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A Rose Without its Thorns

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I glided my hand through my damp hair, its unkempt strands knotted and matted before my hand untangled them. Sometimes a woman lets herself go, okay? Don't judge me like him.

My boots clanked against the steel floor of the hall while the reeking scent of dust invaded my nostrils.

I fixated on the opening of the bar as faint slow jazz played. My gut gnarled as I opened and closed my sweaty palms. My ears twitched from clacking glass against metal.

Well, hopefully he handles it better than him...hopefully.

My fangs sank into my upturn lip before I sighed. My heart raced and mind clouded like I was drunk or in this case: love drunk. I snickered as my cheeks burned.

I clenched my wavering hands. I teetered from each step before I strolled into the bar and leaned against the entrance's frame. I stared at the ebony coarse furred feline, who sat scrunched up by the bar stand.

He glanced over his shoulder, those soft, soothing yellow eyes like the sun on Sauria met blue. His warm, welcoming smile caressed my heart.

I gulped, funny how a sweet man makes you feel.

Panther purred. "Hello, sweet rose."

I waved my lax hand through the air. "Hey."

He patted a stool to his left.

"Could we walk?"

"Shure! Granted, Panther mifht need helph." He chuckled as he wagged the bottle in his raised hand.

"It's okay, and..." I paused, my heart skipped. "You can always lean on me." I winked. Okay, not the best at flirting but I do try.

"You don't need to carry me." Panther waved his lax hand through the air but lurched and flailed his arms when he leaned too far. He caught the bar stand.

I flexed my arm. "With guns like these, I could carry you like in dogfights."

Panther whistled. "A looovphy rose as you may hav' the land and the...ugh, sky. But!" His outstretched, toothy smirk dimpled his cheek. "I hav' you in my bed."

My cheeks and pinned ears burned. If there's one thing Panther is good at, it's knowing how to make me feel nice.

"Sure, but...umm." I rested my hand on my chin as I lowered my head. "Tsk, Ugh..."

"Wat's the matter? Cat got your tongue." Panther stuck his tongue at me.

I crossed my arms and crooked the end of my lip down.

Panther swiveled, he leaned his back against the bar and rested his hand on his purple casual T-shirt. "I kno', I'm clawful." He raised his arm and splayed his claws.

"No, just an idiot."

His ears and head slumped.

"But a sure as hell cute one." My smile stretched across my cheek.

Panther snickered.

I bobbed my head back towards the corridor.

"Comin', lov'!" Panther slid off of the stool but stumbled from his stupid oversized baggy pants. "Ah, see? Cat's always land on thair pheet."

"Then why can't you when we spar?"

"Cuz a lovely woman has Panpher mesmerized." Panther pressed two fingers against his lips before he blew a kiss.

I covered my mouth, the single-finger cloth glove pressed against my lips. I averted my gaze.

He dragged himself towards me but teetered and caught himself against the cocktail table as their feet grated against steel until he collapsed onto the ground like him but without the fistfights and constant swearing.

The thought of him nagged at me.

The yelling. The doubt. And worst of all, how he acted when I opened up.

My temples throbbed from an acute twinge but a soft, firm hand held my shoulder as our eyes met.

"Shweet rose, you okay?" Panther's eyes and whiskers wilted.

I quirked my lip down and nodded.

"Remembar, iph there's anyfhing on your ch-"

"I'm okay." I brushed his hand off of my shoulder.

Panther bowed his head. "I'm shorry."

"It's okay!" I feigned a smile. "Really."

We stared at each other, neither of us budged.

My stomach contorted as his sultry breath with the taint of alcohol encroached my nose.

"Do you wanna a hug?"

A sliver of my fangs peeked from my smile as it dimpled my cheeks. A soothing sensation surged through my body. "Always."

Panther wrapped his chiseled arms around me and scooped me into his stern chest with a light squeeze.

My tense muscles melted from his loving warmth as he rocked me side to side while I rested my head against his beating chest.

The distraught thoughts shushed while his cute purring like a kitten whispered in my ear.

His lavender scent caressed my lungs while I wrapped my arms around his bulky chest.

Panther rubbed my back. "I love you, my shweet rose."

I breathily snickered. "I love you too, my sweet...pussy." I burst into laughter. My jokes are absolutely the worst.

Panther chuckled while he tilted his head back and shook it; he stared down at me while our eyes locked.

My heart fluttered while I peered into them.

He rubbed his wet nose against mine while I returned the favor before we parted an inch away. "Ish it okay?" Panther's alcoholic breath fused with his loving scent.

