In this corner, we have Cross, lightning fast furry. And in this corner, scaly Grahz. Cross should win but Grahz realizes that our poor heroine had a weak, weak point! His poor little feet. Tickle fight is the only way for Grahz to win.
I’d never been so fucked in my life.
I couldn’t move without crying out. Couldn’t breathe without giving myself away. Couldn’t even think about anything other than keeping it together. My every muscle was tensed, my body curled up awaiting a blow that would never come.
Dead grass from the floor of the ring was sticking in my fur, my snout was buried in the dirt, and the weight of my scaly opponent bore fully down on my chest where he sat, his fists like bushels of bricks cemented around my ankles. At any moment Grahz could break me.
My one saving grace was that the roar of the crowd and the thrash metal shaking the ring hid the giggles I was trying – failing – to suppress.
“Do you yield?” Grahz rumbled from on top of me. I swear I felt his voice rippling through his jade-hard bulk, sending a buzz through my chest that threatened to undo me entirely. There was only one right answer, and we both knew it.
But I get ahead of myself.
The oncoming autumn brought a welcome chill to the night of the big fight. It was a great evening to walk around shirtless. Not that I didn’t ordinarily, but it was a great evening for it.
The venue was new to me – a former carpet warehouse an hour outside of the city. It had been bought up last year by this Doberman I know. He was a bartender by trade, but he moonlighted as an MMA coach. Or maybe I had the two reversed. He seemed to do a little of everything and knew everyone around town.
Look, none of that was my business. My relationship with the whole thing amounted to the best fighter in the county looking for bigger and badder opponents. Cross Fox was getting too big for the old pond.
The noise of the crowd sent a shiver through my skin as I strode across the sprawling patio. The place had the character of a trendy brewery – people were clustered around barrels, drinks in hand, and the place was lit up by bare bulbs on strings. Here and there stood chunks of old machinery, polished mirror bright.
I couldn’t help using one to check myself out. I’d earned it, the way I’d been busting my ass in the gym. My muscles gave a sleek definition to my orange and brown fur. My blond hair was tied back for the fight, but just messy enough up front to complement my brilliant smile. I noticed right then that my bushy tail was wagging, making the billowy fabric of my blue pants ripple. It was like having my own personal fan blowing on me wherever I went.
That wouldn’t be bad. But I’d need to win a hell of a lot more fights before I could start thinking about that.
The ring was enclosed by metal barriers like I’d seen around construction sites. I vaulted over one with one hand, landing lightly on my paws and making a show of dusting myself off. I hopped from side to side in the ring, pumping myself up for the fight and getting ready to move. The ring was dirt and dead grass, comfortable on my paws yet solid enough that getting thrown would be rough.
Easy enough. I was too quick for that. Mostly. The real challenge would be avoiding the grass. Light brushes against my foot pads were… something of a pet peeve of mine. More of a vulnerability, really.
If I’m being honest, they were my personal weak point for massive damage.
But this sport’s all about spatial awareness, when you get right down to it. I prided myself on that. You had to, or you wouldn’t act when it really counted.
Back in town I was used to stepping into the ring to chants of “Cross Fox! Cross Fox!” Here, not so much. I picked some folks out of the crowd that were sizing me up – some skeptical, some approving. Well, they’d learn. They were in for a treat tonight.
I noticed the crowd parting way the hell on the other side of the room, and soon enough I saw who they were making way for. He was a lizard, green all over with dark frills framing his stony face, and he was big. Like, grown-in-a-lab big. I swear his biceps were as thick around as my tail on a particularly bushy day.
The green giant, and none too jolly, strode slowly up to the ring and simply stepped over the metal barrier I’d vaulted. The crowd grew quiet as he stood opposite me, staring. Waiting.
Okay, so he’d figured out his entrance. Not bad.
The only sound was the buzzing of the lights and a loud whisper that I picked up on after a few seconds. I caught on to a single word rising up from the crowd like a siren:
“Grahz! Grahz! Grahz!”
So that was his name. That Doberman had been short on the details for this thing – all I knew was “He’s big. Really big. And you will be too, if you can whip him.” Once this was all over, I figured he and I were due for a friendly chat about healthy communication.
Grahz was the biggest guy I’d ever fought, but I’d fought big guys before. All you need to do is turn their momentum around on them, get inside their range, and pummel where they’re weak.
I figured his weak spot would be his stomach. It was his coloration that gave it away – the scales that covered his body like jade armor didn’t wrap around his core, toned as it was.
I crossed the ring to shake hands. It was the right thing to do, but it gave me time to observe him. He’d be doing the same to me. The fight had already begun, when you think about it – this was just a different phase.
Grahz gripped my hand like a steel beam wrapping itself around a tree trunk. I covered a wince with a rakish grin. “Cross Fox,” I said. “Don’t wear it out.”
Grahz didn’t return my smile. “Grahz,” he intoned. “I don’t intend to.”
