The trip to the crash site had been rather uneventful. With such a large group, most predators avoided them. They gutted the plane thoroughly and even ripped apart some of the frame to reuse the metal. The trip back had been much slower with the party loaded down with all they could carry. When they got back to the village they began sorting the materials that had been salvaged. The metal went to blacksmith, cloth and seat cushions went to the weavers, and the clothing and other articles were being sorted with the help of the Billy Jo and the others. They had a strange sort of the bizarre set up where people would come by and look at the items pick out what they want.

Billy Jo was taking his turn helping to explain what the items were when Harfreder showed up. She began picking through the clothes comparing them. Women must be born with a shopping instinct even in places that didn’t have stores. He started backing way trying to come up with an excuse to be somewhere else.

“Do you think this would look good on me?” Crap. Too late. She was holding up a green blouse with sheer sleeves and silver buttons. At least it was women’s clothing. After a couple embarrassing, and as far as Billy Jo was concerned hilarious incidents, the clothing had been divided into male and female items. He’d just have to grin and bear this. He had a lot of practice pretending like he was interested in shopping.

“That would be a nice color on you.” He had no idea if it was a good color or not, but it sounded good. Harfreder removed her outer apron (called a hangerrock) and for a second he though she was going to strip completely, but she left her under-dress on. Not that Billy Jo minded seeing her without clothes on, actually he enjoyed it quite a bit, but he still wasn’t completely comfortable with the casual nudity of the people here. She pulled the green blouse on. It did look good on her, especially with her green eyes. Most of the clothing here was either grey or brown, the modern clothing gave her an entirely different look. The women here all had fantastic bodies, but it was hard to tell with the loose clothing they wore. 

“It feels tight.” It didn’t fit quite right with the under-dress on.

“You’re not supposed to wear anything under it.” Harfreder examined it skeptically.

“It’s so thin and the sleeves so fine and short. It would provide little warmth.”

“It’s warmer where we come from.” Or at least it was in the summer. Hell, it was warmer some winters in Georgia than it was here.

She took the blouse off. She started to take her under-dress off, but saw Billy Jo’s reaction. She huffed. “Fine, I’ll change in the house.” She took the other articles she had selected and left. She returned a few minutes later. Billy Jo couldn’t help but gape in awe. It was strange, he had seen her naked and she looked very nice, but seeing her in the modern clothes was different. He guessed it was because he could compare her to other women back home now. There was no comparison. She was five foot six and her skin was a flawless bronze. She had a lean athletic build and moved with lithe stride. Her light orange colored hair was cut short with cute cat ears poking out the top. Her face was highlighted with dark orange markings, one at the corners of her green eyes and two more strips curving up the side of her face that gave her a sleek look. She was wearing the green blouse with short sleeves that revealed her toned arms and the tight blue jeans that showed of the lean curves of her hips and muscled legs. He was sure whoever had owned those clothes never looked that good in them.

“I’m going to have to see if the weavers can do something about these pants, they’re scrunching my tail and it’s throwing my balance off.” She turned around. The rear was just as impressive as the front had been, but he could see what she meant. He tail was poking up out of the top of the jeans, but there was a bulge where it came out from the base of her spine

“Maybe you can cut a hole for your tail?” He offered helpfully, still staring at her ass.

“I’ll see what I can do. I like these pants. The material is sturdy and stretches. It’s tight, so it won’t catch when running through the woods. “ 

“They look very...” Fucking Hot. “...nice on you.” She turned and caught his eye. She grinned broadly and stepped forward into an embrace. He leaned over to kiss her. Before it could become more serious she pulled away. 

“You have another customer. I’m going to see about getting a hole cut in these.” He watched her leave appreciating the view, but he could tell her walk was off. Her normal sway was kind of jerky and her tail was stuck pointing straight up for the most part, though the top twitched in seeming irritation at being constrained.

Dalla was looking over the clothing. She could have been a teenager at the mall, except for the cat ears and tail. An amusing thought occurred to him. Edward had loaned him one of his Japanese comic books. He wasn’t a big reader, but he used to read some comic books when he was younger. Mostly he just liked to look at the scantily clad super heroines. He wasn’t disappointed in that account, but he didn’t understand half of what was going on in the comic. It was mostly just high school kids hanging out. He got two things from the comic. The Japanese are perverts and this village must be a dream come true for Edward. The comic was full of scantily clad cat girls. 

