Ekaterina curled them tightly, Patch rubbing the ball of her foot, then running his paw down the sole of her foot, down the bunched pads from curled toes to her heel, Ekaterina roaring and wriggling with pleasure.

        “Patch, don’t stop this, don’t stop this yet, please!”  She begged.

        “I won’t stop it until you want me to,” Patch replied, “I love every second of this myself.”

       “I hope my antics are visually stimulating too,” Ekaterina said.

       “You’re so cute Ekaterina, cute from your ears to your paws,” Patch replied, “your hind feet are beautiful too, all naked black pads from toes to heels now.”

        “Are they looking cubbish when I’m kicking?”  Ekaterina asked.  Patch blew on the toes of Ekaterina’s right foot and replied:

       “Yes love, they are, they are cute, and good to play with.”  Ekaterina giggled and shook her left leg free of Patch’s paws, drawing her feet up and grabbing them with her paws, finding they fitted into her paws most comfortably.

      “That’s cute too,” Patch said, kissing the digits of Ekaterina’s left forepaw which held so tightly onto the pads of her left foot.

         “I love this!”  Ekaterina exclaimed.

       “I do too,” Patch replied, “it’s great to make you happy by playing with your paws and feet.”  Ekaterina wriggled with delight, Patch watching her with smiling eyes, drinking her in from head to feet, seeing the vulnerable cub he’d once known and embraced, and the strong she bear he’d grown to love as a mate.

        “You’re lovely from your ears to your feet Ekaterina,” Patch replied after a pause.  Then he got paws on with her, touching her head, then crawling round her as he explored her face, Ekaterina closing her eyes and shivering with pleasure, her teeth clenching, paws gripping, and toes curling with intense emotions.

       Ooooooooaoh,” Ekaterina gasped, “my paws are holding my feet even tighter!”  Ekaterina panted when she could speak, “my teeth clenched then too!”

     “Your eyes closed also,” Patch said smiling.

         “Explore me from ears to feet Patch; I’ll hold my feet with my paws as long as it takes you to explore me!”

          “As long as you are comfortable,” Patch replied gently.  Ekaterina breathed deeply as his paws explored her belly.

      “Yes, I’m, I’m fine, more than fine!”  Ekaterina panted, “Got to hold on to my feet though!  My paws are slipping a bit though, I’m too excited!”

        “Contain it a bit,” Patch advised, “for you’ll want some strength to free your feet in a bit.”

       “I’ll push with my feet against my paws and free my feet!”  Ekaterina replied, breathing deeply through her nose as Patch ran his paws down her arms to her gripping paws, Ekaterina taking a fresh hold of her feet with her paws as her excitement increased, whimpering, she wriggled and rocked a bit as Patch touched the furry tops of her paws, then the toes which curled hard as she fought to contain her emotions.

       “Oooah Patch, oooaoaoaoaoaoaomph,” Ekaterina moaned, trying not to lose control, cementing everything in her mind, enjoying his love making.

         “I love that,” Patch whispered, “Ekaterina,” he said, “I love your face, paws, feet, body, and legs.”  He touched her right hind leg, then crawled round in front of her gripping paws and restrained feet with curled toes, kissing the digits of both Ekaterina’s paws, and then the toes of her hind feet as he crawled, Ekaterina crying with pleasure.

        “Patch,” Ekaterina sniffed as he touched her right leg, then kissed her nose, “I’m so happy here, so very happy!”

       “I know,” Patch replied, “it pours from you.  Now my love, break free of your paws and sit up.  Ekaterina braced her feet against her paws, her leg muscles bulging as she fought the grip of her paws on the soles of her feet.

      “Eoeoeoeoeoeoeeooahsh, aoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaouch!”  Ekaterina groaned as she pushed at her paws with both her feet.  Bracing her feet against her paws, Ekaterina struggled against her own strength, Patch’s eyes shining as he watched her play.  Her leg muscles tensing, her arms straining, her paws scrabbling at her feet, she fought her internal fight.

      “Come on Ekaterina!”  Patch encouraged, Ekaterina whimpering:

      “I’m trying, but my paws, strong paws, can’t push hard enough with feet, must, must push with my feet!”  She elongated the word feet into a moan of effort, Patch feeling his toes curling with excitement and arousal at her play.  Suddenly, with a roar of effort, she forced her feet through her paws, her feet kicking out at the air, pedalling at the air with desperately gripping toes, her paws flying up in the air, Ekaterina waving all four paws in the air, Patch laughing merrily at her antics.

       “That was lovely Ekaterina,” Patch said, “now catch your breath, and then sit up.”

       “Maybe my feet will stick better now they’re a bit warm,” Ekaterina replied, sitting up, Patch helping her, touching her back with his paw.

        “Now, now Patch,” Ekaterina gasped, “What do I do now?  I need your guidance!”

        “Rest for a minute, brace your heels into the floor and rest,” Patch replied smiling.

        “It’s warm in here,” Ekaterina replied, “I’ll have to shower again, but, but, what fun this play has been!  I have loved every minute Patch!”  Patch smiled broadly:

        “I have too,” Patch replied, “but it won’t end here, if you don’t want it too.”

       “I want to learn how to stick my feet together, how to lock my toes together, and how to stick my heels together too!  Then I want to fight to free my heels, then my toes!  I want it now, right now!”

         “I’ll show you,” Patch replied, “I will also show you how to play silly games too.”  Ekaterina wriggled with anticipation, Patch watching her from the front, seeing her bare hind feet, her toes curling with anticipation, her paws clenching, and eyes shining.

         “You look so sweet Ekaterina,” Patch said.

       “I’m hot, have damp pads, drenched fur, and am exhausted, but want more of this,” Ekaterina panted, “we came here to get dry after our shower, and now this happens!  But, but, it was lovely!”  She added.

       “it was,” Patch said, giving her his paw, Ekaterina laughing as she felt his damp pads.”

         “You were very aroused weren’t you,” Ekaterina said.  Patch smiled and kissed her nose:

         “I was,” he replied, “I love touching your body with my paws, and if I sit in front of you, I could touch your feet with mine too.”  Ekaterina pulled him down onto the floor, sitting him down by arranging his body, and then she sat in front of him, pressing her feet against his, Patch’s toes curling round hers with strength, his heels pressing against hers with warm slightly rough pads.  Ekaterina pushed against his feet with hers, then she found herself lifting her feet into the air, Patch’s legs bending as he kept touch with her hind feet and his.  Then they both lay on their backs, their hind feet touching.

        “Now show me those games Patch!”  Ekaterina demanded cubbishly.  Patch smiled and explained the bicycle game.

      “Now our feet are pressed together, we try and pedal our feet in the air without losing touch, it’s flexi legs and feet time.”

        “How do I pedal the air with my feet Patch?”  Ekaterina asked.

       “let your feet feel mine,”  Patch replied, cycling with his feet, Ekaterina’s own feet following his example, her pads sticking to Patch’s enough to give her the idea, then she was pedalling enthusiastically with her feet, and the two bears feet cycled faster and faster, until Patch’s right foot slipped, Ekaterina laughing helplessly:

       “Your foot slipped, it slipped!”  She cheered.  Patch smiled broadly and drew the toes of his right foot down the sole of Ekaterina’s left, making her squeal with surprise and tightly curl her toes.

          “You rogue!”  She giggled.

        “If my foot hadn’t slipped, I couldn’t have tickled your foot with my toes,” Patch said, “and your reaction was so sweet too!”

          “My toes curled!  You tickled my foot!”  She laughed, “I loved that Patch.”

        “I think our cycling game is at an end,” Patch replied, “but we could continue it.

      “Then maybe my foot will slip, and I can tickle the sole of your foot too?”  Ekaterina asked.

       “You could do it now,” Patch replied, “come on Ekaterina, find my foot with yours, and try tickling my pads with your toes.”  Ekaterina did, drawing the toes of her left foot down the sole of Patch’s right.  She touched toes, ball and sole before she was done, and Patch’s reaction was more than she could hope for.  he yelped, withdrawing his right foot, and, bending his legs inwards towards his body, slapped  his paws over the sole of that foot, squeezing his toes, rubbing his pads with the digits of both his paws, digging into the soft skin of ball, sole and heel, while giggling, and wriggling madly, his toes flexing, curling tightly and relaxing, Ekaterina sitting up and exploring the rocking, wriggling bear’s legs and then his paws holding his left foot, Patch rocking back and fourth, and a little side to side, grunting and giggling, his paws massaging, his toes flexing and curling, as if he was unable to stop the tickling in his pads.  Ekaterina explored all this, loving how her mate could act so well.

       “Did I really tickle your foot that much?”  Ekaterina asked.  Patch gasped:

       “Yes, yes you did!”  He laughed, “And I loved it.  I love massaging my own feet, and you gave me a reason to.  Now I must get the tickling out of these pads, but I can’t!  Can you help?”  Ekaterina held out her paws and Patch thrust his right foot into them, pressing his foot desperately into her grip, Ekaterina rubbing his curled toes, the ball and bunched sole, then his heel, Patch sighing with pleasure and relief as his toes relaxed.

       “Thank you Ekaterina,” he gasped, as Ekaterina explored his now relaxed foot.  She touched the sensitive mid sole of Patch’s foot, and Patch whimpered as his toes curled tightly once more.

      Ooooamph,” he grunted, “my toes!  They’re curling again!  Tightly too!”  He grabbed the toes of his left foot in his paws and tried to forcibly uncurl them, but couldn’t do so.  Ekaterina, feeling her mate wriggling and hearing him whimpering, stroked the pads of his free right foot.

        “Thanks,” Patch said, as his right foot got the message and relaxed its toes.

        “That was so cute,” Ekaterina said, Patch giggling like a cub and catching the digits of her right paw in the toes of his own right foot.

       “I loved that,” Patch said, “the struggle to get the tickle out of my pads, and how only your touch could soothe my ticklish foot.”

       “How did it feel for you to have your foot tickled?”  Ekaterina asked.  Patch knew what she wanted, and showed her the sensations he’d felt.  Ekaterina’s reaction was instant, grunting, huffing and squealing; she grabbed her right foot in her paws and began to rub it with the digits of both paws.  bouncing about on her backside, and wriggling from side to side as Patch had, Ekaterina went mad, roaring and grunting while digging into the furrowed pads of her right foot, her toes curled tightly, the digits of her left paw digging into her pads to soothe her ticklish foot.

       “I can’t stop it tickling Patch!”  Ekaterina laughed, rubbing at her pads with her paw.

       “I’ll help,” Patch said, taking her right foot in his paws, Ekaterina’s sigh of pleasure audible.

       “The tickling is going from my foot!”  She squealed.

       “That’s what I felt when you took my foot in your paws,” Patch replied, Ekaterina giggling with pleasure.

       “I felt the need to continue the story of the tickling pads, even when I’d soothed them,” she admitted, “I liked continuing the story, scrabbling at the sole of my foot with my paws, it felt great!  We’re a good team,” she said, Patch laughed, kissing her nose and paws.

       “Now we have to wash again,” Patch said, leading his mate to the shower, where they washed thoroughly but quickly.  Stepping out of the shower, Ekaterina realised her feet made a sucking sound on the tiles.  Giggling, she padded about, listening to her feet on the tiles.

      “This is lovely,” she said, “being able to hear my feet on the tiles for the first time are great.”

         “I like your new paws and feet,” Patch said, “I must congratulate you on your choice to go bare footed.”  Ekaterina laughed merrily and kissed his nose.”

        “Exploring your paws while you rubbed the sole and toes of your right foot were a real privilege,” Ekaterina said, “I know now why you were so insistent on that.  I really had tickled your foot!”

        “yes,”  Patch replied, “it felt wonderful to let it get out of control, then for you to take my foot in your paws and soothe it.”

        “I loved every minute of our play,” Ekaterina said.

        “How do you think I felt about it?”  Patch asked.

        “Your pads were damp,” Ekaterina replied, “damper than just the warmth of the room would have made them, as we turned off the warm air.  I think you were aroused by our play.”

        “You could say that,” Patch agreed, kissing Ekaterina’s ear.

        “I was more overt with my expressions of pleasure,” Ekaterina replied, “Um, Patch, was I too vocal?”  Patch gently tugged at Ekaterina’s ear with his teeth, then replied:

       “No, you were restrained I thought.  The messages from your paws and feet were hinting that you might lose control completely.”  Ekaterina sighed with contentment.

         “I knew I mustn’t do that,” she replied, “or I would forget everything.”

         “Your face, feet and paws told me a great deal,” Patch replied, “the cycling game we played made us both go silly, then my foot slipped and I tickled your pads with my toes, then you tickled my pads and toes, and we both grabbed our feet with our paws, and helped each other out by soothing each other’s feet embracing them with each other’s paws.”

          “I wonder if anyone saw us.”  Ekaterina asked.

      “Um, yeah, I think they did,” Patch replied.  “We’ll see what games the cubs play in the next few days, we’ll see if there are bicycle games and cubs tickling each other’s feet with their toes.”

         “They imitate what they see,” Ekaterina replied, “that’s so cute.  Of course,” she paused, turning her head away, her toes curling into the tiles, “I couldn’t imitate what I saw, and back then, and now, I had and have now to rely on others to help me play.  Conrad, then, then mama Kamchatka, then you Patch.  Play was hard for me, still is, for I have no idea of what play is, how others play.  I’m struggling to learn, struggling to let go, struggling to let my paws and feet do what they are meant to do.”

       “You’re doing okay Ekaterina,” Patch replied smiling, “that time in the drying room was lovely you know, really lovely.”

        “I loved your touch,” Ekaterina said.

      “And I yours, as you know Ekaterina,” Patch replied kissing her nose.

       “Will you two stop it?”  Sita said, laughing merrily, “making love in the passage!  Whatever next?”

        “Do you know what Ekaterina’s touch has done to my right foot?”  Patch asked Sita.

        “No,” Sita replied, “I didn’t hear the audio.”

        “I drew my toes down his foot after a cycling game got out of control, and it tickled Patch’s foot so much that he couldn’t stop the tickling.  I had to get paws on with his foot to help him,”  Ekaterina replied.

       “”What is this bicycle game?”  Sita asked, “I might use it with the cubs.”

        “I’ll play it with you Sita,” Patch replied, “after all; it’s the kind of game a sire would play with his cub.”

          “I think I’d like that,” Sita replied, “that is, if this game can make me feel like a cub again.”

        “It will!”  Ekaterina replied, laughter in her voice.  Sita bounced on her toes with excitement at the thought of playing with her sire.

       “Sita,” Ekaterina said, “I have something to show you, four things to show you.”  Sita padded to Ekaterina, who rolled onto her back and presented her with her paws and feet.  Sita explored each one of Ekaterina’s feet and paws in turn, her excitement growing.

        “You have naked soles Ekaterina!”  Sita exclaimed, “They are tender padded, sensitive too!”

      “I know, I know!”  Ekaterina laughed, “You’re tickling my pads and toes right now!”  Sita breathed on Ekaterina’s pads, the she bear kicking with her hind feet.

       “Your paws and feet are lovely Ekaterina!”  Sita said.

       “I love them,” Ekaterina said smiling.

         “So do I,” Patch replied smiling.

        “So drying paws and feet turned into a session of love making?”  Sita asked.

        “Yes,”  Ekaterina replied, rolling onto her chest, then sitting down, thinking better of it, and getting to her feet and dancing about on her toes.

       “Ekaterina doesn’t know where to put herself, stupid bear!”  Apudo laughed, padding round the corner and scowling at the she bear.  Sita turned, leapt upon Apudo, bore her to the floor and spanked her with her open paw.

      “Ow Sita, ow!”  Apudo squealed.

        “How dare you mock Ekaterina?”  Sita yelled.

       “She looked silly!”  Apudo roared.

        “She’s enjoying herself, leave her alone!”  Sita screamed.

 

“Patch,” Ekaterina said, “I think I need to play again, like we did earlier, please?  Foot and paw play?  Please?”  Patch led Ekaterina away, the she bear shaking with suppressed urges to play.  Patch led her to the soft play room, then through that to the adult play room, where they found Figaro and Anernerk playing with each other’s paws and feet.

         “Hi you two,” Patch said, smiling at Anernerk who was in the midst of counting the toes on Figaro’s right foot.  Figaro started, but Anernerk caressed his foot in her paws:

        “They don’t mind this,” she said, “its encouraged here.”

       “Carry on,” Patch replied, “Figaro, don’t mind us.”

        “It’s lovely this,” Figaro said, “Anernerk knows how to play with my hind feet.  She showed me how to clasp my toes together too, and how to stick my heels together.  We’ve played the stuck foot game and the cycling game too.  So many things you can do with just your paws and feet, things I never dreamt of, and they’re all so good!  Best of all, the cubs are taught the games, and allowed to play them into adulthood too.  I love that.”

       “Yes, so do we,” Ekaterina laughed.  Patch grinned.

        “We saw that,” Anernerk admitted, blushing under her fur, “we saw your play Patch, Ekaterina.”

        “Good,” Ekaterina replied, “I’m glad you saw that.”

       “You were both so sweet to each other,” Figaro said, “I hope that, well,” he stopped.

        “That you can be as sweet to Anernerk as Patch was to me?”  Ekaterina asked.  Figaro looked down at his toes, which were curling tightly with emotions, those of his right foot holding the digits of Anernerk’s left paw in a fierce grip.

         “Love her in your own way,” Patch replied, “use touch, sight, and play.  Words are just hot air, so get paws on with Anernerk’s paws and feet, and her ears and belly too.  There were some tips in my play with Ekaterina that you might want to follow.”

       “The places you touched her?”  Figaro asked, “Her belly, her paws, her feet?”

       “Yes,” Ekaterina replied laughing, “those places.”  Anernerk hid her face in case it gave too much away.

       “Look up Anernerk,” Patch said, “look up and tell Figaro what you would like him to do for you.”  Anernerk looked up bravely into Figaro’s face.

       “Would you play with my hind feet?  Stroke my pads?”  She asked, “Then, then, when I’m holding my feet in my paws, would you make me grip them harder in my paws and push with my feet against my paws like Ekaterina did?”  Figaro smiled and nodded.

      “I’ll try,” he said, “You know how to make my toes curl Anernerk.”

       “And you know how to make my feet painless too,” Anernerk replied, “so I can hold them in my paws and grip hard, and curl my toes and love the sensations.”

         “What do you think of my paws and feet Anernerk?”  Figaro asked.

        “They’re cute,”  she replied, “so different to mine, I have flat boring paws and feet, yours are well padded and very young for your size, a half grown cub’s feet and paws.”

        “You’re younger than me,” Figaro said, “but your feet are huge!  I pity your mama when you were born, having to push those big hind feet out.”

        “They weren’t as large then, but yes, I think they did get stuck,” Anernerk said, “mama had to push extra hard to deliver them.”

       “Do you really think my paws and feet are young?”  Figaro asked.  Anernerk grinned:

        “Yes they are!  Ekaterina, come here please, and get paws on with Figaro’s feet, tell me if they are a cub’s feet will you?”  Ekaterina had never touched Figaro’s hind feet before this.  Sitting down opposite him, she felt him place his foot in her paws.  Ekaterina explored his pads and toes, Figaro curling his toes with pleasure, his pads bunching.  Figaro had a c shaped pad beneath five tight toes, a compact foot it was, a cub’s foot.

        “Your foot is a cub’s, a large cub’s,” Ekaterina said, “your pads are soft, your toes curling easily, it’s rather cute.”  Figaro laughed.

        “Your touch makes me want to curl my toes!”  Figaro laughed.

      “I know, that’s cute too, I can feel you have curled your toes, and your pads have bunched cutely also.”  Figaro squirmed with pleasure as Ekaterina stroked his pads.

        “You are too good with those paws!”  Figaro laughed.

        “Ekaterina’s very good with her paws,” Patch said.  Figaro grinned at him.

        “Your paws and feet are interesting Figaro,” Anernerk said, “a lot more interesting than mine that is.”

       “Stop it Anernerk,” Figaro replied, “your paws and feet are lovely, and so is your fur, and your face and everything.”  Anernerk grinned broadly.

         “I do play with my feet,” she said, “that feel great you know.  My pads bunching, toes curling then stretch my toes with stretching pads.”

        “I’ve seen you at it, you do play with your toes so cutely,” Figaro said, Anernerk laughing and hugging him.

        “You’re good at playing with your toes too,” she said, nuzzling his ear.

        “Your soft pads contrast with your tightly woven fur on the tops of your feet so nicely Figaro,” Ekaterina said, Figaro laughing merrily.

         “Can I take your feet in my paws Ekaterina?”  He asked.  For answer Ekaterina grabbed his paws in hers, lifted her right foot, placed his paws beneath her heel, and then relaxed.

       “I think that’s a yes,” Anernerk said.  Figaro explored Ekaterina’s right foot, from her toes, with short claws, to her naked sole pad.

       “Cute foot this,” Figaro mused, “and I know you can feel everywhere I touch too.”  He drew circles on Ekaterina’s heel, Ekaterina smiling, then Figaro blew on her toes, Ekaterina laughing helplessly as his breath tickled her.

        “You rogue!”  She laughed, curling her toes.

        “Your feet are cute,” Figaro said, Ekaterina playfully wiggling her toes.

        “I love this play,” Ekaterina said.

 

 

Sooleawa, back at her foot and paw washing station, washed Yamka’s feet and paws with gentle care, before exploring her pads and toes with infinite care, using a magnifying glass, exploring each toe, then the ball of her foot, then her heel, repeating this for Yamka’s other foot, then exploring her paws in a similar manner.

        “Now I must keep your paws and feet like this,” Sooleawa said, “they are clean and in good condition.”

         “I like you playing with my feet mama,” Yamka said, curling her tiny toes, Sooleawa’s own toes curling with emotion as she remembered delivering her cub into the world.

        “I’m washing your paws and feet,” Sooleawa said, “but I suppose that can lead to playing with them too.”

        “It can, and does,” Sally said, walking in and washing her feet and hands.

        “You play with Jenny don’t you?”  Sooleawa asked.

       “Yes our feet stick very easily,” Sally said, “We are of a similar age, and play in a very similar way.”

         “Did you describe my labour to jenny?”  Sooleawa asked.  Sally laughed:

       “I did more than that,” she replied, “I re-enacted it.”  Sooleawa smiled.

       “I’ll bet you roared like you did when you gave birth to Kuaizi?”  Sooleawa asked.

       “I did,” Sally replied, “but I curled my toes as tightly as you did.”

        “Can I check your pads for thorns?”  Sooleawa asked.  Sally thrust her right foot into Sooleawa’s paws, Sooleawa counting her toes and then tracing the ball, sole and heel of her foot, Sally wriggling with pleasure and tightly curling her toes.

        “You have cubbish feet,” Sooleawa said, “but I know you aren’t a cub, well not a very young one.”

       “We humans don’t grow up as fast as you bears do,” Sally said, “but my feet are small, though they’re larger than my brother’s at the moment, though his will probably grow to be larger than mine.  At the moment I can grab his toes with mine.”  Sooleawa smiled.

       “If you press pad to pad with me, could you grab my toes with yours?”  She asked.  Sally sat down with Sooleawa, while Yamka got paws on with their play.  Sooleawa’s feet pressed against Sally’s, Sally finding her toes were just about able to curl around Sooleawa’s, her heels pressing the she bear’s, Sooleawa pressing back hard.

       “Bicycle race?”  Sally asked.  Sooleawa smiled and they lay down on their backs to cycle.  Yamka laughed as she touched Sally and her mum’s feet as they pedalled their feet, Sooleawa’s right foot slipping, her toes slipping down the sole of Sally’s left foot, Sally laughing helplessly as Sooleawa’s toes tickled her foot.

       “That is so cute!  Yamka laughed.  The cub grabbed Sally’s tickled left foot and massaged her pads and toes, Sally pressing her foot into the cub’s paws and curling her toes to hold onto the cub’s massaging paws.

         “That’s lovely, thanks,” she said, “you rubbing my foot feels great.”  Yamka smiled and embraced Sally’s foot in her paws.

 

Koda padded through the woods, walking through the trees.  Crossing a track, he stopped, listening.  The sound and more strongly, the smell of two bears coming down the track attracted Koda.  Scaling the nearest tall tree, Koda hid himself in the branches, hardly giving a thought to the fact he’d never scrambled up a tree before.  Watching the track from fifteen feet above it, he saw a mother black bear and her cub stop beneath his tree, the mother bear sit down, and the cub scramble into her lap and begin nursing.  The cub seemed to be about a year old, and completely absorbed in feeding.  The mother bear, now relaxed, sat back, resting her back against the tree, looking around her, and down at her cub from time to time, her paws cradling the young bear.  Koda thought they looked contented enough.

       “I can smell something mama,” the cub suddenly said.  Koda, fearful now, clung to his branch.

       “What?”  The mama bear asked, “I can smell other bears here, but it is said they live here in numbers we can’t imagine.”

       “We’re being watched mama,” the cub said, waving a paw towards the branches of the tree where Koda sat.

          “There’s a bear in that twee mama!”  The cub yelled, waving frantically with one paw.

        “He’s swinging his feet!”  The cub laughed, “he’s sitting in the twee swinging his feet!  Now he’s wiggling his toes at me mamma!”  The mama bear looked up, saw Koda swinging his hind feet and got to her own feet.

      “Come down now!”  She roared.  Koda slid down the trunk and sat down on the ground.  He closed his eyes, and playing to the cub, stuck his tongue out while playing with the toes of his right foot in both paws, the cub shrieking with laughter and clapping her own paws.

       “Are you stupid?”  The mama bear snapped, clearly frightened.

       “Um, no,” Koda replied, dropping his right foot and rubbing his ears with both paws, yawning in a relaxed manner.

       “He’s not fwightened of you mama,” the cub said, “I’d give up if I were you, he’s welaxed.”

       “Well I am!”  She snarled, “What was he doing in that tree spying on us!”

        “I like climbing trees and was there before you came along the track and settled to feed your cub mama,” Koda said, only slightly exaggerating his liking for climbing trees.

         “I won’t hurt you mama, or you little one,” Koda said gently.

        “You don’t look like you would hawm us,” the cub said.

        “How can you tell?”  Her mother yelled, “I told you the tale of the velveteen iron paw!”

        “I know that tale,” her cub replied, “but this bear’s paws, and his feet too, seem velvet.”

        “I’m not sure,” the she bear huffed, but Koda saw she was relaxing, despite her misgivings.  Getting to his feet, he padded towards her cub, and with more courage than the mama bear had ever seen in her life, her cub met Koda half way across the clear space between them.

         “Hello young one,” Koda said, kissing the cub’s nose, then kneeling, kissing her paws too.

         “You softy,” the cub giggled.

          “I mean you and your mama no harm,” Koda said.

        “I knew that when you sat under the twee playing with your toes!”  The cub laughed, “That was so cute!”

         “My name’s Koda,” Koda said, “what’s yours?”

        “My mama’s name is Aga, my name is Puwdy, my mama named me that after she found me in the woods, I was lost, and she’d lost her cub, he’d been killed on the woads you see.”  Throughout all this, Aga was making furious, “don’t say anything” signals to her cub, who ignored her and ploughed on regardless.

        “I’m sorry to hear that,” Koda said, Purdy thinking his sorrow genuine, “I live in the big house, that one through the trees.  You can come to the house if you like, for a while at least.”

        “Ah Koda,” Sita said, padding through the trees and up to the male bear.

       “What on earth is that?”  Aga asked.

       “Her name’s Sita,” Koda said, “she’s a dear friend of mine.”

       “Does she live in your den too?”  Aga asked.

       “I do, and please,” Sita replied, “I’m not a, I’m a being as you are, please, treat me as such.”  Aga stared at Sita, and Purdy, padding up to her for a closer look, nearly stepped on her huge paws.

         “Careful small one,” Sita said, Purdy feeling the cat bear’s whiskers tickling her ear, then a small kiss on her nose, “don’t step on my paws.”

       “Sowwy,” Purdy replied, “I kind of like you, you seem kind and gentle.”

       “I try to be,” Sita mewed.

       “You smell very well fed,” Aga said, “both of you smell very well fed.”

       “We are,” Sita replied, “we want for nothing where we live, something I am very grateful for, as it enables us to think about other things, softer things, like love and play and such.”

         “Now how if you two come to our home?”  Koda asked.

        “Who is your leader?”  Aga asked.

        “He is Patch, a grey bear with gentle eyes and paws,” Koda said.

        “Patch?”  Aga asked, her eyes inward looking, as if she was searching her mind for a memory of someone years back in her past, “Patch?  A grey bear, interested in the birth of my cub he was, but that was ages ago, it’s not the same bear, it can’t be the same bear.  He said he lost his brother, and wanted to know why his brother was left to die.”  Koda stared at Aga, his mouth wide with shock.

        “That’s the same bear,” Sita mewed, “Patch is here; he is not how you remember him though, for he, um, transformed himself.”

        “He would be accepted into the heavenly paws of a higher power,” Aga said, “he was so lovely, so gentle.  His mother, also named Aga, for it was a common name in our parts, taken when we became mothers to at least one cub, told me she thought her son cub would go far.  Very far.”     

He has gone far,” a voice said from the woodlands.  Aga spun round, nearly tripping over her own paws.  She saw a huge grey bear standing on all four feet in the woods, his eyes shining into hers.

        “You were the mama who I kept asking about the birth of your cub,” Patch said, while Aga, uncurling her toes from the forest floor, where they’d taken hold, ran to him, knocked him off his feet, rolled him over and pinned him under her paws, then began a snuffling, whimpering, urgent exploration of his body from nose to tail, as if Patch were her own cub.

       “Steady on mama!”  Koda snapped, but Patch, laughing, let Aga get on with her exploration, trying to get both paws and feet into the act like a cub would.  Aga, laughing, kissed Patch’s paws and the pads of his hind feet, smelling his scent, and the earth on his pads.

        “You are the same Patch, you are the same Patch!”  Aga wept, “Did you find your brother?  Did you do what you promised your brother?”

        “I did,” Patch replied, “and a tale it is to tell.  Now lovely Aga, let me rub the tickle out of my pads, and then you and your cub can come to our house.”  Patch sat up and grabbed his right foot in his paws, playing with his toes and rubbing his pads.

         “I’m so glad to see you again,” Aga said, Patch shaking soil from his coat.

        “Yeah, I noticed that,” he replied smiling.

      “Who is this big bear mama?”  Purdy asked.

        “he’s, um, the cub of a next door neighbour years ago,”  Aga replied, her voice shaking with emotion, “he’s, he’s a friend to me, when I was in labour with my first cub.”

      “But your first cub wan off,” Purdy said, “you called him Moonshadow; he was a black bear cub wasn’t he?”

        “He was, he was killed on the road.”  Aga whimpered.

       “No he wasn’t,” Patch replied, “he’s here, he looks just like you mama, “now, now, come home with me, and you can meet your granddaughter too.”  Aga stared at Patch.

       “You mean, mean Moonshadow mated with another?”  She asked.

       “Yes he did, and now you have a beautiful Grandcub,” Patch replied laughing.

         “My head aches,” Aga mumbled, “I’m overwhelmed by all this!”  Patch rested his paw on Aga’s forehead, the she bear smiling at him.

       “You’re stressed my dear,” Patch said, “come to our home and we’ll see if we can’t soothe your nerves.”  Aga and Purdy followed Koda and Patch to the house, where they met Sooleawa and Yamka.  Yamka crawled to Patch and he hugged her tightly, Sooleawa looking Aga and Purdy up and down.

       “You two look dirty,” she said to them.”

      “We feel dirty when looking at you and others,” Aga said.

       “I’ll wash your feet and paws and maybe Patch and others will help you bathe properly,” Sooleawa said.

       “Sooleawa,” Patch said, “maybe a little tact might be in order here?”  Sooleawa stared at her paws.

       “Now Sooleawa will wash your paws and feet Aga and Purdy,” Patch said, “or if she’s too embarrassed to do it, I will.”  Sooleawa wriggled uncomfortably as Patch washed Purdy’s paws and feet, then those of her mother Aga.

 

Once they were clean, Patch got Aga and Purdy food.  It was then Moonshadow bustled in, after being told of Aga’s arrival.

        “My cub!”  Aga squealed, running to Moonshadow and embracing him, much to his annoyance.

       “Mum, get off!”  He roared.

      “But I thought you were dead!”  Aga sobbed.

       “No I’m not, and I’ve mated with Sooleawa, and she’s delivered a cub, and I’m here!”  Moonshadow roared.

        “You are worse than a little cub in your mind,” Aga snarled, cuffing him.

      “Ow mama ow!”  Moonshadow howled.

       “Now get out!”  Aga snapped, pushing Moonshadow away, “now I know why you ran off, you ran off to be a miserable bear!”  Moonshadow ran away from Aga, Purdy watching him with concern...

        “He is angwy!”  She whimpered.

       “He is,” Aga sighed, “he ran off, and didn’t come back after I’d reprimanded him for chasing the ducks on a local pond.  That was years ago!”

          “Now he’s here, Kuruk found him in the woodlands.”  Sooleawa snorted, “Bloody Moonshadow!”

        “You mean you don’t like the sire of your cub?”  Aga asked.

       “He’s a bullying oaf!”  Sooleawa snapped.

       “I agree, and he’s my cub,” Aga replied, looking distressed.

        “he tried to tell me how to live my life once he’d, um, mated with me,”  Sooleawa whimpered, “thank eohippus he wasn’t at Yamka’s birth.”

       “Yamka is a lovely name, Aga replied, looking down at the cub in Patch’s paws.

        “You’re cute,” Aga said to Yamka, who waved her paws and feet at her.

        “I’m glad you managed to deliver your cub safely Sooleawa,” Aga said, the silver coated she bear smiling broadly.

      “I was so scared Aga,” Sooleawa confided.

        “I would have loved to have seen the birth of my Grandcub,” Aga said wistfully.

       “You can see it,” Sooleawa replied, “we videoed it.  I’ll show you it.”  Aga sat down on the side of the pool, her feet in the water, Sooleawa starting up the video.  Three hours later, Aga watched her granddaughter come into the world, the real cub cradled in her paws, Aga giving her a huge hug.

       “You really pushed, you really struggled,” Aga said, “well done Sooleawa.”

         “That bed helped,” Sooleawa said.  Aga inspected Yamka from nose to feet with her paws, Yamka squirming and giggling delightedly throughout.

       “I love your touch!”  She laughed, Aga looking down at the cub’s grey silver flecked fur.

          “You are beautiful,” Aga said, placing a gentle paw on Yamka’s belly and rubbing it, making the cub belch.

       “Oops, sorry,” Yamka said, Sooleawa smiling down at her cub.

        “Now can this day get any better?”  Sooleawa said, “Koda goes into the woods and finds my cub’s grandmamma and her aunt.”

                 “We just sat down for a west, and Koda waved his paws and feet at us fwom the bwanches of a twee!”  Purdy replied.  Koda smiled behind his paw.  Then he repeated what she’d said.

      “We just sat down for a west, and Koda waved his paws and feet at us fwom the bwanches of a twee!”  he mimicked,  How cute is that!”  Purdy, huffing, launched herself at Koda, screaming at him.

         “Don’t take the Mick out of my speech!”  She squealed, whacking him with her paw.  Koda held her tightly, and then held her away from him, looking into her face, his touch soothing Purdy’s anger.

        “It’s cute Purdy, I like your speech,” he said.  Purdy looked Koda up and down, then she sat down and touched hind feet with him, Koda’s toes pressing against hers, his heel pads pressing warmly also.

       “Why do you speak like you do?”  Koda asked, “you are old enough to pronounce words properly Purdy.  Purdy shook her head, covering her mouth with her paw.

         “What happened to you my dear?”  Koda asked.  Purdy’s eyes filled with tears.

         “My teeth, my fwont ones, were wemoved by humans,” she whispered, “they wanted to make sure I didn’t bite them.  They thwow me out when I stopped being a cute cub, when I got too big!”

          “Oh Purdy,” Koda said, pulling her onto his lap and hugging her.  Purdy snuggled up to Koda, the black bear kissing the top of her head and holding her close.

       “You are so sweet to me,” Purdy said.  Koda rubbed her back with his paw, Purdy’s toes curling with emotion.

      “Can you crawl little one?”  Koda asked.  Purdy, craving reassurance, looked to Koda for help.

       “How do I cwawl?”  She asked.  Koda kissed her nose and got down on all fours, showing her.  Purdy got eyes and paws on, exploring Koda as he crawled.  Aga, trying not to laugh, stuffed her paw in her mouth.

         “He’s so good to her,” Sooleawa remarked.  Koda then got paws on with Purdy, helping her to crawl.  As he ran his paws down her right hind leg to her foot, then over her heel to her pads and toes, he tickled her pads, Purdy squealing with laughter and curling her toes.

        “That weally tickles!”  Purdy squealed.  Koda, his eyes shining, tickled her left foot for good measure, Purdy rolling onto her back and kicking the air with her hind feet.  Aga, unable to stop herself laughing, let herself go completely, tears rolling down her face.

       “My toes are weally weally ticklish!”  Purdy yelled.  Koda crawled to her side and placed his paw gently on her belly, Purdy holding his paw with hers.

        “You are playful Koda,” Purdy said, her eyes shining.

        “Yes,” Koda replied, “is it wrong to be so at my age?”  Purdy looked up into his face, her eyes pleading with him.

       “No,” she said, sounding like the cub she was, “I like it.  Please, will you play with me some more?”  Koda smiled, removed his paw from beneath Purdy’s and when she lifted her paws, pads upwards, blew on her pads, Purdy giggling with delight.  Purdy rolled onto her belly, got to all fours, then crawled away, right leg and arm,, then left leg and arm, then she cross crawled, moving opposing arms and legs.  Koda gently blew on Purdy’s toes as she crawled, Purdy screaming with laughter.

       “I love that!”  Purdy said.  Koda tickled her toes some more with his breath, then he gently kissed them.

        “You have been sorely treated little one,” he said softly.  Purdy stopped and looked back at him.

      “You know about my toes too?”  She asked.

       “You have had your claws removed sweetheart,” Koda replied softly.  Purdy looked down at her clawless paws.

      “They used to huwt a lot,” she replied, now though, now I can’t climb twees or anything like that, my toes won’t let me do it!”

         “I am very sorry for it,” Koda replied, looking down at his own well clawed paws, “though, if I am to help you to play, I need to feel the world as you do.  How if I cut my claws short?”  he asked, seeing her look of horror, “as short as they’ll go without causing pain,”  he added, “I know Ekaterina does the same, as she’s unable to see her surroundings, she keeps her claws short so they don’t get in the way of her toes.”

         “They took my claws, the humans did, so I wouldn’t be able to scwatch them,” Purdy said miserably, her lisp making her sound even more upset than she was.

      “I, I can see that,” Koda choked, tears filling his eyes.  Purdy turned and gently wiped away Koda’s tears with her paw, Koda embracing her tightly.

       “I’m sorry,” Koda sniffed, “it’s just so awful.”

        “Don’t pull out your claws for me Koda,” Purdy said, “I know why you want to do so though, and it makes me want to cwy with thanks for your understanding.”

          “I need to be able to grip with my toes, not my claws before I can help you,” Koda said hoarsely, “I’ll cut my claws and then clamber about on the soft playthings, the apparatus, then I can feel with my toes rather than my claws which get in the way.  My claws will grow again,” he said, as Purdy’s fearful expression returned.  Koda gently sat Purdy down, and one by one, examined all four of her paws, first her fore, then her hind.  Purdy looked fearful, waiting for the disgust she was sure would come.  Koda showed no disgust, just a deep sorrow.  He lifted each paw and foot in turn, looked at it, and then kissed the pads and toes, Purdy trying not to cry.

       “You have beautiful paws and feet Purdy,” Koda said, Purdy feeling her toes curl and fists bunch with excitement.

       “You weally mean that don’t you,” she said.

        “Yes Purdy I do,” Koda replied.

       “I know you do,” Purdy said, relaxing, “I like you Koda, you’re weally nice to me.”  Koda looked at Purdy with gentle concern.

         “I like you as I find you,”  he said, “yes,”  he added, when he saw her questioning eyes, “clawless paws and feet, and missing teeth and all,”  he added, “I wish these things had not happened to you, but as they have, they are what make you now.”

        “I’m vewy young, about a year and a half old,”  Purdy replied, “I’m not old at all, my pads are soft, too soft for me to walk much, though I twy to walk as best I can.”

        “You are beautiful from nose to toes,” Koda said, “now, now, let me get my claws shortened, and we can find a twee, sorry, tree, to sit in.”  Purdy laughed.

        “You don’t speak like me!”  She said, playfully cuffing him.

        “I’m sorry,” Koda replied contritely.

         “That’s all wight,” Purdy replied, her eyes sparkling, “you don’t mean it to harm me.  I can feel that.”

        “I shouldn’t though,” Koda replied, “it’s unfair.”

        “It’s funny!”  Purdy said.

        “No it’s not, I’m ashamed to make light of it,” Koda replied.

        “I will only let you speak like me,” Purdy whispered to him, “if anyone else does it, I will get weally weally angwy!”  Koda hugged Purdy tightly.

       “Do you weally mean that?”  He whispered, Purdy shrieking with laughter.

        “Yes I Weally do, now stop it, stop it, it’s huwting me Koda, you’re making me laugh so much!”

      “Oh sowwy,” Koda said, Purdy burying her face in his shoulder, her whole body shaking with mirth.

        “But Koda’s taking the piss out of my cub!”  Aga screamed.

       “He’s not doing anything of the sort,” Patch replied, “he’s making her feel included, blunting his claws and imitating her speech patterns.  He’ll stop it in time, but right now, what Purdy needs is someone who does his best to understand her.  Koda can, he will do his best to make her feel comfortable.  He will try and make things easier by helping to accept her limitations.  He can show her what she can do with her paws and feet.  Her laughter is genuine, but she’s not laughing at Koda, nor him at her.  She is relieved someone understands her predicament, no matter how he does it.”

         “But Koda is not clawless or toothless!”  Aga screamed, “It’s like making yourself blind to help another who is so.”

        “I know what that is like,” Patch replied, “It’s a long tale, but I know what it is like, and I try to help my mate as much as I can with my experiences.”

           “You were once unable to see anything?”  Aga asked.

        “Yeah,” Patch replied, “I use my sight now to aid others, but I once was how Ekaterina is always.  Would you accuse me of using my empathy in order to be harmful to another?”  Aga stared at Patch.

