Claudia, The Vampire Cat

by

FireMane

Hi, my name is Jack. Claudia thinks it'll be good for me to try my hand at writing, so here we are. They say Truth is stranger than Fiction, so I think I'll write a little autobiography first, since that's pretty fantastic as it is. I'll skip the boring details, and go right to the part where my life got REALLY unbelievable.

Well, it all started when my girlfriend, Felicia, left me. I can't say that I blame her for doing it, really. What really hurt, though, was that Emily, the OTHER woman... well, she left me too. Course, can't really blame her, either. You see, they weren't supposed to know about each other,but... well, I guess it was stupid of me to try pulling it off in the firstplace. My relationships all ended up like that, not one-night stands, you know, but never anything that could work. I know that sounds bitter, but I'm really not. Just stupid, I guess.

But anyway, I was drowning my sorrows with the help of that other Jack, last name, Daniels, at a little place on the corner that I like. I'd just broken up... twice... so as you can imagine, picking up a woman was rather the last thing on my mind. Much to my surprise, one picked me up, instead. Guess she had a thing for "hard-luck" cases, or something.

I was just sitting there, minding my own business, when this lady sits down next to me. Like I said, I wasn't looking to pick her up, but I checked her out, just out of habit. Hey, it's a guy thing. Anyway, she wasn't bad. Not really my type, though. She was a cat, one of those dusty-colored striped girls, very lean and muscular, if you're into that kind of thing. Had a fair set, too, not melons, you know, but not apples, either. Well, she pulled up next to me and orders a drink, some fancy cocktail I never heard of before, but the bartender knew what she wanted. She turned and looked me over, real obvious about it, and kinda smiled in a way that gave me a shiver. Now I know why some rabbits get turned on when predators grin at them. That whole eat me/fuck me thing. Next thing you know, she strikes up a conversation. I wasn't really enthusiastic, but she started buying the drinks, so I figured, what the hell.

After I had a few more in me, and was sufficiently... loose, I started pouring out my latest set of troubles. She listened attentively as I told her about my recent breakup with Felicia and Emily. She laughed a little, and told me I was a naughty fox for trying to fool those two women. My stomach was protesting that I hadn't eaten yet, and I guess she must have noticed, 'cause the next thing I know, she pays my tab and asks me out for dinner. Again, I figure, what the hell. Besides, having a really sympathetic ear was a new thing for me. I usually did most of my talking to bartenders, under these circumstances, and, well, they get paid to listen. We take her car, a real nice luxury model. She asked where I wanted to eat, and I couldn't think of anyplace nice enough to fit her kind of class... or at least, the kind of class I was beginning to imagine she had. I told her anyplace was fine with me. She smiled and said she knew just the place.

To my surprise, she pulled into the lot of Jag's, my favorite restaurant in the whole friggin' city. We got out, and she held the door open for me as we went in. We perused the menu, but my stomach had changed it's mind. Food was definitely not appetizing. I decided to have whatever she had. She thought that was a good idea, and she ordered for us. I noticed she'd ordered light, skipping the heavy, gut-burning ribs and their heart-attack steak. She even ordered a side of salad... garden salad, no less.

"So," She said, when the waiter left, "What do you think of Jag's?"

"Lady," I grinned, "You happened to pick my favorite spot in town. You have good taste, I'll say that." I realized that I didn't know her name.

"Oh, my name's Claudia." She said, and extended her paw. Without even thinking about it, I took it and kissed the back of her hand. "My, my, aren't you the little gentleman. With smooth moves like that, I can't believe you have problems with the females."

"I, uh..." I was saved by the waiter returning with our drinks. I saw that she'd ordered me a cola. I would have preferred coffee, but I wasn't about to complain. I gulped it, hoping the caffeine would help clear my head a little. I hardly ever really get drunk—natural tolerance to the sauce—but I'd had a LOT of drinks, and I was feeling a little fuzzy. Even so, I'd never felt so flustered by a woman. But hell, I was having fun, and she was paying the bill, so why yap about nothing, right? We made some small talk, mostly talking about my past relationships, while waiting for dinner to arrive. When it did, I found that my appetite had returned, and it had brought several of its friends.

"Don't bolt your food." She admonished, as she watched me eat. And damned if I didn't almost blush! I slowed down, and matched her pace as best I could. It wasn't easy, though, she was obviously a sensual eater, pausing a moment to savor each bite. It's a feline thing... or so I'm told. As we ate, I tried for the first time to get to know her a little better.

"So, how about you? Surely a beautiful, classy lady like you is taken?"

"Oh, I prefer to keep myself unattached. Ever since my husband died.." Warning lights started to go off in my head, but she didn't launch into a long, boring story of her past marriage. Instead, she politely turned the conversation away from herself, and we talked about my job. God, if there was ever a boring subject! But she seemed to hang on my every word. I was beginning to wonder if maybe, just maybe, I wasn't still back in that bar, lying unconscious in an alcoholic stupor, having the best dream of my life. Well, the best since puberty, anyway.

When dinner was done I felt warm and mellow. I knew that we'd probably go our separate ways after dinner, but I didn't want to let her go. "Uh..." I tried to think of something bright and witty to say. "Do you maybe want to come back to my place for coffee?" Oh, yeah, that was original. I felt like slapping myself. But she just smiled, with that creepy/sexy predator look.

"I don't really like coffee. Too bitter." I tried to hide my disappointment, but I didn't have to try for long, because that little smile became an outright wicked grin. "Why don't we go back to my place for sex, instead?" I must have sat there for three minutes before she said, "Oh, and pick your jaw up off the floor. No telling when they last swept in here." With an effort I closed my gaping mouth. "Come on, sport, let's go." She took me by the hand and led me out.

Next thing I know, she's shaking me awake. I blink confusedly around, trying to place my surroundings. My neck complained as I straightened up, and realized that I must have fallen asleep on the way back to her place. Oh yeah, that's me, mister suave and macho. This was turning out to be the strangest night of my life.

She didn't seem to be mad about it, or put off. In fact, she was all smiles as she opened the car door and let me out. I got a look at he place, and immediately reassessed my estimation of Claudia's type of class. Does the term "palatial" mean anything to you?

"Jesus, Claudia," I said, looking over the mansion, "You live here all by yourself?" She shrugged.

"Well, when David was alive, we had a lot of servants. But he didn't treat them well... when he died, I let them all go, with a healthy bonus."

"Doesn't it get... I don't know, creepy? Out here, the middle of nowhere, all by yourself?" She gave me that look again.

"Actually, the solitude suits me." She laughed, "It's a feline trait." We went in the front door. The place had the feeling like it wasn't sure if it wanted to be a modern house or a medieval castle. So it went for the best of both. The inside was just as bad, with those huge, vaulted ceilings and massive staircases making you feel like a bug on a counter-top.

"Uh... nice place you have here." I said, trying to sound like I meant it. She laughed.

"Don't try to pretend you like it. Your acting ability leaves much to be desired. But, that's not entirely a bad thing." The door swung shut behind us, with a booming sound that made me jump. "My, my, aren't we nervous?"

"Yip!" I replied, resorting to cartoon repartee.

"Isn't the cat supposed to say that?" She asked, smiling. I shrugged.

"I thought it would be ironic."

"Oh, the boy is literate, too. You're just full of surprises. Come on, lover boy, let's get up to the bedroom." I looked up the stairs. Suddenly, I had an idea that really was pretty smooth.

"Have you ever seen "Gone with the Wind?"" I asked, and then I swept her off her feet, and started carrying her up the stairs. Her eyes went wide, and I got the feeling I'd finally done something unexpected.

"All right, Rhett, you can put me down now." She said when I got to the first landing, "Save your strength for later." I tried to look disappointed, but really, I was grateful. She's a lot heavier than she looks! Must be all that muscle I'd noticed before. Lean, but definitely a lot compacted into that space. "Well, come on, or do I have to carry you, now?" Before I could answer, she hefted me up, like I didn't weigh anything at all, and she took the stairs two at a time. She caught my look. "Yes, I am that strong." She wasn't even out of breath when we reached the top of the stairs... and we aren't talking about huffing and puffing, I mean her heart wasn't even beating that hard. It felt really odd, being carried around like that. Not bad, just really strange. I started struggling for her to put me down, but she just held me tighter, and I stopped struggling. What the hell, if she wanted to carry me, it was her arms that would hurt, right? Damn booze. I shook myself awake again. I looked up into Claudia's face. Her eyes were closed, but I knew she wasn't sleeping. Her mouth was curved in a smile of bliss and contentment, very different from that predatory look I'd been seeing all night. I began to notice just how beautiful a woman she really was, in ways that, for once, didn't have much to do with thoughts of sex. She had a face that you could really get to love, without much effort. Especially with an expression like that. I moved a little, trying not to disturb her, but she noticed. "You fell asleep in my arms." She let me go, and I stood up and stretched. Whatever I'd seen on her face, it was gone now, as she watched me. "Mmmm... well, now that you're rested... what do you say we..." she leapt around me and pounced me onto the bed "Have a little fun?" My hands felt around behind her and unzipped her dress. She shrugged out of it, giving the impression of a snake shedding its skin. I started to undo my clothing, but I needn't have bothered. As I lay there pinned under her, she seemed to transform, as though possessed. In seconds, my clothing was shredded and peeled off of me. Despite the amount of alcohol that was flowing in my veins, I had no problems getting turned on by this treatment. There was something perversely exciting about it, frightening and compelling, teasing and unleashed. She snarled, as she thrust herself onto me, with intense, almost frenzied need. I reached out and grabbed on to the bedposts, as I went for the wildest ride of my life. Everyone jokes about what women get like when they go into heat, but I have to admit I never believed it. Now I do. I closed my eyes as wave after wave of unbelievable pain/pleasure/ecstasy/I'm-not-really-sure-and-I'll-get-back-to-you-later passed through my brain. My hips tried to thrust, to dictate the rhythm, but they didn't have a chance against her hammering. The hot, wild need built up in me until I thought I would explode. Then, just when I knew I couldn't take anymore, she changed the speed and depth of her thrusting, and I completely lost my mind as I came inside her. A great blackness crept in at the edges of my vision, and I do believe I passed out. Damn Jack Daniels and all his rowdy friends anyway.

Sunlight was filtering in the window when I woke up the next morning, alone in the bed. I thought about what had happened last night, and I wondered where Claudia was. My legs shuddered at the thought of trying to walk, so I just lay there and tried to get some feeling back into them. Damn, I've had sex with almost anything that walks on two legs, all species of furs; dogs, bears, vixens (of course), rabbits, badgers, weasels (so I dated a lawyer... big deal!), and almost anything Darwin ever dreamed of. But this was my first time with a cat, and if what I had last night was representative of the species, I was rather regretful that I hadn't done it sooner.

I looked at the sun coming in through the windows, and wondered how late it was. Ah, hell, it was Saturday, what did it matter? When my legs no longer screamed when I tried to move them, I sat at the edge of the bed and prepared to get up. As I did so, I noticed the note on the bed-side table. My legs were grateful as I told them to take five, while I read the letter.

Jack,

Thank you for a wonderful time last night. I have some business to take care of this morning, so please, make yourself at home, and avail yourself of anything you desire. Do anything you want, but I must ask you not to go into the North Wing. I closed it off after David died, and I would prefer that you not disturb it. You will find breakfast (or lunch, depending when you get up) waiting for you in the main dining room, which is down the hall to your left, the last door before the stairs, and I laid out some of David's old things for you at the end of the bed. I will see you this evening. Have fun!

Claudia

Hmmm... left to my own devices in a huge mansion. I can think of worse ways to spend the day. I groaned as I got to my paws, but my legs didn't collapse under me, so I figured I was doing good. Well, Jack, what are we going to do today? My stomach once again made its presence known, and I decided to follow Claudia's directions to the dining room. Breakfast (I think, hadn't seen a clock yet...) was right where she said it would be, being kept warm on a serving dish. Sausage and ham, with eggs and biscuits. I took a couple of the biscuits and used them to make sandwiches. "His hunger thus sated, our hero naturally indulges his curiosity, with a leisurely stroll." I said out loud. My voice seemed to fall dead. A huge place like that, you'd expect echoes, but it was like every sound was being swallowed, as though the place was resentful of being disturbed. Ah, probably just good baffling and a lot of imagination. I started wandering around, aimlessly.

The place gave new meaning to the term "luxurious". I passed by an exercise room, fully equipped, a home theater (I'll just bet it has that surround-sound stuff... I'd love to watch a sci-fi thriller in there!), a damn indoor pool and I'm not talking a little wading pool, I'm talking Olympic size, and enough dining rooms and bedrooms to put the Waldorf to shame. I wasn't really sure which wing I was in (I don't have a terribly good sense of direction), so I decided I'd hold off on exploring any of the other wings until I could be sure I wasn't invading forbidden territory.

"Damn." I said to myself, "What the hell does anyone do with a house this big? I wouldn't even be able to keep track of all the rooms, much less live in them!" I shrugged. Maybe it was something only the rich folks could understand. I looked around. Claudia certainly fit the bill for rich. I wandered up and down the halls for hours, until my feet started warning me that I wasn't used to indoor hiking. I found a room with a TV, and plunked down in front of it. I wasn't really surprised to find that Claudia had super-high quality satellite programming. Hell, for all I knew, she could have her own satellite. I sat back in the couch and relaxed for a while (what, the rest of the day was stressful?), and vegged out watching TV. I got involved in a movie, and didn't notice the passing of time. When I looked up, it was getting dark. I decided to try and find my way back to the bedroom I started out from, figuring that Claudia would probably look for me there. Five minutes later, I was completely lost, and the tiny bit of light that was coming through the windows was rapidly fading. The shadows seemed to loom around me. I tried to shrug it off (hell, I wasn't even scared of the dark as a kid, why should I start now?), but I was becoming a little frightened. Lost, alone, in a huge, creepy, strange dark place. I wandered a little longer, and I was feeling something suspiciously like panic. I had the sudden urge to bolt, find a cubby-hole, and hide until the sun came out again. Get ahold of yourself, I told myself, just calm down and think rationally. What I need is a plan, a method. I'll just travel in one direction, not make any turns. Sooner or later, I'll either come to a dead end (ugh.. who thought up that phrase?) or something familiar. If I get stuck, I can just turn around and try another way.

Thus fortified with logic, I started off again, wandering. I might have been fine (hey, it could happen), if I hadn't been startled by a bump behind me. With a squeal of terror, I shamed myself by bolting like a rabbit, dashing madly through the hall, until a light brought me up short.

"Well, hello there." Claudia said, "I've been looking for you. You know, if you'd have stayed still, I could have found you a lot easier." I tried to hide the fact that my heart was trip-hammering, and with an effort of will, I took deliberate, steady breaths, instead of the ragged pants my lungs were demanding. "Come on, dinner is waiting." She came beside me and put her arm around my waist, guiding me along. I was beginning to notice, now that I wasn't drunk (and what happened to my hangover, this morning? Oh well, no news is good news, right?) that there was something… strange about Claudia. Well, actually, I was thinking that something was a little strange about me. Something about her made me feel weak, in a way that was oddly comfortable. Oh, well, I never was really big on self-analysis. And dinner sounded divine. "So," She said as we walked along, "What do you think of the place?"

"It's scary." I blurted. My jaw snapped shut, as I realized what I'd said was true... but not something I wanted to say. She just laughed.

"That's good... you're honest about it." She stopped and turned to face me. Her eyes glittered in the dim light of the candle she was carrying, and I got the feeling that, even in such poor lighting, she could see every detail of my face. "I like an honest boy." She leaned forward, and licked my face, in a way that was semi-seductive. I couldn't place her mood, and it was making me a little nervous, though not in an entirely bad way. I was afraid we were going to eat in one of those huge dining rooms, having to shout to each other to be heard from one end to the other, but instead, we ended up in a cozy little kitchen. She saw my surprise.

"I don't use most of the mansion. I like having the space to roam around in, but for practical purposes, I live in one little section... what used to be the servant's quarters, really." That answered a few of my questions. We sat down at the nicely anthro-sized table, and she served up a delightful meal. I suspected she might not have let ALL of her servants go... for one thing, I doubted she had time to clean the entire mansion, and cook, and... you get the idea. I asked her a few probing questions about the food, and to my surprise, she described the cooking of it with great familiarity.

"All this and you cook, too?" I asked. She smiled.

"Silly boy. Flattery will get you everywhere, you know."

After dinner we retired to a small yet cozy den, and watched a romantic flick together. It wasn't all that late, barely even midnight, I would have guessed, though I couldn't be sure, (I'd wandered all day, and I STILL hadn't seen a single clock) but I found my eyelids drooping, and I had to stifle back more than one yawn. As usual, Claudia noticed.

"Well, I think perhaps we should go to bed, don't you?" I wanted to disagree, but I interrupted myself with a gaping yawn. She gave me a small smile that made my cheeks darken. "Well, come on then. I think you might be more comfortable sleeping in here." She led me into a nearby bedroom, with a plain, ordinary bed, no huge expensive furniture, just everyday stuff I was accustomed to. I had to admit, it was a relief, not feeling so out of place. I got undressed and we got into bed, and I considered making advances toward Claudia, but my eyes slid shut as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I found myself lying spread eagle on a four-poster bed. I looked and, sure enough, I was bound hand and foot to the posts. Kinky, if not entirely original. When I looked up, Claudia was hovering above me, smiling that predatory smile. I could swear I'd seen this in a movie. As she hovered over me I felt a familiar stirring, if you will pardon the expression. She looked down upon me and noticed, and her smile became a wicked grin as she slowly descended unto me...

I woke, warm and drowsy. I looked over and Claudia was there, next to me. I'd half expected to wake up alone again. I wondered what time it was. There, in the recesses of the mansion, the world outside was a memory, yielding no clues as to the passage of time. I looked over at her, and I thought about my dream. I smiled, wondering what fun the new day would bring.

"Good morning, sleepy-head." Claudia said, her tone sounding just a bit miffed, "Hop up so I can change the sheets."

"Change the sheets?" I asked, "But we didn't..." She smiled.

"No, but you did." She lifted the sheets, and I shivered as the comfortable warmth became an unpleasant iciness.

"Wha...?"

"You wet my bed." She chided, though she didn't sound very upset. Certainly not as upset as I would have expected. "Why didn't you tell me that you have a problem like that? I wouldn't have made a big fuss about it."

"But..." I protested, "I don't have a problem like that! This is the first time something like this has happened since I was a kit." She digested that for a minute.

"Well, I suppose it could have been just a freak occurrence." She said, finally, "Well, are you going to lie there all morning?" I got out of bed and stripped off my underwear. Oh, God, what must she think of me? I wet her bed... wearing her late husband's underwear, no less. She saw what I was looking at, and smiled reassuringly. "Don't fret. I can wash them... and I don't think HE'll be needing them again, anyway."

"Well, yeah, but..." She shook her head.

"Not another word about it. Now, then, the shower is down the hall to the right. I suggest you make use of it. I'll be in in a minute, as soon as I get done with things here. Now scat!" I scurried out.

I found the shower and put it to good use. Good thing, because my fur was damp all the way to my navel. I'd had wet dreams as a teenager, but this was ridiculous. I heard the door open, and Claudia came in. I finished getting clean, and she was waiting for me when I got out, holding a towel. She stepped back as I shook off, then handed me the towel. As I dried off, I tried to apologize.

"Look, about what happened, I..."

"Now, Jack. I told you to forget about it. You said it was just a random accident, and that's exactly what I'm going to treat it as. Now unless you really WANT me to make a big deal out of it, I suggest you don't bring it up again." I couldn't think of anything to say, so I just hugged her. She patted me on the head, and handed me a small stack of clothing. She left to fix breakfast, as I got dressed.

We pretty much just fooled around for the rest of the day. Claudia was extremely playful, and we had lots of fun. Sometime after lunch, I tried to lure Claudia into the bedroom. She realized what I was doing, and reminded me why the bedroom wasn't a good place for what I had in mind. Fortunately, I am not without some skill at improvisation... the couch worked just as well. I took my time undressing her, warming her up a bit by teasing her as I did so, squeezing her breasts (Did I really look at them the first time and dismiss them as only average... what could I have been thinking?) as I undid her blouse, licking her belly fur as I slid down her skirt, pressing myself against her as I moved behind her and nibbled her ear. She purred appreciatively. She turned around, and I could tell that it was my turn. Her demeanor seemed to change, though, in some way that I couldn't identify. I mean, not to complain, but she wasn't entirely seductive about it. She did take her time, sliding the shirt I was wearing over my head, unbuttoning my pants, sliding down the zipping. I moaned softly as she pulled my clothes off with one motion, freeing my exceedingly erect cock.

"Oh, my..." She said, "Someone's enjoying this, isn't he?" The way she said it made me feel strangely embarrassed... which only served to further excite me. She pushed me down onto the couch, and I pulled her to me. I was beginning to think she was one of those chicks who only got turned on by being on top. So I rolled her off of me, and straddled her. The look in her eyes gave me all the answer I needed, as I put myself into her. She let me set the pace this time, and I held back, with slow, even thrusts, determined to give her the ride of her life. Instead, it was like having sex with an inflatable doll. Oh, sure, she was responsive, and certainly she was passionate, but it was like I just couldn't give her what she needed. To my extreme dismay, I found my own arousal fading... which had never happened to me before. Especially not in the middle of sex! She noticed, and just smiled. She began thrusting her hips, meeting my rhythm half-way. She reached up and put one hand on my ass, the other stroking my tail. I'd never had anyone stroke my tail during sex before (I know, so I led an under-privileged life) and it was more erotic than I'd been led to believe. Her hands seemed to radiate heat and lust, and I felt my member regain it's lost stiffness, and more besides. I began thrusting in earnest now, not teasingly, but with real need. She sensed this, and it seemed to stimulate her own desire. She mrowled with pleasure as I pressed her against the cushions of the couch, thrusting deeper and deeper inside her. Her hands clutched my ass, almost painfully, as I hit an exceptionally sensitive region inside of her. To my surprise (and, I must admit, to my chagrin) the feeling of having her hands grabbing my ass tightly was the last straw. I climaxed, and lay on top of her, in that post-orgasmic warmth that fades so quickly. She smiled at me distractedly, enveloped in a somewhat mind-numbing pleasure of her own. I pillowed my head on her breasts, not cause I have any particular attraction to them (no more so than any other guy) but just because that was where my head happened to fall.

Her reaction surprised me. She put her arms around me and held me tightly, petting my head gently, tenderly. We lay there like that for what seemed like a long time, then she rolled me gently off of her. I couldn't help giving vent to a small sound of disappointment. She smiled. "Oh, you like that, do you?" I smiled. "Well, enough foreplay. What do you say we have some real fun, now?" She straddled my hips.

"Uh, I... but..." Real fun? What was she talking about? Besides, I wasn't exactly up to another round. She laughed as she read my expression.

"Awww... the poor little foxy doesn't think he can get it up, is that it?" She teased, in a mock-croon. I was mortified with embarrassment. To my surprise, I found myself becoming erect again. She gave me a meaningful look. I blushed, but she was right. Being embarrassed was turning out to be something of a turn-on.

"All you need is a little... prepping." She licked her paw and reached down to grab my semi-erect penis. My eyes rolled and I let my head fall back onto the couch as she began stroking, with slow, enticing movements. "Ooooh, I have an idea..." she reached down and grabbed my tail, sending another little thrill of sensation up my spine. She began trailing the tip of my tail up and down my cock. I closed my eyes, and gave in to the sensation, like being drizzled with warm caramel (yes, I DO know what that feels like, thank you). I was almost disappointed when she stopped, but only for as long as it took for her slide me inside her. With my penis safely wrapped in her soft, moist warmth, she began to do her thing. Remembering our earlier session, I reached around her and stroked the base of her tail, and she rewarded me with a surprised moan. She started out slow, almost leisurely, but it wasn't long before she picked up speed and intensity, returning to that jack-hammer (no pun intended) slamming I remembered from our first night. I resolved that I never wanted to try sex with her on any unpadded surface... it'd probably kill me. I clutched her ass, and in response she thrust me deep inside her, with a ear-drum piercing meowling. Can't say that I blame her, I rather felt like screaming myself. There comes a point where even the greatest sensation over-loads the mind, and passes into a region somewhere between pleasure and pain, and we were rapidly approaching that point. I slid my hands convulsively up and down her back, almost but not quite matching her thrusting, and she began purring, and slowed her rhythm to match. "Oh, yes, baby, that's how it's done... nice and gentle. Oh, yes, oh, yes..." Her words disintegrated into a fierce modulated growling. She braced herself on my shoulders, and leaned in, forcing me even farther inside her. I helped along as well as I could, though I couldn't come close to competing with the force of her thrusts. I let out an involuntary yipping as I came, and I heard her groan, as I slowly slid out of her.