“I think I have just the outfit for you Dalla.” He went through the women clothing until he found a plaid skirt he had seen earlier. The only white button up shirt he could find was a small mans, but it should work. He also found a silk scarf. He handed her the clothes. She wasn’t as sensitive to his reactions as Harfreder and stripped right there. She laughed when he turned his back. He did peek...twice. It was a good thing the sixteen year olds back home didn’t look like that or he’d probably be in jail by now.

“What do you think?” She asked after she put the skirt and shirt on. The shirt was a little tight around the chest, but not too bad. The women here were very lean and didn’t have much up top; Cyan was huge compared to them. The tightness actually emphasized her assets. The skirt was short and showed a lot of leg, it also allowed her tail to poke out the bottom. He tied the scarf around her neck in a bow. It was a little crude, but it looked similar to the school girl uniforms the cat girls in the comic wore. 

“You look just like the girls back home. You should show Edward.”

She smiled brightly. “Do you think he will like it?”

“Oh yea, I guarantee he will like it.” She bounced off to see Edward.

Harfreder had returned and watched Dalla disappear around a building. “Is that really what young women in your land wear?”

He smiled devilishly. “Sort of. I’m sure Edward will be thrilled to see her outfit.” 

She gave him the squinty eye. She knew he was up to something. “I have to do some scouting this morning, but we may have some time to hunt later if you want to.”

He was always up for hunting with Harfreder, and not just because of the sex that inevitably followed. There weren’t any motorized vehicles here for him to wreck, so he had limited options when it came to getting out and doing something fun. “I’d love to.” He said smiling suggestively. She returned his smile. Her tail was swaying happily behind her as she walked away. There was a small hole in the jeans for her tail.

He had some time before Harfreder would return so he headed over to Herger’s shop. Maybe he’d have time to make another chair. They were in high demand, but took a lot of work to make. Everything took a lot of work to make; they could really use some power tools. Back home he could frame a house in a few days, of course it took weeks or even months to get the electrical and water put in before he could finish it. Here it would take months just to get the frame up. His thoughts were interrupted by feral high pitched growl and a weight on his back as he felt needle sharp claws dig into his shoulders. He collapsed forward onto the ground and felt sharp teeth at the back of his neck.

“You got me.” Gyda’s high pitched giggles assaulted his ears as she rolled off of him. She was absolutely the cutest thing he had ever seen. She was a cat girl around six years old. Tiny cat ears poked out of her mop of white hair and she had piercing blue eyes that seemed too big for her child’s face. Her tanned skin practically glowed in contrast the pink dress she was wearing from the salvage.  

“I got you uncle Billy Jo.” Gyda was Harfreder’s niece. He and Harfreder weren’t married obviously, but he didn’t bother to correct her. It was just so cute. He picked her up and put her on his shoulders.

“Did you sneak away from Halma again?” Halma was one of the nanny’s of the village an older Leaping person.

She sounded outraged. “Of course I did! I’m a hunter. Hunters are sneaky.” 

“You better come with me. I’ll tell Halma I asked you to help me, that way you won’t get in as much trouble.” 

When they got to Herger’s he gave her a branch that hadn’t been cleaned and a carving knife. “Here. See if you can make yourself a hunting spear.” It was a very hard wood and he knew it would take her a long time to get clean it and get it sharpened. She took it eagerly and went to work. He set about making another chair. A couple hours later Gyda had completed her spear. He was impressed. She was very focused, he had expected her to get bored and give up after about ten minutes. 

“I’ll be the boar and you be the hunter. But be careful, don’t stab me with it.”  Back home they’d probably call child protective services for letting a six year around run around with a sharpened spear, but here it was accepted. He got down on all fours. “OK, I’m going to charge you. What do you do?”

“I set my spear.” She set her spear, waiting for him.

He moved forward, and then jumped to the right. “I’m getting away.” She picked up her spear and charged. “It was a trick!” He jumped back towards her careful to avoid the spear. He grabbed her and rolled over her, careful not the crush her and back over until she was on top on him. She came up still holding her spear. She brought it down just inches from his throat. Her eyes were wild. “OK. You win.” He gently pushed the spear away from his throat. Cute and a little scary. 

He heard clapping behind him. “You’ll be a great hunter some day.” Harfreder had returned.