"Hmm..." My ears pinned to my head and my tail tucked between my legs.

Silence.

"Why'd you drink?" My eyes trailed away.

"...Reashans." His ears drooped.

"Like?" I raised a brow.

Panther's jaw hung half open as he titled his head back before he pursed his lips.

Maybe he found out?

"Are you okay?" I snuggled my muzzle under his.

No reply.

"Sweetie?"

Panther's brows parted as he sighed. "We...ahm, Wolf...made a mishtake..." His eyes darted away.

"What happen?"

His firm grasp loosened.

"Panther..."

No reply.

"Was it that bad?"

Panther nodded.

"Do...you want to talk about it?" I kissed his soft cheek.

He rotated his jaw before he pursed his lips as its end crooked down. Panther glanced at me with those wavering, glistening eyes.

"It's okay, I'm right here." I tiptoed to snuggle my cheek against his.

"It's jusht..." Panther paused. "Hm..."

"It's okay."

We rocked side to side.

Panther nuzzled my warm cheek with his nose before he kissed it. "Pershaps, we find shomewhar private?"

I snickered. "I was going to ask you that."

"Oh...? Feeling...frishy."

I blinked. "Fishy?"

"No...ugh." Panther leaned his head back and snickered as his smile dimpled his flushed cheeks. "Frishy."

"Huh?"

"...Horny...?"

My heart skipped a beat. "Oh by the goddess no."

"Good, I washn't."

Silence.

"Did Panpher do bad?" His arms dropped by his waist.

"No, just goofy."

"Oh..." Panther's head and shoulder slumped.

"But that's what makes you charming." I pecked him on the lips with mine.

"Really?" Panther's cheeks flushed like a rose. Great...now he's got me doing it.

"Yeah, you're like a...big stupid but lovely rose."

"It breaks Panphers heart when you say stuphid." Panther lips wilted.

I pressed my hands against his cheeks and pinched them as I stretched them out. "I'm playing around."

He stared at me with that hurt puppy dog stare...or is it kitten...?

"Okay, I'll stop." I sighed.

Panther's smile crept up his cheeks.

I ruffled his cheeks before I kissed him.

"Thank you, my sweet rose."

I won't lie, he's as dumb as dino dung and sure, he was smarter and talented but he lacked what mattered most:

Heart. And That's what Panther really has or so I hope...

So we talked for a bit as we strolled through the corridors of the space station, fuck remembering its name, and did the lovey-dovey tango where you just sound like a broken record and say I love you after everything, which don't get me wrong, I love it! It just looks fuckin' stupid when you look at it on the outside and I'm sure that'd bore you to death, so I'll cut it short, we got to his room and chatted.

The stagnant arid air bit into my agitated skin and my dang fluffy fur doesn't help.

I sat on Panther's queen sized bed and fidget with my sweaty fingers as my chest constricted and the vents whirred. I flicked my dry tongue against my lips as I tugged on the collar of my purple casual T-shirt, well his but it's mine now.

Panther or rather Panpher sat next to me huddled with his arms crossed as he stared at the ground lost.

"So..."

His ear flicked, he raised a brow and glanced at me before his eyes scurried away.

"Ugh...who wants to go first?" I gulped.

Panther sighed, he ran his hand down his muzzle before he cupped it on his chin. His leg fidgeted.

"It's okay." I lapped my arm over his shoulder and whispered into his ear, "No matter what I'm right beside you."

He smiled before it receded but at least we basked in one another's warmth.

"Do..." I paused while I clasped my lips and tilted my head back as I swayed it back and forth. "You want to...ugh...drop it?" I shrugged.

Panther shook his head. He extended his arm by my waist and snuggled me against his chest and kissed me on my forehead.

I rested my head against his shoulder while I rummaged my thoughts.

One day you'll realize how hard it is to be open with someone. Even if you love them with all your heart, you have things that are hard to say because you don't know if it'll be what makes them let go:

Especially if that's the reason one ended...

Silence.

"Shweet rose?"

I snapped out of my thoughts and glanced at him as his eyes met mine before they scurried away for a second.

Panther's brows parted as his eyes sagged and he faced the ground. "Panpher made a mishtake."

"Hm?"

"Panpher phreaked and..." His jaw hung before he tucked his lip under his fangs.

"And?" I rubbed his tense back.

His voice faltered, "Will you be mad?"

I quirked my lip down.

Silence.

"No."

Panther sighed. "Panpher...did shomthing to..." He paused. "Your ex."

"Huh?"

