Russian authorities were unable to help them with their problem, in fact they were less than helpful. They couldn't care less what happened to the boy, what might have happened to his father or mother for them to have abandoned him in the wilderness, and in fact also didn't care what happened to this annoying westerner, as long as she disappeared out of sight and preferably took the brat with her so he'd be out of their hair.
After consulting with their embassy, they soon had one extra airplane ticket out of the country, and that was how Katarina became a mother. Who had given birth to her little Tiggy she never got to know, she was just thankful she got the chance to raise a child. It meant even more to her because cancer had claimed her uterus when she'd been only 21 years old, and she was thankful in ways words could not express for this little miracle on two quick legs, and she loved him as deeply as if the dark-skinned boy had been born of her own body.
Mikaela, her best friend in the whole world since seventh grade became a heaven-sent helper, she was an elementary school teacher and a child therapist.
"Tiggy isn't like a child raised by wild animals", Mikaela mused as she watched the boy stack wooden cubes into a tower until it crashed from its own weight or pushed it over if it didn't fall on its own. "He walks upright, he uses his hands like we do... He must have grown up with humans to have learned these things."
"But he doesn't speak." Katarina was a bit worried, she'd had Tiggy for almost six months. "He doesn't speak a word!"
Mikaela smiled gently and took her friend's hand to keep her from wringing them nervously. "Don't worry. Tiggy's mother spoke an entirely different language than we do, and he's probably been through traumatic events. He'll adjust, just take it easy and give it some time."
"Look, if it's any comfort to you, he understands us perfectly." To prove her point, she turned to the boy. "Tiggy! Come here for a second will you?" The little kid looked up and smiled at the two grown-ups, then scampered over from across the room to be welcomed by their outstretched arms for hugs and kisses from both which made him giggle and squeal.
The school teacher was right. Tig started developing faster as time wore on, especially after Mikaela introduced him to her own son, Emil, who was about his age judging by their general appearance. For some years though, Tig wouldn't talk much, he'd mostly reply with gestures or one-worded sentences - just a yes or a no if possible. This sometimes frustrated his surroundings, but Emil just thought it kind of neat and often tried his parents' patience by treating them the same way. At least when Tiggy was around also.
When they both were seven years old, the two boys had their first sleep-over. It was summer and the air was warm, and they had spent all day running around until they were exhausted. Mikaela's and her husband's house was just across the street from Katarina's, so it was almost like sleeping at home the kids thought. Therefore they had negotiated to be allowed to sleep in the garden, in a tent. Mikaela's house had a big back yard with a fence around it, and it faced towards a neighbor's back yard, which made the parents more confident than with Katarina's house which only had a small garden with a road right outside across a hedge.
The boys went into the tent when it started to get late - not when it got dark, because it didn't really get dark in the summer; not until almost midnight, and the sky started to brighten considerably at around two in the morning. After going to bed, the parents knew the boys would read comic books for a while and mess around and tell naughty stories and tickle each other and wrestle and giggle. That was okay though, they were on their summer holiday, and they were allowed to do those things. As it turned out though, they were much too tired to do more than a cursory amount of all the above things. They did however drag their sleeping bags out of the tent, unzipped them and put one down on the grass to make a bed, then laid down on it and pulled the other sleeping bag on top of them as a cover. They both went right out, and as the night became rather chilly, they snuggled up tightly to each other in their sleep.
When Mikaela went outside in the morning to get the paper, she went around the house after getting it out of the mailbox to check up on the two kids. What she saw surprised her, yet she couldn't help smiling. She saw the bedding arrangement, and she saw Emil laying on his side, sleeping with his head on Tig's right arm, with his friend's face all pushed up just behind his ear as they both snoozed so sweetly. Tig's left arm he'd wrapped around his best friend's chest as the two laid there in a spooning position. She also saw a hint of a little brown-skinned bum sticking out from under the top sleeping bag. Tiggy often had trouble keeping his clothes on when at home, and sometimes it had a contagious effect on Emil, so she lifted up the sleeping bag just a little to check, and yes, they were both naked as newborns. Taking care not to wake them, she tucked them in again, and was suddenly overwhelmed by feelings.
Mikaela had to sit down in the grass as a tear rolled down her cheek. The two boys looked so beautiful together, so peaceful, so serene. Tiggy holding his friend like that, her son, protectively, yet... Yet lovingly. She tried not to cry, but still sniffled to herself as she stroked their heads, smoothing out their hair and smiled.
She was so happy Tiggy wanted to be with her son; though he might not have been very talkative when little, he'd always been very active, and a genuine leader-type in whatever he decided to partake in. He played fair, and didn't exclude anyone or tease them if they weren't as good at running or jumping or kicking around a football as he was. Emil was more the quiet type, a bit insecure. She'd always thought it was good he had a friend that looked out for him and cared about him. She hadn't quite understood how much Tiggy cared though...