"I'm sorry." She said, a moment later.

"Sorry? For what?" She held up her paws, which were tipped with blood. I felt my shoulder, and I received a warning twinge in response. Sure enough, my paw came back bloody. She inspected the wounds she'd inflicted, and nodded.

"I think they'll be alright... I have a small first-aid kit in the lav. Stay put, and I'll go get it." I sat quietly, drifting in and out of a haze of pleasure, while she retrieved the bandages and sterilized my cuts. I barely noticed, in my euphoria. "My, you DID like that, didn't you?" I nodded. "That's probably enough excitement for one day. What do you say we just cuddle for a while?" I was certainly amenable, and I spent the rest of the day with her arms around me. I was beginning to appreciate having a lover who was more physically capable than myself... I'd always dated the slender, dainty types. I felt warm and mellow, and having her strong, protective arms surrounding me was such a comfortable feeling.

"Aw, shit!" I realized that I hadn't used a condom any of the many times we'd had sex. "Claudia, I'm so sorry, I completely forgot..."

"What are you talking about?"

"I didn't use a condom!" Oh, great... I could just see her getting pregnant... at least I knew I didn't have any STD's or anything. I'd been given a clean bill of health just recently. But Claudia... I wondered if picking guys up in bars was a habit of hers. Oh, Darwin, did I feel stupid.

"Well... for starters, don't worry about me getting knocked up." She turned away, but I could hear a touch of pain creep into her voice. "I.. I can't bear children. I'm completely barren."

"Jesus, Claudia, I'm sorry." She shook her head.

"No, it's ok. Have you been tested lately?" I nodded.

"Completely negative, on all counts."

"I haven't... well... you're the first since David... passed on." I heaved an inner sigh of relief, and that was the last time the subject was mentioned.

We watched some TV, then she announced that it was time for dinner. She pulled a stool into the kitchen, and I watched while she prepared the food. There is nothing like having unbelievably wild sex followed by sitting in a room full of cooking meat to stimulate the appetite, let me tell you. Unfortunately, I had to work the next morning, so after dinner, Claudia took me back home. To my chagrin and her amusement, she had to wake me up again when we got back to my place.

"My, you are a sleepy-head, aren't you?"

"Well, I..." She smiled, warmly.

"I don't mind. I think it's kind of cute. What time do you want me to be here tomorrow?" I sputtered, surprised.

"To-tomorrow?"

"Of course? What, you thought I just wanted you for the weekend? Or didn't you have fun?"

"Oh, no, it's not that, I had a terrific time, Claudia, I just..."

"Just what?"

"I wasn't expecting you to want to see me again so soon. How about.."

"How about I come by at 7? Would that be all right?" Actually, I'd been hoping she'd come over sooner, but seven would be fine... it would give me a few hours to get my pad in order. She waved to me as she drove off, and I stood there and waved back.

"Well, Jack, how do you like that? The beautiful Claudia wishes to see you again tomorrow. Why, Jack, I think I like that just fine." I said to myself, as I climbed the stairs to my door.

I slept like the dead that night, and woke much refreshed. I showered, flung some clothes on, and headed off to work.

I write software for a living, both for office applications are for industrial control. The pay is pretty good, and I'm good at my work, so I should have been happy with the job, I guess, but everyone in the office I worked in was deeply involved in internal politics, always trying to show someone else up, and make themselves look good, no matter who gets hurt. Makes it really hard to get your job done.

I sat down at my station, and opened up the project I'd been working on when I'd stopped working Friday. I sat down at my station and began typing out the code, pausing every few minutes to check over at my notes, or to pull up an overview of the program. But you can only code for so long before you have to come up for air, so after a while, I pushed myself back and went to the water-cooler. The ritual of the water-cooler is, I'm sure, a holdover from the days when animals were less evolved, like the interplay of predator/prey that would occur around a watering hole. The sentinels of H2O were there, of course. At the moment, they were a stoat from marketing and a squirrel from accounting.

"So, Jack, word is you and Felicia had a falling out." Mark, the squirrel, commented. "She refused to talk about it when she came in this morning, but man, is she ever pissed off. I asked her if she wanted some coffee, and she damn near took my head off."

"Guess I've gone and ruined her for all other males, then." I said, as I filled my little paper cone. I know foxes are supposed to be clever and sly and good at this back-stabbing office crap, but I guess I was out the day they covered it in school.

"Course, I could have told her better than to try to make a coder faithful." The stoat put in, "Everybody knows y'all think in binary." Damn. Guess Felicia said more than Mark knew.

"Maybe you're right." I said, "Well, gotta go. I've got a compiler lined up that's just dying to parse my strings." Hmmm... that wasn't bad. I'll have to file that one for use again later. They made a few wise-cracks, but I'd shown them that they couldn't get to me, so they backed off. You know, people like to think that bullies only exist in school-yards and play-grounds, but that isn't true. They just switch to verbal and emotional abuse, when they find out they can't get away with using their fists anymore. I once again immersed myself in code, but it wasn't long before I was interrupted. My boss stuck her head in.

"I was just wondering if you'll have that project finished in time for my 3:15 meeting. They want to start production ahead of schedule." Translation: 'I checked, and you didn't put in extra hours this weekend, so I told upper management that they could move up the release date, just so I can make you look bad.' Jesus, just cause you're canine, you don't have to be a bitch, lady. Oh, well, what do you expect?

"Well, if you really need it by three, I suppose I could give it top priority." Damn, there goes my lunch-break. "With all due respect, I wish you had consulted with me first. I can't make the right decisions unless I have all the needed information." She smirked.

"From what I heard today, you don't have a great record for making good decisions. Why don't you leave the decision making with me. That's what management's for, after all." I didn't feel like arguing the point.

"All right, well, let me get back to work then. I'll need all the time I can get to finish this on time." She ducked back out, and I fought down the urge to snarl. This is an office, I told myself, We're all civilized animals here. Bullshit. I returned to my coding, though having my deadline moved up from Thursday to 5 hours away gave my work a frantic taste. Some joker once said that stress is simply the by-product of resisting the urge to strangle someone who desperately needs it. No wonder my job seems so stressful. Lunch came and went, with me still stuck at my station. Visitors popped in at random intervals to distract me, but I drove them off with a minimum of diplomacy. I even began to take an adversarial tone with the compiler.

"So, what do you think of that?" I muttered, as I fed in the last line of the program. I told the compiler to do its thing, and sat back to wait the few minutes that it would take to run. I checked the clock. I still had an hour left to debug the program. "Come on, come on, you bastard, give it to me." Finally, the dialog box popped up on my screen, telling me that my code had 0 errors. Well, Duh. I've only been doing this since I was in grade school. I ran the program, to find the glitches that the compiler couldn't catch. To my pleasure, they were few, and easily fixed. There was one that was elusive, because the compiler was just being ornery, but I wrote a sub-routine to replace the command it didn't like, and it ran like a dream. I gave myself a mental high-five as I saved the program to file, and delivered a copy to my boss. I checked the clock. Heh, finished with almost ten minutes to spare. How's that for talent?

I finished up a few more loose ends, and checked out at four. Now, to clean house, and maybe fix a little dinner. Claudia isn't the only one who's handy with a range-top. Chicks dig a guy who can cook, after all. After I stuffed all my dirty clothes into the washing machine and gotten every visible surface clean, I started working on dinner. I thought I'd give her a treat, a down-home kind of meal. I got out the flour to make dumplings, and pulled some chicken (a personal favorite) out of the freezer. If I was certain of her tastes, I would have been really fancy, and tried to make an oriental rat dish, but I couldn't tell if that was really her thing. Course, given that she was probably used to caviar and the like, I don't think my fresh-off-the-farm spread was exactly her thing, either. Oh, well, chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, creamed corn... yeah, that should make a decent dinner. I'd just gotten everything into serving dishes and onto the table when there was a knock at the door. I opened it, and Claudia came in. Perfect timing.

After a nice long hug (and a little tongue-action in there, too), I set the table while Claudia fixed the drinks. I noticed that she never asked where anything was, just opened the cabinets and boom, there it was.

"You know your way around a kitchen, don't you?" I commented.

"Well, you have everything laid out so neatly and logically."

I shrugged. "I'm a programmer, what can I say? I deal with computers all day, it kinda sinks into your thinking."

"So," She said, when we were seated, "Did you have fun at work today?"

"Eh... I'd rather not talk about work." Her ears dipped sympathetically.

"Aww, poor thing. Was it really that bad?" I nodded. "Well, you just tell me all about it." Hrmph. She must be some kind of verbal masochist.

I filled her in on the events of the day. "Sounds to me like you did fine. I mean, you beat the deadline, didn't you?" I nodded.

"Yeah, but it was an artificial goal. The project really didn't have to be done by then, she was just trying to show me up. The whole office is like that."

"If you're that unhappy, why don't you find another job?"

"I've tried. But coders are easy to come by. It isn't like other tech jobs, where you have to have a formal course of study. Anybody with a PC can learn how to become a proficient programmer. So I get to compete with kids fresh out of High-School, most of whom have no lives other than working with computers."

"You're kidding?" I shook my head.

"Nope. I've met a lot of them. They're really kind of scary. Course, they have a severe lack of social skills, and when they get dropped into an office environment like the one I work in... well, with role models like that, what kind of habits do you expect them to pick up? So I have to compete with kids who prefer computers to people, and therefore don't mind putting in weekends... holidays... skipping funerals to work on a project..."

"Now you ARE joking!" She accused.

"Eh, guilty as charged. Well, mostly. But yeah, the prospects are pretty bleak these days."

"Well, why don't you take up something different?"

"Like what? This is all I know how to do, and while I'm good at my work, I'm not the kind of coder that can just pull up and be guaranteed to find a job." She had a thoughtful look.

"I'm sure you have lots of talents, Jack. I'll bet you've just never tried most things. It's just a matter of..."

"Applying myself. I know, I must've heard that from twenty different guidance councilors in school."

"Well, did you ever consider that they might be right?" I shook my head.

"I'm just too old to try and change careers now."

"You aren't that old, Jack. Besides, that saw about learning new tricks is for old DOGS, not foxes."

"Maybe you're right, but I have a good job. It would be irresponsible to gamble my career like that." She didn't like that much, I could tell, but she changed the subject, complimenting my cooking. Her praise warmed my heart like you wouldn't believe. At least this was something where my efforts were rewarded.

After dinner, we retired to the bedroom. She raised an eyebrow at the black silk sheets. Ok, so maybe it was a little obvious, and possibly showing a slight lack of taste, but, what the hell? She smiled at me, as she unbuttoned my shirt, and slid it off of me.

"Are you sure you aren't too tired, Jack? You look a little sleepy." I shook my head, as I sat down on the edge of the bed.

"No, I'm fine," I yawned. "Jus' had a bad day at work." She nodded.

"I know, poor thing. I'll bet those shoes aren't helping. Here, let me get them off." She unlaced my shoes and slipped them and my socks off. My eyes closed as she rubbed my toes, and I lay back, relaxing under her gentle ministrations.

When I opened my eyes, she had finished with my paws and had somehow managed to take my pants off without me noticing. I was sporting a rather considerable erection, which in my prone position made me look like one of those ancient sundials. Apparently, it was high noon, if you know what I mean. She grinned that evil grin of hers and licked her lips, sensuously. I closed my eyes just as her mouth closed around me.

My alarm woke me, startling me so much that I bolted upright. I hit the snooze button, and was about to roll over when the feeling of slick, wet silk alerted me to a certain inconvenience. I looked down at the rapidly cooling dark patch beneath me with dismay.

"Aw, Shit!" I swore. I looked around, and realized that I was alone. Claudia must have gone back home after we... or had that been a dream? It was hard to tell. Well, that was one good thing, anyway. This was bad, but if Claudia had been there... I would have just died. Well, all I could do for the moment was strip the mattress and let it air out, and pray that it didn't happen again. If it did, I might have to see a doctor. God only knew what could be wrong with me. I looked at the alarm... good. I had just enough time to put my sheets on to wash, and grab a shower before I left for work. As for the mattress... I'd have to hope that a dousing of aerosol spray disinfectant would do until I could deal with it better. I stripped the bed and bundled the sheets into the washing machine. I was really glad I'd decided to get a washer/dryer set a few years ago. I'd hate to have had to drag my wet sheets down to the Laundromat. I felt my chest fur. Yuck. Definitely got to have a shower.

Well, you can imagine that this didn't put me in a terribly good mood for work. My day went a little better than the day before, though. My boss's bosses were pleased that I'd finished the project so far in advance of the schedule, and I didn't have that much to worry about, for a while. I spent a little time listening to the stations around me, tuning in to the latest gossip. Much as I hate it, it was necessary, for avoidance purposes if nothing else. From what I was hearing, Accounting was buzzing with the fact that Felicia had found a new male to date with. Well, good luck to her, and to him. Felicia was a nice person... her only fault was that she'd been dating me. I tinkered with a couple of minor projects, but mostly just killed time until I could safely leave.

I hurried home, and dragged the mattress out onto the patio to let it air out. I checked, and my room's smell hadn't changed noticeably, except for the smell of aerosol spray, so I assumed the disinfectant had done its job. I toyed with the idea of going out, possibly to a bar, but rejected it in favor of staying home and puttering around the house. I found a book I'd been meaning to read for a while, and curled up in my favorite chair. I resolved that I would try not to drink anything before bed, and lessen my chances that way.

I woke the next morning dry and exceedingly thirsty. I found that I still had a good ¼ gallon of orange juice left, and I guzzled it quickly before hopping into the shower. I felt pretty good, actually. My happy mood lasted only for as long as it took me to get to work, though. My boss was waiting for me when I arrived.

"Where have you been?" Ok, it's 8AM, I'm carrying my briefcase... let's all think really hard and guess where I've been.

"Uh.. I just got here." I said. Early morning conversations aren't my forte.

"Didn't you get the memo I sent you yesterday?"

"No. What was it about?"

"You were supposed to have a report ready for our staff meeting!" This was news to me.

"Staff meeting? What staff meeting?"

"The day-long staff meeting! The one that starts in an hour!" I sighed.

"All right, what did you... oh, never mind." I stalked off, leaving her standing there, staring at my receding back. When I got to my desk, sure enough, there was a memo waiting for me... dated yesterday, at 6:30PM. Oh, please. They wanted a summary of the new software I'd developed for our production run. I sat down, pulled up all the relevant data, and started writing the report.

I shook myself, and found myself staring at a page full of text. I checked the count at the bottom... it read 10 of 10. I checked the clock... I had 10 minutes left to print it out an make copies. I ran it though the laser printer, and then dashed over to the copier. I fed my document in, and moments later it spewed out several copies that bore a reasonable likeness to the document that I put in. I stapled the reports and hurried to the meeting.

I was the first person there... everyone else was "fashionably late" I suppose. You could get an idea of the pecking order by seeing who came in when.. my boss came in, with a couple of supervisors right before her, and then the staff members came in two or three at a time, as though they'd all been gathered together discussing important issues ahead of time. I'd never noticed how many wolves there were in upper management. And no herbivores, either. Hmmm... so much for affirmative action, huh? Wonder if the company has an 800 number.

They started out by leafing quickly through my report, then they got right to what they wanted. They wanted to know how I'd gotten the program running so quickly. They started questioning, first from one section of the table, then from another, quizzing me on every aspect of the application. I got a picture of me sitting in a circle of wolves, trying to watch them all at the same time. Must be another hold-over. I was ready for them, though, and I answered all of their questions quickly and concisely. Then my boss started in, attacking me on a different matter. I began to get an idea of what this was really about... someone wanted to move ahead in the management pack, so she was trying to set me up as a sacrifice to make herself look good. I answered all of her questions, and started to go on the offensive. She tried to misdirect things, but got tripped up when she got to the part where she moved up the timetable. She pulled back with her tail between her legs (figuratively... I couldn't tell what she was doing under the table, but it wouldn't have surprised me). The meeting let out for lunch, just in time. The juice that I'd had, plus the coffee from the meeting, had come together to work a number on me. Besides, I knew that if I ducked into the male bathroom, my boss couldn't very well follow me. I didn't imagine that she would be terribly happy just then. I got to the urinal just in time, and relieved myself. And boy, let me tell you, that WAS a relief. After I was done, I stood there a while longer, thinking. This was just half-time. I needed a solid plan for the rest of the meeting. My boss had gone away smarting, but I knew she'd regroup.

We all shuffled back in from lunch, and the Inquisition began again. I didn't even give them a chance to really get started. After the third time I'd answered the same question, in a slightly altered form, I went for the throat of the matter.

"Look, what's the issue here? What are the critical factors we're trying to get at in this meeting?"

"We're trying to understand why you rushed this project." One of the management pack said, " We have concerns about the quality of your code."

"Then for Darwin's sake, check the code, and the application! If there is an error in the program, I will be happy to do whatever it takes to fix it. But there is nothing to suggest that such an error exists."

"But you didn't test it completely..."

"I didn't have time to give it a 100% test. I told you, I had my priorities juggled for me. I was told to deliver by 3:30 Monday, and that's exactly what I did. Yes, it was a rush job. But I gave it as much attention as I give all my projects. If the issue is how much time I spent on the project, I can take neither outstanding credit for having completed it so fast, nor responsibility for having rushed, because these matters were beyond my control. If you have a problem with the quality of my work, then by all means, let's discuss the specific issues." That stopped them. "All of the relevant information is there in my report." I said, hoping that it was true. I hadn't had the chance to look it over and find out. "I suggest that we read through it together, and cover each issue item by item." This sounded reasonable to them, so they pulled my report and we went line by line, going over each detail of the program with a fine toothed comb. By the time we were done, the tone of the meeting had changed from adversarial to almost commendatory. The meeting adjourned an hour ahead of schedule, with every participant satisfied, but one. As I walked out, I could feel her eyes boring into my back, and I knew that if she were any less civilized, I'd be a bloody stain on the carpeting. I felt a small surge of satisfaction, knowing that I'd gotten to her, for once. It didn't last long, though. As I was heading home, I realized that I'd won the battle, but I would lose the war. She was far more adept at politics, and now she had a personal grudge against me. I was, to put it in the vernacular, in deep shit.

Well, what can you do on a Wednesday night? The events of the day had me a little too stirred up. I went out for dinner, and had a couple of drinks with the regulars at the North Street Bar. About ten, I called it quits with the drinking, mindful of my success the night before. If I had to wake up thirsty every morning, so be it. Beats the alternative, right? I left shortly thereafter, much to the confusion of my acquaintances. When I got home I got ready for bed, and checked my messages. I got one from Claudia, which immediately made me feel a little better. I'd worried that I'd done something to put her off (can't imagine what). She said she'd call me the next day, about getting together over the weekend. I climbed into bed, and it didn't take long for sleep to find me.

I woke up wet, though much less so than on previous occasions. But this was worse. The smell was acrid and terrible, and my skin was already starting to itch wherever it had soaked through. I hit the shower first, and scrubbed myself till I thought my fur would fall out. Then I dealt with the mattress. The smell was almost enough to take my attention away from the burning in my throat. Ugh. I should have gone out for groceries last night, I didn't have any more juice. I grabbed a cola instead. At least it was cold and wet. Ew, never mind, that was definitely not what I wanted to say. At least work went a little better that day. My boss spent the day brooding, and I got a lot of work finished. I kept finding myself "blanking out" on occasion, then finding that I'd finished a lot of work. Really good quality, too. I was really starting to worry. Could this be connected with my nocturnal problem? Maybe I had some sort of tumor, or something... I'd read about some strange cases with brain tumors. I put in my time, and checked out.

It felt good to get home. The office was becoming more unpleasant with each passing day. I fixed a little something for dinner, then sat down with my book to wait for Claudia's call. I didn't have to wait very long. "Hi, Claudia!" I exclaimed upon hearing her voice, "I've missed you!" "I haven't been gone that long." She laughed, "But thanks. So, how have you been?" I hesitated... should I tell her? I remembered how she was the first time it had happened. Hell, she was just angry cause she thought I hadn't told her... Guess honesty wins out again. "Well... not so good." I said.

"Are you ok? You aren't hurt are you?" There was no mistaking the real concern in her voice.

"No, I'm not hurt, just... uh... I've been having problems."

"What kind of problems?" I could hear the raised eyebrow in her voice.

"Uh... like the kind I had that last night at your place." She made a tsk-tsking noise.

"Have you been wetting the bed?"

"Uh... yeah."

"I thought you said you didn't have a problem like that?"

"Well...I didn't. But it's happened a few times now... I'm starting to get worried. I'm thinking about seeing a doctor."

"That sounds like a very smart idea. Now, tell me about it."

"Uh.. are you sure you want to hear about it? It's pretty gross." She laughed.

"You were right next to me the first time it happened, silly boy. I think I can take it." So I filled her in on everything... what had been going on at work, my wetting the bed, the whole nine yards. "Well, silly, of course it smelled bad. Which will burn you worse, 6 molar Hydrochloric acid, or 1 molar Hydrochloric?"

"Uh... 6 molar, of course."

"Why's that?"

"Um... it's more... concentrated?" I saw what she was getting at. "Oh, I see what you mean."

"Mmm-hmm. I think you should do what you normally do... especially since it doesn't seem to stop you from getting wet."

"I... I'm sorry."

"For what?" She sounded shocked.

"Well... that, you know..." I didn't have to hear her speak to know that she was shaking her head.

"Silly, silly boy. My David was a very old man when he died. He had the same problem, and then some. So don't think I'm not used to dealing with it. Now, I think you should probably visit a doctor... I know just the fellow. I have him on retainer, so it won't cost a thing."

"Are you sure, I mean..."

"Jack, of course I'm sure. He's the best diagnostician I know. I don't want you getting hurt, understand?"

"I understand. Thanks." The topic turned to other subjects, and we agreed to meet at my place Friday evening, then go to her place for the weekend. She told me she'd make an appointment for me for Friday, and gave me the address of her doctor's office. I thanked her again, and said goodbye. I woke up dry the next morning, but that wasn't as encouraging as it would have been. Oh, well, at least I didn't have to bother with waking up thirsty every morning. Oh, Shit, I realized that it was Friday. Claudia had set a doctor's appointment up for me... that it was for today had registered, but hadn't really sunk in. How was I supposed to get my boss to approve time for me to go?

I finally worked up the nerve, and went in to request the time. To my surprise, she didn't even ask why I wanted to see a doctor, just stamped her approval on my request form, and let me go. I pondered this as I drove to the doctor's office, which was way across town, in a more prestigious area. I walked into the reception area, where the secretary looked me over, and told me to have a seat. I shrugged, and sat in one of the chairs provided. They were a lot more comfortable than the chairs in the last doctor's I'd been to, and the magazines were actually recent and in one piece. I picked one up and leafed through it. Some of it was detailed medical jargon, which blew completely over my head, but some of it was geared to my level. It helped pass the time.

I'd been there for a while, when the doctor finally walked out, and inquired about a certain fox named Jack, who was an hour late for his appointment. The secretary stammered for a few minutes, then pointed at me. Guess I didn't look posh enough to meet her rigorous standards.

"It's all right, Mrs. Hepple, this is a special referral from another of our clients." The doctor was a horse, which was a surprise. Not too many horse-doctors make it to such a high-class operation as this. He turned to me. "Now then, Jack... do you mind if I call you Jack?" I shook my head. "Well, if you'll step in here, we'll see what we can do." His office looked about like any other doctor's office, all white tile and stainless steel. He had a padded examination table, which he had me sit on, after covering it with a sheet of protective paper, from a roll attached to the head of the table. I looked askance. He chuckled, and shook his head.

"No, Jack, I'm not worried about your problem. This is a requirement, to prevent the spread of disease through contact. If you'd seen some of the cases I treated in here, believe me, you'd appreciate it." He cleared his throat. "And now, perhaps you can tell me about your problem? Claudia told me about it, but I'd like to hear it from you." I explained to him about my bed-wetting, and the strange occurrences at work. He nodded, and hmmmed and hawwed, and recommended a full physical workup, to make certain that nothing was seriously wrong. "This sounds like a nervous problem, but I want to make certain. I'm going to take a blood sample, if you don't mind, and also a urine sample, if you can spare it." I looked at him. He smiled. "A joke. Most of my patients laugh... but I can see why you might not. Don't worry, Jack, you aren't alone. Bedwetting is a surprisingly common ailment... about 3% of all people over the age of 20 suffer from it. But you'd never know it, because it's something people never talk about. As for these "blackouts" of yours, they're also rather common, especially in people in artistic fields. Many painters, writers, and musicians experience temporary ASC's when..."

