Raquel's Trade
Chapter Six: Work Dazed
by Dr. Mercurious
Last night, Raquel had been very nervous about her first day at work with two heads. That had been before a marathon session of great sex that had lasted until early this morning. Now, still buzzing from all the things she and Kayleigh had done to each other, she simply didn't care. To top it all off, her roomie had a surprise for her when she came out of the shower.
"I still don't see where the hell you found the time," Raquel exclaimed, holding up the new blouse. It had been tailored to have two collars side-by-side.
"Luck had a little to do with it," Cyndi admitted. "I found a tailor who was open late; fortunately I know what size neck you take. I just told him it was for a costume party."
She gave the porcupine a warm hug. "Thanks, Cyndi. I can't believe I overlooked something like this."
Cyndi grinned impishly. "S'okay. You had your mind elsewhere."
Raquel tried to fight it, but a rosy blush colored both pairs of cheeks anyway. "Whelp! Just count yourself lucky you're too small to eat."
"Am not. Just ask Byron!"
The porcupine girl folded herself into a little giggling ball. Raquel stood there and tried to look nonchalant, which was hard to do as she was blushing even more. "You'd better behave or I won't tell you about my date with Kayleigh last night."
The giggling ball uncurled itself to reveal a grinning Cyndi. "That's okay," she gasped. "I'd just call her up and ask."
She would too, Raquel thought.
She subjected Cyndi to a double-throated growl. "Don't you dare!"
"Touchy, touchy," returned the porcupine.
Raquel sighed, knowing when she'd been beat. "Fine, I'll spill on all the juicy details when I get home from work...speaking of which..." she buttoned on the new blouse over her bras and gave it a critical look. "Fits nicely. By the way, Kayleigh's coming over after she gets off shift." She could see Cyndi open her mouth hesitantly but didn't give her a chance to speak. "I'm going to tell her."
The hesitancy was gone immediately from her roomie's face, replaced by a warm smile. "Good decision! If you're going to be serious about this relationship, honesty is the beset policy."
Raquel nodded with her left head. "I thought so too."
"I'm glad it looks like you found someone, Raquel," Cyndi said, looking serious. "I was really getting worried for you."
"So was I," she answered truthfully. "So was I."
Raquel had always hated elevators, because inevitably someone would be impolite when they noticed her ugly tail. Therefore, it wasn't without trepidation that she approached the hated thing from her parking space in the underground garage. Then the ridiculousness of her feelings struck her like a slap and she held her heads high. What do I have to be nervous about, she chided to herself. I'm beautiful now and if other furs can't see that, they can kiss my tailess behind! She decided to have a little fun, in fact. When the elevator door opened, she strode in reading the paper with her right head and paying attention to her surroundings with her left.
The reaction from the furs inside was priceless. An ocelot dressed in a suit on the left wall shook his head as if clearing off flies. An otter, the same one that was rude to her Friday in fact, leaned against the wall opposite the opening doors and gaped. Kristen and Jessica, two secretaries that worked on the same floor as her, had eyes as big as dinner-plates.
"Good morning," Raquel announced cheerily to everyone with her unoccupied head as she stepped in. The ocelot took his glasses off and cleaned them vigorously. The otter continued to gape. Kristen and Jessica looked like someone had hit them with a tree.
"Raquel?" Kristen managed.
"Morning, Kristen, how are the kids?"
The forty-something raccoon blinked a bit before answering. "Er...fine?"
"Great!" She enthused. Raquel then turned to Jessica. "How was your weekend, Jess?"
The young skunkette didn't answer at first. Raquel had to repeat the question before getting an inarticulate, "Yip?"
"Glad to hear it," she grinned. The ocelot continued to clean his glasses, and the otter hadn't moved an inch. Raquel would have loved to have more fun at her expense, but the number 10 on the top of the door lit up. "See you later," she told her as she left he elevator, followed by Kristen and Jessica who seemed locked in a trance. The otter continued her glassy-eyed stare as the closing door blocked her from view.
"Raquel?" ventured Kristen.
"Yes?" She tucked her paper away under one arm and favored the raccoon a double-smile. With her left head, she could see Jessica working her jaw as if trying to say something.
