Away at College
I woke the next morning still wrapped in Becky’s arms, where we had curled up together last night, finding comfort in each other’s presence. “You look happy this morning.” Becky said sleepily, kissing me on the end of my nose. “Well you’re beautiful as ever too. Waking up next to you is the best start to a day I can think of.” I confided, kissing her in return, neither one of us quite willing yet to move from our comfortable little burrow. “No really, you’ve got this sort of…happy…look that I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before.” She corrected in a curious tone “Did you have a good dream last night or something?” I playfully used the end of her wonderfully bushy tail as a pillow, snuggling into its soft fur. “It’s nothing.” I laughed, feeling the fur tickle my nose as I peered through it at Becky. “Seriously, I want to know.” She pouted “You’re not going to be a stubborn little kit this early in the morning are you?” Gazing into her sparkling brown eyes I shook my head ‘no’. “I’m happy because I’m not alone any more.” I said simply. “I woke up this morning and everything I’ve always wanted was sleeping right next to me.” “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” Becky said quietly, gently rubbing me behind my ears.
As we lay there, snug under our pile of blankets, I felt Becky pull on my tail playfully. “Hmm?” I responded, rolling over to lay eye to eye with her. “You said something last night that kind of bothered me…” she started out, tapping me gently on the tip of my nose “I don’t remember your exact words, but it was something about you not being ‘the male of my dreams’ or words to that effect, and I was sort of curious why you would think that.” “Because I’m nothing particularly fantastic or special.” I shrugged “I’m not massively handsome or anything, and I don’t think I’m any more clever or witty than the next fox. I’m just sort of an average fur, there’s not really anything particular to recommend me one way or another.” “Oh Nick…” Becky said, shaking her head slowly. For some reason she suddenly looked sad. “But you have a lot of good qualities. You’re caring, polite, funny, intelligent and considerate. And I think you’re handsome. You’re a sweet guy, really.” Not understanding exactly what Becky was getting upset about, I nodded and did my best to smile, deciding to humor her. I guess I didn’t do a very convincing job. “You really don’t see that do you?” Becky almost whispered before hugging me tightly and not letting go for a long, long time.
Becky remained more subdued than usual throughout breakfast, and I was beginning to get a little bit worried. What had I said that could have upset her like that? And would bringing it up for discussion make things better or worse? To my great relief, Becky began to cheer up considerably as we did the breakfast dishes. Grinning wickedly as I watched her dry the plates out of the corner of my eyes, I scooped up a handful of fluffy white soap bubbles, and stealthily deposited them on her headfur. Then, before she noticed, I quickly got back to doing the dishes, though I couldn’t resist smiling gleefully.
A short while later, Becky noticed that I was grinning merrily at something. “What’s so funny?” she questioned with an absolutely adorable look of amused perplexion on her muzzle. “Nothing much.” I smiled, handing her a large metal bowl to dry. Becky started drying it, only to notice something in the concave surface. Halting her work she stared into it’s mirrored surface before laughing too. “You little scamp. I can’t turn my back on you for a minute, can I?” “Nope.” I grinned, before sitting down on the kitchen floor to watch Becky get her headfur back in order. “You just sit there where I can see you!” she growled in a fearsome act of mock rage, before plopping a little dollop of soapsuds right on the end of my muzzle. “Okay.” I agreed in a small voice.
My attention quickly began to wander, and I soon found myself staring at the fluffy white bubbles on my muzzle and not really thinking about anything in particular at all. Becky chose that moment to come up behind me and give me a hug, startling me a little bit. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to spook you like that.” She apologized as she plopped down on the floor next to me. “You have to pick up your book from school today.” I remembered as my brain went through a number of random doors on it’s way back to the here and now. “Oh! Thanks for reminding me, I’ve got to sign up for something for one of my classes, and the information sheet is in there.” She explained. “You told me last night to remind you.” I said in my small voice, beginning to absentmindedly play with my tail “So I reminded you.” “That you did, my little kit, that you did.” Becky praised, reacting to the general direction of my attitude this morning. Then, taking me by the paw, she decided that “We ought to go get that early so I can take care of my registration. But first you need to change out of your pajamas…”
Back up in my…our room, I very reluctantly changed into something that was more appropriate to wear around campus than a baby blue footed sleeper. “Don’t worry, you’ll be able to put it back on at the end of the day.” Becky laughed, having heard me sigh a little as I changed out of my little kit clothes. “I know.” I nodded seriously “It’s just that they’re all warm and snuggly and I think I’d much rather curl back up in bed with you and snuggle for a while instead of going back to school today.” “Are you still tired?” Becky questioned, beginning to sound more businesslike than earlier “And did you remember to take your pill like a good little boy?” “I took my pill with breakfast.” I nodded affirmatively “And no, I’m really not particularly tired, it’s just been quite a while since I’ve had a day off from my regular routine.” “Oh” she nodded sympathetically “That can be rough.”
I quickly finished up changing clothes, and, taking Becky’s paw, we headed down to the garage. “I suppose you’re driving again?” I asked as I pulled the door to the house closed behind me. “Yes I am.” Becky replied cheerfully, digging out her keys as I melodramatically complained my way around to her passenger door and waited for her to find her keys. “You know,” I laughed as she finally found them after about five minutes of methodically taking everything out of her purse “Considering that we are both out in the middle of nowhere and parked inside a garage, I usually don’t bother to lock my car doors while I’m at home.” “It’s just force of habit, I guess.” Becky shrugged as we buckled up and she started the engine “Besides, if I don’t remember to lock the doors all the time, I’ll immediately forget the one time that it will matter.” “True enough.” I nodded as she pulled out onto the road and headed for campus.
It was turning into a really nice day out, and by the time we had arrived at student housing I was beginning to greatly regret not being able to take the convertible for our little mid-morning jaunt. “I need to catch one of my professors during her office hours.” Becky explained while we got the textbook she needed from her apartment “I don’t think it will take too long, and maybe we can get lunch afterwards.” “That’s fine with me.” I nodded, offering her my paw “Lead on.” Nodding her head in amusement, she took my paw and we set out towards the other side of campus.
Our destination turned out to be more or less directly across campus from Becky’s apartment, and after a few minutes she indicated a building to our left. “Right here.” Becky explained “It’s even on the ground floor, so we don’t have to wait for the elevator.” The medical sciences building was one of the more recently renovated buildings on campus, and as we walked down the hallway I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between it’s design and some of the hospital buildings I had visited at various points in my life. Still, the outside walls were largely taken up by windows, and the hallways were decorated in a light pastel yellow color, giving a cheerful feeling to the place. Not an unattractive building… Leading me away from the classrooms and auditoriums down a hallway filled exclusively with offices, Becky counted off the rooms as we went before stopping in front of an office. “Here it is, 2.114.” she announced cheerfully before knocking on the door. “Come in!” answered a familiar female voice. “Back again you two? No injuries this time I hope…” laughed Dr. Fawdan cheerfully as she rose from behind her desk to greet us.
“You’re looking well.” She offered as she waved us towards the couch that ran the length of one wall of the small office “How have you been feeling? Everything is healing up okay?” “Yes ma’am.” I nodded, taking a seat next to Becky on the battered old couch. “Well, what brings you two to grace my doorway today?” Dr. Fawdan asked, prompting Becky to get down to business. As she and Becky began discussing the finer points of the most recent chapter from their class, I rather quickly lost interest in their very technical discussion, and let my eyes wander around the office. It was not particularly large, as offices go, but it was furnished in a way that could best be described as “comfortable shabbiness”. The furniture was mismatched and a little bit worn, and the whole place was disorganized, but not enough to make you feel like it was a mess. The plants perched on the sill of the window dominating the outside wall were thriving and quite well taken care of I noted. Smiling to myself as I shifted around on the overstuffed couch I decided that I really did approve of Dr. Fawdan.
My thoughts found their way back to the immediate present as Becky nudged me in the side slightly, accidentally poking my one remaining very tender spot. Wincing, I turned my attention to her “Ouch. What was that for?” Looking very surprised Becky quickly apologized “I’m sorry, I didn’t think I tapped you that hard.” “It’s okay.” I shrugged “I’ve still got a sore spot, you just happened to find it, that’s all.” “I was going to make some tea and was asking if you wanted a cup.” Dr. Fawdan frowned standing up and filling the teapot from the water fountain just outside her door before setting it on a hot plate to boil. “Yes please.” I nodded “I’ll take Earl Grey if there’s a choice.” “There is as a matter of fact.” She nodded, “But I’d like to take a look at your side while the water is on.”
Becky got up and moved to the other side of the couch, and Dr. Fawdan took up the spot that she had vacated. “It’s just a little sore.” I shrugged noncommittally as I pulled off my sweater. Running her paw down my side, Dr. Fawdan informed me to “Let me know if anything hurts.” Nodding my understanding, I began to drift off into my previous state of idle thoughts when suddenly something she was poking at hurt. A lot. Sucking in my breath, I flinched away from her paw. “Are you okay Nick?” Becky asked with great concern when she saw how pale I had gotten. “I think so.” I said shakily in my small voice “But that hurted.” Immediately picking up on my change in tone, Becky took my paw in hers and gave it a reassuring little squeeze.
“Well…” sighed Dr. Fawdan, turning towards Becky “Your initial diagnosis about Nick’s ribs is probably right. It seems like there was a thin sliver of bone that fractured off from one of his ribs, and whenever something pushes on it…well it’s probably not a lot of fun.” “Nope.” I nodded “Not much fun at all.” “Here’s the thing.” Dr. Fawdan explained “These kind of problems can go either way. Maybe it’s something that’s painful but not particularly harmful, or on the other hand, it has the possibility of being something very serious. And since you are here anyway, I’d like to go downstairs and get someone to take an x-ray film so we can determine what needs to be done about this.” “Okay.” I agreed quietly, not comfortable at all with the way the day was developing at this point “Do we have to go over to the Student Services building or how are we going to do this?”
The teakettle decided that it was a good time to interject it’s own opinion into our conversation, prompting Dr. Fawdan to give it her attention. Returning to the table with a small tray, she poured each of us a cup of tea before continuing. “We have an x-ray facility one floor up from here, attached to the suite of teaching theaters and such.” “Well, that’s convenient.” I answered, doing my best to feign humor but not sounding convincing, even to myself “So, all joking aside, how serious could this be?” “It could be pretty bad.” She explained “if it is a relatively long bone splinter, it has the potential to lacerate a number of organs, not to mention a major artery system that runs through that area. If it looked like that could happen…and I am only saying ‘if ’…then I would recommend immediate surgery.”
By the time Dr. Fawdan had finished talking I had grown quiet and noticeably pale. “Is…is that really necessary?” I stammered, taking a gulp of my tea to try to calm my nerves a bit. “I believe so, yes. But don’t worry, it won’t take too long and I’m sure everything is fine.” She assured me, totally misunderstanding the reasons for my concern. “If I must, I must.” I agreed in a strained voice. Then, after everyone had finished their tea and I had put my shirt back on, Dr. Fawdan showed us out of her office, and took us to the elevator.
The technician for the x-ray equipment was a male cheetah named Rick, who Becky knew from some of her classes. I sat down on the table in the x-ray room with Becky while Dr. Fawdan explained what she needed to Rick. ”You don’t look so good.” Becky commented after watching me nervously look around the room for several minutes “Is something wrong?” “It’s just that…” I started out hesitantly before being interrupted by Rick joining us. “Okay everyone, let’s get this show on the road!” He grinned cheerfully, obviously delighted to get a chance to play with the x-ray machine “If you’ll take off your shirt and lie on your side on the table, with your arms and tail away from your body…” Sighing, I pulled off my sweater and climbed back up on the table. Looking me over, Rick grinned and turned to Becky conspiratorially “He’s cute! Why is it you meet all the cute guys?” “Just lucky, I guess.” She laughed before continuing in a whisper “But this time I’ve found the one…” “Really?” Rick replied “That’s great! I’m so happy for you two!” “Ahem.” Dr. Fawdan snorted from the doorway. “Oops, sorry.” Rick shrugged, not looking abashed in the least before the three of them stepped out of the room.