"ASC's?" I interrupted. I hate it when people just acronyms I'm not privy to.

"Altered States of Consciousness. Heightened concentration, loss of conscious awareness, meditative trances, hypnosis, things like that. It could just be a natural development of your creative talents."

"But I have an office job... I don't DO creativity." I protested.

"Sure you do! It may not be something you can frame, but almost any job possesses an artistic element. Just because your job is technical, it doesn't mean it isn't artistic." I'd never thought of it like that before.

"So you think there isn't anything wrong with me?"

"Well, Jack, to be honest, no, I don't think anything is seriously wrong with you, at least, nothing untreatable. Now, I know a good bit about psychiatry, and it sounds to me like your problem is stress-related."

"You're kidding? I've never had a problem with stress before."

"Ah, but that's just it! You've never dealt with your stress, just channeled it away. You bed-wetting is most likely just your body's way of telling you that you're pushing things too hard. I can prescribe a relaxant, but I warn you not to expect immediate results."

"Hey, that's great, doc. I was worried that I might have a tumor, or something." He shook his head.

"We'll take the samples just to make sure, but I don't think you have anything to worry about." He looked at me sternly. "Unless there's something you haven't told me about?" I shook my head. "Good. Then I dub thee over-stressed, and prescribe you a relaxant to help you take the edge off it. I'll have it sent to Claudia's via courier this afternoon. Will that be good?"

"Yeah, that'll be fine."

"I must ask that you stick with the relaxants, though. Don't just try them for a couple of nights, then quit. For them to be effective, you'll need to take them for at least a week, and then we should see some results." He took the blood sample, which wasn't much fun, but hey, what do you expect? He also sent me to the restroom with a little specimen container, which was somewhat amusing. Every try walking around with a small jar of piss? Try it sometime. Anyway, I was glad to hear that it wasn't fatal, or anything, and that I should be back to normal within the week.

My trip to the doctor's had blown most of my day, and I wasn't really feeling up to dealing with work anyhow, so I just went straight home, to wait for Claudia. I couldn't wait to give her the good news. I toyed with the idea of taking her out to dinner. If she like Jag's, then she'd probably like a couple of other places I knew about. Eh, why not?

She picked me up at seven, and I suggested a location for dinner. She was agreeable, so she drove us to StarGazers, a popular club on the South side. The food was good, and the scenery wasn't half bad, either, most of the time. Not that I planned to do much looking, in present company. What made it really nice, though, was the decor. The walls were painted with murals of outdoor settings, and the ceiling was full of sky-lights. Anywhere there wasn't a view of open sky, the ceiling was painted with a startlingly realistic rendering of a star-lit night. It kinda gave you the feeling of dining out in a woodland clearing.

The waiter handed us our menus, and we perused them for a few minutes. I picked out a delightful spicy chicken dish, but Claudia seemed indecisive. I recommended their steak.

"Are you sure?" I rolled my eyes.

"Claudia, I may not make mega-bucks, but I can afford this dinner. Don't worry about it." She shrugged, and when the waiter arrived, ordered a steak, as rare as the Health Regs. would allow. I raised an eyebrow, and she gave me a look that said "Well, I warned you, didn't I?" The waiter set down our drinks, and left.

"So, how did you like Dr. Epona?"

"He was nice. Had a good bedside manner." She sat there for a minute, expectantly.

"Well?" She finally said, "What did he say?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. He said it was likely just a stress-related problem. He said he'd send some medicine over to your place, and that should take care of it."

"That's wonderful! So the problem's solved, just like that?" I nodded.

"Well, he said I should stick with the medicine for at least a week, before I expect results, but hey, at least there's nothing seriously wrong with me."

"Oh, Jack, I'm so glad to hear it." She reached out and squeezed my hand softly. "I was worried about you." The waiter returned with our food. I tried not to stare as he laid down her steak. It was still pink on the outside. Claudia licked her lips at the sight of it.

I dug into my chicken, trying not to lose my appetite as she performed an autopsy on her meal. She took each bite slowly, as though she were drinking it rather than eating it. Her eyes half-closed as she ate, and I could have sworn I heard her purring. I put down my fork.

"Is it really that good?" I asked. She nodded.

"Here, try a bite." She took a piece and popped it into my mouth. I know it sounds squeamish, but I really prefer my meat well-done. With an effort, I chewed it up and swallowed. It was hard, because blood kept squishing out as I chewed, making me want to gag. She laughed. "I guess it's an acquired taste." Hrmp. Maybe it was just her throwback. Most furs have one or two uncivilized behaviors that crop up every now and again, like my own taste for chicken, a throwback to my ancestors who used to raid coops. I gulped my drink to get the taste out of my mouth, and the waiter appeared suddenly, in the way that good waiters do, and refilled it. Thus fortified, I returned my attention to my own meal, and did my best to ignore hers. I couldn't really complain... the steak had been my idea, after all. We finished with dinner, and I paid the tab. On the way out, Claudia suggested dessert.

"Well, since you treated me to dinner, let me take you out for dessert. I know the perfect place." I was a little full from dinner, but I figured, why not? She pulled out of the parking lot, and pulled up in front of an ice-cream parlor only a few blocks away. An ice-cream parlor? Somehow, this didn't seem her style. "Come on, it'll be fun. When was the last time someone treated you out for an ice-cream sundae?"

"Probably not since I got out of high school." I admitted. Inside, there were what looked like a thousand flavors to choose from. Some of them looked a bit risky, too. Chocolate flavored ice-cream? Not for me, thanks. I'd hate to be killed by ice-cream. Hmm... Nutella flavored frozen yogurt?

"Isn't Nutella a controlled substance these days?" Claudia shrugged. "It isn't real Nutella, it's an artificial flavoring." Ah, that made sense. I stared at the list of flavors, and felt a bit intimidated. I think she noticed.

"Why don't you try a hot-caramel sundae? I'm thinking I'll try the "Squirrel-in-a-blender"." She saw my wide-eyed look, and laughed. "Oh, come on. It can't have been that long since you've had ice cream? It's just a catchy name, like "Sex on the beach". It's a chunky strawberry-fudge ripple." Well, that was a relief. She ordered and we sat down with our ice-cream. She was right, the sundae was delicious. A bit gooey, though. Ever try getting caramel off of your muzzle? Claudia laughed as she watched me try to lick my chin clean. She made the remark that felines don't have that problem, and demonstrated. A few quick licks on the backs of her hands, and she had my muzzle caramel-free in moments. I looked around. Oops. People were trying to pretend they weren't staring.

"Uh, Claudia, what do you say we go? People are watching us."

"Well, that makes them silly, then, doesn't it? Oh, well, I guess you're right." We climbed into her car, and once again we were off for her place. I watched the scenery pass by. Claudia put a tape in to play, a classical piece that sounded like Tchaikovsky to my uneducated ear.

The rumbling of thunder woke me from my pleasant doze, and I yawned and stretched as I looked around. We were well out of the city, surrounded by dark, thick woods. Tres spooky. Then the rain started, a gentle pattering on the windshield and roof. I felt Claudia reach over and gently rub my neck, and I snuggled into the seat as my eyes closed again. When I woke up again, I shivered as I realized that I was beaded all over with moisture. My position registered after a second. Claudia was carrying me up the stairs again. She'd probably carried me through the rain. She saw I was awake, and set me down.

"You were sleeping so soundly, I didn't want to wake you up." She explained, "What is it with you and cars, anyway? Do you always do that?" I shook my head. "Oh, well. Come on. I found a package on my doorstep. Three guesses what it was." Ah, so the good doctor delivered as promised. Cool. "From the looks of things, I'd say we should probably go ahead and go to bed." I shook my head.

"No, I'm fine. After all, I just had a nice, refreshing nap, right?"

"All right, what do you say we watch a movie? There's a good fantasy flick coming on soon. We can watch it in the theater room." I nodded. "But first, let me get you something else to wear. You'll catch a cold in those damp clothes." Actually, I was a bit chilly. We ducked into one of the innumerable side-rooms, where she pulled out a small selection for me to wear. She sat there and watched as I changed.

"Uh, Claudia, do you mind not watching me get dressed?" She laughed.

"Don't be silly! I've seen you naked more than once. What, it's only ok for me to see you naked if I'm about to have sex with you?" I could see her point. It still made me a little uncomfortable though. It got worse, when I tried to button up my shirt. The buttons were microscopic, and seemed to be sown on backwards. I could tell Claudia was trying not to laugh, watching me. Finally, she got tired of watching me struggling with it. "Here, let me help." She deftly fastened the shirt, with not the least hint of difficulty. "There, that wasn't so hard, was it? Come on. We don't want to miss the beginning, do we?"

The movie was good, especially when viewed in a home-theater. Afterward, she led me back to her bedroom (I still hadn't figured out how to navigate throughout those huge corridors) for a little fun.

I unzipped her dress, and slid it off of her, and she turned around so I could unfasten her bra. Once I had that off, I slipped my hands into her panties, and pushed them slowly down. While I was bent over and in the area, I gave her tail a light nip, making her jump a little. She turned around, and then it was my turn. Good thing, since I probably couldn't have gotten the shirt off myself short of ripping it apart.

"Does my foxy need help with the buttons?" She teased. I felt myself getting hard. Well, there was no use in trying to hide it anymore... I just loved it when she did things like that. When she had my shirt open, she ran her hands over my chest, dipping her hands down to give my belly a good quick rub, then sending her hand lower, into my pants, where she firmly grasped my dick. She kept a good grip on me as she undid my pants with her other hand, and slowly worked them down around my ankles. "Step out, dear." I obeyed (Hell, what else could I do? Think about my position!), and she gently led me over to the bed. She let go of me and gave me a small push, and a fell back onto the bed.

I froze at the noise I heard when I hit the bed. I looked askance of Claudia, who nodded.

"It's a vinyl cover. I thought it might take a load off your mind, knowing that the mattress won't get wet." She climbed into bed with much rustling, stalking forward until she was supporting herself on her arms above me. "Besides, it looks like you like it." The vinyl rustled every time either of us moved, and she was right, the constant reminder was arousingly embarrassing. I looked away, ashamed of my reaction. She thwapped my ear, and I looked her in the face. "Now don't you dare act ashamed. If you like it, you like it. There's nothing wrong with that." I nodded, meekly.

"But I feel so silly." She smiled, slyly.

"That's the point." She mrred as she lowered herself onto me, "Ooh! You like feeling silly. It turns you on, doesn't it?"

"I, uh, ooooh!" I chose to treat it as a rhetorical question, since my powers of speech were somewhat limited at the moment.

"Wassa matter, foxy... Oh, Jack!... Cat got your tongue?" That didn't sound like a bad idea. I pulled her against me, and locked lips with her. The mattress sounded like a wrapped present on Christmas morning as we did the horizontal tango, which only served to spur me on. Suddenly, Claudia thrust me down, forcefully, pressing me into the mattress so hard I'm surprised I didn't leave a permanent depression, while she arched her back, threw her head back, and let out a rough, feline snarl of pleasure. I felt her come, nice and warm around me. She moaned in pleasure, and I could tell she'd gotten what she'd wanted. She looked down at me with a mischievous sparkle in her eye, and stopped thrusting. My hips tried to take up the slack, but she had me pressed hard against the bed, and I knew there was no way I could overcome her strength. Slowly, achingly, she let up the pressure, and it was my turn to arch, as she slowly slid herself up and down me, not letting me quicken things, drawing it out for what seemed like an eternity. I moaned with a mixed aching/longing. She began moving quicker, almost imperceptibly at first, then more noticeably, gradually allowing me to move as I wanted to, matching my rhythm, letting me come. When I finally did, I nearly passed out as a wave of pleasure erupted from my groin and spread like fire through my veins. She gently moved off of me, and lay beside me. She opened her arms invitingly, and I snuggled into them. I started drifting off to sleep again, warm and content, in the arms of the woman I... loved? Now there's a scary thought. But... it seemed right. Well, I guess there's a first time for everything. I opened my eyes (though it was an effort) and looked over at Claudia, who was stroking my hair and purring ever so softly.

"Claudia?" She opened an eye.

"Mmmmm?"

"I... I... I love you." There, I said it. I feel better.

Her breath caught in her throat, and set lay there, speechless, for more than a minute. I saw tears in her eyes. Oh, Darwin, what had I done now?

"Oh, Jack." She said, and then she smiled. "Thank you." She hugged me tightly. "I know how much it means for you to say that." I snuggled up to her, and allowed sleep to take me.

"Jack?" I mumbled something, sleepily. "Jack, dear, you need to wake up for a minute, sweetie." I managed to open my eyes. I looked groggily at Claudia, who was sitting beside me, on the edge of the bed. "You forgot to take your medicine." Medicine? Oh, yeah. She handed me a tall glass.

"What's this?" She smiled.

"It's your medicine. I've already mixed it." I sat up, and sniffed the glass.

"It's milk." She nodded.

"Mostly. Don't worry, the medicine is in there. Now be good, and drink it all." I shrugged. Anything to get back to sleep. I tipped the glass back, and guzzled it. Hmmm.. I was thirsty, anyway. The milk was warm, and had a delicious creamy sweetness. If the medicine was in there, then she hid it well, because I couldn't taste it. I gave forth a small belch, and reddened, but she just smiled, and laid me back down, then slid into bed beside me. I closed my eyes as she gently stroked my belly, and was asleep before I even realized it.

I woke up when I heard the door close. I looked up, my head still fuzzy, and saw Claudia standing there in a bath-robe, drying her hair with a towel. She leaned over and gave me a kiss, brief and chaste.

"Sleep well, foxy?" I nodded, and started to snuggle back to sleep. She pulled the covers off of me, and I was instantly chilled from my knees to my neck. I looked, and found that I was lying in a puddle. Oh, super yuck. How the hell had I wet so much? I didn't think I'd had that much to drink. Claudia tsk-tsked again. "Well, come on. Get up and go get cleaned. Don't worry, silly. I'm not mad. I figured this would probably happen. Why do you think I put that vinyl sheet on the bed?" Oh, yeah, the vinyl sheet! That was why it looked like I'd wet so much. I got out of bed, and she handed me the towel. "You're dripping. Dry off with this." I dabbed myself with the towel until I was sure I wouldn't leave a trail of spots on her carpet, then hurried off to the shower.

Claudia was waiting for me when I was done, with a pair of tennis-shorts and a pull-over shirt. I got dressed (unassisted, this time), and presented myself for inspection. She nodded approvingly, and gave me a hug. "Jack?" I looked into her eyes. "Something I should have said last night, but I couldn't find the words."

"What's that?"

"I love you too." I felt like my heart had melted. I felt tears, real tears, come to my eyes as she put her arms around me and hugged me. We played the day away, amusing ourselves in whatever manner we liked, (which is to say, we had sex a good bit). I threw together some sandwiches for lunch, and Claudia made dinner. By the time evening rolled around, I was pretty worn out, but Claudia was still energetic, as always.

"Say, Jack.. why don't I show you the grounds?" I was agreeable, so we packed a few things to snack on and she led me outside. She showed me the outdoor pool, the shooting range, the water-garden (which was absolutely breathtaking in the moonlight), the green-house (where she got a large number of her cooking herbs and spices), and all the various out-buildings and features of her vast estate.

"What's over in that area?" I asked, pointing to a distant set of buildings. I saw the expression on Claudia's face, and was sorry I'd asked. "Oh. Is that the graveyard, or something?" She shook her head.

"No. I'll show you." We walked over, slowly, as though she was steeling herself up for something unpleasant. I was surprised at what she found so terrible. "Here it is."

"A... a school?" She nodded.

"We're a little too far out of the way for the public schools... so David had a private school established to teach the servants' children." I looked around. There was a play-ground, with swings, a slide, merry-go-rounds, everything. The school, though obviously long unused, seemed very well built. I could imagine the place filling up with children in the day-time, envision them swinging and playing and laughing and crying. Then I looked again, at the reality. "I'd hoped that... maybe.. one day..." She broke off, and I put my arms around her. There was nothing else to say. I could see why she would avoid such a place.

"Come on. Let's go back inside. I'm sorry." She shook her head.

"Don't be. I just..." I took her in my arms, and turned her away from the ghostly school-grounds. We went back inside, feeling very somber.

"Claudia, can I ask you a question?" I said, when we were inside once more. She nodded, still a little distracted. "Why don't you adopt? I mean, you obviously have the money."

"Oh, I thought about it, Jack, many times. But what kind of life could I hope to give a child? Yes, I do have a lot of money, but I live out here in the middle of nowhere. I couldn't subject a child to that kind of isolation. Much as I would like to adopt, every child deserves the right to try to lead a normal life... and that's something I could never give." Well, this was a depressing turn of events. She almost visibly shook off her sorrow. "Well, anyway, I think it's time for bed, don't you?" It seemed like a good idea to me. "All right. You go on, and I'll be right there."

I found my way to the bedroom, and undressed. The sheets were warm, and I suspected that they might have recently come from a dryer. Either Claudia was more confident that I was that the medicine would start working, or she just didn't have any more clean sheets. Still, the warm, soft sheets were nice as I pulled the covers over me. I lay there for a few minutes, thinking about nothing in general. So, I finally fell in love. Sure took me long enough. I wondered what it was about Claudia that was so special. I mulled it over, recalling all of the brief time we'd spent together. She was strong, and caring, and compassionate. She was gentle. And there was that look in her eyes that I caught sometimes... that look that made her face more than beautiful.

As I was musing over this I heard the door open. Claudia came in, carrying a few things. She set a small bundle down beside the bed with one hand, and gave me the glass she was carrying in the other. Whatever the doctor prescribed, it was strong stuff. I felt my muscles losing tension even before I was finished drinking. My arms sagged a little, and I could feel the milk dripping down my chin. When I was finished, I tried to move, but I just couldn't summon the will. Keeping my eyes open was about as much as I could manage. Claudia smiled, and licked my chin clean.

"Now, you just lie there, while I get you ready for bed."

"Whaaa?" Jesus, that WAS strong stuff.

"No, don't worry about it. Just close your eyes, and I'll be done before you know it. I obediently closed my eyes. I opened them a few moments later, when I felt her doing something with my crotch.

To my shock, she had a container of powder in her hand, and was dusting my crotch with it. What was worse was what was lying next to me. The bundle she'd brought in with her was now recognizable. With an effort, I shook my head. She sighed.

"Now, Jack, don't be difficult. I know you don't enjoy waking up in a puddle, and I can't say that I particularly like it either." So that was why she'd taken a shower before waking me up. "Besides that, washing the sheets every day does get to be a hassle. Like I told you, David had the same problem for some years before he... died. I still had a few of these lying around." She patted my cheek. "Don't worry, Jack. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's just... practical, that's all." Resignedly, I nodded. I closed my eyes, and tried to ignore what she was doing. She grabbed my ankles and I was lifted in the air with an ease that was almost frightening, under the circumstances. She slid the diaper under me, and threaded my tail through the hole as she put me back down. She pulled the front up in between my legs, and flattened it out up to my belly. She held the front in place with one hand, in a way that felt oddly soothing, while she fastened first one set of tabs, then the other. She was quick and practiced at this, and just as promised, it was over before I knew it. When she was done, she set the powder down off the side of the bed, and gave me a hug. I clumsily put my arms around her, and squeezed as best I could. She climbed in under the covers, and cuddled me up next to her. I tried to complain, to protest, to give some indication of my displeasure. "Shhhh... don't worry about it. Just go to sleep." She slowly, softly stroked my hair, and between that and the doctor's infernal medicine, there was just no way I could stay awake. I woke briefly some time later. My head was very muzzy, and I couldn't seem to make much sense of things. I was warm and comfortable and safe. I was still securely held in Claudia's embrace, and I sighed with contentment at the feeling of her strong arms protecting me. I wriggled a little, burrowing in closer to her, hearing the whisper of plastic sliding across linen. Claudia was so beautiful, so wonderful, so loving. On impulse, I reached up and gently took hold of her hair. With that, I let myself drift back off to sleep.

To my surprise, I woke dry, and naked. Claudia was, as usual, already awake, and I looked to her for an answer.

"You started whimpering in you sleep. I figured that meant you were uncomfortable."

"You mean you..." She nodded. She saw the way I looked down, and shook her head.

"Honestly, Jack. I put it on you, I think I'm qualified to take it off. Would you rather get a rash?" I shook my head. I didn't like it, but she made sense. "Jack, I love you. You know I only want what's best for you. I thought this would be easier on you. I mean, really, isn't this preferable to waking up in a wet bed?" I had to admit that it was. In fact, if I hadn't know I'd been diapered when I fell asleep, I would have assumed I'd just slept the night dry.

"I don't think I like this medicine. I thought it was supposed to stop me from getting wet?" Claudia shook her head.

"No, it's supposed to relax you and fix the cause of your problem, not the symptoms. Didn't the doctor warn you that you'd have to wait to see results?" I nodded. "Well, don't give up now."

"But..." Claudia turned away, hiding her face with a deep sigh.

"I'm sorry Jack. I didn't mean to force this on you." I sighed. I know when to admit defeat.

"No, Claudia, it's all right. You were just trying to help. I'm sorry for being so ungrateful." As I said it, I realized how true it was. Here was a beautiful woman, who made me feel things I'd never felt for anyone, and what was more, felt the same for me. All I'd done so far was make myself a burden upon her. I mean, come on, I was drunk and near comatose the first night we were together, I wet myself the second night, and I'd continued in the same vein ever since. I knew that I didn't want to lose her the way I'd lost all the others. She meant so much more to me than anyone I'd ever known. "Thank you, Claudia. You've been more than kind to me, and I never bothered to say anything about it. Well now I am. Thank you." I got out of bed, and walked around to face her. "I said that I love you. I meant it." She sighed. I put my arms around her, and sat in her lap. I curled up, and snuggled down, putting my head against her chest. She gave a small gasp, and I knew that I'd done the right thing. She hugged me close, and rocked me back and forth. I remembered my brief moment of wakefulness from the night before, and reached up to clutch a handful of her hair.

I was startled when she stood up, but I didn't move. I knew she wouldn't drop me. She shifted me a little, so that she had both arms under me, and my hands laced behind her neck, and carried me into the kitchen, where she set me down on a stool. With a mock-serious admonishment to be good, she set about making breakfast. When she was done, she gathered all of the dishes on a tray, and carried it in one hand. The other arm she offered to me.

"You've got to be kidding." I said. "That'll never work." She shrugged. I took a couple of the dished off the tray, and helped her set the table. She complimented me on my proper placement of the utensils, and I felt unreasonably proud of myself.

The rest of the day went like that, with me allowing her to do things for me, and offering her sincere gratitude, as I should have done from the beginning. All too soon, it was time for me to go home.

On the way home, I thanked Claudia for the wonderful weekend. As I had come to expect, I dozed off not long into the trip, and slept deeply all the way home.

"Tsk-tsk, such a sleepy boy." She said as she woke me up. She shut off the engine, and parked. "Do you mind if I come in for a few minutes?" Of course I didn't.

The first thing she did was inspect my fridge. Then she told me to get ready for bed. I went through my usual nightly rituals, while she did something in the kitchen. I went into the bedroom, and sat on the edge of my bed. She came in a few minutes later, bearing the familiar tall glass.

"Oh, Claudia, you didn't have to do that." She nodded.

"I know that, silly. I wanted to." She looked uncertain, then brought a largish white bundle out from behind her back. "After last night, I wasn't sure if I should, but I brought these, in case you wanted them." I thought about it for a few minutes, then nodded. Like she said, it was practical. Besides, I didn't want to risk hurting her feelings again. "Here," She handed me one of the diapers, "You can put it on yourself, if you like." I did like, and this time she gave me a little privacy. Ever try putting on of those things on by yourself? Getting the back taped to the front wasn't too hard, but trying to get the tail-hole arranged properly was a Herculean task. I finally managed to get it reasonably straight, and told Claudia that it was safe to come in again. She handed me my medicine, and warned me that I'd need to buy another gallon of milk soon, since I'd be taking it every night. I nodded, and started drinking. Like before, I felt it taking effect so quickly that I barely had time to finish it before I lost all the tension from my muscles. The last little bit spilled out of the glass, and splattered across my chest. Claudia bent down and kissed me on my forehead, and that was all I knew till morning.

