If Only For A Night
Nick was very wasted. It was close to midnight, and the annual “Valentine’s Day Bender” was well underway, as the mostly empty bottle of Absinthe, and completely empty orange and white prescription bottles keeping him company next to the computer would attest. It had been a really rough day for Nick, Valentines Day inevitably was: too shy to ever seriously consider dating, he was also a hopeless romantic, a combination that has never led to happiness for anyone. So, every year when Valentines Day rolled around…well, it wasn’t usually pretty.
Nick had already finished reading his weekly allotment of webcomics, and the excesses of the evening, combined with his boredom and generally depressed state of mind were leading him to consider turning in for the night early, when there was a creaking of bedsprings, followed by a cheerful female voice from the same direction: “I’ve found you at last!” His startled expression was replaced by a dumbfounded stare as Nick located the source of the voice in the dim light of his bedroom. Sitting cross-legged on his bed, dressed in an outfit that would have looked more at home at a Renaissance Fair than in a three-room efficiency was an anthropomorphic husky. And an absolutely gorgeous one at that. She had the same white and silver fur with black markings that Nick was familiar with from dogs he had seen at the local park, along with the muzzle and ears one would expect, plus a luxuriously fluffy tail that curved upwards a little, even though she was sitting on most of it. But she also had some decidedly human aspects as well; the general physique one would expect of a human gymnast or dancer, radiating an aura of kindness and self-assurance that matched her beauty.
“Damn…” Nick sighed to himself, blinking a few times as if hoping to make the manifestation before him disappear “Should have known they outlawed this stuff for a reason…” “Is something the matter?” the husky on the bed asked, looking concerned. “Well yes actually.” Nick replied “I’m talking to a hallucination. That’s never a good sign.” Walking over to him, the husky ran the back of her paw down his cheek, her silky soft fur feeling almost like down. “I feel real, don’t I?” she asked, picking up the glass of milky-green liquid sitting next to him on the computer table and giving it a sniff before wrinkling up her muzzle in distaste and setting it well out of his reach before continuing. “My name is Ashley…” “Nick.” He replied, very unsure of himself by this point, and really not knowing what to make of things. “Well Nick,” Ashley smiled “I’ve waited a long time to meet you, and we have a lot to talk about.”
A glass of ice water later Nick was feeling a lot less foggy, and the two had migrated over to the sofa. While usually this sort of thing would tend to send one screaming from the room, there was just something about Ashley that made him feel safe around her…though he did take the seat at the opposite end of the sofa from her. Looking almost flustered, Ashley began her story “I’ve been anticipating this speech since I first felt your presence, but now that I’m actually here I hardly know where to start. This world you live in is only one of many that was created by the gods. When they decided to populate their worlds, for every being there was created another, a soul mate perfectly matched so that they may spend their lives in happiness. But sometimes it comes to pass that one of the pair is born into a different world, so that unaided by the mages of their worlds the two would never unite. We are one of those pairs. Normally it would have been a simple matter of feeling the pull of the magical bond between us, but your world is unique, for some reason completely devoid of magic, and instead of being a problem of little consequence, it has taken me years of searching to finally be united with you.”
Seeing Ashley’s expectant look, Nick began to slowly think aloud. “You’re not a hallucination, and there are no…beings like yourself on this world, outside of stories and dreams, so I think I believe what you’re saying. You seem like you’re really nice, and you’re certainly beautiful, but…well…I don’t think that I’m what you think I am. I really don’t have much to offer, I mean I’ve got a few sort of odd tendencies, and I don’t think I’m someone you really would want to get to know. Sorry to be a disappointment…” “You don’t understand.” Ashley smiled patiently, moving next to me and taking my hand in her paw “Soul mates aren’t random, they’re perfect matches created by higher powers. I will always love and accept you regardless of anything you feel may be a shortcoming, that is simply how it works. All it is is a matter of explanation. Try me, tell me whatever worries you the most, your darkest secret…” Looking into Ashley’s gentle blue eyes, Nick felt a feeling of trust he had never felt before from anyone else.