It didn’t take very long to get the three plates of x-ray film developed, and in about twenty minutes Dr. Fawdan was looking over the pictures. When she finally called us over, I felt my tummy drop to the floor when I saw the look of foreboding that she wore. Handing the plates to Becky, she waited for her consensus. “It’s serious.” She sighed. “What do you mean serious? How serious?” I asked. Holding the films up to the light box, Becky pointed to a little line offshooting from one of my ribs. “That’s the bone splinter.” She explained “And that is one of the main arteries coming out of your lungs.” “Oh.” I nodded. Having it pointed out to me, even I could see that something had to be done about it, and probably as soon as possible. “That’s what I was afraid of.” Dr. Fawdan sighed “Well, I guess I had better get on the telephone and make arrangements.”
Becky and I went down to the student union to get some lunch while Dr. Fawdan was making her “arrangements”, whatever they turned out to be. The student union is sort of like a mall food court, except that it also has entertainment as well, like pool tables, arcade games, and even a bowling alley in the basement. The food isn’t all that good, but it does have the benefits of being convenient, and having a lot of different things to chose from. Becky got a hamburger and fries, while I just got a couple of egg rolls. Then we found a table that was mostly out of the way of everyone else, so we could have some privacy to talk while we ate. Becky started in on her food right away, but I really couldn’t muster more than just picking at mine half-heartedly, staring absentmindedly into my iced tea. “It’s going to be okay Nick, really.” Becky said encouragingly “I mean, it’s a simple procedure, and they’ll do it as an outpatient surgery, so you won’t even have to stay there overnight or anything. I mean, you’ll be sore for a couple of days until everything heals up, but it won’t be all that bad. Now be a good little trooper and finish your lunch, okay?” Smiling a little bit in what seemed like the first time in ages, I nodded and started back in on my lunch. “That’s better.” Becky nodded, patting me on the shoulder.
After we finished and had returned our trays to their respective food stands, we met back up with Dr. Fawdan in her office. She explained that she was able to schedule a time slot for late afternoon at the local hospital, and gave Becky all the instructions for where, when and how. “…and don’t worry about a thing.” She added as we were leaving her office “I went to med. school with your surgeon, he’ll take good care of you!” We walked down the hall in silence, neither of us speaking until we were back outside in the sunshine walking back to Becky’s car. “We’ve got enough time to go home and get cleaned up a little bit before we have to start heading down there.” She declared, looking at her watch. “Uh huh.” I nodded, quite obviously not enthusiastic about the whole situation.
We hit traffic on the way back to the house, and consequentially were running late when we got there. I decided it would be a good idea to take a quick shower before we went, and by the time I was done with that Becky was ready to leave again. “Hold on for just a little bit, okay?” I implored, dumping out the contents of all my pockets on the kitchen table, only pulling my driver’s license out of my wallet as an afterthought, giving it to Becky for safe keeping. “Okay, I think that’s…wait! Forgot one last thing.” I declared, running upstairs and grabbing Rufus off the bed. Hastily checking the front door, I found that Becky had the foresight to have already locked everything that needed locking. Then, dashing out to the garage where Becky was already in her car with the engine idling (and a somewhat annoyed expression on her muzzle at this point) I grabbed the garage door opener out of the pickup truck, and jumped in the passenger seat.
“What took so long?” she asked, more out of curiosity than annoyance as we pulled out onto the highway. Holding up Rufus, I just shrugged. “Thought I’d bring him along with me. I mean, you never know when you may need a cute little plush foxy now do you?” Becky just shook her head in exasperation and declared that “What am I going to do with you?”
The drive was fairly painless, it was mostly on the freeway so there weren’t any stoplights, and since it was after lunch and before rush hour there wasn’t any traffic to speak of. We even got parked without any trouble. (One of the benefits of being a med. student is that when you start taking upper division classes they give you a staff permit at the hospital.) The mare at the front desk informed us that the check-in people were running behind schedule, and that we should come back in about ten minutes when they should have caught back up with the paperwork. Becky and I both thought that this was really funny, since we had been in such a rush to get there on time. “Well,” I shrugged “would you like to go down to the food court and get some coffee or something. As long as we’re waiting anyway, I mean…” “Sure.” She shrugged, taking my paw and heading towards the dining hall.
The food court was surprisingly nice, Becky got an apple danish, and I got a cup of tea before we went back to the receptionist. After apologizing for the inconvenience, she gave us the forms that I needed to fill out, and after all the paperwork and admittance formalities were taken care of we were ushered into a little pre-op room where she gave me a pair of what looked like pajama bottoms, and after instructing me to put them on, left us alone. Shivering a little bit, I stripped down (discreetly disposing of my diaper in the trashcan under the sink) and put on my pajama bottoms. “You know,” Becky pointed out as I hopped back up on the table “I do believe that those are the same fabric as one of your rompers…” “I think you’re right.” I decided with a half-hearted little giggle.
Sitting there on the table, I couldn’t help but think about my impending surgery. Taking my cup of tea, I tried to sip some, hoping it would calm me down a little bit, but my paw was shaking so badly that I spilled most of it on the ground before I even drank any. Watching this, Becky grew a little bit alarmed. “What’s wrong Nick? You’re absolutely pale.” “Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.” I stuttered, not meeting her eyes. Getting up and coming over to sit next to me on the table, she put her paws under my muzzle and gently turned my head so I would look her in the eyes. “Nick, tell me what’s wrong.” She asked kindly. “I had some bad things happen to me when I was a little kit, and I guess it kind of messed me up a little bit. The idea of being back in a hospital, having surgery again…Becky, I’m very, very scared.” I whispered, looking absolutely miserable. Taking my trembling paws in hers, Becky put her arms around me and kissed me on the muzzle. “It’s going to be okay, really. I’m not going to leave you for a second, okay?” “Do you promise?” I whispered. “I promise.”
I woke up some hours after my surgery with a dull ache in my side, snuggled up with Rufus in my arms. I could feel Becky brushing my headfur back out of my eyes. “Are you awake little one?” she whispered quietly from somewhere a little ways in front of me. “Uh huh.” I mumbled. “You should rest some more.” She explained, rubbing me behind the ears. “But I’m…not…tired…” I mumbled before drifting back to sleep.
Becky had been true to her promise. After speaking with the surgeon, (and an assisting phone call from Dr. Fawdan) they had reluctantly agreed to let her sit with me during the surgery. She disappeared quickly through one of the many sets of doors labeled “Authorized Personnel Only” to emerge a few minutes later wearing the same light blue outfit as all the staff members I had seen so far. She held my paw when the anesthesiologist arrived to hook up my IV drip, giving my paw a reassuring squeeze and whispering “It’s okay, I’m here.” when I started to feel panicky again as I felt the icy fluid from the drip tracking its way down my arm. And the last thing I remember seeing before I went under was Becky reaching over me to tuck the blanket in around me while the doctor was adjusting the overhead light at the other end of the table.
When I woke up the second time it was for real, and Becky was still sitting in her chair by the side of the bed, reading one of her textbooks. Her ears swiveled towards me as I shifted around a little bit, rustling the sheets. Putting in her bookmark, she turned and smiled at me cheerfully “Feeling any better after your nap?” “Uh huh.” I nodded, scooting over to the edge of the bed right next to her, then grabbing Rufus and my pillow and setting up house there. A little bit hesitantly I reached down by the edge of the bed, and found Becky’s tail, which joined Rufus and I on the pillow. Becky watched with a somewhat confused look as I curled up with my plush fox and the end of her tail, evidentially quite content to lie quietly and watch her study. “You’re a funny little kit.” She commented, deciding that if snuggling up with her tail kept my mind away from old and painful ghosts I was more than welcome to it.
We spent the next few hours like that, Becky studying, and me idly watching her, or dozing peacefully (for the most part). We were interrupted every now and then by a doctor or nurse coming in to check on various things: Copying down information from a variety of different places, changing the fluid bag on the IV drip, and at one point, taking my temperature and blood pressure. The nurse seemed to be pleased by the results from this endeavor, and Becky did as well when the nurse showed her the chart on her way out of the room. About forty-five minutes later, the surgeon dropped in with a folder of papers, which he explained (mostly to Becky as I was only vaguely paying attention) were my instructions for taking care of everything until I came back in two weeks later to have my stitches taken out. Becky, knowing that I wasn’t exactly capable of taking detailed instructions, let alone asking coherent and meaningful questions, discussed whatever needed discussing, and shook the surgeon’s paw before he showed himself back out.
Kneeling down by the edge of the bed, Becky explained to me that “The surgeon said that we can leave as soon as you feel up to it. I finished all the paperwork earlier while you were still asleep, so we’re all good there too.” “I think I’m able to go now.” I shrugged, sitting up and somewhat groggily dragging myself to my feet with (to my great surprise) nowhere near as much discomfort as I had been expecting “I wouldn’t have me drive us home or anything, but I’ll be able to walk to the car…” Then as an afterthought I added “Right after I get out of the little boy’s room.” My little room was intended for recovery and not a long term stay, so it didn’t have it’s own bathroom, and I had to go down the hall a few doors to the central one for the suite of rooms. I did my business as quickly as possible under the circumstances (no easy task when one is tired, sore, and more than a little bit wobbly on their paws), then returned to my little room to change back into my street clothes.
Back in the room, Becky helped me change clothes since I couldn’t bend much because of the stitches. I stepped into my jeans, and Becky pulled them up and threaded my tail through the tail-hole. Then she got my shirt and helped me slip it on and do the buttons. “It’s a good thing you didn’t wear a T-shirt.” She commented “I’m not sure if we could have gotten you back in it!” “Probably not.” I agreed, hurrying with the buttons. The air conditioning was already giving me goosebumps on the spot where they had shaved off a patch of my fur before surgery. “And there we go!” Becky grinned, turning down my collar and brushing a stray piece of headfur out of the way “All done, and we’re ready to go home!”
I took Rufus in one paw, and Becky’s paw in the other, and we slowly began the walk back towards the entryway. I quickly realized that I was in worse condition than I had thought I was, and we had to make three short breaks on the way to the door. Finally, after what seemed to me like an eternity, but really was probably a couple of minutes we arrived at the main lobby. Finding an empty sofa, Becky told me to sit and wait for her to get back. “I’m going to pull the car around to the front so you don’t have to hike all the way across the parking lot.” She explained “I’ll be back in ten minutes, okay my love?” “I’ll be here.” I grinned wryly “Hell, I’m not even sure how far I could get right now if I wanted to move.” Ruffling my headfur, she disappeared out the front doors.
Slouching a little bit, I looked idly around the lobby, but there really wasn’t much to see, and after brief consideration I decided it wasn’t worth getting a magazine to read, after all Becky would be right back. Just as I was starting to settle in a bit a female rabbit came through the front door, closely followed by a young rabbit who was clutching his arm to his chest. Walking towards the admittance desk, the female stopped in front of my couch. “Sit down here, okay Benny? Mommy has got to go get some things from the people at the desk.” Nodding unhappily, Benny seated himself at the other end of my couch while his mom went to admit him.