       “So Koda is trying to force his paws and feet into Purdy’s, his voice into hers too, so he knows how it feels, as much as he can?”  She asked.

        “Yes he is,” Patch replied, “if he could pull off his own paws and feet and slip on a set like Purdy’s, he would do it for her.”

         “Don’t give him ideas,” Sooleawa said laughing, “he’ll be begging you to help him like you did Ekaterina.”

       “That might not be a bad thing to do,” Patch replied.

         “What are they talking about Koda?”  Purdy asked.

        “Purdy,” Koda replied, his voice cracking, “I really want to help you, to feel what you do, through your paws and feet I mean.  I think, think, Patch might be making that possible for me.  He can do these things you see, I don’t know how he does it, but, but he can do these things.”

        “You told me not to change how I am, so why are you changing for me?”  Purdy asked, “I know you want to help me, and I am vewy thankful, but will you be able to go back to how you are now?  I don’t want you not to be able to climb twees for instance, for if you can’t climb twees, I won’t be able to say Koda is up the twee again.”  Koda giggled.

       “I’ll be able to climb twees, and so will you Puwdy,” he said, “we will do it with our toes, we will make ladders and climb with our clawless feet and paws.  I always wanted velveteen paws and feet anyway.”

       “You make me want to cwy again,” Purdy replied laughing, “you big softy Koda.”

      “Now I might need your help to get my paws and feet out of my socks and gloves,” Koda said.

        “You need to roll the gloves and socks off yourself Koda,”  Patch said, “but Purdy can help by massaging your paws and feet afterwards, for they’ll be a little too tender to play with at first.”  Koda felt his leg with his paws, finding the join he expected.  Rolling it down and over his heel, he rolled it up his foot and to his toes, where he pulled the whole sock off, feeling his claws go with the sock, as if they’d been part of it, and not of him.  Repeating this for his other foot, and then his paws, Koda felt his feet and paws tingling, a sensation that was uncomfortable, but Purdy, sensing this, took each paw and foot in her paws and soothed them by exploring his new paws and feet.”

        “Now be gentle with your paws and feet Koda,” Patch said.  Purdy, exploring Koda’s right paw, noticed his opposable thumb.

        “You have diffwent paws to me,” she said, “they can move diffwently to mine, they’re like human paws, and I know human paws.”

       “They are,” Koda replied, “I was close to humans too, they engineered me, and put me in a mama bear to be born.  I came out with human like opposable thumbs on both my paws, though my feet are like yours.”

        “I like these paws,”  Purdy replied, “they’re cute paws, vewy nice paws, soothing paws, paws which make a little cub vewy happy.”  Koda smiled his heart swelling with love for Purdy.

         “Now will you get paws on with my feet Purdy?”  Koda asked, they are quite painful.”  Purdy did, and Koda curled his toes around hers, making her smile.

        “You can play with your feet as well as your paws,” she said, “that are lovely that is.”  Koda squeezed the digits of her right paw with the toes of his left foot, Purdy playfully tugging at her paw.

        “You have stwong toes!”  She giggled, Koda letting go of her paw and touching her nose with his.

       “And you have ticklish toes Purdy,” he said gently.

         “I like you tickling my toes,” Purdy said, “it felt gweat!”  Koda hugged Purdy tenderly, the yearling cub kissing his nose and snuggling close.

        “She likes him,” Aga said unnecessarily.

         “Koda is good at this sort of thing, if only he knew it,” Patch replied.  Koda helped Purdy to her feet, then guided her to the soft play room, where they sat down opposite each other, heel pad to heel  pad, toes to toes, Koda’s toes curling comfortingly around Purdy’s, Purdy pressing her toes into the ball of his foot, his pads soft and warm beneath hers.

        “I am forgetting myself,” Koda said, “are you hungry dear Purdy?  Thirsty?  Can I get anything for you?”  Purdy looked at Koda.

       “You pwobably won’t have what I weally want to eat,” she said, “It’s a human food I ate once.  I know fwom stowies that humans live here, but they are good humans who don’t interfere with your lives.  I would weally love some fish and chips, sowwy and all, but that is what I weally loved in my old home.  Bear food just didn’t do it for me like fish and chips do.”  Koda smiled.

        “I think we could find that,” he said.

       “I was taught how to use human cutlery too,” Purdy said ashamedly, “I know that isn’t a bear thing to do, and I’m sowwy and all, but that was how it was for me.”  Poor Purdy looked so scared that Koda let go of her hind feet, crawled to her and hugged her tightly.

       “We don’t mind what your previous life was,” he said softly, Purdy burying her face in his warm sweet smelling fur.

         “I’m not a pwoper bear, not weally a pwoper bear,” Purdy sobbed, “I twied to be a pwoper bear for mama Aga, for she saved me, but I am not a pwoper bear.”

         “You’re lovely and I love you and so does Aga,” Koda said, rubbing Purdy’s back with his paw, “now dear sweet Purdy, don’t speak like that again, about being a proper bear I mean.  You are who you are, and you are lovely as you are.”  Purdy wiped her eyes with her paws, and Koda kissed her nose.

       “Where do we sleep?”  Purdy asked.

       “You could sleep in my lie up with me and my mate and cub,” Koda replied, “We’ve got room enough.”

      “But your mate won’t like me coming into your home and sleeping there,” Purdy said.

        “They are watching you now, watching both of us,” Koda said, “We have cameras here, they can see us, and hear us too.”

        “Did they see us earlier, when I cwawled like a cub?”  Purdy asked.

      “They did, and they probably saw everything before and after,” Koda replied, “Purdy, there is nothing to worry about, you’re safe here.”

         “No she’s not!”  Wihakayda yelled, barrelling into the room, “she’s a snivelling disgusting creature who can’t speak properly and is filthy!  You aught to be ashamed of yourself Koda!”

       “Um, actually Wihakayda my daughter cub, I’m not feeling shame at the moment, just anger and rising fury towards you.  You know nothing, so just leave us alone, take your hatred of what you don’t’ know somewhere else.  Purdy doesn’t need your baggage, and I haven’t the energy to deal with your attitude.  I tried to bring you up properly, to show you diversity, to show you that there were others who had different situations to us, but you seem to have learnt little.”

        “She’s filthy, with no teeth or claws!”  Wihakayda squealed, “And you have adopted her clawless feet and paws too!”

         “I need to help her as I helped you play,” Koda said.  “Now Wihakayda, please, leave us in peace, and don’t play with that bloody vacuum!”

       “I know what a vacuum   cleaner is,” Purdy said, “the humans I lived with had one, “they would switch it on and Wace it backwards and forwards over the carpets, it was a howwid noise!  I got my paws sucked by the thing too once, and that was howwible too!”

        “So did I,” Sita said, padding into the room.  Purdy ran to Sita and hugged her, Sita holding the cub close.

       “You know the noisy sucking thing too?”  Purdy asked.

        “I do,” Sita replied, “and it sucked on my pads too, I’m frightened of it.”  Purdy buried her face in Sita’s fur.

         “My humans used to chase me with it for fun Sita!”  She wept.  Sita growled in her throat, Purdy looking at her, seeing the cat bear’s eyes blazing with anger.

        “You’re not angwy with me are you?”  Purdy asked, suddenly terrified.

       “No little one,” Sita mewed, “I know how it is to be terrorised by that thing that is all.”

        “Who’s that?”  Ekaterina asked.  Koda went to his sister and hugged her.

        “I found Purdy and her mama in the woods,” he said, “she’s getting used to things here now, well Purdy is.”

         “Can I meet her?”  Ekaterina asked.  Purdy crept up to the mama polar bear and touched her shoulder with her paw.

       “Hello little one,” Ekaterina said, turning her head at the scent of the young cub.

         “What’s your name?”  Purdy asked Ekaterina.  Ekaterina sat down and beckoned to Purdy.

       “My name’s Ekaterina,” Ekaterina said, “what’s yours little one?”

       “My name’s Puwdy,” Purdy said, Ekaterina smiling gently.

        “Don’t you mean Purdy?”  She asked.  Purdy huffed and smacked Ekaterina in frustration.

      “That’s what I said, Puwdy!  That’s my name you silly bear Ekatewina!”  She roared.

         “Ekatewina,” Ekaterina said smiling, “that’s so cute!  Though I think you aught to be pronouncing things a bit clearer now little Purdy.”

        “I do twy, but I can’t pwonounce things like you can,” Purdy hesitated, Ekaterina feeling she’d touched on a sore nerve.

        “The humans I lived with once, they wemoved my fwont teeth so I couldn’t bite them,” Purdy said sadly.  Ekaterina immediately felt dreadful.

       “Purdy, I’m sorry,” she said softly, “please, come here will you?”  Purdy padded to Ekaterina and scrambled untidily into her lap, Ekaterina embracing her.  Purdy let Ekaterina handle her paws, Ekaterina exploring them gently.

       “You have no claws!”  Ekaterina whispered, feeling Purdy shaking with emotion.

       “The humans took them too,” Purdy whispered.  Ekaterina felt a rush of grief which choked her.

       “Oh no, oh dear!”  She sniffed, “how could they do that too?”  Purdy hugged Ekaterina, Ekaterina embracing her tightly in her paws.

        “Is my brother looking after you little one?”  Ekaterina asked.  Purdy looked up, her nose bumping Ekaterina’s, as Ekaterina had lowered her head.

       “He’s lovely to me,” Purdy replied, “he’s so playful, so sweet, and so undewstanding too!”  Ekaterina rubbed the top of Purdy’s head with her paw.

        “Did the humans take the claws from your hind feet too?”  Ekaterina asked.  Purdy gave her her right foot, then her left.

       ”yes they did,” Purdy replied.  Ekaterina explored Purdy’s feet with care, thinking of her own shortened claws.

        “I keep my claws short Purdy,” she confessed.

        “I know you do,” Purdy said, “but Koda said you can’t see where you’re putting your paws, so you need to keep them showt.  I don’t think you should have long claws.”         But you have no claws at all!”  Ekaterina said.

       “Koda is helping me get used to that,” Purdy replied, “he’s taken his claws off too, Patch helped him do that.”

        “He helped me have naked pads so I could feel my surroundings,” Ekaterina said, “I think he might have kept my claws shorter than they could have been too.  They haven’t grown like they used to since he changed the soles of my feet.”  Purdy scrambled off Ekaterina’s lap and grabbed each of Ekaterina’s feet in her paws, exploring her toes, then the rest of her foot.

        “Cute feet,” was her verdict, Ekaterina laughing merrily.

       “I can’t believe the humans would declaw and detooth a bear cub!”  Ekaterina raged.

       “Well they did, I lost my teeth and claws,” Purdy replied.  Flock’s cub padded into the room, also named Perdy, she’d heard of the newcomer, and wanted to put something straight with her.

         “My name’s Perdita, not Perdy, okay?”  She said straight off, Purdy looking startled.

      “Um, I don’t know you,” the young cub said, “Who are you?”

        “I have the same name as you, but I like the full version, not the truncated version!  My name is Perdita, okay?”  Purdy looked upset:

      “Ok, your name is Puwdita,” she almost whispered.

      “Not Puwdita, Perdita you idiotic bruin!”  Perdita screamed, cuffing Purdy.”

      “That’s what I said, Puwdita,” Purdy replied, Perdita almost dancing with rage.  Screaming, she spelt her name, slapping the ground with her paw as she enunciated each letter, and ran syllables together.  “Per, di, ta!  Now say it properly!”  Perdita screamed.

       “Puwdita,” Purdy said, Perdita losing her temper completely and lashing out at the younger bear.

       “Ow, Puwdita that hurt!”  Purdy yelled.

       “My name is Perdita, not Puwdy, or Puwdita, or however you say it, you uncultured fleabag!”  Purdy began to cry, her whole body shaking.

        “Get out Perdita,” Ekaterina hissed, lashing out at the jeering older bear.  Perdita dodged her paw, only for Sita’s paw to land smack across her ear, the cat bear having crept up on silent feet.

         “Ow Sita, bitch!”  Perdita screamed, rubbing her ear with her paw.

         “Now leave,” Sita snarled, “you’ve made your point!”  Perdita padded away, spitting at Purdy as she passed her.

       “You are a disgrace!”  Ekaterina yelled.

        “What is going on?”  Purdy asked.

       “Nothing’s going on, it’s all in her head, she’s a bitter and twisted bear is Perdita,” Sita growled.

        “She didn’t like the way I talk,” Purdy wailed, “I can’t help that?  I didn’t wemoved my teeth or my claws!”

        “Now let’s go back to play, forget Perdita, she doesn’t matter to you or I playing,” Koda said.  Purdy crawled over to Koda, and he embraced her tightly.

        “Now come, come and play,” Koda said.

       “But I’m hungry; can I have some of those fish and chips now?”  Purdy asked.  Koda rang for food.  Padding to the dining room in Patch’s lie up, Purdy and Koda settled down as Kendal entered with hot food and drink.  Kendal smiled at Purdy as he served the food, Perdy watching him.

       “The fish smells so good!”  Purdy said as Kendal set the plate down in front of her.

        “I guess you, like Koda, use cutlery,” he said, handing Purdy a knife and fork.  Purdy set to with enjoyment, loving the fish, and also the sauce Kendal had made for it.  Koda, not liking the sauce, shook vinegar on his chips and ate the fish plain.

        “You two are friends?”  Kendal asked, sitting down nearby.

        “Yes,” Purdy remarked, placing her knife and fork down to speak to Kendal, “we are, well, Koda swot of hugged me, and we made fwiends that way.  He tickled my toes and pads, and,” she stopped, unable to put into words how she felt.  Koda looked at her, and guessed her meaning.

        “We sort of met paw to paw, and understood each other,” he replied.

        “Then, then Koda got his feet out of his claws, and now he’s like me,” Purdy said.  Kendal was about to ask what on earth she meant, when he noticed she had no claws on her forepaws, and, glancing under the table, he saw she had none on her hind either.

       “Clawless bear?”  He asked.  Koda thought Purdy would be upset by the direct manner Kendal adopted, but she looked him full in the face and said:

       “Yeah, they took my fwont teeth too, that is why I cut my food small, so I don’t have to bite with my fwont teeth.  I cut up cawwots into bite size bits too.”  Kendal tried not to smile at the way Purdy spoke, but he admitted to himself he found it cute.

       “You find my speech cute don’t you?”  Perdy accused, Kendal holding up his paws to this.

       “Yes, ok I do, sorry,” he replied contritely.

         “At least you don’t hate me for it, not like that other bear,” Purdy replied.

      “Who hates you?”  Kendal asked, looking Purdy in the face.

       “Puwdita.”  Purdy replied, “she hates me, says I am a disgrace to her name.”

       “She thinks she’s Eohippus’s gift to bears that one,” Kendal confided, “she’s become all toffee nosed recently.  Horrid!”

        “Yes indeed,” Koda replied.

      “So what are you two doing after this?”  Kendal asked.

       “If Purdy wants to play, I will show her how to get strength into her toes,” Koda said, “how to grip with her toes when climbing, and how to feel the ground and balance herself with the whole sole of her foot and the palm of her paw.”

        “How to grip with her toes rather than her claws?”  Kendal asked.

      “Yes,” Koda said.

       “Will cuwling my toes regularly help too?”  Purdy asked.

       “It will,” Koda replied, “and we can have toe curling races too.”

        “Just playing with you or feeling your touch on my feet makes me cuwl my toes,” Purdy said to Koda.  Koda giggled:

        “You softy,” he laughed.

        “My toes love to cuwl,” Purdy admitted.

        “You will never curl your toes tighter than when you have a cub,” Titania said, padding into the room.

      “When I give birth to a cub you mean?”  Purdy asked.

      “Yes,” Titania replied, “Koda, is Purdy spending the night with us?”

      “If it is ok with you my dear,” Koda replied.  Titania looked Purdy up and down, and then smiled:

      “It is all right,” she replied, “she can sleep between you and me, for she looks like she needs keeping warm.  That is of course if her mama doesn’t object.”

      “My mama won’t mind,” Purdy replied, “she didn’t mind me going with Koda.”

       “That settles it then, you’re coming home with us Purdy.”  Titania said.  Purdy looked at Koda, who smiled and covered her paw with his, squeezing it.

       “Come,” he said, “finish your food, then we’ll wash and get comfortable, and then curl up together to sleep a while.  How does that sound?”  Purdy smiled, finished her food and followed Koda to the relieving place, where she relieved herself, then washed her feet and paws, before following Koda back to his lie up which adjoined Patch’s.  In the lie up Purdy saw a fire burning in the grate, and the room was warm and comfortable.  Purdy felt soft flooring beneath her feet, bouncing on her toes; she embraced the feel of the flooring under her pads.

       “Bouncing on your toes tells me they don’t hurt,” Koda said.  Purdy looked at him.

      “Can you bounce on your toes?”  She asked.  Koda smiled and bounced hard on his toes, Purdy giggling cubbishly.

      “Can you do this?”  Koda asked, lying down, rolling onto his back, and drawing up his hind legs, grabbing his feet with his paws.  Purdy laughed and copied him, holding her hind feet tightly in her paws.

       “So very cute,” Titania said, padding in and kissing the noses of both Koda and Purdy.  Koda laughed merrily as his mate blew on his toes, and then it was Purdy’s turn to laugh as Titania did the same to her toes.

        “You two do have the cutest paws and feet,” Titania said, “there’s something to be said for being clawless you know.”

       “Do you weally think so?”  Purdy asked.

       “I really do,” Titania said, Koda seeing the mischief in her eyes, and knowing what she had just about stopped herself from saying.

        “Now I will let go of my feet and kick the air with my feet!”  Purdy said, fitting actions to her words, Titania laughing delightedly.

        “You have the cutest feet and paws Purdy,” she said.  Purdy looked between her hind legs at Titania.

        “You weally think I have cute paws and feet?”  She asked, “You aren’t just saying that to make me feel better about not having claws?”  Titania knelt and took Purdy’s paws and feet in her own paws one by one, tracing her pads and counting her toes.

        “Now do you think I am just speaking with my mouth?”  She asked, Purdy feeling her toes curling with emotion, tighter and tighter they curled, until they ached, and even then, they remained curled, until Purdy was exhausted and had to relax them.

         “So very cute that,” Koda said, “and before you ask Purdy, I know how it is to react like that.  My toes have been too tired to remain curled many a time.”

       “You have beautiful black pads and grey fur Purdy,” Titania said.  Purdy sat up and Titania embraced her tightly.

        “You are vewy paws on, I like it,” Purdy said.

         “We are taught to be paws on from when we are very young cubs,” Titania said, “I was taught it, and so was Koda.  We love getting paws on with our cubs, and with each other too.”

        “You mean you two plays with each other’s paws and feet?”  Purdy asked.

      “Yeah,” Koda replied, “it’s good to do that, keeps us in touch with each other you know.” did you get paws on while Titania was delivering your cub?”  Purdy asked.

      “Yes I did,” Koda replied, omitting to say he’d sat out most of her labour.

         “While I was holding my feet in my paws, screaming and roaring in fear, Koda came and kissed the heel of my right foot.  I’d delivered Wihakayda by then, but was still straining my guts out, pushing for all I was worth.  His kiss to my heel told me I should stop pushing.”

        “I don’t wemember my birth mama,” Purdy said suddenly, “I wemember the humans who declawed me and took my teeth.”

       “You don’t remember her?”  Titania asked, the pain in her eyes upsetting Purdy.

       “I was stolen from the wild when I was vewy young Titania, I don’t wemember a lot about that time.  I’m not a pwoper bear, as I said to Koda; I’m not a pwoper bear.  I’ve been with the humans too long.”

      “You look like, feel like, sound like and hug like a pwoper bear,” Koda said, Purdy looking at him.

       “Come here Purdy,” Koda said, Purdy crawling to him, Koda embracing her.

       “I don’t want you to speak about not being a pwoper bear any more,” Koda whispered softly to Purdy.

        “Hold me tight Koda,” Purdy whispered.  Koda embraced Purdy tightly.

        “Who do we have here?”  Blackberry asked, padding into the room.

      “Her name is Purdy, and I found her and her mama in the woodlands Blackberry,” Koda said.

       “Who is that?”  Purdy asked.

      “Blackberry’s our medical bear,” Koda said, Purdy shaking with fear.

      “Not a vet!”  She wailed.

        “No,” Koda said, “he’s gentler than a vet.  Blackberry just wants to check you over, make sure you’re healthy.”

      “But my teeth and claws are gone!”  Purdy wailed.

       “I know little one,” Blackberry said softly, “now I won’t hurt you, I promise.”

         “If he hurts you, I’ll smack him,” Koda said.  Purdy let Blackberry examine her.  He took care, examining her fur, her eyes, the teeth she still had left, and her paws and feet.

        “If this is any consolation,” he said, “the removal of her front teeth and claws was done professionally.  That is at least something to be thankful for in the midst of a travesty.  At least she won’t be troubled by in growing claws or bad teeth.”  Purdy felt Blackberry’s touch on her paws and feet, it was gentle and non invasive.

          “He’s gentle Koda,” she said.  Blackberry ended his examination by hugging Purdy, Purdy snuggling up to him despite his profession.

       “Your paws and feet are beautiful Purdy,” Blackberry said softly to the young bear.

        “Koda said the same thing,” Purdy replied, “I am beginning to come round to that thought too.”  Blackberry kissed Purdy’s paws, Purdy giggling and dabbing at his nose with her paws.

        “Your paws don’t look deformed without claws,” Blackberry said, “you have small toes, and they look great as they are.  You will have to learn how to grip with your toes rather than your claws, toe curling races with Koda should help that, holding your toes curled should help too, as should foot games like the stuck foot game, catch the twig and pass the twig.”  Purdy asked:

       “Blackbewwy, Koda cuwled his toes around mine in the soft play woom, his toes are stwong, weally stwong!  Will mine be stwong too if I cuwl my toes often and play with my hind feet?”  Blackberry smiled at Purdy’s pronunciation of his name.

        “Yes Puwdy they will,” he replied smiling, Purdy cuffing him playfully with her paw.

       “You don’t speak like me!”  She squealed, Blackberry kissing her nose and the paw she’d cuffed him with.

        “You know how to make me laugh,” Purdy said, kissing Blackberry’s nose.

        “I’m not all medical,” Blackberry said.

       “Your paws!”  Purdy squealed delightedly, “they are like Codas!  And like Titania’s too, they have thumbs!”  Blackberry looked down at his paws, knowing what Purdy said was undeniable.

        “Yes, my paws are a little unusual,” Blackberry said.

       “You hated your paws too once didn’t you Blackbewwy,” Purdy said.  Blackberry nodded.

       “Not now,” he said, “I don’t hate them now.”

       “Patch has thumbs too, it’s gweat!”  Purdy whooped.  Blackberry hugged Purdy, and then let her go.

        “It’s time for you to sleep now isn’t it?”  He said gently.

        “Yes, I’m worn out,” Purdy replied yawning.  Curling up, she rested her head on her paws and closed her eyes, Soon regular snoring told everyone Purdy was asleep.

        “Purdy’s so cute,” Blackberry said.

       “You love her already don’t you,” Titania said.

       “Yeah, I do,” Blackberry replied, “she’s lovely, very lovely.”

        “I’ll teach her how to grip with her toes tomorrow,” Koda yawned, “it will start with toe curling games, and showing her how to relax enough to allow her toes to express her emotions.”

        “You too are very good at playing with the cubs,” Sita said, walking into the room, kneeling and kissing Koda’s nose.

        “You too Sita dear,” Koda said, returning her kiss, Sita giggling with delight.

        “Has Purdy drawn circles on the soles of your hind feet yet Koda?”  Sita asked.

      “No not yet, but I’ll embrace her paws with my toes when she does,” Koda replied, “I’ve explored her feet and paws though, and they are lovely Sita.”

        “You and I know about each other’s feet and paws don’t we Koda,” Sita said, Koda laughing.

       “We do,” he replied, “we play often, drawing circles on each other’s pads and challenging each other’s toes to curl tighter and tighter.”

      “We wrestle too,” Sita said, and Koda’s beaten me on many occasions, throwing me on my back with my paws and feet in the air.”

         “I have watched it,” Blackberry said, “Koda beats you every time Sita, and he’s smaller than you.  He fights blind, as he wears an eye shield when wrestling with you.  How on earth you lose so often I don’t know.”

       “Maybe I want to,” Sita said, “maybe I like being pinned down, then submitting my paws and feet to a good tickling.”  Blackberry grinned; he knew she gave up easily, letting him handle her.

        “I’ve let Sita win from time to time,”  Koda confessed, “but she never presses her advantage home, never tickles my paws or anything, it’s so sad.”

        “You’re too small for me to tickle your paws or feet, your feet are tiny!”  Sita laughed.  Koda rolled onto his back, and Sita tickled the pads of his hind feet, Koda laughing helplessly.

        “What’s going on?”  Purdy yawned, “I’m trying to sleep!”

        “Sorry Purdy, we are so inconsiderate,” Sita said, I’ll take our play somewhere else.”

       “Play?”  Purdy asked, shaking herself awake, “I’m not missing any of that, no matter how sleepy I am.”

        “You need sleep,” Koda said firmly, “play doesn’t run out.  There will be plenty more when you wake up.”

        “But I want, want to play, play now,” Purdy yawned, rubbing her eyes with her paws.

      “You need sleep,” Koda said, rolling over and embracing Purdy.  Purdy couldn’t fight sleep, and soon she was deeply slumbering.

         “She is cute from nose to toes,” Titania said.  #

 

Next morning, Koda took Purdy to the pool complex.  She looked round her in astonishment at the water slides, the water coaster, and the new diving boards, a springboard at three metres, a platform at seven, and ten metres.  Then at Patch, who stood on his hind feet on the top board, swinging his arms and looking down at the water ten metres below him.  Koda stared up at Patch.

      “Patch, you aren’t going to?”  He yelled.  Patch smiled, waved at Koda, then lifted his arms, springing powerfully into the air; Patch rotated, and then angled downwards, head downwards, cleaving the water with his paws for his head to pass.  Koda saw little splash, and Patch’s body, seething through the water, then his head coming up, shaking water from his eyes.  Koda stared at his brother as Patch got out of the pool and padded over to them.

         “How?”  Koda asked.

       “I learnt a bit,” Patch replied, “I’m not any good yet, only just plucked up the courage to dive off the top board after weeks and weeks of wimping out on the springboard.”

        “Sod that!”  Koda said.

        “Now I can dive off the springboard and the platforms too,” Patch said.

       “Does anyone else do this?”  Koda asked.

       “Um, none of the cats, though I did see Tigger taking a look off the ten metre,”  Patch replied, “I think Jess might, and Moses, Peter, Sally maybe?  If they wanted.  As for the bears, Anook took a look and decided against leaping off it.  She hates me doing it.  Conrad won’t leap either, and Ekaterina, she wishes I wouldn’t.”

      “But you did it well,” Koda said.  Patch grinned.

       “I was showing off a bit,” he confessed.  Purdy looked Patch up and down.

       “Inspecting me Purdy?”  Patch asked.  Purdy looked him in the eye.

       “You are so handsome,” Purdy replied, “is it wong to examine you from nose to tail?”

        “No, it’s fine,” Patch replied smiling, “do you want to see the soles of my feet and palms of my paws as well?”  Purdy shook her head:

       “NO, but, of course, if you want to show me, I’ll look at them too.”

        “I’ll show you,” Patch said, sitting down so Purdy could see the soles of his hind feet and the pads of his paws.

        “You have big pads Patch,” Purdy said, tracing the pads of his right foot with the toes of both paws, Patch curling his toes to bunch his pads a bit, Purdy stroking the bunched pads.

      “Can you stwetch your toes?”  Purdy asked.  Patch stretched his toes, and then tried to fan them a little.

       “Can you cuwl your toes weally tight?”  Purdy asked.  Patch tightly curled his toes, Purdy smiling.

      “I think I might have to stwetch my toes soon,” Patch said, “They love to cuwl, but they ache so much after a bit.”  Purdy grinned at him.

      “We lax your toes please,” she said, Patch slowly relaxing his toes, Purdy watching them uncurl.

        “Your toes are so expwessive,” Purdy said.  Patch smiled at her.

        “You make my toes want to cuwl and stwetch in play,” he said, “they like being expwessive.”

        “Now you are not allowed to speak like me!”  Purdy yelled.

       “You’re so sweet,” Patch said.  Patch got to his feet and padded away, Purdy watching him go.

       “He’s weally lovely isn’t he,” she said.

        “He is,” Koda replied.

        “Now what?”  Purdy asked, “what are we gonna do now?  I’m weady for play and all, and you’re just standing their on your four feet looking lost, and you live here!”

       “Um, yeah, sorry,” Koda replied smiling, “let’s go to the water coaster, we can ride that.”  Fleur Padded up to Koda and rested her paw on his.

         “You and little one, um, Puwdy, can ride the coaster together, but don’t leap out of the boats,” she purred.  Purdy whipped angrily round on the big cat, fleur smiling at her and kissing her nose.

        “Now Purdy,” she purred, “you go to the coaster with Koda.”  Purdy couldn’t help smiling at fleur.

 

Koda padded to the water coaster, Purdy following him.  Dragging a raft from the store, Koda punched a code into the console, the pumps starting up, lift hills rolling into life and gates opening to the coaster.

      “Sit in front of me in the raft,” Koda said, sitting to the rear of the raft.  Purdy sat in front of Koda, feeling his paws embrace her.  Koda heard the five second count down warning, then the jets increase their power to lift the raft and carry it along the track.  The raft approached the first lift hill, and the hill pulled the raft quickly upwards.  Soon they were on the top level of the coaster, Koda looking around him, enjoying the view.  Purdy looked round her as best she could, dig her heels into the bottom of the raft and lifting her bottom a bit.

       “Sit down in the raft Purdy,” Koda said.  Purdy sat down, as the raft turned left then right, then left and then angled downwards into the first short slide.  Purdy squealed with fear as the raft sped up.

      “Hold me Koda!”  She begged.  Koda braced his feet against the front of the raft, feeling the raft level out, then turn, then angle downwards again.  This slide was a faster one, shooting the raft downwards at a more acute angle, to be stopped by a water break run, Purdy screaming throughout.

       “I don’t like this Koda, I don’t like this!”  She yelled.  Koda held Purdy tightly, talking gently into her ear the whole time.  Purdy set up a constant wail of fear, Koda almost deafened by it.

      “Do you want to stop the ride?”  Koda asked.  Purdy squealed that she did.  Koda pressed a button on a pendent fleur insisted he wore, and watched as doors closed sealing off the next tube down, the raft bumping up against it.  Then there was silence.  Purdy, realising her journey was over, slumped into the bottom of the raft.

        “I don’t like that thing!”  She wailed.  Koda helped her out onto the walkway at the side of the pool and pressed the button again.  The pumps, which had shut down with the closing of the doors started up, and the doors opened.  The raft nosed its way to the slide, and disappeared down the tube.  Koda looked down at Purdy.

         “You need to walk,” he said, there is no lift from here.”  Purdy followed Koda down the ramps to the ground level.  Purdy looked at Koda and said:

      “I think I could go down that water coaster after all.”  Koda sighed heavily, swallowing his frustration.

      “We can’t now,” he grunted.

        “No,” Purdy whimpered.  Fleur met them at the bottom of the coaster.

       “So you didn’t like the coaster Purdy?”  She asked.  Purdy shook her head, staring down at her paws.

         “I got weally terrified when the thing went down the slide, it fwightened me so I started scweaming, then Koda got annoyed and stopped the wide, and now I’m here.”

          “”You started what?”  Fleur asked.

        “Scweaming,” Purdy repeated.

         “I’m sorry!”  Fleur said, starting to laugh, “you’re speech is so cute Purdy!”

       “It’s not!”  Purdy yelled, “I weally hate it, weally weally hate it!”  Fleur wiped her eyes with her paw.

       “Purdy, please,” she said, “don’t be angry, I love your talk.”

        “But that isn’t me!”  Purdy screamed, “I’m not meant to speak like this!”  Koda hugged Purdy, smothering her anger in warm hugs.

       “We love you just how you are,” he whispered, Purdy relaxing.

        “You know how to make me feel better,” she said.

      “I love you Puwdy,” Koda said, Purdy almost humming with pleasure.

         “I feel safe here,” Purdy replied softly, “Koda, can I stay here?”  Koda kissed her nose and looked into her intelligent brown eyes.

        “You can stay Purdy,” Koda said gently.  Purdy kissed his nose.

        “I want winkled paw pads,” Purdy said, “Maybe if we swim in the lazy wiver they will become winkled?”  Koda grinned.

      “We can swim in the wiver, and you can get winkled paw pads,” he replied gently, fleur giggling softly at their talk.

       “Winkled paw pads?”  She mewed, “how sweet is that.

        “Now you are taking the piss out of me!”  Purdy wailed.

        “No Puwdy, I mean Perdy, I’m not!  I mean no harm, I love your talk.”

        “Give me your paw and say that,” Purdy replied.  Fleur did, and Purdy felt a rush of well being flooded her from her nose to her toes.

       “So there are no ill intent fwom you,” Purdy said.  Fleur smiled and shook her head.

      “Now let’s go to the spar pool,” Koda said.  Purdy looked at fleur:

       “Does that pool have fwightening things in it?”  She asked, “Koda told me the coaster was safe, and it fwightened me so much I started scweaming.”

       “The spar pool will tickle your toes,” fleur mewed.

       “But it won’t thwow me down hills into dark places?”  Purdy asked.

       “No it won’t,” Koda replied smiling.

        “I want my toes tickled,” Purdy said.  Koda grinned as he led Purdy to the spar pool.  Stepping down into it, she squealed as the water bubbled up around her feet and paws, and then laughed as she sat down on the ledge.

      “It’s tickling me!”  She laughed.  Koda smiled broadly and kissed Purdy’s nose.

       “The water’s tickling my feet, paws and bottom!”  Purdy laughed.

        “It is tickling me too,” Koda replied, his eyes shining.

       “You two are great together,” Ekaterina said, walking into the pool.

       “I like Koda,” Purdy replied, “he’s sweet, weally sweet.”

        “He’s a big softy really,” Ekaterina said, “he likes nothing more than to be pushed onto his back, and have someone play with his paws and feet, counting his toes and drawing circles on his pads.”

       “Speak for yourself sister,” Koda grunted, but Purdy saw his smile.

       “You like it,” Ekaterina said defensively.

        “I do,” Koda replied paddling to his sister and resting his paws on the bottom step, then kissing Ekaterina’s nose.

        “Softy Koda,” Ekaterina replied laughing.

        “Where is this lazy “wiver” Purdy spoke of?”  Fleur asked.

       “There isn’t one, well not really,” Koda replied, “There’s a little one between the two pools, the big one with the wave machine, and the diving pool.”

        “I meant that other wiver,” Purdy replied, “the one through the twees, the one in the woods!”

       “That is no place to swim,” Ekaterina said, looking fearful.

        “What’s Wong Ekatewina?”  Purdy asked, seeing the she bear’s distress.

      “That river is no swimming river,” Ekaterina replied, “it’s, um, a river that is for riding boats on.”

         “What’s wong with walking that wiver?”  Purdy asked.  Ekaterina’s toes curled into the cracks between the tiles.

       “It, um, it, oh dear, it, it clanks, and it rolls, and it’s horrid!”  Ekaterina stammered.

      “What?”  Purdy asked, looking at Koda.

       “It’s a log flume,” Koda said, “Purdy, it’s not a river for swimming in, as Ekaterina said, and it’s a fearful place for her.”

        “I’ll show you the place,” Koda said, “but Purdy; don’t step on the rollers or the belts.”

         “Is it that scawey?”  She asked.  Ekaterina looked sick.

       “I walked on the belts in the closed season, I shouldn’t have, but I did,” she whimpered, “it terrified me, all those rollers, and the thought they could spring to life, and mangle my paws and feet.”

         “It sounds a tewwible place,” Purdy replied, “but, well, I still want to see it.”

       “No you don’t, trust me,” Ekaterina replied.

       “I’ll be okay,” Purdy said.  Ekaterina sloshed over to Purdy and laid her paw on the cub’s lap.

        “I don’t want you to go there!”  She pleaded.

         “I’ll be okay, Koda won’t let me get into twouble,” Purdy replied.

        “Koda,” Ekaterina said, turning to her brother, “don’t lead her into harm, and don’t let Purdy go up there!  Not to the tower!”

         “I’ll be careful,” Koda replied.  Ekaterina squeezed his paw.

        “I won’t hurt her,” Koda said.

        “I don’t want her to go the way I did, to do what I did!”  Ekaterina sniffed, nearly crying.

       “Now hug me Ekaterina,” Koda said, and I will tell you I will not lead her into harm.  I show her these things to make sure she doesn’t go into danger.”  Ekaterina turned and left, dragging her paws and feet, her head down and body slumped.

         “What is the matter with Ekatewina?”  Purdy asked.

         “I’ll tell you what happened,” Koda said, sitting down in the bubbling water.  Once the tale was over, Purdy looked more frightened than Koda had ever seen her.

       “I don’t think I want to go to that flume now,” she whispered.

         “Okay,” Koda said, “we can ride the flume safely in the boats, but no swimming okay?”  Purdy nodded.  Koda led Purdy to the log flume, and settled her in the boat.

         “Now you hold on with both paws,” Koda instructed.

        “I will,” Purdy replied.

       “I’m sitting behind you,” Koda said, sitting down and bracing his heels against the rests built into the floor of the log flume.  Purdy braced her own feet against rests in front of her feet, her paws gripping the rail in front of them.  She rocked back and fourth, Koda hugging her with his paws.

       “Now let the boat go!”  Koda yelled the boat rumbling away down the track, then splashing into the water.  Purdy held on so tightly to the bar in front of her, her toes turned white.  Koda rubbed her chest with his paws, trying to calm her.

       “We’re going to ride up a hill in a bit,” Koda said.  Purdy sat back as the boat nosed into the first lift hill and angled upwards.  Koda watched Purdy’s reaction to the hill.  She sat back, Koda cradling her.  Koda looked over the edge of the channel the boat landed in after the lift hill.  He could see straight down to the lagoon, where he saw a curious sight.  A boat was anchored in the middle of the lagoon, gently rocking from side to side, as two bears; Astra and buck were quite clearly making love in the bottom of the boat.  Koda turned his eyes away to see Purdy’s questioning eyes.

      “What are you looking at?”  She asked.  Koda was about to answer, when Purdy got to her feet, rested her paws on the side of the boat and peered over.

       “The boat is rocking!”  She whispered, “Koda, what are they doing?”

       “They’re making cubs, and Purdy, don’t stand up in the boat!”  Koda whispered, “Leave them to it Purdy!”  But Purdy, mischievous cub that she was, yelled in a sing song voice:

       “We can see you!  We know what you’re doing!”  Koda watched as the gentle rocking turned into a violent pitching, and then the boat capsized.  Screaming, Astra and buck fell out of the boat with a huge double splash.

         “Who can see us?”  Buck yelled when he had coughed up the water in his lungs.

        “Us!”  Perdy squealed, standing on her hind feet and waving her paws.  Buck looked up, but could see nothing due to the angle he was at.

       “I can’t see anyone!”  He yelled, “And if you’re in that boat on the top, sit down!”

       “I’m here, I’m here!”  Purdy yelled, Koda grabbing her and forcing her down into the boat, nearly sitting on her.

      “For Eohippus sake Purdy!”  Koda snarled, “Sit down!  This is dangerous!”

         “But I want them to see me!”  Purdy yelled, fighting her way clear of Koda, getting onto the side of the boat and waving her paws.  Koda screamed at her:

      “Purdy, no!  Purdy!”  Purdy waved her paws in the air, screaming:

       “See me now, see me now!”  While bouncing on her toes.  then, as Koda leapt for her hind legs to grab her, Perdy bounced on her toes a little too hard, lost her footing, fell off the boat, over the edge and down into the lagoon, her scream of fear chilling Koda.  The splash as she hit the water sickened him, and he vomited into the boat.

         “Purdy!”  he screamed, coughing and sobbing, “Purdy!”  Purdy landed in the water and swam for buck.

       “I’m all right Koda!”  she yelled, Koda sobbing and wringing his paws.

         “You bloody idiot!”  Astra yelled, “Purdy, you bloody idiot! What the hell were you thinking!”  she screamed, swimming to Purdy, dragging her to the bank, then onto dry land, then cuffing her so she squealed.

       “You are a stupid, irresponsible cub!”  Astra yelled, as Koda came down the chute to the lagoon and leapt from his boat, swimming for the shore.

        “Is she all right?”  he gasped, paddling messily through the water, his paws working furiously.

        “yes, I’m shouting at her right now,”  Astra growled.

      “She’s hitting me with hawd paws too!”  Purdy complained.

       “She has every right to do that!”  Koda panted, dragging himself out of the lagoon and charging damply over to Purdy.

          “What the hell were you thinking?”  he yelled.

        “I wanted them to see me!”  Purdy wailed.

        “I tried to stop you!”  Koda sniffed, “Purdy, do you know how dangerous that was?”  Purdy looked at Koda, seeing not an angry male bear, but her concerned friend.

        “I’m sowwy Koda,”  Purdy replied contritely.

       “Being “Sowwy” as you put it, is not good enough!”  Koda roared.

       “What else do you expect her to be?”  Astra asked, “she can’t do anything else to make up for what she did really.”

          “I know,”  Koda grunted, “I just don’t want her to do it again!”

        “she ruined our love making, and got me wet too!”  buck growled, “we wanted peace and quiet!”

        “had you finished?”  Purdy asked, Koda covering her mouth with his paw.

       “None of your business!”  Buck yelled, “we anchored that boat in the middle of the lagoon so we could get peace, instead we got wet, I’m soaked! Soaked from ears to paws!  I can wring out my paws and my feet too! yuck!”  Koda padded forward, lifted buck’s right foot as if he were a horse and Koda was to pick a stone from his hoof, and gently pressed the pads of sole and toes.

      “No water here,”  he said, buck angrily snatching his foot away and whipping round on Koda.

       “You know what I mean!”  he screamed, stamping his paw.

       “you have a foul temper buck,”  Koda said.

        “I’m in season,”  Astra said, “he’s volatile around this time.”  Buck suddenly looked murderous and cursed Koda to the skies using language that shocked Astra.      

“Koda isn’t going to mate with me buck!”  she protested.  Buck seemed to come out of his trance, shaking his head, then lifting each paw and foot in turn, as if he could hardly feel the ground beneath them.