Mikaela sat there until her boy woke up, Emil looking at his wet-cheeked mother with big eyes. "Mum? What's going on? Are you sad?", he asked quietly, feeling concerned and a little worried, because he knew he was naked again and outside in the garden and thought maybe he'd done something wrong. After all, they were supposed to sleep inside the tent, not out on the ground.
She sniffled one last time and gave her child a gentle smile. "No, my boy. Everything's fine. Everything's fine..." She caressed his soft, wavy - in fact almost curly - pale-brown hair and pale cheek, letting her hand run down his satiny-skinned neck and shoulder. Tiggy squealed quietly in his sleep and snuggled in even tighter to her son. "No hurry. You can stay out here as long as you like", she whispered, then touched her boy's cheek again one last time, leaned down to kiss it and slowly went back inside the house, looking at him smiling back at her.
When Emil's mother had disappeared, Emil laid there and thought to himself. The morning air was still chilly and very damp. Everything was covered in dew, but in under the sleeping bag it was so warm. So warm! He loved it. He didn't feel scared at all sleeping outside despite the next-door Carlsson family's big dog also spending the night outside in his doghouse. Tiggy was there with him, and it felt really...really nice.
Tig was the popular one, and even though Tig always brought him along, Emil often felt as if he was a fifth wheel in the group whenever they did something together with the other guys and girls of their age. It was as if he didn't want himself to believe he REALLY belonged together with the other kids. Now, when just the two of them were alone though... No words could describe what he was feeling, it was just a warm fuzzy sensation that glowed inside his chest, and it felt so good. Tig was holding him, he felt his friend's tight, strong and feline-like body all along his back, and his legs, and against his little boy-butt too. They both had morning hard-ons and Tiggy's was poking Emil's bum, but even though Emil was awake, he wasn't really aware of his, or that of his friend's either; he was too young and naive. He just knew it was the most awesome feeling he was experiencing. He knew his friend really cared about him; he didn't understand it at all because the other guys he knew were all so much cooler than him, or so he thought himself anyway - and Tig most of all - but somehow, his friend still cared about him. More than of any of the others.
It didn't make sense, and he didn't understand why, but Emil was happy Tig wanted to be his best friend, and he wanted it to last forever.
Not even ten minutes later, Tiggy woke up too. His arm had fallen asleep, and his bladder was almost filled to capacity. When the dark-skinned boy moved, Emil quickly lifted himself up and rolled around so that Tiggy could retract his arm. As Tig lifted it up, it bent at the elbow and the lower arm and hand flopped right down and he struck himself in the forehead with it; he had absolutely no muscle-control at all below the shoulder! Both boys giggled like crazy, and Emil seized the opportunity to wrestle down his friend in his weakened state. Emil didn't win very often - and most times when he did he suspected Tiggy didn't give his fullest - but this morning he didn't care. His naked little morning-woodie revelled in the feelings it felt as it rubbed up against Tiggy's flat, strong stomach as they fought playfully with one another, it twitched of happiness as Tiggy's own boner strained against the top boy's firm nutsac. Tingles and stabbing needles filled all of Tig's hand and arm and rushed down into his shoulder as blood re-envigorated the limb, he groaned of pleasure-pain as Emil forced him to move and thus caused even more tingle-needles.
The arm was getting stronger and stronger by the second. Tiggy got up on top instead and started holding Emil down. Emil was on an adrenaline rush however and at that moment could have matched his friend in strength with no problem, except he didn't want to. He wanted to be held down, it felt...good. It felt weird, in a way he didn't think he'd felt before. They both relaxed, and their boners sank down together, side by side, throbbing with their rapid heartbeats, their legs and tummies and chests all touching. Something weird came over Tiggy, he was looking down at his friend's face - so close - and Emil was smiling back up, a drowsy-dreamy, half-sleepy kind of smile, his gentle blue-grey eyes glazed, and his wavy hair all spilled out around his head like a gloria, eyelids batting up at him. Tiggy felt a stirring down in the pit of his stomach and something whispered inside him Emil wanted to be kissed. He obeyed, let go of Emil's arms and put his hands on the sides of Emil's chest instead, and surrounded by another halo of shiny black strands hanging from Tiggy's head, their soft, moist lips met in the lightest of pecks.