I woke up on the verge of tears, a few minutes before my alarm should have gone off. A good thing I woke up when I did, since my alarm wasn't set, though for the life of me I couldn't figure out why I was almost crying. Must have been one hell of a nightmare, I guess. I felt a brief surge of elation as I noticed that my bed was dry. This was immediately followed by the realization that not only was I completely soaked, but my bed actually wasn't entirely dry, either. Apparently I hadn't fastened the tail well enough, and had leaked. Oh, well, it was better than before.

I stood up, and the diaper sagged between my legs. I sat back down, and decided to take the damn thing off right where I was. I unfastened the tapes, and slid myself out of the diaper, then rolled it up as I'd seen parents do with their childrens' diapers. Jesus, the thing must have weighed ten pounds! As I took my morning shower, which had ceased to be an optional portion of my morning, and had instead become a regular necessity, I mused that my situation wasn't that bad. I mean, sure, it was a slight inconvenience, but hell, it could be a lot worse. And like the doctor said, it wasn't like it was a terribly uncommon thing, just something that doesn't get talked about. Still, I hoped the medicine would hurry up and start working. After my shower I threw some clothes on, and tossed the wet diaper in the trash on my way out the door.

A new crisis was brewing at work, one that looked to be real, not fabricated. I and the two other coders were called into a large emergency meeting.

"Gentlemen, here is the problem. As of two days ago, our inter-office communications crashed. It looks to be the result of a virus, deliberately entered into our system through our outside server. Right now, the server is down, and all of the data that was stored there was lost. I know that some of these programs are protected by a back-up system, but our back-up was also damaged, and a substantial amount of the programs there have been corrupted." Heh. This is why I kept backups on disk, locked in my desk.

"As I'm sure you can see, it is imperative that we get our server back online and functioning to its previous level immediately, or our customers will turn to other sources." Oh, Darwin, there goes any hope of free time for the next month. Damn it! Why wasn't our server protected? It can't be that hard to anticipate a virus...

"Jack!" I jerked, and snapped to attention. "Have you been listening? Damn it, this is important."

"I was just... uh..." Honestly, I had no idea what I'd been doing. I looked down, and saw that I'd hand-written a mass of code on my notepad.

"Um, I was thinking about security measures for the server. If this was a deliberate attack on our server, then why should we think that it won't happen again?" The management wolves nodded. This was their kind of thing.

"And do you have a solution to our security problem, short of unplugging the server from the wall?" I shook my head.

"Not yet, I was..."

"Then you will kindly pay attention!" The lecturer thundered. I shrank back in my seat, and felt moisture come to my eyes. I resisted the urge to blink them away, knowing that if I did they everyone would see my tears, and got my suddenly rampaging emotions under control. When the lecturer returned to his lecture, I covered my tears by rubbing my eyes, as though from tension. I tried to pay attention, but God, he was boring. He pulled up a copy of the handout we'd all received, listing the programs which had to be recoded, and proceeded to go over them one by one. Perhaps he didn't realize that everyone in the room was capable of reading the information themselves. I found my attention wandering again and again to the code on my notepad. I was a lot less obvious about it this time, though, and he didn't catch me again. I leafed through my notes, and realized that what I'd been writing was an adaptive anti-virus. I could see where I'd been going with it, too. This could really work! The meeting let out, and I rushed back to my cubicle. As I sat down, I noticed a small, drying stain on the front of my pants.

What the..? I thought about it, and realized that I must have wet myself a little in the meeting, probably when I got shouted at. Considering how scared I'd been, I wasn't surprised, really. It was a little disturbing, though, considering everything else that was going on. I dismissed it, and returned to something more interesting. I opened up my notebook, and started transcribing my code into the computer. I was about halfway through when I was seized by what I can only describe as an epiphonic vision. The office faded from around me. I saw the code scrolling before me, and it warped and bent, and took shape. Before me stood a virtual warrior, armored in flickering white scrolling text. A strange, mutated looking beast approached, outlined in static and distortion. The warrior saw the beast, and smiled, and in his outstretched hand, there appeared a shining white blade. There was no contest. One swipe, and the beast evaporated. The electron-knight turned, and knelt before me.

I snapped back to reality, realizing that someone was talking to me. I shook my head.

"I'm sorry, what were you saying?" Michael, one of the other coders, was standing there nervously, his ears twitching.

"I was asking if you could... Oh, never mind."

"No, go ahead."

"Well, I saw the code you wrote last week for that rush job. I was wondering if you could help me with this problem I had..."

I nodded. I admired his bravery. It took real balls to admit weakness in a setting like that. His problem was interesting. I closed my eyes for just a second while thinking about it. In a flash, the answer was there. I plunked down into Michael's chair, and code started flying from my finger- tips. I was done less than half-an-hour later. I stood up, and stretched. Michael nodded, and thanked me.

"I can probably figure it out from here. Thanks for your help." I shrugged, not bothering to tell him that he didn't have anything to do. The program was done. Ah, well, at least he could debug it.

I returned to my station, and paused a moment. That was all it took. My vision of the anti-virus returned, and I dove into the task of getting it from my head into the computer. It was one of those times you wish you could just link straight into the hard-drive from your brain. Or maybe that's something only coders dream about. Takes all types.

I stopped for lunch, and realized that I should probably work a little on the programs that had been lost in the crash. On my way out the door, I unlocked my desk and pulled out a gigabyte tape. I smiled. Let's see a hacker find his way into here! I plugged the tape in, and uploaded all of the programs. It didn't take long. I took the tape out, and returned it to its hiding place. That ought to satisfy my boss. Well, time for lunch. My boss was waiting in my cubicle when I returned from lunch.

Today's stupid question is: "Where have you been?"

"I went to lunch. I do that sometimes, at noon."

"Well I'm glad you have the time. Have you forgotten that we're in the middle of a full scale Defcon 1 alert?"

"I'm aware of it. Don't worry, all the programs I'm responsible for will be replaced before I go home." Well, that was more than true.

"I find your slack attitude toward your work intolerable! Maybe you'd like to try finding work elsewhere?" That's right, lady, keep pushing it.

"Maybe I would." I answered, "But unlike some others, I have a sense of responsibility. If I left now, you'd be up a shit creek without a paddle."

That shut her muzzle. She left, and I turned my attention back to my code. I didn't have the anti-virus finished when I left, but I left whistling anyway, knowing that I was the only one who didn't have to pull an all- nighter. When I got out to my car, though, I felt a strange twinge. I thought of Michael, trying to face down the boss. It'd never happen. Poor guy. He really didn't deserve to have to work all night. 'Specially not when he had a pregnant doe waiting for him to come home. I gave Claudia a call from the courtesy phone, and told her where I was, so she wouldn't worry in case she called my place and didn't get an answer. She made me promise to fill her in on the details later, then let me go. Then I went back up, and found Michael and Jeremy, hard at work.

"Hey, guys?" They looked up, and swiveled their ears forward. I thought of a wise-crack about them getting good reception, but pushed it down. Rabbits get enough flak without me adding to it. "I was wondering if you'd like some help?" The looked at each other, suspicious. I shrugged. "Hey, either you want help or you don't. I'd just as soon go home."

"Sure, we'd love some help." Michael said. Jeremy looked a little distrustful, but went along with Michael. They had already decided to collaborate, so we moved to one of the empty conference rooms, and tried laying out the code. They took up their conversation where they left off. I listened in, and put in a few comments here and there, but mostly just started free-handing code. When they were done, I made a few revisions, and showed them what I had. They liked it, and Jeremy went off to feed it into the computer. Michael and I turned to the next problem. Five minutes into the conversation, I had a flash of inspiration, and started writing code. I had to stop a few minutes later, as my hand spasmed.

"Ow.. Damn!"

"What's wrong?" Michael asked.

"My hand cramped. Must be writing too fast." He snorted.

"No kidding." He looked at me, "Jack, let me ask you something, seriously."

"What?"

"Why the hell are you here? You turned out a complete program in 15 minutes this morning, while I watched you. And when I ran it, I couldn't find a single bug. You shouldn't be working here, you should be somewhere that pays a lot better." I shrugged. I didn't want to explain to him that I hadn't been this good a week ago. I turned back to the program we were working on, writing much more slowly. Still, my hand started aching after just a short while. "Here, let me do that." He started taking down lines of code as I dictated, occasionally adding a few things here and there, but mostly just taking it straight down. "Hey, that's more than enough. I can finish it up from here." He went off to work off the rough edges, and I took another program back to my own station. I let myself relax, and focused on the problem, and it wasn't long before I could see how everything should fit together.

"Jack!" I looked up. "Jack, we've finished. Linda's going to go go through the roof when she sees this." I checked the time. It was almost midnight. My stomach protested that I had missed dinner. I'd been so absorbed in programming, I hadn't noticed. Michael was smiling. "Jenny will be surprised to see me home tonight. Can't wait to see the look on her face." I chuckled. He left, and I straightened a few things up, before I started for the exit. I passed Jeremy in the hall, who looked at me very strangely, then smiled.

"Um, Jack. Thanks for all your help. I thought it would be daylight again before I finished."

"No problem."

"Well, I'm going home to Mommy. See you around, Jack." Going home to Mommy? I wondered. From what I'd heard, Jeremy's parents had disowned him, when he'd taken up with a wolf. What was her name again? Mary, or Mia, or something like that.

It wasn't until I sat down in my car that I realized what he was smiling about. I jumped up, as the cold, wet fabric of my pants squished up against me. I looked down, and saw that I was soaked. What the hell? I went back inside, and grabbed a huge wad of paper towels to sit on. With that protecting my upholstery, I drove home, and rushed upstairs. The first thing I did was to call Claudia.

"Hello... Jack, what's wrong? You sound like you're crying!" Damnit, I was. As soon as she brought my attention to it, I started sobbing. "Are you all right, dear? Did something happen at work? Shhhhh... there, there, it's all right." She managed to coax a description of the day's events out of me. As I talked, my sobs diminished to a sniffling.

"...And then, when I got to the car, I found out that I was sopping wet!" There was silence on the other end of the phone.

"You mean, you fell asleep at work?"

"Uh-uh. I was awake, working on my program."

"Oh, I know what happened. You just got caught up in your work, that's all, and you were tired and stressed. It's just like when you're asleep, you just didn't notice. "

"But this is different, Claudia. I mean, my boss already hates me, and I'm sure Jeremy saw that I was wet."

"Do you really think he'd tattle on you, dear? You did just save him a lot of time and trouble, after all." I stopped, and thought about it. She was right, nobody had to know about it. But...

"But what if it happens again?" I asked.

"Then we'll just have to deal with that as it comes. Now, why don't you get yourself cleaned off, and go to bed." I nodded. Sleep sounded divine, right then. "Don't forget to take your medicine, dear."

"Ok." I paused. "Thanks Claudia. I'm sorry that I called you so late at night." She laughed.

"Oh, don't worry about that. And I'm glad you came to me. I like being there for you." I sighed, and snuggled, which was a mistake, because I was still wet. I said good-bye and good night, and hung up. I mixed up my medicine, using the last of my milk. Claudia was right, I'd have to go get some more. I just took my clothes off, and wiped myself clean with a wash-cloth, since I'd almost certainly need a shower when I woke up anyway. I got myself dressed for bed, paying more attention to the tail-fasteners this time, then climbed into bed, and took my medicine.

My morning didn't start very well. I'd fallen asleep before I finished all of my drink, and part of it was on my chest, and some more of it was staining the floor, along with the broken remains of the glass it'd been in. On top of that, I'd leaked around my tail again, though not as much as before. I stripped the sheets, took a shower, and picked the glass up off the floor. Hrmph. I'd have to rent a steam cleaner to get out the stain. I sighed, and got ready for work.

Michael was right. The boss went through the roof. She even seemed happy to see me. She came in and congratulated us all on our outstanding performance, and dropped the hint that a bonus might not be unimaginable. I spent the morning working on my anti-virus, then Michael and Jeremy invited me out for lunch. We went to a fast-food place. I studied the menu, but the rabbits seemed very familiar with the place. Michael ordered first, then Jeremy looked at me in a considering fashion. I misunderstood, and motioned for him to go ahead. He ordered the vegetarian sandwich... kid's meal. He looked at me again. If he was trying to tease me about last night, he was going a long way to do it. I shrugged, and ordered a hamburger. We waited for our order, then slipped into a booth.

"I'd like to apologize." Jeremy started, "I doubted your intentions when you offered to help us last night, but you really pulled through for us. If I you need our help sometime, then we owe you." I shook my head. "Just do me a favor, and forget about last night." Jeremy raised an eyebrow.

"If you say so."

"Especially that last part, if you know what I mean." Jeremy smiled.

"I do. I'd like to talk about it later. I think we may have more in common than I'd have believed." What the hell was he talking about? Well, so long as he kept quiet, I guess it didn't matter. Michael looked lost, but he didn't ask. Instead, had brought the subject back to work.

"Actually, there's an ulterior motive to our inviting you to lunch."

"Really?" I didn't like the sound of this.

"There's something going on. I think Linda's plotting something."

"Linda's always plotting something. It's her job." I said.

"Yeah, well this time I want to know what it is. I heard about what she did to you last week. She'd just as soon do the same thing to all of us."

"Leave it to me." I said, "Don't tell anyone this, but there's more to the code I put in than is apparent."

"Like what?"

"Like a hidden set of override commands. I can do an invisible cc: on all of her office memos." Jeremy and Michael looked at each other. "Hey, after what she did to me, I wanted to make sure I wouldn't get caught by surprise again." They nodded. That resolved, we spent the rest of lunch talking sports. I'd stopped watching recently, but from what they said, I hadn't missed much. My favorite baseball team looked to finish worst in its league. Oh, well, there's always next year.

Once we got back to the office, we covertly went back to my station, where I typed in a few echoless passwords. My screen flickered, and showed an image of a man in spy apparel. At the bottom, text appeared.

""Hey mister, do you wanna buy a watch?" You're kidding me? You hid THIS in our code?"

"Shhh..." Jeremy said, "Not so loud, Michael. You want the whole office to know what we're doing?" I entered the last password, and I got a list of all recent documents that had been sent from the boss's mailbox.

"This looks like what we want." I said, pulling up one labeled "System Crash Update."

Our operatives delivered a complete fix on the system crash as of midnight last night, despite the surly attitude of one of our employees, Jack Engris. The other team-members performed beyond expectations, working tirelessly through lunch and well into the night to protect our interests. They are to be commended for a job well done. Mr. Engris, however, showed a lack of commitment, and offered no practical contribution to this effort, instead wasting his resources on a fantasy project from which he was repeatedly warned. It is my recommendation that Mr. Engris be replaced with someone who can match the talents and enthusiasm of our other programming team members.

Sincerely,

Linda Black

We all stared in shock as we read this. I "contributed nothing", did I? We'll see about that. I unlocked my drawer, removed my backup tape, and dropped it onto the floor.

"Gentlemen. I believe the time has come for me to bid you adieu." I raised my foot, and slammed it down, crushing the tape. "And if their files crash again, they can damn well retype them without me." I stalked off, my tail bristling.

"Jack..." Michael put a restraining arm on me. I shrugged him off, and snarled. He backed off. Rabbits always do. Jeremy shook his head. "Let him go, Mike." He advised, "This is what he has to do. Can't say that I blame him." They went back to my station, and powered off my computer.

The boss was sitting at her desk, looking through some files. She looked up when I came in, and immediately jumped for her phone. She started punching numbers, calling security, no doubt. I slammed the receiver down, then unplugged the phone from the wall.

"No, I don't think you want to do that." I said. "I think we need to have a talk."

"No, Jack, you need to clean out your desk. You're fired." I smiled.

"Already done. I was on my way in here to tell you that you can take this job and you can shove it up your ass. Since I haven't offered any practical contribution, you shouldn't miss me." Her eyes widened. I nodded. "That's right. You're lucky I'm not the type to take revenge, or I'd scramble your files so badly, you'd never even reach a DOS prompt again. And as for my fantasy project, I was nearly finished. Guess you'll never know what I was working on, huh?" She grinned.

"Ha! Now I've got you, you little bastard. We have property rights to any work you do while in our employment. Including whatever you were working on, right up until the moment you were fired. Whatever your little surprise was, we own it." I shook my head.

"Fine. Then you'll get the best game of pac-man you'll ever see."

"Pac-man?"

"That's right. That's what I'll say I was working on, if it ever came down to it. I'm leaving. And whenever your competitors come out with a new software bundle, I want you to wonder, is this what Jack was working on? Because you can be damn sure you'll never find out."

"You can't..." I slammed her door, so hard that I heard pictures fall off her walls. God, I'd been wanting to do that for so long! I made it all the way out the door and into my car before the reality of what I'd done sank in. I'd just quit my job. Oh, Darwin, what was I going to do? I broke down, and leaned against the steering wheel, crying. I looked up when I heard a tapping on the window. Jeremy was standing there. I rolled the window down.

"I heard what happened." I tried to smile.

"You and half the office. I can't believe I did that."

"Look, Jack, it's all right. You should be proud of what you did. And Michael's right, with talent like yours, you should be working anywhere but here." I shook my head.

"I've been here five years, Jeremy." I sighed, and let my shoulders slump. "Everything in my life has been turned upside down lately." Jeremy nodded.

"I... I think I know what you mean. I went through the same thing... not too long ago. When I met... Mom." I looked at him. "I was going to say something about it before, when I saw you in the hall. I thought you might be like me." I frowned.

"Like you how?" He hesitated a long time before answering.

"I'm an adult baby, Jack. When I go home, Myra's there waiting for me. She treats me like.. like a baby." I shook my head.

"No, that's not it. I just... started having these problems, you know? I started wetting the bed, and then... I keep having these blank-outs, and flashes of inspiration. I've gotten better at it, so I can focus it, and control it a little. Last night was the first time I've been wet when I wasn't asleep." The rabbit nodded.

"I see. Well, if you ever want to come over, Myra and I would be glad to see you. Heck, if your problem keeps up, I can probably give you some advice on absorbent products." I smiled, wryly.

"You mean diapers." He looked away, and blushed, but he smiled too. I got the feeling that maybe we did have a few things in common.

"Yeah, those. Anyway, don't let quitting get you down. It's probably the best move you've ever made." I nodded.

"Yeah, you're probably right. Well, I guess I'll go home, and get some of that sleep I missed last night." He smiled.

"I'd better get back inside, or I'll be looking for a job. And I can't claim being an eccentric genius on my resume, so I doubt I'll have the same luck as you." He walked off. Eccentric genius? Oh, come on. Still, I felt better. At least I'd stopped crying. Just when had I become so emotionally fragile, anyway? Guess the doctor was right, I must be seriously stressed out. Can't imagine that losing my job's going to help that, either. I got home and made my bed, then promptly fell asleep in it. When I woke up, it was dark, and I was wet. I felt severely stupid for not changing into an "absorbent product", as Jeremy had put it. I'd have to file that away and joke with him about it if I ever saw him again. I showered (again), and put the sheets on to wash (again), and set the mattress out to dry. I realized I should go shopping, if for no other reason than that I needed milk to take my medicine, and that I should probably see if I could find a vinyl sheet for my bed, like the one Claudia had. Hrmph. Guess I should have asked Jeremy about that, too, when I had the chance. Thinking of Claudia reminded me that I should call her, and tell her the news. Her phone rang a few times, and I was starting to worry that she wasn't home. She picked up on the fifth ring.

"Hello?" She said, sounding like there was something else vying of her attention. "Hello?"

"Hi." I said.

"Oh, it's you Jack. Hold on a minute." There was a loud "thunk" in the background. "Ah, that's better. Do you want to get together tonight?" I gave her an almost-laugh.

"I guess I might as well."

"Jack, is something wrong?"

"Ah... I'll tell you when you get here." She sighed.

"All right. I'll be right there." She hung up.

While I waited for her, I grabbed a cola from the fridge, and sat down with the paper, and started leafing through the Want Ads. I circled a few likely prospects, and saw something that made my blood want to boil. There was an ad in the paper from my former employers... for my position! And this was yesterday's paper! That... that... bitch! I was regretting my decision less and less as time went by, especially since if I hadn't quit, I almost certainly would have been fired.

I heard a knock on the door. It was Claudia.

"Now, tell me what's wrong." I sighed.

"I got fired... well, actually, I quit, but they were going to fire me, anyway..." I motioned for her to sit down, and I explained the whole situation, right up to the part where I was crying in the parking lot.

"Poor foxy!" She exclaimed, and reached out and took my hand. She pulled me into her lap, and hugged me. "No wonder you sounded strange on the phone." I shrugged, and snuggled. I decided to tell her about talking with Jeremy later.

"I just don't know what I'm going to do." I said, though I wasn't terribly upset anymore. "I've looked through the want ads, and I found a couple of places that look like they might hire me. But look at this." I reached down and handed her the paper from the floor. She looked at the ad I pointed out, and made an indignant sound.

"Jack, I don't think you should worry about quitting that job. You're better off without it, if this is how they treat their employees." I sighed. Actually, at the moment, it didn't really seem to matter. Not with her arms around me. Out of the blue, I sniffled, then started softly weeping. "Oh, Jack..." She held me and rocked me back and forth, and whispered softly, reassuringly.

"God, what's wrong with me?" I asked, "I keep crying for no reason!"

"Jack, you quit your job, and had an almost violent argument with your boss, who happens to be a big bad wolf. I think that counts as reason enough to cry. Just get it out of your system, and don't worry about it." I sighed, and hugged her. Sometimes, there are no words to express how much you love someone. I cried until I was too exhausted to continue, and just sat curled in her arms, taking the occasional shuddering breath. "Hmmm... I think I know something that would make you feel better..." She licked my nose. "What you need is something to take your mind off of it. Come on." She stood up, and I got into the appropriate position for being carried. I was really getting used to it. I didn't ask her where she was going, or why. I figured I'd find out when we got there. I just closed my eyes, and clung to her as she carried me. "Jack?" I looked up at her. God, it made me feel wonderful, the way she looked down at me.

"Yes?"

"Why does your bed not have a mattress?" I blushed, and explained that I'd taken a nap. "Forgot to get dressed, huh?" I nodded into her chest-fur.

"That's all right, I have a better idea." She sat me down on the floor, with instructions to sit there, and be good. She began going through my dresser.

"Um, Claudia?" She turned around. God, viewing her from this angle made her seem so tall! "What are you doing?"

"Getting you some clothes to wear for a little while. I doubt that your mattress will be dried out in time for you to go to bed, and since you don't have to drive to work tomorrow... why not spend some time at my place?" I thought about it.

"Well, I don't know..." Well, I had enough money saved up that I wasn't really hurting at the moment, even with the fact that I was suddenly unemployed. Hmm... I guess I could consider it an unpaid vacation. "Sure, why not?"

"Great!" She beamed, "You sit right there, and I'll have everything in just a minute." She carefully selected a broad assortment of clothes, and found a trash-bag to carry them in. She tossed my travel-bag in, and tied it closed. She stood over me, expectantly. "Well, Jack, my hands are a little full. Think you can manage to walk to the car?" I shook my head at her joke, and laughed. "Oh, you can't?" I laughed again.

"I can, that's not what I meant." I stood up, and gave her a big hug. Then I remembered my medicine. She hadn't packed it. I located the box, and took a look around to make sure that I hadn't forgotten anything else. Nope, nothing important. She slung the bag over her shoulder, and we left. She tossed my stuff into the back of her car, and got me securely buckled in. Something seemed to be bothering her. I started to ask her about it, but I knew better. Sure enough, I was asleep in just a few minutes.

I woke up when the car bounced a little, pulling into her drive. I blinked, and looked over at Claudia, who glanced over at me, and sighed.

"Jack, you have your thumb in your mouth." Oh, shit, she was right. I must have started sucking on it while I was asleep. I pulled it out and half-guiltily tucked it behind my back.

"Sorry. I don't know..." She shushed me.

"I know, Jack, you don't know why it happened. No more than you know why you're wet right now." God damn it! "No, don't get upset. I was expecting it. I need to have the upholstery cleaned, anyway. Jack... I think we need to have a talk, a little later." Oh, shit. Here it comes. The thought of losing her made me feel cold and lost inside. "No... Oh, Jack, no, it's not that. I just have to tell you a few things."

"So long as you aren't telling me you want to break up." I warned. She gave me a small, sad smile.

"Jack, I wouldn't drive you all this way to tell you I was going to break up with you." She parked, and looked down, as though she was unwilling to look me in the eye. "Jack, I'll never leave you, not unless you decide you... you don't want to see me again."