        “Oh god,”  buck whimpered, “all this is very new, I know I’m new to this, oh dear Koda, please, take my paw, no, take both my paws and both my feet and hold them.  You’re not my enemy, I spoke out of turn.”

       “I guessed Astra was in season,”  Koda said, “unless of course you two mate for the fun of it.  I know Patch and Ekaterina do, well they make love through play, and they do it for the love of each other.”

        “mating for fun?”  Astra asked, looking at buck.

        “I couldn’t,”  buck whimpered, “mating is hard enough when it is naturally needed.”

        “I think we need some tips from Patch and Ekaterina,”  Astra said, “they seem to be happy with their relationship.  I wonder how they do it.”

         “with touch and play,”  Koda said, “I’ve seen them at it.  They were playing in the drying room, a drying session after a shower became a play session, then a love making session.”

        “You mean they mated in the drying room?”  buck asked.

      “No not at all,”  Koda replied, “but I know they made passionate love.”

       “What the hell is going on!”  Aga screamed, pounding through the trees.

      “woops,”  buck said inadequately, “you’re for it Koda.  With that he ran off, Astra following.

       “Leave me in the shit will you?”  Koda roared, “sods, bloody sods!”  Aga ran up to Koda, Koda ran away and climbed a tree, his clawless toes strong and tough.  Aga climbed up after him, bit his right foot, then dragged him from the tree to the ground.  Growling she then knocked him flat on his back, pinned him down under her paws. Koda, screaming, flailed about with his paws, while Aga lowered her face to his, and screamed into it.

        “You endangered my cub!”  Koda shook beneath her paws.

       “I didn’t,”  he gasped, “she jumped, she fell, she wouldn’t listen to me!  I told her to stay in the boat, to sit down, but she wouldn’t, it was Purdy’s fault, not mine!  I tried to stop her, I really did!”  Aga smacked Koda across his face with her paw.

        “ow Aga, you bite my feet then smack me! why?”  Koda wailed, licking his split lip.

         “mama stop!”  Purdy yelled, running to Aga and blundering up against her hind legs.

       “What?”  Aga asked, looking at Purdy, but not lifting her weight off Koda. 

     “I jumped, it’s not Koda’s fault, I bounced on my toes on the side of the boat,”  Purdy gabbled, “I fought Koda when he twied to keep me down in the boat.  He isn’t responsible for me jumping into the lagoon, he’s innocent mama!”  Aga levered her weight off of Koda, Koda struggling to his feet once he’d got his breath back.  Ignoring the pain in his paws and feet, Koda watched in growing horror as Aga turned slowly towards Purdy, then swiftly lunged at the cub, picked her up and shook her, then dropped her onto the grass.  Koda attacked Aga, tripping her, then rolling her over and pummelling her with his paws.

        “I’m bigger than you, and you decked me!”  Aga roared, humiliated from her nose to her toes.  Koda stopped his attack and turned to Purdy, who was picking herself up off the grass.

        “You can fight!”  Purdy exclaimed.

       “Um, yeah, don’t like to,”  Koda replied, looking ashamed.

        “You helped me sort my mama,”  Purdy said, looking at Aga, who lay on the grass, her paws and feet sticking skywards.

       “where did you learn all that?”  Aga asked, “you’re smaller than me!”

        “Patch,”  Koda panted, “Patch showed me, now, now I must go to Blackberry to get my feet and paws seen to.”  Koda limped away, Purdy watching him go.

        “Mama, you are a sod!”  she screamed.

       “Don’t talk to your mama like that!”  Aga yelled.

       “My weal mama wouldn’t have attacked a bear like Koda!”  Purdy screamed.  Aga roared and ran at Purdy, Purdy running off through the trees, leaping into the lagoon, swimming that and charging off into the woods.  Aga, not wanting to get her feet wet, watched her go.

        “I’ll catch up with her later,”  she thought.  Turning, she found buck and Astra standing behind her, Both with furious expressions.

        “You bit Koda!”  Astra yelled.

       “I did, he deserved it!”  Aga snarled.

        “he didn’t deserve that!”  buck yelled, “it’s not reasonable for you to bite Koda.  If you’d asked us what happened to Purdy, we would have told you!  Instead you attacked Koda.”

         “You ran off, you two could have beaten me in a fight,”  Aga said.

      “We ran off to get help for Koda,”  Buck said, “thing was, he ended the fight before we could find help, so we came back.”

        “I overreacted,”  Aga replied, now very ashamed, “I bit him, he didn’t need biting, I see that now.”

       “You better pray he doesn’t get infection in those wounds,”  Astra said, “Koda loves his paws and feet, he communicates with them.”

        “I know, Purdy is mad about him and them,”  Aga whimpered, her shame deepening.  Buck smiled, lifted Aga off her feet, then threw her into the lagoon.  Aga screamed as she flew, hitting the water with a huge splash.  Buck turned back to Astra.

       “Let’s rescue that boat,”  he said, leaping into the lagoon and swimming to the boat.  Aga, floundering nearby, begged him for help, Astra swimming over to her and helping her to the bank, Aga grunting her thanks and leaving damply for a nearby tree where she could think.  Climbing her tree, she sat in the branches, her head cradled in her paws.

         “Help me turn this boat over Astra!”  buck yelled, Astra shaking her head:

      “Pull the boat to the shore, then onto it,”  she said.  buck yanked the anchor out of the bottom and threw it over the upturned hull, then hauled the boat to the bank with the painter.  Astra and Buck pulled the boat onto dry land, then flipped it right way up, stowing the anchor.

       “We shouldn’t have used so much anchor rope,”  Astra said.

       “um, Astra, we didn’t,”  buck replied, “it was taught, we were, um, making love so energetically that we pulled it out of the bottom of the lagoon.”

        “And we weren’t even close to mating!”  Astra whimpered, “we need to make sure that boat is anchored firmly!”

      “Or mate in the woods like bears usually do,”  buck said, “after all, mating on the lagoon ended up with wet fur and soggy paws.”

        “I think Koda squeezing your pads was so cute!”  Astra said.

       “No it wasn’t!”  buck snapped.

       “I saw your toes curling when he pressed your pads,”  Astra said.  buck snorted:

       “They didn’t!”  he protested.

      “they did, and you know it,”  Astra laughed.

      “Oh all right they did, but only slightly,”  buck admitted.

        “You liked his touch,”  Astra said.  buck snorted with frustration.

       “I did, all right, I’ll admit I did!”  he growled.

       “There’s no harm in that,”  Astra said.

         “but, but, I’m adult now, I’m not meant to be acting cubbishly!”  Buck whimpered.

        “You are so sweet buck,”  Astra said.

       “I’m not used to this mating thing,”  buck said, “I know I’m mature now, but I don’t know what to do with these emotions.”

       “get into a boat and mate with me, then Koda touches your foot with his paw and you act like a cub?”  Astra asked.  buck actually squirmed with embarrassment.

        “yes dam it!”  he snarled.

       “Oh buck,”  Astra laughed, “why don’t you go up to Koda, roll onto your back and give him your paws and feet to tickle.”

       “I might,”  buck whimpered, “this is all so silly Astra!”

        “it’s like this,”  Astra replied, “you, Buck, are trying so hard to be the big bear around town, whereas I want you to roll about on the floor and wave your paws and feet about like we do in our lie up.”

       “But that’s private!”  buck protested, “it’s not my way to roll about on the forest floor like a silly cub.”

        “But your paws and feet are hot and uncomfortable,”  Astra said, “I can see they are, you’re bouncing on your toes now.  wouldn’t a bit of air to those pads do them, and you, the world of good?”  buck looked so confused and anxious that Astra kissed his nose.

          “You want to play with me and  mate with me all at the same time,”  she said, “well we can play then mate, or mate then play.  We can’t do both at the same time.”

       “Patch manages it,”  Buck complained.

        “he makes love to Ekaterina, he doesn’t mate with her, the two are quite different buck.”

        “Let’s go home buck,”  Astra said, “let’s go and see if we can find Koda.”  Buck followed Astra with dragging paws, the male bear completely confused, his confusion upsetting him.

         “You two need some tuition it would seem,”  Ekaterina said, walking beside Buck.  Buck glanced at her.

       “how much did you hear?”  buck asked dispiritedly.

        “the fight, and your chat with Astra,”  Ekaterina replied, I helped Koda to the house, then came back.  Buck, just play with Astra, if mating happens, let it, if play happens, let it.  You won’t hurt Astra, and she won’t hurt you.”

        “How do you and Patch do it?”  buck asked, “I’ve seen it Ekaterina!”

        “It’s gentle paws, gentle touch and consideration,”  Ekaterina said.

         “but you two were so involved!”  buck whimpered, “I can’t be like that with Astra, can I?”

       “You both can,”  Ekaterina replied, “buck, it’s not a competition.”  Buck bounced on his toes, Ekaterina hearing the dry leaves scrunching under his weight.

       “You’re bouncing on your toes,”  Ekaterina said.  Buck smiled.

        “I’ll try keeping flat footed,”  he said, “I bounce on my toes when I’m nervous.”

        “that’s so sweet!”  Ekaterina laughed.

         “I watched you and Patch,”  buck said, “Ekaterina, mine and Astra’s toes were curled so tightly by the end of the video that we were too exhausted to do anything for ages.”

        “did you get any tips from our love making?”  Ekaterina asked.

         “I am no Patch,”  buck replied, “he touched you, but it wasn’t just a touch was it.”  Ekaterina smiled:

        “You’re right there buck, there was so much else there too.”

        “I love Astra, but my paws don’t communicate my love for her, they can’t pour it out of me!”

 

 

Back in the house some hours later, Purdy lay in Koda’s lie up.  She’d been there for hours, ever since she’d heard they were bringing Koda up from Blackberry’s work room, where they’d been working on him for ages.  Purdy knew a strange human had come into the house and worked with Blackberry to fix Koda.  Koda lay with his eyes closed, half conscious, Purdy settling down beside him.

         “What happened Koda?”  she asked.  Koda shifted uncomfortably.

        “Blackberry looked at my injuries,”  he mumbled, “right foot bitten, pads and toes scuffed.  They pumped me full of antibiotics and sedation.

         “You’re more huwt than you let on aren’t you,”  Purdy said.  Koda sighed heavily, feeling Purdy take his paw in hers and embrace it in both her paws, squeezing it.

       “ow Purdy, that hurts!”  Koda whimpered.  Hearing her sniffing, he said:

        “Hold my paw, but please, don’t squeeze it,”

        “mama hurt you more than just biting your paw didn’t she,”  Purdy said.  Koda didn’t answer at first, remembering the fall from the tree and the hard impact of his body on the ground.  How had he beaten Aga?  Adrenalin he guessed, but now all that was gone, and he was in pain from nose to toes.

         “I hit the floor Purdy,”  Koda mumbled, “I don’t know how I fought Aga,”  he thought for a minute, “are you all right little one?”  he asked, “Aga threw you about didn’t she?”  Purdy replied:

       “yes she did, but I’m ok, I bounced, you didn’t.  I ran away from mama, swam the lagoon, and she didn’t chase me.”

        “You have been sorely treated little one,”  Koda mumbled.

          “You won’t die will you Koda?”  Purdy asked, her distress eloquent.

       “No Purdy, I won’t,”  Koda replied, “I’m under Blackberry and a human vet, Blackberry called the vet in and she checked me over and told Blackberry how to treat my wounds and keep me comfortable.  But you deserve praise too Purdy.”

      “Me?  I jumped off a bridge and got you into twouble, and you want to thank me for it?”  Purdy asked.

       “No,”  Koda replied laughing, “well not thank you for that, but thank you for being honest about what happened.  You owned up to your part in it, and unfortunately got hurt in the process, but that owning up was the right thing to do Purdy.  I am sorry you got hurt too,.”

       “if I hadn’t jumped off the bridge, you wouldn’t have been huwt at all, your injuries are all my fault weally, I won’t say sowwy, as that isn’t enough.”  Koda opened his eyes to see Purdy’s filling with tears, “Now you’re like this, and it’s awful!”  Purdy sniffed.  Koda struggled to his feet, cursing as his ribs, hips, shoulders and paws protested.

        “That fall from the tree did me no good at all,”  he grunted.  Purdy tried to help by pushing Koda with her shoulder, but Koda warned her off:

       “if I fall, you’ll be hurt, or worse,”  he gasped, “Purdy, I appreciate your help, but please, get out of the way.”   Purdy scrambled clear of Koda, turned and watched as he stumbled towards the relieving place.  Crouching painfully, Koda relieved himself, then washed his paws, backside  and feet.  Purdy tried not to watch, but concerned by his well being, kept an ear out for any sounds of falling or  excessive swearing.  Koda emerged looking tired.

         “how long will this go on?”  Purdy asked, “I’ve had enough of seeing you like this!”

         “Until I’m fixed Purdy love,”  Koda said, “and that’s down to nature to do that.”

        “but I want you fixed now!”  Purdy wailed, stamping her feet.

        “I want me fixed now too,”  Koda laughed, “but that isn’t going to happen, and Purdy, please don’t make me laugh, it hurts!”

        “I got you into this, I should make you cwy weally,”  she mumbled.

         “Let me sit down,”  Koda said, easing himself onto the floor.

        “I can see your huwt foot,”  Purdy said, “it’s awful I caused you to be huwt like that.”

        “come, sit on my lap,”  Koda said.  Purdy gently climbed into Koda’s lap, Koda embracing her in his paws.

         “I’ll keep away from Aga for the time being,”  Koda said.

       “You are weally injured aren’t you,”  Purdy said, looking up into Koda’s face.

        “I am,”  Koda replied, “I’m in a lot of pain, but am ignoring it for the minute, I’ll have to take something soon though.”

      “But then you get drowsy and out of it, and I don’t like that!”  Purdy replied.

       “I need help with the pain at the moment,”  Koda said, “but in time it will ease, and then I’ll be fine.  Your mama beat me up pretty badly.”

         “I’m sowwy she did,”  Purdy replied, “I’d stayed in the boat if I knew all this would cause you to be huwt like this.”

       “I need to lie down again,”  Koda said, Purdy curling up beside him.

       “When did you last eat?”  Koda asked.

        “Bweakfast,”  Purdy replied, “and it’s past midnight now.”

       “Go find yourself some food,”  Koda said.

      “But I don’t want to leave you alone,”  Purdy said, “when they bwought you back here, I was waiting for you.”

        “Thank you Purdy,”  Koda replied, “now, now my dear, go to Kendal’s kitchen and get some food.”

        “I’ll get the control woom to watch you here,”  Purdy replied.  She phoned through to Nanuq, who, hearing her request, said he’d get someone else to take the control room shift and he’d come down to look after Koda personally,.  Nanuq padded to Koda’s lie up, and Purdy embraced his large right paw in hers by way of thanks.

        “You have huge paws Nanuq,”  Purdy said.  Nanuq smiled and sat down beside Koda, waving to Purdy to leave.

        “Do you know where to go?”  he asked.

       “I know where to go,”  Purdy replied.

         “bring me back some soup please Purdy,”  Koda yawned.

       “Will you be able to eat it?”  Purdy asked.

      “yeah,”  Koda replied, his eyes full of pain.  Purdy flung herself at him, clasping his paw in both of hers.

      “but you’re in too much pain to eat, I can see that!”  she whimpered.

         “I will eat, I have to,”  Koda replied, “now Purdy, go and find us food before I can’t eat.”  Purdy glanced at the phone:

       “I’ll phone it,”  she said, “I’ll phone the food.”  Phone she did.  She picked up the phone and looked down the list of options.  Seeing a crossed knife and fork, she moved the curser, smiling at the synthetic speech that gabbled at her as she moved the joystick quickly.  Once she’d illuminated the knife and fork, she pressed the button on her stick.  The view of the kitchen came up on the screen, and a intermittent tone began to sound.  Then Kendal turned to the phone and banged the button with his paw.

      “What?”  he asked abruptly.  Purdy waved at the screen, Kendal looking bewildered, replied:

      “It’s just a cub, go away!”

        “I want food,”  she said, “well Koda does too, please.”  Kendal replied:

      “What sort of food?  The same as you had before?”

       “No, soup, lots of soup, Koda can’t eat solid food, he was beaten up by Aga,”  Purdy replied.  Kendal swore, then got cooking.  Purdy looked at the screen seeing a button labelled “end call.”  She navigated to it and pressed the button, closing the call.

        “I think Kendal is coming  with soup,”  she said, turning to Koda, who looked more tired every minute.

      “Good,”  Koda replied, his eyes half closed.  Purdy padded to Koda and rested her heed against his shoulder.

         “You feel so tired,”  she said.

       “I do,”  Koda mumbled, “apologies Purdy if I fall asleep in my soup.”  Purdy watched as Koda looked longingly at the vile of pain killer Blackberry had left him.  Break the top off, insert the needle into his leg and press down the button, and within five minutes he’d be pain free.  The downside of that was the drowsiness, Koda hated that.

        “it’s too much Purdy,”  Koda said, “I’m gonna have to have that vile of pain killer.  He grabbed it in his paws, snapped the top, and injected himself, while  Purdy covered her eyes with her paws, unable to watch.

        “It’s done,”  Koda said, throwing the used pen in the hazardous waste bin Blackberry had given him.  Kendal appeared with the soup, Koda unable to hold the cup.  Purdy told Kendal what happened, and Kendal helped Nanuq feed Koda.  Koda, soup warm inside him, and drowsy from the morpheme, curled up contentedly.

        “Sorry I’m not good company,”  Koda mumbled as he drifted into sleep.  Purdy finished her soup and curled up, taking Koda’s right paw in both of hers.

         “I’ll help you clear this lot up,”  Nanuq said to Kendal.  Kendal left with the trolley, Nanuq watching Purdy and Koda.  Koda looked very exhausted.  Indeed, Nanuq had seen the goings on in the woodlands.  He’d summoned help, but it hadn’t got there in time, two bears, a leopard and a lion standing about on the grass watching Koda beat Aga.

 

Koda slept for a long time, and when he woke, he felt much better.  Getting carefully to his feet, he padded round his lie up, rising to his hind feet, he flexed his arms and paws.  then lifting a foot, he flexed his knee and curled the toes of his right foot.  Koda smiled at his powers of recuperation.  He’d been beaten up only twenty four hours before, but thanks to sedation, where he’d slept for over fourteen hours straight, and Kendal’s good food, Koda had recovered quite well.  Carefully making himself a cup of coffee, Koda sat down in his favourite spot on a beanbag settee by the fire.  Koda stared into the flames, drinking his coffee and thinking about how he’d come to be there.  Koda’s mind drifted, and he hardly noticed as the coffee mug, now empty was removed from his paw, only jerked out of his reverie when someone scrambled into his lap and hugged him.  Koda embraced the small form, kissing the top of Purdy’s head.

       “I wondered where you’d gone,”  Purdy whispered.  Koda rubbed her back with his paw, kissing her ear.

       “I’m here,”  Koda said.

        “I know that!”  Purdy laughed.  Koda pushed Purdy onto her back and examined her face, paws and feet.  Koda kissed Purdy’s nose and paws.

      “Will you kiss my feet too?”  Purdy asked.  Koda smiled and examined each of Purdy’s feet in turn.  He then blew on her pads, Purdy wriggling with delight and laughing helplessly.

       “Your beautiful Purdy,”  Koda said, now give me a day to recover my strength, and we can play those foot and paw games I promised.”

       “Can’t I cuwl my toes around those of your paws and squeeze as tightly as I can?”  Purdy asked, “then you can squeeze my paws with your toes, then we can have a toe cuwling contest.”

        “How about the stuck foot game?”  Koda asked.  Purdy smiled:

       “I don’t know that game,”  she said, “how is it played?”

         “I’ll describe it to you, or maybe I’ll let Patch do it, for he describes the stuck foot game so well.”  Koda rang Patch, the grey bear surprised at Koda’s powers of recuperation.

       “Patch, would you tell Purdy about, and demonstrate the stuck foot game in all its varieties?”  Koda asked.

        “why don’t we both show her?”  Patch asked, “that is of course if you don’t feel too stiff to clasp the toes of both your feet together.”

       “I can’t do that just yet,”  Koda said.

        “I’ll show her,”  Patch replied.  Patch looked at Koda, considering him.

         “Koda,”  he asked gently, “What happened yesterday?”  Koda looked so upset that Patch regretted asking him.

        “it was all my fault!”  Purdy said, “we went on that lazy wiver thing, um, the log flume, and we saw buck and Astra making love in the lagoon, and I got silly, and I leapt from the bridge, and it was all very wrong after that!  Koda got beaten up by Aga, and he ran up a twee, and Aga yanked him out of it, and she bit his paws, and it was awful, and it’s all my fault, and it’s awful, and I’m sowwy I jumped up and down on my toes on the boat!”  As she spoke, Purdy became more and more distressed, her impaired speech making her words even more unintelligible.  Despite this, Patch listened carefully.

        “did Koda try to stop you bouncing on your toes Purdy?”  Patch asked.  Purdy nodded.

      “He pulled me down into the boat and twied to stop me being silly, but I fought him Patch,”  she confessed.  Patch knew Purdy was telling the truth, for he’d viewed the footage on the cameras, plus Purdy looked so miserable.

       “give me your paws Purdy love,”  Patch said, Purdy crawling to him and giving him both her paws.

        “You know you did wrong, and you did your best to make amends for it, taking a beating from Aga.”

       “I wish I’d never jumped fwom the boat!”  Purdy sobbed.

       “I know,”  Patch replied, rubbing her ears with one huge paw, “it’s all forgiven now.  Koda knows how remorseful you are, and so do I.  Koda suggested play, though his body is too stiff to play really.”

        “I’ll try,”  Koda said, flexing his paws and the toes of his hind feet, then getting to his hind feet, he set about bending his knees, bending at the hips, then flexing his shoulders and elbows.

       “I think I can play now,”  he replied, sitting down and crossing his legs, resting the heel of his right foot on the of his left leg and grabbing his foot in both paws.

        “You have cute paws and feet Koda,”  Patch said, Koda laughing at him.

        “I’m glad you think so,”  he replied smiling.

        “I like my paws and feet as they are,”  Koda said.

         “I don’t think Purdy has been able to play properly since she was very young,”  Koda said.

       “Is there anyone else who could play with her?  anyone about her age?”  Patch asked, “Koda, you are wonderful and all that, but I wonder if there’s anyone else who can play with her too?”

         “Um, er,”  Koda said, squeezing the toes of his right foot in his paws and rubbing the pads on the sole of his foot while he thought, “interesting paws and feet, plus a playful disposition?  Hmm, Figaro might be a candidate, but he’s got Anernerk on his brain.”

        “Figaro is lovely,”  Patch replied, “but you are right.  Though maybe Anernerk could play with Purdy too, she, um, has no claws either.  Koda blinked:

       “Doesn’t she?”  he asked, “I didn’t know!”

       “She was born without claws on any of her paws or feet,”  Patch said, “she climbs well, though after a short time of play, she has to cool her feet if she gets excited, as they become very hot and painful.”

       “is Anernerk that bear who wides awound on that scooter thingy?”  Purdy asked.

      “she is,”  Patch replied.

        “she stopped me on the way in from the woods and let me wide on her scooter to Blackbewwy’s work woom,”  Purdy replied, Patch smiling at her talk.

        “That’s lovely,”  he replied smiling.  She is a nice bear.”

        “She is vewy nice,”  Purdy replied, “she took me to her lie up for a dwink before she took me to blackbewwy’s place.  I met her mate Figawo.  He laughed at how I said his name, and kept asking me mine!”  Koda snorted into his paws, trying to hide a sudden fit of giggles.

        “Figawo, how cute is that!”  he guffawed, giving up the struggle.

        “It’s not funny Koda!”  Purdy yelled.

        “it’s so cute!”  Koda said, crawling to Purdy and embracing her.

         “It makes me sound like a cub, and I’m not, I’m not!”  she roared, bursting into tears.  Koda kissed her nose and paws.

        “but Purdy,”  he said softly, “you are a cub my love.  You were raised by humans, then thrown out at eight months old, you know nothing of the life outside a human’s house.  Really, we here are all cubs, well most of us are.  We wouldn’t survive in the wild.  We accept you as you are, and would not want you to come to harm in any way.  So come, dry your eyes and come to play with Anernerk and Figaro.”

       “What if I don’t want to,”  Purdy said.

          “You will love them,”  Koda said.

        “Hi Purdy,”  Figaro said, padding into the room on all four paws, then crawling towards her.  Purdy watched the bear crawling towards her, his hat and scarf making her smile.

        “why do you wear that hat?”  she asked.

         “it’s what I was brought up wearing, as is the scarf,”  Figaro replied, “but I wasn’t brought up to wear shoes on my feet or gloves on my paws.”

         “would you take the hat and scarf off?”  Purdy asked.  Figaro did, smiling at Purdy, who crawled to him, embraced him and kissed his nose.

       “You look better without those,”  she said, “sowwy if you are used to wearing that hat, but you do look better without it on.”

        “If you close your eyes and get paws on with my feet and paws, you won’t notice that hat,”  Figaro said.  Figaro sat down and crossed his legs, Purdy getting paws on with his hind feet.  Purdy explored Figaro’s feet one by one, gently exploring from toes to heels, Figaro playing with the toes of his right foot and curling those of his left, Purdy exploring each foot again and again, Figaro varying the journey her paws took.  Last of all, he turned round and sat back on his heels, Figaro bouncing a bit on his heels, while Purdy explored the soles of his feet.

         “they’ve said nothing for fifteen minutes now,”  Patch observed, “but Purdy and Figaro have been playing, he using his feet as playthings.  Once that game’s finished, I’m sure Purdy will do the same for him, using her feet as playthings for him.”

        “that was fun Figawo,”  Purdy said, Figaro holding her paws in his.

        “It was,”  he replied smiling.

        “You have handsome paws and feet,”  Purdy said, “vewy cubbish paws and feet they are, soft pads and small toes, vewy cute!”  Figaro shook with laughter as she spoke, his eyes sparkling.

        “What you laughing at?”  Purdy asked.

       “I love your talk Puwdy, I mean Perdy, don’t tickle my toes!”  he laughed, as Purdy took her revenge on his toes, Figaro laughing, spinning around and crawling away, Purdy crawling after him, tickling his toes all the way.

       “Stop it Puwdy, Stop it!”  Figaro laughed, throwing himself on the floor and banging the floor with his paws.  Purdy rubbed the tickle from Figaro’s toes with her paws, Figaro giggling as she rubbed the tickle from his feet.

        “I loved that Puwdy,”  he said.  Purdy blew on his toes, Figaro smiling at her.

        “I hear your mate can’t weally play that much,”  she said.

        “No, she can’t stand on her feet for long, but she can cwawl, I mean crawl, and roll about, and let you tickle her toes like I let you tickle mine.”

        “Would she let me?”  Purdy asked.

        “I think I would,”  Anernerk said, crawling into the room.  Purdy looked at her, seeing a huge brown bear with smiling eyes, massive paws and, when Anernerk sat down, huge feet.

        “You have flat feet Anernerk,”  Purdy said.

       “I do,”  Anernerk replied.

          “where did you two meet?”  Purdy asked.

      “Oh, I was lying on a sofa and Figaro played with my toes,”  Anernerk said, “that’s how we met.”  Purdy laughed merrily at this.

       “What a way to meet, paw to foot,”  she laughed.

       “it’s a good way to meet, no lies or other horrid stuff,”  Anernerk replied.

         “I liked the way you rubbed your eyes with your paws when I woke you up,”  Figaro said, “that was so cute!”

       “I still do that when waking,”  Anernerk said, “it’s what I’ve done since I was a cub.”

       “now I can give you a big hug with my big paws Purdy,”  Anernerk said, crawling to her, sitting down, and embracing her.

         “awhwhwhwh!”  Purdy exclaimed, “I love a cuddle!”

        “You big softy,”  Anernerk said, kissing the top of Purdy’s head.

        “that’s so sweet!”  Koda said, his eyes filling with tears.

       “Soppy cub,”  Patch observed.

       “yes she is isn’t she,”  Koda sniffed.

       “No, not Purdy, you,”  Patch said, hugging his brother.

        “Oh shit!”  Koda sniffed, Patch kissing the top of his head.

         “Koda’s a big softy!”  Purdy, Anernerk and Figaro chorused, Koda hiding his head in Patch’s chest fur, embarrassment coursing through him.

        “Koda’s big and soft,”  Patch said, rubbing his brother’s back.

       “it’s okay to be soppy and silly Koda,”  Patch replied.

 

A few days later, rain visited the woodlands.  Sheeting, torrential downpours.  Ekaterina and Orbon, undeterred by the rain, went out in it just to feel the sodden forest floor beneath their pads.  The weather was warm, very warm, so the rain was more like a warm shower than a cold drenching.  Large puddles on the track gave plenty of opportunity for splashing about, which Orbon indulged in, splashing Ekaterina with muddy water.  Padding out into the clearing around the lagoon, Ekaterina heard something, a tiny sound, a whimpered of distress.  Ekaterina froze, Orbon blundering up against her.

        “bugger it Ekaterina!”  he snapped, cuffing her.  Ekaterina covered his mouth with a muddy paw and Orbon recoiled, spitting and cursing softly.

         “Who’s there?”  Ekaterina asked in English, then she asked in ursine, then community dialect.

       “I’m here, I’m alone, and it’s wet and horrible!”  a voice said in English.  Ekaterina blessed the hours she’d asked Patch to speak to her in English, Ekaterina forcing herself to reply in kind, Ekaterina remembering Kuruk’s most famous slip up, when describing a tiger who looked sheepish as, “looking like sheep,”  Now she, while not proficient, could get on well enough.

        “Can you show me anywhere I can sleep?”  the voice asked, “I’m cold and wet, and alone too!”

         “Where are you?”  Ekaterina asked.  a rustling sound answered her, and a paw touched hers.

         “I can’t see you,”  Ekaterina said, “that doesn’t matter,”  the voice said, “please, just help me to a place that is dry and safe.”  Ekaterina got paws on, finding a naked bear, it was a naked bear indeed, a bear, with not a scrap of  fur on her body.

        “You are naked!”  Ekaterina exclaimed.

       “I am, was born like this, mama cared for me, but then I was taken as a trophy by humans, mama howled through the trees as I was taken away.”

         “You have not a scrap of fur on you my dear,”  Ekaterina said, exploring the naked bear from nose to hind feet, the bear giggling as she enjoyed Ekaterina’s exploration despite her attempts not to find pleasure in what for Ekaterina was just a quick exploration of whom she was dealing with.

        “I’ll get you to a place where you can wash,”  Ekaterina said, “then we will feed you and give you a place to sleep tonight, then we will show you to my mate who will decide what will happen next.”

        “Will he pronounce if I live or die?”  the naked bear asked.

        “No, he won’t pronounce death on you,”  Ekaterina replied, swallowing her shock that someone would think Patch could consider anything of the sort.  The naked bear got to her feet and looked at Ekaterina.

         “what is your name?”  she asked.

        “the humans called me Furball,”  the naked she bear replied.  Ekaterina snorted:

        “that’s disgraceful,”  she replied.

         “I know it is,”  the she bear replied, “but what could I do?  I can’t change my name.”

       “I won’t call you Furball, that’s insulting!”  Ekaterina roared.

       “What’s going on mama Ekaterina?”  Orbon asked.  Ekaterina told him.

      “That’s funny!”  Orbon chortled, “Furball, and she’s completely furless!  How amusing! ow!”  Ekaterina hit Orbon with the back of her paw, making him scream.

       “how would you like to be born with no fur!”  she hissed, “now shut it Orbon!”

     “she’s naked from nose to toes?”  Orbon asked.

       “yes,”  Ekaterina replied, “fur, I mean, she is.”

           “I thank you for considering my feelings,”  the she bear replied, “but please, call me Furball until you can find another name for me.”  Ekaterina kissed the she bear’s nose, hearing her gulp back her tears.

         “Can I hug you?”  Ekaterina whispered.  Furball nodded, Ekaterina sitting down on the wet leaves and spreading her paws, the naked bear clambering into her lap and settling down, Ekaterina embracing her, then gently grooming her with her tongue as she would a three day old cub, Furball crying softly.

        “Now let’s go home,”  Ekaterina said once she’d explored and groomed Furball from nose to hind feet.

       “Why are you crying naked bear?”  Orbon asked.

          “I’m frightened and grateful too,”  the bear wept.

       “there’s nothing to be worried about,”  Orbon said, sensing the bear’s real fear, “Ekaterina’s mate is not a fierce bear at all.”

        “Now let’s go,”  Ekaterina said, rain dripping off her nose.  Ekaterina led the way back to the house, Furball and Orbon following.

         “Who do we have here?”  Sooleawa asked, then she took a second look, covered her face and screamed.

      “it has no fur!”  Furball turned and would have bolted, had Ekaterina not tackled her to the floor.

        “I’ll help you,”  she said, “it’s okay Furball, Just relax, Sooleawa won’t hurt you.”

       “I won’t touch her!”  Sooleawa screamed.

        “Well I will,”  Patch said, wandering in, “Ekaterina, you go and get yourself and Orbon clean.  I’ll take care of Furball.”  Ekaterina padded away, trying to keep a straight face.  Patch washed Furball from nose to toes, then dried her carefully by paw, rubbing her down with gentle care.  He then took her to a drying room and asked her to lift each foot and paw in turn, where he directed a tickling jet of cool air to dry her pads and between her toes.

        “Do I now go to see Ekaterina’s mate to present myself to him?”  she asked.

        “Um, well, that won’t be necessary,”  Patch said, “I’m sure he won’t mind you staying here.  I have his authority to make decisions on his behalf, and you are vulnerable and in need of a good safe place.”

       “What is your name?”  Furball asked.

        “Patch,”  Patch replied, delighting in Furball’s astonished expression.

        “Ekaterina said her mate was called Patch,”  Furball said, looking the well furred bear up and down.

        “yeah that’s me,”  Patch replied, pointing at himself with one paw.  Furball looked closely at Patch, then got to her hind feet so her paws were free.  Patch recognised her gesture as:

       “I need a hug.”  Patch sat down and drew the naked bear into a huge embrace.

         “I love you,”  Patch said softly, “you are safe here.”  Furball felt warmth coursing through her from nose to toes.

       “how can you love a bear like me?”  Furball asked, “I’m so unusual that I am unable to be loved by anyone but my own mama.”

         “Your feet and paws tell me so much,”  Patch said, “and they would have told my mate so much too.”

       “You’re not turned off by my lack of fur?”  Furball asked.

      “No,”  Patch replied, “my paws like your paws and your feet too.”

        “My humans got told they could not keep a bear any more,”  Furball said, “they left me in the woodlands.  Now I’m alone, and I’m hungry and lost!”

       “You’re not alone, and you’re home is here now,”  Patch replied, “We can fix the food thing too.”  Patch led Furball to his dining room, where he asked her what she wanted to eat.  Furball looked at him.

       “A curry please,”  she requested. Patch        “called for food, Sid bringing a menu and excited rubbing of paws to the dining room.

       “What curry?”  Sid asked, “a mild one, medium or hot?  Also, vegetarian, or meat.”  Furball looked at Sid, Patch wondering what she thought of a bear asking her about her food requirements.

        “I would like a medium meat curry please,”  Furball replied.  Patch smiled as Sid, fat bear that he was, almost skipped out of the room.

        “How?”  Furball asked.

        “how did a bear get the chef’s job you mean?”  Patch asked.  Furball nodded.  Patch recounted Sid’s coming to the house, Furball laughing at his reaction to microwave food.

       “”he sounds sweet,”  she said.  Sid returned with a medium strength lamb curry, Furball eating with enjoyment, Patch watching her use cutlery with ease.

        “What do you really think of my furless body Patch?”  Furball asked.

        “I like it,”  Patch replied, “it suits you.”

        “I am used to it,”  Furball replied, “the thing I’m not so used to is having no claws.  My humans, they took them from me.  As I didn’t bite, they didn’t take my teeth, though I think they do that too if a bear is a biter.”

       “or they do it if they think the bear will be,”  Patch thought.  Furball finished her meal, grabbing a bit of bread and sweeping her plate with it.

         “I’ve got used to no claws now, but it was hard in the first weeks,”  Furball replied.

        “What did your mama think when she gave birth to you?”  Patch asked.

        “she was kind and gentle,”  Furball replied, “though she did say delivering me hurt like hell.  She said it felt like sandpaper, and my birth was hard.  I think she passed my fur coat too.  I heard her crying and straining in the corner a few hours later.”

         “So your fur was removed during your birth,”  Patch replied, “torn out at the roots.”

          “yes it would seem that way,”  Furball replied, “I don’t know how it could happen though.”

         “Poor you, and poor mama,”  Patch said.

       “She said my birth hurt her, and passing my coat hurt her even more,”  Furball replied.

        “I’m sorry,”  Patch said.  Furball wiped her mouth on a tissue, then padded to Patch, who moved to a sofa and sat down, Furball sitting down beside him and snuggling up to him.

        “Your fur was literally torn off you in the throws of your mama giving birth to you,”  Patch said.

      “mama said she had to grab me and pull while she pushed, she didn’t realise what happened until she passed the afterbirth.  Of course, that hurt her more than it should, and was harder work, and when she looked at what she’d struggled to pass, she saw what had happened.  I knew nothing about this, but I know mama did her best to keep me warm.  She only let me out on the warmest days, and of course when the humans got hold of me, they kept me indoors mostly, so I had no warmth issues.  Hot days were nice, and cold ones the humans spent indoors with their heating, so things weren’t too bad for me.”

        “We’ll have to find you a coat,”  Patch replied.

        “Yes, for the outside, but not for indoors, and nothing for my feet or paws thank you,”  Furball replied.

       “You mean you don’t want a coat for in here to hide your nakedness?”  Sally asked, padding into the room.  Furball looked at her, switching from ursine to English she replied:

       “No, my naked body is not embarrassing to me, being cold is not nice though.  I understand human sensibilities are different.  You don’t’ walk around naked, hence why you are wearing a cat suit, I know this stuff.”

       “how did you become so naked anyway?”  Sally asked, “bears are born with small amounts of fur on their bodies.”

         “Not me,”  Furball replied, “I was born without fur, my birth stripped it off me.  mama delivered the coat without the cub inside it.  It hurt her, and she roared and cried throughout.  Straining, wriggling  and pushing, curling her toes and kicking as she delivered me, and doing all that bar the kicking when she passed the afterbirth and my rejected fur coat.”

       “Poor mama,”  Sally replied, “labour is hard, I’ve done it.  I helped a panda cub into the world.”

       “You pushed like my mama did?”  Furball asked.

        “yes,”  Sally replied, “I was playing, and pretending ended in real labour, helping a mama panda who was dying while trying to deliver her cub.  I took over and helped her by finishing the job.  I did all your mama did.  I screamed and cried, curled my toes, kicked and thrust with my bare feet and punched with my hands, wriggled and roared too.”

         “it’s a lovely story,”  Furball replied.

        “I’ll find you a suit you can wear outside,”  Patch said.

         “I won’t wear it in the house, and won’t wear it if it’s warm out,”  Furball replied, “but I appreciate the kindness.”

        “I think you look lovely without fur,”  Sally said, “but you will catch cold without a coat, just as I would.”

       “yes I know,”  Furball replied.  Sally asked:

       “Furball, can I touch you?  hug you?”  Furball nodded, and Sally got hands on, feeling the bear’s skin tough and leathery under her hands.  Sally ran her hands down Furball’s back, then her arms to her paws, then legs to her hind feet, Furball wriggling and curling her toes with pleasure throughout.

       “Your feet and paws are like mine,”  Sally said, “naked on the tops and the soles, so sweet!”  Furball laughed helplessly at this and pressed her toes into Sally’s hands as the young girl explored her left foot.

        “You are so gentle with my feet and paws,”  Furball said.

         “they are lovely feet and paws,”  Sally said, drawing circles on the sole of Furball’s left foot, Furball giggling and curling her toes tighter and tighter as Sally’s foot massage continued.

        “What’s going on here?”  Jenny asked, padding into the room.

       “we have a naked bear,”  Sally said, “ a bear who is furless and has cute paws and feet.”

       “A naked bear?  Furless?  Completely furless?”  jenny asked, padding carefully forward.

       “yes,”  Furball replied, “Sally’s right, I have no fur.”

        “”Furball has pink skin and pink pads,”  Sally said.

        “how did she become naked?”  jenny asked, “a bear isn’t usually like that, they are furry.”

        “I was born out of my fir,”  Furball said, “my previous owners called me Furball.”

       “how?”  Jenny asked.

        “I was stripped of my fur while being born,”  Furball replied, “I don’t know how, I only remember the result of it, my mama’s agony as she rid herself of afterbirth and my fur coat, and being cold on dark nights, my mama struggling to keep me warm.”

         “that is sad,”  Jenny said.

       “it’s how I am, naked from my ears to my feet,”  Furball said.  jenny padded to Furball and took her paw.

       “your paw is very warm despite having no fur on it, or any claws for that matter,”  Jenny said.

      “My claws were removed by the humans who owned me,”  Furball confessed, “I didn’t lose those when being born.”

        “I’m sorry Furball,”  jenny said, “I’m sorry my species did that to yours.”

        “it’s noone’s fault,”  Furball sighed, “I know now how it feels to be clawless in paw and foot.  I learnt how to climb, and how to grip with my toes rather than my claws, which I didn’t have of course.”

        “Can I touch your feet and paws?”  jenny asked.  Furball rolled onto her back and jenny got hands on, Furball almost purring as she soaked up jenny’s attentions”

        “Your paws and feet are very warm,”  jenny said, “Furball, do you play with your hind feet?”  Furball giggled:

       “yeah, I do!”  she said, “I often did, my humans found it cute, and I found it relaxing.”

        “So many like playing with their toes,”  jenny said, “I do, Patch does, Sally does, and you do Furball.”

        “It’s a cubbish thing I know,”  Furball said.  Patch smiled as Jenny rubbed Furball’s paws and feet, the naked bear wriggling and laughing with pleasure.

        “You are so tactile,”  jenny laughed.  Furball clasped jenny’s hands in her paws, and grabbed her fingers with her toes whenever jenny touched her paws or feet.

       “You lovely silly bear!”  jenny laughed, as Furball kicked pedalled air with her hind feet, her toes brushing Jenny’s hands.