The goodly feelings they had in their stomachs suddenly exploded as skin contact maximized and their bodies squirmed against each other, Tiggy felt as if he had no air, and then Emil somehow managed to bump him in the nuts. It was just a light impact, but the lack of oxygen and quick stab of pain caused him to lose control of his weary bladder. Warm wetness struck their skin, and it kept coming and coming and coming at a rapid pace, filling every seam between their groins and stomachs, and they both moaned as with one voice and held each other, and Emil noticed he had let go too, and they moaned again and shuddered from the unexpected sensations, and their little penises were so hard it hurt, and it felt very good, yet they felt no shame either because they had both done it, and they were best friends of course.
They rested together like that for just a few moments, Tiggy still on top with his face snuggled in to his friend's neck. He let his dark lips graze the soft skin covering it, and then he made Emil sit up. They wrapped each other in their arms, it was still a bit chilly and their tummies were wet so they didn't want to get cold. They hugged while blushing, because neither of them had meant to relieve themselves like that and it was a bit embarrassing after all.
"I won't tell if you don't tell", Tiggy whispered, still feeling embarrassed and hoping Emil would go along with it. After all, he was the one that lost control first, so it was his fault he reasoned.
Emil didn't really have to think it over, he was just thankful Tiggy didn't seem to want to cause a fuss over what had happened. "Mmm. Okay", he said with a slight smile. "But what about the sleeping bags?", he added with a bit of worry in his voice.
"Uh... I dunno." Tiggy tried to think of some good solution, but couldn't come up with one. Though he was fairly bright, he wasn't good at deceit, and never succeeded in tricking his mother. He didn't expect to be able to fool Emil's either, and Emil's father... Better not think about trying to fool him!
Emil came to the rescue. "If you want, we can say I peed myself. I... Uh, I do that sometimes, but don't tell anyone, alright?", his friend said, a deeply anxious expression on his face.
"Oh no! No, I'd never do that!", Tiggy answered sincerely. He could see how frightfully embarrassed Emil was by admitting such a thing. He knew kids peed themselves sometimes in their sleep, but he'd never done it himself, not that he could remember anyway. It was shameful to admit someone still did it at the age of seven, but the dark-skinned boy wasn't dumb, he realized must happen to more kids than one would think, as nobody would be exactly eager to admit to it. Thus, he took Emil's head in his hands and smooched his lips really quickly (yet firmly) without even realizing what he was doing. "I'll always be your friend and would never tell on you!"
Emil smiled and blushed at the same time, not able to look Tiggy in the eyes right then. Then they got up and wiped themselves off with the mostly dry top sleeping bag, then rolled the other bag up in it and snuck inside the house, hoping they could dump the bags in the washing machine without attracting any attention so Emil wouldn't have to tell. It didn't work because the first person they met inside the door was Mikaela and she immediately noticed the bundle in their arms was wet and took it from them and rapidly shooed them into the shower, but in the end, Tiggy kept his word. He didn't squeal on his friend to any of the other kids about what had happened.
What the two boys had felt together was so powerful neither of them understood it properly. In fact it was a bit too powerful, and they got a bit scared of feeling that way again, so they didn't have any more sleepovers, even though they continued to be just as good friends, and spent all the time they could together, talking and playing. They talked about everything, except the reason why Emil wet the bed some nights. That he couldn't tell anyone, it was too scary to even think about...
When they were both twelve years old, Emil moved away. His father had gotten a new job, and the best friend Tiggy ever had was yanked away from him. He didn't show it outwards in school or with his friends, but it was like half of him was missing now that Emil wasn't around anymore, and he went home and cried for months after the move. His mother was really upset about it, but there was nothing she could do. Tiggy couldn't even talk on the phone with Emil, because his father didn't want them staying in touch, he believed a clean break was the best, healthiest thing to do he said that one time Tiggy did call. Emil's father was pretty nice overall Tiggy thought, but really really stern, so the dark-skinned boy didn't dare to call back again.
Finally he could hold the tears in, but the magic in every day wasn't there anymore. People still looked up to him, wanted him to be their leader, but none of them NEEDED him like Emil did. The others, they had that thing inside them that drove them forwards, made them 'go', even as they admired Tiggy for being more energetic than they were; having more 'go' than they did. Emil on the other hand, he'd been made with too little of that which Tiggy had an extra amount of, which is why they fit together so well. Emil was often wary of new things, but once shown a few times by Tiggy, he usually dared to try it himself, like diving head-first into water for example. First from a bathing pier when they were little. Then from the starting block in a swimming pool, and finally, from a high-dive tower in the deep pool. He'd done all those things on his own, just with a little bit of help, a couple hugs, and a lot of encouragement.
Now who would watch, admire, listen and learn as Tiggy showed off his skills? The boy felt hollow. Even his friends noticed this change, saw some of the spark was gone, but they didn't understand. They missed Emil too, but he hadn't been their friend like he'd been Tiggy's friend...