“Okay.” He nodded “I…I like to wear diapers and be treated like a baby.” Expecting rejection and disgust, Nick quickly searched her eyes, and to his surprise found nothing of the sort. “It makes me feel safe and loved. It relaxes me…I don’t know. You’re the first one I’ve ever told about that…why did I tell you? You must think I’m a freak!” His eyes beginning to mist with tears, Nick turned away from Ashley and stared at the wall. Then, to his surprise, a pair of soft silvery-white arms wrapped him in a hug. “I don’t think you’re a freak.” Ashley told him quietly “I think that is kind of cute.” Then, scooping him into her arms, she carried him to his bedroom, depositing him gently on the bed before turning to his dresser. “How did you…” Nick started, only to have Ashley interrupt with a laugh “I’m a mage, remember? Quite a good one in fact…I graduated at the top of my class at the Academy. If it wasn’t for that I would probably never have been able to find you on this world.”
Turning her attention to Nick’s dresser, Ashley picked a drawer at random to reveal Nick’s collection of baby stuff. “More magic?” he asked, observing from his spot on the bed. “Nope. It was just a logical place to look.” She shrugged. “Um, Ashley? You really don’t have to do that…” Nick stuttered, embarrassed by this new development, and still worried that Ashley had to be too good to be true. “I want to.” She replied simply “It will make you happy…and I sort of like the idea.” Diapers and such must be pretty much the same no matter which world one came from, Ashley was soon expertly sorting through Nick’s drawer of supplies, making her selections, until she was satisfied that she had everything that she was going to need. “Now it’s time to get my little one into his diapers for bedtime!” she said, as if trying the words on for size…and deciding that they fit quite well indeed.
After pulling his T-shirt over his head, Ashley began undoing his belt buckle, and Nick quickly found himself lying on his bed in nothing but his underwear, the beautiful husky lifting up his legs and sliding a towel under his backside. “There, I think we’re all ready!” Ashley laughed cheerfully, whisking Nick’s underwear down and off before lifting his feet up again and sliding the diaper up under him, setting him back down to a chorus of crinkling plastic. “Now a little bit of this…” she continued, sprinkling on a liberal helping of baby powder “And we just need to fasten everything up!” Taping up the diaper, Ashley got the final item on the agenda, dressing Nick in one of his favorite possessions, an adult-sized footed sleeper. “And we’re all done.” After taking off her boots, the husky joined Nick in bed, leaning against the headboard, and taking him into her arms, stroking his hair gently. “We’ve still got quite a bit to talk about, but I think we’re both more comfortable now, in more ways than one…”
“What are we going to do now?” Nick asked quietly. “I was thinking we could talk for a while, and then it’ll be time for you to go to bed, little guy.” “No, I meant in a more generalized sense. You would attract a lot of…unwanted attention around here, and I probably would on your world as well…” Realizing that Nick had just accepted his life’s tremendous turn for the better, Ashley couldn’t help beaming, then became serious again. “After staying on a particular world for a certain amount of time, one will physically change to become one of the natives.” She explained “I…I know this is a lot to ask, but would you be willing to come to my world? It would be very hard for me to live somewhere with only ingenious little automatons, and no magic…” Nodding his agreement, Nick explained in almost a whisper “My family was killed in a fire right after I had started moving out for school. I have nobody here. No family, no real friends, not even pets. I was so sad…so lonely that I was considering ending it all, just so that the hurting would finally stop, so that I could finally find peace. I’ll go with you, there’s nothing for me here, and I think I love you.” Holding him tightly, Ashley dried the tears that were forming in his eyes with the corner of his blanket. “I’ll never leave you alone Nick, I promise.”
“Just…” Nick started hesitantly, looking up at Ashley. Seeing her nod encouragingly, he continued “Would there be any way that I could take my writing desk? It’s a family heirloom, my great grandfather made it, and my parents let me take it to my new apartment when I went to college, for good luck. It’s all I have left to remember them by, and the only thing that I own that really matters to me…” “Of course.” Ashley nodded, holding him tighter “I’ll make arrangements to have it brought across with us.” “Thank you.” Nick nodded “It would mean a lot to me.” Taking a look at the desk, Ashley had to admit that it was a beautiful piece of furniture. A warm reddish wood of a kind that she did not recognize, with brass fixtures, and legs that were carved into paws, it had obviously been lovingly taken care of for a long, long time.