       “You big softy!”  Jenny laughed.

       “Lovely seeing you two play,”  Sally said.

        “I like jenny’s touch, and yours too Sally,”  Furball replied.

         “Furball is beautiful,”  Sally said.

       “What kind of bear is Furball?”  jenny asked.

        “I think she’s a brown bear,”  Patch said, “I’m half polar half grizzly, but my pads are so pink they might as well be white.  I think Furball is the same as me.  her fur would have been brown, her skin pink, feel her foot, it has a solid sole pad, not one with an arch on the inside like a black bear has.”

        “her paws and feet are cute!”  Sally said.

         “stop tickling my feet!”  Furball laughed, “your touch tickles my feet!”

         “you have lovely feet and paws Furball,”  jenny said, hugging her and kissing her nose.

       “Now you’ve had a good feel of my feet, can I grab yours in my paws?”  Furball asked, “it’s only fair.”  Jenny sat down, and Furball crawled over to her, grabbing her right foot in her paws, then tickling the toes, sole and ball of her foot, Jenny screaming with laughter.

        “I learnt how to handle the hands and feet of humans,”  Furball said, “we played together, me and the two children, a boy and a girl, I was their playmate.  They wept as I was taken from their home and released into the woods.  It’s a long way from here is their home.  I’m homeless now.”

         “I was a child’s playmate once,”  Patch said.  Furball looked at him, while her paws counted the toes on Jenny’s left foot.

        “so it’s you Paul was talking about!”  Furball yelled, “he, he came back from school, oh, um, weeks ago, months ago, and he said he’d met a bear, and that bear had told them stories, and, oh, and, he said he’d seen a young girl secretly touch the sole of the bear’s left foot as he sat cross legged on the floor, and, and that the bear had responded by curling his toes around the girl’s fingers, and that two children had gone with the bear to his home, and that, that they stayed at his home for ages, and didn’t come back to school!  Was that you Sally?”

       “Yes, me and Peter my brother,”  Sally replied.

       “So the bear named Patch, is you!”  Furball yelled, waving a paw at Patch, who smiled:

        “it is I,”  he replied.  Furball was so excited by this she got to her feet and leapt about the floor, Sally squealing with laughter.

       “Can you hear Furball’s feet on the tiles?”  Sally asked.  jenny grinned:

        “her pads are hot and sticking a bit,”  Jenny said.  Furball calmed down and Patch padded to her, and hugged her.

        “Who was your human playmate?”  Furball asked, “Patch, did you see her after you were put in the woods?”  Patch smiled and held Furball tightly.

        “My human found me,”  Patch said, recounting the tale of how mama Kamchatka had found Jess in the woods.  Furball laughed as Patch recounted how Jess had accidently tickled the grizzly bear’s foot.

       “Typical humans,”  she giggled.

        “I accepted Jess as she was,”  Patch said, omitting the story of Jess’s period of ursine living.

        “Do all the humans learn foot and paw games here?”  Furball asked.

       “They do,”  Patch replied, “old and young learn them, they play with the cubs too.  touch is one of the senses first used by our cubs here.”

       “Is that why Ekaterina touched me with her paws so soon?”  Furball enquired.

       “Partly,”  Patch replied, “but mostly because she is blind and can’t see you Furball.”

       “oooah,”  Furball exclaimed.

         “Do you feel differently about her now you know that?”  Patch asked.

“No, she was soft and gentle, and made me feel warm,”  Furball replied, “It’s just that knowing now that she’s unable to see tells me why she explored with her paws in the way she did, she was enquiring with them, asking questions with her paws.”

         “she made you feel safe, that is good,”  Patch replied, “I worry about her when she’s out alone.”

        “There was another bear with her, a young male, he was rude,”  Furball replied.

      “he was very rude if I remember,”  Ekaterina said, walking into the room.

        “yes, he was,”  Furball admitted, “but, but, I didn’t want to cause trouble!”

        “I’ve spoken to him, so it’s all cleared up,”  Ekaterina said, sensing Patch’s attention turned on her.

        “We took charge of Orbon recently,”  Patch said, “I hope you told him off Ekaterina,”  Patch said.

       “I did,”  Ekaterina replied, “I come to hug and speak to Furball, and not to talk of Orbon.”

         “you look cleaner than you did in the woods,”  Furball said.

        “I washed myself twice over,”  Ekaterina replied, “I hope you did too.”

        “Get paws on if you like,”  Furball said, padding to Ekaterina, “I wish my feet weren’t so sticky!”  she raged hearing the sucking sound her feet made on the tiles, “excitement does this to me, makes my feet stick to the floor!”  Ekaterina giggled:

        “Mine too Furball love,”  she replied.

        “You have lovely paws Ekaterina,”  Furball said, reaching the mama bear and kissing her nose.

      “So do you Furball,”  Ekaterina replied, covering Furball’s naked right paw with her own, Furball smiling into Ekaterina’s eyes.

        “You can’t see me,”  Furball said, “but if I tell you I have pink skin from nose to toes would that be of any use?”  Ekaterina smiled:

        “it would,”  she replied, returning Furball’s kiss.

       “I have no fur on my face, my feet, my back or my belly!”  Furball giggled.

        “I felt that,”  Ekaterina replied.

       “But you clothed me in warmth Ekaterina, your paws did that is.  That is why I followed you.”  Ekaterina hesitated, knowing her face gave away her emotions.

        “Your paws made me feel safe Ekaterina,”  Furball said, spelling it out for the she bear.

        “I tried my best,”  Ekaterina replied.

        “Who will look after me now?”  Furball asked.

          “the whole community will,”  Ekaterina replied.

        “A van took me away and they released me into the woods, I will never see my human playmates again,”  Furball whimpered.  Ekaterina kissed Furball’s nose.

       “Come,”  she said, “let’s see what games we can play shall we?  What games did you play with your family?”

       “Oh, foot and paw games mostly, chasing each other, playing with sticks, passing the twig to each other with our toes, picking up marbles and things like that with our toes, crawling about with someone tickling my toes, me tickling theirs.  Is that enough games?  Or do you want more?”

        “Did you play the cycling game? Or the stuck foot game?”  Ekaterina asked.

       “We played those,”  Furball said.

       “You are playful,”  jenny said to Furball.

       “I am,”  Furball replied, “I love play, always have.”

       “is there anywhere to relieve myself?”  Furball asked.  Patch showed her the place, and she used it, before washing her backside, paws and feet carefully.  This done, she padded back to Patch’s lie up.

       “Now let’s play a foot and paws game,”  Furball suggested.

       “the convention here is to check feet for thorns before we play,”  jenny replied.

        “I like the idea of that,”  Furball said.  Furball sat down on the rugs, jenny sitting down opposite her.  the naked bear and cat suited human took each other’s feet in hands or paws and explored from toes to heels, then heels to toes, pressing pads and toes.  Furball couldn’t help curling her toes at jenny’s touch, the young girl’s touch gentle and soothing to the she bear as she explored soft pads and mobile toes.

        “your feet like my touch,”  Jenny said, Furball smiling at her and squeezing Jenny’s fingers with the toes of her right foot.

       “the sole of your foot wrinkles up as you curl your toes!  it’s cute!”  jenny giggled.

       “I’ll bet yours does the same,”  Furball said.  jenny giggled:

       “Let’s see if it does,”  she said.  she let go of Furball’s foot and gave the she bear her own left foot.  Furball explored Jenny’s foot from toes to heel, jenny resisting the urge to curl her toes until the bear’s touch reached the soft sole skin and touched the soft skin on the inside of the arch of her foot, jenny tightly curling her toes, Furball drawing her paw down the now furrowed skin on the sole of Jenny’s foot.

       “the sole of your foot wrinkles up when you curl your toes too jenny!”  Furball laughed.

       “I couldn’t stop them curling when you touched the middle part of my foot, yes there, right there, yes there!!  jenny giggled, as Furball rubbed the sensitive skin on the inside of her foot.”

       “I know the sensitive parts of the human foot,”  Furball said, “remember I used to play with humans, touch is how we communicated.”

         “I can tell,”  jenny replied, “this is fun!”  Furball embraced jenny’s foot, jenny curling her toes, reaching forward with both hands and tightly holding onto her curled toes with her fingers such were the intensity of her emotions.

       “Oooooaw,”  she exclaimed, “this feels so warm!”  Furball smiled, leant forward and kissed Jenny’s gripping fingers.

         “You softies!”  Patch laughed, his eyes shinning.  Ekaterina, sitting down, was being shown by Sally what jenny and Furball were up to, Sally directing Ekaterina in Furball’s role, she taking Jenny’s part, both thoroughly enjoying themselves with audio tactile entertainment.

        “the soles of Furball’s feet are slightly darker than the skin around, as she has thick pads on the soles of her feet and on her toes,”  Sally said, “but as you can hear, they are very sensitive, and she loves Jenny’s touch.”  Ekaterina, giggling throughout as Sally imitated Jenny’s play with Furball’s feet, then copied Jenny as Ekaterina copied Furball’s exploration of jenny’s feet by exploring Sally’s left foot, Sally reacting to Ekaterina’s touch as jenny had to Furball’s touch on the sole of her left foot, curling her toes, then grabbing them with her hands.

      “This feels wonderful!”  Sally laughed.

 

 

Here’s my right foot,”  Furball said, placing her heel in Jenny’s hands after letting go of the young girl’s left foot.

       “Can I make your toes curl like you did mine?”  jenny asked, exploring Furball’s foot from naked top to thick sole pad and mobile toes.

        “My toes curl easily!”  Furball laughed, bouncing on her backside as her toes curled tightly, catching Jenny’s fingers, the young girl laughing merrily.

        “This is wonderful!”  she said.  Furball, her eyes shining, settled into her play as she’d done so many times before.  Jenny’s feet were small, Furballs toes able to curl around Jennies in comfort when she were heel to heel.

     “Foot and paw play really works,”  Sally said.

         “It does,”  Ekaterina replied, as Sally explored her right foot, Ekaterina’s own toes curling tightly, catching Sally’s fingers.

         “that’s so sweet,”  Patch said, sitting in the corner, watching everything, his paws and toes clenching and curling with emotions.

        “Patch is loving this as much as we are,”  Sally said.  Jenny and Furball roughhoused on the floor, jenny getting the upper hand and tickling Furball’s toes, the she bear squealing with laughter.  Sally described what was happening, then tickled Ekaterina’s toes, Ekaterina lying on her back, waving her paws, laughing helplessly.

        “I couldn’t roughhouse with you really,”  Sally said, “so I had to just tickle your toes and hope I tickled them enough.”

        “what’s happening now?”  Ekaterina asked.  In reply Sally grabbed Ekaterina’s right foot and drew circles on her pads then counted her toes.

     “Ah, nice,”  Ekaterina sighed.

        “How expressive are Furball’s paws and feet?”  Sally asked.

        “her paws and feet pour her emotions into my paws,”  Ekaterina replied, curling her toes around Sally’s fingers, squeezing them tenderly.

 

“Your pads are very soft and warm,”  Furball said to Jenny as she traced the sole of Jenny’s left foot with the toes of her right paw.  jenny, giggling, bounced about on her backside a bit, flexing her toes, then curling them, holding them curled as the circles drawn on the sole of her foot by Furball’s paw got smaller and smaller, Furball pressing the centre of jenny’s heel with her paw, jenny making an extra effort to curl her toes for as long as Furball pressed the heel pad of her foot.  Furball drew her toes down the sole of Jenny’s foot from her tightly curled toes over her bunched sole, to her heel, jenny easing her toes from curled to relaxed.

         “I like that game,”  Jenny said, “you deciding how long I curl my toes, and me trying to keep them curled as long as the pressure is on the heel of my foot.”

        “now will you do the same for me?”  Furball asked.  jenny took Furball’s right foot and drew circles on her sole pad with her fingers, careful not to tickle the bear’s foot.  Furball curled her toes slowly, then when jenny stopped drawing and pressed the heel of her foot, Furball took a deep breath and curled her toes tighter than ever, holding them tightly curled, while breathing out slowly.  Jenny explored Furball’s tightly curled toes with her free hand, as she’d let go of Furball’s foot shortly before putting pressure on her heel.  Furball wriggled as she tried to maintain her curled toes.

       “Don’t overtire her jenny,”  Patch said.

       “I’m loving this!”  Furball replied, jenny relieving the pressure on Furball’s foot, Furball uncurling her toes, jenny helping her by rubbing her bunched pads, easing the bear’s toes into a relaxed state.

 

Sally watched jenny, telling Ekaterina what she was doing, then she demonstrated using Ekaterina’s hind feet, the polar bear laughing as her toes curled tightly.

       “This feels wonderful!”  she laughed, as Sally drew her fingers from Ekaterina’s tightly curled toes to her heel, Ekaterina easing her toes straight..

       “Now do the same for my feet,”  Sally said, Ekaterina drawing circles on the sole of Sally’s right foot, Sally slowly curling her toes while Ekaterina’s paw circled, then holding them curled as she pressed Sally’s heel with her paw.

         “this feels wonderful!”  Sally laughed as Ekaterina helped her straighten her toes.

 

“now my toes are exhausted,”  Furball said, “but I love the play.  How about if we play the stuck foot game jenny?”  Jenny explored her own feet with her hands, feeling slight warmth in her own pads.

       “yes let’s,”  she replied.  Furball pressed her feet against jenny’s, jenny feeling her heel sticking slightly to Furball’s warm pads.  Smiling she tried to move her foot down, and couldn’t.

       “We’re stuck already!”  she laughed.  Furball smiled:

      “We are,”  she replied, “now who will pull and who will use their fingers as a lever?”

       “I’ll pull, if you’ll lever,”  Jenny said, “I’ll pull the heel of my left foot, you lever away at your right foot.  Furball explored with her left paw, feeling her way around the sides of her own right foot, finding Jenny’s foot, the girl’s toes pressing into the ball of her own foot, her heel pressed flush against hers.

       “Okay, I’ve found the gap,”  Furball said, now I’ll work my paw into it, and you pull your heel with your hands.  Pull Jenny Pull!  Brace your toes and pull!”  Jenny dug her toes into the soft pad of Furball’s right foot, tugging at her heel with both her hands, while Furball worked furiously with her left paw to widen the gap, her toes curling tightly with every pressure put on the ball of her foot by Jenny’s toes.

 

Ekaterina and Sally played the same game as Jenny and Furball, each finding the other’s pads warm and very attractive to each other.  Sally’s toes dug into the ball of Ekaterina’s foot, Ekaterina’s toes curling as Sally tugged at the heel of her own left foot.

       “This is lovely!”  Ekaterina gasped, levering away at her foot as Furball was at hers.

        “I love these games,”  Sally replied, gasping a little.

        “Pull Sally Pull your heel from mine, dig those toes in, dig them into my foot if you need to!”  Ekaterina urged.

      “but your toes are tired,”  Sally said.  Ekaterina curled her toes tightly round Sally’s:

       “Now dig your toes hard into my pads and pull!”  Ekaterina urged.  Sally dug her toes into Ekaterina’s pads with as much force as she could, tugging at her own heel, while Ekaterina worked furiously with her left paw.  Sally and Ekaterina whimpered and growled with effort as they struggled to free their feet, when suddenly their two feet parted, Ekaterina’s toes releasing Sally’s foot.  Whimpering slightly, Sally massaged her foot with her hands, rocking back and fourth slightly as she did so, Ekaterina doing much the same.

       “Rock and rub, rock on your backside and rub your foot and toes Ekaterina!”  Sally encouraged.  Ekaterina panting, grabbed her right foot in her paws and obeyed like a cub.

 

This foot rubbing feels great Furball,”  Jenny said, “your foot held mine well.”

       “it did,”  Furball said, “that was a great game.”

        “how about playing with the other two feet now?”  Jenny asked, rubbing the toes of her left foot with her fingers.

         “yes please,”  Furball replied, rubbing the heel of her right foot with her left paw..

        “it’s lovely play this,”  Patch said, “it’s lovely to see you four playing.”

        “it’s a pity you can’t play too,”  Furball said.

        “I’ll play the winner of the stuck foot games,”  Patch replied.

        “There are no winners yet,”  Ekaterina said.

        “I’ll play the first who can free their foot from the second rounds then,”  Patch replied, “No cheating, and no easy games okay?  I want to see real effort, four really stuck feet, as before.”  Sally and jenny smiled.

        “We’ll play fair,”  Furball and Ekaterina promised.

 

 “is Ekaterina following our game, or are they playing their own?”  jenny asked.

       “I think she and Sally are playing their own stuck foot game,”  Furball replied.

         “they were following ours though,”  Jenny said, “Sally was tactilely describing it to Ekaterina.”

        “yes,”  Furball replied, “I realised that.”

         “now let’s pull at our feet to free them,”  jenny said, “I’ll dig at the gap between our pads where the arch of my right foot is, and you try to brace the ball of your left foot against my toes, while I try and brace my toes against your foot, this is gonna be hard, my feet are smaller than yours!  I’ll have to get some stronger toes Furball!”  Jenny tried pushing back against Furball’s efforts to free her foot with her toes, but couldn’t do it.

       “How about if I dig with my paws while you pull at your heel jenny?”  Furball asked, “that way you can dig your toes into my pads with ease.”  Jenny smiled and agreed and Furball felt Jenny’s toes pressing into the ball of her foot.

       “Pull jenny Pull!”  Furball gasped.

      “eoeoeoeoeoeoeeooahsh! Eeeeoeoeoeoaow!”  Jenny yelled as she tugged at the heel of her right foot with both hands while Furball’s toes curled round hers, the bear scrabbling at the gap she could feel between the pad of her left foot and the heel of Jenny’s right .  Jenny wriggled, tugging furiously at her right foot, bracing her toes with desperate urgency.

          “My paw’s finding a widening gap jenny, Pull! Pull hard!”  Jenny worried at her foot a bit, then tugged harder, bracing her toes against the ball of Furball’s foot.

        “Eeeeoeoeoeoeoeaowow!”  jenny screeched, tugging harder still.  Furball’s scrabbling paw found its way into the increasing gap, the she bear pushing it further in.

       “Do that again jenny, do it again!”  Furball encouraged, “it worked!”

       “My fingers are slipping, I can’t hold on to my heel for much longer!”  jenny yelled theatrically, her fingers scrabbling forward, finding their way to gripping the pad of her heel a bit.

       “Now you have purchase, pull!”  Furball encouraged.  Jenny closed her eyes, braced her toes against Furball’s and pulled as hard as she could.

      “My heel’s coming free Furball!  Eoeoeoeoeoeoaoaoaow!  It’s coming free!”  Jenny yelled.

       “Pull Jenny Pull!”  Furball encouraged.  Furball’s paw slipped right into the gap made by jenny’s efforts to free her heel, then jenny grabbed the main part of her foot, both hands up by the ball of her foot, tugging and gasping.

        “let go of my toes Furball!”  jenny yelled, Furball uncurling her toes, Jenny tugging them away from Furball’s foot, both bear and girl rubbing their feet with their hands or paws.

       “That was intense,”  Ekaterina remarked when she’d got her breath back, having re-enacted what Sally had described to her.

       “It was fun!”  jenny laughed.

        “how did you scream like that,”  Sally asked.

        “I really believed my foot was stuck,”  jenny replied, “for a second, I really believed it.”

         “We were a little behind you,”  Ekaterina said, “but Sally did a great job of describing what was happening, letting me get paws on, and me letting her get hands on too.”

        “What was that yell?”  Purdy asked, padding into the room.  Jenny told her what she and Furball had been doing.

        “I take it Fuwball is that naked bear who’s rubbing talc into her paws and feet?”  Purdy asked.

        “yes I am “Fuwball,”  as you most beautifully pronounce my name,”  Furball replied smiling.  Purdy looked at Furball, taking the naked bear in from her nose to her toes.

       “Who stole your fur?”  She asked.

        “I lost it during my birth,”  Furball replied.

       “But you are brilliant the way you are,”  Purdy said, “the way you played with jenny was so sweet!  I’ve never seen play like that!”

        “it was intense,”  Furball replied smiling, “we really got into our game.”

          “Jenny’s yell as she pulled her foot free was real enough!”  Purdy said.

       “it was, but being stuck was all in my imagination,”  jenny said, walking to Purdy and sitting down beside her.  Purdy turned to Jenny and jenny hugged her.

        “I wish I could play like that,”  Purdy said, “I’m twying, but I haven’t quite got the imagination yet.  Koda is twying to help me play through my paws and feet.”

       “I learnt how to very young indeed,”  Jenny said, “so did Sally and her brother Peter.  Our feet and hands are playthings, for us to use or for us to give others to play with.”

        “I played with Figaro’s hind feet, explowing his feet and paws with my paws, and he cuwled his toes, it was so cute!”  Purdy replied.

        “Our play started with playing silly toe curling games, and then stuck foot games,”  Furball said, “we sat down did Jenny and me, and we began to play, and play till our feet stuck, then we fought to free them.”

         “I saw,”  Purdy replied, “it looked weal!”

       “it felt real too,”  jenny said.

        “You’re a playful two,”  Patch said laughing.

        “I loved playing with you Furball,”  Jenny said smiling.

        “I with you too Jenny,”  Furball said.  Jenny embraced Furball, the naked she bear snuggling close.

         “To begin with your furless body was unusual,”  jenny said, “but now I am used to it.  I know how expressive your paws and feet are, and that you are warm and gentle.”

        “I’ve found a coat for Furball!”  Jess yelled, running in with a full length quilted jacket.  Furball glanced at her, then at the jacket, and shook her head:

       “I’m not wearing that!”  she growled.

      “oh please, try it on,”  Jess pleaded.  Furball got to her feet and padded to Jess, looking the cat suited girl up and down, she said:

       “You’re Patch’s former charge aren’t you?”  Jess nodded:

       “how did you know?”  she asked.

       “I guessed,”  Furball replied, “something in the way you walk, you copy him.”

         “he was my role model for years,”  Jess said, “I love him dearly.”  Patch hid his face in his paws, embarrassed at Jess’s expressions of love for him.

        “Be proud of it,”  Furball said to him, “Patch, you made this girl what she is today.”  Jess left the jacket on the floor and padded to Patch, throwing her arms around him and kissing his nose.  Patch got to his hind feet, Jess standing on tiptoe to hug him.  Patch judged the distances, embraced Jess, picked her up, and swung her round, her feet swinging out, Jess laughing helplessly.  Setting her down on her feet again, Patch smiled at Jess, Jess’s eyes shining into his.

       “Do you two check each other’s feet for thorns?”  Furball asked.  Jess smiled and motioned to Patch, who dropped to his knees and sat down on the floor, Jess picking up his right foot and pressing his pads and toes.

       “it’s as if he’s a circus bear!”  Furball screamed.  Patch shook his head:

       “I know Jess motioned to me and I sat down, but I’m my own bear, I could ignore her if I wanted,”  he replied in English.  Furball didn’t think it unusual Patch could speak English, for she could, as she’d learnt it with her own humans, as had Purdy and Figaro.

         “I like Jess checking my feet for thorns,”  Patch said, a distant look in his eyes, “it’s like old times.  There were good times in that horrid house, times when Jess and I were left alone to play, and to become close.  Checking each other’s feet for thrones after Jess came back from school were one of those times.”

       “Didn’t she wear shoes?”  Furball asked.

        “I did,”  Jess replied, “but we ignored that, I tearing off my shoes  and socks with as much theatrical urgency as I could, giving Patch my feet, curling and stretching my toes wildly until his touch soothed my bare feet.”

       “Cute,”  Purdy observed.

          “you asked me to check your feet for thorns after every school day didn’t you,”  Patch said.  Jess smiled:

       “I did,”  she said, “I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a teacher like Miss Chartwell.”  Patch smiled.  He knew what she really meant.  Checking her feet for thorns wasn’t anything to do with thorns, it was a way of Jess feeling safe after her school day.  For years, Patch was the only one Jess felt safe with, and checking her feet for thorns made her feel safe.

        “We used to play stuck foot games didn’t we Patch,”  Jess said.  Patch smiled and nodded.

         “I wish we could play again,”  Jess added, “but you’re always too occupied to do that.”

       “You only have to ask me Jess dear,”  Patch replied.

        “okay, how about now?”  Jess asked, “the games Furball and Jenny were playing look good games.”  Patch got to his feet.

        “come,”  he said, “for old times sake, I’ll let you ride on my back to my lie up.”  Furball was shocked at this.

      “how can you let her do that! That degrades you!”  she screamed.

        “I said it was for old times sake,”  Patch replied, “like I used to carry her when she was young and we went out at night to walk.  When she got too tired to walk, I’d carry Jess on my back.”  Jess got onto Patch’s back, Patch padding to the soft play room.  Smiling, he tipped Jess off onto the soft flooring, then sat down and they both checked each other’s feet for thorns, making a play of pulling each other’s adult feet from their cub feet, rolling imaginary socks off their hind feet, then checking their cub feet for thorns.  Once this was done, Patch and Jess crawled to their play area, sat down and Patch took Jess’s right foot in his paws, drawing circles on the sole of her foot, Jess curling her toes tighter and tighter as the circles decreased in size, Jess relaxing her toes after every circle..  Once Patch’s circles reached the smallest they could, Patch dabbed at the centre of Jess’s heel Pad, Jess curling her toes even tighter than she had before, Patch keeping pressure on her heel pad, Jess keeping her toes curled for as long as she could.  Patch rubbed Jess’s curled toes with his free paw, Jess pressing her curled toes into his paw with pleasure of the game.

        “please uncurl my toes Patch,”  Jess said, grabbing her toes with the fingers of her right hand, “I can’t do it!”  Patch drew his fingers down the furrowed sole of Jess’s foot from her curled toes to her heel, then rubbed the ball of her foot, Jess slowly relaxing her toes.

       “That feels wonderful!”  Jess exclaimed, “could you do the same for my left foot too?”

         “I will,”  Patch replied.  Patch thought for a minute:

       “Can we change the rules a bit?”  he asked.  Jess replied:

       “Okay, what rules?”

        “I’ll draw circles, and you interpreter the size of the circle by curling your toes?  then, as a random time, I’ll touch the heel pad of your foot, and you curl your toes as tightly as you can and hold it for as long as you can?”  Jess giggled at this.

       “Sounds great,”  she replied.  So Patch drew circles again, but Jess held her toes curled dependent on the size of the circle.  Patch watched as he drew first a large circle, Jess’s toes hardly curling, then he drew a tiny circle, Jess curling her toes tightly, then he drew a medium circle, Jess relaxing her toes to a medium curled state.  This game went on for quarter of an hour, Patch finally dabbing the centre of Jess’s heel pad with the toes of his paw, Jess curling her toes as tightly as she could.

         “I wasn’t expecting that!”  she laughed.

       “That’s the joy of this game,”  Patch replied.

       “let me do the same for your feet!”  Jess pleaded.  Patch smiled and gave her his left foot.

      “Okay,”  Jess said, “let’s check your toe curling abilities, the spiral test first Patch.”  Jess drew ever decreasing circles on the sole pad of Patch’s right foot, Patch curling his toes ever tighter, then she dabbed his heel with her fingers, Patch curling his toes as tightly as he could, holding them curled.  Then Jess drew her fingers from Patch’s curled toes to his heel, releasing his toes, Patch relaxing his foot.  then Jess tried random circles, Patch interpreting her circles with the degree of curl in his toes.  Jess finishing the game by pressing the heel of his foot, Patch having to go from a large circle, with toes slightly curled, to fully curled toes in half a second.  Patch desperately curled his toes, Jess giggling and rubbing the furred tops of her friend’s curled toes.

        “It’s hard isn’t it Patch,”  she said.  Patch, released from the curl, replied:

       “yes it is!  But it’s fun!”  Jess hugged her lifelong friend.

        “I love you Patch, my dear old grey,”  she said, burying her face in his fur.  Patch, embracing Jess as tightly as he dared, returned her hug.

        “you are handsome from your nose to your toes Patch,”  Jess said.  Patch smiled and rubbed her back with his paw, Jess feeling her fingers and toes curling with emotion.

        “it’s like old times,”  Jess said, “you make me feel warm and safe Patch.”  Patch blew warm breath on her head, Jess snuggling close.

        “You always called me your bear cub,”  she said softly.

        “I know, and you were then, and are now,”  Patch replied, “I promised to protect you as long as you needed me.”

         “I’m older in my mind,”  Jess replied, “but I still need my comforting bear.”  Patch smiled and ruffled her hair with his paw, Jess sitting back on her heels between Patch’s hind legs, Patch reaching round and tickling the heel of her left foot, Jess yelping and jumping, then laughing helplessly.

       “I’m nearly too tall not to do you damage when you do that!”  she laughed, “my head nearly hit you under your chin Patch!”  Patch grinned.

        “I’ll be sad when you’re too tall for me to do that,”  he replied.  Jess looked into Patch’s face.

        “Do you remember when I used to explore your face, belly, feet and paws with my hands?”  she asked.

       “I do,”  Patch replied, “you used to clamber all over me too, use me like a climbing frame when you were really young.  I remember how your fingers and toes used to grip my fur.”  Jess closed her eyes, her fingers and toes curling slightly as she remembered the grip she’d used when she was three years old, and Patch was large enough for her to clamber all over him to some extent.  She explored his paws and feet with her fingers, then with her toes, Patch exploring her hands and feet with his paws, then with his feet too.

        “We had many foot and paw games,”  Jess said wistfully, “I wish we could play them again, that I could have my small hands and feet back so I could feel your feet and paws with the fresh enquiry I had, even though I’d felt them many times before.”  Patch smiled:

        “You want me to make your feet as small as they were when you were three years old?”  he asked.

       “for a bit yes,”  Jess replied.  Patch took Jess’s hands in his paws, feeling and looking at them.  then Jess sat back, giving him her feet one at a time, Patch exploring her feet from heels to toes.

        “I can’t make your feet and hands smaller,”  he said, “but I can make myself bigger so you can climb again like you did before.”  Jess felt her toes curling uncontrollably.

       “Just once, just one more time, please?”  Jess pleaded.  Patch smiled, and Jess closed her eyes, the memories of her explorations flooding back from all those years ago.

       “now explore me with your hands and feet dear little cub,”  Patch said.  Jess did, finding Patch as big as she remembered him, she found him large enough to climb on, her toes and fingers finding finger and toe holds, then she found herself standing on his back.  Smiling, she explored the sensation of the bear’s fur under her feet, digging her toes in, caressing the fur in her curled toes, rubbing the fur under her heels.

      “This feels great!”  Jess exclaimed.  Patch, standing on all four feet, completely relaxed, smiled to himself.

        “it feels wonderful this end too,”  he said.  Jess Sat down, her heels sinking into Patch’s thick fur.

        “I’m not hurting you am I?”  she asked.

        “You cannot,”  Patch replied, “you are three years old, you can’t hurt me little cub.”  Jess, her heart full of excitement, slid off Patch’s back, then lifted his right foot in her hands, feeling his warm pads and toes, toes which grabbed her fingers, making her laugh and pull at her hand.

         “this is so wonderful Patch!”  Jess said.  Patch released Jess’s fingers, then dropped into a crawling posture, Jess resting her heels on his toes, her toes on the heels of his hind feet as she sat behind him.

        “My toes don’t reach your heels!”  she complained.

       “Do you remember how to stretch your feet?”  Patch asked, bowing his head between his forelegs and looking at her between them and his hind legs.  Jess, seeing this, screamed with laughter, excitedly pressing the pads of his hind feet with her toes.

       “you look so funny!”  she squealed.

        “I’m not funny!”  Patch replied, sticking his tongue out, Jess giggling childishly.

        “Can I touch your feet and paws again?”  Jess asked.  Patch crawled round, then sat down, giving her his left foot to start.  Jess measured her own foot against his, stretching her toes to try and make them touch his toes:

       “I can’t make my feet bigger!”  Jess squealed, Patch curling his toes so their toes touched.

       “there, now your toes touch mine,”  Patch said.  Jess giggling.

       “Can we play the stuck foot game like this?”  Jess asked.

       “I remember we got really stuck once, stuck for hours,”  Patch replied, “it was such a struggle to free ourselves.”

        “I remember that game,”  Jess said, “it was historical.”  Jess explored the pads and toes of Patch’s hind feet with her own toes, Patch smiling throughout.  Lastly, Patch let Jess explore his paws with her feet, her toes exploring his paws with care.  Then he hugged her, and Jess snuggled close.

       “how was that?”  Patch asked a few minutes later.

         “it felt wonderful!”  Jess replied, “Patch, can you do that never you want?”

        “not often,”  Patch replied, “but it was fun for me too.”

         “thank you,”  Jess said, kissing his nose, “thank you Old Grey, my lovely cuddly friend.”  Patch rested his chin on the top of Jess’s head, Jess relaxing into his embrace.

         “I love you Patch,”  Jess said softly.

        “I love you too Jess,”  Patch replied, “but words are meaningless really, we communicated with our paws and feet before we could communicate with our voices.”

        “Yes I know,”  Jess replied, “I snuggled with you before I knew words, I clasped your paw in my tiny hands and curled up with you to sleep.

       “I remember holding you in my paws, keeping you warm with my curled body,”  Patch said, “I remember you snuggling up to me on cold nights, both of us falling asleep together.”

      “I remember that too,”  Jess said.  she looked up into Patch’s face.

        “You’re big and soft and lovely,”  Jess said smiling.

        “I’m just me,”  Patch replied, looking down and kissing her nose.

          “the day you die I’ll lose it,”  Jess exclaimed, “I can’t imagine you dead Patch.”  Patch looked grave:

         “I’m not going anywhere,”  he said, “I’ve been assured of that.”

       “You mean like Petra?”  Jess asked.

       “yes,”  Patch replied, “I’m here to do a job, I’m here to be a friend to others, to do my duty to my community, to be myself.”

         “You followed the right path Patch, right from inside the womb,”  Jess said, “that is why you are given the abilities you have.”

         “I’m also here to be a friend to you Jess, to play with you and be gentle to you.”

        “if I seriously did wrong you’d make me see my errors too,”  Jess replied.

       “I would,”  Patch said, “but I wish not to think of how I would do that, not in this place of play.”

         “Ok Patch,”  Jess said.  Patch pushed Jess away, then lay on his back, lifted his feet off the floor and smiling, waved his paws and feet in the air, Jess laughing helplessly.

        “Can we play the bicycle game?”  she asked.

       “We can, come on then,”  Patch replied, Jess lying down on her back, feeling her feet touch Patch’s warm pads.  Jess felt her heels and toes seem to grip Patch’s.  smiling, she tried to move her feet down, but they wouldn’t move.  Patch and she began pedalling with their legs right left right left, Jess squealing as the toes of her right foot slipped and she lost the game, Patch giggling as her slipping toes tickled the sole of his foot.

       “Best of three,”  Patch said, “you lose one.  Now round two.”  Jess settled her feet, and they cycled slowly, then faster and faster, Jess’s left foot slipping this time, Patch tickled on his right foot.”

        “You win!”  Jess panted.

       “you tickled my feet!”  Patch laughed, drawing up his hind feet and grabbing them in his paws, rubbing his pads with his paws.

        “that’s so cute!”  Jess said, following Patch’s example.

        “your feet have dark pink pads,”  Patch said to Jess, Jess giggling:

        “I’ve never seen the sole of my own foot,”  she replied.

        “I’ve seen mine,”  Patch replied, “they’re very nice feet, if I do say so myself.

       “how do I see the soles of my own feet?”  Jess asked.

        “I’ll set up a camera so you can see them,”  Patch replied, wriggling to free his hind feet from his paws, then getting to his feet and going to a cupboard where he found a hand held camera and monitor.  Setting it up, he pointed the camera at Jess’s feet as she sat on the floor, turning on the screen.  Jess saw the soles of her feet, smiling, she curled her toes, watching as the skin on the sole of her foot bunched.

       “Nice,”  she said, rubbing her heel with her fingers, then grabbing her fingers with her toes.

       “Silly Jess,”  Patch laughed.

         “it’s nice to see my feet,”  she said.

      “I used to wash you every day in that bathtub,”  Patch replied.

        “I know, you looked after me Patch,”  Jess said.

        “that is something I don’t want to dwell on too much, stealing food to eat when we were given too little.  I did it, but don’t want to think about it, I’d rather think of the times we played together, remembering those.”

        “we had fun times, it’s a pity we grow up really.”  Jess sighed, “foot and paw games were wonderful, and still are in my view.”

        “I agree,”  Patch replied.

        “Can we play the stuck foot game Patch?”  Jess asked.

        “We could,”  Patch replied, “though I think you’ll end up sounding like jenny did in your struggle to free your feet from mine.”

        “I hope I do,”  Jess replied, having watched all, “she really believed it didn’t she.”  Patch smiled.

         “I know most of the community like watching what’s going on in other lie ups,”  he said, “I know it could be considered intrusive, but we’ve saved lives with the cameras, and we never use it for anything but safety.  Maybe education in the case of the birth of a cub, but that’s it.”

       “Watching your antics in the lie up made me think about Furball and what she might need in way of a coat,”  Jess said, hence why I ran down with that big one.”  Patch sat down opposite Jess, who pushed the camera assembly away with the toes of her bare right foot.

       “Can we check each other’s feet for thorns?”  Jess asked.  Patch thrust his foot into her hands.

        “Check that,”  he replied.  Jess giggled and gently pressed Patch’s pads and toes, Patch curling his toes slightly, then more tightly the longer Jess’s exploration lasted.  Once her exploration was over, Patch relaxed his toes.

         “Sorry,”  he said, as Jess checked over his now relaxed right foot.

      “My toes are curling again!”  Patch whimpered as his toes curled tightly.  Grunting, he grabbed them with one paw and pulled, but they would not uncurl.

        “awww Patch!”  Jess laughed, “you’re so cute!”

         “My toes won’t obey me!”  Patch yelled petulantly.

         “Mine do,”  Jess goaded.

       “Bet they won’t!”  Patch sulked.  Jess, giggling helplessly, tried to check over Patch’s left foot, his toes curling as tightly as the toes of his right foot had done, Patch squealing with anger and tugging at his tightly curled toes with one paw, then the other.

        “I hate my toes!”  he raged, Jess nearly crying with laughter.

       “Oh Patch!”  she laughed, “let me rub those toes, maybe then you’ll love them again.”  Jess rubbed the bunched pads of Patch’s left foot, Patch relaxing his curled toes with a sigh of relief.

         “You used to play like this, silly antics before we played foot and paw games,”  Jess said, “it’s great you can still do it Patch.”

       “I’ll bet your toes will curl like mine did when I check your feet for thorns,”  Patch mumbled.  Jess hugged him tightly.

         “I bet they do,”  she replied, “Let’s find out shall we?”  Patch took Jess’s left foot in his paws, exploring the sole of her foot, Jess’s toes instantly curling slightly, then more tightly as he explored, Jess wriggling as her toes curled as tightly as they could.

       “My toes are doing the same as yours!”  she laughed, “aoaoaoaow, they really are curled, I can’t uncurl them!”  Patch smiled, rubbing her curled toes with his paw, Jess relaxing her toes as Patch continued his examination.

       “Now can we play?”  Jess asked.  Patch smiled and pressed his left foot against Jess’s right, his right foot balancing his weight, her left balancing hers.

       “Now let’s see how stuck we are,”  he said.  Jess tried to move her right foot downwards and found she couldn’t.  she pulled at her heel, finding that was stuck too.

       “I’m ready to play,”  she said.  Patch explored the situation that his left foot was in.  he found Jess’s heel, then her arch, then the ball and toes of her right foot, Jess bouncing her heel against his a little.

       “My foot is very well stuck to yours,”  Patch said, feeling Jess pressing her toes into the ball of his foot, Patch curling his toes.

       “Now Pull your heel Jess!”  Patch encouraged, Jess grabbing the sides of her stuck right foot with both hands, her fingers gripping the base of her heel as best she could.

        “now dig in those toes and pull while I lever with my paw Jess!”  Patch said, “pull hard Jess!”  Jess tugged at her heel a bit, wriggling a little, then grunting with effort, tugging harder and harder, then yelled:

      “yeoeoeoeoeoeoeooaoh! My foot’s stuck Patch! Yoaaoaoaoaoaoaow!”  she tugged harder than ever, Patch feeling the pressure from her toes, though able to hold his right foot still as she struggled.

        “My foot’s stuck Patch!”  she whimpered, scrabbling at her heel with her fingers, “I can’t free it!”

         “I’m trying to get my paw in that gap made by your arch and my pad,”  Patch said, “but digging my paw down, I find your heel is very well stuck.  Pull Jess Pull!”  Pull hard! Dig the heel of your free foot into the floor and pull!”  Jess bent her left leg a little, dug her heel in and tugged hard at her right foot.

        “I wish there was some sound of my heel coming away,”  Jess replied, “all this effort and no sound!”

        “You mean of the glue parting?”  Patch asked.

       “yes,”  Jess panted, relaxing a bit.

         “Right,”  Patch said, “hang on, Game suspended, I can get that egg box over there, that’s plastic, I can settle my heel onto it, push down and that will creak and make sound.

      “okay,”  Jess said, “remember how stuck I was.  She crawled over to the egg box and took the box back to Patch.

      “Now let me put my right heel on the box, lean on it, and,”  Patch said, a creaking sound coming from the box, Patch rocking back and forth on his heel, the box flexing, creaking as it did so.

      “So now you have your sound,”  Patch said, “when pulling, I’ll press into the box with my free foot.”  Jess giggled:

         “I like that idea,”  she replied.  They joined feet again, and Jess grabbed her right foot with her hands once more.

        “Pull Jess pull!”  Patch encouraged, Jess working herself into several whimpering, squealing frenzies, tugging at her foot with her fingers.  Then she ground her teeth and settled down to pulling, Patch keeping his left foot rock still, trying to pry Jess’s heel away with his paw as she pulled.  Jess tugged at her heel, whimpering and yelling as before, the box creaking under the heel of Patch’s right foot as Jess struggled to free her own right foot.  The more progress she made, the more the box creaked, every little bit of progress her fingers or Patch’s paw made towards freeing Jess’s heel from Patch’s was accompanied by the creaking of the box, as if the glue was protesting the release of their feet.

        “if this was carpet, I’d hear a ripping sound as I tore my foot free!”  Jess yelled, “this glue is making a similar sound!”

         “What are you gonna do when you free your foot?”  Patch asked.

        “Scream with triumph,”  Jess replied, “what about your foot with that box?” 