"Why, Claudia, that's ridiculous. I love you. Nothing could..." She shook her head, tears leaving slow trails down her cheeks.

"Don't say that, please. Don't make any promises, not until you've heard what I have to say." I couldn't imagine anything so terrible that she thought it would change the way I felt about her. I told her so, which only seemed to make things worse. I got out, and shivered as my wet pants clung to me in the wind. I let out an involuntary whimper. "Jack, I..." She held out her arms. "Please?" I nodded, and let her lift me off my feet, and cradle me in her arms. I curled up nice and tight, and the cold on my legs was soon forgotten, as I listened to the gentle rhythms of her heart, the slow, steady pace of her lungs. My mouth felt... somehow empty. I looked up at Claudia with the purest love in my eyes, and frowned, puzzled, as I saw her start to cry again.

She set me down when we got to her bedroom, and sat down next to me. I shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to disturb Claudia, but feeling very cold and wet. She noticed, and dug out some of my clothes from the bag. She pulled out a small container of wipes, and quietly suggested that I should get cleaned off. I did, and pulled on the underwear and shorts she handed me, deciding to leave my chest bare. I sat back down beside her, and took her hand. She pulled away.

"I... I don't know how to explain this. I'm not who... what you think I am. I'm a vampire, Jack." I smiled. Well, it was a long way to go for a joke, but... My smile vanished as I saw the look in her eyes, and saw that she was completely serious. "I know, it's hard to believe. Here, I'll show you." She stepped back, and stretched out her arms. As I stared, stunned, she lifted off the ground, and hovered in front of me, a foot in the air.

"There's more, Jack. I can do a lot of things. I can read people's minds. I can move things without touching them. I can heal illness, and injury. But I need blood to survive." My eyes widened. She chuckled, and shook her head. "No, Jack, I don't want your blood. If I did, we wouldn't be talking right now."

"I... I don't know what to say, Claudia." I looked at her face, and suddenly knew exactly what to say. "Oh, Claudia, of course I still love you! Nothing could ever change that. Not even this." She floated to the ground, and collapsed into my arms, crying. "Was this what you were so afraid of telling me?" She nodded. "Well, you can tell me all about it, when you're ready. And no matter what, I'll always love you."

"There... There's something else I want to tell you... about..." I knew what she was going to say.

"I know, Claudia, I know. You don't have to say it."

"But..."

"You like taking care of me. You like having someone to look after, the child you never had. Is that it?" She just stared at me for a minute, then nodded. I laughed. "Oh, don't look so shocked, Claudia. The way you pick me up and carry me around, the way you talk to me, you've made it very obvious that you want me to be a sort of surrogate child. I don't mind, Claudia. Besides, it looks like I kinda need someone to take care of me anyway, doesn't it?" She smiled a little, and nodded. She looked away for a minute, and paused, as though she was about to say something. "Is.. Is there something else you want to tell me?" She let her breath out, and shook her head. When she looked back at me, she was smiling.

"Thank you, Jack." I laughed.

"Thank YOU, Claudia. Without you, I never would have made it through these past few weeks. You've been so wonderful, so understanding. I love you so much." She gave a shuddering sigh, laced with fear held in too long and years of unshed tears. I held her for a short eternity, then she slowly pulled out of my arms, and sat next to me. I leaned over, and she put her arm around my waist. We both sighed, and just snuggled for a while. "So... um.. how did it happen?" I finally asked. "Unless you don't want to talk about it, of course!" She shook her head.

"I've been waiting to tell someone for more years than I could explain. Are you sure you want to hear it?" I nodded. "Well, then. Where to start? I was born a slave, almost 200 years ago. I know, I don't look... well, I'm a half-breed. My father was a farm cat, and my mother was an African tigress. But I look so much like a Free Cat, that I was able to marry a small land-owner. He wanted sons, to carry on his name, but... I gave him three daughters, instead. Then he started gambling... he gambled away everything he owned. Me included, it turned out. I've always been very strong, and I was pretty... I was bought very quickly. My kittens..." She broke off, and collected herself before starting again.

"I was bought by a dog from France... he wanted to be an explorer. He'd heard legends of fantastic wealth to be found in the jungles of Central America, of Incan gold and lost cities. I was to be his personal servant, and.. mistress." She saw the way my mouth twitched at the use of the word. "No, it didn't mean the same thing back then. In buying me, he got all the benefits of a wife, without all the hassle.

"He found fools willing to risk their money, and a boat for hire. The ocean voyage was... tedious, to say the least. Renault had an unbelievable appetite for... Anyway, we put ashore after a long trip. I think it was somewhere above Panama... it's hard to tell, looking at a modern map. The charts Renault was going by weren't drawn from a satellite view, after all, and I had no idea of how to read them. He hired a couple of guides, and we set off into the jungle. Half of us fell sick within a week, and of that half, only a few survived. I was one of the lucky ones, probably because I spent most of my time in Renault's tent, instead of out in the disease- infested air of the jungle. Most of us were for turning back, but our guides insisted that what we were looking for was nearby, and Renault refused to consider leaving empty-handed.

"Three days later, he woke to find that out guides had abandoned us. He flew into a rage, but there was nothing that could be done. We were lost in the middle of a steaming jungle. Renault was determined to push forward, in the direction our guides had been taking us, but everyone else decided to go back, and try to find the ship again. Renault screamed at them in French, but it was no use. They left. When I tried to go with them, Renault caught me, and... he put a collar and leash on me. I had no choice but to follow him.

"I have no way of knowing how long we wandered in the jungle, but we finally came upon a vast clearing. Renault didn't know it, but he was already a dead man. It hadn't taken me long to decide that I would kill him at any opportunity he gave me.. I fantasized about using that damned leash to strangle him. The thought of standing over his dead body was the only thing that gave me hope." She stopped, and smiled, ruefully, "I know that sounds rather barbaric, but... those were different times. A dozen lifetimes ago... Anyway, we stepped into the clearing. Huge pyramids dotted the view, and Renault went absolutely ecstatic, yipping merrily as he dragged me along. I saw a sharp object on the ground, and contrived to stumble and fall.

"'Get up you little pussy! I've had it up to 'ere with you dragging your 'eels!' He gave me a swift kick to the side, but I couldn't occupy his attention for long. Besides, I already had what I wanted. It was shiny, and black, and smooth like glass, and it felt... it felt deliciously wicked. I'd wanted to kill Renault out of hatred... now I wanted to do it just for fun. Have you ever read the "Cask of Amontillado"?" I nodded... I remembered it vaguely from High School. "Well, you could think of Renault as Fortunato... Here I was ready to kill him, and he seemed to be taking every opportunity to goad me on.

"'Where is zee damn gold?' he kept muttering, and he'd tug my leash and make me stagger along behind him. I could easily have killed him then... Actually, I probably could have killed him days before, but that thought hadn't occurred to me. We'd found the clearing early in the morning, and as he searched, the sun climbed higher. Finally, he saw a bright gleam at the apex of one of those stepped pyramids. It took him an hour to drag me up all those stairs, but we finally reached the top. I could have laughed at the look on his face when he realized that all he'd seen was sunlight reflecting off a huge piece of quartz, which was mounted in a chamber at the top of the pyramid. We stood in the cool of the chamber, and Renault cursed in French some more. I wanted to kill him so badly, but something told me to wait... until the time was just right.

"Suddenly, the noon sun blasted through a hole in the ceiling, and that huge chunk of crystal came to life, throwing light in all directions. The room seemed to expand, and I saw that every inch of the walls of the chamber were covered with strange pictures, like I'd seen all over the pyramids. Now I knew the time was right. I pulled out my make-shift knife, and buried it deep in Renault's chest. I heard his ribs cracking as I hammered through them. I butchered him, stabbing again and again, venting a lifetime of hurt and oppression.

"I can't say why I did what I did... something just seemed to seize me. I reached into the bloody mess that was his chest, and pulled out his heart, and I... I ate it. Everything in the room seemed to turn inside out... I can't describe it... it was like up and down, left and right, dark and bright, were all reversed, and mixed up.

"When I woke up... it was dark, and I hungered. I licked the dried blood off of my lips, and knew what I needed. I've... I've been like this ever since. Some things took a while to develop, like my telepathy and my ability to move things with my thoughts, but most of it was there already."

"You made a blood sacrifice... in an Aztec temple... with an obsidian dagger?" She nodded. "So... what did you do after that?" She shrugged.

"I hunted the jungle for a while, then started working my way North, until I eventually hit 'civilization'. I bided my time, grew stronger, then started working my way into society. I found that I didn't have to kill to survive anymore, just drain them. I was always cold back then... warm rooms would turn chilly when I stayed in them too long. I absorbed energy in every conceivable form, but mostly... mostly I took life. Then I found out that I could read minds... it opened up a whole new world to me. I could blend in anywhere, take a place in any society. I became wealthy, and powerful. But then rumors started... I didn't know how to hide myself back then. I had to take my money and run.

"Then I fell in love, with dear David." I frowned, trying to work things out.

"When did David die? You talk about it like it's a recent event." She nodded.

"I met him not long after the Civil War. He died... a few years ago." Now I really was confused.

"Wouldn't that make him..." She smiled.

"Well, I TOLD you he was old when he died."

"How... Was it something you did?" She nodded.

"It's one of my powers. I can heal people... I can keep them young. It takes a bit of doing, in some cases. David was forty when I married him... after our honeymoon, he looked more like thirty."

"You mean..?"

"Yes. It happened during sex, when all the body's energies are held at the surface. I... learned to control it, with... practice. It was a good thing, too. His friends were getting suspicious. But I could also make him older, if I tried." I thought. I'd had sex with her how many times? "No, Jack, I told you, I can control it. Besides, there's an equilibrium age... where things reverse."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I have to give up energy to make an old man young, and I have to drain energy to make someone older. Once the body reaches its physical peak, it becomes a different story. I remember one man I met before I knew David..

He was a teenager, which in those days wasn't as young as it seems now, and when we had sex, he got older, his growth accelerating. I was able to reverse the process, but not before I did a lot of explaining." She sighed. "I eventually had to kill him." My eyes widened. "Well, Jack, what do you expect? Death is a part of my life."

"If you could do that, how did David die? Did it stop working?" She looked away, and I could tell that the memory pained her.

"He.. he chose to stop letting me keep him young. He chose to grow old and die. There just came a time when he knew that he couldn't be what I needed. I kept hoping that I'd have children someday... but I can't. When I became a vampire, I gave up any right to have kids. You can see now, why I can't adopt." I hugged her.

"You've always got me." I said. She sighed, and smiled.

"Yes, I do. By the way, Jack?"

"Yes?"

"You're wet again." I looked down, and swore. "It's ok... you were just..."

"No, don't make excuses for me, Claudia. There's no reason why..."

"It's late, Jack." She grinned. "Past your bedtime, actually. Why don't you get dressed for bed, while I go get your b... medicine?"

"Actually, Claudia... I've been having trouble putting it on right. It keeps leaking." A sly smile started creeping across her face.

"Oh, really?" I nodded, meekly. "Does my little foxy need some help?" I squirmed. Damn it, this was starting to feel good. "Enjoying this, aren't you?"

"How could you..." She pointed down, at the front of my pants, which were starting to look like a tent. "Oh, yeah. Sorry."

"Don't be, Jack. There's nothing wrong with it. In fact... I like it."

"I know." She gave me a gentle push on my chest, and I rolled back. She grabbed my legs and had me naked in no time, flat.

"Now, you lie there and be good, and I'll be right back with your medicine." I pulled back the sheets and lay there, waiting. She came back in, and set everything down where I couldn't see it without moving, like she had the first night she'd put me in diapers. "Jack, I want to thank you for being so understanding. What do you say I pick up where I left off at your apartment?" I grinned in eager agreement. "But first..." She brought out a washcloth. "You need to be cleaned up." I squirmed, but I couldn't say anything. She took the cloth, and gently began cleaning where I'd gotten wet. The situation was embarrassing, and Claudia smiled. "My, you're making this easy!" She swabbed my erect penis, and I closed my eyes and murred with pleasure. She set the cloth aside, but continued running her fingers over my erection, with a tender gentleness that was comforting and erotic at the same time. "Does my foxy like this?" I nodded, though I do suspect the question was rhetorical. "Well, now that you're nice and clean..." She grinned, and licked her lips. My eyes rolled back in my head as her tongue lapped my penis slowly from base to tip, and I gave vent to a pleasant "erf" as her lips made the reverse trip. She didn't bother trying to draw things out this time, but brought me to a swift conclusion. As she swallowed the last of it, she lapped the air a few times with her tongue. "Well, it's not fresh blood..." She laughed at my expression. "But it'll do. Now, it's time to get you dressed for beddy-bye, foxy."

She grabbed my ankles with one hand and lifted me up, sliding the diaper under me with her other hand. She threaded my tail through the hole, and put me back down. I closed my eyes and relaxed, allowing her to take care of me, letting her know that I trusted her. I couldn't help wriggling a little as she sprinkled me with powder (hey, it tickled... sorta), and she put a gentle paw on my belly to hold me still. She unfolded the front and pulled it up between my legs, flattening it out with the one hand while fastening the tabs with the other. When she was done, she had me roll over, and she made extra-certain that she fastened the tail-hole properly. When she was done, she gave my rear a playful slap, which yielded a muffled "whump", like hitting a pillow.

Claudia positioned herself so that she was sitting cross-legged at the head of the bed, where my pillow had been. With a couple of pats on her lap, she indicated where she wanted me. I moved to sit in her lap, but she stretched me out instead, so that my upper back was resting on her legs, while my head and neck were cradled in one arm.

"Are you ready for your medicine?" I nodded, and started to sit up.

"No, no, silly, you just lay there. I'll take care of it." She reached down beside the bed, and brought out...

"A bottle?" I looked up at her, with an asking expression. She nodded.

"Well, you keep falling asleep while you're drinking, Jack. This way, you can't spill it..."

"...and you really like the idea of feeding me." I finished.

"...and I really like the idea of feeding you." She agreed. I shrugged. Why not?

My indifference lasted only until she put the nipple into my mouth. An instinct took me, and I began sucking hungrily at the bottle. It felt so right, so calming... so natural. I looked up at Claudia's gently smiling face, and snuggled down. She held the bottle and fed me, and when sleep came for me, I didn't resist, but continued drinking as I let my consciousness descend into dreaming.

I was walking through a department store, one paw securely held in hers. I looked up at her, and smiled. The aisles were filled with shiny, interesting things, and I dragged my heels a little, trying to look at every object.

Then suddenly, my hand was free. I looked around, but she was nowhere to be seen. I wandered through the store, looking up and down the aisles, but I couldn't find her. I tried to ask for help, but everyone ignored me. The customers gradually thinned out, and finally vanished, and I continued my search, frightened now and completely alone, as the store lights flicked off one by one. I curled up in a ball in the middle of the aisle and sobbed, as darkness crept in around me.

When I looked up, a dark figure stood at the end of the aisle, shrouded in shadow and the blur of my tears. I called out to her, hopeful. The figure shook it's head, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of menace. "Tell her, mortal. Tell her that I am coming." The shadow ordered, in tones of pure malice. It stepped forward, and I turned to run, but it was like I was mired in syrup. I looked behind me, and the shadow loomed ever larger. I closed my eyes and screamed as it reached out to grab me...

I jerked awake.

"Shhh.... Shhh.... calm down, darling, calm down." Claudia was whispering. I was curled up in a quaking ball beside her in bed. I took a couple of deep, shuddering breaths, and gave in to the comforting strength of her arms. "It's ok, Jack, shhhh, it was just a dream. It can't hurt you anymore." I gradually calmed down, mostly because I exhausted myself with crying. "Shhh... just close your eyes, and go back to sleep." I snuggled into her arms, and she wrapped herself around me protectively. "I'm right here, foxy. I won't let anything hurt you." Thus reassured, I closed my eyes, and fell into a dark and dreamless sleep.

I woke up the next morning whimpering softly. I opened my eyes and found that Claudia was still holding me in that protective embrace. I felt warm inside, knowing that I was safe with her. It wasn't long before my whimpering woke Claudia, and she looked over at me and smiled, seeing my thumb once again in my mouth.

"You're sucking your thumb again, dear." She informed me. I nodded.

"Oh? You aren't going to stop now?" I shook my head. I'd already tried, and I couldn't quite seem to make my mouth let it loose. She pulled the sheets off of me, and looked down. "I thought so. Is my foxy whimpering because he needs to be changed?" I blushed and squirmed, but nodded again. She dug some clothes for me out of the bag, then got me changed and cleaned off. I finally managed to take my thumb out of my mouth, and pulled on the clothes she had selected. On impulse, I flung my arms around her, and gave her a long, warm hug, punctuated with a kiss on the cheek. "So, what was wrong last night? You looked like you had a bad dream."

"I did." I explained the dream to her. She laughed.

"I think my foxy has seen too many movies. Oh, well, I suppose that, all things being considered, a few strange dreams are to be expected." I nodded.

"Well, it's not every day you lose your job and find out that your girlfriend is a vampire." I agreed. "Thanks for calming me down."

"Well, that's what I'm here for. Now, let's go have some breakfast." Claudia whipped up an omelet, and I dug into like a condemned man. I was famished. As we ate, she made a proposal to me.

"Jack, how would you like to work for me?" I raised my eyebrows. "I'm serious. We're in need of a good programmer. If you like, you wouldn't have to be directly employed by my company... you could set yourself up as a freelance programmer." I was surprised by the offer, and took a moment, trying to consider all the angles.

"Where would I be working? Your company has offices in town?" She smiled.

"Jack, we have more offices in town than I could name. But what I was thinking was that you might telecommute."

"From my apartment? Heck, I don't even have a P.C. at home."

"Well... actually, I was wondering if you'd like to move in with me." She laughed. "I certainly have the space." I was stunned. This was so sudden and unexpected... I didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't mean to rush things. If you aren't ready for that..." I shook my head.

"I'm ready for that... I guess. I just wasn't expecting it." I thought about it. Living with Claudia... working for Claudia... or her company, at any rate. It sounded nice, but I was wary of jumping into anything. "Can I have some time to think about it?" She grinned.

"Foxy, you can have all the time you need. And don't worry... if you don't like the idea, or you feel that it's too soon... I won't be offended." Well, that was a load off my mind. Actually, I had to admit, the offer sounded really good... in fact, the more I thought about it, the better it seemed. And I really did want to get back to working on that anti-virus. It was still nagging my mind. "Here, I tell you what... I'll show you the Computer Room. I think you'll like it." Computer Room? That sounded promising.

When breakfast was over, she led me into the South Wing. The Computer Room was staggering. It looked like a ball-room had been filled with wiring and electronics. I saw a large black box in the center of the room that filled my programmer's heart with wonder.

"Is that...?" She nodded.

"A Cray mainframe. Never really put it to much use, really. I bought it because the salesman was very persistent. Nice about it, though."

"Are you saying I'd have direct access to a Cray mainframe?" I practically drooled at the thought. She nodded.

"I also have a few of these, though I'm not really sure what they are. I've tried to keep up with technology, you see, but after a couple of centuries it gets hard to keep pace." She held up a VR headset. I took a more careful survey of the room. It was filled with the latest tech, all of it pretty much just gathering dust. Oh, this was almost sacrilege.

"You have all this gear... just lying around?" I asked. She shrugged.

"Well, what use do I have for a computer? I have more money than I know what to do with... I have almost no need for entertainment, now that I've found you... I don't think I can find a meal through a computer, so..." I grinned.

"Don't be so sure of that. You may not know this, but there's a whole vampire sub-culture on the web. Do you have any idea how many people would sell their souls to have you suck their blood?" For once, hers was the jaw that dropped.

"You... You're joking. You can't be serious." I laughed.

"I'm very serious. People are fascinated by your kind." She snorted.

"My kind? Foxy, I'm the only vampire I've ever heard of... and you know how unusual the circumstances surrounding THAT are." I shrugged.

"Well, I don't think you're the kind of vampire they have in mind. I mean, you don't sleep in a coffin, or anything, and unless I'm mistaken, your own kitchen is stocked with garlic."

"True. And sunlight won't kill me."

"No?" I asked, surprised, "Then why is it that I've never seen you go out before dark?"

"I said it won't kill me... not that it doesn't affect me. The sun's energy is too strong for me, now. It overloads my system... causes my powers to go out of control. Mostly, I just smash things, and give people for miles around a headache."

"Well, you aren't the kind of vampire they're thinking of... but you're close enough that I'm sure they'd still love the chance to meet you... and even be your prey." She shook her head.

"There are some strange people out there." I chuckled.

"This from a telepathic vampire cat, no less. Well, anyway, you'd be surprised at all the neat stuff you'd find on the 'Net."

"Maybe I'll have to try it sometime."

"All this tech, I'm sure you have a modem around here somewhere..." I moved to start digging through the gadgetry, and started tracking down wires. Claudia got worried when I didn't come up for air, but I yelled, assuring her that I was all right. She waited patiently while I tried to untangle all the techno-clutter. A few hours later, I cried out in triumph. "I've got it!" I heard Claudia giggle.

"Jack? I can't see you. You've dug a burrow in all this machinery." I stood up, only to find that the walls of equipment that surrounded me were taller than I was.

"I'm here!" I jumped, waving my arms.

"I see you. I'll try to find my way in."

"No, I'll come out to you." I back-tracked out of the dent I'd made in the mountain of electronics. When I reached out to touch her, though, I received a most unpleasant shock. Damn static. I should've been warned by the fact that my fur was standing on end. Claudia, however, didn't even notice the shock, but was impressed by the blue arcs of static that flashed briefly between us.

"I've never seen that before." She confessed, "It looked like lightning." I nodded.

"It's the same thing, on a smaller scale. Computer equipment builds up static, and passes it on. I'll have to remember to wear a grounding wire next time."

"Did you find what you were looking for?"

"Yup. You have a ISDN line." She looked blank. "That means you have a direct link to the internet. You're set, as soon as I get all the software configured."

"Oh. That's nice." I realized that Claudia's computer illiteracy was going to be a minor drawback to our relationship. Oh, well... hopefully, she was willing to learn. Otherwise, technical conversations could become rather difficult.

We had a little lunch, and I went about setting her up for the internet. I'd never had a whole super-computer all to myself before. I imagined the programs I could compile, and it was all I could do not to short out the keyboard with my saliva. By dinnertime, I was done, but I could tell that Claudia was willing to wait until tomorrow to try surfing the 'Net for the first time. I'd been thinking about her offer. Considering some of the fringe benefits (working with all that cool equipment not being the least of it), it was a really attractive offer. I told her so, over dinner.

"You know, I've been thinking about your offer. Tell me more about how it would work."

"Well, you'd move in with me. You'd be working out of the computer room, probably as a freelance consultant. That way, you wouldn't be limited to just working for me." I smiled.

"Are you planning on charging me overhead?" She smiled back.

"Well, I think that we can work something out. I'd be providing your room and board, of course, and I believe we could work out a very nice deal for your services. We can deduct your overhead from that, but I doubt that you'll really notice the difference, since you can let your apartment go. I can have my people draw up a contract for you to look over." That sounded good to me.

After dinner, we retired to the bedroom, and just talked for a while. Claudia had two hundred years of interesting stories to tell, and she never seemed to get enough of hearing about my own life, so we had plenty to talk about. I gradually switched from a sitting posture to lying down, and she accommodated me by lying down next to me. She stretched an arm out to pillow my neck, and I let myself enjoy the comforting, soft solidity of her limbs. She began telling me a story about an adventure she'd had during World War II. Her voice was soft and melodious, and her tone was gentle, and I let my eye-lids droop. I wasn't sleepy or anything... but her voice was just so soothing. Claudia trailed a finger across my lips, and without thinking, I caught it in my mouth and started sucking on it. She smiled, and let me continue for a moment, before reaching down to take my hand and replace her finger with my thumb. I frowned, and took it out. It was most annoying, though. My mouth was nearly trembling with the desire to suck on something. "Poor little foxy." Claudia smiled, "You're getting to be a little bit oral fixated, aren't you?" I huffed, and looked away. "Jack? Please, don't pout. It doesn't become you." Damn, she was right, I was pouting.

"Sorry. I just... I don't know. I can't understand what's happening to me anymore. It worries me. I mean, I keep acting more childish all the time... I know you don't mind, but I can't help but be afraid that something is wrong with me." She shook her head.

"Nothing's wrong with you, Jack. If you like, I can tell you what's happening." I looked up at her sharply.