"Nice blouse, is it new?" Kristen desperately grinned. Raquel wanted to grin herself. Kristen would bite her own tongue off before asking what she thought was a rude question.
"Good Lord, Raquel, what the hell did you do this weekend?" Jessica blurted out. She'd obviously dealt with whatever had been sitting on her tongue.
"Oh nothing special," she shrugged. Raquel couldn't resist teasing Jessica a bit. The skunk was forever mentioning some sort of new fur treatment in a misguided attempt to be helpful. She'd always found it annoying, like Jessica was saying she wasn't trying hard enough.
"I see." Jessica broke out in a grin. "Remind me to try 'nothing special' some time!
"You like?"
"Yeah, you look fantastic!" Jessica seemed actually sincere about her enthusiasm. Kristen was looking very doubtful, though.
I was afraid of that, Raquel sighed to herself. Kristen could be awfully conservative at times. She'd regret it if the raccoon decided she couldn't deal with her new look -- she'd been on good terms with the mother-of-three -- but Raquel wasn't about to put a bag over one of her heads to soothe delicate sensibilities. "Well, I see you in the break room later. Work beckons!"
"See you later," chirped Jessica. Kristen gave a halfhearted smile and a limp wave as Raquel walked away.
Her good mood lasted until she saw the load of work in her cubicle. She knew instantly that her boss hadn't gone away for the weekend. Damn, she thought. If he keeps this up, he's going to work himself to death! I'm really going to have to speak to him about that. She sighed and put her phone's headset on her right head. Better get started on these reports, she thought morosely. As an experiment, she began entering them into the computer while fielding calls at the same time, and found out she was ambidextrous now; she typed away with her left hand while jotting down messages with her right. This ought to make my work go quickly, Raquel thought gleefully. Something nagged the back of her mind, but she couldn't quite remember what it was.
She was reminded of it about fifteen minutes later. "RAQUEL??" She had her right head busy with a business call so looked up with her left into the shocked face of her boss, Mr. Ringtail.
That's what I forgot to do, she thought to herself ruefully. I forgot to show him the new me, rather than let him discover on his own. She decided to play it nonchalant. "Morning, Mr. Ringtail, how are you today?"
"Ahhmm...I was just about to ask you the same question," he said. His eyes looked a little wild. "I'm not sure I want to know."
"Oh I had a great weekend, thanks," Raquel chirruped. Finishing off the business call, she put her line on hold and favored him with a double-grin.
"Er...good, good. I suppose as long as...you are okay, aren't you?"
"Never better." She decided to only talk to him with her left head for now. No sense in spooking him worse.
"Well, I suppose that's all that matters," he answered doubtfully.
Raquel changed tracks on him abruptly. "I'm sure I had a better weekend than some people who were supposed to take their wife somewhere."
She grabbed a file and used her right head to attend to it while continuing to talk with her boss using her left. No sense in letting my multitasking ability go to waste, she thought. Aloud, "I saw the pile on my desk this morning, Mr. Ringtail. I know what that means. You worked here during the weekend."
"Well, I...."
"You're working yourself to death, you know. You think the muckety-mucks on the top floor notice? Or even care? You need a vacation, Mr. Ringtail!" Raquel knew she wouldn't be able to talk to most bosses like that, but she'd know Bob since her sophomore year. She had to try to get through to him. He looks so tired today, she thought. Come to think of it, he looks that way most days.
Mr. Ringtail let out a long sigh. "My wife says the same thing."
"That's because we're both right," she said.
"Bullied by two women. Feh. I suppose you think I should take the rest of the week off?"
He held his hands up. "Okay, okay! I surrender!" He gave out a chuckle. I'll be away from the office tomorrow and the rest of the week. Forward my calls to my voice-mail unless it's Mister Gregan, then...just tell him I'm sick."
Raquel snorted. Small chance that the company CEO would lower himself to call his hardest working manager. "Will do, Mr. Ringtail."
"And for the thousandth time, it's Bob to you!"
"Okay, Mr. Ringtail," she smiled.