I nodded. “Right. Cool. Same page.” Damn it. I’d never fought someone this taciturn. It was like he wasn’t having fun with it. No, worse – he was trying to mind game me. The fact that I knew that proved that he’d failed. I’d just have to redirect my nervous energy from talking to moving. I started stretching, throwing practice punches, bouncing from foot to foot, all under the austere gaze of the tallest lizard in the county.
The warehouse’s sound system kicked on as we took our places, filling the ring with thrash metal. It sent a shiver through my skin and a roar through the crowd, and both of those things made my fur stand up.
And then I stepped on one of those little clumps of grass, and the thin, dead blades slid along my skin like dull knives and nearly brought me to my knees.
I played it off like a cool swivel as I quickly pulled my foot elsewhere, the tickle singing through the pads. Maybe he had successfully mindgamed me. Thank goodness he was looking around at the crowd and nodding in stern approval. I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t immediately zero in on my weakness rearing its head.
“Tonight’s fight: Cross Fox! Versus! Graaaaaaaaahz!”
Saved by the announcer, who clearly knew which side his bread was buttered on. That peripheral vision of mine would get a workout tonight as I kept an eye constantly on the ground. Deep breaths, Cross Fox, I told myself. Get to his stomach before he gets to your feet.
I planted my feet in my usual stance – loose, yet ready to spring taut.
Grahz tilted his head left, then right. Even twelve feet away I could hear it crack.
I raised my arms. And – why not? – I beckoned him to come at me. Nobody did that because it was the cliche of all cliches, and that’s what made it all the sweeter when I did do it and won.
Grahz and I both leaped forward. It was almost a long stride for him. I think his reach was half the ring. Just before his first punch could connect, I threw my head back and kicked one leg out, sliding under his swing. The wind from his fist ruffled my hair as it sailed over me, and I flashed a dazzling smile as I came screeching to a halt – just clear of a clump of grass.
Close one. I didn’t have time to appreciate it. I was already rising up on my tucked-in leg, pivoting from my crouch to deliver a spring-loaded punch to Grahz’s side. My fist slammed into his scales with my body’s full force.
It was like punching a statue, and Grahz had about the same reaction. He turned around, cocked his head, as if he couldn’t quite believe I’d struck him.
I flexed my fingers, all of which were pulsing angrily from the impact. “All right,” I said. “There’s more than one place to hit you!” I lashed out at his shoulder. Maybe I could dead-arm him.
The lizard didn’t move an inch to dodge me. My other fist glanced right off of his natural armor. Now I had two smarting hands and no advantage to show for it. There was a collective “ooh!” from the crowd.
I should have guessed this was kind of Grahz’s thing. He smirked and started to walk forward, one foot in front of the other, like he was on a runway. I backed up, he increased his pace. I strafed around him, he turned to face me.
He brushed aside a kick to the stomach, blocked my fist with his forearm, outright ignored a leg sweep. At this rate he was going to walk me down or ring me out.
But only if I kept fighting at this rate.
It was time to pull out the other thing I was known for: a sudden turning of the tables, as it were.
My tail whipped back and forth as I waited for my opportunity. It came when it brushed the barrier behind me. As Grahz shifted his leg for a swift knee strike, I leaped aside, planted my feet on the barrier, and sprang forward, one foot swept high for an ax kick.
It worked. I caught him in the jaw, snapping his head to the side and sending him stumbling. I landed lightly and practically bounced into him with five quick jabs to his stomach. That sent him reeling. It bought me time to spin and plant my foot directly into his abdomen. Grahz doubled over, lost his balance, and fell to the ground with a surprised grunt.
The crowd went nuts when I downed him. I held my position, breathing fast and deep, and lowered my foot slowly, letting a smile spread across my face. I looked around the cheering crowd, let the metal wash back into my hearing, and cracked an easy grin; a grin that said You thought. A grin that said It takes more than a giant to take down Cross F–
And then my paw touched grass, and the lightest of brushes ghosted across the soft, weak pads of my foot.
It was like a fistful of feathers directly up my ass. A giggle boiled up my throat, and my grin turned manic keeping it down. I ground my foot into the dirt like I was crushing an insect, looking for a rough patch of dirt, a pebble, anything to scrub the tickle off my foot as quickly as possible.
Too late. The crowd hadn’t noticed, but Grahz had. He was up on one elbow, frozen halfway through massaging his jaw, his gaze locked squarely on my feet. His eyes narrowed – first with confusion, then with understanding.
I ran my hand through my messy hair, scratched nonchalantly at my ponytail. “There’s more where that came from!” I called. Maybe I could get his mind back on the ass-whooping I’d just given him.
No shot. He stood, brushed himself off, cracked his neck in that way he had. “Much more,” he said.
The slow Grahz was in the past. He dropped into a low run suddenly like some horror movie monster.
I didn’t have time to dodge. Couldn’t go for his weak point with him securely hunched over. So I did the first thing I could think of.