"You... You can?"

"Jack, I'm a telepath. Of course I can tell you what's happening in your mind." I didn't know that I liked the sound of that.

"Am I going nuts, then? You make it sound like my problem is all in my head." She laughed.

"It is, silly. And no, you aren't going crazy, Jack. Like the doctor said, your problem is stress."

"But I'm not under any stress anymore. And besides, I thought that my medicine was supposed to be helping... not making it worse!"

"Jack, you can't expect to get rid of a lifetime of built-up stress in a couple of weeks. Besides..." She stopped, not sure if she wanted to go on.

"Besides what, Claudia?" I asked.

"Besides... the stress isn't really that much of a problem, anymore."

"Then why..."

"Because you like it, Jack." I shook my head in disbelief.

"You're kidding. How could I possibly..." I thought about all the times she'd gotten me aroused by embarrassing me. "No, that's different! I don't want to be like this!" She sighed.

"Yes, Jack, you do. Otherwise, you wouldn't be doing it. You can fight against yourself all you want, but it won't change anything."

"But.."

"No, Jack, let me finish. What's happened to you is that your stress finally reached the breaking point... and took the path of least resistance to relieve itself. Your stress didn't put any of this into your head, Jack. It was already there. It just needed something to set it off." She saw the set of my jaw, and sighed. "I know, Jack. You don't like hearing this. And it's hard to accept who you are, sometimes. Believe me, I should know. Look, it's late. Why don't we just go to bed and forget about it." I just couldn't help myself. I crossed my arms and sulked. She leaned in and kissed my forehead. "You know, I was wrong. You're actually kinda cute when you pout... in an overly juvenile way, that is." I looked over at her, hurt... and saw that she was kidding. All the fight drained out of me.

"Oh, Claudia, I'm sorry... I'm just so scared by all this. I mean, where does it all end?" She scooped me into a hug.

"Wherever you want it to, foxy. Wherever you want it to."

"Then I want it to stop here and now!" I proclaimed. But as she rocked me to sleep... I began to wonder.

I was just drifting into a state of dreaming when she gently shook me awake. She had a glass in her hand.

"I thought you might rather drink it this way, after all." She said, handing me the glass. I nodded. I reached out to take the glass. My arm wouldn't reach that far. I looked down at my tiny paw in shock.

"Ergle?" I asked. My brow furrowed in puzzlement. I tried a few more times, but I couldn't speak intelligibly. I looked back to Claudia, who now towered over me. She smiled down at me maternally.

"Oh, that's right, I forgot." She cooed, "My poor little kit doesn't need his medicine anymore, does he? Him's not stressed a bit, is he?" She took off her shirt. "You still like a little milk, though, don't you baby?" I kicked my feet futiley as she scooped me up, and cradled me in her arms. She guided my mouth to her breast. "There... that's what my foxy needs..." I jerked awake with a shout, startling Claudia, who had a hand on my shoulder, about to shake me awake.

"Whoa, there, Jack! Are you all right?" I took a couple of deep breaths, and nodded. God, what a weird nightmare. "Well, I was just going to wake you up and remind you to take your medicine." She pulled out a glass. "I thought you might rather drink it this... Jack? What's wrong?"

"Never mind. I'd rather have a bottle, if you don't mind."

"But I thought..."

"Please?" She shrugged, and left to get a bottle. I knew I was being more than a little irrational, but still... I looked down to make sure I was still myself, and saw that she'd dressed me while I was asleep. I knew I couldn't hold it against her... she was only being practical, after all, but it still bothered me. She came back in a few minutes later. I sat up, and waited for her to climb behind me. She did, but to my surprise, she set the bottle aside.

"Jack, please tell me what's wrong." I snorted.

"You're the telepath, why don't you tell me?" She sighed.

"Because I don't like invading your mind. And because I'd rather you trusted me enough to tell me on your own." I felt like a real ass for being snippy at her. I reluctantly told her about my dream. She didn't say anything for a long while.

"I'm sorry if my dream bothers you," I finally said, "I know it was silly, but it really got to me, even if it was far-fetched." I looked up at her, and she wouldn't meet my gaze. "Claudia? What's wrong?"

"It.. it isn't that far fetched, Jack. I don't want to scare you, but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't tell you that I'm completely capable of making that dream a reality."

"But... you said..."

"I said I could control it, Jack. And I can, very well. It's true that things reverse at the equilibrium age, but... if I try, I can push you past it, either way. I would never do something like that against your will, Jack." She sighed. "But that's not what your dream was really about, was it? Your afraid of what's happening to you, the way your behavior is changing. You don't have to be a mind-reader to see that."

"Well, yeah, I mean... I just don't know what's going to happen. A month ago, I was a normal guy... now I wet the bed, I keep sucking my thumb.. I've even wet my pants, Claudia! You think that isn't frightening? Try it sometime! I feel like..."

"Like your life is out of control." She finished for me, "I understand. But there is nothing you can do but accept it. You are... regressing, Jack. You can either learn to like it, and yourself, or you can spend the rest of your life hating who you are. It's your choice, Jack." I sighed. She made sense. But somehow her logic wasn't terribly comforting. "If you like, I'll stop indulging your childishness. Here." She handed me the bottle. "Feed yourself, if it makes you feel better. You're big enough, you can take care of yourself." She slid out from behind me, and propped my head up with a pillow. I looked to her for confirmation, and she nodded. She was serious. I raised the bottle and started drinking. I felt a little of my tension alleviate, since the bottle satisfied my oral fixation. Claudia watched me, and I could tell how much I'd managed to hurt her. But what could I do? She was right, it was my choice. My eyes blurred and slowly closed as the drink took effect, and my thoughts grew slurry.

I woke up the next morning feeling miserable. I hadn't had any more dreams, but I hadn't really gotten any rest, either. I looked around for Claudia, but couldn't find her. I felt a cold lump in my chest, in the general viscidity of my heart. I curled up in a ball, and let myself cry. What the hell, there was nobody to see me.

When I was done, I felt a little better. I was emotionally exhausted, which is kind of like being hollowed out inside. I realized that I was wet, which was to be expected. I started whimpering, then forced myself to stop. Claudia was right, I was certainly capable of dealing with this myself. I got undressed, and took a shower. Being pelted with warm water helped clear my head. I did a little thinking, about all the things that Claudia had said. I had a choice. I had a pretty good idea of which option she liked better, but I knew that I had to make my own decision. But what decision was there to be made? From what Claudia said, and she should know, being a telepath, all this shit would happen whether I liked it or not. But how could I accept that? Should I just sit there, and let my brain turn to mush? What would be next? Would I forget how to walk? Claudia already had a liking for carrying me. Would I have to be fed soon? Or forget how to talk, maybe? Would I have to wear diapers during the day? Hell, I might be wearing them anyway, the way I was going. I'd wet myself how many times, already? Why the hell was my body doing this to me?

I heard the bathroom door open. The curtain rustled, and Claudia stepped into the shower with me. I started to tell her that I'd rather be alone just then, but I knew that wasn't true, either. I just sighed, and turned around. We stood there, staring at each other.

"Mind some company?" She asked quietly. I shook my head. We showered together in silence. It felt oddly appropriate. Neither of us said anything until we got out, and dried off.

"Jack, I..."

"Claudia, I..." We started at the same time. We laughed, and that broke our tension. "Claudia," I started again, "I know that you love me, and that you want me to be happy. But I don't think I can accept this. I don't want to lose you, but I also don't want to lose myself." She gave me a puzzled look.

"Lose yourself? What do you mean?"

"Well, how far do I have to regress before I start losing the things that define me? What if I forget how to read, Claudia? Kinda hard to write code when you're illiterate." She smiled.

"Is that what you're afraid of?"

"Well... that's a large part of it."

"You won't forget how to read, Jack... not unless you consciously decide that you want to be regressed that far."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I could cause you to regress that far. But you'd have to ask."

"I don't see that happening."

"Me neither. You won't lose any of the things that make you Jack. Just a few of the things that make you an adult."

"Like what?"

"Like the things you've mostly lost already. I think the biggest thing you'll lose is your independence. But you always lose that, when you fall in love. I think what would be most likely is that you'll just gradually lose some of your adult abilities... like you're already losing the ability to stay dry. But one thing you haven't considered, Jack."

"What's that?"

"Have you considered that, before this happened to you, you were just an average programmer, and now you are, by all accounts, a genius."

"Well..."

"And that's not all. I'm sure you have a thousand other talents, just waiting to be discovered. You aren't just regressing, Jack. You're also growing. Would you really want to give that up?" I had to consider it for a moment, but I finally shook my head.

"So I'm just giving up my autonomy, in exchange for developing new talents?" She nodded.

"Exactly. That's probably another reason for all this. Everything that was hidden inside of you is coming to the surface now. All your strengths... as well as your weakness." Hmm.. I'd have to think about that. I located a pair of underwear, and she tossed me a robe to lounge around in. Her attire was similarly casual. I knew I was being a bit of a jerk, but... well, hell, how would you feel?

We had breakfast, and I thought about showing Claudia how to navigate the internet. My heart just wasn't in it, though, and I didn't think she was really in the mood for it, either. We spent the morning watching TV, sitting unspeaking next to each other. I wanted to reach out to her, and say something, but I couldn't think of anything to say, or any way to explain how I was feeling. As we watched one mind-numbing program after another, I kept turning everything over in my head. All I really knew for sure was that I didn't want to lose Claudia. So that's the choice, then. To hell with independence... I'll take happiness any day.

When Claudia finally looked over at me, I had my thumb back in my mouth. Before she could say anything, I wormed my way onto her lap, and put my free arm around her. I didn't have to say anything. She understood. She changed the channel to a station showing cartoons, and sighed, cuddling me. We stayed that way until lunch. She set me off her lap, and stood up, stretching. When she looked back at me, I smiled, and held out my arms. I laughed, almost a giggle, as she swept me up and carried me into the kitchen. Why, I asked myself, had I been fighting this? I was sure I'd had a good reason, but if so, it escaped me at the moment. Claudia looked through her fridge and shook her head, apparently not liking what she saw. She found the materials for a few sandwiches, though, and with those we made a suitable repast.

"My larder's almost empty, foxy. I think we might just have to go shopping tonight."

"Shopping?" It was probably the first thing I'd said since getting out of the shower that morning. She nodded.

"Well, I could have it delivered, if I wanted... but there's something rather satisfying about doing it yourself. Probably fulfills some sort of foraging instinct." I laughed. "Tell you what," She continued, "Why don't we make a night of it? We could go out for dinner, take care of some shopping... maybe hit the mall and see a movie." I nodded.

"Sounds good to me." I said.

After lunch, we watched some more cartoons. I'd never had the opportunity to watch much day-time television, and I was surprised to find that the afternoons were mostly filled with soaps and those talk shows that are called "trash talk". I'd never seen one before... I was astonished by just how ridiculous the premises were. "Technophobic Squirrels and the Nuts who love them...", "My Daughter is a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing", "Skin-head Anti-herbivores Meet Violent Anti-pred. Rabbits", etc. Claudia agreed that none of it looked too appealing... then she switched back to the station we'd watched that morning. Apparently, her satellite network carried a channel that showed nothing but cartoons. Hmmm... Well that was a neat idea. Claudia pulled me into her lap again, and we watched. Some of the shows were really silly, but others actually looked like someone put some thought into them. In fact, some of them seemed familiar... I finally recognized them as comic books I'd read as a kit, brought into a cartoon format, when I saw the "X-furs" cartoon. It was pretty cool in its own right, and it brought back lots of pleasant memories from my childhood. It wasn't long after "X-furs" faded into some other cartoon that my attention began to wander. I was interested in the show, but I couldn't seem to focus on it. I also couldn't seem to sit comfortably, either. Claudia noticed me shifting positions.

"Jack, stop squirming. Is something wrong?" I shook my head, and tried to watch TV. I'd actually managed to lose the plot line. How the hell do you lose the plot on a half-hour cartoon? And I still wasn't comfortable. "Jack..." I huffed at her, and stopped squirming. She was still for a minute, and I looked back to make sure that I hadn't hurt her feelings again. I didn't want her feelings hurt, but damned if I wasn't starting to feel downright... surly. To my surprise, she was smiling. She turned off the TV. "Come on, Jack... You look uncomfortable, and I'll just bet I know what will help." For some reason, I wanted to argue, but I hid the impulse by burying my face into her chest-fur, while she stood up and shifted her arms to cradle me. My eyes felt hot and gritty. I briefly worried that I was getting sick... but Hell, I was living with someone who could heal any illness, so what did I have to worry about? I heard the crinkling noise when she sat down, and knew that she'd taken me into the bedroom. She laid me down and stretched out beside me, and started running her paw through my hair. "Now... Isn't that better?" It was, but I didn't want to admit it.

"But I'm not sleepy!" I protested.

"I never said you were," Claudia said, in a way that suggested otherwise. "I just thought you might be tired of watching TV. I figured we could come in here and talk for a while." Well, I couldn't object to that. Just so long as she didn't expect me to go to sleep. She started talking about some of the adventures she'd had back in the twenties, during the depression. She'd weathered the crash better than most investors... and the food was plentiful. Still, things didn't always go as planned. One of her marks managed to escape, and an angry, superstitious mob is hard to reason with. She'd gotten away with her life, but the mob looted her home, casting David out on the street. What the mob could carry away, they stole. What they couldn't, they burned. It was a fascinating story, but I had a hard time paying attention to her words. She took her other hand, and started stroking my jawline. Before I knew it, I had her finger in my mouth. Just like before, it was quickly replaced by my thumb. I tuned out her words, and just went with the tone of her voice, which was nice and soft and soothing. I closed my eyes and let myself sink into the rhythm of her voice. I protested a little when she pulled my thumb out of my mouth, but settled back down when it was replaced by the nipple of a bottle. I WAS thirsty, I realized, and I eagerly drank the cool, tart juice that gushed into my mouth. I felt her arms slide out from under my head, but her other hand started slowly rubbing my tummy, so I didn't complain. I felt her mouth brush my forehead in a kiss, and that was the last I knew.

I felt a little annoyed when I woke up, knowing that I'd been tricked into taking a nap, but since I felt SO much better, I really couldn't say that I minded. Besides, I realized with some chagrin, it said something that I'd actually NEEDED to be tricked into it. Claudia came in, just as I was getting up.

"Oh! You're already awake. I was just coming to check on you." Well, I have to admit that I felt warm inside hearing that. She looked down. "Um. Do you want to do it, or should I?" Huh? Do what? I looked down, and saw what she meant. I was sopping wet. I guess she'd gotten me dressed after I'd fallen asleep. Hell, maybe she'd done it WHILE I was falling asleep. I'm not sure that I'd have noticed. I answered her by laying back down. "All right." She got me changed and cleaned off, then handed me my underwear, and rummaged around to find some other clothes for me. When she had everything she started to hand me the pile. Instead, I handed her back the underwear. She gave me a puzzled look. "What's wrong?" I shook my head, playing dumb.

"Don't tell me you'd rather be in diapers?" I shook my head again. "Naked, then?"

"Um... not if we're going out." I answered.

"Then wha... oh, I see. Silly foxy." I squirmed. "All right, then. Give me your feet." I hung my feet off of the bed, and she got me dressed. It made me feel a little silly, especially since it was my own idea, but I was well rewarded. Claudia gave me that little smile that made her face so absolutely stunning, and I could tell that I'd made her very happy by asking her to help me dress. When she was done, she stood me up and gave me a gentle swat on my rear. "There we are, my foxy is all dressed and ready to go out." Her tone changed, as she addressed me as an adult, "The sun's just about down. We can go in just a few minutes."

"How can you tell what time it is in here?" I asked her. I'd been wondering for a while. "There aren't any windows or clocks or anything." She smiled.

"I can feel the sun passing through the sky, even here. Same way some furs always know where true North is." That made sense, I guess. I located my wallet, which took a few minutes... I hadn't had any use for it in a couple of days. I followed her out... really should learn to navigate the mansion eventually... and she unlocked the car door for me. I got in and was safely buckled before I remembered what had happened the last time I was in Claudia's car... but the seat seemed fine. Claudia climbed in on the driver's side, and got herself buckled in. She was starting up the car when I asked her about the condition of my seat. She shut off the engine, and explained that she'd called out and had the car steam-cleaned. When you're as rich as Claudia is, I guess everyone makes house-calls. Then she told me to stay put, and went back inside, explaining that she'd forgotten her purse. I waited patiently while she retrieved it, though she was gone an awfully long time. I was just starting to worry and wonder if I shouldn't go in after her when I saw her come into view. That was her purse? It looked more like a small suit-case. She got in and tossed it casually onto the back seat. I looked back at it. It was a rectangular black satchel, a bit like a college-student's book-bag. "I like to be prepared." She answered my unspoken question. "Interesting story: I was involved in the creation of the Boy Scouts..." She started the car up and we drove out, while she told me the story. We weren't very far when she pulled over to the side of the road. "Oh, I'm just forgetting everything today. Jack, would you give me your pants?" I just stared at her. "You fall asleep every time we drive somewhere, and it's been a little while since you could take a nap without getting wet. I found something... wait a minute." She rummaged around in the back, and pulled out a blue-green square. She unfolded it, revealing a soft white interior. "We used these on chairs for a while, back when... well, you know." More heritage from David. "I also have some of your shorts in here somewhere... can't have you riding naked into town, like Lady Godiva, right?" Well... she had a point. I changed clothes, and let her set the pad down under me. Then she buckled me back in. "Don't worry, Jack. I'll stop at a convenience store before we get where we're going, so you can put your pants back on." Well, that was a relief. I'm not so proud of my legs that I felt like wearing shorts on a cool night like that. We set off once again, and though I did try to stay awake, it was a losing battle. Something about the way the car jostled told me we were there. I looked up, and saw a sign advertising gasoline prices. I looked down, and sighed. Claudia had been wise to take precautions. She glanced over at me, then pulled into a parking space in front of the convenience center. I smirked at the sign on the window, advertising that the rooms were equipped with changing tables. OK, I know it wasn't that ironic, but I was in an ironic sort of mood. Claudia frowned as she looked down.

"I just realized I hadn't thought this out very well."

"What do you mean?" I asked, my head still just a little fuzzy from sleep.

"Your shorts are wet, Jack." I nodded. I had noticed. "Why are we going in?"

"So I can put my pants back... oh, I see." I'd have to wear my wet shorts into the store. That wasn't a prospect I enjoyed. "Uh... so what do we do?" She shrugged.

"Well, I can't think of anything."

"Me neither. Guess I'll just go like this. I mean, they'll all be strangers, right? Besides, I'll bet nobody will say anything."

"You're probably right." She leaned over and hugged me. "That's a brave foxy. I'm proud of you." Damned if that wasn't worth the trouble. Hell, the warm and fuzzy I got inside from that was worth just about anything. Well, time to take the plunge.

I grabbed my pants and underwear, and climbed out of the car. Claudia rolled up the pad I'd soaked, and got out on her side. She tossed it into a nearby trash-can, and we went inside.

Yikes. The place was a bit more crowded than I'd expected. I looked. Uh-oh. The bathroom had a line. Trying not to be self-conscious, I got into line, while Claudia perused the snacks. She also perused the snacks... the ones who were walking around. I gathered it was an old habit she had yet to break. I fidgeted a little, since my crotch had become more than a little cold on the way in. I forced myself to stop, and wait patiently. It wouldn't have been so bad... but I already had to go again. And the line seemed to loom ahead of me, though there were really only a couple of furs in front of me. One of them was a lioness, holding a cub by the hand. The cub looked up at me. The kid's head was just a little lower than my waist... there was no way she could have missed the huge wet patch on my shorts, even if she'd been trying to. She frowned, and tugged her mother's shirt.

"Mommy, that man is wet." She said. In my ears, it sounded like she'd announced it with a bull-horn. "Whycome is the big man wet, Mommy?" I wasn't the only one embarrassed by the situation. The lioness looked like she wanted to melt into the floor. "Mommy.." The girl started to ask again, but the lioness shushed her.

"Hush, honey, that's not polite!" She whispered fiercely. The child seemed near tears from this rebuke. I immediately felt sorry for her. "No, that's OK," I found myself saying, "I don't mind, really." I bent down to the child's level. "I..." Gee, how to explain this? "I just had a little too much juice on the way here, and I had an accident." The little girl nodded. This made perfect sense to her.

"Me too!" She blurted. "You should wear diapers, like Mommy makes me wear." My mouth twitched and twisted in an odd way. I wasn't sure if it was trying to smile or not. The lioness gave me an apologetic look. "OW! Mommy, that hurts!" The lioness had squeezed the cubs paw in an attempt to abort the conversation. I found myself smiling after all.

"That's right, I guess I probably should." The line had advanced while we talked, and the bathroom door opened, allowing the lioness to take her cub in. That made me next. Thank God for that. The guy behind me in line, an old tiger, gave a chuckle and complimented me on how I handled the situation. Actually, I was kinda glad the kid had asked. I felt a lot less nervous, and not as ashamed as before. The door opened, and the lioness came out, carrying the little girl, who waved at me as they went past. I smiled and waved back, then went into the bathroom.

I felt much better when I came out, though I'd taken a little longer than expected. Getting cleaned up had proven a little difficult. Claudia was waiting, with her purchases. She distributed them when we got back to the car.

"I thought you might be a little thirsty, after... um... all that." I was, truth be told. "And I got us a little something to tide us over until dinner." She handed me a cola and an ice-cream sandwich. She opened her snack and drink, and we set off toward... um.. actually, I wasn't sure where we were going. "Oh, and I overheard you and that cub talking. That was SO cute!"

"Glad you thought so. I would have died with embarrassment, if I hadn't felt sorry for her."

"Well, I thought you handled it very well." She grinned maliciously as she took one hand off the wheel to pat me on the head. "You're a very good foxy." I laughed. We drove along, and I ate my now half-melted ice-cream. I tried to eat it before it dripped off my hand, but that just resulted in a headache. In the end, I managed to eat most of it... the rest was on my hand, my chin, and my shirt. I felt like a complete idiot, but Claudia assured me it was alright. I didn't feel like pointing out that SHE would think so. She pulled into a huge parking lot, which I recognized as belonging to the mall. "I thought we might do a little shopping first, then hit the food court. We can get groceries on our way home." I nodded. It made sense to me. Claudia grabbed that huge purse out of the back, and we trudged toward the mall entrance.

I'd forgotten what shopping was like with a female. Claudia made a point of at least popping her head into each and every shop, no matter how unlikely it was that she'd want anything in there. She explained that it was an old hunting habit. You'd find likely targets in the most unlikely places. We walked through Victoria's Secret. If Victoria wore clothes like that, I doubt she had that many secrets... they looked a little revealing, if you see what I mean.

"Hey, Jack?"

"Yes?"

"Would you mind if we...?" She pointed. I saw three stores, right next to each other. One was the Disney Store. The other two sold children's apparel and furniture. I was hesitant. "If you don't want to, it's OK. I just thought that, given your situation, we might want to go through and see if there was anything you liked."

"Like what?" I asked. She smiled.

"We'll have to see, won't we?" I shrugged. If it would make her happy, why not? We went into the Disney Store first. I didn't see much that I liked. Never was really big on Disney, to tell the truth. Claudia kept asking me to look at children's outfits, asking me what I thought. I didn't understand why she was asking... I mean, everything she was looking at was WAY too small. "Silly foxy. I'm not looking to buy anything right now... not unless you see something you really like, that is. I'm just trying to get a better idea of your tastes." I guess that made sense.

"Well, for starters, Disney isn't high on my list of preferences."

"Really? How about this?" She held up a pajama set, that had Robin Hood striking a pose on the front. "You know... I think I see a resemblance." Modesty aside, she wasn't the first person to make that comparison. "Come on, could you see yourself in something like this?" I thought about it.

"Well, I guess so... it just looks a little..."

"Juvenile?"

"Yeah." She grinned.

"Well, silly, that's the point." I raised an eyebrow. I got the feeling I may well have opened a can of worms when I asked her to get me dressed. I think she was considering playing "dress-up" with me... and I could guess the motif she would choose. "Besides, wouldn't you like to have something nice and cuddly to keep you warm at night?"

"Well, yeah. Isn't that what you're for?" She smiled. We looked around a little more, then left.

She took me through the children's clothing store next, and we spent some time imagining me in various toddler, infant, and youth outfits. I was starting to get a little bored.

"I think the problem is that you aren't thinking about this the right way. You're being too adult about this. Picture yourself as a child, then consider these outfits."