"Haven't changed that much," he muttered, shuffling back into his office. Raquel couldn't resist a giggle.
Most of Raquel's co-workers throughout the day had similar reactions to Raquel's new look. Usually the reaction was to gawk or do a double-take, followed by trying to reassert their sense of reality; talking to Raquel, staring, shaking themselves were the normal responses. After the initial shock wore off, the stunned looks adopted certain characteristics. Curiousity, fascination -- even some that were admiring or lustful! Raquel was almost regretful that she'd begun a relationship. She'd been expecting some sort of negative reaction, but even Kristen was beginning to thaw. She began to relax her guard.
Therefore, when she finally ran into a bad reaction, it stopped her cold
She'd returned from her 2:30 PM break to find a note taped to her desk. Curious, she read it. Its handwritten message was simple and easy to understand:
Go Home Freak
She couldn't help the icy ball of fear that appeared in her gut. It didn't last long, though. as anger quickly melted it away. Why the...some shithead actually crept to my desk like a coward and left this!
Well if they think I'm going to let this stand unchallenged, they got another thing coming, she thought. A nasty smile appeared on both heads as an idea formed. Taking a pen, she wrote underneath those words:
Make me, gutless!
She took extra care to make her handwriting look good. Signing it with a flourish. Then she walked over to the office bulletin board and pinned it there. She didn't bother to look behind her at the cluster of furs that gathered to read it as she walked back to her desk. A part of her questioned the wisdom of waving a red flag at whoever left her that note, but most of her wasn't listening. She'd spent too much time in the past having people make an issue of her ugly tail, and she was going to be damned if they were going to do the same about her two-headed beauty. Just let the bastard try something, she grinned in the depths of her cubicle.
It was in that frame of mind that she took an incoming call. "Please put Mr. Ringtail on the line, please," intoned a rich baritone.
"He's away for the rest of the day on sick-leave and may be for the rest of this week. I can transfer you to..."
"No thank you," the voice continued, cutting her off.
Rude S.O.B., she thought. "I'm his personal assistant. May I help you with something?" This male's voice was beginning to grate on her, despite its unmistakable tone of command.
"I'm afraid not. Unless you know about the Thompson account he started this weekend."
So you're the bastard that intimidated him into working instead of going away for the weekend, she snarled silently at the mouthpiece. That meant someone from one of the top floors. Raquel was still boiling from that note on her desk on top of being concerned for her boss' health; she decided to teach this suit some manners. "I finished that report earlier today for him," she reported truthfully. It had been difficult, and just at the edge of her accounting training, but having two brains meant twice the thinking power. Besides, Mr. Ringtail had begun it after all. "I could send it to you, if you'd like."
There was a pregnant pause. "Ah. Yes that would be appreciated. I also had some other reports I needed, thought..."
She glanced in her outbox which held the file that had been sitting on her desk. "All done, sir."
The pregnant pause returned and gave birth to kittens. "Who am I speaking to?"
"Raquel Fayral," she said. "May I ask who's calling?"
"This is Mr. Gregan's office."
She was impressed despite her annoyance. Someone real high up, she thought. "Well, if you tell me what reports you need, I'll have them sent up to you right away, sir."
"Oh yes. Please do."
In the largest office of Blue Chip Incorporated, a powerfully built White Siberian tiger rattled off a list of names into a phone, then very carefully put the receiver down. He picked it back up and dialed a number.
"Get me the personnel folder for one Fayral, Raquel," CEO Alexander Gregan barked. He didn't bother waiting for acknowledgment, since he hadn't phrased it as a request. He wasn't angry. He couldn't afford to get angry in his position. Irritation was another matter, so he was -- at himself. He'd given Robert Ringtail enough work to sink a battleship hoping the poor man would take the hint and use some of his vacation time. Instead, his personal assistant finished what was left in the space of an afternoon. Impossible, he thought. Yet he knew the fur hadn't lying when she said it was done.
He didn't know how someone as intelligent as Ms. Fayral had slipped by him, but he intended to correct that oversight. Immediately, if not sooner.