“So, tell me about yourself…” Nick asked later that night as they were curled up together in bed, candles burning throughout the room. “About me…well let’s see.” Ashley laughed “I have two brothers, both of them younger than I am, and my ancestral home is deep in one of the most wooded parts of my world, on the shores of a small, stream-fed lake. My parents are hoping that you will agree to have our bonding ceremony there by the way... I graduated at the top of my class at the Academy I attended. I was actually starting my first day on my new job when I first felt your presence. I was so happy to finally feel what I had been told about for so long, that wonderful feeling of fulfillment, as if one will never be lonely again, and everything will be right in the world. Before that day I was becoming very lonely, I was surrounded by my friends and family, but I just felt a sort of emptiness, like I was incomplete, not whole.” “But now…” she smiled contentedly “now I am the happiest I have ever been. I don’t know how I ever lived without you. Before I met you I felt the pull of a soul mate, but now, lying here with you in my arms, I understand what love is.”
Beginning to sniffle, Nick told her about his life. About being beaten and tormented while he was in school. About never having any lasting friendships, living on the lowest rung of the social ladder. About losing his family, and only escaping death himself by luck and the passage of a few days. About the demons in his head: the insecurities, the fear of rejection, the self-hatred, never feeling good enough, never feeling worthwhile, and always the constant nagging loneliness. And finally the thoughts that creep up in the depths of the darkest nights: maybe he should just end it all, make it stop, and find oblivion. His desperate desire for a resolution, going so far as to buy a gun, but never being able to work up the courage to take that final step. “But now I have you.” Nick smiled through his tears, looking up at Ashley “And I think things may just turn out okay…”
The couple snuggled up tightly in Nick’s bed, not seeking warmth under the blankets, but rather basking in each other’s presence, and the feeling that they would never be alone again. After a time the somber and needy mood of the previous hours had lightened up considerably, and the couple was beginning to feel the urge to break the comfortable silence that they had segued into after their last somewhat painful discussion. “Hey Ashley, you were saying that after I have been in your world for a while I’ll turn into an Furry…err…a being like you?” “Yes Nick. “ she nodded “That was one of the overriding similarities between the worlds that the gods created. They knew that since they weren’t infallible in their creations, there would have to be leeway to make up for potential errors. That’s the reason that we can speak and read each other’s languages, eat the same food, drink the same drinks, and breathe the same air. It is simply the way of things.” “So will I be a husky like you, or how is that determined?” Nick asked curiously, propping his head up on his arm and looking into Ashley’s eyes. “The change is based on the inner nature of the individual.” She began “If one’s latent personality tends more towards an Equine or Feline than a Canine, then that will manifest itself when one undergoes the change. As my soul mate you will be similar but not necessarily identical to me, so almost certainly a Canine, but maybe not a husky.”
“Are you…okay with that?” Nick asked nervously. “Of course.” Ashley replied, feeling Nick tense up and curious as to why “Is there a problem?” “If it’s based on what a person is inside…” he began, explaining to Ashley about Furries “…so deep down your ‘little one’ is actually a fox kit.” Hugging him reassuringly, she smiled “Nothing can ever change the way I feel about you…and besides, I really could see you as a rather handsome fox, now that you mention it.”
Ashley and Nick talked long into the night, but eventually as the hours grew later it was decided that it would be best if they got some sleep. Tomorrow would be a big day for them both, Nick moving to a new world and meeting his new family, and Ashley helping him to make the transition to a place as foreign to him as his apartment was to her. “Plus,” she thought to herself as she drifted off to sleep, held in Nick’s warm embrace “planning a bonding ceremony is a big task, even if it is a fun one…”
On the morning of February 15 Nick woke up with that horrible fuzzy-hung-over feeling that one gets when mixing their chemical oblivions. Rolling over to snuggle back up against Ashley and sleep off the excesses of the night before, he was a bit annoyed to find himself the only occupant of the bed. “She’s probably getting herself breakfast.” He assured himself, crawling out of bed, much to his body’s protest and heading for the kitchen while trying unsuccessfully to cut through the haze that was the previous night. Finding nobody in the kitchen, he quickly began looking through the rest of the house with a growing feeling of desperation. Ashley, the woman of his dreams, the one who would take him away from the loneliness and pain and be with him forever was nowhere to be found! Returning to his bedroom, Nick leaned up against a wall for support, slowly allowing himself to slide down the smooth surface of the wallpaper until he was sitting on the floor with his head between his knees.