"But I'm not a child, I'm an adult." She nodded, but not before a considering pause.

"Yes, Jack, but you also have a very strong inclination to childish things. Would you like me to help?" I shrugged. "Ok, let's go back here..." We ducked behind a rack of tiny overalls. She looked around for an outfit.

"Here... try this on."

"What..." Then I understood what she meant. I suddenly saw myself the way she was picturing me, as she sent the image telepathically from her mind to mine. I saw myself lying in bed, curled up in Claudia's arms, wearing a cute set of footed PJ's. But it wasn't just an image... I could feel myself lying in her arms, and I could feel the warm, soft flannel against my skin. God, I felt so damn cute!

"I think that's enough, dear." The vision faded. "You can stop sucking your thumb now, if you like." Oh, yeah. Maybe I should. "So, what did you think?"

"I... I don't know. That felt really nice." I admitted.

"I thought it might. Do you see what I mean, now?" I nodded, and we returned to perusing the racks with more enthusiasm. Besides, she'd already said she wasn't planning on buying anything... it was just her way of getting to know what I really liked. Shorts and T-shirts seemed to be my preference, but there were a few other things I kinda liked. Particularly the pajamas, the ones like in that vision. Claudia tried steering me toward the infants section again, but I didn't see anything there that I liked... or at least, nothing I could picture myself ever wearing. And I didn't particularly want to have her give me a vision of wearing a romper. She understood, and we left, and visited the furniture store. Claudia stopped and considered a few things. "Jack... do you think you'd like this?" She pointed out a high-chair.

"Uh... I don't think so. I mean, why would I need one?"

"Oh, you don't. But just in case you ever do... what do you think would look good?" She thought for a moment. "Here, try this... imagine that you'd be getting it for someone else... a nephew, or something." Heh. I'd been on shopping trips like those before, with some of my previous girlfriends. I never was much help. She shrugged. "Well, which do you think is cuter, this one..." The backing was in the shape of a teddy-bear, with the sides shaped like arms. "Or this..." It was decorated in a mosaic of cute little baby rabbits. Heh. Bet Jeremy would love it. Hmm... there's a thought. I told her I liked the second one a little better. She smiled, and we moved on to other furniture. When we were done, I think she'd asked my opinion on every single piece on display. On our way out, something caught her eye, and she told me to go ahead on out, and she'd be there in a minute.

I tried to get a look at what she was doing, but the interior was hidden by the window displays. She came out with a bag, which was bulging with the shape of a box. I asked her what it was. She smiled, and said it was a surprise, which was pretty much what I'd expected. We stopped in a few more stores, then went for the food court.

Claudia had a slice of pizza, while I hit the taco stand. We got our drinks, and found a place to sit and eat. I lifted my taco, and bit into it. With a crunch, the shell fractured, and about half the meat dropped down the front of my shirt. Well that was just... great. Claudia handed me a napkin, and I cleaned off as much as I could. The ice cream stains had been bad enough... they were white, so they didn't show up, but now I had greasy red/ brown splotches all down my shirt. I looked up, and Claudia giggled.

"Looks like my foxy needs a bib." She laughed again when she saw the look on my face. "Oh, Jack, come on. I was kidding... for now." I raised an eyebrow. "Well, if you make a habit of spilling your food..." I got the idea, and resolved to be a bit more careful. I finished my taco, and went back for a burrito (ha, let's see THAT spill!), since I'd ended up wearing half of the taco instead of eating it. When I'd finished that off, Claudia suggested that we catch a movie. We went to the mall's theater, which had a pretty good selection. There was a new children's animated feature out, and Claudia seemed inclined toward that. They were also showing a Sci-Fi thriller. We discussed it for a few minutes, but the deciding factor was that the Sci-Fi option was showing almost immediately. We got our tickets, and some popcorn and drinks. As we were heading toward the ticket-taker, Claudia coughed, and nudged me. I looked over and she tilted her head toward the restrooms. "Two hour movie, Jack." Hmm... she had a point. She was waiting for me when I emerged from the restroom, and we found our seats. I reached over, and held her hand during the movie. The movie was good, lots of cool special effects. It kept you on the edge of your seat, with lots of suspense and those moments where things jump out at you. I was sitting there, munching my popcorn, when the alien monster leapt out at someone, and bit his head open. I'd seen that kind of thing before... lots of times, it was standard movie fare... but my eyes got wide and I couldn't help whimpering a little as the creature stalked another victim. Claudia put a hand on my shoulder, and I calmed down a little. The fact that my thumb was now firmly planted in my mouth might also have had an effect. I had to force it out to take a sip of my drink. I heard the straw suck air at the bottom of the cup. I hadn't been paying attention to what I was doing, and I'd finished off my drink before the movie was half-over. My popcorn was mostly gone, too. Claudia noticed, and let me have a few sips from her drink through the rest of the movie. I spent the rest of the movie leaned toward her, clinging to her arm with my free hand.

"Jack, it's just a movie. Calm down." She turned her head to whisper, "I think just maybe my foxy isn't old enough to watch this movie." I shook my head, but jumped a little when the monster stormed onto the screen. I tried to calm down, which was made easier when she leaned over and put her arm around my shoulders. I snuggled down and relaxed. When the monster jumped out again, I didn't let it bother me, cause I knew Claudia had me, and I was safe. Yeah, it's silly, but it worked. The ending of the movie was predictable... the monster turned out to be female, and it left behind an egg... where nobody would find it. Naturally, they had to leave an opening for a sequel. I stood up and stretched my legs, and staggered out of the theater. I heard Claudia sigh behind me. "Jack..." I turned around. "Come on, let's go get you changed." I looked down. I was completely drenched. I whimpered a little... then started to outright cry. "No, Jack, it's ok, please don't..." She sighed, "Oh, well." She scooped me up into her arms, and carried me out of the theater. I knew I was making a scene, but I just couldn't stop crying. She took me to the mall restrooms. I was shocked when she didn't put me down and let me go in by myself, but turned and carried me in. I saw a sign go by; "Unisex Restroom". Unisex? She laid me down on a waist-high table. I looked around, still sniffling. The place was full of furs and their children, most of whom were in the process of being changed. I looked up at Claudia, who nodded. I started whimpering again.

"Shhh... it's ok, foxy, it's ok... I'm not mad at you. You know I don't get mad about things like this." I nodded. A fem squirrel came up behind her.

"My, he's a big one, isn't he?" She asked, smiling. She bent down and lifted her own charge onto an adjacent table. "Must be quite a handful. I have enough of a time with this one." Claudia smiled.

"Oh, no, he's really quite well behaved. He just had a little accident, that's all." This was getting downright surreal. I opened my mouth to protest, but Claudia smoothly popped my thumb into my mouth, and gave me a small warning look. She opened up her purse, and pulled out a pair of underwear, and a spare pair of pants. She looked at my shirt, and pulled out a change for that, too.

"Do you mind if I ask...?" The squirrel said, in the middle of changing her cub.

"I don't mind if he doesn't." Claudia said, looking down at me. I shrugged. "He has a stress-related illness. Makes him a little "accident prone"."

"Ah. Thinks he's too big for diapers, huh?" Claudia nodded, while removing my pants. I looked up at her with alarm. My eyes blurred for a moment, and I heard her talking in my head, explaining. But I didn't want to be changed in front of someone else! The very idea was horrible! Claudia's voice in my head told me not to be silly. I didn't see the squirrel's kid making a fuss. But that's different! She showed me a vision of how I'd looked, coming out of the theater, bawling, having to be carried. "Little boys can be so silly." The squirrel continued. "Does he usually get a bottle or anything after being changed?" She asked, "There's a room through there for feedings." She pointed to a door set in the wall behind her. I closed my eyes, and pretended it wasn't happening.

"Jack, do you think you can stay dry for the rest of the evening?" Claudia asked when she had my clothes off. I nodded meekly. "Are you sure?" She asked. I nodded again. "All right, then." I heard the squirrel giggle. "Looks like he's enjoying this." She said. I wasn't, but you couldn't have told that from the visible signs. Claudia told me to put me feet in the air, and slipped me into my underwear and pants. I opened my eyes, as she was putting my shoes back on. When she was done, she kissed me on the head, and gave me a big hug, telling me I'd been good. At least I'd managed to stop crying. The squirrel had finished and left. Claudia hugged me to her chest and sat down on a near-by bench, and rocked me in her lap. "It's ok, Jack. I'm sorry I put you through that... I wasn't expecting anybody to strike up a conversation. And it was probably a little cruel of both of us to talk about you like you were a baby. But that was how she was seeing you, and to be honest, it was how you were acting." I didn't like it, but I had to admit that it was pretty much true. "Well, come on. Do you want to do some more shopping here, or do you think we've had enough fun for one evening." I didn't feel like talking just then, so I didn't say anything. "Ok, then." She carried me out of the restroom and set me back on my own feet again. I was in a sort of shock, I guess. I held Claudia's hand, and let her lead me through the mall.

I didn't say much during the rest of our tour through the mall. Anytime Claudia asked me a question, I responded with a nod or shake of my head, or just a general ambivalent shrug. She finally looked at her watch, and decided it was time to leave. I docilely followed her back to the car, and let her buckle me in.

"Jack, are you mad at me?" She asked, as she started up the car, "I told you I was sorry..." I shook my head. "Then say something."

"What do you want me to say?" I asked. "I'm probably just over-reacting, but I have never been so humiliated in my life. I'm sorry if that's taking me just a little while to get over."

"You're right. But you have to admit..."

"I know. What you did was appropriate for the way I was acting. I just feel... I don't know, like something vitally important to me has been damaged." I shrugged. "Probably just my pride. I mean, you took my clothes off in front of all those people... especially that squirrel! I feel like something sacred to me has been violated."

"Your privacy." She suggested. I nodded. That was it exactly. "Well, Jack, what else was I supposed to do? Send you into the bathroom alone to get changed? You weren't in any condition to handle that."

"I know, I know, and I'm not blaming you... but it still makes me feel odd." We didn't say anything more about it, and it was only a few minutes until we pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store.

When Claudia shops for groceries, she goes all out. We cruised up and down the aisles, and she'd consider each section before grabbing several items and putting them in the cart. She stocked up on fruits and vegetables, and meats of all kinds, and she let me pick out a few snacks I thought I might like. Our cart was almost full when she turned from the current aisle into the next. I saw what was lining the shelves, and took an almost involuntary step back. She noticed, and smiled.

"Silly foxy," She chided, "What's the matter? Afraid you'll find something you like?" She leaned close to whisper, "I have plenty of diapers at home, and these wouldn't fit you anyway, silly." Well, THAT sure made me feel better. But I followed her down the aisle. She stopped and considered, just like she had on every other aisle. She selected a pack of bottles with printed designs. She saw my look. "You may not have noticed, Jack, but I only have two bottles. It's a hassle to keep washing them." She looked the aisle over one more time, then reached up and plucked something off the rack in front of her. "Hmmm... you might like one of these. Why don't you let me get you one, as my way of making up for what happened at the mall?" She showed me what it was. A bright blue pacifier. I raised an eyebrow. "Well, you wouldn't be the first person to have one. I've seen smokers wear them on chains while trying to quit." Come to think of it, I had too... but not in recent years. Oh, well. It would free up my left hand, anyway. I nodded. She smiled, and I remembered why I'd agreed to all this in the first place. She stocked up on juice and milk, not surprisingly, and then we headed for the checkout. I should have guessed the total from the fullness of our cart, but it still surprised me when three digits appeared next to the decimal place... and the first wasn't a one. Claudia never batted an eye, though, and paid in cash. Must be nice to be rich.

Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one who had noticed. We were accosted on the way back to the car by a pair of young dogs. One of them whipped out a knife.

"Alright, lady, let's have the purse." I bristled, but Claudia put a restraining hand on my shoulder. "That's right, man, listen to the lady. Don't be a hero." Wait a minute. What the hell was I worried about? I was standing next to a vampire, for Darwin's sake!

Claudia looked around, and saw that the parking lot was otherwise deserted. Nobody to come to our rescue. Also, no witnesses. Claudia looked over at me, and handed me the keys to the car.

"Be a good boy, Jack, and take the groceries to the car. I'll be there in a minute." I shrugged. Guess she didn't want me to watch. I ignored the dogs as I walked by, pushing the cart. One of them started to say something, but I heard a most unpleasant sound, and then there was silence. I resisted the urge to look back until I got to the car. I couldn't stand it any longer, so I turned, and saw pretty much what I'd expected. One was held mesmerized by her powers, while she was dealing with the other. She had his throat in her paw, and had his wind cut off completely. As I watched, he slumped, and she ducked between two cars. I turned away and began loading the groceries into the trunk. Then I let myself into the passenger side, and waited for Claudia. I didn't have to wait long. I reached over and unlocked her door, and handed her the keys as she got in. She sat there for a minute, licking the backs of her paws and cleaning what little blood she'd spilled from her face. "God, I love it when I get mugged!" She exclaimed. Then her exuberance dampened. "I'm sorry you had to see that, Jack. But I can promise you neither of those pups will do THAT again." Of that, I had no doubt. "Oh, no, Jack, I didn't kill either of them. I just left them missing a pint or so of blood, and with a few commands buried in their minds. They aren't capable of doing that anymore."

Well, that made me feel better. "Were you scared?"

"Only for a minute. I knew you'd protect me." I said honestly. She smiled.

"That's right. I won't let anybody hurt my foxy." I suppose I should have felt like that impinged upon my masculinity.. that whole macho thing, but it didn't. Hell, I LIKE the fact that she's stronger than me. And being protected is not a bad thing. "Well, I think that's definitely enough excitement for one night. What do you say we go home?" I looked down.

"Um... what about..." She thought about it for a minute.

"Well, Jack, what do you think we should do about it? I think I've already embarrassed you enough tonight, so I'll let you decide." Well, there was only one solution I could see.

"Um... I guess I should wear something so the seat doesn't get wet." I said. To my surprise, she leaned over and kissed me.

"That's very mature of you, Jack." She started up the car, and drove us to yet another convenience story. We went in, and she dug through her purse for a moment before coming up with a diaper. She handed it to me, and sent me into the bathroom. It took me a little while, since I wasn't about to lay down on the floor to put it on, and trying it standing was quite a challenge. I pulled my pants back on, and stuffed my underwear in my pocket. I rustled when I walked, and I just KNEW that I hadn't gotten that damn tail-hole fastened well enough, but it was the best I could do. Claudia bought me some juice, and a strip of jerky, then we got back in the car. She brought out another of those seat-pads, just in case, and we went back home. I finished my juice and jerky, and I started feeling a little drowsy.

"Say, Jack, why don't you take off your pants? There's no need to get them wet, if you leak again." I muzzily nodded, and fumbled with my pants for a minute. I finally managed to unfasten the button, and slide them off. "There, I'll bet that feels better, doesn't it?" I nodded, and my thumb crept up toward my mouth as the motor's lullaby sang me to sleep. I didn't really wake up when we got home, but drifted upward to a lighter level of sleep. I could sense powerful arms lifting me up, and carrying me inside. I felt Claudia lay me down in bed, and I squirmed a little in my sleep as I felt her run a finger inside the leg of the diaper I was wearing. I felt a sudden breeze of cool air across my front, and I felt my legs lifted into the air. Then I was set down again, and I felt a gentle brushing, all over where I'd been wet. I let my legs shift a little, and I felt her put her paw on my tummy in response, holding me still. I gave a little sigh of contentment. She finished changing me, and I distantly heard her whispered voice, tempting me back toward sleep. She took my thumb out of my mouth and gave me a warm bottle to suckle, and I let myself sink back into a deeper slumber.

I was in the middle of a long corridor. I could tell from the music in the background that I was in the middle of the scary part of a movie. I cautiously made my way forward, noticing as I did so that I was wearing the Robin Hood pajamas we'd looked at in the store, and carrying a huge gun. Probably some kind of death-ray thingy. Those are always nice to have when walking through an alien ship wearing children's pajamas. I walked by a corridor, stopped, went back, and looked down it.

The monster was RIGHT there, just a foot away from me, filling the entire hall. It's face looked vaguely wolfish, and it bared an impossible number of teeth at me. There was only one logical thing to do. I screamed, and bolted like a rabbit. I ran so fast it felt like my feet weren't even touching the ground. I looked down. They weren't. I turned my head, and saw the monster's huge red eye glaring back at me. It had me by the shirt of my pajamas. I dropped the gun, and slipped out of them, and scrambled away (but not before grabbing the gun again). Oh, yeah, I had a gun, didn't I? Silly me!

I gave the monster what I dearly hoped was an angry sneer (it was probably more like a look of abject terror, but hey, I can always hope), and pulled the trigger. I heard a squeak, like someone had squeezed a rubber duck. A large flag, reading "bang" unfurled from the end of my gun. Well, back to my original plan, screaming and running. I took turns at random, the thing always just barely gaining on me, until finally, I came to a dead end. Probably mine. The monster loomed bigger and bigger, and it opened its maw and roared at me. I closed my eyes and scrunched up, expecting to feel its claws cutting into me. There was a loud "ZAP" noise, and when I wasn't immediately dissected, I cautiously opened my eyes.

Claudia was standing behind the corpse, brandishing some kind of hand-gun. I rushed to her and flung my arms around her gratefully. The rest of the crew came out and congratulated her on killing the space-monster. Happy ending, right?

"Now, young man, what were you doing out of our quarters?" She asked me sternly. I craned my neck to look up at her. "That thing could have eaten you, sweetie! And just look at the mess you've made." I looked down. I started crying, as I realized I was standing in a wide puddle. But wait! It gets worse! Oh, yes, because then, she laid me down on the floor and changed me right there, in front of every single crewmember on the ship. And one of the crew members—a squirrel, I noticed—kept making the most annoying comments. She had all my clothes off, and had me cleaned up, and then she pulled out a diaper... and one of the infant's outfits we'd seen at the mall. And THAT was when I woke up, for which I was most grateful. I was bawling my eyes out, of course, and Claudia was doing her best to console me.

"Shhh, Jack, it's OK, you just had another nightmare." I gradually got myself under control. "Shhh... just tell me all about it, and I bet it won't seem nearly so scary." I managed to choke out the story between sobs, and she shook her head. "Well, that settles it. You're just way too young to watch those scary movies. We'll have to go see something more appropriate next time, don't you think." I shook my head. She shrugged. "Well, we can discuss that later. I have something that might make you feel better." I looked up to ask her what it was, and was startled when she popped a pacifier in my mouth. I sucked on it reflexively, and was amazed at how quickly it brought a feeling of calm and relaxation. "I was right, wasn't I?" I nodded my head. Why did people take Valium and Quaaludes? This was so much more effective... and didn't need a prescription. I moved my arms to give her a hug, and felt something dislodge from my side. I looked down... it was a little cuddly teddy-bear. "Oh, I see you've found your surprise. You were too asleep to notice when I gave it to you last night, but you should have seen the smile that broke out on your face when I put it in your arms." I gave the teddy bear a hug. It felt warm and cozy. I took the pacifier out of my mouth with some effort.

"I'm getting worse, aren't I?" I asked. She nodded.

"If you want to think of it that way." I shrugged. Actually, I felt pretty good. It still bothered me a little... but I think I was starting to enjoy myself. I knew Claudia was. She changed me and got me dressed (I didn't ask her to, but I didn't ask her to stop, either) and carried me into the kitchen for breakfast. She made a down-home meal of grits and eggs, with a little bacon on the side, and I dug in with enthusiasm.

When breakfast was done, Claudia told me that she'd received a package from her legal department. She pulled out a thick document, and slid it in front of me. It was a contract for a position as a software consultant. I read over it, wading through the legalese to get at the terms. It was more than generous, and extremely loose. I even kept property rights to the code. She handed me a pen when I asked for it, and I signed the contract with a flourish.

"How it feel to have a job again?" She asked.

"Pretty good." Well, that kinda settled my plans for the day. I'd show Claudia how to navigate the 'Net, then I'd start working on my anti-virus program again. "Say, would you like to check out the Internet? I can get you started, then get to work."

"We can do both at the same time?"

"Claudia, you have a Cray." I could see that teaching her to use the computer might be a little more difficult than I'd thought. "Here, let's get started..." We reconvened to the Computer Room.

I was in for a shock when I started the damn thing up and it immediately put me in Windows. Who the hell installs Windows on a super-computer? Oh, well, at least it has an easy web-browser. I got her logged in to the mainframe, then explained the basics of Windows to her. I knew I was in trouble when I had to demonstrate the difference between a right-click and a left-click. Claudia didn't know much, but she learned quickly, especially since she could usually sense what I was getting at with her telepathy, and it wasn't long before I started up Netscape, and began explaining the 'Net. That took a little longer to get across. There was a lot to cover, HTML, Newsgroups, online forums, electronic mail, the whole nine yards. I decided not to go into great detail, but just demonstrated each function. Thank God for point and click surfing! I introduced her to a few search engines, and showed her a couple of vampire-related Newsgroups, and turned her loose. "I'll be over in that hole I made last time. There was another console in there somewhere. Come get me if you need any help." She nodded, but didn't look away from the screen. I smiled, having seen that distracted look before, in many Internet "newbies". I ran a grounding wire down my leg, and dug back into the dent I'd made the last time. I located the console I'd seen before, and hooked it up. It took me a little while to get it configured, then I sat down and started coding.

I'd no more than brought the compiler up than Claudia came in.

"Problem?" I asked. She shook her head.

"Lunch." She said, "You spent most of the morning teaching me how to use the computer."

"Well, time flies when you're having fun." I answered. She smiled, and scooped me up again. I started to tell her that she didn't have to carry me, but I realized that she knew that already. She deposited me at the table, and served up a quick lunch of soup and sandwiches. I smiled when I saw that she'd cut the crusts off of mine. Somehow, that made me feel very special. I wasn't really hungry until I smelled the soup. It was a nice, peppery vegetable beef, and just the scent of it made my mouth water. I noticed that Claudia didn't really eat that much. "Not hungry?" She shook her head.

"I'm still a bit full from last night. It isn't often that I get to feed twice in one night."

"Do you go out of your way to get mugged like that? Is that why you kept flashing your money?" She nodded.

"Well, so long as I need the blood... besides, if they hadn't mugged me, they would have mugged someone else, someone who couldn't defend themselves."

"Sounds like rationalization, to me." I noted.

"It is, really. But what else can I do? It's better than just taking someone at random." She smiled, "Oh, that reminds me... I read through some of those newslists you told me about. I have to admit, I didn't really believe you when you said that I'd be able to find prey on the internet, but it looks like you were right. Several people were talking quite fervently about having their blood taken... I think the idea turned them on, truth be told."

"There are stranger things." She looked at me, smiling, and I blushed. I hadn't been referring to my own situation, but she had a point. I finished my lunch, and we talked a little longer. There is nothing quite like soup to warm the stomach, and I sank into a sort of gentle lassitude. Claudia noticed, and asked if I wanted to take a nap before going back to work. I considered it, but I wasn't really tired... just well fed. I stood up to go back to work.

"Um.. Jack, you're..."

"I know, I know..." I knew that tone of voice. I looked down for a rather redundant confirmation, and saw a wide dark patch across the insides of my legs and the front of my pants. Claudia didn't say anything about it, just carried me into the bedroom, laid me down on the floor, and took my clothes off. She wiped me off, and pulled out another pair of pants. She looked at me, her eyes asking the obvious question. "No, I think I can stay dry." I answered, though to be honest I wasn't really that sure anymore. I mean, I wasn't even noticing when I got wet... and this last time I didn't have anything really distracting me to blame it on. I could tell that she had her doubts, too, but she respected my decision and got out another pair of underwear. She had me dressed again in no time at all, and we went back to the Computer Room. She said she'd run across something interesting on one of the search engines, and she wanted to run it down. I left her to it, and went back to my programming.

I'd probably been programming for three hours or so, though of course, without Claudia's abilities, nobody could say for sure in that timeless interior, when I noticed that my vision of the project was kind of clouded. It was an actual effort of will to bring it all together. My eyes itched vaguely, and my fingers started fumbling on the keyboard. I doggedly continued, though it became more of an uphill struggle with each minute that passed. I put my thumb in my mouth, and continued typing one handed. To be honest, it actually helped. Having something to suck on cleared my head a little, but not for long. I found myself making a sort of frustrated whining noise. I crossed my arms and pouted at the console.

Suddenly I felt arms around me, lifting me up. I squirmed, but I couldn't get down. Then I heard Claudia's voice, and relaxed a little. She shifted me around, getting me into a more comfortable position for carrying, cradled in her arms. I buried my face in her chest. I had a pretty good idea of where we were going.