       “Scrunch the box with my toes I think,”  Patch replied, coming out of character for a minute.  Then Jess was back to tugging, wriggling and screeching with effort as she fought to free her heel.

        “Pull Jess Pull!”  Patch encouraged, Jess digging in her toes as she’d done before.

        “My foot’s stuck Patch!”  she whimpered, scrabbling at her right heel with her fingers, “I can’t free it!”

         “I’m trying to get my paw in that gap made by your arch and my pad,”  Patch said, “but digging my paw down, I find your heel is very well stuck.  Pull Jess Pull!”  Pull hard! Dig the heel of your left foot into the floor and pull!”  Jess bent her left leg a little to give her purchase, dug her left heel in to the floor and tugged hard at her right foot.

      “yeoeoeoeoeoeoeooaoh! My foot’s stuck Patch! Yoaaoaoaoaoaoaow!”  she tugged harder than ever, Patch feeling the pressure from her toes, though able to hold his foot still as she struggled.

        “My foot’s stuck Patch!”  Jess whimpered, scrabbling at her heel with her fingers, “I can’t free it.

         “Dig those toes in and pull with your fingers!”  Patch yelled, curling his toes, “I’ll hold your toes with mine, dig and pull Jess, dig and Pull!”  Jess snarled, digging the toes of her right foot into the ball of Patch’s left, feeling her pads getting hot.  Growling, she tugged, digging her fingers into the sides of her heel pad, while Patch dug the heel of his right foot into the box as Jess’s fingers made progress freeing her heel.  The more progress she made, Patch wiggled his free foot in the box, as if the glue made a sound when she pried her heel free and it gave up the fight to hold her and Patch captive.

    “oomph, eoeoeoeoeoeoah!”  “scrunch, creak, creak, “eoeoeoeoeoeoah,”  Patch heard, with the feel of Jess’s fingers fighting to grab more and more of her heel pad, while her toes dug into the ball of his foot with her efforts.  When Jess relaxed, Patch pressed hard against her fingers and his paw with his heel in case they should slip and set them back, Jess panting her thanks.

        “you’re keeping me from going back to the beginning!”  she panted as she rested a little between every two or three efforts.  Then she’d get back to tugging and yelling with effort.  Patch roared encouragement and then with triumph as Jess, with a huge screaming effort,  managed to pull her heel free, the box under Patch’s right foot getting some abuse from his heel  as Jess tugged at her own toes, Patch feeling her taking hold of her foot and tugging at it as she worked her right foot completely free, Patch making her fight for every toe, Jess growling and struggling to the end.

       “My right foot’s free!”  she laughed panting slightly, “your left foot fought me to the end, right to the last toe!”, I did it Patch, we did it!”

        “now to complete the game!”  Patch laughed.  Patch gave Jess the box, Jess smiling as she slipped it under the heel of her right foot, then Patch pressed his right foot against Jess’s left.

       “I can feel my foot sticking again!”  Patch exclaimed.

        “So can I, and the glue is stronger than ever!”  Jess laughed.  Patch curled his toes around Jess’s, Jess wiggling her toes into the embrace of the bear’s larger ones.

        “Now let’s see if we can free ourselves,”  Patch said.  Jess tugged at her right foot, testing the bonds between her foot and Patch’s.

       “This one’s gonna be even harder to free,”  Jess said, feeling her way around the heel and ball of her left foot with her fingers, probing, pulling a little, testing the strength of the glue of play.

       “this one is gonna make me yell and growl with effort,”  Jess said.  Patch smiled:

     “If only my feet were smaller, I would be the one pulling at my heel,”  he replied.

        “Can’t you make it so?”  Jess asked.  Patch explored his own foot with his paws, feeling his toes slip under Jess’s, her toes curling around his, their heels touching.

       “Now I can pull!”  Patch laughed.  Jess gripped Patch’s toes with hers, pressing against his heel with hers.  Patch worked at the heel of his right foot with his paws, finding it well and truly stuck.

     “now brace those toes and pull Patch!”  Jess encouraged, Patch bracing his toes against the ball of Jess’s foot, then tugging at the heel of his right foot, while she pushed hard back against his pressure with her left, finding it rather easy.  Patch whimpered, growled, roared and snarled:

      “eoeoeoeoeoeoah,!”  he yelled as he tried to free his right foot, Jess accompanying any effort which felt like making progress by scrunching the box with the toes of her right foot.  Patch hauled at his right foot, bracing his toes hard against Jess’s.  Suddenly he fought madly, his paws scrabbling urgently, breath coming in short gasps.  squealing like a stuck cub, he pulled harder than ever, wriggling and rocking.  Suddenly his efforts tore his right heel free of Jess’s, the toes of Jess’s free foot scrunching the box frantically.

       “My toes, my toes are next!”  Patch yelled, tugging at his toes, Jess curling her toes around his with renewed strength, Patch fighting her toes to free his.

       “I must free my toes!”  Patch yelled, “one, two, three, four and five!”  he tugged at his right foot, Jess uncurling her toes slightly, letting his foot go.

        “that was fun!”  Patch said, massaging his right foot in his paws.

       “I think the egg box wasn’t a good idea,”  Jess said, “my left toes are now stuck in it!  I curled them too tightly and they’re stuck in it Patch!  I can’t free my toes!”  Jess complained, tugging at the box with both her hands, Patch watching as she struggled to free the toes of her right foot from its embrace, Patch, seeing Jess curling the toes of both feet as she pulled at the box in her struggle to free her toes, padded over to her.

         “Come here little cub,”  he said, kneeling and grabbing the box in his paws. “Now as I pull the box, keep your toes relaxed,”  he said, “you were fighting yourself, every time you pulled at the box to free your toes, you curled them, holding onto the box with the toes you wanted to set free!”  Jess laughed merrily at this.

      “Was I really doing that?”  she asked.  Patch grinned:

       “You were,”  he replied.

       “Silly toes,”  Jess laughed.  Patch hugged her and removed the box from the toes of jess’s right foot, then they rubbed talc into their hands, paws and feet.

         “I’ve had a lovely time,”  Jess said, Patch smiling at her.

       “It’s been a real blast from the past hasn’t it,”  he replied, “we haven’t played like that for a long time, and for that I am very sorry.  We should make a note to do it more often.”  Jess sat opposite Patch and rubbed talc into his right foot, Patch rubbing talc into Jess’s left foot.

        “I loved our play,”  Jess said,  “I was worried I’d lost the art of real stuck foot game play.  But I haven’t!”

         “No you haven’t my cub,”  Patch said.

        “that game was energetic,”  Jess said.  Patch smiled:

        “it was very energetic,”  he said.

       “What’s really energetic is when I pretend to have a cub, all that holding my feet with my hands and pushing my feet into my hands to simulate a contraction, curling my toes, kicking with my feet and screaming,”  Jess replied, “do you remember showing me how to push into my hands with my feet?”

       “I do,”  Patch replied, “that was fun showing you all that.”

         “I still pretend, even now I’ve seen a few births of cubs,”  Jess said, “Even though I’ve had a cub myself too.”

        “it’s a stress reliever,”  Patch replied.

        “you use it as that don’t you,”  Jess said.

      “yes I do,”  Patch replied, “it’s really good for that.  All postures are good for that.  Pushing my feet into my paws, legs bent, curling my toes tightly, holding them curled, then relaxing them, kicking the air with my feet, thrusting at the air with both feet when lying on my back, all that.”

         “I like exploring my feet with my hands,”  Jess said, “I love playing with you Patch, both stuck foot games, and other foot games, I loved everything about our time together in this room, and we were left alone to play, though we have been watched throughout I think.”

        “Undoubtedly,”  Patch replied. 

     “I don’t think I’ll be including an egg box in our play again though,”  Jess said smiling, “it grabbed my toes and I needed rescuing!”  Patch laughed:

         “Like old times,”  he replied, “after all, you wanted to play for old time’s sake, and it has been like that.”  Jess hugged Patch tightly, the bear nuzzling her ear and ruffling her hair with his breath.

         “now I must go back to the lodge,”  Jess said, “I need to do school homework for my exams.”  Patch snorted:

        “I’ll bet none of them involve learning how to play,”  he replied.

       “No,”  Jess replied, “maths and English.”  Patch kissed Jess’s nose and she got to her feet.

      “using my feet for walking is so overrated,”  Jess said bouncing on her toes.”

       “I know,”  Patch replied smiling, “my feet don’t want to walk either, they want to play!”  Jess walked away laughing merrily.

 

Patch cleared up the talc and then walked out of the soft play room.  After the softness of the rubberised flooring, the tiles felt harsh and hard to his feet.  Bouncing on his toes, he noticed how hard the flooring was.

        “if I put soft tiles on the floors, they’re gonna get damaged,”  he thought, “I can’t do that, shame.”  Padding to his lie up, he got a cup of coffee and settled down to thinking, processing the experiences of the last few hours.  Patch had felt young during his play with Jess.  Their game had been more than just a game.  They were both amerced in the game which needed skill and imagination.  The belief that one’s foot was stuck to that of another equally willing player, and the wish to get it free, while not making that freedom come without a fight.  Patch loved stuck foot games, and knew he always had since he was a tiny cub.

         “how can playing that game be so much fun?”  he asked himself, “what is it about that game?”  Patch thought for a while, but couldn’t decide what it was about the game.

      “Proximity to another player?  Maybe.  The slight risk, however imagined, that I would not be able to free my foot from my team mates?  Most definitely.  The story around the game, the fight each had to free their own foot, the danger of a paw slipping, making the game reset itself, the glue become stronger, and the game that much harder than round one?  Probably.”

          Patch found himself playing with the toes of his left foot with one paw, he hadn’t noticed he was at this pastime until his toes curled tightly round the fingers of his right paw.

       “Playing with my toes like a cub,”  he thought, “how silly of me!  No, not silly, it’s just how I am,”  he thought.

         “that’s so cute,”  Purdy said, walking into Patch’s line of sight.

         “I’m sorry, how long have you been here?”  Patch asked, letting go of the toes of his left foot.

        “Long enough to see you playing with your toes like a cub,”  Purdy giggled.

         “I wasn’t, oh all right, I was,”  Patch replied smiling.

        “I saw you and Jess playing,”  Purdy replied, “it was lovely play.  I wish I could play like that someday.”

        “I’m sure you will someday,”  Patch replied.

         “How do you play the stuck foot game as if your feet were weally stuck?”  Purdy asked.

        “it’s a matter of believing in the situation, believing it could happen, and is happening to you,”  Patch replied, “you’re there, sitting on that floor, your foot pressed against another’s, soles and toes touching, and for whatever reason, your both bound by this contact.  Play is a glue between your foot and your friend’s, and it is strong enough that you have to work together to free each other.”

        “did Jess weally have to use that egg box?”  Purdy asked.

        “No,”  Patch replied, “it caught her toes and punished her for using it too I think.”  Purdy laughed:

       “she cuwled her toes awound the box while struggling to fwee her foot didn’t she!  She laughed.

        “yes she did, that was funny,”  Patch admitted, “though it was kind of cute too.  Jess used to curl her toes in concentration, and that’s what she was doing then, but of course it backfired.”  Purdy thought for a minute:

         “I have done that too,”  she admitted, “my toes cuwl when I’m trying to think of something that I can’t quite wemember.”  Patch beckoned Purdy to him and hugged her.

        “While I play with my toes to we lax myself so my mind can wemember things,”  he said softly into her ear, Purdy snuggling close.

        “Though I won’t put my toes in egg boxes to make funny sounds,”  Purdy said, “that’s silly!”

          “Jess wanted a sound to represent the glue separating,”  Patch said, “of course, that’s not necessary, just a good snarling, growling, yelling effort is needed.”

        “So the louder, most expwessive sound you make the better?”  Purdy asked.

        “yes,”  Patch replied.

         “I liked the game where you dwew circles on each other’s pads too,”  Purdy said, “can we play that now?”  Patch smiled and nodded.

       “you know the rules?”  he asked.

        “No,”  Purdy said, “tell me Patch.”

        “Well,”  Patch replied, “the first game, the easier one, works like this.  one player, me for instance, is the one who draws, the second player, you, give me your foot, doesn’t matter which one, and I draw circles on your pads in ever decreasing sizes.  You curl your toes tighter and tighter as the circles decrease, then I press the heel of your foot with my paw.  while the pressure is on your heel, you have to keep your toes curled as tightly as you can.  If you have to uncurl them before I take my paw off your heel, you lose the game.  Another version of the game involves drawing, with my paw, at random, different sized circles on your pads, you curling your toes to match the size of the circle, a slight curl for a large circle, a tight curl for a small, at any time, I could press your heel,,,”

      “and I have to cuwl my toes tightly until you we lease them?”  Purdy asked, wriggling with excitement.

        “yes,”  Patch laughed.

         “that’s sounds a gweat game!  Purdy laughed, rocking back and fourth in Patch’s lap like the cub she truly was, Patch laughing helplessly.

       “So you’re ready to play?”  Patch asked.  Purdy grabbed his right paw in both of hers and nearly crushed it in her excitement.

       “yes please!”  she replied, Patch tightly hugging her with his free paw.

        “don’t squeeze that paw too hard,”  he said, “that’s my drawing paw.”  Purdy let go hurriedly.

        “Sowwy,”  she replied contritely, “I didn’t squeeze your paw too hawd did I?”  Patch made a huge play of examining his right paw, flexing his fingers and examining it closely with his other paw, Purdy looking more anxious by the second.

        “it’s fine,”  he pronounced after a tense few minutes, Purdy looking up into his sparkling eyes.

       “you was taking me for a wide!” she snapped.

        “Sowwy,”  Patch replied rubbing her belly with his free left paw, Purdy embracing his right paw with both of hers.

         “Now let’s play,”  Patch said softly.

      “Patch,”  Purdy said gravely, turning her whole body round so she knelt in his lap, her face turned up towards his.

       “yes?”  Patch asked, looking down at the cub’s expression, thinking she was about to tell him something dreadful.

      “this!”  Purdy exclaimed, throwing her paws round his neck in a huge hug.  Patch, deeply moved, swallowed hard to suppress a rush of tears.

         “Oh Purdy!”  He choked, embracing her tightly, Purdy nuzzling into his fur.

           “I love you Patch,”  Purdy said.  Patch, hugging Purdy with both paws, closed his eyes, letting her paws tell him everything she wanted them to.

          “I love you too Purdy,”  Patch said.

         “now can we play?”  Purdy asked.

       “yes,”  Patch replied, drying his eyes with his paws.

        “You’re cwying,”  Purdy accused.

        “I am, sorry,”  Patch sniffed.

         “No need to be that,”  Purdy said, “Koda cwied too when I told him I loved him too, he is a big softy, just like his bwother.”  Patch laughed:

     “He is,”  he replied, “now Purdy,, if we play this game, will you teach it to Koda?  Then he and you can play together.”

         “I’ll teach him,”  she replied, “but I’m not good at wemembering wules.”

        “I’ll write them down,”  Patch replied, “or record them onto the computer.”

       “Maybe we can play, and the camerwa can watch us, and we can teach him that way?”  Purdy suggested, “Patch, I’m weally not good at wemembering wules of games.  My mama, that’s Aga, descwibed my memory as, “cwap.”

       “you remember what you want to remember,”  Patch said, “now if it’s rules about what to do and what not to do, you forget them pretty quickly, but silly games as we’re about to play, you’ll remember the rules of those.”

         “yeah,”  Purdy giggled, “your wight there.”

       “So your mama’s wrong,”  Patch said, “your memory isn’t um, rubbish, it’s selective, which is not a good thing either.  Rules need to be obeyed Purdy, and some rules are for your own safety.”

       “Patch,”  Purdy said sharply, her eyes tearful, “you know how to destwoy a playful time don’t you!  let’s not talk like this now, please?”  Patch kissed the top of her head:

      “Sorry Purdy,”  he replied, “let’s play now.”

      “As long as you play like a cub!”  Purdy said, “Can you Patch?  Can you play like you did with Jess in the playwoom?”

       “I will,”  Patch said, “now if we are to play, we need to freshen our feet, take our adult feet off our cub ones, do you know how to do that Purdy?”  Purdy bounced excitedly in Patch’s lap.

        “I take my adult feet off like we moving a sock from my foot,”  she replied, “I’ve done that before, my humans used to [put socks on my feet.  I watched one of them put socks on and take their socks off, and I remembered how to do it, so one day, I took my socks off my feet using my paws, and it worked!”  Patch hugged Purdy congratulating her, the cub responding to his hug.

        “You did well,”  he replied, “yes it’s like that, but it’s now an imaginary sock on your foot.”

        “My feet felt hot and uncomfortable in those socks the humans made me wear, will these feel the same?”  Purdy asked.

        “They can do,”  Patch replied, “if you want them to, if it would help you to imagine yourself pulling the socks off your cub feet.”

        “Good!”  Purdy replied, “so I have uncomfortable socks on my feet and I pull them off like I did the weal socks a few months ago, wight?”

       “yes,”  Patch laughed, loving Purdy’s enthusiasm.

      “Now Patch, if my socks get stuck,”  Purdy said, “I might need help to fwee my feet, is that okay?”

      “it is,”  Patch said, “and if my adult feet get stuck on my cub feet, will you help me fwee them too?”  Purdy giggled:

       “I will,”  she replied.

        “now let’s take our adult feet off here, then check our cub feet for thorns,”  Patch suggested.

       “but your cub feet are fwesh from the play with Jess, you don’t have to find another set do you?”  Purdy asked, “I’ll check your feet to see if they’re cubbish enough, okay?”  Patch laughed:

        “okay Purdy,”  he said, “you’re right my dear.  I forgot my feet remain fresh while I play.  Subtract that playtime from the time I’ve been out of play, and it hasn’t been long enough for my feet to become adult yet.”  Purdy smiled:

        “You should make sure you pull off your adult feet evewy day,”  she said, “you’re a big cub weally Patch.”

        “Am I?”  he asked, “I sometimes don’t feel cubbish at all.”

       “your feet do,”  Purdy said, grabbing Patch’s left foot in her paws and exploring it carefully, squealing with delight as his toes curled, catching her right paw in them.

        “I can’t free my paw, your toes have got my paw Patch!”  Purdy yelled, frantically tugging at her right paw.

        “Naughty toes aren’t they,”  Patch laughed, “do you know how to relax curled toes Purdy?”

        “Dwaw lines down the sole of your foot with my other paw?”  Purdy asked.

       “Try it,”  Patch suggested.  Purdy did, drawing the toes of her free left paw down the sole of Patch’s left foot, feeling his toes relaxing.

       “You didn’t tickle my foot either, that’s nice,”  Patch said.

      “Would it be wong to tickle your foot?”  Purdy asked.

        “well that’s not part of the game is it?”  Patch enquired.

       “No it isn’t, but neither was it pawt of it for your toes to gwab my paw!”  Purdy laughed, “but I’ll let it go, for my paw liked your toes gabbing it.  It felt vewy good.”

        “Are my feet cubbish enough?”  Patch asked.  Purdy pressed the pads and toes of both Patch’s feet, considering her response.

       “yes they are,”  she replied smiling.

         “Now what do we do?”  Patch asked.  Purdy scrambled into his lap.

        “Weren’t you gonna teach me the wules to the drawing game?”  she asked.

       “What game would that be?”  Patch asked.  Purdy looked very upset, then lost her temper.  Slapping Patch rhythmically with her paws she screamed:

       “You know what game! You know the game! You told me about the game!”  Patch kissed the raging bear’s nose.

      “ah, the circle dwawing game,”  he whispered, “I know that one.”  Purdy relaxed.

        “sowwy for slapping you,”  Purdy mewed.  Patch smiled and hugged her:

         “I didn’t forget the game,”  he said, “I was only playing dear Purdy.”  Purdy smiled broadly.

      “Now I feel even worse for slapping you,”  she said.  Patch pushed her onto her back, then blew on the toes of her right foot, Purdy’s squeal of shock gratifying Patch, her paws flying to her foot, grabbing it and rubbing her toes furiously.

        “Oi!”  she squealed, her eyes laughing, “you tickled my foot with your breath naughty Patch!”  Patch blew on the toes of Perdy’s left foot, Purdy drawing up her legs and grabbing the toes of both feet in her paws.

      “that evens it up,”  Patch said, Purdy laughed, then stuck her tongue out at Patch.

        “That’s not very nice,”  Patch whimpered, Perdy letting go of her feet, sitting up, then getting to a crawling posture, scrambling into Patch’s lap, then fiercely hugging him.

        “Now that disarms even the most fervent toe tickler,”  Patch said, Purdy giggling cubbishly.

        “I liked you tickling my toes,”  Purdy said.  Patch kissed the top of her head, Purdy snuggling close.

         “We’ll never get to play the games,”  she said, “you keep making me want to hug you Patch!”  Patch gently tugged at her right ear with his teeth, Purdy laughing merrily.

         “My weal mama used to do that,”  she said sadly, “did you know that Patch, do you know who my weal mama is?”  Patch held Purdy tightly, tears rolling down his face.

         “”I think I know something,”  he choked, “Purdy, dear sweet Purdy.”

       “What?”  Purdy asked, looking up at him, her eyes concerned.

        “Purdy,”  Patch said, sniffing hard, “oh dear, sweet cub, “I, I didn’t know I was, oh dear.”  Patch wiped his eyes with his paws.

         “My Weal mama’s dead isn’t she,”  Purdy said, “Patch, you tugged on my ear with your teeth because my mama told you I liked it didn’t she.”  Patch clung to Purdy, his tears wetting her fur, for he could not speak.

        “what else did my mama say I liked?”  Purdy asked.  Patch responded by pushing Purdy onto her back, then blowing on her belly, Purdy shrieking with laughter and batting at his nose.

        “yes that!”  Purdy squealed delightedly, “Patch,”  she said seriously, “please, would you help me?  would you play with me, as if, as if,,,”  she stopped.

       “As if you were my cub?”  Patch asked, now able to speak, the first shock of realisation wearing off.

        “yes Patch,”  Purdy replied, “Koda is my fwiend, but you, I feel somehow closer to you.  I don’t know why, but while Koda can teach me, and he does, you can play with me, and not judge my climbing or my paw or footwork when coming down a twee.  Koda has his own cub, and he has his paws full with her, and a pawful she is, I heard him say it.  He was angwy with her, weally angwy!  Please Patch, and if you could ask Ekatawina too, could you find it in yourselves to do this for me?”

         “guided by your mama you mean?”  Patch asked.

         “yes, well sort of,”  Purdy replied, “mama Aga was lovely to me, but she isn’t my mama!  She doesn’t know me vewy well, she never touched my paws, or played with me.  it was all wun here, wun there, be fwightened of this, or that, or the other thing.  Do you know, she only settled down when she was under Koda’s twee?  Maybe it was Koda’s pwesence that made her calm down enough to give me a dwink of her milk.  until then, I’d had none, even though she had milk to give.  She made me eat woodland stuff, which was vewy hard as I had no fwont teeth thanks to the humans.  I was used to eating soft human foods, not the hawd stuff of the woodlands.”  Patch let Purdy sit up, then he drew her onto his lap, kissing the top of her head.

        “You are everyone’s cub,”  he whispered gently, “mine, Ekaterina’s, even mama Aga’s.  we all look after you here.”  Purdy snuggled closer:

        “Tell me mower Patch,”  she said faintly.

       “Mama Aga is a whiled bear, she needs to keep on her paws the whole time.  She isn’t a domesticated bear Purdy, not like us here.  We’re fat and slow compared to her.”

        “You know about what I understand, play, love, cuddles,”  Purdy said.

       “We know that because we are able to explore that, thanks to us having good food and a safe place,”  Patch said.  mama Aga was gentle to you, but she was also stern, as the world she lives in is not our world, it is one where death is a moment away.  That is not how it is here.  Yes we might not see tomorrow, but the likelihood of that is reduced thanks to good food, care and such.  You saw how Koda was tended when he was beaten up by Aga?  Well that helped him, that is how advanced we are here.  When a cub is born, a midwife, my mate in some cases, helps the mother to be give birth to her cub.”

      “Weally?”  Purdy asked.

       “yes,”  Patch replied.

        “How?”  Purdy enquired.

       “She will help her by encouraging her to push, by rubbing her paws and feet and encouraging her to breathe through her pains, encouraging her to walk around, and may, in some cases, help by easing the cub into the world as mama pushes.”

       “wow,”  Purdy said, “that sounds so cool!”

       “it is,”  Ekaterina replied, rising from where she’d been snoozing the afternoon away by the fire, only woken by Purdy hitting Patch and screaming about the foot play game.

        “Oh Ekaterina!”  Patch exclaimed, “how long have you been here?”

      “All the time Patch,”  she replied, “I was asleep until Purdy started yelling about a game, and how you knew the rules to a game you were going to show her.”

      “Oh that,”  Patch laughed, “we haven’t got round to that yet.”

        “I heard about Purdy’s birth mama,”  Ekaterina said, “I heard your reaction Patch.

        “I’m afraid it’s true Ekaterina,”  Patch said gravely.

        “So do we adopt Purdy?”  Ekaterina asked.

        “Aga is still here isn’t she?”  Patch asked.

      “Oh no,”  Ekaterina replied, “she’s gone, she went back into the woods ages ago.  She left word that she couldn’t cope with our way of life, and that she hoped Purdy would be safe and do well here.  That was days ago.”

       “Oh, I don’t hear anything much now,”  Patch said.

       “Maybe the spirits told you of Perdy’s mama’s death once Aga was out of the way,”  Ekaterina said.

       “could be,”  Patch replied, “I suppose they were trying to make it simpler for us to adopt her if we wanted.”

         “I think we could adopt her right enough,”  Ekaterina said, “the same way we adopted Furball that is.”

       “yes, of course,”  Patch replied smiling, “where is she now Ekaterina?”

        “she’s playing with jenny and Sally, tickling their toes and getting her toes soundly tickled in return I think,”  Ekaterina replied.

        “Patch,”  Purdy asked, “will you show Ekatawina the games you were going to show me?”  Patch rested his paw on Purdy’s head and said to Ekaterina:

        “how about it my dear Ekaterina?”

        “I think I’d like that,”  Ekaterina replied, “but Patch, there is only one of you, how are you going to draw on my feet and Purdy’s at the same time?”

         “I’ll tell you how to play the game Ekaterina, and you can draw on Purdy’s pads.  I’ll then see fair play, that she doesn’t cheat, as you can’t see her toes, though you could put your paw lightly on top of them to make sure she is keeping them curled when your other paw is pressed to her heel.”

        “So we both learn the games from the master of silly, pointless, but addictive foot games?”  Ekaterina asked.

       The drawing games build strong toes and interactive play,”  Patch said, “the stuck foot games builds interactive play, teamwork and imagination.  Now how’s that for education.”  Ekaterina padded to Patch and kissed his nose.

        “Okay, not pointless,”  she replied, “just seriously addictive.”

       “I don’t see you playing the stuck foot game,”  Patch said.

       “maybe I haven’t found the right bear to play it with,”  Ekaterina said, “you know Patch, I was thinking of asking you someday.  I hear from Jess you’re a very good player of that particular game.”

        “he is,”  Jess replied, padding in and making herself a drink, “Patch can really play well, he doesn’t need an egg box to play the stuck foot game.”  Patch laughed:

        “that box got you back for squashing it though didn’t it,”  he said.

       “yes it did!”  Jess whimpered, “it trapped my toes and I couldn’t get them free!”

        “what happened?”  Ekaterina asked.  Jess told her.

      “So instead of just imagining the glue separating, you wanted sound, so you squashed an egg box to make a creaking sound, and while doing this, got your toes stuck in it? that’s really silly!”

        “yes it was,”  Jess laughed, “but the silliest part is yet to come.  While struggling to free the toes of my right foot, I curled them, so held onto the box with my toes while pulling at it with my hands.”  Ekaterina giggled cubbishly at this.

        “You big silly!”  she laughed.

        “It was fun,”  Jess replied, “it reminded me how gentle Patch is too.”

         “You had a lot of fun then,”  Ekaterina said.

       “We did,”  Patch replied.

       “It was wonderful Ekaterina,”  Jess said.

        “I think I could learn to play silly foot and paw games,”  Ekaterina replied, “though Patch, please make it fun to learn them.”

        “I will Ekaterina love,”  Patch said, “Jess, would you help by playing with Purdy, maybe teaching her the games?”  Purdy looked so upset at this suggestion that Patch relented.

          “Ok Ekaterina, would you let Jess be your teacher?”  Patch asked.  Ekaterina padded to Jess and took her hand in her paw.

        “Would you teach me those games?”  she asked.  Jess hugged the she bear.

        “yes I will,”  she replied, “and there won’t be an egg box in range of my toes either.”  Ekaterina laughed.

       “You don’t need that,”  she replied.

        “No, though it was quite funny when my toes curled into the box, holding it,”  Jess said.  Ekaterina reared onto her hind feet and embraced Jess with her paws, Jess returning her hug.

       “awww Ekaterina, soppy cuddly bear,”  Jess said, rubbing her cheek against the she bear’s, Ekaterina kissing her ear.

         “I can be soppy if I want to be,”  Ekaterina replied, gently embracing Jess, Jess snuggling close, standing on tiptoe to press herself into the she bear’s hug.

         “You pair of overgrown softies!”  Patch teased, Ekaterina and Jess laughing merrily.

        “it’s ok to be known as big softies,”  Ekaterina said, dropping to all four feet, then sitting down.  Jess joined her, sitting on the floor opposite Ekaterina.  Pressing her feet against the she bear’s, Jess felt Ekaterina’s toes curling round hers, embracing her toes with gentle care.

        “now let’s check each other’s feet for thorns,”  Jess said.  Ekaterina gave her left foot into Jess’s hands, the young girl rubbing the furry top of the she bear’s left foot, Ekaterina curling her toes with pleasure.

        “now are there any thorns in my foot?”  Ekaterina asked.  Jess pressed her toe pads, then her sole pad, Ekaterina unable to stop her toes curling tightly when Jess pressed the centre of her sole pad.

       “This feels wonderful!”  Ekaterina exclaimed, Jess smiling broadly.

       “now to check your other foot,”  Jess said.  Ekaterina withdrew her left foot, then gave Jess her right, Jess’s touch leading instantly to Ekaterina curling her toes with pleasure.

        “I love your touch,”  Ekaterina said, wriggling with pleasure.

        “I know what your touch will make my toes do,”  Jess said, Ekaterina smiling as she felt Jess exploring her right foot.

         “I’ll make sure I’m gentle,”  Ekaterina said.  Jess let go of Ekaterina’s right foot, and gave the she bear her own left foot.  Ekaterina took it in her paws, stroking the top, toes and sole, Jess tightly curling her toes.

      “ooaoaoaoaoh!”  Jess exclaimed, “Ekaterina, that feels so good!”  Ekaterina smiled as she explored Jess’s now furrowed pads, Jess’s toes curled as tightly as she could curl them.

         “I think your feet are free from thorns,”  Ekaterina said.  “now Jess, please, show me those games.”

       “Right,”  Jess said, “there are two versions of the drawing games.  One is where I draw circles on your pads and they get smaller and smaller, you curling your toes tighter and tighter, then when I press your heel with my fingers, you curl your toes as tightly as you can, holding them curled until I let you go by removing my fingers, or you lose the game by uncurling your toes.  the other version of the game is slightly different, in that one I draw random circles on your pads, you following my drawing by matching the size of my circle with the degree of curl in your toes.  the game ends with me touching your heel again, so your toes can go from slightly curled, to extremely curled in two moves.”  Ekaterina giggled at this last game.

       “Can I just play game two?”  she asked.

      “Game one first,”  Jess said firmly.  Ekaterina giggled:

        “that told me!”  she laughed.

        “Can I draw on your right foot first?”  Jess asked.  Ekaterina pressed her right foot into Jess’s hands, the young girl embracing the bear’s foot.

       “now to start on the large circles,”  Jess said, drawing large circles on the pads of Ekaterina’s right foot, Ekaterina slightly curling her toes.  as Jess’s circles got smaller, Ekaterina’s toes curled tighter.  When Jess pressed on Ekaterina’s heel, the she bear curled her toes as tightly as they’d curl.  Jess counted to five, then released Ekaterina’s toes by drawing her fingers down the sole of the she bear’s foot from her curled toes to her heel.

 

Patch showed Purdy the same games, Purdy laughing and catching his paws with her small toes.

         “You Dwaw good circles on my pads!”  Purdy laughed, “I love that!  Am I cuwling my toes quickly enough?”  Patch smiled:

       “You are my dear,”  he replied gently.  Purdy giggled cubbishly, loving every minute of Patch’s attentions.

 

Ekaterina drew circles on the sole of Jess’s left foot with her right paw, large circles, shrinking in size to smaller ones, Jess curling her toes tighter and tighter as Ekaterina’s drawing continued.  Suddenly Ekaterina pressed her paw against Ekaterina’s heel, Jess curling her toes even tighter than before, closing her eyes, concentrating fiercely on her toes.  Ekaterina released Jess, Jess uncurling her toes slowly, Ekaterina rubbing her relaxing foot.

        “I loved that Ekaterina,”  Jess said, “now, can I teach you the stuck foot game?”  Ekaterina laughed.

        “I’m looking forward to that more than anything else,”  she replied.

        “Silly bear,”  Jess teased, Ekaterina laughed, pushing Jess onto her back, Jess drawing up her feet, Ekaterina tickling her toes, Jess squealing with laughter and kicking the air with her feet.  Ekaterina put her paws in the way of Jess’s feet, Jess pummelling Ekaterina’s paws with her bare feet.  Smiling, she curled her toes, scratching at Ekaterina’s paws with her curled toes, Ekaterina giggling cubbishly..

        “You playful cub Jess,”  Ekaterina said.

        “I was worried I’d hurt you by kicking your paws with my feet,”  Jess replied.

       “Oh no, there’s no chance of that,”  Ekaterina replied.  Ekaterina caught Jess’s left foot in her paws, cupped her heel in her left paw, then blew on Jess’s toes, Jess screeching with laughter and curling her toes.

        “You rogue!”  she squealed, Ekaterina stroking the heel of Jess’s foot.

        “I don’t mind your feet kicking at my paws,”  Ekaterina said, “that is the only way I can get an idea of what you are doing.

         “why not get paws on with my legs as I kick so you can get an idea that way?”  Jess asked.  Ekaterina moved round to Jess’s left, gently holding Jess’s leg with her paws, Jess kicking with her legs, Ekaterina exploring Jess’s leg and bare foot from hip to toes as she did so.

     “you  curl your toes as you bring your foot back, then relax them as you kick forward, that’s so cute!”  Ekaterina exclaimed.

       “I told you there was more to feel if you got properly paws on,”  Jess replied.

         “That is just so cute!”  Ekaterina said smiling.

         “I didn’t know I curled my toes when I brought my leg back to kick,”  Jess replied.

         “You knew, you knew!”  Ekaterina replied, “that’s why you told me to touch more with my paws!”  Jess giggled softly.

        “all right, I knew,”  she confessed.

         “now is it my turn to kick the air with my feet wile you get hands on?”  Ekaterina asked.

         “I could, or I could just watch,”  Jess replied, “though getting hands on might be nice.”

        “All right,”  Ekaterina said, lying on her back and kicking the air with her hind feet, Jess getting hands on with her hind legs and feet.

        “you also curl your toes as you bring your foot back to kick the air Ekaterina!”  Jess laughed delightedly, “that’s sweet that is.”

         “you also wriggle from side to side as you kick too,”  Jess said, Ekaterina smiling between her arms at the young girl.

        “that’s so cute,”  Ekaterina said.

        “I think the fact we both curl our toes when kicking the air with our feet is cute,”  Jess replied, “Ekaterina, did you hold your feet while you were delivering fleur into the world?”

      “Like this?”  Ekaterina asked, drawing up her legs and grabbing her feet with her paws.

       “yes like that,”  Jess asked.  Ekaterina wriggled madly, showing Jess how stable her feet and paws were.

        “I did that too when delivering ursine Peter, that was before Patch came to get me from the place I was living in,”  Jess said, “it helped my pain.  I curled my toes too.”

       “So did I when I was in pain with the births of all my cubs,”  Ekaterina replied, curling her toes as she lay on the rugs.  Jess traced the she bear’s paws and feet with her fingers, Ekaterina laughing merrily.

      “that doesn’t look like the stuck foot game to me,”  Patch said, glancing over to Ekaterina.  Ekaterina wriggled madly, her paws holding her feet as if glued.

     “there, my feet are stuck, it’s a stuck foot game!”  she yelled,  Patch laughing merrily.

       “Okay it is,”  he replied, “but that’s not the game Jess and I played, or the game that Purdy and I are about to play either.”

       “I’ll play that game with Jess now,”  Ekaterina replied, “we were finding out what happened when each of us kick the air with our feet Patch, did you know, we do the same thing!  We both curl our toes when drawing our feet back to kick the air!”

      “that’s cute,”  Patch replied, having heard their conversation previously.

       “Now we will play the stuck foot game,”  Jess said.  Ekaterina wriggled convulsively, then pushed a little against her paws with her feet, Ekaterina grunting, moaning, then squealing:

       “I must free my feet!”  as she pushed a little, then harder, then as hard as she could against her paws, a final yell of:

       “I must get these feet free, push feet Push!” driven from her as she exerted herself to her limits, her leg muscles tensing, then, suddenly, her paws flew apart, freeing her feet from her paws, Ekaterina’s legs splaying as her feet flew forward, the she bear giving herself up to squealing and  kicking the air with her feet until she’d calmed down.

       “that was hard work!”  she panted when she’d recovered.

         “You silly thing!”  Patch laughed, Jess and Purdy seeing he’d evidently enjoyed watching his mate’s antics.     “You need to teach me that I think,”  Patch said, “that would be a good stress reliever.”

        “You know how to do that, you taught me!”  Ekaterina replied.

          “I’ve forgotten how to do it,”  Patch confessed, Ekaterina smiling at him, rolling onto her chest, getting into a crawling posture, then crawling to Patch, bumping her nose against his and kissing him.

        “Soppy lovely Ekaterina,”  Patch laughed, clearly touched.

       “Now I’ll get back to the stuck foot game, the proper one that is,”  Ekaterina said.

      “I rather liked the alternative one,”  Patch replied.

        “So did I,”  Ekaterina admitted, “it was great to fight my own paws with my feet.”

       “Can I have a go at that?”  Purdy asked.

        “Yes,”  Ekaterina replied, “did you see what I did?”

       “yeah, I did, it was so good!”  Purdy replied.

      “I agree Purdy,”  Jess said, “I watched Ekaterina’s face, paws and feet.  She screwed her eyes tight shut and grimaced as she pushed her feet against her paws, her paws held her feet tightly, her toes curling every time she fought her paws with her feet.  Ekaterina’s leg muscles tensed as she pushed with her feet.  It was rather cute.”

       “Now it’s your turn Jess, lie down and grab those feet with your hands like Ekatawina did!”  Purdy challenged, “then you Patch, I want to see everyone do it, then, then, I might.”  Patch and Jess looked at each other, then Jess settled down on her back, drew up her legs and grabbed her feet with both hands, Ekaterina getting paws on.  Settling herself with a little wriggle, Jess waited for the urge to free herself to grow in her.  Soon it did, and she felt her feet becoming warm under her fingers, breathing deeply, Jess pushed gently at her hands with her feet, then she pushed harder, then harder still.  The more Jess pushed at her hands with her bare feet, the more tightly her fingers gripped her heels and the arch of her foot.

       heuuuuuumph, uuuuuuuuaumph!”  Jess moaned as she pushed harder and harder at her fingers with both feet, her toes curling as she reached the peak of her efforts, relaxing as she relieved the pressure on her fingers.

         “I must push harder, this time, this time!  Huuuuuuuuuoouououoououaow!”  Jess squealed, pushing desperately at her hands with her feet, her toes curled tightly, face screwed up with concentration and fingers gripping fiercely.  Jess’s leg muscles bunched as she pushed with both legs, her hands flying free from her feet as she reached the peak of her effort, her scream of effort high pitched and urgent.  Panting, Jess kicked the air with her now free feet and punched at it with her hands, Ekaterina trying to get paws on with as much as she could of the scene.

       “I did it, my feet are free!”  Jess yelled.  Patch hugged Jess, while Purdy looked on with anxiety.

      “how am I meant to beat that?”  she asked, “I’m only a cub.”

         “Just do your best,”  Patch said gently.

       “maybe you’d better show her how it’s done Patch?”  Ekaterina asked.  Patch grinned and settled down, drawing up his hind feet and grabbing them with his paws.  Settling himself, Patch felt his feet slip down into the grip of his paws as his legs relaxed.

       “now free those feet Patch,”  Jess encouraged.  Patch felt his paws grip the pads of his feet, his toes curling at their touch.  He then braced his feet against his paws, feeling his fingers gripping the pads of his hind feet eleven more securely.

     “My paws have firm hold of my feet,”  Patch gasped, “but, but my feet have other ideas, they want my legs to help them escape the grip of my paws!”  Ekaterina, overcome with mirth, laughed so hard she had to lie down.

       “You silly old bear!”  Ekaterina squealed.

        “Who started this?”  Patch asked.  Ekaterina saying nothing.

       “My feet need to be free of these paws!”  Patch yelled, bracing his feet against his paws, his muscles tensing and toes curling as he pushed against his paws with his feet, his fingers fiercely gripping the soles of his feet, the toes of both feet curling as he snarled, whimpered, struggled and wriggled.

        “I can’t free my feet!  Patch whimpered.

         “go for it Patch!”  Jess encouraged, Patch taking a deep breath then growling:

       “Erorororororororororoor,”  as he pushed as hard as he could with his feet, his paws resisting for a minute, then parting.  Patch’s feet flew forwards, Patch roaring with triumph as his feet came free, Patch kicking at the air, his toes curling as Jess’s and Ekaterina’s did as he got the tension out of his legs and toes.

         “You closed your eyes while pushing against your paws with your feet Patch,”  Jess said, “that was so cute!”

         “your pads bunch cutely too,”  Purdy said.  Ekaterina got up and caught Patch’s kicking feet with her paws, first his left, then his right, then cradling each in turn and exploring it.

         “your pads are cute,”  Ekaterina said, “your toes too, all, one, two, three, four, five of them on each foot,,”  she said, counting each toe in turn, Patch unable to stop his toes curling,, the grey bear giggling like a cub.