Benny looked to be about five or six years old, and judging by the mud and grass stains that were prevalent on his shirt probably had just sustained some battle damage in the great outdoors. “So,” I asked, mildly curious “how did you do that?” “I was climbing a tree, and I fell out.” He sniffled. “Yeah, that can happen sometimes.” I nodded sympathetically “But don’t worry, they’ll fix it up, nothing to worry about.” “Mommy says I need to be more careful.” Benny commented, looking a little bit embarrassed. “Me too.” I grinned “I’m here because I slipped on some wet steps the other day.” “Really?” the little rabbit asked, beginning to look a lot happier thinking about other things. “Yep. They had to take out a little piece of bone that got broken.” I nodded seriously, lifting up my T-shirt to show him the neat row of stitches. “Neat.” Benny giggled, obviously quite impressed “Does it hurt a lot?” “A little bit.” I shrugged “Not as much as it used to.” “Do you think I’ll get stitches?” he asked eagerly. “I don’t know.” I shrugged “You’ll have to ask the doctor…” “Nick! Are you being a bad influence again?” Becky asked humorously, having apparently snuck up behind me when I wasn’t paying attention. “Honestly, I can’t leave you alone for five minutes, can I?” Standing up and taking Becky’s paw, I explained to Benny “Well, looks like my ride’s here…hope you get better soon.” “Bye-bye.” He waved as Becky and I headed for the front door.
“Make a new friend, did you?” Becky grinned as she got the car door for me before getting in the driver’s side and pulling out onto the road. “I guess you could say that.” I shrugged “He seemed pretty nervous, so I thought I’d see if I could take his mind off of things for a bit.” “That was sweet of you.” She nodded. Shrugging noncommittally, I found the buttons for moving my seat and reclined it back most of the way. Then, closing my eyes, I did my best to curl up within the confines of the seatbelt. “Still a little bit tired, huh?” Becky asked, patting me on the shoulder. “Uh huh.” Came my sleepy reply as I let myself slide into an impromptu little nap.
The next thing I knew Becky was gently shaking me awake. “We’re home little guy.” She cajoled “Wouldn’t you rather come inside and finish your nap in bed instead of sleeping out here in the car?” “Car good.” I groaned “Less walking that way.” “If you sleep in the car you’ll be sore when you wake up.” Becky explained logically. Eventually her persistence paid off, and I managed to force myself to get up and go inside. “Off to bed with you now, you need your rest.” Becky declared as she steered me in the general direction of the bedroom.
Flopping down on the bed, I made a half-hearted attempt to burrow under the covers and go back to sleep. For some reason I was beginning to feel dizzy and a little bit nauseous, and lying back down was looking more and more attractive. After all, I had absolutely no intention of eating dinner today (even if it wasn’t too early for it anyway…). “Hold on a second!” Becky grinned “You’re not going to go to sleep like that are you?” With that she sat down very carefully on the edge of the bed. Unlacing my hiking boots, she slipped them off, putting them quietly down by my nightstand. My socks and pants quickly followed, and Becky was soon unbuttoning my shirt before that too was hung up on the back of a chair.
“I’ll be right back, okay?” she commented over her shoulder as she disappeared out into the hallway, to return a moment later with her diaper bag from the other day’s trip to the mall. I tried to be as helpful as I could under the circumstances, but Becky had a bit more trouble than usual before she finally fastened the tapes on the fresh diaper and declared victory. “All done.” She nodded. “Uh huh…” I agreed sleepily as Becky tucked me into bed, pulling the covers up around my neck, and handing me my plush fox for company. “There we are, all safe and sound.” I heard her whisper as she turned out the lights and started for the door. “Becky?” I murmured “It’s kind of cold, could you turn up the heat a little bit?” “Of course.” She whispered, kissing me tenderly before making her exit “You just rest now my little kit.”
I never really fell asleep for any long period over the course of the afternoon. Instead I mostly just dozed off and on throughout the day. Towards late afternoon Becky came back in to check on me, carrying her school backpack with her. “I need to study for that test I have coming up.” She explained “And I thought that unless it would bother you I could use the table in here and keep you company for a while.” “It won’t bother me.” I agreed in my small voice, shifting around in bed a little so I could watch her set up her working area. Before long she was studying intently, and I was just sort of enjoying the simple joys of some warm blankets and pleasant company.
Looking up from her work, Becky saw that Nick had drifted off to sleep again. He was snuggled up with his little plush friend, and had a happy little grin on his muzzle, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Smiling a little herself, she stood up to stretch a little bit—its never good to sit in one place too long, inevitably one’s tail will fall asleep, or one will develop all sorts of little aches and pains, or something. Still smiling to herself, Becky quietly padded over to the side of the bed and rubbed Nick behind his ears before deciding to go down to the kitchen to get a drink.
There were sodas in the refrigerator, but they’d not been there long enough to be cold yet, and after some good-humored (and somewhat melodramatic) groaning, she eventually decided on a glass of iced tea. Getting the sugar bowl off the dining room table, and finding some mint leaves in the spice cupboard, Becky soon had a quite satisfactory drink, and after grabbing a small bowl of chips for a snack, she was resigning herself to returning to the evil clutches of her studies when that train of thought was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. Much to her surprise, Becky found Dr. Fawdan on the other side of the door with a ‘get well’ balloon and a potted plant. “I thought I’d drop by and see how everything went.” She explained as Becky showed her inside. “Nick’s doing pretty well.” Becky informed Dr. Fawdan “But I’m not sure if he’s awake right now, let me go check…”
I had just woken up again, and was thinking about getting up to find Becky when she poked her muzzle in the doorway. “I see you’re awake.” She smiled cheerfully “How do you feel about having a visitor?” “A visitor?” I shrugged curiously “I wouldn’t mind a visitor, I guess…” I was more than a little bit surprised when Dr. Fawdan walked into the room. “How are you feeling?” she asked, setting a nice little ‘get well’ bouquet on my nightstand and claiming the room’s one chair. “Not too terribly bad.” I yawned “Though I’d be lying if I said I’d not felt better…” Becky, meanwhile, had settled down cross legged next to me on the bed, displacing Rufus to one of the pillows.
“I’m flattered that you took the time to drive down here.” I commented, examining my new plant (and deciding that I liked it). “Mostly I needed an excuse to get out of my office. Those pesky students always seem to find me there.” She joked “I had quite a time finding you two kids though, I almost gave up for a while there.” “We are a bit out of the way here.” Becky laughed “But you have to admit, it’s a lot more peaceful than around campus!” “You’ve a nice little place here…” Dr. Fawdan commented appreciatively, waving at the windows. “I never did particularly well living in cities, there’s just something claustrophobic about them.” I shrugged.
We talked for quite a while before Dr. Fawdan glanced at her watch and declared that “I’ve got to get going, I’m supposed to be teaching a class in half an hour.” Then, after reminding me to feel free to call her if I had any complications, she took her leave of us. “It was nice of her to drop by.” I commented to Becky as we returned to the living room. “Uh huh.” She nodded, heading towards the kitchen “Why don’t you go take a nap, and I’ll come get you for dinner?”
Time seemed to be moving quickly today, and before I knew it Becky was summoning me to eat. I really wasn’t feeling hungry at all (I was still feeling a little bit nauseous, truth be told) but I decided that since Becky had gone through the trouble of making dinner I should at least have the courtesy to put in an appearance, no matter how half-hearted it may be. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I stretched my paws over my head as I yawned. Immediately a white-hot pain burned down my side, causing me to let out a startled yelp and hug my sides protectively. (For all the good that would do…) “Nick? Are you okay?” Becky questioned as she quickly appeared at the doorway. “Uh huh, I think so.” I grimaced, still clutching my side. “I made the mistake of stretching before I got up.” “Oh ouch. That probably hurt.” She nodded sympathetically. Going back out into the hallway again, Becky returned with a tray of food, which she placed on my nightstand. Then, after kicking off her shoes, she sat down cross-legged next to me on the bed and helped me prop myself back up into a sort of reclining position.
“I’m really not all that hungry.” I explained apologetically “Mostly I just wanted some company.” “The surgeon was pretty adamant that you should keep your food intake up.” Becky disagreed “He thought you were a little bit underweight beforehand, so we’re going to do something about that!” “But I’m not hungry.” I said a bit more bluntly than I intended to. “Now listen.” Becky started, giving me a look that withered up any ideas of rebellion I may have potentially harbored deep down in some hidden recesses of my mind. “Doctor’s orders are doctor’s orders. They’re for your own good and in your best interests. I’m not going to debate it with you, Nick.” “Okay. I’m sorry.” I said meekly, feeling just a little bit picked on “Don’t be mad at me mommy, please?” “I’m not mad at you.” Becky responded in a less confrontational tone “I just want you to get better, my little kit.” Nodding, I gave her a hug, and things were all better again.
Reaching over to the tray she brought in with her, Becky grabbed a bib, which I had not noticed when she came in. “Do I have to wear a bib?” I questioned half-heartedly. “Unless you want to get out of bed and come to the dinner table.” She laughed. “Bib it is.” I sighed, allowing her to tie it around my neck before I leaned back down onto my pillows, placing Rufus well out of the way of hostile eatables. Becky, it turned out, had decided that she wanted to feed me herself, and slowly the bowl of chicken soup disappeared, until I had finally finished it after some fairly substantial amount of time. It really was a pleasant dinner, Becky kept up a stream of small talk, with me interjecting things here and there between spoonfuls of my soup. The soup was great, and I was beginning to get the impression that Becky could cook a lot better than she had lead me to believe. (The other possibility being that I was much hungrier than I had thought I was.)
After dinner, Becky daintily wiped my muzzle off, and dabbed up a few drops of soup from my chestfur. “Why don’t you give some thought to a nice, quiet way for us to pass the evening while I run the dishes?” Becky suggested on her way back to the kitchen. “Hmm, a nice quiet evening.” I thought aloud. Looking at the clock, I figured out that it was getting late, and I was already feeling tired again. I doubted seriously that Becky’s “Doctor’s orders” file had any provisions for me catching a movie or going to a club downtown in it anywhere (not that I really wanted to) so all of that put a big crimp in the potential plans for the evening. “Who really cares?” I thought to myself “All I really want to do right now is…” Grinning, I waited for Becky to come back.
“So, what have you decided on?” she asked playfully as she came back into the room. “Well…” I replied coyly “I gave it some serious consideration, and I was thinking that we could snuggle up in bed and just cuddle for a while. Maybe talk a bit, and then go to bed early.” “I like that plan.” She nodded, sticking a finger under the elastic of my diaper, and finding it dry. “You’re set for the evening, it seems, so just let me go shower, and I’ll be right back.”
Becky returned a short time later, smelling faintly of perfumed shampoo, and still toasty from the hairdryer. Walking around the room, she tuned off all the lights, instead lighting several candles, which bathed the room in a warm glow. I watched her with a feeling of contentment as she got everything to her liking, and then crawled under the sheets next to me, radiating hairdryer warmth in a most agreeable manner. “This is nice.” I mumbled, my muzzle buried in her fur “You smell good.” “Why thank you.” Becky laughed, finding that quite amusing for some reason.
“I was curious,” Becky started cautiously after a time “You mentioned having some bad things happen to you while you were cub, and I notice that you really do act pretty shy, and I guess I was wondering if you wanted to talk about it.” That took me at a bit of a loss for a moment before I could decide upon a response. “Okay.” I hesitated “But promise me you won’t discuss it with anyone…” “I promise.” She nodded, hugging me, and then just deciding not to let go.
“When I was first starting middle school, I ended up going to a school that none of my old friends had gone to, so I was the new kid. And, well, I was somewhat more…bookish than I am now. So some of my ‘classmates’ took it upon themselves to beat me up every day for the next five years. They played all sorts of nasty little tricks on me, just any opportunity to tear me down. I don’t even remember much of it any more, I’m repressing it, I guess. Just bits and pieces, getting kicked in the head and forgetting how to find my way home, having someone put a pin in my backpack strap which got jammed all the way into my back when I put on the pack, other students taking my things, throwing my stuff across the hallway. Telling me that I was stupid and ugly and worthless… I didn’t have any friends really, and the teachers didn’t care. They said it was just part of growing up. Nobody cared about me… Nobody cares… No one… I’m a bad person…” Breaking down, I began to sniffle. Soon I was sobbing uncontrollably, and shaking all over.