My standing long jump is pretty respectable. I could just feel his hands grasping fruitlessly at my legs as I launched myself over him. The crowd lost its shit at that. Win the crowd, and you always win the fight. Most of the time.
It would be a moment they talked about no matter how the fight went. I suppose that’s one reason my heart rate spiked as both of the weak spots on my feet brushed the fins on either side of Grahz’s head.
Tickles are like scorpions sometimes. The smaller, the deadlier.
The echoes of the fins sliding across my paw pads sent me into a sick twist, half an Olympic dive that was entirely unsuited to the dirt racing up to meet me. I slammed into it with my shoulder, the pain almost but not quite driving the shiver from my feet.
Laughter from the crowd. Fine, whatever. I could stew about it when I wasn’t kicking my feet into the ground to get rid of the tickle. My teeth were grinding like sandpaper on wood, a full-throated laugh struggling to burst out of my chest. If this kept up I was going to give myself hiccups.
I could just see two green tree trunks growing bigger and bigger out of the corner of my eye. I had yet to catch my breath, so I shifted my weight to my upper back and practically breakdanced to turn and face Grahz lying down.
It was like watching two sides of a square try to beat the shit out of each other. I swept my legs under him, dodged his kicks, blocked with shins hammered into shields by countless hours in the gym. As soon as I saw Grahz give ground, I threw my arms back for a handspring. In seconds I was upright–
Just as Grahz had figured I would be. He caught me around the stomach and threw me back down, driving the breath out of my lungs with the impact. The crowd groaned, but the sympathy was rendered somewhat hollow by the applause that followed.
It wasn’t over. I could keep fighting if I could just roll. If I could roll, I could stand, and if I could stand, I could fight, and if I could fight, I could win.
Then Grahz sat on my chest and crushed my plans with his scaly ass.
That was humiliating enough. But I’d happily be this guy’s chair if it meant he wouldn’t grab me around the ankles like he was doing right now.
My toes curled with the sensation I felt coming a mile away. Then it came.
Grahz tapped his claws against my weak spots, left and right, conjuring little electric tickles in stereo that tightened my calves and made me kick in his grip. “N-no– stop– I– hehehehe…”
Grahz looked back over his shoulder at me. “Do you yield?” he rumbled.
I shook my head. Of course not. I was Cross Fox. Cross Fox didn’t yield.
He was stroking my foot pads now, light traces that sent sparks into my knees and made me writhe under his bulk.
The crowd was starting to notice, too. I heard snatches of conversation to the effect of “Yo, is he ticklish?” Speculation turned to rumor turned to laughter and taunting.
“Do you yield?” Grahz asked again.
I jerked my knees back, trying to get him in the stomach from my prone position. It was my best shot, and it gave my legs something to do other than shiver with the laughter I was about to explode into.
“Guess not.” Grahz squeezed my ankles together. I felt a single enormous hand wrap around them both. For one wild moment I thought he’d stand up and whirl me around his head a few times before throwing me out of the ring.
Then he braced his arm behind my legs and dug his free claws into my weak spots.
I howled. I threw my head back against the dirt, rolled it back and forth. I could barely squirm under Grahz’s weight, my legs kicking as he played my paws like goddamn castanets.
I don’t know how long he went. It was long enough to stop hearing myself among the laughter of the crowd, for my cheeks to ache with the insane grin my own laughter was carving into my features, for my tail to brush the ground clear next to me as it wagged uncontrollably.
“Do…” Grahz shivered his claws against my toes. “You…” He took a forefinger and poked it into the center of my foot, swirling it around. “Yield?” He did that awful thing where you press all your claws into my weak spot and spread them out as slowly as possible.
“YESYOUWINFUHAHAHAHUHAUAAUHAUHAAA!” I slapped the ground next to me three times, five times, ten times, until the tickling finally stopped.
I thought it was over. I hoped it was over.
It was not. Grahz was a sadistic little fucker and he went right on back to my weak spot.
“Furry little creatures have delicate little paw pads, it seems. Oh, I don’t think I accept your tap out.” He growled with sadistic intent, her hardened fingers washed upon my weak point over and over and over against, repeating the torture, repeating the caress, the tickle, the sensation that broke through all my defenses.
And I laughed, and laughed. I couldn’t stop myself. I couldn’t stop him. I was putty in his hand and he knew it and he relished my defeat. My weak point was vulnerable in this position, I could do nothing except endure, and I couldn’t even manage that. The worst part, the fight wasn’t being called. It continued. I was crying so hard, laughing, trembling.
Grahz stood up, and I breathed deep again, free of his weight and the assault on my weak points. Every exhale was shaky, shivering with residual mirth as I shuffled my feet in the earth, wearing furrows in the dirt to try and scratch away the worst itch possible.
There was laughter from the crowd as I left the ring; jeers; some sympathy. One guy even bought me a drink.
My Doberman friend was going to hear from me for sure. Once I could kick his ass without giggling.