         “that was lovely,”  Jess said softly, “You really believed your feet were stuck Patch.”

       “yeah I did,”  he replied smiling.

       “You have wrinkled Pads Patch,”  Ekaterina said, “they’re so cute!”

       “Do I?”  Patch asked, “it must be all the foot and paw games I play.”

       “Your pads are firm, but wrinkled,”  Ekaterina said, “they’re cute.”

       “Maybe they are wrinkled because I have curled my toes,”  Patch replied grinning, “can you help me uncurl them Ekaterina?”  Ekaterina rubbed the soles of Patch’s feet, his toes relaxing.

          “Who needs computers,”  Jess said, “this play today has been a lot of fun.”

        “this foot and paw play is very interactive that’s for sure,”  Ekaterina replied.

        “You loved every minute Ekaterina,”  Jess said.

       “I did, and am going to enjoy the stuck foot game when we play it Jess.”

         “Sit opposite me Ekaterina,”  Jess said, “it’s my left foot against your right foot, okay?”  Ekaterina grinned:

       “yes Okay,”  she replied.  Jess felt Ekaterina’s pads press against hers, Jess’s toes just reaching the bottom of Ekaterina’s.

        “Your pads are soft and warm Jess,”  Ekaterina said, shuffling forward a bit to bend her leg and press her foot harder against Jess’s.

       “Press against my foot Ekaterina, brace your foot and push as hard as you can!”  Jess urged, Ekaterina pushing as hard against Jess’s foot with hers as she could press.

       “that’s it!”  Jess said, pressing her toes into Ekaterina’s.

       “Now you push with your foot!”  Ekaterina gasped, “I’m Exhausted!”  Jess giggled:

       “you’re not!”  she challenged, “you could push me over onto my back if you really pushed with your foot.”

         “Go on, push with yours now,”  Ekaterina said, Jess pushing back with one foot, then lying back, she brought her other foot into play, pushing back against both Ekaterina’s feet, Ekaterina bracing her feet to stop her.

         “Push Jess Push!”  Patch encouraged, Jess roaring as she pushed back hard against Ekaterina’s feet with hers.

       “it’s a hard job this!”  Jess laughed.

         “it is!”  Ekaterina replied bracing her feet against Jess’s and pushing back.

         “I can’t believe your as weak as all this,”  Jess laughed, watching Ekaterina’s efforts:

        “I’m a community bear, fat and weak,”  Ekaterina laughed.

        “Stuff the stuck foot game for a second,”  Jess said, crawling round and embracing Ekaterina.

          “I love you,”  Jess said, embracing the she bear.

      “”Soppy you are!”  Ekaterina laughed, sitting up and returning Jess’s hug.

         “now let’s get back to the stuck foot game,”  Jess said.  Ekaterina smiled and curled the toes of her right foot around Jess’s fingers, squeezing them.

       “Do you want to play the stuck foot game now?”  Ekaterina asked.

        “Um, no,”  Jess replied, “could we play the random circle drawing toe curling game again?”  Ekaterina giggled and released Jess’s hand, taking the young girl’s left foot in her paws and drawing ever decreasing circles on the sole of her foot, Jess curling her toes tighter and tighter.  Then she drew larger circles, Jess relaxing her toes as the circles got bigger.

         “this is lovely,”  Jess said, Ekaterina blowing on Jess’s toes, Jess squealing with laughter and curling her toes.

       “that’s not in the game!”  she laughed.

        “isn’t it?”  oh dear!”  Ekaterina replied, Jess rubbing her tickled toes with her fingers, “I loved it anyway,”  she said.

        “Sorry for tickling your toes,”  Ekaterina said contritely.

        “That’s fine,”  Jess replied, “you’re being a mama bear to me as her cub, that is all.”  Ekaterina laughed:

        “I’m playful if I get the right vibe from another’s paws,”  she said.

         “Did you hear what happened in the soft play room?”  Jess asked.  Ekaterina grinned:

       “with the egg box?”  she enquired.

      “Yes, with the box,”  Jess replied.

        “Tell me,” Ekaterina urged.  Jess got to her feet and padded away, returning shortly with an egg box from the kitchen.

       “Okay,”  Jess said, “Patch and I were playing the stuck foot game, and I wanted some sound to accompany my roaring and yelling as I fought to free my foot from Patch’s.  I wanted to hear the glue separating, so Patch suggested an egg box that we could crush with our heels or toes and make sound.  Jess rested the heel of her right foot on the box and let Ekaterina feel the result.  Once Ekaterina had got paws on with her foot and where her heel rested on the egg box, Jess rocked forward and back, the box creaking under her pressure.

        “Ah Ok,”  Ekaterina said, “so that’s the sound of the glue flexing, how about it giving way completely?”  Jess opened the box and curled her toes around the rim, scrunching the box with her toes, Ekaterina getting paws on again.

       “That’s so inventive Jess!”  she enthused. “now show me what happened next.”

        “Well I got my foot stuck in the box,”  Jess said, I cracked the top with my rocking and messing about, as did Patch when he scrunched it with his toes and heel.  Wait.”  Jess broke the box so she could grip the top with her toes, curling her toes into the gap and holding on with them.

        “I now have the box held in my curled toes, feel,”  Jess said.  Ekaterina explored with her paws.

      “Okay,”  Ekaterina replied, “so what happened?”

       “I couldn’t get the box off my toes!”  Jess Laughed, “I wanted to get it off, but I couldn’t. can you guess how it was I couldn’t?”

         “No,”  Ekaterina replied.

       “I’ll struggle to free my toes, and you feel what happens to my other foot,”  Jess suggested.  Ekaterina got paws on with Jess’s free foot with its relaxed toes.  Suddenly Jess curled the toes of her left foot under Ekaterina’s paws, Ekaterina felt her struggling with something stuck on her right foot.  Exploring the situation, Ekaterina found Jess struggling to free the toes of her right foot from a grasping box.  Though the box wasn’t grasping anything, her curled toes were gripping the box, and she was fighting herself.  Finding this, Ekaterina giggled:

        “You silly!”  she laughed.

        “I always curl my toes when concentrating, and a playtime became a proper struggle,”  Jess said.  Ekaterina giggled cubbishly.

        “That’s so cute, but also so silly too,”  she replied, “it’s kind of sweet also.”  Jess crushed the box and threw it away.

        “that was so cute,”  Ekaterina said, “the sort of thing a cub would do too.”  Jess giggled, hugging Ekaterina tightly.

       “I’m a cub, I want to be a cub, I’m only ,”  Jess said, “so much has happened, I’m older in my mind, but I want to play like a cub.  Ekaterina, take my hands, take my feet, tickle my toes and chase me for my toes.”  Ekaterina strapped a bell to Jess’s right leg, then Jess crawled away, Ekaterina chasing her, catching her feet with her paws and blowing on her heels, Jess throwing herself on the floor and banging the floor with her hands, laughing helplessly.

       “I love this, I want this to happen more and more!”  she laughed.

        “it can happen if you ask us to play with you,”  Ekaterina replied, “I want to play, Patch does, Furball does, we all do.  So come and play with us.  Silly paw games, silly foot games, roughhousing games, toe tickling games, stuck foot games, the lot and of course, the circle drawing game.”  Jess turned, pulled Ekaterina’s paw towards her, and placed it on her left foot. she then drew her feet towards her, grabbed them with her hands, wriggled, then released her feet, sitting up, bringing her feet together heels to heels, toes to toes, Ekaterina getting paws on throughout.

         

      “do you want me to get into that position too?”  Ekaterina asked.

       “No, I want you to feel me fighting to free my feet from their prison,”  Jess said.  “this is the single player stuck foot game Ekaterina,”  Jess said, “it’s what I used to play when I was alone when  Patch was out getting food.  I entertained myself for hours this way.”

      “So your heels are touching pad to pad, the balls of your feet are touching pad to pad, and your toes are touching pad to pad also,”  Ekaterina said, touching Jess’s feet as she spoke.  Jess rocked and wriggled with excitement.

       “the more excited I get, the stronger the glue between my feet is,”  she said laughing.

        “So how do you free your feet?”  Ekaterina asked.

 

     “Well I can free my heels first, then my toes, then the balls of my feet,”  Jess replied, working her fingers into the v made by the short arches of her two feet which now firmly pressed together.  Ekaterina sat down at an angle to Jess and got paws on with Jess’s feet, copying her posture, finding her own hind feet pressed firmly together, but that her own feet had no short arches, so more of her pads were pressed together, making her job to free her feet more difficult.

        “You can do what I do,”  Jess said, “but your pads are flatter, so you will probably have to try that bit harder to free your feet from each other.”  Ekaterina explored Jess’s fingers as she pushed them hard unto the pads of her two heels, whimpering as she struggled to separate her heels.  Whimpering, she pressed her toes together, digging her fingers into the V shaped gap at the bottom of her short arches.  Jess found her feet fighting back, her heels pressing together as her fingers tried to force them apart.

       “eeeeoeoeoeoaow, I can’t separate my heels!”  she roared.

        “I can’t free myself either!”  Ekaterina roared, “my feet are well and truly stuck together!  It’s worse than I thought, my feet like each other too much!”  Ekaterina yelled, scrabbling at her own heels with her paws.

        “you do look funny Ekaterina,”  Jess said, “like a proper cub!”

       “Shut it,”  Ekaterina laughed, “shut it and concentrate on freeing your feet from each other.”  Patch watched with Purdy, both laughing at Jess and Ekaterina’s antics.

        “You are two big softies!”  Purdy laughed.

        “yes they are,”  Patch replied, “and two big cubs too.  though I wouldn’t have either of them any other way.”

       “That’s coming from the biggest cub of all,”  Ekaterina laughed, Patch laughing merrily, padding forward and kissing his mate’s nose.

        “You are lovely Ekaterina,”  Patch said gently, “now concentrate on freeing your feet from each other.”

       “the more I fight, the more they stick!”  Ekaterina giggled.

         “I’m sure you can gently ease them apart,”  Patch said, touching her warm pads, “I’ll find some talc.”  Ekaterina and Jess rubbed talc into their feet, giggling at their silly play.

        “I’ll free my feet,”  Ekaterina said, “but what are you gonna do Jess?”

         “I’ll free mine the hard way,”  Jess replied, “my heels are nearly free, nearly there!”  she gasped, digging her fingers into the widening gap between her heels, shoving talc into the growing gap.  She then worked at her toes and the balls of her feet, all the while whimpering, wriggling and scrabbling with her fingers to free her feet:

       Eeeeoeoeoeoaow!”  she screamed as she pried at her heels with her fingers and her fingers slipped off as her heels became warm.  Jess dug her fingers into the growing gap between her heels, squealing with effort!  Suddenly her heels sprang apart,

     “My heels are free!”  she yelled, “now to free my toes!”  Jess wailed, “my big toe, then my smaller toes, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! Nine! And Ten!”  she squealed, “now for the balls of my feet! Eeeeoeoeoeoaow!”  she yelled. Ekaterina, her own feet now free, knelt throughout Jess’s struggle, getting paws on with Jess’s hands and feet, Jess enjoying showing Ekaterina every detail of her struggle to free her feet from themselves, both audibly and tactilely.

        “You are so sweet Jess,”  Ekaterina said, “sweet of you to let me get paws on.”

       “I love letting you get paws on with my play,”  Jess replied, “and I know Sally and jenny love it too, as does Moses.  I saw him playing the game I’m playing now, he’d been fighting with his feet for an hour when I came across him.”  Ekaterina smiled at this.

       “I remember bringing him into the world,”  she replied, “I helped Janet deliver him.”

       “You did what?”  Purdy asked, “you helped Moses into the world?  When mama Janet was pushing and yelling, you helped her deliver her man cub?”

       “yes,”  Ekaterina replied.

        “how amazing is that!”  Purdy exclaimed, “wow, how wonderful!”

        “it is,”  Jess replied.

       “if I pwetend to have a cub, would you help me too?”  Purdy asked.  Ekaterina giggled:

       “you’re too young, but I could pretend you were having a cub and help you by rubbing your paws and feet and encouraging you to breathe and push.”

       “how would I push if I’m not having a cub?”  Purdy asked.

       “do what Jess and I did, sit down, grab your feet with your paws, and push them into your paws as a pretend push against a cub.  you can scream and roar then too.  then, when you’re delivering the cub, while I’m stroking your hind feet, you can moan, roar and whimper to simulate contractions.  Then, once you’ve had the cub, I can play a silly cub or something.”  Purdy looked at Ekaterina, taking her in from nose to toes.

       “I couldn’t deliver you into the world,”  she said, “you’re huge!”

          “You could imagine me smaller,”  Ekaterina replied.

          “Or I could struggle and push, roar and straine until I delivered you by sheer imagination,”  Purdy replied.

       “You could,”  Ekaterina said. 

        “now can I get my toes stuck in a box like Jess did?”  Purdy asked.

        “that was funny,”  Jess replied grinning.

        “No Purdy you can’t, but it looked so cute,”  Patch replied.

        “I’m going to play the single player stuck foot game again,”  Jess said, “but I will only do it if Ekaterina gets paws on.”  Ekaterina laughed, saying she would be glad to.

 

Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Anook and Lucky played together.  Lucky had been keen to learn the foot and paw games his mother knew, and had loved them from the start, especially the single player stuck foot game.  Being an imaginative and independent cub, he’d taken greatly to the idea that he could make his two feet stick together, and better still, could fight to free them, just by imagining the situation.  Soon Anook sent Lucky away to find playmates of his own.  Moses, sensing Lucky wanted to play, taught him the stuck foot games, both single and two player.  He also taught the cub to be expressive, to snarl, wriggle, and play up to how his feet were playing along.  Moses found the more he played, the more his feet stuck together, Lucky laughing and becoming more enthusiastic the more he played with Moses.

 

“how do you play the single player stuck foot game Moses?”  Lucky asked for the thousandth time.

       “Let’s first make sure our feet are bare shall we?”  Moses replied.

      “Yes Let’s,”  Lucky agreed, giving Moses his left foot.  Moses checked the bear’s feet for thorns, then Lucky checked Moses feet for thorns in a similar manner, pressing his pads and toes, Moses laughing as Lucky worked with huge concentration.

       “We agree both of us have bare feet and that those feet are ready to play?”  Moses asked.

       “yes,”  I agree,”  Lucky said.

       “So do I,”  Moses said.  He continued, “Well, Lucky, to play the solo stuck foot game, the rules are these. You sit down with your legs out in front of you,”  Moses replied, fitting actions to words, “you then bring both feet together, bending your legs inwards so the soles of your feet touch.  Once your feet touch, heel to heel, ball of your foot to ball of your foot, and toes to toes, you then press your feet together while trying to pry them apart with your hands or paws.  Like this!”  he pressed his bare feet together, prying at his toes, first his big toe, then down to his smaller toes, then heels with his fingers, digging his fingers into the space where his short arches ended and thick heel pads began.  Rocking back and fourth a bit, Moses fought to free his heels.

       “So can I do what you’re doing now?”  Lucky asked.  Moses smiled and replied that he could.  Lucky sat down and before Moses knew what was happening, Lucky was fighting to free his heels, copying Moses example.

        “Now slowly let your heels come apart, pressing your toes and balls of your feet together as they do Lucky,”  Moses said, fight your paws with your feet! Make it difficult for yourself to free your feet.

       “My heels are now free Moses,”  Lucky said, “now how do I free my toes?”

        “Pull at your toes with your paws, holding your heels apart, then stretch your toes as you work them free so the balls of your feet are the only things touching,”  Moses replied, fitting actions to words.  Lucky did so, and then freed the balls of his feet easily.

        “I loved that!”  Lucky said, exploring his feet with his paws, “can I do it again?”  Moses smiled:

        “You can,”  he said.

         “I’ll teach Orbon this one,”  Lucky said, “paws on of course, but now, now I want to chase your feet Moses!”  with that Lucky crawled to Moses, the young boy crawling away giggling.  Lucky chased him, eyes on the soles of Moses feet.  Moses crawling quickly.   Lucky, with a flying leap and a yell of:

       “those feet are claimed by me!”,  pinned both Moses feet, clamping them under his paws.  Moses reacted by throwing himself forward, while Lucky blew on his heels and toes, Moses laughing so hard he nearly cried.

        “Leave my feet alone!”  he laughed, Lucky leaving his prizes.

        “thanks,”  Moses said, sitting up and rubbing the tickled toes and heel of his left foot with his fingers, “you can maybe rub the toes and heel of my right foot, please?”  Lucky took Moses right foot in his paws and began rubbing his toes and heel, Moses flexing his toes with pleasure.

        “I love this,”  Moses said, curling and stretching the toes of his right foot, which Lucky massaged with gentle care and much enjoyment.

        “You have soft pads and mobile toes Moses,”  Lucky said, “plus you are as playful as a cub!”  Moses laughed:

       “I am a cub Lucky, just like you are,”  the young boy replied.

          “now will you chase my hind feet and catch them?  then will you tickle my toes?”  Lucky asked.

        “I will tickle your toes without catching your feet if you keep your feet as close to my hands as they are now,”  Moses said, letting go of his left foot and reaching round and touching the heel of Lucky’s right foot, the bear cub kneeling in front of him.

        “You’ve already claimed my foot!”  Lucky whimpered, “you touched my heel without chasing for it! Now I have to give you my foot!”

         “and I can claim your other foot too,”  Moses laughed, leaping sideways, Lucky letting go of Moses left foot, the bear and boy rolling around on the floor in a rough and tumble game, Moses claiming all four of Lucky’s paws by touching them, Lucky losing the contest, ending the game in a laughing embrace with Moses.

        “I love you little bear,”  Moses said, hugging Lucky close, Lucky humming with contentment.

       “Now you have claimed my paws and feet, what do you want to do with them?”  Lucky asked, “I tickled your toes, but you claimed my paws as well!”

         “I’ll explore your feet with my hands, and then maybe, maybe I’ll ask your paws to play with the toes of your hind feet,”  Moses replied, “as that is very cute and I like to see that.”  Lucky giggled:

         “I like playing with my toes, and my mama Anook likes playing with my toes too, and also likes playing with her own toes, though she might not like it that I told you that!  You won’t tell her you know will you Moses?”  Lucky asked, looking panic stricken, “she might not want everyone to know she uses her paws to play  with the toes of her hind feet!”  Moses, seeing the concern on Lucky’s face, hugged him even tighter.

       “it’s common knowledge,”  Moses replied softly, kissing Lucky’s nose, “mama Anook playing with her toes is as commonly known as the colour of Patch’s foot pads.”

        “I’d like to stroke your paws and feet too Lucky, is that asking too much?”  Moses asked.

          “So you want me to use my paws to play with the toes of my hind feet, and then explore the pads of my feet too?”  Lucky asked, “it’s a bit more than you let me do when I claimed your hind feet.”

        “You didn’t even ask if you could tickle my toes,”  Moses reminded him, “but I did let you rub the tickle out of my toes.”  Lucky grinned:

       “yes you’re right,”  he replied, “would you like to get hands on while I play with my toes?”  Moses laughed.

         “I’ll be happy with watching you,”  he said smiling.

       “how about if we explore each other’s hind feet with our hands or paws?”  Lucky asked, “that would be nice wouldn’t it?”  Moses agreed, and sat down opposite Lucky, giving him his right foot, his toes curling with pleasure as Lucky’s paws enveloped his foot in warmth and good feelings.  Lucky then gave Moses his left foot, Moses stroking the sole of Lucky’s foot from toes to heel, the cub giggling and bouncing about with pleasure, curling his toes slightly.

        “I saw mama Anook give birth to you,”  Moses said, “that was a lovely video Lucky.”

       “I’ve seen it too,”  Lucky replied, “it’s a hard fight for mama, and to deliver me, a tiny cub compared to her size, yet she screamed, roared, drew her feet up and strained hard into her tail.  It’s amazing she gave birth to me really.”  Moses smiled:

        “I’ve watched my own birth, that was amazing too,”  he replied, “mama Janet, as she’s known here, is amazing throughout.  Ekaterina helped me into the world.”

       “it’s amazing,”  Lucky said, his toes curling tighter as Moses worked, “no wonder mama Anook let others rub her feet, if her feet are as sensitive as mine, it must have helped her a lot to have others massaging the soles of her feet while she was pushing.”

         “it did help,”  Anook said, padding into the room.

      “Oh mama!”  Lucky yelped.

        “I’ve been listening at the door, ever since Moses started playing the stuck foot game, and you copied him.  I saw you chase and then tickle his toes Lucky,”  Anook said, Lucky’s face turning red as he blushed.

          “I’m sorry mama!”  he choked.

         “I won’t eat you for telling Moses I play with my toes,”  Anook replied smiling, sitting down and grabbing her right foot in her paws, “it’s common knowledge as Moses said.”

       “So I can keep playing with Moses?”  Lucky asked.

        “yes,”  Moses replied, “I like you Lucky.”  Moses pointed his toes, Lucky rubbing Moses toes with his paws.

         “yes you can keep playing with Moses Lucky,”  Anook said.  She got to her feet, bounced on her toes, then left the room.

        “Why are our feet and paws such good playthings Moses?”  Lucky asked.

      “Because they were meant to be played with,”  Moses replied.

        “They were meant to be played with, stroked and generally used as playthings, I think that anyway,”  Anook said, sticking her head round the door.

        “Mum,”  Lucky said, “if you want to play with us, we could always arrange it so we will tickle your feet in turn.”  Anook laughed merrily at this, and left for good.

        “Your pads are very smooth Moses,”  Lucky said, “how do you manage to stay on your feet?”

       “I don’t, I crawl mostly,”  Moses said.

       “you do walk though, sometimes,”  Lucky persisted.

       “I do, but I prefer not being on my feet,”  Moses said, “I don’t know how I stay on these smooth pads.”

      “I have rough pads, but even mine aren’t like a polar bear’s,”  Lucky replied, “I have wrinkled pads, and you could have them too if you curled your toes like I do.”  Moses curled his toes in Lucky’s grip, the cub giggling, massaging Moses toes and the ball of his foot.

         “You soppy thing Moses!”  Lucky laughed.

       “Maybe if I curl my toes enough, I might get wrinkled pads like you?”  Moses asked.  Lucky laughed at this.

        “No Moses, sorry,”  he replied, “it doesn’t work like that, but if it’s any consolation, your pads do look and feel cute when you curl your toes.”  Moses tightly curled his toes in Lucky’s grip, Lucky rubbing his bunching pads.

       “I play with Orbon,”  Lucky said, “he’s good at the circle drawing game, and the two player stuck foot game.”

       “I have played with Orbon,”  Moses said, “He’s good at all games, and likes the single player stuck foot game too.  he learns paws on, but he’s great at all games, really expressive too.”

       “I do the best I can,”  Orbon yawned, stretching from his place by the fire.

         “How long have you been here?”  Moses asked.

        “Oh, ages,”  Orbon replied, “I was listening to you and Lucky playing, it sounded great.”

        “Do you play the stuck foot games Orbon?”  Moses asked.  Orbon grinned, sat down, pressed his feet together, locked his toes and then fought himself for many minutes, wriggling, rocking, whimpering,  while tugging at his heels and  toes with his paws in a desperate attempt to separate his feet.

       “that’s so cute!”  Lucky laughed, clapping his paws.

      “NO it’s not!”  Orbon snarled, “I’m stuck!”  Moses crawled over to the struggling half grown bear and rubbed his stuck feet with his hands, rubbing Orbon’s toes to warm them,  Orbon finding the extra help warmed the glue holding his feet captive, making them easier to separate.  Orbon prised his feet apart with a final tearing, snarling effort, then took Moses hands in his paws.

        “I hope you’ve been teaching Lucky good games,”  Orbon said.  Moses hugged Orbon.

       “I have,”  he replied, “you heard the games we played.”

        “I did,”  Orbon said, “I think Lucky likes the single player stuck foot game a bit too much.  He likes his independence, but I think two player games are good too.”

       “I’m trying to introduce them, asking him to let me touch his feet and let him touch mine,”  Moses said, “He’s chasing my toes now too.”  Orbon grinned.

        “That’s good, you’re a good playmate for Lucky,”  Orbon said.  Moses looked Orbon over from nose to toes.

       “Can I play with you now?”  Moses asked.

       “Um, no,”  Orbon replied, “how about playing with Lucky, he needs interactive play, not single play.  You’re good for him.  I’m trying to get Peter to play like we bears do.  I’ve got to go.”  With that Orbon padded carefully from the room.

 

Orbon returned to his lie up.  Padding in, he nearly fell over Furball, who’d fallen asleep near the fire.

         “um, what?  What on earth is going on?”  Orbon grunted.  Furball stretched and yawned.

        “Oh, hello,”  she said.

      “Who are you?”  Orbon asked.

        “My name’s Furball, I’m a bear, a naked bear,”  Furball replied.

       “What are you doing in my lie up?”  Orbon asked.

        “Your lie up is next to Patch’s right?”  Furball asked.

         “yes, it is,”  Orbon replied, “but what are you doing here?”

        “I wanted to sleep and Patch told me to come in here and lie down by the fire, now I’m blundered into by a clumsy pawed bruin?”  Furball replied.

       “Um, yes, I mean no,”  Orbon gabbled, “I’m blind, I can’t see you!”  he snapped.

       “But Ekaterina is blind too,”  Furball replied, “she found me in the woods without tripping over me.  I think you were distracted and not concentrating, were you in the woods that night?”  Furball asked.  Orbon sat down carefully.

        “yes, I was in the woodlands, I remember a bear Ekaterina was paws on with, I didn’t understand it much, though I was rude to that bear I think, and I must apologise to her,”  he admitted, “now, what was that you said about you being a naked bear?”  Orbon asked. 

       “Me, I’m naked, no fur on my body at all, furless from nose to toes,”  Furball replied.

      “Oh,”  Orbon replied gently, “I didn’t realise your nakedness went that far.”

         “Well get paws on,”  Furball invited.  Orbon did, and found that what Furball said was true.

        “You are rather cute,”  Orbon said, Furball giggling delightedly.

         “now can I get paws on with you?”  she asked.

        “but you don’t need to, you can see me!”  Orbon protested.

        “I thought paws were used here,”  Furball replied.

        “yes, I suppose,”  Orbon grunted, Furball embracing him and exploring his head, arms, belly, legs, back and feet, Orbon unable to stop himself wriggling with pleasure and most embarrassingly, he noticed his toes curling with pleasure too.

        “Oh dear, um, sorry,”  Orbon gabbled.

        “I’m glad you like my touch,”  Furball replied.

       “I don’t, I mean, I do, but not like that!”  Orbon whimpered, his mind confused and paws tingling.

        “Oh shit, will she guess?”  Orbon thought, “My paws and feet will give my arousal away!”

        “your paws and feet, hmm, curled toes, bunched pads, bunched slightly damp pads too,”  Furball replied, “um, Orbon, either you are a nervous bear, which I doubt, or you are liking my touch rather more than you would like to let on via words.”

      “oh dear, oh no!”  Orbon whimpered, his toes curling tighter and tighter, then his paws bunched into fists too.  Orbon curled up into a ball, Furball’s touch on the pads of his right foot making him curl up tighter and tighter.  Covering his face with his paws, he whimpered and roared into his paws, wriggling and squirming.

      “Stop it Furball, stop that!”  he squealed, “my toes can’t take it, my paws can’t take it, my body is full, and my head is going to explode!”  he wailed, “oaoaoaoaoaoaaow!”  Furball drew circles on the sole of Orbon’s right foot, the male bear drawing his feet up and clasping his knees with his paws.  head down, roaring lustily, Orbon struggled to cope with gripping paws, tightly curled toes and clenched teeth as Furball’s touch thrilled him more than he’d dared admit.  Furball, drawing circles to her heart’s content, smiled as she observed the affect she was having on the brown coated half grown bear.

        “You like my touch?”  Furball asked.  Orbon whimpered a response, struggling to compose his thoughts, but the circles drawn on the sole of his right foot kept him from composing them.

       “Do you like my touch?”  Furball asked.  Orbon whimpered pitifully.

       “I take it your damp pads and curled toes mean you do,”  Furball replied, as you haven’t crawled away.”

        “what the hell do you think!”  Orbon gasped.

        “Your pads are very soft, and very warm,”  Furball replied, “I like them bunched up too, they’re so cute!”

        “Your paws make me curl up into a whimpering, toe curling, paw bunching mess!””  Orbon gasped.

        “So I take it you like my touch then,”  Furball said, “your paws certainly suggest that.”

        “I suppose I do, it’s all too much!”  Orbon panted, “Furball, please, paws off for a bit, so I can recover!”  Furball released his right foot, Orbon relaxing his paws and toes.  Furball suddenly took hold of his left foot in both paws, Orbon roaring and squealing as her touch curled his toes, balled his paws into fists and made him curl up tightly.

       oooaoaoaoaoaoaomph!”  he yelled lustily, Furball giggling helplessly.

        “you like my touch too much I think,”  she said,  Orbon panting hard.

        “you’re too good at this!”  Orbon gasped.

        “I’ll stop now,”  Furball replied softly.

       “No you won’t!”  Orbon replied sharply, “I, I mean, please don’t!”  he replied more gently, if as urgently.  Furball laughed merrily.

        “You want me to keep drawing on the pads of your left foot?”  she asked.  Orbon moaned deeply, his toes curling round Furball’s paw squeezing it hard.

       “yes please,”  Orbon whispered.

       “I like your reaction,”  Furball said, “I’ve never had a bear curl up into a ball of pleasure before.”

          “You’re not tickling my feet, you’re stroking my pads, I can’t stop my toes curling!”  Orbon gasped, wriggling with pleasure, “my paws too,”  he added, “I’ve never felt them do what they’re doing now!”

        “I like the way your paws and feet react to my touch,”  Furball said.

       “I want to feel what my touch does to your paws and feet sometime soon,”  Orbon replied, “but every time you touch mine, my toes curl and my whole body curls up into a tight ball, my mouth making sounds I never knew I could make!”  Furball giggled delightedly and kissed Orbon’s nose.

        “now try to relax a bit,”  she replied softly.

         “I like curling up in a ball,”  Orbon replied, “it’s sort of thrilling to do it.  I don’t deliberately do it, but it’s sort of feels good to do it.”

      “Curled body, curled toes, clenched paws and bunched pads,”  Furball replied, “oh, and closed eyes too, how cute is that, and all touched off with a little pressure from my paw on the pads of your right foot.”  Orbon pressed Furball’s paw with his toes.

         “I don’t know what to think,”  he said, “this is all a bit of a whirlwind for me Furball.  Is this real?  Is this how beginning to love another bear works?”  Furball smiled:

        “I suppose it is,”  she replied, “I wouldn’t know myself, as I’ve never done it before today.”  Orbon felt Furball take his paws in hers.

        “You mean, mean, you want to mate with me?”  Orbon asked.  Furball squealed with laughter.

        “Do I need to spell it out?”  she asked laughing, “oh dear Orbon, are you all that silly?”

        “but I’ve never done it before!”  Orbon protested.

        “Neither have I,”  Furball replied, “but yes, I like you big silly bear, so let’s play, let’s get paws on, let’s explore each other with our paws, and grab each other’s feet and toes in play!”

        “yes let’s do that,”  Orbon replied, “but I don’t know what to do!  Every time you touch my paws or my feet, I want to curl up into a ball and squeal with pleasure!”

         “I like that,”  Furball said, “now I wonder Orbon, would your touch make me do the same?”  Orbon wriggled in Furball’s embrace:

     “If you don’t let go of my paws, I won’t know,”  Orbon replied.  Furball let go of Orbon’s paws, and he explored her from her nose to her toes, Furball wriggling with pleasure.

        “I love this!”  Furball exclaimed.

        “yeah, but your reaction is not as extreme as mine,”  Orbon replied.

        “You haven’t reached my feet yet,”  Furball said, “explore Orbon, explore my feet one by one, feel what happens.”  Orbon did, and when he touched the ball of her right foot, Furball moaned, gasped, roared, then curled up, just as he had, her toes curling, teeth clenching and paws balling into fists.  Furball scrambled onto her knees, then sat back on her heels, Orbon pressing the ball of her right foot, then her toes with his paw, Furball bracing her weight with her paws, head down, roaring and bouncing energetically on her heels as Orbon rubbed her toes.

      “Oh god, this is wonderful!”  Furball screamed, “I’m not joking either Orbon,”  she said, “it’s fantastic!  Try my other foot, push into my pads on that foot, go on!”  Orbon did, and Furball couldn’t help screaming lustily.

      “Huoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaow!”  she shrieked.

        “Your pads are very soft, and toes curl easily,”  Orbon said, digging his paw hard into the toes and pads of Furball’s right foot, the she bear sitting back on her heels, drilling them into her backside while  wriggling madly.

          “I love that!”  she gasped.

       “I like your pads and toes too, they are young pads and playful toes Furball,”  Orbon said, Furball bouncing her backside on her heels, laughing helplessly.

        “I like that too,”  Orbon said, lying down behind Furball, his right paw on her backside, his left on the heel of her right foot, feeling Furball bouncing her backside on her heels.

        “I’m glad about that,”  Furball said.

       “I like you bouncing on your heels,”  Orbon replied, “it’s sort of cute.”  Furball laughed merrily.

        “I used to do that for relaxation when I was stressed,”  she said, “it made me feel better.”

       “Are you stressed now?”  Orbon asked.

      “Now I bounce for joy,”  Furball replied.  Orbon smiled as his paw was caught between Furball’s heel and her backside as she bounced a little higher, and landed on his paw.

       “oooah, sorry,”  Furball said, lifting her weight off of his paw.

        “No problem,”  Orbon replied.  Orbon drew his paw down the sole of Furball’s foot from her heel to her toes, Furball whimpering with pleasure as he reached her toes, her toes curling tightly.

      “that feels so bloody good!”  she panted.

         “Can I get paws on with you to find out what you feel like when you’re sitting back on your heels Furball?”  Orbon asked.  Furball whimpered her assent, feeling Orbon’s paws start at her head and begin a careful but exquisite exploration of her body.  Closing her eyes, Furball let her body tell her where Orbon’s paws were.  From her ears, he explored her head, face, chest, arms and paws, her paws resting flat on the floor just in front of her bent slightly splayed knees.  Orbon rubbed the tops of Furball’s paws, feeling her wriggling with pleasure as he touched them.  Moving behind her, he ran his paws from her neck, down her back to her backside, then down the side of her right leg to her right foot, Furball leaning over slightly as he traced her leg, her mouth opening in a soundless moan as Orbon stroked her pads from her heel to her toes.

       “Orbon, this feels great!”  she gasped.  Orbon repeated his exploration of Furball’s left leg, the she bear whimpering,  squealing, then roaring lustily as Orbon’s paw reached her left foot and travelled down the sole of her foot from heel to toes.  Furball bounced on her heels, her roar almost constant as Orbon counted her toes and drew circles on the pads of both her feet.  Shrieking with bursting pleasure, Furball rocked back and fourth on her knees, Orbon feeling her thrusting forward then leaning back, crushing her heels with her backside.  Furball rocked faster and faster as he drew ever faster circles on her pads.

        “I’m exhausted Orbon, stop!”  Furball panted, “it’s too much for me!”  Orbon rubbed out the circles he’d drawn on Furball’s pads, the she bear screaming with pleasure.

         “now stop this, stop this!”  Furball gasped.

        “So I can make you go crazy just by touching your body with my paws,”  Orbon said smiling.  Furball lowered her head in exhaustion.

       “yeah,”  she panted, “Orbon, if that’s love making by the paw, how is it when you mate with me?”

        “I haven’t ever done that bit,”  Orbon said, “I’ve got no experience of that yet.  Though, I like just rubbing your body with my paws, it’s lovely.”

          “What do you like?”  Furball asked.

         “Now let me think,”  Orbon replied, “a naked she bear touching my foot with her paw and drawing circles on it is lovely.”  Furball laughed and rolled onto her back, Orbon getting paws on, Furball drawing up her feet and grabbing them in her paws.

      Oaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaosh!”!”  Furball screamed in a rising pitch as she fiercely clung to her feet with both her paws, her paws fiercely gripping the soles of both feet, who’s toes curled tightly as Orbon’s paws explored them.

        “I love your touch too much Orbon!”  Furball yelled, rolling from side to side and then slightly back and fourth.

      “Oooooooaoaoaoah, uuououuuoooaoaoaoh!”  Furball moaned as Orbon worked his paws over her body.

         “now is that nice?”  Orbon asked.  Furball, her eyes closed, mumbled that it was nice, more than nice.  Furball pushed her feet against her paws, Orbon getting paws on with her efforts, straining her legs, she freed her feet, Orbon, grinning, caught her left foot in his paws and blew on her toes, Furball laughing shrilly and whipping her foot away.  Massaging her tickled toes in her paws, she looked up at Orbon.

       “Tickling my toes was not part of the game!”  she admonished.  Orbon felt the toes of Furball’s left foot scrabbling at his paws, smiling he took her foot in his paws and began stroking her pads.

         “but you like me stroking your foot,”  Orbon said.

      “Oh, I do that,”  Furball replied, “and tickling my toes was not unpleasant either, just unexpected.”  Orbon drew circles on the pads of his friend’s right foot, Furball curling her toes tighter and tighter.

        “I think I could get used to this play, but find it fresh every time,”  Furball said.

       “Your paws and feet are lovely Furball,”  Orbon said, embracing her left foot in his paws, Furball unable to stop her toes curling even tighter as she felt his paws embrace.

      “aoaoaoaow, this feels good!”  Furball exclaimed, curling her toes and panting as she relaxed them, then, as another wave of pleasure enveloped her, she curled her toes again, tighter than the first time, exclaiming and wriggling convulsively:

     “aoaoaoaow!”  Orbon smiled, massaging Furball’s foot, Furball relaxing her toes as Orbon gently rubbed them.

       “You know how to make me squeal and curl my toes with pleasure,”  Furball said, rocking back and fourth on her backside.

         “You make me want to curl up into a ball of screaming pleasure!”  Furball panted, “oh Orbon, this is amazing!”  Orbon smiled, pressing the ball of Furball’s right foot in his paws, Furball squealing with excitement.

        “Orbon, keep it going, please, keep your foot massage going!”  Orbon smiled:

       “I’ll try,”  he replied softly.

        “I love your feet,”  Orbon said, “they are so expressive, and your pads and toes are so cute, when you curl your toes, your pads bunch up, and they are so soft and warm.  Your toes are quite small, so when you curl them, they feel so small and so  expressive.”  Furball laughed:

        “are my feet playing with your paws when my toes curl and pads bunch?”  she asked.

       “They are, and you are,”  Orbon replied, “I like that.”  Furball giggled:

        “Good!”  she replied.

        “You’re a young bear, too young to mate with, but I don’t want that, and neither do you I feel,”  Orbon said.  Furball smiled broadly.

         “I don’t want to mate, and neither do you,”  she said, “I can feel that.  My feelings are strong for you, but I’m not ready for having cubs yet, so if we can express our love in play, I’ll be happy.”

      “Me too,”  Orbon replied, “I love the way your feet and paws react to my touch.”

       “I love the way your feet and paws react to my touch too dear Orbon,”  Furball said.

      “I love our play,”  Orbon replied.  Getting to their feet, Orbon felt Furball cover his paw with hers.

        “come with me Orbon,”  Furball said, “let’s go find some food, I’m hungry, and I bet you are too.”

       “We don’t need to find food, we can call Kendal, and he will bring it,”  Orbon replied.

        “I can’t get used to this,”  Furball said closing her eyes.  Orbon withdrew his paw from under Furballs, stepped back, and tapped her right hind leg with his paw.  Furball jumped, Orbon catching her right foot and tickling the sole of her foot, Furball squealing with laughter.

         “Oi you!”  she laughed.  Orbon kissed the pads of her foot, then let go of it, Furball swallowing hard.

        “let’s find food,”  Furball choked, feeling tears squeezing from her eyes as Orbon kissed her nose.

         “Orbon, don’t!”  she pleaded, “it’s too much, surely this is wrong?  It has to be?  how can I feel so good with you, when, when we’re too young for this?”

         “We’re playing as friends, not as mates, yet,”  Orbon said, “so Furball, as I won’t hurt you, and you won’t hurt me, let’s play as friends shall we?”  Furball sniffed:

        “yes,”  she replied hoarsely.

      “I love you Furball,”  Orbon whispered, “Dear Furball, I love you from nose to toes, let’s play as friends now, let’s take things gently, playing for pleasure, playing for fun?”

       “I want that as much as you do,”  Furball replied.

       “I love your touch Furball,”  Orbon said, “now let’s go find some food.”

        “but I like you touching my feet too much,”  Furball said, “Can you touch them a bit more?”  Orbon giggled:

       “I will,”  he replied, “but if we don’t eat, we can’t play.”

         “come on then, let’s get food,”  Furball replied.

        “I like the way you walk,”  Furball said, “Orbon, you sort of carefully place your paws and feet, it’s cute.”

         “Well you scuff your heels on the floor,”  Orbon replied, “I can hear that.”

         “I’d like you to feel me walking, for you to grab my feet in your paws as I walk,”  Furball said, “that would be nice.”

       “I’d like that, we’ll do that in the playroom,”  Orbon replied smiling, “that’d be safer for you if you fall over.”

        “You have wrinkled pads Orbon,”  Furball said, “they’re rather sweet.”

        “You have wrinkled pads too,”  Orbon said, “is that from curling your toes in play?”  Furball laughed helplessly.

       “that’s so sweet!”  she said, “the thought I could mould my pads by curling my toes, that’s just so cute!”  Orbon kissed Furball’s nose, then pushed her onto her back and kissed the pads of her paws and hind feet, Furball squealing delightedly.

        “I love this, I love this!”  she laughed.  Orbon tapped the pads of Furball’s hind feet with the toes of his paws, Furball wriggling madly.

      “My paws and feet are yours to do with what you wish,”  she said, “you can pleasure me with your touch all day Orbon!”

       “I like it when you bounce on your heels,”  Orbon said, “that’s so cute!”  Furball giggled softly.

       “I love that too,”  she replied, “I don’t know why though.”

       “”Maybe you turn away from me so your feet tell you what I’m doing rather than your eyes?”  Orbon asked.

        “Oh,”  Furball said, her voice full of wonder, “I know now, I know now why your touch was so gentle.”

       “I can’t see you,”  Orbon said.  Furball kissed his nose.

       “How does my naked skin and pads feel to you Orbon?”  Furball asked.