“I’m so sorry.” Becky whispered, hugging me to her as hard as she could “Oh precious, I care about you.” We sat there for a long, long time, with Becky just holding me as I cried, and more little bits and pieces came out until I eventually quieted back down to sniffles again. When I finally calmed down enough that I wasn’t trembling any more, Becky looked me in the eyes and made a promise. “Nick, I love you, and I promise that I’ll always be here for you.” “ I love you too.” I said in little more than a whisper “And it really scared me. What if after I fell in love with you you decided you didn’t like me after all? What if you went away?” “Oh, Nick…” she whispered, nearly crying herself “You’re not a bad person, and it makes me feel awful to hear you say that about yourself.” The whole ordeal had been physically and emotionally exhausting to me, and lying there in the safety and comfort of Becky’s arms, her tail draped across me almost like a scarf I began to slowly drift off again. “…Like you being my mommy.” I mumbled, growing less intelligible as I sank into sleep “…feels safe here. Makes me happy…” Then, as I closed my eyes, and my breathing sunk into the rhythm of the sleeping I added, “I love you mommy Becky.” Kissing me gently on the nose, she whispered back “I love you too my little kit.” Before joining me in the land of dreams.
I awoke again to Becky gently shaking me. A panicky feeling was washing over me, which I vaguely felt was because of a nightmare I had been having, but whenever I tried to remember the dream, it managed to just slip through my grasp. “You were sniffling, did my little kit have a bad dream?” Becky asked sympathetically, wrapping her arms around me and holding me comfortingly. “Uh huh. But I can’t remember what it was…” I nodded, feeling a little confused by the whole thing. “There, there. It’s okay…” Becky whispered, rubbing me behind the ears “It was only a dream.” “It was only a dream…” I repeated groggily. A dream or not, I snuggled up closer to Becky, and felt her wrap her arms around me. “You’re having a disconcerting night, aren’t you?” Nodding a little bit, I closed my eyes again and hugged Rufus to my chest, also finding the end of Becky’s tail and wrapping that around myself too. Things were being scary right now, and in my half-asleep state I had no intention of taking any chances of waking up all alone in the darkness and the cold.
I was kind of hesitant to go back to sleep. I mean, what if my nightmares were just waiting for me to return? Gradually I could feel myself calming down again. The tension left my muscles, and the involuntarily puffed-up fur on the scruff of my neck began to flatten back out as well. Then Becky started to rub my back, which was very nice indeed. Before too long I had gotten quite wrapped up in it, letting out a little sigh of contentment. “See, that’s better, isn’t it?” Becky whispered “You look so happy lying there with a bit of your tongue poking out the edge of your muzzle. Maybe not very bright, mind you, but certainly happy…” Becky’s joke however was completely lost on me: I had drifted back off into a cozy, dreamless sleep, my muzzle buried deeply in her tail’s soft fur. Finally noticing that I was asleep when the expected reply failed to materialize, Becky looked a little bit put out for a second, then smiled as she had an idea. Finding that my tail was quite conveniently located, she snuggled up with it, burying her muzzle in its fur as I had done. Becky looked a little bit quizzical for a second as she absorbed the new feeling of soft warmth before deciding that there really was something to this, and shortly thereafter drifting off to sleep as well.
The next morning Becky announced that she had to go down to campus. “The only class I’ve got today is the weekly lab section for Dr. Fawdan’s class, and I really can’t miss that.” She explained over breakfast “It’s pretty long though, a three hour block.” Sipping my tea as I thumbed through the newspaper I shrugged. “Maybe I’ll go with you…” I mused “I’m caught up on all my work for the time being, and there really isn’t a whole lot to do around here…well, that I can do in my present condition anyway.” Finishing off the doughnut that she had been eating, Becky nodded an affirmative. “Well, I don’t think anyone would mind particularly if you showed up and hung around, as long as you promise not to snore too loudly when you get bored and fall asleep!” “I think I can manage to keep from embarrassing you.” I grinned “And maybe we could get some sandwiches or something and have a picnic lunch down at the park.” “Maybe we could.” She nodded “Would you like that my little kit?” “Uh huh.” I nodded, taking her paw as we went to get her school stuff from the office.
My little office had turned out to be a really great idea, and both Becky and I would quickly grow to appreciate having an orderly little room set aside just for schoolwork. “You know,” I mused while she packed her backpack “We should get another desk and maybe a second pair of book cases for in here… That way we could keep all the school stuff in nice, neat piles. Maybe put a sofa along the wall with a couple of reading lamps, this could be a really nice little spot.” Laughing, Becky pointed out that “All it has to have to be better than where I used to study is peace and quiet!” “That has a simple, honest logic to it.” I replied seriously, doing my best to look studious. Becky had finally rounded up everything she needed for her class, and slinging her pack over one shoulder, she rubbed me behind my ears and declared that it was time to head out.
The ride down to campus was uneventful as usual, before too much time had passed we had arrived and Becky was helping me out of the car. “I got us here with plenty of extra time to get where we’re going.” She assured me after noticing my furtive glances at my wristwatch. “Okay, I just didn’t want you to be late because of me.” “Don’t worry so much Nick.” Becky sighed theatrically, holding out her paw. I took it and we began walking in the general direction of the medical building we had paid a visit to yesterday. It was a really nice day out, the sun was shining and there was a little bit of a breeze playing its way through our headfur. “It would have been nice to go for a hike in the woods with Becky today…” I thought to myself as I walked along with her. I guess I was kind of staring off into space for a minute or so, and it startled me a little bit when she put her paw on my shoulder. “You just walked by the building.” she pointed out, not showing the least signs of annoyance with my obvious mistake. Nodding wryly, I followed her inside and up to the teaching theater we had been to yesterday with Dr. Fawdan.
Walking into the room, I glanced around briefly as it became painfully obvious that the day’s lab was going to be a group activity of some sort. “I probably ought to keep out of the way…I’ll meet up with you after class.” I explained to Becky, watching her shrug apologetically as I made my way back out into the hallway. “Sorry Nick, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a lecture today…” “No big deal.” I shrugged, closing the door behind me.
“Well,” I mused to myself as I looked up and down the empty hallway “What exactly am I going to do with myself now?” “You could keep me company for a while if you’d like.” A voice behind me suggested. Turning around I saw the cheetah who was the x-ray technician when I was being examined by Dr. Fawdan the other day. “Where did you come from?” I asked, thinking that I hadn’t heard him walk up. “My office.” He shrugged “I have to be here during lab times in case Dr. Fawdan wants to use the equipment for her lessons. We could play cards or something if you want, I get pretty bored just sitting around waiting for them to decide they need me…” Thinking it over briefly, I decided that would be a good idea. And it’s not like I had a whole lot else to do while I was waiting for Becky to get out of her lab. “Sure.” I nodded “You’re Rick, right?” “Yep.” He nodded as I followed him a little way down the hall.
Rick showed me into the little office that was adjacent to the x-ray room, and waved me towards the collection of mismatched furniture. His office was a lot like Dr. Fawdan’s: sort of an organized chaos with a selection of old but very comfortable looking furniture partially covered by a mix of books and papers along with the occasional Styrofoam coffee cup. Picking a very orange armchair which also happened to be devoid of paper at the moment, I gingerly sat down, immediately sinking into the cushiony chair. Sliding a coffee table over to where I was sitting, Rick flopped down onto the sofa that ran under the window overlooking the equipment in the next room. “So, how did you meet Becky?” he asked curiously. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at the thought. “Oh boy, that’s kind of embarrassing…” “Spill it.” Rick grinned “I promise I won’t laugh.”
“Well, we have a class together this semester.” I began “And after the last test I was walking home, slipped and fell into the fountain over on the South Mall. I was kind of out of it and the weather was pretty bad, so she drug me over to her apartment to warm up. After she ripped all my clothes off we got to talking and things kind of went from there.” “That’s strange.” Rick said very seriously “Typically one gets to talking first and then rips each other’s clothes off…” “So how do you know Becky?” I shrugged, trying to change the subject before I began blushing even more noticeably than I already was. “Hmm? Oh, we’re both in the medical program, and have had classes together a couple of times. Plus I was dating a guy who lived in the apartment across from hers for a while…” Nodding, I yawned slightly. “So what do you do here?” I asked, looking around. Shrugging a little bit, Rick started to explain. “Well, I’m not entirely a T.A., and I’m not entirely a technician…I work the x-ray and CT scanners, but I also help Dr. Fawdan grade papers and stuff like that. Most of the time it’s pretty boring, but it pays me a little bit, so I’ve got money to spend.” Turning to root around in his desk drawer for a while, Rick dug out a pack of playing cards, and began to idly deal them out onto the card table.
It turned out that we were pretty evenly matched as far as card playing went, and after a while I broached the possibility of playing for drinks, “just to make things a little bit interesting.” Rick liked the idea, and soon the game had begun in earnest. I was up by almost a six-pack when Mrs. Fawdan and her lab class arrived. “Hmm…Guess they needed the equipment this week after all.” Rick commented, looking mildly surprised as he got up to meet them in the adjoining room “I’ll be back after I get them set up.”
Yawning a little bit, I found the lever that made the recliner lean back and made myself a little bit more comfortable. As I sunk down into the overstuffed armchair, I had to admit to myself that I was starting to feel kind of sleepy. “But then I’ve got a right to be, don’t I?” I rationalized, trying to find a reason not to be annoyed at myself for being tired in the middle of the morning. I grew more and more drowsy as I waited for Rick to finish up and get back to our card game, and at some point I must have finally drifted off to sleep, because the next thing I know I was being gently shaken awake. “Hey Nick, rise and shine!” someone cheerfully instructed. Sighing a bit at being woken from what had been up until then quite a pleasant nap, I opened my eyes to find Rick and Becky sitting across from me on the sofa Rick had occupied earlier during our card game. “There he is.” Rick chuckled “I was beginning to think you were going to be here all afternoon.” “Huh?” I asked intelligently, looking to Becky for some clarification. “Class is over.” She explained patiently, reaching over to rub me behind the ears “Rick let you sleep through the rest of my lab.” “Oh.” I yawned, obviously still confused and not quite awake.
“Didn’t you want to finish our card game?” I questioned Rick as I gradually came back to reality. “I didn’t want to wake you up.” He smiled “You looked so cute sleeping there with your fur all mussed up and your thumb in your muzzle. Beginning to scowl a little bit, I searched his expression for signs I was being laughed at, but to my surprise none were readily apparent. “Oh don’t start sulking.” Becky laughed, tousling my headfur “You really do, you know…” “Great. I look cute.” I groused “Other people get to look intelligent, or distinguished, or dignified, or even stunningly handsome, but I get stuck looking cute.” “There’s nothing wrong with cute.” Becky argued good naturedly “I happen to like cute.” “Besides,” Rick grinned “Who says you can’t be more than one?”
Sitting down next to me on the sofa, Becky put her arm around my shoulder, and began to scratch behind my ear. “Come on Nick, don’t be mad.” She cajoled as my annoyance quickly melted under her strategic ear-scratching, until before too long I was smiling too. “There, that’s better.” She nodded, then as an afterthought added “Now we probably ought to clear out of here so Rick can go to his next class.” Helping me up, we headed back out to the hallway with Rick following behind us. “Was I really sucking my thumb?” “I’m afraid so.” She nodded with mock seriousness.
“So, what would you like to do for lunch?” Becky questioned as we stepped back out into the late morning sunshine. “I don’t know.” I shrugged “I don’t really have a preference at this point, you decide.” “Hmm…” she mused as we walked along the path in the general direction of the student union. “It’s a nice day out, what do you think about grabbing something and having a little picnic down in the park?” “Sounds good to me.” I agreed readily. Taking her paw in mine, I followed Becky, leaving the choice of what to eat for lunch completely up to her.