"We fought and..." Panther retracted his hand and crossed his arms.

"...What happened?" My heart raced as a frigid bolt snaked up my spine.

No reply.

My skin crawled. Fur bristled and my ears flattened. My gut gnarled.

"Panpher..." He clenched his teeth as his wavering brows came together.
He turned away and covered his mouth while stared at the ground.
Panther fidgeted as he leaned his chest back.
Faint trails of tear trickled down his cheeks.
His quivering jaw hung before he said:
"I talked shiet to your ex."

I clasped my lips and narrowed my eyes. "Are you serious?"

Panther sniffled. "Yesh!"

My jaw hung half open as I shook my head. "And you...wanted to keep this private?"

"...Yesh..."

"Why!"

"Becaushe they're shtill your family." Panther's wavering, glistening eyes met mine.

"Yeah but..." I threw my hands by my chest. "I thought it was something bad."

"It ish!"

I stared at him as I searched for my words but found nothing.

"Are you dishappointed in Panpher?"

"No...just..." I sighed. "What happen?"

"Umm...things." Panther feigned a playful, toothy smile.

I pinched the bridge of my nose. "Just tell me."

"We met them on a...mishion and...your ex wash mean."

"Yeah, you get used to it." I eased him into my chest and kissed him on the cheek. "What else?"

"He shaid we weren't meant to be."

I rolled my eyes. "Typical."

"Then he yelled shtuph and called me a raphest." Panther's ears and lips slumped as he crossed his arms.

"A what?" I raised a brow.

"Raphest."

"Rapper?"

He shook his head.

"Rapist?"

"Yesh."

I sighed and rolled my eyes. If there's one thing that's annoying it's slander, not sure where people get that idea about him but they do? Sometimes I wonder if it's because...well maybe I'm speculating, but because he's a panther.

"Did Panpher mesh up?" He dipped his head between his shoulders.

"No, you didn't do anything wrong." I hugged him. "He's just like that..."

"Why...?"

"He grew up like that."

Silence.

"And I know to him...he sees you guys as the bad guys." I kissed him on the cheek. "But I understand why you guys do it."

"Do..." Panther paused, he stared at the floor. "You phink Panpher is bad?"

"No." I extended my hand and nudged his head towards mine before I pecked him on the lips.

"Why...?"

"Well one, I wouldn't be here." I chuckled. "And two, you guys made a mistake. We all do."

No reply.

"Sometimes we make poor decision."

"...Is Panpher one?" His eyes dragged away.

"No." I caressed his cheek with my hand and scratched it before I embraced him. Our eyes met as a soothing, loving sensation surged through my body. "You only thought you were doing right."

"Were we...?

"Mhm."

Panther spoke below his breath, "Even...though we...worked for...ugh." He scratched the side of his head. "...And...dwarf?"

"You fought for people who were exiled." I swayed him side to side. "And he was the only option out."

"...Shtill..."

"You didn't fight with the rebellion."

"Wolf shaid not to."

"Because you were trying to get better!" I smiled.

Panther rested his hands on his thighs as he leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling.

"You guys make a mistake and it happens."

"But we do bad things..."

I extended my hand by his and laced my fingers with his before I squeezed his sweaty palm with mine. I said:

"Your past isn't what defines you, it's what you do in the now."

Panther shook his head.

"You also did good too. You helped with the Aparoid and the Anglers and saved us!"

No reply.

My heart sunk. "Doesn't that count for something?" My ears stood and eyes rounded.

Panther squeezed my hand. Tears streamed down his face like a cascading waterfall. "We shtill do bad..."

"Because it's hard to survive. No one trades with you."

Silence.

"What if...he's right?" Panther's wavering eyes met mine.

I shook my head. "Sweetie, listen to me." I inched my muzzle beside his as his sultry, minty breath tickled my lungs and our eyes met while I peered into them. "There's no such thing as good people." I shut my eyes, I embraced his soft lips before I slid my tongue into his maw and glided it along his gums.

We parted an inch away while we kept eye contact.

Panther's brows parted. "Bu-"

"Shh." I pressed my finger against his lips. "You want to know a secret?"

He blinked, Panther slowly nodded.

"I left my family for someone I thought I loved." The thought of them cracked my heart. "I helped him murder people just for info on Pigma." My gut pitted. "And I fell in love..." My voice ebbed, "With someone..." I sighed. "Who could murder anyone without a second thought."

Panther stared at me while his mouth hung half open.

"Every saint is a sinner. So you aren't so bad." I pecked him on the lips.

Silence.

"I'm shorry."