Gyda beamed with pride. “As good as you and Billy Jo?” He had been under the impression that the Hunting People didn’t like Harfreder, but that wasn’t exactly true. They didn’t approve of the way she lived, forsaking a family and hunting recklessly, but when a dangerous creature showed up she was the person they called. They respected her as a hunter. Some of that respect seemed to be rubbing off on him. People were still taking about the giant boar they had brought down for the feast. 

“Better. I saw Halma on the way in, she is looking for you. You better go tell her you’re alright and apologize for sneaking away.” Gyda pouted, but she did as she was told.

“You would make a good father.” Harfreder had a hint of sadness in her voice, she dropped her eyes and her tail drooped. Harfreder and he could never have children together, not they he wanted any right now but someday. Since he had met Gyda he was thinking that day might not be as far off as it used to be. Gyda could be the poster child for parenthood; the cute little dimples when she smiled made you melt inside.

He was going to save it for later, but Harfreder seemed a bit down now so he pulled out the present he had been saving for her. He found the bracelet when they were going through the luggage from the plane. It was just a child’s bracelet with sparkly plastic beads, but the people here didn’t have much jewelry and he thought Harfreder might like it. “I got you something.” He held the bracelet out to her. Her eyes brightened as she took the bracelet holding it so the glitter beads sparkled in the sun. She started to cry. It was just a plastic bracelet. It wasn’t like he was giving her a diamond ring and proposing. He had brief moment of panic. He wasn’t sure how that worked here.

“It’s the most beautiful gift anyone has ever given me.” He felt a flood of relief and then some guilt for feeling that way. She embraced him and held him tightly her head pressed against his chest. He had seen her face deadly creatures without batting an eye, but a plastic bracelet reduced her to tears. She seemed very small and vulnerable pressed against him. He felt the need to protect her, though there was nothing to protect her from at the moment.

“Let’s just spend the afternoon here, we can hunt tomorrow.” That was unusual for her, she lived to hunt. She held his hand and led him back to her quarters. He finally caught on about half way there. 

Harfreder snuggle up against him. That had been different. Their earlier sexcapades had mellowed greatly once they got over the initial impress your new lover stage of the relationship, but she was still very aggressive and fierce in bed. This time she had been almost passive letting him lead and the pacing had been much slower. It was nice and very intense at the end. Harfreder had cried afterward. He had been with woman that did that, but he never expected it from her. “Billy Jo …”, she hesitated. “I love you.” He should have seen that coming. He resisted the urge to reply. He didn’t use L word. He had only used it twice and both times had ended in heartache. She continued, “I’ve have taken lovers, but I have never felt this way before.” 

He wasn’t sure how to respond. He liked her a lot, more than he had liked any woman in a long time. Best just to go with the truth, he was a terrible liar. “I like you a lot Harfreder, more than anyone in a long time.” He stopped not wanting to say anything that would hurt her.

“I understand. We have not be together long.” She said the words, but he could see the tears forming in her eyes. Damn it.

“Look. I don’t want to mislead you. I have strong feelings for you, but I’ve been in relationships before that didn’t work out. I don’t want to rush anything.”

“You’ve been hurt.” She gently stroked his face and sniffed. “I thought there was something wrong with me.”

“Why would you think that? You’re damn near perfect.” 

She let out a little sigh. “I am practically an outcast among my people. The villagers call me the crazy cat woman when they think I can’t hear them. And could have any have any woman in the village you wanted.”

“What? ” He said a bit dumbfounded. He was used to it back home, but the village had been a hit to his self esteem. He was used to being the hot guy, but here everyone was hot.

“You’re are a hero. You fought the Giant men. You are a warrior, a hunter, and a carpenter, all highly prized skills. And you are so exotically beautiful. Several of the Farming Women have asked me if they could court you to start a family. They don’t mind sharing you with me.” He was stunned. He always thought she was the exotically beautiful one, but he could kind of see it. They didn’t look quite like the Farming People, to them he was the one that was different.

“Harfreder, there is no other woman I want in the village but you.” As he said it he realized it was true. He still looked at other women and thought they were beautiful, but he hadn’t even considered perusing them since he had been with Harfreder. He had always been that way. If he wasn’t in a relationship he hit on woman all the time, but once he was in a relationship he wouldn’t fool around with other women. He considered it cheating. Of course he had broken up with women several times to pursue someone new, but that was a normal part of dating. He also didn’t count the one night stands as he didn’t consider those real relationships and only did that when he didn’t have a steady girl friend. Now that he thought about it, he had a lot of exceptions to his dating rules. Harfreder started kissing him and wrapped her legs around him. He forgot all about relationships and the past, focusing on the present.