        “your skin is soft, your pads a bit rough and tough though,”  Orbon said, “they are soft, but there are hard and dry areas, how about massaging lotion into your pads?”

       “I don’t know if I can,”  Furball said, “um, Orbon, could you please do something for me?  show me how to massage lotion into my pads?”  Orbon giggled:

        “yes, of course,”  he replied, “though I hope you’ll let me check your feet for thorns before I do that?”

      “but of course Orbon,”  Furball replied, “that is important, you wouldn’t want to press the thorn into my pads even further would you?”  Orbon kissed her nose.

       “I love you Furball,”  he replied gently.  Furball and Orbon went to get food, then, once they’d eaten and washed themselves, they padded back to their lie up, Orbon clutching a bottle of lotion and an exploiting cylinder in his paws.

       “Now settle down Furball dear,”  Orbon said.  Furball settled herself, smiling at Orbon, then remembering he couldn’t see her, touched his paw with hers.

       “I’m down on the floor now,”  Furball said.  Orbon took each of Furball’s paws and feet in his paws, working carefully at the rough skin on her pads, gently filing until Furball couldn’t stand it any more.  Then he’d start on another part of her pads until all was smooth.  Then he rubbed in the lotion Furball closing her eyes and clenching her teeth with pleasure.

       “oooah, ooooooooaoh!”  she panted.

        “Is that good?”  Orbon asked.

       “Good? It’s bloody good!”  Furball gasped.

         “that’s lovely,”  Orbon replied, working on Furball’s right foot, rubbing the hard skin on the sole of her foot until it was smooth and then misaligning in lotion, Furball unable to stop her toes curling with pleasure.

         “your paws and feet are massaged and oiled,”  Orbon said, Furball smiling with pleasure.

        “how did you learn all that?”  she asked.

        “Practise,”  Orbon said, “we massage creams and things into our paws and feet all the time here.”

        “No you don’t,”  Furball said, “it’s got nothing to do with creams and things.  it’s all to do with touch and gentility.”

         “Okay,”  Orbon conceded, “it is.”

        “I love your touch Orbon, I really do love your touch,”  Furball replied.

       “Are you two mating?”  Purdy asked, walking into the room.  Furball stared at her.

      “No we’re not!”  she snapped, “now get out and leave us in peace!”

        “but I watched you playing, and it was so cute and all that, I wanted to say how good it looked, and how lovely you two are together!”  Purdy wailed.

       “All right Purdy,”  Furball said softly.

       “bugger off and let us play in peace!”  Orbon growled.

      “ok I’m leaving!”  Purdy whimpered, turning and running away.

 

Orbon and Furball ordered food, finished their meal and settled down to hugs and paw and foot games.

        “I love this place and you too Orbon,”  Furball replied.

         “I love you too Furball,”  Orbon said.  he kissed her nose and paws, Furball swallowing hard.

       “Orbon,”  she whispered, “dear Orbon, I love you so much my lovely friend.”   Orbon kissed her nose and massaged her right paw in both of his, Furball snuggling close.

        “I’m cold Orbon,”  Furball said..

        “I feared you’d get cold,”  Orbon said, “How if I find you a suit to wear, it’ll be a comfortable tight fitting tracksuit with elastic at the cuffs and ankles, okay?”  Furball watched as Orbon went to a cupboard and pulled out a black tracksuit.  He threw it to Furball who unzipped the back and struggled into it, her naked paws and feet sticking out from the arms and legs.  Furball realised that though the suit was tight fitting, it was flexible so she could still move.  Smiling, she drew up her hind feet and grabbed them with her paws, the posture still very comfortable.

       “Can you still sit back on your heels?”  Orbon asked, exploring Furball’s body.

        “I think so,”  she said, kneeling and then sitting back on her heels, Orbon touching the stretched material over her backside, and her bare ankles and feet, from tops to slightly bunched soles and slightly curled toes.

         “You’re just as beautiful wearing your suit,”  Orbon said.

       “Will you help me struggle out of it?”  Furball asked, “will you get paws on while I fight to free myself?”

        “I will,”  Orbon said, “I’ll pull the suit off your arms, legs and help your feet and paws to get through the cuffs.”  Furball,  smiling to herself, felt her way to a flap covering a zip at her waste.  Unzipping it, she pulled down the leggings.

        “I can wear the suit all the time!”  she said, dressing herself again,  “I can pull off the trousers to relieve myself then get back into them without taking the top off if I wish.”

        “You feel great in that suit,”  Orbon said..

        “I like the feel of it against my skin,”  Furball replied, “it’s fleecy, a nice feel, very comforting.”

       “I know some humans wear things when they are in bed as well as out of it,”  Orbon replied, “is it that kind of feel?  Does it make you want to curl up and sleep?”  Furball smiled and curled up into a ball, Orbon paws on throughout.

        “That is so dam cute!”  Orbon exclaimed, stroking the sole of Furball’s left foot with his paw, feeling her toes curling around those of his paw.

         “Explore my paws Orbon,”  Furball mumbled, Orbon freeing his paw, Furball whimpering with anxiety until his paws embraced hers, which were tucked into the sleeves of her suit.  Orbon smiled as he uncovered her left paw and held it in his.

        “I could get little boots for your hind feet if you like,”  he suggested.

        “I’d like you to pull them on for me before I sleep, then take them off when I wake,”  Furball replied, “I don’t mind socks and gloves while I’m sleeping Orbon, but not in the daytime.”  Orbon found the gloves and boots for the suit and stretched them onto Furball’s paws and feet, enjoying dressing her, stretching the material over her paws and feet.

        “Wiggle your fingers Furball,”  Orbon said softly, then, “wiggle your toes Furball, push with your feet and wiggle your toes, there,”  Orbon said, Furball swallowing hard to control her emotions as Orbon stroked and tended to her paws and feet as he eased the gloves and boots on to her paws and feet.  Orbon tugged and patted at the material, Furball wriggling with pleasure, snuggling into her suit.  She noticed the material on her paws and feet was taught, so she could still feel Orbon’s touch.  Sighing with pleasure, Furball settled down, snuggling herself down into her suit.

       “You know I said I didn’t want a coat?”  she said, “well Orbon, I was wrong.  I love the feel of the suit on my body and the gloves and socks on my paws and feet.  Orbon pulled down the sock on Furball’s left foot, rolling it down, over her heel to the middle part of her foot, then very gently stroked her now bare heel pad, Furball curling her toes, wriggling and gasping with pleasure.

      “aoaoaoaow,”  she whimpered, panting as Orbon covered her heel again, stretching the material back over her heel, covering the bare pink skin with black material, Furball breathing deeply as she felt her heel once more embraced by the close fitting sock.

        “you pulling down my sock, rubbing my heel then replacing the sock felt good!”  Furball panted.

        “Your heel pad was warm and a little damp,”  Orbon said.

        “It is warm in here, though not uncomfortably so,”  Furball replied.

         “your scent is strong,”  Orbon said, “I like that.”

        “I love you Orbon,”  Furball laughed.

        “You two are too young to mate, you realise this?”  Blackberry said, padding into the room, having watched Orbon and Furball’s antics.

         “yes we know!”  Furball said angrily, “Blackberry, we’re playing, playing with clothes, playing with each other’s feet and paws.”

         “As long as that’s all it is,”  Blackberry said, “I’m not averse to play, but just be careful will you, please?”  Furball smiled and got to her padded paws and feet, padding over to Blackberry.

        “We’re not cubs, we’re too young to have cubs,”  she said, “but we are not cubs Blackberry.  Our play is play as friends, it might have some implications for our later lives, such as bringing us closer, but that is all for the moment.  Oh yes, and getting us acquainted with our own and each other’s bodies, feet and paws.”

       “Orbon pulling down the sock on your foot to stroke your heel was more than getting to know you I think,”  Blackberry said.

       “Yes, it was sweet wasn’t it?”  Furball replied, “it felt great at my end too!”  Blackberry huffed in exasperation, but then smiled:

        “You two are good together,”  he said.

       “My feet are sore,”  Furball said, “and, and, I need to get at them, but my gloves stop me getting at my socks, and my socks are covering my feet, they are in the way Orbon!  They feel so uncomfortable!”  Orbon pulled the gloves off Furball’s paws, then set to pulling the socks off Furball’s feet, carefully removing them by rolling them down over her heels and soles to her toes, Furball curling her toes with imagined discomfort, Orbon rubbing the soles of her feet from heels to toes as he rolled the socks off her feet.

      “Oooah, my toes, my toes want to curl, curl so tight!”  Furball whimpered, curling up and making a grab for her right foot, Orbon working the sock off her left foot, while Furball grabbed the bunched sock on her right foot and struggled to free her toes, which curled tightly into the material the harder she struggled.

      “relax those toes,”  Orbon said as scrabbling paws progressed to snarling, then a general rolling from side to side as her struggle increased.

       “Relax those toes,”  Orbon said, kissing the heel of Furball’s left foot, her toes relaxing enough for him to pull the sock off the toes of her foot,  “there, all done,”  Orbon said gently, Furball whimpering as Orbon set to massaging the toes of her left foot in both his paws.

       “that was a hard fight,”  Furball panted.

        “your toes keep curling,”  Orbon said, his paws working on Furball’s left foot, Furball’s toes curling whenever he pressed the middle of her sole pad.

       “I can’t stop them curling, whenever you press my sole pad, my toes curl tight!”  Furball gasped.

       “That’s cute,”  Orbon said, “your curling toes and bunching pads are cute too,”  he added, as the toes of her left foot caught his paw and squeezed it.

     “now will you help me free the toes of my right foot?”  Furball asked.

       “yes,”  Orbon said, letting go of his friend’s left foot and grabbing her right, rubbing her pads, Furball squealing as her toes relaxed, then roaring as Orbon pulled the sock off, Furball curling her toes as tightly as she could once they were free.

       “toes curling, curling so tight!”  Furball yelled, rolling onto her back, drawing up her feet and grabbing them with her paws, “oaoaoaoaoaoaaow!  Oaoaoaoaoaoaaow!”  Furball yelled, Orbon getting paws on.

        “That’s so sweet!”  he said gently, exploring Furball’s situation with care while Furball held tightly onto her feet with her paws.

      “oooah, my feet are pressing against my paws, the more you touch my heels and paws the more my feet want to break free!”  Furball whimpered, pressing against her paws with both feet.  Orbon listened and touched, feeling Furball’s feet press against her paws from time to time, as if in spasm.  Furball’s feet would push against the restraining grip of her paws then  relax, push a little harder, relax, then harder still, Furball seemingly unable to control their pushing for freedom, as every time they pushed, she moaned and whimpered as if she had no control over what her feet and paws did.

        “My feet push, my paws grip!”  Furball panted, “one time, one time soon my feet will really push, and my paws will tear free of them, freeing me, but I’m stuck Orbon!  My paws are glued to my feet!  I’ll end up a screaming, kicking wreck!  Ooaoaoaoaoh! It’s happening again!”  Furball screeched as her feet braced themselves hard against her paws.  Orbon, rubbing the naked top of her right paw, tried to reassure Furball.  Suddenly she wriggled, growled, then moaned deeply as her feet pressed against her paws harder than ever, Orbon standing off to one side, but paws on enough to feel the struggle between his friend’s paws and desperately pushing feet.

       “oaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoao, ooaoaoaoaoaoaooooooooooaoush!”  Furball shrieked as her feet made determined efforts to push against her paws.  Clenching her teeth, Furball endured the greatest effort made by her feet to free themselves, the effort started with tightly curling toes then muscles bunching, then huge pressure on her paws from both feet.  The toes of Furball’s paws dug into the pads of both hind feet in an effort to hold  her feet, but with a straine from her legs, and a rush with hysterical screaming from Furball,, Furball’s feet flew free, her legs splaying as she kicked forward, Orbon feeling her feet pummelling his paws as she kicked and thrust at the air in her efforts to regain control.

      “oooah, Oaoaoaoaoaow! Oooah,”  Furball whimpered as she came down from her efforts.

       “that was amazing,”  Furball panted.

        “You liked it?”  Orbon asked, catching hold of her right foot and stroking her pads and toes.

        “I loved every minute,”  Furball laughed.  Orbon touched Furball’s left paw, then her right, her left foot, then her right, Furball giggling helplessly.

        “have my feet and paws survived?”  she asked.  Orbon got properly paws on, Furball almost purring with pleasure as he examined her paws and feet for damage.

       “You know how to play with me just how I like it,”  Furball said, her paws and toes clenching and curling.

        “when I was struggling to free my feet from those socks,”  Furball said, “I wanted your help, but whenever you touched the sole of my foot, my toes curled around the socks, making pulling them off impossible, though that was real fun.”  Orbon smiled and hugged Furball with genuine affection, Furball snuggling close.

       “I love your play Orbon,”  Furball said, “I love your touch and what it makes me want to do, from curling my toes, to grabbing my feet with my paws, or sitting back on my heels while you stroke my pads in circles or count my toes until they curl so tight I’m exhausted.  I love it Orbon.”

       “I love stroking your pads,”  Orbon replied smiling.

       “Would you let me stroke your pads?”  Furball asked.

        “of course,”  Orbon replied, “but I’m not as good at imaginative play as you are.  The way you struggled to free your feet from your paws so they could meet my paws was inspired.  Making your paws the enemy of your feet was so cute.  I could really feel your belief in your struggle, that was so sweet.”  “how would I simulate having your cubs Orbon?”  Furball asked.

         “You know how to simulate a contraction don’t you?”  Orbon asked.

        “How?”  Furball enquired.

       “Push back against yourself or against me with your feet or paws, growling and screaming with the effort,”  Orbon replied.

       “Oh,”  that sounds fun,”  Furball giggled.

          “do you want to try it now?”  Orbon asked, “you were doing that while pushing your feet against your paws.”

      “But I want to squeal and yell while you’re stroking my feet as I push my backside into my heels, drilling down hard while curling my toes,”  Furball said.

        “wow, that intense ay?”  Orbon asked.

       “yes,”  Furball replied, “I take it pretending to have a cub is okay here?”

       “it is,”  Orbon replied, “and so is rubbing your paws and feet, and holding you while you pretend too.”  Furball laughed:

      “So I can cling to you, wriggle, moan and scream lustily?”  she asked.

        “You can,”  Orbon said smiling.

     “sometimes I can’t express how I feel in words,”  Furball said, “it comes out in squealing and a fierce embrace.”

        “I noticed,”  Orbon replied, “your toes grabbed my paw while you squealed loudly.”

       “while I was struggling to free my feet from my paws?”  Furball asked.

       “yes,”  Orbon replied smiling, “your toes caught mine between them and your gripping paws, that was lovely Furball.”  Furball kissed his nose:

        “I love you Orbon,”  she replied, “I love you so much.”

       “I you too,”  Orbon said, “this play is play, but there is more to it than that.”

        “I knew that at the beginning,”  Furball replied, “but we will be careful, we know that.”

       “yes, pretending that you are delivering a cub is all we will do, with me rubbing your back, paws and feet,”  Orbon promised..

       “I promise to curl my toes, kick, crawl, sit back on my heels, moan, roar and scream with commitment too,”  Furball said.

        “So that’s a deal?”  Orbon asked.  Furball knocked Orbon from a sitting position to supine, then pulled him onto his side and embraced him.

        “what do my paws tell you?”  she asked.  Orbon wriggled with pleasure, Furball’s embrace filling him with pure exec.

        “it’s a deal,”  he panted.

         “I hope your paws find my body, head, paws, feet, pads and toes interesting Orbon,”  Furball said, stroking his body from ears to pads.  Orbon replied that he found her very tactilely interesting.

        “Even better when you curl your toes,”  he replied, “or when you play foot and paw games.”

         “I like playing with my feet,”  she replied, “you haven’t felt me play with my toes yet have you?”  Furball asked.

        “No,”  Orbon replied.

       “Right, I’ll do that when I’m pretending to be in early labour with your cub,”  Furball replied, “I will also go into labour with my suit on, and we can both remove it while I endure contractions too.”

        “don’t give the game away,”  Orbon said, “I want to be surprised by what you do.  That’s airport of the game.”

         “I will listen to you too,”  Furball said, “but ok, I’ll start the game one day soon.”

         “So you’ll labour while wearing the suit you are now wearing?”  Orbon asked.

       “yes,”  Furball replied, “I’ll try to labour with it on, then struggle out of it when I feel uncomfortable enough to need more freedom, then it’s time for you to help me in a serious way when time to deliver the cub.  I would like you to use all your knowledge of what I like to make me labour to have the cub.  stroke my feet, stroke my paws, encourage me to crawl, breathe, scream and roar, then to push down into my tail while you rub my heels.”

      “I’ll do all that,”  Orbon replied.

          “right,”  Furball said, “now, do I put those socks and gloves back on again?  Or will I feel uncomfortable within a few minutes of doing so.”

       “Your pads were damp with discomfort after only five minutes of wearing them last time,”  Orbon replied.

         “I know,”  Furball whimpered, “I felt them with my paws, they helped stick the socks to my feet!”  she raged.

       “they did,”  Orbon said, Furball feeling his paws embracing her.

         “when it’s time, will you help me out of this suit?”  Furball asked.

       “yes I will,”  Orbon replied.

       “Good, I’ll need help,”  Furball replied smiling.

        “How about if I rub your paws and feet now?”  Orbon asked, feeling her wriggle in his embrace.

       “yes, yes please, now,”  Furball panted.  Orbon embraced Furball’s right foot in his paws, feeling her toes curling as she felt his touch.

       “Oaoaoaoaoaow!”  Furball gasped, “ow, Orbon, ow, ow!”  Orbon rubbed the heel of his friend’s right foot, Furball pressing her toes into his paws.

      “Orbon! It’s so aow! Aow! Aow, aow Aowaoaoaoaow!”  Furball yelled, bouncing her foot in his paws, her toes curling tightly.

      “this hurts so bloody much already! Aow!”  Furball screeched.

       “Tell me what you want me to do,”  Orbon said, as Furball buried her face in her paws and screamed lustily.

       “it hurts, it hurts!”  she yelled, sitting back on her heels and bouncing on them, then drilling her heels into her backside roaring:

       “aoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaooaoaouah, the cub’s coming, it’s coming quickly, Orbon, ow, aow Orbon!”  as she sat back hard on her heels.  Squealing, she struggled with her contractions, wriggling and jamming her heels tightly into her backside, as if trying to stop the cub emerging.

         “Do you want me to help you out of your suit?”  Orbon asked.

       “yeah, yeah, please!”  Furball panted, “Orbon, cub’s coming, coming fast, aow! aow! Aow!”

         “I’ll help you unzip the bottom half of your suit,”  Orbon said, unzipping the suit while Furball ground her teeth and sat back hard on her heels, drilling them into her backside, Furball curling her toes as tightly as she could.

       “this is bad!”  she moaned, “this is bloody awful, I can’t hold the cub in for much longer! I need to push!”  she screamed.  Orbon unzipped the trousers, then asked:

       “Furball, will you rest your weight on your paws?  stand on the tips of your toes and lean forwards so I can pull the trousers down to your knees and then to your feet so you can deliver your cub?”  panting, furball leant forward whimpering:

       “the cub is nearly here, it’s nearly here!  I can’t hold it in! it wants to come now, aow!”  Orbon tugged the trousers down to Furball’s ankles as she bounced on her toes,, the she bear wriggling and pivoting on her paws to help him.

        “oooah, ooaoaoaoaoh, ow,”  aow! Aow!”  she moaned as he pulled the trousers over her heels and over her feet, turning them inside out.  Sitting on the trousers, he felt his way over her feet, now covered with the cuffs on the bottoms of the trousers which had not yet come off her feet.

        “if you crawl now, your trousers will come off,”  Orbon said, “I’m sitting on them.”  Furball wriggled, then crawled away, tugging her feet from the trousers, feeling the cuffs scraping over her heels and toes, Furball whimpering as the trousers squeezed her feet and toes. 

       “they are bunched around my toes!”  she screamed.  Orbon felt his way over furball’s feet, furball’s cries lessening.

        “Your toes are curled, holding the trousers,”  Orbon said rubbing the bare heels of her hind feet with his paw, “Furball, relax your toes between contractions.”  Furball moaned her way through a contraction, then panted, feeling Orbon tugging the trousers from her toes.

        “How large is this cub?”  Furball moaned, “it hurts!”

       “I’ll show you how much of the cub you have to push out by touching the parts of your body if you wish,”  Orbon said, crawling after Furball, rubbing her heels and pressing the balls of her feet with his paws.

       “ow, yes, please, ow, aow!  I want to, want to push, must push!”  Furball yelled, “the cub’s so big, I don’t think you’ll have time to touch my body Orbon!”  Closing her mouth, she leant over, pressing her right foot into Orbon’s grip, pushing back against him.

       “oaoaoaoaoaoaaow, oaoaoaoaoaoaaow! Aow! Aow! Aow!”  Furball screamed, pushing her foot into Orbon’s paws, her weight over her paws.  head down, she panted and moaned as she came down, then suddenly Orbon felt her toes curl in his paws.  Suddenly  he felt Furball squirm her foot into his grip, pressing her curled toes into his paws, her pads bunched and sweating with effort, the she bear screaming with effort and pain.

      “oaoaoaoaoaoaaow!”  she screeched, “it’s stretching me, this is hurting so much!”  she yelled.

       “the cub’s paws and head are coming, pant Furball pant!”  Orbon replied softly, Furball panting and whimpering, then moaning as another contraction gripped her.

      “eurrhrhrhrhrhrhg Eoaoaowurgh!”  she complained, her voice low and strained.

         “How do you want me to help you?”  Orbon asked.

        “the cub’s body is coming!”  Furball squealed, “I can feel it, I can feel it, catch the cub Orbon!”  Orbon stroked Furball’s sweating pads, exploring her curled toes and bunched pads.

           “Ok, I need to push again, help me push Orbon, help me!”  Furball begged, pressing her foot into his paws, “yoaoaoaoaoaoaoaow! Yoaoaoaoaoaoaoaow, ooooooaoaoaowmph!”

         “Cub’s nearly here now, nearly here, push furball Push!”  Orbon urged, touching Furball’s tail, then catching the imaginary cub, Furball whimpering as the cub’s hind feet emerged.

        “that was hard!”  she panted, “was it good enough Orbon?”  Orbon smiled broadly.

        “it was,”  he replied, “now, do you want to groom your cub?”

         “I’ll groom the bear who’s body was in my mind as I pushed,”  Furball replied, spinning round, grabbing Orbon and grooming him.

      “I am too big surely?”  he asked.

         “I wanted to bring you closer to me,”  Furball replied.

        “You’re so sweet Furball,”  Orbon said.

        “now, now will you help me on with my trousers?”  Furball asked, “I’m exhausted Orbon.”  Orbon turned the trousers the right way round, then helped her into them.

          “Your scent is strong Furball,”  Orbon said.

       “please Orbon, rub my paws and feet,”  Furball said.  Orbon did as Furball asked, Furball starting off by pedalling the air with her feet, then when Orbon caught both her feet and began massaging her pads, she  curled her toes with pleasure.

        “I like it when you pedal the air with your feet and paws,”  Orbon said, “I’m surprised you didn’t do that during your labour.”

        “I didn’t have time,”  Furball replied, but I want to now.”

         “your feet and paws were lovely when labouring, and lovely now,”  Orbon said.

        “were they?”  Furball asked, “that’s lovely.”

       “I love your feet and paws,”  Orbon said, “and it’s sort of cute you were thinking of a cub my size when you delivered your imaginary cub.  thing is, that was a big cub.”

       “it was,”  Furball replied, “truth is, I was wondering how it would feel to deliver a cub for you.  I really felt pain Orbon, real pain.”

         “You didn’t feel pain, you couldn’t have,”  Orbon said, “now would you like me to massage your toes and pads?”  Orbon asked.  Furball smiled, then hugged him.

         “My toes will curl so tightly, my pads bunch so much that they will remain bunched for life I think,”  Furball said.

        “If that’s not a declaration of intent I don’t know what is,”  Patch said, padding into the room.

        “I think we’re compatible,”  Orbon said, “my feet and paws like furball’s.”

       “Mine like Orbon’s too,”  furball replied.

         “You two looked committed,”  Patch said, “and you Orbon, know how to soothe and encourage furball.  I watched your play around removing your socks furball, that was so cute and sweet!”

         “We enjoyed it,”  furball giggled.

        “Then there was the point at which furball’s labour got hard as the cub was nearly here, Orbon was wonderful!”  Patch enthused.  furball laughed:

       “he was lovely wasn’t he,”  she said, “next time, I will remove my trousers before labour gets that far along.”

         “It was a lovely time,”  Orbon said.  Looking concerned, he asked:

       “Patch, please, tell me this.  furball said she was in real pain when she was pushing.  She sounded in pain.  What was all that about?”

        “Can I tell him furball?”  Patch asked.

        “You can,”  Furball replied.

        “Furball was trying to imagine what it would be like to deliver your cub,”  Patch said, “I gave her real pain to push against, I told her to push her foot into your paws and to take what comfort she found there.  I asked her to do what she felt like doing when the cub was born.  To express herself naturally, to turn to the one whom she wanted to deliver a cub for and groom him.  Furball did that too.”  Orbon felt furball’s paw scrabbling for his.  He took it in his paws and held on tightly, his eyes filling with tears.

        “So that’s why it was so real at the end, when Furball sat back on her heels, trying to keep the cub inside her,”  he choked, “she felt real pain, and wanted to get me paws on before she pushed.  Her pain was real, her urges were real ones, her sitting back on her heels was her attempt to stop the cub she knew was coming from emerging too quickly.”

         “yes,”  Patch said.

        “I once felt that urge,”  Orbon said, “though it felt like a need to relieve myself.  It was when I couldn’t stop playing a game I was involved in, as it was just too good.  I sat back on my heels then, drilling them into my backside just as furball did, trying to stop myself from soiling myself.  I felt vulnerable and scared then, as the urges were unbearable.  I made it, but only with the help of Sita, who realised what was happening and rushed me away.  As it was, I was just in time.”

         “You know then how urgent her need was for you to touch her paws, and how difficult it was for her to let you help her from her trousers,”  Patch said.

        “yes, and I wasn’t wearing any,”  Orbon replied, “furball, was it that intense?”

        “it was,”  furball replied, “the cub was almost on its way out into the world.”

        “I bet it was worse than I felt,”  Orbon said.  Patch smiled:

       “Orbon,”  he said, “I heard you doubt furball’s power to soothe you.  she on the other paw, doesn’t doubt your power to soothe her.”

       “yes,”  Orbon said, “I am rather tough padded, as it were.”

         “”we’ll see about that,”  Patch replied.  Orbon suddenly groaned deeply.

        “it’s happening again!”  he roared, sitting back on his heels, drilling them into his backside, “it’s happening again!  I can’t stop it!”  furball, her paw now free, probed the pads of Orbon’s sweating hind feet with her paw, Orbon drilling his heels into his backside just as she had, his heels close together, drilling hard into his backside, his toes curled in desperation, as if blocking the passage of something from his body.

        “ooaoaoaoaoh!”  Orbon screeched, but then he felt something else, a lessening of the urgency inside him, and he knew furball’s touch was doing that, for the minute she released her pressure, the urge flooded back, and Orbon was forced to drill his heels into his backside harder than ever.

         “furball  it’s coming, I can’t stop it!”  he wailed, the pressure from furball’s paw applied gently to his heel, then down his foot to the ball of his foot, then his toes, Orbon’s urge purged from him, Orbon whimpering and whining as her paw traversed his pads, first of his left foot, then of his right, from heels to toes, Orbon panting, whimpering and gasping as the pleasure outweighed his pain.

        “wow!”  he exclaimed in relief when furball removed her paw from his pads and all was normal, “that was intense!”

          “I gave you the urges you felt in the playroom that day,”  Patch said, “and it was up to furball to soothe your pain.  If she didn’t want to, you would have been screaming by now.  As she wanted to though, she touched your hind feet as you’d touched hers, and your pain left you, or would have done enough to enable you to get into safety to do what you had to do, right?”  Orbon agreed.

        “yes,”  he replied, “so by me stroking her pads, I made it possible for furball to endure her contractions for long enough to get her trousers off and let her deliver her cub?”

       “yes,”  furball replied.

        “and what about when you pushed your foot into my paws while pressing down to deliver the cub Furball?”  Orbon asked.

        “that helped too,”  furball replied, “that was reassurance for me that you were still there and still with me.”

         “So you want to have my cubs?”  Orbon asked.

        “yes silly,”  furball laughed, “but I want you first.  I want you to play with my paws and feet, to make me play silly foot and paw games, and to soothe me when I’m in pain.  You can do that, you’ve done it before.”  Orbon embraced furball with all his might, but then he stopped.

          “this isn’t the real furball,”  he said, unzipping the top half of her suit and tugging it off her.  he then undid the trousers, Furball crawling away, pulling the trousers off her legs and feet as she did so.  Orbon, now chasing her by scent, crawled after Furball, found her feet, claimed them with his paws, then, as she spun round to challenge him for tickling her toes with his breath, he tackled her to the floor and hugged her fiercely, furball letting him embrace her, melting into his hug, whimpering and gasping as he embraced her, his touch thrilling her from her nose to her toes.

         “this is the real Furball,”  Orbon said softly to the now naked she bear, furball laughing delightedly.

        “that was fun!”  she giggled.

         “I was touching the real Furball while she was delivering her cub,”  Orbon said.

        “You were,”  furball replied, “I was naked from the hips down.  I hope, when the time really comes, you will be able to do that for me.”

          “The time had come,”  Orbon said, “we know that, don’t we.”

         “yes,”  furball replied, “I don’t want cubs yet, but I will know who can soothe my pain when I eventually give birth to them.”

         “thank you,”  Orbon replied, crying freely.

         “Now my feet and paws need looking after,”  furball said, “would you do that for me?”  Orbon kissed furball’s paws, then her nose.

          “it’s a real pity I was unable to grab my feet with my paws during my labour,”  furball said, “but things became too real before I could work that one into the game.  Suddenly it wasn’t a game, I was in real pain, and needed serious help.”

        “I sort of knew it, now I think back,”  Orbon replied.

         “the cub was really coming into the world, I could feel every bit of it!”  furball said.

         “I could feel every effort my body was making too,”  Orbon replied, “it brought the whole thing back to me.  the play I’d had, the needs I’d felt but ignored, then the urgency, and me trying to block it by digging in my heels, as if that would have stopped anything.”

        “yes, I know,”  furball replied, but we try, we fight the pain mostly.

         “I was fearful of what others would say,”  Orbon replied, “but the abdominal pain was awful.”

         “I was fearful my cub would explode from me,”  furball replied.

         “I was fearful too,”  Orbon said.

         “I would like to touch your hind feet when they’re upside down,”  furball said.  Orbon knelt and she explored his pads and toes, Orbon sitting back on his heels, then pushing off and resting his weight on his paws as her touch made him breathless, his toes curling as she explored his pads.

       “wowowowowowoaoaoaoh!”  he yelled, “Furball, don’t!”  Furball laughed happily as her touch caused Orbon to wriggle, then bounce on his heels and sit down hard on them, the toes of his paws digging into the floor in front of him, his breath coming quickly.

        “I guess you like my touch?”  she asked.

         “My head is about to explode!”  Orbon panted, “I don’t know what to do with this feeling, my feet can’t cope!”

         “bounce on your heels,”  furball suggested.  Orbon did this, but it wasn’t enough.  Grinding his heels into his backside, he fought to remain composed.

          “I’m going to become a screaming, sobbing wreck in a minute!”  he whimpered, “this is too good!”

         “your feet might crave my touch as much as mine do yours,”  furball said.

         “I think they might, my paws too!”  Orbon replied, tearing his feet away from her touch, turning and pouncing on furball, who rolled with him, both embracing each other with intentions laid bare.

          “Compatible paws?”  Orbon asked.

       “Paws, feet, everything!”  furball replied laughing breathlessly, “this is amazing Orbon!”

          “yeah, it is,”  Orbon replied kissing her nose.

         “I love your touch,”  furball said for the thousandth time, but Orbon wasn’t tired of hearing her say it.

        “and I yours my dear,”  Orbon replied,  “I know we played at delivering a cub, but it was lovely play.”

        “It was,”  furball replied, “now I wonder if your feet will stick to mine?  Can we play the stuck foot game?”

       “We probably could,”  Orbon replied, “but what do you really want my paws to do?”

       “I would like your paws to touch my feet,”  she replied, “maybe the game where we draw circles would be a good one to play?  Could you stand that?  Whenever I touch your pads Orbon, you become incapable of play!”  Furball laughed.

       “I will play that game,”  Orbon replied. 

      “Then we will play the stuck foot game, minus an egg box, as we don’t need those, we can scream and roar encouragement to each other to free our feet enough without that,”  furball said.

        “the last stuck foot game I played was with Sally, we got stuck for at least half an hour each foot,”  Orbon replied.

      “that’s so cute,”  Furball said, “it’s a great game that stuck foot game.  I used to play that with my humans, their feet stuck very well to mine, we played the game for ages.”

         “I hope we’ll get very well stuck,”  Orbon said.  furball giggled:

        “We will,”  she said, “I know we will get very stuck.”

         “I don’t think we’ll get past checking each other’s feet for thorns,”  Orbon replied.  Furball laughed merrily and kissed her friend’s nose.

       “That’s nice to see,”  Patch said, furball looking up sharply.

        “We’d forgotten you were here,”  she said.  Patch sat down and crossed his paws.

         “Ignore me,”  he replied, “I love just watching you two making love to each other.”

       “We’re not!”  furball yelped,  “oh, all right, we are,”  she added, Patch’s eyes smiling into hers.

         “You are,”  he replied, “I saw it, and so did everyone else.”

       “I forgot about the cameras here,”  furball said.

       “We might play at having cubs,”  furball replied, “but our love making is all by the paw or foot, and that is certain at the moment.”

         “it’s a cute way to play,”  Patch said.

       “I like furball’s paws and feet,”  Orbon said, “they are so cute when there toes curl and pads bunch up.”

        “yes they are,”  Patch said, “I washed her when she first came here, and I found her paws and feet rather cute I must say.”  Furball grinned at Patch.

       “that wash reassured me and made me feel welcome,”  she said.

         “it helps many,”  Patch replied.

 “I’ll leave you two to it, I can see you need time alone, oh, and by the way, those socks? They are difficult to get off your feet when you’re fighting your own toes furball.”  Furball grinned hugely.

        “I know,”  she said, “but it was fun to fight myself, then to have Orbon touch my pads and soothe me, even if it did make me curl my toes.”

       “your pads are cute when bunched,”  Orbon said, stroking the sole of furball’s right foot.

       “I like curling my toes, it feels good to me, and even better because you like me curling them too,”  furball replied.

      “Why put that suit on if you like being as you naturally are?”  Orbon asked, “socks and gloves too.  Why furball?”

         “I like being unwrapped from my wrappings,”  she replied honestly.

        “You mean you liked the struggle out of the trousers and the socks?”  Orbon asked.

       “yeah, I did, sort of risk without the risk.  It’s imaginative play to think you’ll never be able to free your feet from those socks, your toes curl in anxiety and fear, and you can’t free your feet, so you pull harder, and it goes on like that.  Then when you do free the toes of one foot, you are so intent on freeing the other, you forget how you freed the toes of your now bare foot.  so the struggle for a solution carries on as before.  It’s kind of stimulating.  Oh, and by the way, your touch made me want to scream and yell during my labour too.  I needed that Orbon.  The touch of your paw on the sole of my foot feels so dam good!”  Orbon hugged furball.

        “I like the way your bare feet and paws end in tight cuffs, as if the suit is part of you,”  Orbon said.

         “it almost is isn’t it,”  Furball replied, “it’s comfortable in here, I can move as much as I could without it.”

        “I got paws on with your feet when you were standing on tiptoe,”  Orbon said, “your pads were stretched taught.”

       “Was that when you were pulling my trousers off to let me deliver the cub?”  furball asked.

       “yes,”  Orbon said, “it felt lovely.”

         “I wanted you to feel everything you could,”  furball replied, “I would have spun the labour out, but my needs to deliver the cub and my feelings of elation when you stroked my feet got the better of me.  I pushed too hard, and the cub came quickly.”

       “it was wonderful,”  Orbon replied.

         “If you come into the room, and I’m playing with my toes,  I won’t stop,”  furball said, “I’ll tell you what I’m doing, and let you get paws on.  I’ll bet my toes would curl, and my paws grip my foot with fierce strength when you touch my foot or my paws,”  she laughed, “I’ll probably squeal and roar, then rock back and fourth on my bum too,”

         “how did you know how to re-enact the birth of a cub?”  Orbon asked.

        “I followed what I’d seen a mama human do once in a den,”  furball replied, “she’d got on all fours and strained down into her bottom, sat back on her heels too.  they show you everything in those videos, from ears to toes.  I even saw the mama human’s toes curling as she endured her pain.  Did you know human pads bunch up like ours when they curl their toes Orbon?”  Orbon knew right enough, but he pretended ignorance:

       “No, I didn’t know that,”  he replied.

      “Well they do,”  furball replied, “I lived with humans, and my male human, Paul, used to play toe curling games, so I knew how his feet worked.  Then I watched a video of a mama human giving birth to her cub, and saw the mother’s toes curling as Paul’s had.  Paul even re-enacted the toe curling he’d seen on that video.  Thing is, he wasn’t meant to watch it, but he did.  It was a child birth video from before he was born, his mother was trying to get ready for his birth.  Paul would play all sorts of silly games, he was a lot of fun.  He re- enacted a lot of what he saw on the video, drawing his feet up, curling his toes, moaning and yelling, all that, while I rubbed his heels and toes with my paws to soothe him.  We would then swap roles, and the game would begin again.  That was a lovely time.”

       “your human sounds a wonderful personality,”  Orbon said.  furball sighed:

       “he was,”  she replied, “and we were separated by other humans who didn’t like our friendship.”

        “Councils are a bit like that,”  Patch replied, walking into the room, “Jess and I were separated at first.  She found her way into this community, as you know furball.”  Furball smiled at Patch.

        “Jess tickled mama Kamchatka’s pads didn’t she,”  she said.

       “it was more tickling her toes,”  Patch replied, “but yes.”

 

On his way home from school that day, Paul walked through the woods.  Knowing the bears went barefooted, he removed his shoes and socks before venturing into the woods.  He remembered the spot where he’d reluctantly left Furball.  Furball had been more than a pet to Paul, they’d played, laughed, cried and eaten together, indeed, he knew his ursine friend could speak English, though she rarely spoke it, and only to him.  Walking through the woodlands, Paul pulled his mobile from his pocket and called his parents.

       “I’m going to be late home,”  he said, “I’m going to the house to meet Furball for the last time and say goodbye to her.”  Walking through the woods, Paul felt the ground beneath his feet, curling his toes into the forest floor, loving each step.  Paul knew about the community, and even though he was only eight years old, he was an independent spirit.  Padding to the house, he left his shoes outside the door.  Wondering where the security was, he pressed the intercom, hearing a lion and two tigers swearing softly near him.

       “Missed me did we?”  he thought.  Suddenly a voice asked him what he wanted, well it sounded like that.

       “My name’s Paul, I’m here, looking for furball,”  he replied.  Someone who spoke English came on the line and asked:

       “What does furball look like?”

      “She’s um, a naked bear, or she was, she’s wearing a black cat suit thing at the moment,”  Paul replied, “I’m her, um, her friend, that she used to live with.”

      “Ok, we will let you in,”  the voice said after a considerable pause.

 

The door opened and Paul walked in, to find a half grown she bear barring his path.

       “I saw you, even if the useless tigers didn’t!”  Sooleawa snapped, “I let you in here, you look harmless enough.”

      “My name’s Paul,”  Paul said, “I’m Furball’s friend.”

        “Furball?”  Sooleawa asked, speaking English to Paul, “um, she’s that naked bear isn’t she?  Well she’s wearing a track suit now, and has found a friend herself now.”

      “I have been watching their love making from the school today,”  Paul replied, “furball looks great in that suit she’s found.”

        “I’ll wash your feet and hands and then put you through to furball on the intercom system,”  Sooleawa replied.  Paul sat down and let Sooleawa wash his hands and feet, unable to stop his toes curling as she worked on his feet, her work pleasurable.

       “All done,”  Sooleawa said.  Paul got to his feet and then smiling, got down into a crawling posture, Sooleawa blowing on his toes, Paul laughing helplessly.

        “Now I’ll call furball,”  Sooleawa said, getting to her feet and padding to the telephone.  The door opened soon after and Paul sprang to his feet, running to the bear who stood on all four paws.  Rising to her hind feet, furball caught Paul in a huge embrace, Paul bouncing on his toes as he tried to increase his embrace.

         “hello furball my dear,”  Paul laughed, kissing her friend’s nose.

       “Come in,”  furball said, “what brings you here Paul?”

        “I’m here for the last time,”  Paul replied, “we’re leaving the county tomorrow, the council have found us a house fifty thousand miles away from you.”  furball looked so upset that Paul became upset too.

       “can I stay here?”  Paul asked, “I know other humans have.  I want to stay with my friend!”  he sobbed.

        “You must go to get an education and a new life,”  Sooleawa said.

       “but it’s not our wish, it’s the council telling us where to live, and even then we can’t afford it,”  Paul replied, “I heard mum talking about it, “we’re completely at the mercy of the council,”  that’s what she says.   She even told me in a moment of anger that, that, “if it hadn’t been for your bloody bear, we would not have come to the attention of the council!”

       “it’s not your fault, or that of your bear that the local council has changed their policies,”  Charles Fullbeans said, walking through the lobby to the door into the lodge, “the housing association changed, and their policy on pets changed, as did the changes to housing benefits.  Now you’re here furball, and Paul’s family is split up.”

        “Can I stay here?”  Paul asked Charles.

         “I don’t know,”  Charles replied, “it’s not down to me.  I have to ask others.”

          “could you ask those who you have to ask?”  Paul asked, “I love my bear, I know she’s in love with Orbon now, but we can still play like old times from time to time, can’t we Furball?”  furball smiled and nodded.  Charles went through the door into the lodge, closing it behind him.

      “now let’s play a bit Paul,”  Furball said, “let’s play a bit, playing our favourite games.”

       “One of our favourite games was pretending to give birth to cubs,”  Paul said, “and I need to curl my toes and scream at the situation mum and I are in at the moment, so it would be good to play that game.” 