Lunch turned out to be a fairly tasty selection of deli fare, and by the time we made it down to the park and had found a nice, secluded spot to settle down, I was quite looking forward to it. “Mmm…Lunchtime!” I grinned as Becky offered me a sandwich. “Oh? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were hungry. Why didn’t you say something?” she asked with a perfectly straight face before breaking into a fit of giggles a few seconds later. Sighing deeply I shook my head. “Must I always be the mature adult?” I asked rhetorically. For some mysterious reason Becky found that even funnier. (Gee, I wonder why?) Just shaking my head, I calmly started in on my sandwich while she regained her composure. “Silly little kit.” she smiled, finally regaining some semblance of dignity.
It was a good day for a picnic, and neither Becky nor I were quite willing to leave after everything had been eaten. We lounged around for a good part of the afternoon, just talking about nothing in particular and watching the clouds drift by. Finally Becky looked at her watch and reluctantly decided that “We really ought to be going, as nice as it is here it’s about time to head back home.” “Well, if we must we must.” I nodded. Standing up, I did my best to stretch without hurting anything, which must have been a really ridiculous sight. Much to Becky’s credit, she managed to stifle the giggle I was sure was trying to escape from her muzzle. “Still a little bit sore?” she asked rhetorically as she took my paw and led the way back to her car.
The ride home was uneventful, and before I knew it we were pulling into the garage again. “Why don’t you sit down for a bit?” Becky suggested as we passed the living room “I’ll be back in a second.” Nodding I flopped down on one of the sofas and put a paw over my eyes. “I can’t believe that I’m getting tired already.” I sighed to myself. After a bit of a debate, I eventually resigned myself to taking a nap, and was just settling down when Becky returned from parts unknown. Bath time little foxy!” she declared, sitting down on the floor right next to where I was lying. “But I’m tired!” I protested “I don’t feel like doing much of anything except for taking a good long nap.” “Well, I think this will make you feel a bit better, it’ll be good stress relief.” I couldn’t find a nice way to extract myself from whatever Becky had planned, so instead I resolutely followed her. “I thought that since you’d be had these muscle pains for the last couple of days maybe what you need is a good long soak in a nice hot bath!”
Hearing this my ears perked up a little bit. I had to admit, it would be really nice to just soak for a while. I began to smile unconsciously until a thought happened to hit me. “Hey Becky, how am I supposed to keep my stitches dry?” I asked curiously. “I was going to help you a little.” She laughed playfully “Unless you think you could handle it by yourself…” “I’ll gratefully accept any help you would like to give me.” I yielded gracefully, walking into the bathroom to see that Becky had the water already drawn in a foaming mass of bubbles. “Well…that’s certainly something.” I commented, a little at a loss for words.
Becky was showing no particular inclination to leave while I got ready for my bath, and I was well past the point of being embarrassed by her watching me undress (well, mostly anyway) so I just sort of shrugged a little bit and started picking at my shirt buttons. “You know,” I commented, feeling a little bit aggravated “I thought a button-down shirt would be a lot less trouble for me right now, but for some reason these stupid sleeve buttons never want to come undone.” “Poor little foxy, losing an argument with a shirt…” she grinned as she took my arm and deftly undid the buttons in question “Don’t worry, I’ll defeat those evil buttons!” “My hero.” I grinned back, giving her a little kiss on the muzzle. Twirling my shirt around theatrically, she tied it around her neck by the sleeves, making an impromptu cape, then proceeded to strike heroic poses while I stepped out of my jeans and slipped into the cloud of bubbles engulfing my bathtub.
The warm water felt absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t help but let out a little sigh of pleasure as I submerged myself in the bath. “Nice?” Becky asked, sitting down by the side of the tub. “Uh huh.” I nodded, closing my eyes “Very nice.” Becky let me just soak for a while, then announced that “We ought to get my little kit all nice and clean before the water gets cold.” “But if you put soap in the water, all the bubbles will go away!” I protested “And if the bubbles go away I won’t have anything to play with.” “I think we can remedy that problem.” Becky laughed, beginning to rummage around in one of the bathroom cabinets, producing a rubber ducky which she set on the side of the bathtub. “I didn’t know I had one of those…” I mused, setting the ducky afloat amongst the bubble icebergs of the bathtub ocean. “You didn’t, I got that last time I went to the store.” Becky explained, scooping up a pawful of bubbles and putting them on the end of my nose.
I tried to focus on the bubbles, and discovered that I could just see them if I crossed my eyes a little bit. “Silly foxy.” Becky laughed “You really are cute, you know that?” Sticking out my tongue at her, I took a pawful of bubbles myself, and deposited it right on the end of her nose. “So there.” I laughed “Who’s cute now?” She just grinned and started working some shampoo into my headfur. Closing my eyes again, I did my best to just relax. I was a little bit nervous about having someone else give me a bath, even if it was Becky, but it felt really nice, and I got over my initial hesitation quickly. I couldn’t help but wince a little bit as she started washing around my newly acquired stitches (and the rather nasty bruise that came with them), but Becky was very gentle, and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. “There, all clean!” she announced before I knew it. I was not terribly surprised when I found myself a little bit disappointed that it was over as I was getting out of the tub.
“Now let’s get you dried off, okay?” Nodding my agreement I held up my paws as she wrapped me in a big, fluffy towel and started using another one to get as much of the water out of my fur as she could. “Hold still, I’m going to dry around your stitches.” Becky instructed. “Okay.” I nodded, feeling a little worried. I shouldn’t have, Becky was careful, and it didn’t hurt as much as it had when I was in my bath. “That’s probably about all I’m going to be able to get out with towels.” She decided before grabbing the hairdryer off the counter. I always enjoyed hairdryers, there’s just something about the feeling of the warm air blowing through my fur that I absolutely love. Becky must have noticed how much I was enjoying it because she took far longer with the hairdryer than she really needed to, but finally finished up. “All done foxy.” She smiled, scratching me behind the ears “Now why don’t you hop up on the counter and I’ll get you ready for the evening?”
Becky disappeared out into the hallway as I sat down on the table, to return with her backpack of changing supplies. “Lift up a little bit.” She instructed, getting a diaper out of the bag. “Here we go!” she nodded, threading my tail through the tail hole of the diaper, then sliding it under my bottom. She added a sprinkle of powder to my diaper area, then pulled up the front of the diaper and fastened the tapes. “All done!” Becky grinned as she helped me down from the table.
I was a little bit confused when Becky took me by the paw and led me to the bedroom. Sitting down on the foot of the bed, she patted the spot next to her. “Hop up here little guy.” I scrambled up to the spot she had offered, and sat down cross legged before asking her “Don’t I get my sleeper?” “Patience little one, all in good time.” Becky explained, smiling at the worried look on my muzzle. Grabbing a brush from her nightstand, she instructed me to “Turn around a little bit, okay?” Nodding, I complied without further complaint.
“If you don’t get your fur brushed out before it dries all the way it gets harder to deal with later.” Becky explained as she began to methodically brush my headfur. “Uh huh.” I nodded, not really paying too much attention to her explanation. I really kind of enjoyed all the attention she was giving me, and exactly why she felt the need to brush out my fur didn’t really seem too important to me. I soon discovered that there was something really relaxing about it, and by the time that Becky had started fluffing up my tail I found myself having to stifle the urge to yawn. “Are you getting a bit sleepy?” she asked, pausing in her brushing for a moment. “A little bit.” I admitted. “Well I’m almost done, and then we’ll find your sleeper and get you into bed.” Becky promised as she finished combing out the patch of white fur on my tummy and started working on my tail. “You know,” she added as an afterthought “You have a really nice, fluffy tail…”
Becky dug around in the closet for a minute before finally deciding on which sleeper I’d try out tonight. She emerged with a light blue one with a teddy bear print. “How about this one for today?” she asked with mock seriousness, holding it up for my approval. “Okay.” I nodded cheerfully. I was beginning to really look forward to this, and wasn’t concerned greatly with which sleeper Becky chose at this point. They were all soft and cuddly, and that was what mattered right now. After I had donned my sleeper (and was beginning to drift off a little bit if truth be told) Becky retrieved a bottle from the kitchen. “I thought you might like a little bit of something before bedtime.” She explained. Setting the bottle on her nightstand, Becky fluffed up the pillows, propping them up a little bit so that she could lean on them more comfortably. I, meanwhile, had crawled up next to her, and settled down a bit in anticipation.
Wrapping one paw around my shoulders and cradling me gently against her chest, she held the bottle for me. Accepting the nipple into my muzzle, I was a little bit surprised to discover that it was filled with warm milk. “No juice?” I asked curiously. “Warm milk is good for bedtimes.” Becky informed me seriously. I paused for a second, distracted by trying to see if there was any traces of humor beyond the serious air she was extruding. Sensing nothing of the sort I decided that she was quite serious, and, giving a mental shrug took the nipple back in my mouth. I’d never tried warm milk before (well, at least not on purpose…) and while it was a little bit odd at first I quickly grew to like it. “Don’t drink so fast” Becky had to admonish “you may choke, lying down like that.” I shook my head to the contrary, but nonetheless slowed down my drinking.
One notable side effect of warm milk, as I discovered, is that it acts as a great sleeping agent. I found myself more and more often having to pop the bottle out of my mouth so I could yawn without making a mess. Becky obviously couldn’t help but notice that her little kit was growing more and more sleepy, and I idly watched her watch me with a sense of maternal amusement. “You really are a tired little boy, aren’t you?” she finally asked. I decided that her question was rhetorical, since I was already most of the way asleep. Instead I finished up the last tiny bit of my bottle before letting out a little burp of contentment. “Sowwy.” I mumbled, snuggling up to Becky and closing my eyes “I didn’t mwean to…” “It’s okay.” she shrugged, gently patting me on the back a few times and getting another little burp for her troubles.
Closing my eyes I just let my mind wander while I waited for sleep to claim me. I could hear Becky completing her bedtime tasks, and then felt her crawl back into bed, pulling the blankets around us. She then put Rufus in my arms before wrapping me in hers and whispering “Good night Nick.” “Nite-nite.” I whispered back before finally succumbing to sleep’s beckoning embrace.
I had a very pleasant dream that night. Becky and I had gone on a short vacation into the Western Mountains, and had set up camp in a beautiful, secluded little spot that I could just feel was well and truly away from all the irritations of college life: no deadlines, no tests, no crowds and no assignments, just Becky and I in the great outdoors. The smell of the pine trees, and the sound of a bubbling mountain stream just down the hillside from our campsite. Dinner had been over for some time, and we had some lawn chairs set up in the bed of the pickup truck, sharing a bottle of wine and watching the sun slowly set behind the hills. It was a very pleasant place to just stop and get away from it all for a while. Our idle discussion of nothing in particular slowly dwindled off as the stars came out and it became apparent that there was a meteor shower going on. It was a spectacular sight. As the evening slowly progressed we just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a really special time. Finally, well into the wee hours of the morning, Becky took my paw in hers and led me down to the banks of the picturesque little stream, and we curled up together in a hammock strung by the water to be lulled to sleep by the gentle sounds of running water.
I woke up the next morning when Becky checked to see if I was wet before she went to get some breakfast started. “You’re absolutely soaked Nick.” She tisked “We need to get you changed first thing…” Remembering my dream from last night, I began to giggle “It was probably because I slept next to that creek all night. You know, the sound of running water and all…” Becky just looked at me oddly but didn’t ask. I guess she wrote it off as me not being completely awake and coherent.