The next day Harfreder seemed much more cheerful. Whatever emotional turmoil she had been going through the day before seemed to have been resolved. She woke him a little before dawn. “Let’s go hunting.” She disappeared through the curtain of the sleeping area before he was fully awake.

He rolled out of “bed”. Rover was there waiting expectantly. He patted the little lizard on the head. “Come on boy. Let’s go get some breakfast.” The little lizard’s tongue flicked out of its mouth excitedly. Rover was his pet of sorts. It was the closest thing to a dog he was doing to find here. He started off feeding the lizard little bits and food at meal time and now if followed him around. He was trying to teach it some tricks, but hadn’t had any success so far. He had named the lizard Rover, because it’s like a dog but isn’t. He thought it was funny, but every time he explained it to someone they just stared blankly. Even his friends from the plane crash who should have gotten the joke. They just didn’t have a sense of humor.

“What are we hunting today?” Billy Jo and Harfreder were already trekking through the woods.

“Raptor. An adult, not like the young one we encountered with the hunting party.”

“I thought you said they are dangerous.”

“They are to an inexperienced hunter. We won’t have any trouble. It will be fun.”

He knew what that meant. This was dangerous. That’s why the sane hunters, which were everyone but him, wouldn’t go hunting alone with her. She was right though, this would probably be fun. 

They walked almost an hour. According to Harfreder the hunters killed any dangerous predators that wandered too close to the village, so you had to go out pretty far to find Raptors. Harfreder stopped to examine a patch of dirt. She indicated tracks on the ground. “A raptor’s been through here in the last two days. It rained three days ago, but the dirt was dry when this print was made.” Billy Jo was picking up some it, but realized he still had a lot to learn about hunting and tracking. 

They continued scouting the area, when there was a screech off in the distance. “Raptor.” Harfreder said excitedly. “It must have just brought down its prey. They make that noise when they kill something, it’s sort of a victory cry. “ He followed Harfreder as she sprinted off in the direction of the cry. He kept pace with her and wasn’t winded when she stopped. Three weeks ago he couldn’t have kept up and would have been gasping for breath. He was probably in the best shape he had ever been in. He’d probably lost ten pounds since he got here. Not that he was fat, but the Big Macs and beer took their toll on his body. You could see his six pack of abs now, which would have been great back home, but here everyone looked like that. 

They were standing in some bushes behind a tree. He could just make out the Raptor through the thick foliage. It was eating something. He realized they were downwind and Raptor hadn’t sensed them yet. Harfreder made a hand motion. They were going to charge it while it was distracted. She signaled and crept out under the bushes silent as death. He followed close behind silent as death’s very noisy cousin, but the Raptor didn’t notice. Once they were clear of the bushes they charged. The Raptor was still eating completely unaware of them. It was going to be dead before it even noticed them. It was covered with bright red feathers indicating it was a male. They weren’t like the Raptors in Jurassic Park, real raptors had feathers. Thinking about Jurassic Park, a sudden realization hit him. This was too easy, something wasn’t right. 

Billy Jo slowed his pace. Harfreder was well ahead of him now. She pounced at the unsuspecting Raptor. It leapt to the side at the last second barely avoiding the spear thrust. Harfreder was off balance from the spear thrust while running and fell forward, but she recovered quickly tumbling in to a ball and leaping back to her feet with her spear held in front of her in a defensive position. Billy Jo stopped suddenly, swinging his spear around into a thrust as he reversed direction. He caught the unsuspecting female that had been right behind by surprise and rammed the spear through her grey feathered throat. “I’ve seen this movie bitch.” 