They competed in the Gothia Cup tournament every year. Last time Emil had still been in the team, they'd done fairly well, they ended up in fourteenth place in their age group that year. The two following years they did badly. Tiggy, who was the only boy with any real talent in the team had never bragged about his skill with the round black-and-white ball. He didn't think he was any more important than any of the other guys, he just wanted everybody to have a good time and do their best in order to win the game. Without Emil though - arguably the worst player of the team, though nobody blamed him - it just wasn't the same. It wasn't fun anymore. Sometimes Emil scored, it didn't happen often, but when it did, Tiggy always lifted the boy off his feet and spun him around quick before the other guys came to do the group hug thing, and as they all congratulated him, Tiggy always took the opportunity to kiss Emil's cheek while everybody else was too busy to notice.
Time always seemed to stop when his moist, supple lips touched Emil's soft boy-cheek, the few precious seconds he could maintain contact seemed the longest in his life, and the best.
Now that was all gone. What was there to live for without his best friend?
The boy eventually became thin and gaunt as he ate less and less. He pretty much stopped playing football, preferring instead to go on long solitary runs. His mother, Katarina, worried he'd become anorexic, when in reality he was heartbroken without even knowing it.
In the forest south of where he lived, there was a high cliff overlooking a pit that had once been a granite quarry nearly a hundred years prior. The old quarry was now filled with greenish water, deformed stone formations and thin reedy trees clinging on to cracks in the rockface breaking the still surface in places, remnants of an industrial era long gone. Once, many many years ago, Hitler's Third Reich had ordered lots of grandiose stonework from the nordic country's west coast; a region where the granite was particulary strong and suited to shaping with mallet and chisel. Some of it had come from that particular quarry, though not a whole lot of it and not all had actually been delivered before the war was ended. Some of those heavy, partly finished pieces still laid hidden and untouched deep down there, buried below water and layers of slowly decomposing leaves. Few people were still alive to remember it, though perhaps the stone itself did...
Here he often came to think, standing close to the edge and looking down into the still water. Thinking, and more and more often as of late, considering to simply step over the edge and disappear. Now, the final decision had to be made, Tiggy knew. The pain was getting unbearable in his chest. It hurt so bad he couldn't even cry anymore, even if he tried.
The huge shadow that had always followed him through life was with him still, but closer now than ever before since he'd been very young.
'Little cub', his constant companion and guardian said. 'You must not do it.'
'Why not?!', the boy cried out in anguish. 'What does it matter? What do I matter without him?!'
The shadow came closer, revealing itself out of the deep evening gloom under the tree branches. 'You must not do it, because what will your friend feel once he hears that you are gone?' Moonlight played off its heavily muscled flanks, covered by thick, shiny fur. 'Yes, my cub. He will know about it. How will he be able to live on?'
The boy was silent. Sullen, even resentful for the first time against his guardian, angry at him for putting doubt in his mind about what he had intended to do. 'He's already gone', the boy grunted sourly.
'No, you are wrong. He needs you still, and soon more than ever before.'
A glimmer of hope awoke in the boy's chest. A small ember there still glowing faintly, starting to shine brighter. 'What?! Maruch, what do you mean?'
The guardian's huge head turned towards his charge, with what might almost have been a smile on his thin, black lips. 'I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. Nothing more, and nothing less.'
'But, when?!', the boy yelled excitedly, though his voice was still tinged with anguish. 'Tell me please, Maruch. I must know!'
'Soon', the magnificient creature responded as he started moving off, back into the darkening night. 'Have faith my little cub. And above all, be strong.'
'I will, I promise!', the boy called out to the slowly retreating shadow, tears long held back streaming down his face. 'Thank you!'
How he made it back, he couldn't tell. He'd been far more spent than even he himself had understood, his malnourished state had gone much further than anyone had believed, and it was a long way from the quarry back to his mother's house. Something had awoken her from her restless semi-slumber that night, her boy was missing, he hadn't returned from school that afternoon and nobody had seen where he'd gone. Police had found his jacket and backpack near the school, not far from one of the many jogging trails he liked to run on, but no sign of the boy himself. Now it was getting really cold outside, and it was the middle of the night. Suddenly she was wide awake, it felt as if a huge animal had just walked by right outside the walls of her bedroom, like soft-treading, enormous paws had stepped across her confused dreams and awoken her.
"My boy!", she mumbled to herself as she quickly donned a nightrobe whilst on the move through her small, single-story house. "My boy, is that you?" Lone tears rolled down her face, breaking out into a flood when she almost threw the front door open and saw him standing there on the porch, swaying from exhaustion. "My baby!", she yelled as she grabbed his thin body and held him close to her chest as he fell into her arms.
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