“Come on, to the bathroom with you little guy!” Becky laughed cheerfully as I made a great show of groggily sitting up in bed, only to slump back down and try my best to relocate the comfortably warm nest I had made for myself. “No. Wanna go back naptime.” I groaned, burying my muzzle under a pillow “Nice under here. Like it.” “Now Nick, let’s be a big boy about this for a minute, okay? If you don’t get changed you’ll develop a rash, you don’t want that do you?” she countered logically. I could see her point, it was just a lot of trouble to drag myself out of bed. Sighing deeply I nodded “I’m going.” then took her paw and followed her to the bathroom. I hopped up on the counter while she puttered around getting all of the necessary items ready. Lying down on the cold tile I was shivering a little bit by the time Becky had everything ready. “Hmm, we really ought to get a diaper pad for that counter, you’ve started to shiver on a pretty regular basis up there.” She mused, more to herself than to me “I’ll have to look in to ordering something…”
Becky undid the tapes and folded down the front of the diaper, then instructed me to “Lift up for a second.”. I did, and she slid the out old diaper out from under me, then cleaned off my bottom with a baby wipe before sliding my tail through the tail hole in a clean diaper and letting me lay back down. Then, taking another baby wipe, she cleaned up my diaper area and applied a liberal coating of powder to everything before folding the front up and fastening the tapes on the new diaper. “Now that we’ve got that taken care of, how about some breakfast?” Becky offered as I jumped down from the counter and followed her out into the hallway.
Getting situated in the kitchen, Becky started looking through the pantry for inspiration. “So, do you feel like anything in particular for breakfast today?” she queried. Pulling out one of the stools around the kitchen counter, I sat down with an audible crinkling noise and began listing possibilities, counting them off on the fingers of one paw as I went. “Pancakes or waffles or cimanimanim woles or muffins. Or bowth.” I lisped in my small voice, nodding seriously. “I think I can manage some of that.” Becky replied, looking equally serious.
She started a small pile of ingredients on the counter, then dug out a large mixing bowl. I watched her intently with my muzzle resting on my paws as she added ingredients into the bowl, then slid it in front of me. “Why don’t you mix this for me…” she suggested, handing me a large wooden spoon before digging a package of bacon out of the refrigerator. “Okay.” I shrugged, looking down in the bowl “I suppose I can get started on the waffle pre-mix.” “Waffle pre-mix?” Becky laughed “Where in the world did that come from?” “Oh, it’s an inside joke.” I shrugged “A car-fur thing.” “I’m not even going to ask.” She laughed, getting out a frying pan.
By the time she had the bacon frying up nicely I had the waffle batter done, and was intently drawing pictures on the marble countertop with it. I had a nice little map going, and was intently filling in the details when I noticed Becky looking over my shoulder. “Errp!” I mumbled in surprise, dripping some of the waffle batter onto my lap. “I can’t leave you alone for a second, can I?” Becky asked rhetorically. Looking quite abashed, I shook my head, looking at the floor. “It’s okay, I’m not mad.” Becky laughed, seeing my guilty look and taking pity on me “What exactly is it supposed to be?” “Hmm? Oh, it’s a strata map.” I shrugged “I’ve got a test on it next week in my geology class.” “Oh.” She said noncommittally, obviously not making heads or tails of the squiggles on the counter. “No really.” I explained, pointing at my drawing “That’s karst limestone, and that’s a basaltic uplift, and those little squiggly things over there are Triassic alluvial deposits.” “You couldn’t just draw a fire truck or a doggy, could you?” Becky teased, taking the bowl of batter from me and pouring a dollop on the waffle iron. “Nope.” I laughed “I never was particularly good at fire trucks…”
It didn’t take long for Becky to get the waffles cooked up, and by the time I had gotten the table set we were almost ready to eat. “What would you like with your waffles?” Becky asked from the kitchen. “Hmm? Oh, I don’t think I’ve got much in the ‘fridge anyway.” I answered after a bit of thought “Anything you can find will be just fine.” I heard Becky rooting through the refrigerator, apparently without success because she showed up in the dining room a few minutes later with a vaguely annoyed look on her muzzle. “We’re practically out of real food.” She griped “There’s a bottle of ketchup, half a jug of milk, four beers and probably twenty pounds of brisket.” “I think there’s another six-pack in the pantry” I shrugged “so we’re good for at least another two or three days…” Becky’s look of disbelief turned into one of playful annoyance (if there is such a thing) as she realized that I was kidding. “That’s not funny.” She growled half-heartedly as she set the waffles on the table along with a bottle of syrup and jug of orange juice. “Then why are you having so much trouble not laughing?” I grinned. “I am not.” She smiled as I got up and followed her around the table, only to pounce when she turned her back on me to return to the kitchen, grabbing her around the waist and tickling her mercilessly. “Okay, okay! Truce?” she gasped out between fits of giggles. “Truce.” I agreed, returning to the table, and pulling out her chair for her.
“See, you can be charming when you want to.” She accused as she sat down and daintily served herself breakfast. “I’m always charming.” I grinned, taking my own seat for breakfast. Becky chose not to comment on that, instead starting in on her waffles. Deciding to take her tact surrender as a negotiated truce rather than an outright victory, I didn’t press the point. The waffles didn’t suffer one bit from our general lack of toppings, and in a very short time the entire plate had disappeared, while Becky and I agreed that it had been a satisfying breakfast indeed.
“So, what’s the plan for the morning?” I inquired as we cleared the table together. “Well, first and foremost you’re going to take your medications. After that, I was thinking we ought to go to the grocery store.” “Probably a good idea.” I decided, checking the refrigerator myself and finding that Becky had not been exaggerating earlier. Shooting me an “I told you so, but did you listen?” look, she set my medications out on the counter, then handed me a glass of water. Dutifully I took my pills, then went back to my bedroom to find something to wear to the store.
On the way to the grocery store Becky kept trying to discuss what we needed. I really tried to pay attention, but before too long I found myself staring out the window. “Nick? Nick!” “Huh? Oh, I’m here.” I explained hurriedly, snapping back to the present “I guess I sort of drifted off on you there. Sorry about that.” “It’s okay.” She sighed “I can probably remember most of that myself anyway…” Getting a vague feeling that I had let her down somehow, I reached across the car and rubbed Becky behind the ears. “I’m sorry, really. I guess I’m not quite all there today…Not mad?” “There you go again.” She smiled sadly, seeing my worried expression “I’m not mad at you, I promise.”
We lapsed into a silence for a while after that, and as I looked over I saw that Becky had a strange little expression on her muzzle that I really couldn’t place. “What are you thinking about?” I asked, breaking the silence “You look sad.” “I am a little bit.” Becky admitted “It bothers me when I think about you being insecure in the way that you are.” Seeing my expression of hurt and worry, she quickly assured me “No, no. Not about you being insecure, just…why. I just can’t help picturing this confused, scared little kit with nobody to go to who was safe, who would protect you or comfort you. And it makes me sad.” Reaching over, she gave my paw a reassuring squeeze. “But things change.”
We were both in a rather somber mood after that, until we were heading into the grocery store. Grabbing a cart, I informed Becky that “These things are a lot of fun to ride on.” “Hmm?” she asked, looking distracted. Grinning, I gave the cart a good, hard push down the nearest isle, lifting my paws off the ground, and riding it down the isle. Looking back, I got the impression that Becky couldn’t decide if she should be amused or furious, so she settled for a little of both. “Be good!” she admonished after catching back up to me “Do you have any idea what kind of mess it would make if you hit one of the shelves by accident? They would probably not be too keen on us coming back after that.” “If I have to…” I sighed theatrically as I yielded control of the grocery cart back to Becky. “You do.” She grinned back, accepting the cart.
Becky did a quick about-face with the cart, and headed down to the produce section where we began our grocery shopping. "Why here?” I mused. “Well, mostly to begin at the beginning.” She shrugged. “And when you get to the end, stop.” I finished, tagging along behind her. She picked out an assortment of fruits and vegetables, always staring intently at the offerings before making a selection, as if she knew exactly what criteria to use when judging any given item. I vaguely considered asking what she was looking for, but thought better of it as we moved on. As we walked down the isles, Becky would stop now and again to put things in the cart, and before too long we were approaching the other side of the store. “Hey, the candy isle!” I grinned as we got to the last isle before the freezer cases “I was beginning to wonder when we were going to find it…” “There’s nothing we need down there.” Becky argued, walking past the isle and approaching the freezer cases. “But that’s where they keep the jellybeans...” I explained patiently “…and we’re all out of jellybeans at home. So we need to go down the candy isle.” “If you can be good for the rest of the trip maybe we can see about some jellybeans on the way to the checkout lines.” Becky compromised as she scanned the freezer cases. I sighed, pouted, and acted generally very put upon, but acquiesced to her compromise and shifted my attention to the frozen food she was examining.
I had never really been much for frozen dinners. Some students develop quite a taste for them in college, and they do cater to just about any dietary preference you can think of: carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, frugavore, you name it. So I probably would have eventually found something I liked had I put a little bit of effort into the search, but I had always been of the opinion that it takes an equal number of dishes and only a little bit more time to cook a real meal, and when all was said and done a real meal would be better for me anyway. It’s healthier, and always sort of reminded me of home. (The fact that I had access to a full kitchen on a regular basis also played a role in my dietary choices…) I guess that Becky had some previous experience with frozen entrees, because she wasted no time with analyzing the offerings inside of the cases, instead grabbing a handful of different things before moving on to the next isle.
The remainder of the store was household supplies, which Becky thought we should stock up on as well. We had already gotten a variety of different soaps, tissues, cleaners and such when we got to the last isle. “Over the counter medications, and kit-care.” She grinned, tweaking my muzzle playfully “I wonder if we need anything down here…” I tossed a bottle of aspirin and some cough drops in the cart, and then joined Becky in front of the baby products. “It’s a shame that we can’t get diapers in your size with the cute little prints on them.” She mused while digging through the baby bottles. “I like the green one with balloons.” I chimed in as I watched over her shoulder. Nodding, Becky put it in the cart, then held up two others for my inspection, a purple one with little dinosaurs, and a blue one with stars and planets. “Umm…” I mused “I like both of them, just not the red one with fire trucks.” “Both it is.” She grinned, adding them to the cart.
While Becky was getting various other ‘necessities’ I sat down on the floor and began looking at the pacifiers. It turns out that they come in patterns too, and after looking through the entire rack I found one in the very back that matched my stars-and-planets bottle. So, after I exerted a great amount of effort digging through the rack, it joined the bottles in our cart, along with what had now become a sizable pile of wipes, lotions, bubble baths, and of course diapers.
“Well, I do believe that’s everything for the moment!” Becky grinned, declaring victory. “What about my jellybeans?” I reminded her as we went to check out. “Fair enough.” She agreed “But on one condition. I get to keep them, and give you some when I think you need some.” “But…but…” I started indignantly only for her to interrupt me “Now Nick, you and I both know if I let you have the whole bag, you’ll eat them all in one day, spoil your din-din, and give yourself a tummyache all at the same time.” “O-kay.” I sighed in resignation. Smiling to herself, Becky swung down the candy isle and collected my jellybeans, then added a container of vanilla ice cream, and a bottle of chocolate syrup. “This won’t ruin our dinners because ice cream is a dessert.” She rationalized, moving quickly to get in line to check out. I felt that it was wisest to not say a word…we were getting ice cream without any prompting from me, so why rock the boat?
We didn’t have to wait very long in the check-out line, and were soon loading the groceries into Becky’s car for the trip back home. “You know” I sighed as I was fumbling with my seatbelt “I’d like to swing by the book store on the way back and find something new to read, but seeing as how we have a trunk full of perishable goods, that really isn’t an option, is it?” “Nope.” Becky replied, shaking her head “Not if you’d be looking for a book. I know how that goes: we’ll go in hoping to grab something and go right back out, but then we find something interesting, or a sale table or have to decide between two books or something, and pretty soon it’s an hour later and our groceries are but a melted memory in the trunk.” Laughing good-naturedly, I hazard a guess that “You’ve done that before too, haven’t you?”