Before he could congratulate himself, he felt teeth sink into his shoulder with crushing force as the third raptor bit into him. He was remarkable calm considering a dinosaur was trying to rip his arm off. He let go of the spear that was still stuck into the female’s throat and punched the raptor in the eye. It was an easy target with it biting his arm and shoulder like that. It didn’t let go. It had its eyes closed and the heavy lids were protecting its eyes. The teeth hurt like hell, but he knew it was the incredible pressure from the enormous jaw that was going to crush his bones and kill him. He reached down and frantically drew out his knife. He stabbed through its eyelid, sinking the six inch blade to the hilt into the creature’s eye socket. It screeched in agony releasing him. It sounded like a bird, a 250 pound bird screaming right into his left ear. He hoped it would run. Most creatures will flee when you stick a 6 inch knife into their eye, but this one didn’t. It staggered for a moment stunned then it fixed it remaining eye on him with a glare of hatred. It was the most disturbing thing he’d ever seen. This thing was smart. 

Blood was gushing out of its eye socket and it wasn’t going to live much longer, but maybe longer than he was. Blood was pouring down his left arm and shoulder from the bite wounds and he couldn’t move his left arm. He crouched down with the knife in his right hand. The raptor circled him looking for an opening watching the knife in his right hand. As he turned he saw Harfreder in the background in a similar face-off with the other raptor. It made a couple of feints and then backed off. It was almost like he was fighting a person and not an animal. It was getting slower, but so was he. He couldn’t wait any longer he had to something or he was going to pass out. He charged forward with the knife in an overhand strike. He could tell it was preparing to dodge. He reached back with the knife, but instead of taking the next step and swinging it downward he did a round house kick with his left leg into the side of the creature’s head. In retrospect roundhouse kicking a dinosaur is probably not the smartest move, but it worked. The creature was already moving to the left preparing to dodge the knife coming in from the right side and never saw the kick coming. The kick was hard, snapping the creature’s neck violently slinging blood from its punctured eye socket. If it was possible for a dinosaur to express a look of shock it would have as he followed up with the knife bringing it up under the creatures jaw into the soft part of its throat. He spun to help Harfreder and kept spinning falling to the ground onto his back. The sky sure was blue. He closed his eyes. 

“Billy Jo.” He just wanted to sleep, he was so tired. There was pain, a lot of pain like the time he had ran into a tree on his motorcycle and broke his arm. He started to regain consciousness and then wished he hadn’t. This hurt a lot worse than the broken arm. “We can’t stay here. There will be other predators. You have to get up.” Harfreder sounded frantic. That was strange, she never sounded that way. 

He opened his eyes. She was crouched over coved in blood with him tears streaming down her eyes. His first thought was that the raptor had gotten her. “Oh my God you’re hurt.” 

“It’s not my blood, it’s yours. I bandaged you as good as I could, but I wasn’t sure if you would wake up.” He sat up and his head spun for minute. Harfreder helped him up. He was covered in blood too, unfortunately a lot of it was his. “We have to leave now. There’s so much blood. It won’t be long before other things so up, probably more raptors.” That was bad. “Can you walk?”

“I’ll bloody well walk out of here.” He’d heard that in a movie once, but couldn’t remember which one right now, he wasn’t thinking straight. He’d lost a lot of blood; it always made him light headed. Harfreder grabbed a handful of feathers from each raptor. Then she put his arm around her for support and they staggered through the forest. It had taken them an hour to get here, but they had been moving at a pretty good pace. They weren’t moving half that now. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed; he kept fading in and out of consciousness and was leaning heavily on Harfreder. She was talking to him the entire time. He had no idea what she was saying, but the sound of her voice kept him moving. He fell twice and she helped him back up. He remembered hitting the ground for a third time and then everything went black.

He heard voices. He opened his eyes and realized he was in one of the long houses. Cyan and Mother Gytha were there. “Harfreder,” he croaked. His throat was so dry he could barely talk. Mother Gytha answered. “She’s resting. As far as we can tell she carried you almost an hour before she collapsed from exhaustion just outside the village.” An hour?! She was one twenty, one thirty pounds at the most, and he must weigh at least two twenty even with the weight he lost. She had carried almost twice her weight for an hour. “The wound was not as bad as it appeared once we got the bandages off, but you lost a lot of blood.” He could move his left arm, but it hurt like hell. That was good, he thought it was broken or worse when he was in the fight and couldn’t move it. “Drink as much as you can, you need to replace the fluids you lost.” Mother Gytha gave him a foul tasting concoction, but he drank it without complaining. He was so thirsty. “You’re lucky to be alive.” Mother Gytha and Cyan were both giving him disapproving looks. What did he do? He put his head back down and immediately fell asleep.

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