Raquel -- with intimate knowledge of the way paperwork moved close to quitting time on a Monday -- placed the folders in an outgoing mail drop that she knew wouldn't get picked up until tomorrow, checked the clock to make sure it was quitting time, and punched out with glee. Serve the rat bastard right, whoever you are, she chuckled to herself.
There weren't many furs today in the elevator going down. Just that same otter as Friday an this morning, who seemed bound and determined not to stare. Raquel gave her a warm smile.
The otter visibly shook herself. "Could I ask you something? Please?"
"Sure," Raquel said carefully. She hadn't forgotten about the note.
"How did...that is...how did you get..." the fur stammered, blushing.
Raquel looked at the otter; she wasn't being insulting, just very curious, almost... 'hungry' was a good word. "I was just lucky, I suppose."
"Oh." She seemed to think about that a bit. As the elevator stopped, the otter burst out with, "what's it like?"
"What, Raquel said, "having two heads?"
"Yes," the otter insisted. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude..."
"It's okay," Raquel told her and meant it. She double-grinned at her. "I haven't regretted it even a little. If anyone offers it to you, even at a high price, say yes."
"It's that good?"
"And then some," Raquel insisted.
As the elevator doors closed, Raquel caught the smile and the whispered, 'thank you." She smiled back.
The half-expected attack never came.
Kayleigh was waiting for her at her apartment when she came home, sitting on the couch across from Cyndi who was parked in a nearby chair. The husky was blushing; Raquel had no idea what Cyndi had been telling her but she had a few guesses and made a mental note to yell at the porcupine girl later. The policehusky's face lit up as she entered. "Hi there," she smiled, standing up to hug her.
"Hi yourself," she purred back, treating Kayleigh to a kiss from first her left head then her right. They gave each other a firm hug -- Kayleigh took the opportunity and grabbed a quick feel to which Raquel didn't mind in the slightest -- and the two sat down next to each other.
"So what did you want to tell me?" Kayleigh asked.
Raquel started at the beginning. At a few points she even took out pictures of her old self to show Kayleigh. Throughout it all the policehusky didn't react to any of it, just sat there with a flat expression.
When she was done, her lover looked thoughtful. "You do realize what this sounds like, don't you?"
Raquel nodded. "That's why I decided to have Cyndi here so she could back me up."
Kayleigh glanced over at Cyndi, who nodded. "I gave her Hell for it, lemme tell you. I'm still not convinced it was a smart move."
"Dealing with magic is never smart -- on that point, you're right," Kayleigh nodded. There was bitter flavor to her words.
Raquel blinked. "Kayleigh? Is something wrong?"
"I've had my own dealings with magic...and they weren't nearly as pleasant." Tears welled up in her eyes. "It cost me..."
"You don't have to share if you don't want to," Raquel cut in.
"Yeah," Cyndi agreed.
Kayleigh let out a deep breath. "Thanks," she said. "maybe someday, when it hurts less, I'll share. If you don't mind waiting."
"Of course not," Raquel assured her, giving her a hug. She noticed the husky wasn't even glancing Cyndi's way when she made the offer. She hoped her roomie didn't feel entitled to be there when Kayleigh opened up.
The husky smiled happily in Raquel's embrace. Then, something seemed to occur to her and she stiffened. "Did you make that appointment with my cousin?"
"Mike? Yeah, I figured it might not be a bad idea, why?"
"Because he'll probably find out you didn't always look like this," Kayleigh insisted.
Cyndi swore. "Should she tell him the whole truth?"
Kayleigh shook her head. "He'd never believe it was magic. I love him dearly, but Mike can be a royal pain in the ass at times when he gets it in his head to help someone; he doesn't always know when to stop."
I didn't even consider this, Raquel scolded herself. "So what should I do, cancel the appointment?"
Kayleigh shook her head. "No; any doctor you go to will probably want to consult with him at some point." She thumped Raquel's chest. "Particularly if you get a chest cold. When it comes to anything medical that occurs in the area of the chest, he's considered he best you'll find at this end of the country."
"Great," Raquel sighed, giving Kayleigh and Cyndi a rueful look. "Just when I thought my troubles were over..."