The ride home was uneventful, and after we brought everything inside I helped Becky to put away the groceries. While we were working on that task, she broached the possibility of her moving a few things around in the kitchen, which I of course had no problem with, much to her delight. After taking the few small piles of things that were destined to live in other rooms to their appropriate locales, Becky and I met back up in the dining room. “Well, that takes care of the majority of things I needed to do today.” She explained “But I was going to try to find something online, and I was wondering if you could hook my laptop up to whatever your ISP is here…” “No problem.” I agreed, leading the way back to our office.
“We need to get another desk in here…” I mused as I looked around the room. I had intentionally picked a corner room to set up my workspace in, and two of the walls had large bay windows, with a great view of the backyard and the woods. In the opposite corner was my desk and several bookshelves, and in a third was a sofa, recliner, and coffee table. “We could fit one in nicely right next to my desk, maybe get a large standing lamp to put between them…” “That would be nice.” Becky agreed, taking a seat on the sofa and clearing a spot on the coffee table to set up her laptop. Meanwhile I dug out an extra ethernet cable and hooked it up to one of the empty sockets on the wall plate. Flopping down next to Becky on the sofa I plugged in the cable and booted up the laptop.
“I’ll have to configure a second location setup for you, but that way you won’t have to redo this every time you use the computer somewhere else.” I explained. “Where does the wall jack go?” Becky asked as I started in on her settings. “The computer room.” I shrugged “I had a friend of mine offer to set up the network with a bunch of stuff his company was getting rid of. It’s kind of funny actually, there’s a dual jack plate in every room in the house, and four-jack plates in several of them. Then it all goes into the computer room where there’s one of the most excessive cabinet racks you’ll ever see. Besides a forty port switch and patch panel and the firewall unit, there are three rack-mounted servers, a KVM switch for them, and the associated monitor/keyboard/mouse combination. We’ve got a file server, web server, and one that functions as a print server and incoming telephone controller. All of them have a full RAID backup, and we also have a very large laser printer and two color inkjets on the network.” “What in the world do you need all of that for?” Becky asked dubiously. “Not a damn thing.” I shrugged “But if you think this is excessive you should see what that guy has at his house…”
While I was talking I had finished up with the laptop, so after testing that it was able to get outside the firewall I declared it done. “All done. Everything should work just fine, and if you need to print something the printers are two rooms down the hallway, just remember to shut the door when you’re done, okay?” “Where are you going to be?” Becky questioned as I got up and started heading for the door. “Out in the garage. You haven’t let me do any driving lately, so I need to let the truck warm up and idle for a while so the fluids don’t get stagnant, and as long as I’m going to be out there, I may as well try to finish up fixing the Anner-Harris…” “You’re not going to be doing anything that maybe you shouldn’t be because of your medication, are you?” she asked me sharply. “Nope. I promise.” I assured her “I’ll have to back the truck outside into the driveway so I don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning and die, but other than that I’m not going to be driving anything.” The look of concern disappeared from her muzzle and she nodded. “Okay. I’ll be out to check on you in an hour or so. Just try not to wear yourself out too much, okay?”
I grabbed the keys to the truck off the key rack in the kitchen and went out to the garage. Debating with myself for a little bit, I decided that since it was so nice outside I ought to air out the place a little bit as I was going to be out here anyway, so I opened the three bay doors and the side windows as well. Stepping out onto the driveway, I couldn’t help but smile as I looked around. It really was a nice day today. “Pity I can’t take the Anner-Harris out for a ride.” I thought aloud “I should take Becky for a ride sometime, that would be fun, go for a picnic or maybe stargazing…” The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea, and with that cheerful thought in my head and a happy little smile on my muzzle, I slipped behind the wheel of the pickup truck.
My good mood lasted approximately as long as it took me to try to turn the engine over. I was reminded over the next five minutes or so of the perils of letting vehicles sit for too long, but eventually I got the engine to catch. The idle smoothed out pretty quickly once the engine warmed up, and I had pretty much forgiven the truck by the time I was backing it out into the driveway. Then, taking it out of gear and putting the parking brake on, I headed back into the garage to start on the Anner-Harris.
Before I had gotten sidetracked by the events of the last few days I had been in the process of doing a fairly thorough tune up on the car, and of course the job hadn’t finished itself in my absence. After setting the kitchen timer I used as an alarm clock out in the shop to let me know when to go check back up on the truck, I found my feeler gauge and got back to setting the valves.
When the timer went off I had already finished up with the valves, and was checking the tension on the belts. I was a bit annoyed with being interrupted, so I was already grousing a little bit on my way back to the truck. As I was opening the door, I caught a whiff of carburetted gasoline. “It figures.” I growled, popping the hood and leaning out the mixture slightly before checking the tachometer and adjusting it down just a little bit more. After I was satisfied that I was getting the highest RPM off of the fixed throttle position, I adjusted the idle speed and sniffed around again for any gas smell. Not finding anything I gave myself a mental pat on the back. As an afterthought I checked the oil (as I already had the hood open I decided I might as well) and seeing that it was fine turned off the engine and left it outside to cool down.
I had put up the tools I’d been using for the valve work, and was just getting ready to change the oil in the car when a voice from behind me observed that “You sure look pleased with yourself.” “Just a little bit maybe.” I agreed as I laid down on the creeper and slid under the car “But then everything is moving along nicely too, so I think I’ve got a reason…” “So you’re doing okay then?” Becky asked. “Yep.” I nodded “I’m getting just about everything I needed to done, so I’m doing fine.” “Well, I found what I was looking for too.” Becky laughed “So we’re all doing well today.” “What were you looking for?” I queried from under the car. “An appropriately sized diaper pad for the bathroom counter.” She said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Seems to me like that would be a little bit difficult to locate.” I mused as I slid out from under the car. “Not as hard as you’d think.” She laughed. Becky had perched herself on one of the stools by the work bench and was watching me intently. Picking up the pan of old oil, I dumped it into the sluice before grabbing a new oil filter and sliding back under the car.
“You know,” I mused as I put on the new filter and checked that everything was tightened properly “I’d really like to take you for a drive in the Anner-Harris…maybe pack a picnic dinner and go watch the stars come out or something. It would be fun.” “Well, as soon as you’re done with your medication, we should.” Becky agreed “That sounds like a nice evening…” “Couldn’t we go today?” I suggested as I poured in the new oil “After all, it is a beautiful day out.” “No, we couldn’t.” Becky responded sternly. “Firstly, you’re not safe to be driving a car while you’re taking your medications, and second, the doctor told you to take it easy, and I get the distinct impression that you have no intention of doing that.” “Aww…” I groaned “I never get to have any fun.” “Well, we could go to a movie or something if you’d like.” Becky compromised “That would be fun, wouldn’t it?” Becky knew she had me by the way my ears perked up at the word ‘movie’. “We could go see a movie, and then stop at the bookstore on the way home, like you were talking about when we were doing the grocery shopping.”
I had considered arguing the point with Becky, but my interest in going to a movie eventually won out, and after I finished up my automotive exploits we got ready to go. Becky insisted on me taking a shower first, rather bluntly pointing out that I “Seem to have gotten more oil on you than in the car, and smell a little…peculiar too.” I did my best to explain that I didn’t smell ‘peculiar’, I smelled like carburetor cleaner, and what did she expect, I’d just crawled out from under a car. Alas, she wouldn’t hear a word of it, and off to the shower I went.
By the time I was a vague semblance of clean Becky had changed clothes and was ready to go, diaper bag in hand, and shortly afterwards I found myself once again being buckled into the passenger seat of her car. “And away we go!” she laughed as she pulled out of the driveway.
“So what exactly are we going to see?” I asked Becky on the way to the theater. “I thought you knew.” She shrugged “That sort of complicates things, doesn’t it?” Sighing theatrically, I shrugged “Well, we could always stop off at Dobie’s for a snack, and figure it out there…” “That dump?” Becky argued “I think I could get sick just walking by it, let alone eating there!” “It’s not so bad.” I said defensively “It just looks a little run down from the outside. And the food is really pretty good, all in all.” “You can’t be serious. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who had eaten there…probably because they’ve all died of food poisoning by now!” she countered. “I eat there all the time, and I say Dobie’s is really a good place!” I replied definitively, before changing tactics “Don’t you trust my judgement? I guess if my places aren’t tasteful enough…” Sighing loudly, Becky gave in to my guilt trip. “Okay, we’ll get a snack there. But I’m warning you right now, if I die of food poisoning my ghost will kick your tail all the way across campus!”
Dobie’s was a little hole in the wall place a block or two from campus, and while from the outside it really did look like job security for the local health inspector, inside it was much nicer than one would expect, looking a lot like an old fashioned pub: all polished oak beams with a massive fireplace along one wall and a good selection of billiard tables and dart boards. The other wall housed the very resourceful and eclectically stocked bar, while in between the two were a collection of tables, booths, and other places for furs to park their tails while eating, drinking, and making merry. My favorite feature was the fact that there were no TVs to be found the only concession to the modern world being a pinball machine in an out of the way nook. This had a lot to do with why only a select few students chose to frequent Dobie’s; the fact that the owner habitually played classical music was another large contributing factor.
Dobie’s was owned and operated, not surprisingly, by a huge old Doberman who coincidentally was named Dobie. Nobody really knew what Dobie had done before he opened his pub, but it was a topic of regular discussion among his customers. It was speculated that Dobie was a retired boxer or possibly ex-military, but if you asked him, he would just laugh and change the subject. His appearance notwithstanding, Dobie was a really nice guy, and I always enjoyed debating with him over drinks.
“Hey Nick!” Dobie grinned as we walked in the door. “Hey Dobie!” I grinned back as Becky and I picked a booth and got settled. We ordered two iced teas while Becky looked over the menu. “Hmm…” she mused innocently “What won’t make me horribly and irreparably ill?” “Well I usually get a grilled cheese sandwich.” I shrugged. After another couple of moment’s consideration, Becky decided to go with the nachos. Dobie took our order when he brought the drinks, promising to find us the movie listings section of the newspaper when he came back with our food.
“You know,” Becky mused “This place really doesn’t look as bad inside as it does outside…” “Thanks.” Dobie laughed, having come up behind Becky without her noticing “It’s because I put new duct tape on the seats.” After he had deposited our food, along with a section of the newspaper, Dobie grabbed a chair from one of the surrounding tables and sat down, leaning on the back of the chair. Laughing good naturedly at Becky’s obvious discomfort at being overheard he shrugged “Don’t worry about it, really. Do you honestly think I don’t know this place looks like a total dump from the outside?” Whispering conspiratorially, he continued “It’s a secret, but I’ll let you in on it, just because I’m in a good mood today. I figured out years ago that if I kept the building looking a bit shabby outside, the kind of patrons that would cause me trouble tend to avoid the place. It works great, it’s better than having a bouncer!” Swatting me on the back, he took his leave of us “You two enjoy your lunch. I’ve got to go check up on the cook, make sure he’s not spitting in the food again…”
“Well, he’s certainly something.” Becky grinned as the kitchen doors swung shut behind Dobie. “Yeah.” I laughed “He’s a great guy.” Dobie’s had always been a little eclectic about their side dishes, and my grilled cheese sandwich came with chips and salsa instead of the more traditional fries. I launched into my meal, watching Becky with some amusement. She was a little bit hesitant with her first bite of nachos, but was obviously pleasantly surprised. “Hey, these are really good!” she declared, looking almost startled. “I told you so.” I mumbled through a mouthful of sandwich “Dobie’s has some really good food…”
We looked over the movie listings while we ate, trying to decide on what we would go see after lunch. There really wasn’t much out, and we eventually decided on seeing some brainless action film that’s main recommending feature was convenient timing. After we had finished our lunches Becky and I made the quick drive over to the theater.