In almost a panic he tried to recall the events of last night, but the memories, diluted by the drugs and alcohol of the evening, were ethereal wraiths, floating further and further out of his grasp until they were just vague wisps in the periphery of his vision. She was gone. Or had she even been there to begin with? Was it all just false hopes and the effects of narcotics on an already frayed and unraveling psyche? “No.” he sniffled, beginning to sob uncontrollably, the bleakness and despair hitting in full force “She was real… She was… She…” Forcing himself to his feet, Nick staggered over and collapsed in his desk chair, trying to think, trying to reason. Surely there must be something, some trace of the woman who loved him, who brought him hope. “No she wasn’t.” he said, voice barely a shaky whisper “It’s just a trick of the universe…drugs and alcohol and desperate wishing…”
Outside in the backyard Ashley was using up the last of Nick’s table salt to prepare a transport sigil big enough to encompass his great-grandfather’s desk. Transport sigils could be created indoors on the house’s floor, but they worked best when they were drawn directly on the ground, and considering how important Nick’s old writing desk was to him, Ashley decided that it would be safest not to take any chances. A little extra inconvenience didn’t matter a bit to Ashley if it assured Nick’s happiness. Finishing up the last glyph, she stepped back to admire her work. He really was sweet too, sort of an overgrown pup of sorts, clumsy and not sure of himself, but oh so loveable…and kind of handsome too, in an intelligent sort of way. When she had woken this morning Ashley had spent quite a while just watching him sleep, and then an equal amount of time contemplating whither or not she should wake him before going outside to do her work on the transport sigil. In the end she had decided to just let him sleep, partially because he would be having a very busy and more than a little bit traumatic day today, but mostly because he was just so darn cute sleeping there wearing that footed sleeper, with his thumb in his mouth…
Her thoughts were interrupted suddenly by a loud bang coming from inside the house. It was an odd sort of sound, with sort of a high-pitched crack overlying the bang. Thinking about the state Nick was in the night before, Ashley decided that she should check up on him: it was conceivable that he might still be drunk, and getting himself into trouble again. Opening the back door, she was immediately assailed by an arcid smell of a kind she didn’t recognize. This was fairly common on Nick’s world, lacking magic they instead had to make due with a selection of assorted automatons, which had a variety of eccentricies, such as the metal boxes they used for travel, which also produced some very caustic smells… “Still, that would probably have woken Nick up.” Ashley mused, heading into the bedroom.
Immediately after setting foot in the doorway Ashley could tell something was wrong: Nick’s writing desk, the lovingly preserved product of his great-grandfather’s hands had been horribly gouged up with a pocketknife, which was now stuck into the top of the desk. Hesitantly going over to look, she discovered that on closer examination the gouges were words: “Only a dream.” “Only a dream?” Ashley repeated to herself before a sudden horrifying realization hit. “Oh no. Nick!” Rushing to the only room of the little apartment that she hadn’t walked through since coming inside, she threw open the bathroom door to have her worst fears confirmed.
“Oh Nick…” she whispered, cradling his broken body in her lap, his gray eyes having clouded over before she entered the room, their sparkle lost forever into the void of eternity. Ignoring the blood matting her silver-gray fur, Ashley began to cry uncontrollably. “Why? Why! I didn’t leave you, I didn’t! I was arranging for our trip home…we were going home together…it wasn’t a dream, what we had was real. Last night was real. I was going to be your mommy and you were going to be my kit… We would have been happy. I didn’t leave you, I promised I’d always be there for you…I promised.” Ashley sat with Nick’s body weeping until she had no tears left to shed, and finally a sort of numbness enshrouded her body. Carrying him to the bedroom, she laid him out on the bed, lying him out as best she could. Gently prying the thing out of his hand, she idly turned it over in her paws. The flat black piece of metal weighed heavily in them, far more so than she had thought from it’s size. It fit into her paw easily, looking every bit what it was, an efficient killing machine. “Very straightforward to operate.” She mused, almost admiring its dark beauty.
The silence of the morning was broken a second time that day.