     “Let’s sit down in the lie up and check each other’s feet for thorns,”  furball said.  Paul followed furball down the corridors to Orbon’s lie up, staring in wonder at the male bear, who stood on his hind feet and found his hands by scent, placing his paw in Paul’s hand as a signal of friendship.

       “hello Orbon,”  Paul said, embracing the male bear.

        “Hello Paul,”  Orbon said, assuming that was to whom he was speaking.

        “Paul doesn’t speak ursine Orbon,”  Furball said, but Paul had no problem understanding Orbon, the bear’s attitude was friendly and open.

        “now sit down and find out what happens,”  furball said.  Paul sat down, and Orbon got paws on with his hands and feet, Paul unable to stop his toes curling with pleasure.

        “so you would curl your toes and hold your feet in your hands while pretending to have a man cub?”  Orbon asked.  Paul laughed and replied that he would, curling his toes and holding his right foot in his hands, Orbon getting paws on with his foot, curled toes  and clutching hands.

       “You remember I said human toes curl like ours do? And that their pads bunch up like our pads do Orbon?”  furball asked, “well get paws on here.  Furball sat down beside Paul, her right foot touching his left.

       “now please curl your toes Paul,”  furball said, Paul curling the toes of his left foot, while furball curled the toes of her right foot, Orbon getting paws on with both.

      “yes they do feel similar,”  Orbon said, “thanks for that furball, and you Paul.”

        “I like your touch,”  Paul laughed, curling his toes even tighter, catching Orbon’s paw with his toes.

        “You have small feet with thick pads,”  Orbon said, “your toes are small too!”

         “I can really curl them tightly too!”  Paul replied, releasing Orbon’s paw, then curling his toes as tightly as he could, Orbon getting paws on.

       “that’s so cute,”  Orbon said, drawing his paw down the bunched pads of Paul’s foot from just below his toes to his heel, Paul bouncing about with excitement.

        “I love that feeling!”  he laughed.

        “I thought you might,”  Orbon said.  the phone rang, and furball padded over to answer it.  Charles Fullbeans told her something which had her first bouncing, then dancing on her toes and almost screaming with delight.

        “thank you!”  she gushed, slamming the phone down and rushing back to Paul.  Picking him bodily off the floor, she swung him round and then sat him back down before embracing him tightly.

        “What’s up furball?”  Paul asked giggling.

        “you’re mama says the council have had a change of heart on evicting you from your house,”  she said, “as long as I stay here, and don’t go back, you two can stay in your home!”

        “So I could come here after school and at weekends?”  Paul asked.

       “You could, and please do,”  Orbon replied, Furball laughing delightedly.

       “yes you can,”  she replied, kissing his nose and hands, Paul becoming emotional.

       “I love you furball!”  Paul choked,  Furball smiling and kissing his nose.

        “did you see the play Orbon and I had?”  furball asked.

      “I did, but that was not play at the end was it?  I saw your face, your pain as you sat back on your heels,”  Paul said.

       “No that wasn’t play, that was too real,”  Furball replied.

       “You have expressive toes Paul,”  Orbon said, Paul giggling and wiggling his toes.

       “we used to play the single player stuck foot game too,”  Paul said, bending his legs, pressing his feet together, heels to heels, toes to toes, then interlocking his toes.

        “Now my feet are a little warm from curling my toes so tight earlier, I will have a little glue to help me imagine my feet are stuck together,”  Paul said.

        “What on earth is that!”  furball asked, looking over Paul’s shoulder to the door..

        “I know who that is!”  Orbon giggled.

      “It’s a cat thing, a bear cat thing!”  furball squealed, her eyes almost starting from her head.

        “I’m no threat,”  Sita purred, Orbon padding to Sita and embracing the cat bear.

        “It’ll kill you Orbon!”  furball yelled.

     “Sita? No she won’t kill anyone,”  Orbon replied, “she’s as gentle as the one who gave birth to her.”

        “And who was that?”  furball asked.

       “Patch,”  Sita mewed.

       “Patch?”  furball asked incredulously, “but, but, um, ah, he’s male!”

        “he’s my birth mama and sire,”  Sita mewed.”

       “how?”  Furball asked.”  Sita told her the tale as best she knew it, furball and Paul wide eyed by the end.

       “So Patch went into labour and delivered you into the world, saving your life?”  Paul asked.  Sita smiled and replied:

       “yes he did.”

       “My head hurts,”  furball whimpered, rubbing her forehead with her paw.

          “it’s difficult to explain,”  Sita said.  Paul rocked back and fourth, prying his feet apart with his fingers, first his heels, then his toes, then the balls of his feet, grunting and puffing, while Sita, interested, padded round and got paws on, smiling at what she found.

       “the single player stuck foot game?”  she asked, “but why the urgency?”

         “I want to ask you something Sita,”  Paul said, “but I can’t until I free myself!”  Sita helped Paul by working her paws into the growing gap between the balls of Paul’s feet, the young boy pressing his toes together to free the balls of his feet.         “Can I hug you Sita?”  Paul asked, reaching out to the cat bear.  Sita brushed Paul’s face with her whiskers and purred in his ear, Paul laughing and throwing his arms around her neck, embracing her, kissing her ear and nose.

         “I love your hug,”  Sita purred, lying down and rolling onto her back, showing Paul her belly and the naked soles of all four huge paws.

         “You’re cute upside down too!”  Paul laughed, Sita mewing and waving her feet and paws about, Paul laughing helplessly.

       “Can I get, um, paws on?”  he asked, leaning over to look into Sita’s face.  Sita smiled and replied:

      “Go on, get paws on, feel my fur, explore my paws and feet, rub my belly, touch my tail.”  Paul pushed Sita about, flexing her legs, paws and feet, playing with her toes and watching as she curled them to make her pads bunch up.  He explored her by sight and touch from nose to tail, Sita wriggling and purring with pleasure.

         “I knew you the minute I saw you,”  Paul said, “you’re so lovely Sita.”  Sita kissed his nose.”

        “Can I touch your hands and feet Paul?”  Sita asked, when he’d finished his exploration of her body.

        “yes, of course,”  Paul said, sitting down, Sita getting paws on with his hands and feet, Paul unable to stop his toes curling with pleasure as Sita explored the soles of his feet in turn, his toes curling tighter and tighter, Sita rubbing his pads, then drawing circles on his heel pads, Paul pressing each foot into her paws.

         “you’re so playful!”  Sita said, Paul pulling his foot away from Sita’s paws, Sita holding on with gentle care, Paul tugging at his foot, growling, whimpering and tugging harder and harder at his foot, his toes curling tightly as his struggle increased.

       “I can’t free my foot!”  he whimpered in mock fear, “I want to free my foot, I want to free my foot!”  Sita rubbed the sole of his right foot. Paul yelling with mock fear as her touch sapped the will to free his foot from her paws.  Indeed, Paul pretended he was pressing his foot into her paws when Sita rubbed his pads, Paul wriggling as she rubbed his heel and toes, rocking back and fourth, bracing his foot against her paws, curling his toes to embrace her grip.

      “oooah, I like this!”  Paul gasped, Sita giggling happily..

        “Your foot tells me that,”  she mewed, rubbing the tops of his curled toes.

      “how do my pads feel?”  Paul asked.

       “Warm and soft, though firm too,”  Sita said, “I think your feet have contact with the ground and rarely wear shoes,”  Paul laughed:

        “You’d be right there,”  he said, “I hate shoes.”

         “how did you find my paws and feet when you touched them?”  Sita asked.

       “Warm and soft pads, with easily curling toes and cute bunching pads Sita, they’re so cute!”  Paul replied.  Sita laughed, a lovely sound to Paul.  

     “You know how to play,”  Sita replied, letting go of Paul’s foot, “how if I take you in my paws like one of the cubs here and let you play with Jenny, Sally and Peter?  Of course, you can play with the other cubs too, the non human ones that is.”

        “Can I play with the biggest cub of all?”  Paul asked.

        “yes,”  Sita replied smiling.

        “Who’s the biggest cub of all?”  furball asked.

       “the biggest cub in the playroom has golden fur and a banded tail, oh, and cute hands and bear feet,”  Paul replied, Sita laughing merrily.

         “I’ve never heard my paws described as hands, but they are, sort of,”  she replied, “and my feet, yes, they’re bare, and bear, and all very good because of that I think.”  Paul pressed his hands against Sita’s paws, measuring his hands against hers.

       “you have lovely paws Sita,”  he said.  Lifting her right foot and resting it  on his left leg, he looked at her pads, drawing circles on them, then counting her toes by touch, Sita squealing with delight.

        “you’re tickling my foot!” she yelled, curling her toes and bouncing about on her backside, furball and Paul laughing merrily at her reaction.

        “Oh sorry,”  Paul said, Sita clamping Paul’s fingers with her toes, holding the fingers of his left hand curled round her toes, which he‘d been in the act of rubbing as those of his right were held tightly by her curled toes.

       “your fur and paws smell of spices, they smell fresh and clean!”  Paul said, “it’s something I noticed here, there is no unclean smell here.  It’s really nice!”

       “We wash often, and keep the place very clean and wash our feet and paws often.”

        “Feet and paws are playthings,”  Paul said, “what happens if infection breaks out?”

        “if there is a problem, anti biotic are administered,”  Sita replied, “say if someone gets an infection in a paw or a foot, it is dressed, and they are stopped from playing with others paws or feet, and others are stopped from playing with theirs.”

        “it’s lovely that you all play,”  Paul said, “I’ll bet the birth of a cub is well attended too?”

       “it is,”  Sita replied, “I had many attend the births of my cubs.”

       “I saw the one Koda filmed with a head cam,”  Paul replied, “that was so amazing!”

       “that was my last confinement,”  Sita replied, squeezing Paul’s fingers with the toes of her right foot, “it was a lovely time.”

          “You are so sweet Sita,”  Paul said.

      “And so were you when you played the single player stuck foot game,”  Sita said.

       “You didn’t touch me while I was freeing my heels,”  Paul said, “let go of my fingers please, and I’ll see if there’s still some glue on my pads.”  Sita smiled, released Paul’s hands and grabbed his left foot.

       “I’ll rub the glue back into your pads and toes,”  Sita said, massaging his toes, toes, Paul giggling with delight.

         “Okay, my feet are ready to play now,”  Paul said, rubbing his right foot in his hands.

        “now let me press my heels and toes together,”  Paul said, bending his legs and fitting actions to words, Sita getting paws on.  Paul tugged at his heels with his fingers, trying to free them, Sita getting paws on throughout.  Rocking back and fourth, digging his fingers into his heel pads, Paul struggled to free his heels, his growing excitement sticking his heels firmly together.

       “I can’t free my heels!”  Paul yelled, Sita touching pressed heels and toes.

          “Press your toes together and pull at your heels with your fingers,”  Sita advised, “that’s how I free my feet when they get themselves into the situation yours have.”  Furball shrieked with laughter:

        “Sita, you are so silly!”  she laughed.  Sita, growling, rounded on furball.

       “one’s feet being stuck together is a serious impediment to mobility! Didn’t you know that?”  She yelled.  Paul laughed so much his feet sprang apart.

       “I’m free! He yelled, running to Sita and embracing her.

         “Okay, my comments weren’t that funny,”  Sita mewed.

      “But you freed my feet!”

       “now I was only joking,”  Sita said, “and your feet will want to continue the game as soon as they can, you realise that don’t you?”  Paul laughed and kissed Sita’s nose.

        “You are so beautiful Sita,”  Paul said, Sita purring contentedly.

        “Why thank you,”  she said, her eyes sparkling.  Paul lifted Sita’s right paw and kissed the furry top, Sita giggling delightedly.

         “You’re a real softy,”  she said.

       “When I first saw you, I thought your feet had short arches like mine,” Paul said, “but they’re flat Sita, like a bear’s!”

       “I am a cat bear, not a primate,”  Sita mewed, “though I do have hands like yours, and my palms are naked, as are the soles of my feet.  I have though sometimes wondered what I could do with my feet when I’m rubbing them down after a good play session where the cubs have tickled the life from them.  What would it feel like to have an arch rather than a flat pad for instance?  I’m sure I’d feel less under my feet, which would be a bad thing, but it would make my feet more interesting to others when they handled them.”

       “You think too deeply Sita,”  Orbon observed.

       “I’m not looking to change my feet,”  Sita said, “but those thoughts do enter my head.”

        “Do they enter your feet through your paws?”  Paul asked.

      “what on earth are you on about?”  Orbon asked.

       “Sita’s paws wanting to feel something beneath them that is more interesting than the pads she has, that’s all,”  Paul replied, Sita roaring with laughter.

       “My paws do have minds of their own, my feet too!”  she said.

       “No they don’t!”  Orbon remonstrated.

      “Your feet made you curl up into a ball and squeal like a cub,”  furball reminded Orbon, who shushed her with flapping paws.

        “We don’t talk about that!”  he yelled.  Paul lay down on his see, curled up in a ball, curled his toes, and screamed like Orbon had, Orbon padding over and smacking him with admonishing paws.

      “Stop that!”  Orbon complained, Paul continuing, until Orbon stopped slapping him with his paws.

       “your feet made you do that!”  Paul said, Orbon hiding his face in embarrassment.

        “I didn’t sound like that!  Did I?”  he whimpered, furball and Sita laughing merrily.

         “You did, and worse too!”  Sita replied.

 “Oh no!”  Orbon wailed.

       “You were cute,”  furball replied.

        “I told you if you touch my foot I am a whimpering, sobbing wreck within a second or so,”  Orbon whimpered.

       “You were so sweet!”  furball laughed, “your face, your paws, your feet, everything was so cute!”  Orbon got to his feet and fled to his bed, burring his head under the duvet he slept on.

           “it’s okay Orbon,”  Sita said, padding up to him and touching the sole of his right foot with her paw, stroking his pads from heel to toes.

        “I’m a wreck!”  Orbon complained, his voice muffled by the heavy quilt.

        “You’re in love,”  Sita replied, “it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”  Orbon’s toes caught Sita’s paw, squeezing her fingers in a vice like grip, all Orbon’s confusion and bewilderment expressed in the fierce grip and touch of pad on pad.

         “I don’t know what to do!”  Orbon wailed.  Sita blew on Orbon’s pads, the male bear releasing her paw and withdrawing his foot, Orbon crawling beneath the duvet.

        “How about enjoying it?”  Sita asked, “noone’s gonna judge you for enjoying furball’s company, they might if you snub her though.”  Orbon scrambled out from his refuge.

       “Do you think so?”  he asked.

        “I do,”  Sita replied, “now Orbon, trust your paws, love their message and embrace it.”  Orbon struggled to his feet and kissed Sita’s nose.

        “You speak sense Sita,”  he said.

        “I’m glad you think so,”  Sita replied, Orbon head rubbing with her.

        “that’s very feline,”  Sita mewed.

        “I know, but I’m standing on my paws and feet,”  Orbon replied, “and if I don’t express my emotions somehow my head will explode.”  Sita purred into Orbon’s ear, the bear smiling.

        “You’re lovely Sita,”  Orbon replied gently.  Sita turned and seemed to forget she had a tail, her tail smacking Orbon across his face.

       “hey Sita!”  he whimpered, “your tail is in my face!”

  Sita walked forward, her tail now drooping.

      “Sorry,”  she said, “I forgot I had one.”  Furball snorted into her paws, trying to stifle her laughter.

        “I know, I know!”  Sita replied, “it’s my cross breeding making me forget I have a tail.”

         “You’re so funny Sita!”  furball laughed.  Sita padded up to furball, placed her paw over the naked bear’s, and roared into her face.

       “oooooauoph,”  furball wailed as her ears rang with the noise.

        “that’s my comment on the matter,”  Sita mewed, kissing furball’s nose.  Furball looked Sita over from nose to tail, drinking her in.

         “Lovely,”  she thought, “really colourful.”

       “What colour are your pads Sita?”  furball asked.  Sita sat down and showed Furball her pads, her skin a light brown colour.

       “here are my pads,”  Sita said, “What colour are yours furball?”

      “Pink, medium pink,”  furball replied, “though I know you are as Orbon is, so you probably wouldn’t understand what pink was.”

        “Can I take your paws and feet in my paws?”  Sita asked.  furball gave her each paw and foot in turn, Sita cradling them with gentility, furball’s toes curling with pleasure as the cat bear explored her paws and feet.

        “Your paws are so gentle to my paws and feet Sita,”  furball said.

        “Your pads are soft and warm,”  Sita said, “Furball, I understand you are wearing a suit as the rest of your body is as naked as the tops of your paws and feet are.  Plus your pads are soft, very soft, too soft to be those of a woodland dweller.  You are a house bear, or have been for the majority of your life.”

       “she used to live with me Sita,”  Paul said, “we curled up together at night sometimes.”  Sita smiled broadly.

       “I take it you’ll be doing that again,”  she said.

       “Not now furball’s got a mate,”  Paul replied.

       “I’d be sad if you didn’t,”  Orbon said, Paul understanding his language, though he didn’t know how he managed to do that.

        “Thank you Orbon,”  he said sincerely.

        “now I must go,”  Sita said, releasing furball’s right foot and getting to her own feet.

         “thank you Sita,”  furball said.

        “She’s beautiful isn’t she,”  Peter said when Sita had padded from the room.

       “yes, she is,”  furball replied, “her paws soothed mine, I loved her touch!”

       “would you like to play the stuck foot game furball?”  Paul asked.

        “I would,”  furball replied, “but have you eaten yet Paul?  You came straight from school didn’t you?”

       “I came straight from school, and no I haven’t eaten yet, and before you asked, I didn’t feel hungry at all.”

       “We’ll find you food, then we’ll play,”  furball replied, padding to the phone and ordering fresh pasta, which they both enjoyed.  Orbon grimaced at the thought of the pasta in sauce, padding from the room as the rich food arrived.  Furball and Paul set to with enjoyment, both using forks to twirl up the pasta, mopping up with garlic bread at the end.  Food eaten, and water drunk, Paul and Furball washed their paws and hands, then curled up together to let their food settle.

        “This is what we used to do of an evening wasn’t it furball,”  Paul said.  furball, half asleep, mumbled that it was, and asked if Paul was comfortable in the clothes he wore.

        “I would be better in a suit like yours,”  he said.  Furball stretching and padding to the same cupboard Orbon had gone to.  Opening it, she found a range of tight suits that could be worn by humans.  Pulling one out that was around Paul’s size, she threw it over to him, the young boy getting out of his school uniform and into the suit, the cuffs snug around his wrists and ankles, his feet and hands still bare.

       “that’s better, much better,”  Paul said, furball drawing circles on the sole of his right foot after checking the fit of his suit, Paul not objecting to her expansion of the check to stroking the sole of his foot, or counting his toes.  Paul curled his toes, catching furball’s paw, just as he’d done when they used to play together.

        “I like that,”  furball said, tugging at her trapped paw, Paul squeezing her toes with his.

       “You have strong toes thanks to our play,”  furball said.

      “the glue is strong when we play the stuck foot game too,”  Paul replied, “that’s a great game that is.”

        “You have firm heel pads and mobile toes,”  furball said, pressing her right foot against Paul’s left, feeling his toes press into the ball of her foot, his heel pressing into hers, his heel warm from her exploration, the glue between them becoming strong and their thoughts turning to play as Paul explored the situation his left foot was in with both hands.  

    “My foot is stuck to yours furball!”  Peter exclaimed, feeling his toes embraced by those of his friend as she curled her toes tightly around his.

        “Rest the heel of your free foot on the floor as a balance and work at your heel with your hands Peter,”  furball said.

        “Furball,”  Peter asked, “why was it I could understand Orbon more easily the more I touched his paws?”

       “that’s intuitive communication, communication by the paw,”  Furball replied smiling.

       “Orbon’s lovely!”  Paul said.

      “he is,”  furball replied, digging hard at the gap between the arch of Peter’s left foot, and the flat pad of her own right foot, as Paul braced his toes against her pads, pressing as hard as he could into the ball of furball’s foot with his toes.

      “Owowowowowow! Eeeeoeoeoeoaow!”  Paul yelled as he tugged hard at his Heel, breaking off to puff with exertion, then going back to prying his heel free with urgently scrabbling fingers, while furball dug away with her right paw.

       “Pull Peter Pull!”  furball encouraged, Paul closing his eyes and tearing at his heel, freeing his foot with a rush.

       “That’s it, done!”  Paul yelled.  Furball watched as Paul rubbed the sole of his foot with the fingers of both hands, his toes curling tightly, then easing to a relaxed state, then curling, as if he was alternately feeling pleasure and discomfort.

         “Can I examine your foot?”  furball asked, Paul giving her his left foot, furball’s paws embracing his foot, feeling the heat in his pads, and the slight sweat on them.

        “You struggled hard didn’t you,”  furball said, rubbing Paul’s heel with her paws, Paul pressing his foot firmly into her grip.

        “That’s lovely,”  Paul said, furball smiling broadly.

        “Your pads are very pink,”  she said, “increased blood flow to your pads after play?”

       “yes,”  Paul said, “I think that’s it.  I noticed my feet becoming pinker the more I played with my toes.  I used to film us playing using my mobile phone.  I watched those videos back, remembering the times we had together furball.”

        “Were my pads pinker too?”  furball asked.

       “They were,”  Paul replied smiling and curling his toes, furball rubbing his bunching pads with her paw.

         “You two play so easily together,”  Sita said, padding in and kneeling beside them.

       “Get paws on,”  Paul said, Sita doing so, touching Paul’s foot, and Furball’s rubbing paws.

       “You two sounded as if you were having a great time trying to free your feet,”  Sita said.

        “We were having a great time,”  furball replied smiling.

       “We were!”  Paul replied, “my feet were really stuck!”  Sita grinned:

       “I know what you mean,”  she replied.

        “You’re sitting back on your heels Sita,”  Paul remarked.

       “yeah,”  Sita replied.  Paul gently removed his foot from furball’s grip, and crawled to Sita, touching her paw, he crawled round behind her and gently rubbed the pads of her right foot, Sita curling her toes so her pads bunched under his fingers.

         “You have soft pads Sita,”  Paul said, Sita giggling softly and bouncing on her heels a bit, Paul blowing on her toes, Sita squealing and turning on him, knocking him off his knees, rolling him over and tickling his toes, Paul laughing helplessly.

       “My feet kicked the air and you were right in there, grabbing my foot and tickling my toes!”  he laughed, “that was great Sita!”  Sita smiled.

       “I can do that,”  she said, “I’m tough.  I roughhouse with adult bears and lions, and of course the occasional tiger.  Beating them at roughhousing, then tickling their paws and feet is great!”  Paul drew his feet up and grabbed them with his hands, Sita still paws on.

        “I outwitted a lion and two tigers,”  Paul said, “well, more truthfully, they missed me on my way through the woods, I think they were swearing at each other when I was stopped by the front door.”

       “yes,”  Sita mewed, rubbing the heel of Paul’s right foot, smiling as he released his foot into her paws, his toes curled with pleasure, “Tommy, Tigger and Sammy were furious they missed you, though the cameras didn’t.  furball watched you from the entrance to the wood, right up to the front door.  I heard she was dancing on her toes like a cub when she recognised you.”  furball laughed:

        “I was,”  she said.  Peter drew back his left foot, Sita still stroking his heel and toes.

       “Push back against me Sita,”  he said.  Sita sat down and took his left foot in her paws.  Paul braced his foot against her pads, his leg bent.  Suddenly he pushed hard, forcing his foot forward, Sita repelling his foot in her paws.

      “oaoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoao! Yeooeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeeoaow!  Yoaoaoaoaoaoaoaoawaosh!”  Paul screamed as he pushed as hard as he could into Sita’s paws with his bare right foot, his rest breaks punctuated by gasping and scratching at Sita’s pads with his curled toes, then he’d push hard again, Sita rock solid, cradling his pressing foot in her paws, while Paul pushed and wriggled, screamed and roared, his leg muscles bulging with effort,  the sole of his foot damp with perspiration by the time five minutes had passed.  Sita opened her paws, Paul’s foot slipping from her grip, the young boy drawing his foot up to him, grabbing it in his hands, gripping hard while  screaming in frustration.

        “I can’t push Sita away!”  Paul yelled, “my foot slipped before I could push her away!”  Sita and Furball laughed helplessly at his antics, Sita still paws on as Paul grabbed both his feet in his hands and rolled from side to side, yelling and bracing his feet against his hands until his feet, toes curled, pushed so hard against his hands they  broke free.  Paul, now released, began kicking and punching the air, Sita got paws on with Paul’s antics.

       “You are wonderful Paul,”  furball said.

      “I enjoyed that,”  Paul replied, his left hand resting in Sita’s paws.

       “I know you did,”  she said, “I could feel it you know, and your scrabbling toes were so cute too!”  Paul laughed merrily.

        “You’re really strong Sita,”  he said, “I was pushing as hard as I could with my foot.”

       “I know,”  Sita replied.

        “that was rather cute,”  furball said smiling.

        “What’s happening here?”  Orbon asked.  Paul and Sita re-enacted the scene, Orbon getting paws on, Paul making the same sounds though he didn’t push as hard against Sita’s paws as he had the first time.

       “That’s rather cute,”  Orbon said.

        “how if you and I try the same game?”  furball asked.

      “We could,”  Orbon replied, “and it would allow me to rub your pads too furball, though I know we don’t need an excuse to do that.”  Furball giggled:

      “My paws and feet are always receptive to your paws,”  she said.

         “”I can’t roar and yell like Paul did though,”  Orbon replied, “he believed in his fight to push Sita away.  He braced his foot completely into her paws, from toes to heel, pushing with every part of his foot.”

        “Get paws on with my foot Orbon,”  Paul said, giving the male bear his right foot, Orbon embracing the small foot in his paws, exploring from toes to heel, Paul curling his toes slightly, his pads bunching a little under Orbon’s touch.

         “Your foot is cubbish,”  Orbon said.  Paul withdrew his foot, sat back on his heels and then let Orbon touch his feet again, Orbon stroking from heel to toes, Paul bouncing on his heels a bit and giggling with pleasure.

        “your pads are soft and warm,”  Orbon said, “you have small toes too,”  he added, Paul curling his toes a little, feeling them catch and squeeze those of Orbon’s paw.

          “You’re so expressive with those toes Paul,”  Orbon said smiling.

        “I can be expressive with my hands or feet,”  Paul replied sitting back on his heels.   Orbon drew circles on Paul’s heels and the balls of his feet, Paul bouncing on his heels and flexing his toes.

        “I think I need to teach jenny, Peter and Sally this foot and paw play,”  Paul said, “I sort of knew them, even though they were in the year above me.”

        “Play helps build friendships,”  Sita said, “we use that with the cubs.”

       “I’ll see if I can play with the cubs later,”  Paul replied, “at the moment, Orbon’s paws are soothing my toes!”  furball and Sita laughed merrily and furball roughhoused with Sita, the bear cat and naked bear tickling each other’s hind feet and ending their rough and table with a huge embrace which made their toes curl with emotions.

      “Sita and furball are embracing each other, their toes curling with emotions,”  Paul said, he and Orbon getting paws on with Sita and furball’s hind feet as the two creatures knelt on the floor hugging each other.

        “their pads are bunched, and toes curled tightly!”  Paul laughed.

        “they’re friendly together,”  Orbon said.  Paul crawled to Orbon and bear and human roughhoused, Paul tickling Orbon’s toes, the bear squealing with laughter as Paul overwhelmed him and claimed his feet, then his paws.

      “Okay, okay!”  Orbon laughed, “I’m claimed.  I just wish I could claim your feet, well just one Paul.”  Paul sat down and Orbon got paws on with his feet, exploring, toes, balls of feet and heels, Paul’s toes curling with enjoyment.

         “Do you know the two circle drawing games Paul?”  Orbon asked.  Paul replied:

      “No Orbon, I don’t, would you teach me them?  do they involve my feet and your paws?”

      “I will, and they do,”  Orbon replied smiling.

    “ooh good!”  Paul replied, Sita and furball smiling broadly at their play.

         “Well one game,”  Orbon said, rubbing the heel of Paul’s right foot with his paw, “one game is played like this.  I draw circles on your pads that start large, and get smaller and smaller, you curl your toes tighter and tighter in response to that.  Then, when I press the centre of the sole of your foot, you hold your toes curled for as long as you can, or for as long as I press the sole of your foot with my paw, whichever comes first.  The second game is random circles drawn on the sole of your foot Paul, with you curling or relaxing your toes to reflect the size of circle, then, at any time, I will press the heel pad of your foot with my paw, and while I am pressing that, please curl your toes as tightly as you can.”  Paul smiled at the thought of these two games.

       “I’ll play them,”  he said, “on one condition though, that I can get hands on with your feet Orbon, and can draw on your pads too?”  Orbon smiled, baring his teeth, Paul hugging the male bear with unrestrained joy, Orbon snuggling up to him.

        “You can hug!”  Orbon exclaimed, his eyes shining.

       “I’ve had practise hugging bears before,”  Paul replied smiling.

        “You are so soft Paul,”  Orbon said..

       “I take it I can draw circles on your pads then?”  Paul asked.  Orbon wriggled free of Paul’s hug and sat down opposite him, lifting his legs up, and pressing his feet against the young boy’s.  Paul felt his toes curling round Orbon’s, Orbon smiling and pressing his toes into the balls of Paul’s feet.

         “Press those feet against mine Orbon!”  Paul encouraged, looking over the tops of his toes to where the male bear’s face told of his struggle to press his feet as hard as he could against Paul’s was written eloquently over his face in closed eyes and bared teeth.

       “I am pushing your feet with mine!”  Orbon gasped, Paul feeling pressure, though not the pressure he thought could be exerted by the bear if he really tried.

       “Don’t hold back,”  Paul said, “Push with your feet Orbon!”  Orbon pushed harder than ever, but Paul could keep his own legs rock solid.

        “eoeoeoeoeoeoeeooahsh!”  Orbon yelled as he pushed against Paul’s feet, Paul helping the struggling bear by curling his toes around those of the quarter grown cub.

         “You can’t push can you,”  Paul said.  Orbon whimpered that he was doing his best.  Paul settled himself, braced his heels and pushed hard, his feet forcing Orbon’s back, Orbon giving up the fight by lying on his back, drawing his feet up and  grabbing them with his paws.

       “You win!”  he gasped, Paul crawling over to Orbon and tickling his toes, Orbon squealing with delight, letting go of his feet and kicking the air with them, Paul blowing on his pads, Orbon laughing merrily.

         “You have cute black pads,”  Paul said, tracing Orbon’s sole pad with the index finger of his right hand, Orbon curling his toes:

      “That’s tickling!”  he giggled, Paul drawing as shapes on the sole of Orbon’s foot with his index finger, Orbon squealing with delight.

     “I love this play!”  Orbon laughed, Paul smiling broadly and blowing on the bear’s pads, Orbon laughing helplessly.

       “now how do I tickle your toes?”  Orbon asked, “I can’t match that Paul!”  Paul smiled and hugged Orbon.

        “Just take my feet in your paws and explore them, then try blowing on my toes and heels, and tickling my toes with your paws,”  Paul replied, “I might curl my toes, I might kick the air as you did, I’ll decently enjoy your ministrations.  Orbon, enjoy your explorations, my feet are yours to explore.”

        “Will you help me rub the tickle out of my toes?”  Orbon asked.  Paul smiled, sat down and embraced Orbon’s left foot in his hands, Orbon pressing his toes into Paul’s hands.

       “You soppy bear,”  Paul laughed.

      “now how do I play with your feet?”  iron asked.

        “I’ll crawl away, and you follow me,”  Paul said, “touch my toes and or heel and find out what happens.”  Orbon crawled after Paul, his right paw landing on the sole of Paul’s right foot, drawing down his foot from heel to toes, Paul stopping and backing up a little, then curling his toes and catch the heel of Orbon’s paw with them.  Feeling the slight resistance, Orbon rubbed the heel and arch of Paul’s foot with the toes of his paw, Paul curling his toes tighter to keep Orbon’s paw where it was.

        “you’re toes are giving my paw somewhere to rest on,”  Orbon said.

        “”yes, press the heel of your paw into my toes,”  Paul said, “that will keep your paw where I want it, so you can rub the sole of my foot with your toes!”  Orbon laughed:

       “You like me rubbing that place?”  he asked.

       “yes,”  Paul replied smiling.

        “press hard back into my paw then, and I’ll keep rubbing,”  Orbon said,  Paul backing up as far as he could, pressing the sole of his foot against Orbon’s paw, Orbon bracing his paw against the stop of Paul’s curled toes, Paul smiling at the result.  Orbon sensed that Paul’s left foot was within blowing distance, so he blew hard, tickling the toes of the boy’s left foot, Paul giggling.

       “I prefer you rubbing my foot with your paw,”  Paul said.  Orbon smiling.

       “Let me kneel behind you, and I can then rub both your feet with both my paws,”  he said.  Orbon settled himself behind Paul, Paul feeling his left paw touching the heel of his left foot, curling the toes of that foot, he felt Orbon’s paw slide down his foot and catch on his toes, Paul wiggling his toes to settle the heel of Orbon’s paw in their grip, then curling them tightly to hold it there.  As Orbon rubbed Paul’s foot with the toes of first one paw, then the other, Paul matched his rubbing with curling and uncurling his toes to increase the rub a little.

        “you softy!”  Orbon laughed, feeling what Paul was doing.

        “I like that,”  Paul replied.

       “I noticed,”  Orbon replied, blowing on the heel of Paul’s right foot, Paul squealing and curling his toes as tightly as he could.

        “that’s naughty Orbon!”  he laughed, Orbon lifting his paw and rubbing Paul’s tickled heel pad, Paul relaxing his toes.  Feeling Orbon’s paw run down the sole of his foot after rubbing the tickle out of his heel, Paul waited for the heel of the bear’s paw to reach the ball of his foot, then curled his toes to catch Orbon’s paw.  Feeling this, Orbon braced his toes gently against the sole of Paul’s foot, just at the point where the heel pad ended and his arch began, the point where two players of the stuck foot game would first dig away at to free their heels.

         “that looks like that’s enjoyable,”  Furball observed.

        “It Is furball,”  Paul replied.

 

“What’s going on in here?”  Purdy asked, padding into the room.

        “Orbon and I were playing,”  Paul said, turning and sitting down.  Purdy looked at him.

       “You speak English like I do,”  she said, “you also gave a home to Fuwball?”

        “I did, well, my mum did, until the council threw, um, Fuwball out.”

        “You don’t speak like me!”  Purdy squealed, nearly dancing with rage.

        “I think your talk is quite cute,”  Paul replied smiling, “Purdy, can you say, Hi, I’m Purdy, last Thursday, which was a dry day, I strolled to the large tree by the river?”  Purdy hesitated, then replied:

      No Paul, I won’t!  I know what you’we doing!  All that about twees, wivers and stwolling and such, you disgust me!”

         “Oh Purdy, Purdy!”  Furball laughed, “dear sweet Purdy, you fell for it!”

         “No I didn’t, oh, oh dear,”  Purdy whimpered.

        “that was so funny!”  Paul giggled.

       “I’m going, I’m leaving!”  Purdy whimpered.

         “come here Purdy,”  Paul said gently.  Purdy shook her head and turned her back on him.

        “You take the piss out of me!”  she growled.

         “Purdy, please, come here,”  Purdy shook her head, but shuffled backwards, averting her gaze but getting closer to Paul.  Paul waited for her hind feet to get close enough to him to touch them, then he guided her onto his lap, Purdy sitting in his lap, Paul embracing her, his arms around her from behind her.   Purdy, feeling Paul’s touch, relaxed into his embrace.

       “You have a nice touch, even if you do like twying to make me say things like twee or stwolling or such.”  Purdy said.

        “I saw you have no claws,”  Paul said softly into her ear.

       “they took my teeth too,”  Purdy replied, turning towards Paul and looking sideways at him.

        “I know we did that with furball too,”  Paul said, “well my mum did, and for that I’m sorry, and so is she now she knows what declawing does.”

       koda was trying to teach me how to grip with my toes,”  Purdy said, “to climb and such, you know?”

       “yes,”  Paul replied, “Purdy, I have no claws either.”  Purdy looked at Paul’s toes and saw he was speaking the truth.

 

Paul set Perdy on her paws, then got to his feet.

        “I have to go now,”  he said to furball.  Furball hugged Paul tightly and showed him to the front door, the young boy picking up his shoes on the way out of the house.

 

“So that’s your human fwiend Fuwball?”  Purdy asked, when furball returned to the lie up, Furball nodded.

      “That’s him,”  she said, “and I’m so glad he’s not being thrown out of his den.”

      “I’ll bet the tigers and lions are fuwious they failed to stop him,”  Purdy said smiling.

        “they are,”  Petra mewed, padding into the room.

       “So it was down to a vigilant bear to stop him and question him,”  furball stated.

       “yes it was,”  Petra mewed, taking the security lapse hard, “it’s a failing we have in our patrols.”  Petra bounced on her toes as she limbered up to do battle with Sammy and Tommy.

       “They didn’t want to face me,”  she snarled, now I will smack them!”  she padded away, growling angrily.

      “I’ll bet she’ll tear their fur off,”  furball thought.

 

Petra found Tommy and Sammy hiding in their lie up.

        “You failed didn’t you,”  she said.  Tommy spat:

        “That human looked safe enough,”  he said.

       “You are meant to challenge him,”  Petra mewed.

        “yeah, I know, but he was a little human, he meant no harm,”  Sammy mewed.

       “next time, you challenge anyone unfamiliar to you, okay?”  Tommy growled that he would do so, tear their heads off first, then ask questions later.

       “No I didn’t mean that!”  Petra roared, cuffing Tommy, who retired whimpering, rubbing his nose with one paw.

        “You’d better do better next time!”  Petra snarled.

       “What do we challenge?”  Sammy asked.

      “Humans, bears, strange badgers, even rabbits!”  Petra roared, “you should challenge anything on feet or paws, okay?”

      “Rabbits!”  Tommy spat, “that’s stupid!  Rabbits, I eat rabbits!”

       “No you don’t! do you?”  Petra asked, her face registering her disgust.

       “I have, I’m a meat eater,  though I know you’re not,”  Tommy mewed.

        “As I can’t eat meat, I’ve grown to like those who’s meat I’d eat,”  Petra mewed.

       “Silly aren’t you!”  Tommy growled, leaving the lie up and going outside.

 

Paul padded back to his house on the edge of the community woodlands.  His mother met him at the door, and inside he found Charles Fullbeans.

        “Hi Paul,”  his mother said, “Charles is just explaining to me how he worked out the deal with the benefits agency about our housing benefit.”

        “I met furball mum,”  Paul said, “she’s fine, and I met her mate too, a lovely bear who played with me, rubbing my heels and tickling my toes!”

        “I’m sure he was playful,”  she said, “Paul, our rabbits have escaped, Thumper and Caitlin have vanished!”

         “I’ll go out and look for them,”  Paul said.  His mum looked down at her son’s feet, they were bare.

        “Where are your shoes and socks?”  she asked.

        “In this bag,”  Paul replied, “I wanted to walk home barefoot.”

        “Now go find our rabbits,”  his mum said.

 

Paul turned and walked out of the house in search of his and his mum’s rabbits.

 

Tommy padded through the woods, his eyes scanning for anything to report, anything at all.  Petra’s reference to reporting and challenging rabbits infuriated him, this meant he couldn’t eat the rabbits he found on a regular basis.  Reporting them meant taking them to the house, or getting a bear or one of the humans out to quiz the rabbit as to their business near the house.  Tommy saw two rabbits hopping down the track, a large brown buck and his doe, who was grey.  Both had big long ears, the male’s erect, his doe’s were floppy, she being lop-eared, as Tommy remembered was the term for such ears from his education.  He saw they also had big paws and feet.  The buck rabbit stopped, motioned to his doe to do the same, then looked at Tommy.  Without warning, the buck charged at Tommy, rearing onto his hind feet at the last minute, batting at his face with his paws, cuffing him aggressively.  Tommy, a fully grown tiger, staggered back, whimpering and crying, the rabbit advancing, growling furiously while  clawing at his face with one paw then cuffing him with the other, Tommy turning and bolting!

          “You saved me Thumper!”  the doe said, her eyes full of fear.

       “he’s a pussy cat that’s all,”  Thumper replied, excitedly bouncing on his toes and scuffling his paws in the leaves.

         “You cuffed him, and charged him too Thumper!”  the doe said, her eyes losing some of their terrified look.

         “I did Kaitlin, and I know it was a stupid thing to do,”  Thumper replied.

       “You promised you’d protect me,”  Kaitlin replied.

       “I did,”  Thumper said.  Tommy, recovering his nerve, padded up to the rabbits, showing all the submission he could.

        “Look, please, can I ask you some questions?”  Tommy asked.

         “What?”  Thumper asked, turning on Tommy and rearing onto his hind feet, raising a warning paw.

         “What are you doing in the woods?”  Tommy asked.

      “We, that’s me Thumper, and my doe Kaitlin, decided we wanted to explore,”  Thumper replied lowering his paw as Tommy sat down and began washing himself.

         “My patrol commander told me to challenge everything, including rabbits,”  Tommy replied, “I’d usually eat you and your doe you know.”

         “No you wouldn’t,”  Thumper laughed, “I charged you and you backed off, a scared kitten!”

         “It’s a cub, not a kitten!”  Tommy snarled, “but yes, I was, sort of.”   

    “I couldn’t have hurt you, not really,”  Thumper replied, “a house cat yes, but not a tiger.”

      “You looked so fierce and intimidating,”  Tommy replied, his eyes filling with tears.

         “Are you taking the Mick out of me now?”  Thumper asked, “crying like that is called crocodile tears I think.”

        “No, no,”  Tommy replied, sniffing hard, “Thumper, don’t hurt me!”  he wailed.  Thumper looked Tommy up and down, watching as the tiger rolled onto his side, showing him his belly and the soles of his paws, which Thumper examined with care and interest.

       “Lovely clean paws you have,“  Thumper said, counting the toes on Tommy’s right paw, the tiger’s eyes half closed in bliss.

         “You big pussy cat!”  Kaitlin laughed, “what is your name stripy one?”

       “Tommy,”  Tommy replied dreamily, “and I’m not a pussy cat, I’m a tiger, a male tiger, who, who likes his paws stroked and toes played with.”  Thumper laughed merrily and kissed Tommy’s pads, the tiger almost purring with pleasure, his toes curling.