We arrived in good time, and after getting our tickets I pointed Becky towards the snack counter. “Let’s get popcorn and candy!” I grinned, tugging on her sleeve. “Food? Now? We just had lunch…” she questioned as I eagerly looked over the brightly colored packets of candy. Sticking out my tongue at Becky, I grinned at the young squirrel behind the counter “I’ll have a large popcorn, a medium soda, a pack of gummi bears, and some of those chocolate covered minty things…” Becky just looked at me disapprovingly as I paid for my order and followed her back to one of the stadium theaters at the end of the complex. The theater was only about a third full when we arrived, so we quickly found good seats up by the top. “Well the seating thing turned out pretty well.” I grinned “It’s always nice when things decide to work out properly the first time…”
We got settled quickly, and I took Becky’s paw as we were waiting for the projectionist to show some signs of life. “It’s really too bad that there isn’t anything else out in the theaters.” I sighed to Becky “I really do think I’d rather watch a cartoon of some sort today.” She gave my paw a little squeeze before patting me on the cheek and laughing that “I’m sure there will be a cartoon in theaters for you to see soon dear.” I couldn’t help but smile a little at that.
The movie turned out to be one of those films which are so bad they’re just funny, and Becky and I were both laughing as we walked out after the movie. “Gee…I wonder when the sequel will be out!” I joked. “My guess would be the second week of never.” She grinned back “I hope the writers kept their day jobs…” “You know, we never did get around to stopping at the book store.” Becky mused as she was looking for her car keys “Why don’t we drop by on the way home?” “Sure.” I nodded.
We ended up spending rather more time at the book store than either of us had originally intended. Becky and I went our separate ways after walking through the doors, and I lost sight of her on my way to the Science Fiction area. I’d always had a secret shameful addiction to paperback novels, and never could manage to wander around in a bookstore without buying something. And of course this trip was no exception. By the time a rumbling in my tummy caused me to glance at my watch over an hour had gone by, and I had amassed a respectable handful of purchases.
Debating if I could get away with ignoring the time and continuing my browsing, I eventually decided I should go find Becky. This, it turned out, was far easier said than done. After wandering up and down the main isles I was growing tired and more than a little bit cranky when I finally stumbled across her sitting on the floor leafing through a book on psychology. “Hello.” I smiled, tapping her on the shoulder. “Huh? Oh!” she mumbled, obviously snapping back to the present “Hi Nick. What brings you here?” “Well, we’ve been here for close to an hour and a half now and I wanted to see what you were up to…” I shrugged. “That long?” Becky questioned, standing back up and stretching a little bit “We should probably go home and have dinner now…” “That was my thought too.” I nodded, grabbing her pile of books from the floor and adding it to my stack. Along with the psychology book she had been reading, I noticed a number of mystery novels, and (much to my delight) a selection of stories written for a much…younger audience. “Don’t look at those.” Becky chided, seeing where my attention was being drawn “Those are going to be a surprise. Here, give me those.” Taking the books, she headed for the checkout line. “I have to admit, I’m pleasantly surprised.” I commented, indicating the more grown-up books in her stack. Smiling playfully, Becky rubbed behind my ears “I’m not sure why you’d be surprised…”
Shrugging my shoulders I sighed. “Mostly because daytime television is replacing these as the entertainment media of choice.” “You sound somewhat disapproving.” Becky grinned, idly looking through the books I had picked out as we waited in line to check out “Could it be that you’ve finally begun to grow up a bit little guy?” “Oh, and what exactly are you implying?” I asked innocently. “Nothing.” She smiled back, giving me a hug before setting the pile of books in front of the cashier. I’m not sure what exactly the cashier made of the pair of us—Becky trying to make coherent adult conversation while I playfully tried to catch her tail. (Though, in my defense, I was being discreet about it…) In the end the cashier chose to keep her curiosity to herself, instead wishing Becky and I a nice afternoon and busying herself with the next customer.
“I’m beginning to think you need a nap.” She admonished as we headed back to the car. “Why?” I asked curiously as I glared down at the plastic bag from the bookstore. One would think that if a store sold products that were potentially heavy they’d get packaging that would support the weight…But then logic very rarely governs action, and the handles were already beginning to tear. “Because you’re acting just a little…overstimulated, a nap would probably do you good.” Becky explained, tousling my headfur. “Huh?” I mumbled as I tried to switch mental gears back to what Becky was talking about “Sorry, I sort of spaced out on you there, what were you saying?” “That’s exactly what I’m talking about…” Becky sighed. I set the books in the back seat of her car and seatbelted them in before getting in myself. “You’re just acting tired, that’s all.” Becky continued as we settled in and started for home. I really couldn’t think of a reasonable response to that, so we lapsed into a comfortable silence for the rest of the trip.
After we got back home, Becky got me settled down on the sofa with an admonishment to “Be a good little kit and take a nap while I get dinner ready” before disappearing into the kitchen. I was kind of annoyed by this turn of events. After all, I didn’t tell her to go take a nap, did I? The more I thought about it, the more it annoyed me, until suddenly I had a realization: I was acting like a grumpy little kit. Becky wasn’t being mean, she just saw that I was tired, and suggested I do something about it. The problem was all in my head, and if I was getting annoyed at someone I loved over something that stupid, well then I probably was more tired than I thought I was and probably should go take a nap. “Becky really does know best.” I laughed to myself “Well, if I need a nap, then I need a nap…”
Curling up on the sofa, I closed my eyes and tried to go to sleep, but my body just didn’t seem to want to cooperate. After I had been trying to drift off for a good ten minutes, I finally got frustrated to the point where I gave up. Grabbing the remote control off the armrest, I turned on the TV and began to flip through the channels, eventually settling on a documentary about earily innovations in the development of silversmithing. (Hey, I’m a history major, what did you expect, soap operas?) The program was actually pretty interesting, but as I watched it I found that I had more and more trouble keeping my eyes open. I remember vaguely thinking that I should set up the VCR so I could finish the show later, and then I must have fallen asleep.
I woke up a while later with Becky staring down at me. “Rise and shine, sleepyhead.” She laughed “Will you be joining me for dinner, or shall I eat it all myself?” Sitting up a little bit, I gave her a kiss on the muzzle, then declared that “I wouldn’t object too loudly to some food right about now. What are we having?” “Stew.” Becky informed me “I thought I might as well start making a dent in the brisket stockpile.” “Are you sure you’re not trying to trick me into eating vegetables or something devious and underhanded like that?” I asked with mock suspicion. “Now why would I do a thing like that?” she asked innocently, taking my paw and leading me to the dining room.
Becky and I sat down at the table, with the tantalizing aromas coming from the various pots and pans convincing me that it would be well worth the risk of vegetables. “What’s the matter Nick?” Becky queried as she helped herself to the stew “You look somewhat less than cheerful... “Oh, I’m just a little bit annoyed about missing the end of the show I was watching.” I shrugged. “You can always catch it in re-runs.” She consoled me “Besides, you were getting a little bit grumpy there towards the end, taking a little nap did you a lot of good anyway.” Conceding that she was probably right, I started in on my stew. It was really good, and further conversation was postponed until we had both eaten our fill.
“Well, that was worth standing up for.” I commented with mock seriousness. “I’m not sure I like your implications!” Becky laughed, tossing a roll at me. I did my best to dodge to the left, but was startled by a sudden pain in my side, and instead found myself falling out of my chair. “Ouch.” I laughed. Something about the whole thing struck me as absurdly funny, and pretty soon I was laughing uncontrollably. Which caused my side to hurt even worse, making me laugh even harder. “Are you okay?” Becky asked as she hurried over to where I was lying on the floor. “Yeah, I’m okay.” I nodded happily when I was finally able to catch my breath “I think I just pulled something a little.” “I’m not sure what you find so amusing.” She chided, helping me to sit back up, then plopping down beside me on the floor. “I don’t know.” I shrugged “There’s just something so damn ridiculous about the whole thing.” I could tell from her expression she was trying to decide whither to be amused or concerned, but Becky eventually decided on the former and broke out into a little grin herself. “Well, whenever you’re finished playing on the floor, we can have some ice cream and maybe watch one of those cartoons you were talking about this afternoon…”
Her offer led me to make a very competitive attempt at setting the world record for scrambling to the living room couch. “You pick out a video and I’ll get the ice cream.” Becky called after me from the kitchen. That seemed fair enough to me, so I sat down in front of the entertainment center and began to look through my selection of videos. I’ve always had a thing for movies, and had acquired a rather sizable collection of them. Besides the usual action movies and some of the better classics, I had a nice variety of cartoons and Disney movies. Turning to the latter, I began to narrow down my choices for the evening.
By the time that Becky arrived with the ice cream, I had three to chose from, Robin Hood, The Fox and the Hound, and Fantasia. “So, what will it be?” Becky asked as she sat down on the couch. “One of these.” I offered, handing her the stack of movies. “This one’s not exactly a movie.” She commented, holding up Fantasia. “Yeah, but it’s got some really great mythology behind it.” I grinned “I wrote a paper on that at one point…” I immediately launched into a rather…detailed description of some of the better points of the film, probably giving Becky more background than she really wanted. “Well, I think we’ve ruled that one out…” she interrupted, looking a little bit ill “It could very well give my little kit nightmares.” “By me you really mean you, don’t you?” I asked innocently. “Could be, could be.” She smiled back “But you’ll never know, now will you?” “Remind me to introduce you to a story called Viy sometime…” I grinned downright evilly. Deftly changing the subject Becky handed me Robin Hood. “I think we’ll watch this one tonight.” She decided, handing it to me “Why don’t you get it started?” Nodding happily, I complied, and was curled up next to her eating my ice cream before the opening credits appeared on the screen.
I found myself getting comfortable rather quickly, though eating ice cream while lying down was a bit more of a challenge than one would expect. “If you sat up you probably wouldn’t be dripping ice cream on yourself…” Becky suggested, slightly too late to prevent me from having a messy muzzle. “I’m full anyway.” I shrugged, handing her my mostly empty bowl. Looking down at me, Becky smiled “You have no idea how cute you look right now.” Producing a washcloth from somewhere, she began to wipe my muzzle where I had occasionally missed with the ice cream. “There.” She nodded when she was satisfied with her work “Now we won’t get everything all sticky.”
As the movie continued, I found myself growing a little bit tired. Becky’s lap was just an exceedingly comfortable place to be. By the time the credits rolled around, I had pretty much given up on watching and was just lying there snuggled up to her, dozing contentedly. “Are you still awake?” she asked, shaking me gently. “Uh-huh.” I mumbled, vaguely curious as to why my voice was somewhat less than coherent. “Why don’t you pop your thumb out of your muzzle, and we can head upstairs? You seem to be pretty much out for the night anyway…” Becky suggested gently. Pop my thumb out of my muzzle? What was she talking about? Startled back to a greater degree of coherency, I discovered that yes, I did in fact have my thumb in my muzzle, and yes, Becky was in fact smiling almost gleefully at my confusion. “Cute!” she grinned, tousling my headfur as I tried to wake up enough to stumble upstairs for naptime.
Becky very efficiently got me ready for bedtime, or more probably I was too sleepy to remember the intermediary steps, but either way I soon found myself curled up in bed with my head once again in her lap. The primary difference being that this time she produced one of the books from our earlier outing and began to read me a story. It was one that I had heard many, many times before when I was a kit, but as we lay there with her reading it to me in her soothing voice, cuddling me, and pointing out the pictures on each of the pages, I couldn’t help but feel that this time was something special. It had been a busy day, and soon I had gone from listening to the story to just listening to the sound of her voice, to just lying there and feeling the closeness of it all, not really listening to much of anything. The last thing that I remember, as I lay there in her lap feeling my eyes growing heavy, was her kissing me on the forehead and wishing me sweet dreams as I slipped into a warm, peaceful, slumber.
To Be Continued...