"It's okay." I smiled.

Panther nuzzled my nose. "Could we...shnuggle?" His meek smile dimpled his cute, flushed cheeks.

"I'd love to." My eyes widened and brows rose when Panther eased me into his chest and collapsed against the bed with me on top of him. My heart fluttered, my ears and cheeks burned while I rested my hands on his burly chest as his thick musk caressed my lungs.

We basked in each other's loving, tender warmth.

My body melted in his firm arms as he purred. A warm sensation surged through my body.

Panther rubbed his muzzle against my cheek before he licked me with his rugged tongue.

"Cleaning me?"

"Ah, shorry, shweet rose. Habit." He ceased the licking and averted his gaze.

"It's fine, honestly kind of cute." I cupped my hands behind his head and scratched the back of his ears.

"Phank you." Panther shut his eyes.

"For?"

"Loving me."

I chuckled. "You don't need to thank me." I embraced his lips while his rough, firm tongue penetrated my maw and glided against my gums and fangs before he traced it along the roof of my mouth until he parted.

His sultry breaths dampen my fur as our muzzles rested an inch apart. I peered into is soothing eyes as they reflected my image. "I love you, sweet rose."

"I love you too, my sweet...hm..." I paused. "I don't know... ." I shrugged as I chuckled.

"Ah, it'sh okay." Panther rested the back of his hand against my cheek and brushed my thin locks aside. "Takes years to get as guud ash me." He rubbed his nose against mine before he pecked my lips.

"Well you finally beat me at something."

Panther rested his hand on my cheek. His rugged paw pads caressed my fur. "Phere's another." He winked.

My eyes widened and brows parted while my ears stood.

"Ah...if..." Panther paused. "That's okay wiph you?"

"Umm...about that." My eyes scurried away while I nipped at my lip and my gut sunk. Cold sweat trickled down my forehead.

His brows parted.

"It's hard to say..."

"Hm?"

Silence.

My words lumped in my throat. My breathing sharpened. My mind clouded.

"Krystal?"

My body hallowed, I flicked my tongue against my lips as my words clawed at my throat and I faced away when our eyes met for a second; an.unsettling sensation pricked my skin like pin needles until:

Panther hugged me before he rested his hand on the back of my head and eased me onto his chest and whispered into my ear, "It'sh okay, love." He glided his claws through my hair.

My instincts screamed for me to keep it locked up.
My instincts shrilled at me to bottle it up.
My instincts cried to lie.

Because it always ends the same...every time I'm me, it's the same. And he's right...because the way I am...who would love me like that?

Silence.

My muscles tensed as my body quivered.

"Krystal."

I leaned my head back.

Our eyes met.

Panther smiled. "Nophing you do will scare me."

"Ha...ha..." I faux a playful smile before my lips receded.

He stared at me with those pleading eyes.

Eventually it has to come out. It always does.

I sighed, I wrapped my arms around his neck while I compressed our bodies.

Biting, burning tears welled in my eyes.

That's just how life is...just enjoy the good you have until it's gone.

He hugged me.

I wallowed in what little time we had left.

Silence.

My chin quivered and my words clung to my tongue and my heart cracked and I clenched my teeth and I scrunched up and my muscles constricted and the tormenting thoughts flooded my mind, but the truth escaped my lips:

"I'm trans."

It's funny how two words can ruin everything.

Panther blinked.

Y'know the worst part of it all? Is the dreadful silence: the calling before the shit storm.

"And?" Panther raised a brow.

"Huh?" My jaw dropped.

"Ish that it?"

I shook my head and tilted it. "What...?"

"Hm?"

"No...yelling, calling me things..." Our eyes met, an unsettling sensation snaked through my veins. "Saying I'm...broken...?"

Panther nuzzled his nose against mine; he gently rubbed it before he embraced me. "Nyupe!"

Or maybe I'm wrong?

"...You sure?" I said.

He snickered. "There's a reashon I'm Panther!"

"Huh?

"Get it? Pan-ther."

Tears poured down my cheeks as my chin quivered. My heart fluttered as an outstretch smile dimpled my cheeks while I laughed. "You big loveable doofus."

Panther kissed me on my forehead. His loving warmth hushed and mended the thoughts. He whispered in my ear:

"I love you fur who you are." Panther's eyes met mine. "It ishn't da things you do nor da things you have." He smiled. "It'sh who you are deep down." He kissed me on the lips while all my worries melted. "Da you you've alwaysh been."

I sniffled and hugged him. My breathy voice cracked, "Thank you. I love you so damn much Panther!"