As I'd suspected, she took me to the bedroom. I started squirming again, and I shook my head. She smiled, and nodded. I shook my head. She took my wet pants off, and nodded. I shook my head. She took my thumb out of my mouth, popped my pacifier in, and put my teddy bear in my arms. And nodded. My eyes were closing as I shook my head again. She bent down and kissed me on the forehead, and the last thing I saw before my eyes slid completely shut was her smiling nod.

I managed to force myself awake a few minutes later. She looked very surprised... and not terribly happy... to see me awake. She was powdering me, and I could pretty much guess what came next.

"Uh-uh!" I protested, "I don't wanna." She smiled and sat down next to me.

"I know that, sweetie, but you can't sleep without getting wet."

"Not sleepy." I argued, "So don' need 'em." She couldn't help smiling, which only made it worse.

"Well, dear, you know, you haven't exactly been able to stay dry that well when you're awake, either. You've been wet twice today already." I frowned. "Well, we won't say anything about that right now. We can talk about it later. When you wake up."

"But I'm not sleepy!" I complained.

"Jack, I really don't feel like arguing. You aren't acting very mature right now." I'd noticed, but I wasn't about to admit it. "Now, stop fighting, and maybe... just MAYBE... you can stay up a little longer." With that enticement, I let her finish diapering me, though I will admit that I made it a lot harder for her than usual. She pulled me into her arms, and rocked me gently. I probably could have remained awake—cranky as hell, but awake—but she did something that made all my resistance useless. I heard a soft humming, and realized it was coming from Claudia. It grew louder, then became a recognizable tune. Then she started singing, a soft, tender song that I knew I'd never heard before, but was familiar none-the-less. The whispered melody wrapped around me, and in mere moments, I was fast asleep.

I woke up from a strange semi-nightmare in which I was a deer being chased by a huge black wolf. For some reason, though, I hadn't really been afraid. Claudia came in a few minutes later.

"I thought you'd be awake by now. Feeling better?" I nodded, "Good."

"Um... I'm sorry, I really don't know what got into me. I was acting like a real jerk." She shook her head.

"No, you were acting like a cranky little boy. And I'm warning you right now, if you aren't careful, next time, that's exactly how I'll treat you. I don't mind taking care of you, but I won't have you fighting me, got it?" I nodded. "Good. Now, before you fell asleep, we were discussing your lack of bladder control." I grimaced. Part of me had hoped she would forget. "Now, it's pretty obvious that you're having a hard time staying dry." Well, that much was certainly true. "I just want to know what you want to do about it." She sat down next to me on the bed. I frowned.

"I.. I don't know." I found that my mind was divided. Most of me was repulsed... and always had been... by the very idea of being in diapers at all, much less during the day, but part of me... a very, very strong part of me, enjoyed the attention, the way Claudia was treating me as though I was the center of her existence. It was an effort, but I admitted to myself that I really did like what was happening to me. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad... But how could I admit that? Where the hell do you find the words to tell your lover something like that? I looked at Claudia, and she smiled at me. My eyes widened, as I realized that I didn't need to say anything... she was, after all, a telepath.

"I think that answers my question." I started to say something, to try and explain, but she shook her head. "Now Jack, you don't have to be ashamed. I'm glad you're finally being honest with yourself. Now just relax, and I'll take care of everything. That's what you want... isn't it?" My insides seemed to melt. All I could do was nod. "Well that's good... because that's exactly what I want to do for you." She pulled the sheets down, and ran her finger along the leg opening of the diaper I was wearing. "Well, you're soaked," She pronounced, as if it weren't obvious, "I guess we need to get you changed, huh?" I nodded. She unfastened the tapes and slid me out of the diaper I was wearing. She knelt on the bed next to me, and looked like she was thinking. "Hmmm... Jack, I think we'll just have to put you back in diapers for the rest of the day. Don't worry, it's just for right now." I started to protest that I didn't need them. She just gave me a look that said "come on, now, let's be serious." "Jack, we've been over this. It's pretty obvious that you can't control yourself. I mean, come on, you wet yourself during lunch... and then again right before your nap... and then AGAIN, during your nap... how much more proof do you need?" I squirmed.

"But... I'm not a baby."

"No, you aren't... but you're certainly acting pretty childish. I don't want you to regress TOO quickly, though, and that's why you're going to have a chance to prove that you can stay dry, tomorrow. For right now, though, we're going to put you back in diapers. It's either that, or you can go back to taking care of yourself." We'd been through THAT before, and I knew that, all else aside, I didn't want to do it again.

"But why..." She gave me a look that was half-stern, half-compassion.

"Because I say so, Jack. And for right now, I think that's all that really matters, isn't it?" I nodded meekly, hoping she wouldn't notice that I was starting to get aroused. She looked down, and saw my growing hardness. She smiled. "Why, Jack, I do believe you like this." My erection perked up another notch. "So you like being reminded that you wet yourself? That because you can't control yourself, you're going to be put back in diapers... just like a baby?" I wanted to deny it, but my penis wasn't cooperating. It just kept getting stiffer with every word. "Well... you know, it has been a while since the last time." It is a testament to how distracted I was that I didn't immediately realize what she meant. Then I caught on.

"Well, yeah... but is this really the time?" She laughed.

"Silly foxy. You're going to be wrapped in plastic for the rest of the day... if not now, then when? First things first, though... we've got to get you cleaned up." She got out the wipes.

She started at the base of my tail, and worked her way slowly upward. She wrapped the tissue around her finger, and slid it along my ass, taking a moment to probe gently at my anus. When she reached my balls, she got a clean tissue, and spread it across her hand. She reached down and enveloped my balls, rolling them in her palm for a minute, then suddenly sliding up to wrap around my hard shaft. She cleaned my penis, and I'll say this, she was VERY thorough. I was whimpering again by the time she was done. She grinned evilly, and popped my pacifier back in my mouth to hush me. Instinct took over again, and I began sucking on it. The semi-euphoric contentment from the pacifier mixed with the hot lust coming from my groin and seemed to magnify every sensation. I started to fight it, momentarily ashamed of my reaction, but then I gave in, and gave up all resistance. So long as I have a wonderful and loving mate... then why not just be myself, and not worry about it?

"Be a good foxy, dear, and help M.. me with my bra." Claudia said. I reached up her shirt and around her back and deftly unfastened her bra. "That's a good boy!" She praised, and I shuddered with pleasure. I'd never felt so many different things at once... and all of them felt so GOOD... She shucked off her shirt and her bra, and I reached down and unzipped her pants, and helped her slip out of them. I realized I was just lying there, being rather selfish. I reached up and massaged her breasts, which earned me a soft growl and an approving smile. She put her arms out and leaned over me, her body close but not quite close enough. I pushed myself down the bed, and leaned up to lick from her navel all the way up between her breasts, dropping my pacifier in the process. She shivered, and straddled me. Hmmm... something I'd never tried, and had always been curious about... I put my arms about her waist, and got her to roll over. She lay on her side and looked down at me, questioningly. I answered her by burrowing my muzzle between her legs. I inhaled her scent... it was very light, but also very intoxicating. I ran my tongue over the sensitive fur of her inner thigh, heard her groan, and repeated the maneuver on the other side. I opened my jaws, and wrapped my teeth around her tender flesh, and I felt her shudder again. I came up for air for a moment, then decided to quit fooling around. I launched myself into her, thrusting my tongue deep inside of her, darting quickly once or twice, then beginning to lap in earnest. I almost ruined the moment by laughing... it's true what they say... tastes just like chicken! I began playing with her, twisting my tongue this way and that, wiggling it teasingly, running it around in circles. I felt her start to thrust once or twice, then stop herself, for which I was thankful. Strong as she was, she'd probably have snapped my neck. I felt her fingers brush across the back of my head, then begin stroking in time with my tongue. I gave a muffled little squeal of pleasure, and wrapped my arms around her in a hug, even as I was thrusting my tongue deeper and deeper, burying my muzzle in her thick moist fur. I felt warm and cuddled and horny as hell all at the same time, and to my surprise, there was no conflict between all those different emotions.

"Oh, Jack... Oh, foxy, that feels..." And suddenly, I KNEW how it felt, as she began broadcasting the sensation she was receiving. I wiggled my tongue, and shivered as I felt it tingling through my own groin. I was receiving a new education in the sensitivity of the female anatomy, as I learned which areas were most tender, where to put pressure, and where to just brush by. I felt something hot and strange growing within me.. within her.. and then, without warning, her orgasm gushed in my mouth at the same time that it exploded through my mind. I heard, and ignored, the crashing sounds around us, as wave after wave of absolute ecstasy washed over me. She was sweet... so sweet, and I greedily licked every drop I could find and swallowed it down. I pulled my face out of her crotch, and noticed that I'd coated her feet with sperm. Oops. I looked around. The room was a wreck. Every stick of furniture in the room was smashed. I was impressed with myself... I'd made her loose control of her powers.

I heard her groan, and then she started moving again. I climbed back up to lie next to her. She put her arms around me and hugged me tight. "I've never... Oh, God, that was good!" She exclaimed. Then she looked around. "Jesus... Have to be more.. um.. careful next time." I gave her a wry look.

"Does that mean you regret it?" She shook her head.

"Hell no." She inspected her feet, and licked them clean. "Looks like I should have diapered you first. But, no harm done." She pulled the sheets over us, and we cuddled together in the afterglow. "I've never had that happen before, you know." She said after a long, peaceful silence. "My telepathy usually turns off during sex." I chuckled.

"That's probably a survival trait. That much pleasure could be fatal." "Are we bragging, now?" She asked, smiling.

"Nope. Don't forget... I felt it, too." She conceded that I had a point.

"I wonder if we could do that during sex, too." She pondered.

"Would we survive it if we could?" She grinned, and pushed down the covers.

"Might be interesting to find out." Again? Already? She saw my look, and took the situation into her own paws, so to speak. She reached down and grabbed my flaccid member with one hand, while running a finger across my cheek with the other. Her finger brushed across my lips, and in a flash, it was being sucked on. "That's my good little foxy..." She crooned, "Is he hungry?" She asked, "Maybe I should go fix him a bottle?" I felt myself getting hard in her hand. She noticed, and continued. "Or maybe I should just put my little foxy back in his didies before he gets the bed all wet?" I squirmed, and she gave my half-erect penis a squeeze. "Enjoying yourself?" She asked. I nodded. "Good. Know what you'll be wearing tomorrow?" I shook my head. "Well, you're obviously not old enough to keep your undies dry, and you still think you're too old for diapers... so what does that leave?" I shrugged, and shook my head. "Two words, foxy. Training pants." My eyes widened, and my penis jumped. "Thought that might get your attention. Thanks for showing me how to use the Internet. You were right... you really CAN find anything you're looking for online... including all sorts of things for an oversized toddler like you." She loosened her grip on my dick and began sliding up and down. "Yeah... that's good enough." She rolled over onto me and slipped me inside of her. I writhed with pleasure. I put my hands on her tight, muscular ass and squeezed, pulling myself deeper into her, and she gave vent to a happy little snarl. She paused for an agonizing moment, a look of concentration on her face, and when she started again, I could feel her presence in my head. I ran my claws lightly over her back, and felt a trill run down her spine. I closed my eyes and focused on each sensation, feeling her/my/our pleasure washing through the both of us. I could sense her thoughts then, just a little out of reach, and I could make out their outlines. We made love slowly, so slowly, both of us suddenly knowing exactly what the other wanted, exactly where and how to touch, what to say, what to do... feeling the passion and pleasure reflected and amplified over and over again. All our thoughts dissolved into a chaos of pure and total bliss, as our mind and body merged completely for one brief, eternal moment.

<Mommy!><My Baby!> Our thoughts overlapped, as our true selves met and we saw each other for who we really were, with no illusions, no fighting, no barriers. I was helpless in her arms, and loving every minute of it, and she was whole again, for the first time in two centuries.

Then it was over, and all of our inhibitions and prejudices began to creep back in again, sliding between us like twin walls. She was gentle about it, but she softly pushed me out of her mind and back into my own, and I felt a strange emptiness as my own mental defenses re-established themselves. The memory of the feeling and of that transcendent moment was already fading, and I started doubting its reality. One thing that couldn't be doubted, though, was that something in me felt profoundly different. Claudia and I lay there for a long while, basking in the tingling after- effects of our joining. I located my pacifier and curled up in her arms with it in my mouth. I took it out of my mouth for just a second, and tilted my head back to kiss her cheek.

"Loves you." I said, then put my pacifier back and snuggled down again. Her chest heaved in a big, delighted sigh of joy.

I was almost asleep when she moved me onto my back. I looked up at her and blinked, sleepily. She smiled maternally down at me.

"Looks like my little foxy needs a nap again already." I smiled.

"Well, what can I say?" I asked around my pacifier, "You wore me out."

"Just so long as we don't have a problem at bedtime." She said.

"When's bedtime?" I asked. She smiled.

"I haven't decided yet. We'll just have to see." I accepted that without remark.

"Claudia?"

"Yes, dear?"

"I love you." Her smile widened.

"I know that, dear. But you can say it again if you like, as often as you want. It's something I don't get tired of hearing." I nodded.

"Claudia?"

"Yes?"

"I'm thirsty." She nodded.

"I'll get you something to drink, just as soon as we get you dressed." I lay back and quietly sucked on my pacifier while she powdered me and got me into a diaper. Then she lifted me up and set me down on my feet, and led me into the kitchen, where she poured me a glass of juice. I raised the glass to my lips and drank deeply. I got most of it in my mouth, but a good bit managed to find it's way down my chin and into my chest-fur. Claudia looked a little surprised, but didn't say anything. She just licked my face clean and took a towel to my chest. I realized that I was hungry, too.

"Claudia?"

"I know, Jack, we'll have dinner in a minute. Why don't you be a good foxy and sit at the table for me?" I sat at the table, and watched her make dinner. I took a deep breath, and sighed. Maybe it was the fact that I'd had two mind-shattering orgasms recently, but I felt absolutely wonderful. Dinner didn't take long to cook, and Claudia set a plate down in front of me. We had mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and chicken-flavored noodles. I dug in with an appetite, and Claudia watched lovingly as I managed to smear my face white and yellow. I wouldn't have made such a mess, though, if she hadn't started up a conversation while I was eating. I didn't talk with my mouth full... but I didn't stop talking UNTIL my mouth was full, which didn't help. She listened to me prattle on, and I could have sworn that I heard her purring when she wasn't keeping up her end of the conversation.

After dinner she took me back into the bedroom and put some clothes on me. I blushed as I realized that I'd been going around in just a diaper, and hadn't even noticed. She put me in a pair of shorts and a V-necked shirt, and then we went back to the Computer Room. She said that she had a couple more things that she wanted to do on the Internet before she quit for the rest of the day, and that I could go back to work if I wanted to. I was still working on my anti-virus, so I nodded and ducked back into my little burrow, and started coding again.

I was in the middle of a really interesting section when I realized vaguely that I needed to use the bathroom. I decided to wait until I got done with that section, but my body didn't like that idea. I felt myself getting wet, and I tried to stop it, but my body refused to listen. My diaper grew warm and heavy, and I felt a strange, momentary fuzziness in my head. Then it was all over, and I went back to programming, as if nothing had happened. Truth be told, I was already forgetting about it... it wasn't making me uncomfortable yet, actually, quite the opposite. It felt somehow cozy, and nice. I finished up that section of code and a few more besides, and went out to find Claudia.

She was just coming to check on me when I came out. I thought about telling her that I was wet, but it didn't seem to make much difference. I wasn't uncomfortable, and if I got changed I'd just get put right into another diaper.

We went and watched TV for a while. I sat beside her for a little while, but that was no fun. I tugged on Claudia's shirt to get her attention.

"May I have something to drink?" I asked, thirsty again. She nodded, and got up and left. She came back with a bottle full of juice. She handed it to me, and sat down so I could put my head in her lap. I wasn't in a particular hurry to finish the bottle, so I took my time. After one or two programs had come and gone, she looked down and saw that I was only half finished. She smiled, and pulled me farther onto her lap, and held my bottle for me. I sighed, and snuggled. Before I knew it, I heard myself sucking air. Claudia took the bottle out of my mouth and sat me up into a big, long hug. She had one hand on my padded posterior, and the other around my shoulders, and we stayed that way comfortably for quite a while. The news came and went, as did one or two sit-coms. I couldn't be sure, since although theoretically we'd been watching TV, I hadn't really paid it much attention. Claudia was MUCH more interesting. Gradually, though, I started becoming uncomfortable, and I squirmed and fidgeted and finally began to whimper very softly. Claudia didn't ask me what was wrong, just stuck a finger into the leg of my pants and nodded.

"Silly, silly foxy. Why didn't you tell me you needed to be changed?" Apparently, she'd been expecting it, because she had everything she needed stashed behind the couch. I watched TV and played with her hair while she got me changed, and when she was done I threw my arms around her and gave her the biggest hug I could manage.

"Thanks, Claudia."

"No problem. You've been a very good foxy since you got up from your nap. Want some ice-cream before bed?" I nodded eagerly, and she carried me into the kitchen and gave me a bowl of ice-cream. When I finished, she marched me into the bathroom. She undid the tapes on my diaper and took it off of me. "Bath time. Be a good foxy and go potty while I run your bath." She saw the look on my face, and laughed. "Ok, I guess that was going a little far. But it is a good idea... you've been in diapers most of the day, and I think we'd both prefer it if you kept your bowel control, don't you?" I vehemently nodded. While I may have gotten inured to the idea of being in diapers, at least temporarily, that was just a bit too... yucky.

Bathtime was fun. There's nothing that feels quite so decadent and luxurious as having someone else bathe you. I had a mischievous impulse, and splashed Claudia as she was bending over to wash my chest. She sputtered for a moment... and then I got the favor returned, as she used her powers to send the water flying into the air to splash down over my head. I couldn't help giggling gleefully. I made up for it the next time she leaned over, though... I planted a big wet kiss on her. The whole experience had a delightful feeling about it... innocently intimate, if that isn't too much of a contradiction for you.

When I'd been soaped and shampooed and rinsed, Claudia got me out of the tub and dried me off with a towel. I gave vent to a gaping yawn, which was quickly plugged by my thumb... I may have fought before, but tonight I was certainly ready to go to sleep. Claudia carried me with my head nestled over her shoulder, and I fell into a pleasant half-doze as she took me back to the bedroom.

She laid me down on the bed and gave me my teddy to play with while she got me ready for bed. When she was done, she put my head in her lap and gave me a warm bottle. I reached up and played with her hair... which for some reason seemed to fascinate me, lately. I pushed the nipple out of my mouth for a minute.

"Claudia, will you tell me a story?" She thought for a minute.

"Did I ever tell you about the time I was in Russia?" I giggled and shook my head.

"Nuh-uh, I mean a bed-time story, silly." She smiled.

"Oh, one of THOSE kind of stories. Well, let me think... how about Goldifox and the Three Marsupials?" I'd never heard that one... though it sounded awfully familiar, as you'd probably agree. She was an expert story-teller, giving each of the characters a distinctive funny voice, and I was absolutely enchanted. She resumed feeding me, and I nodded off right about the time that the little marsupial was saying "Someone's been sleeping in my pouch..."

I had many dreams that night, but not a single nightmare. Claudia was still asleep when I woke up, which was unusual. I wondered what time it was, but discarded that as a useless thought. I thought about how relaxed I'd become... no clocks, no pressures, no schedules, just hours of fun with Claudia. What a wonderful life. Claudia woke up shortly thereafter, and she got me changed and cleaned, then dug out some clothes for me to wear... including underwear.

"I told you it was just for last night." She said when I looked surprised, "Does that... disappoint you?" I shook my head. It was certainly fine with me. "Don't worry... you won't be wearing those long either way. I ordered an overnight delivery... which should be waiting at the front door. The sun is up, so I can't go get it... but you can."

"But..." I'd been with her almost constantly for a week... the idea of her not being there was almost scary. It was only for as long as it would take me to go to the door and back... really, no big deal. "Ah.. sure, I can do that."

"Good boy. Try to stay dry on the way there, would you? When you get back, come to the kitchen... I'll have breakfast waiting." I nodded, and left on my errand.

I miraculously managed not to get lost, but even so, it took me a while to reach the front door. I opened the door and blinked in the sunlight. It had been a while since I'd seen the light of day. Guess living with a vampire kind of rubs off on you like that. The package was there, at the foot of the steps. It was about the size of an egg-crate, but it wasn't terribly heavy. I checked the label, but all it had was Claudia's address. There wasn't even a return address marked on it. Jeez, talk about your plain brown wrappers. I carried the box back inside, and through the maze of halls to Claudia's inner sanctum.

"Bring it in here, dear." She called from the kitchen. I obeyed, and set the box down on the table. Claudia brought a few dishes to the table, then opened the box by shredding the top with a flick of her claws. She perused the contents, and nodded. "Take your pants off."

"Now?" She nodded again.

"Yes. I'm not taking chances today. Until you can prove that you can stay dry, you'll either wear these or diapers. It's your choice, of course, but..." I got the idea. I took my pants and underwear off. She got out a pair of the pants and had me step into them. I looked down at them, and blushed. They were covered in prints of trucks and planes. "If you don't like that pattern, I can put you in something else. They had quite a selection to choose from, so I just got a few of everything, for variety." She held up another pair, which was covered in multi-hued dinosaurs. Another was decorated with bunnies and ducks. I decided that what I was wearing was probably as good as it would get. "And the neat part is, if they get wet, they change color. Isn't that nice?" Oh, yeah, swell. I started to put my pants back on, but Claudia told me not to. "What good does it do for you to have training pants with such cute prints if I can't see them?" She asked. I knew all the alternatives, and they were all worse, so I just let it go. Claudia put the box under the table, and served breakfast. We had ham and biscuits, and Claudia gave me a large glass of juice. I looked at her. "Drink as much as you want, sweetie. I really don't think it'll make a difference, and I don't want you being silly and getting dehydrated." Well... I was thirsty, especially after eating a few biscuits. I did my best to just sip at it... but I managed to end up spilling it a little anyway.

After breakfast, it was off to work again. I was hopeful of getting the project finished before the day was over, and I dove eagerly into the programming. Claudia had gotten her fill of the Internet the day before, so she went off to do something else.

"I'll be off elsewhere, but just call me if you need anything, and I'll be there in just a minute or so. Oh, and if you need to go pot.. I mean, if you have to use the bathroom, you'll need to call me. The doors locked from the inside."

"But.. how did it get locked from the INSIDE?" She gave me a very evil grin.

"Simple. I locked it." I frowned, puzzled.

"But why..."

"Because I said so, silly foxy. Now be good, and go to work... and don't forget, try to notice if you have to go, all right?" She left me in the Computer Room, and I began to get the idea that Claudia didn't really want me to stay dry. Can't IMAGINE how I got THAT idea. Oh, well. I'd just have to be extra careful. I realized I probably should have asked her to let me go—now how ridiculous does THAT sound?--before she left. I'd feel silly calling her back so soon... besides, I didn't need to go, anyway. I went back to my coding, being careful not to get too wrapped up in it. I started feeling a little fullness in my bladder a few hours later, and I went out and went looking for Claudia. She wasn't in the servant's quarters, and she couldn't possibly be outside, which meant that I had no clue as to her whe reabouts. To make matters worse, what I'd thought was an advance warning was proving to be an emergency... the feelings from my abdomen were becoming exponentially more insistent. Finally, in frustration, I shouted for her.

"You don't have to yell, dear. I can hear you just fine." She said from behind me. I was so startled, I jumped... and got just a little bit wet. I looked down, and saw with relief that it wasn't visible. If I didn't get to the bathroom soon, though, it most certainly would be. "Well? I assume you called me for a reason?" I nodded.

"I have to go potty!" I blurted. I felt my face grow hot with shame as I realized what I'd said. I knew she wouldn't let me forget it, either. She took my by my hand and led me to the bathroom. I heard a click, and the door opened unassisted. I dashed in and only barely managed to shove my pants down in time. I heaved a sigh of relief. When I was done, I pulled my training pants back on, and when I turned around, Claudia gave me a kiss, on my cheek, and a loving pat on my rump.

"You made it!" She praised, "Good foxy." I should have felt like the worlds biggest idiot, but instead I felt proud of myself. Probably because Claudia was making such a fuss about it. "I'm sorry I locked the door, foxy. But I want to make sure you tell me when you have to go. That way, I know for sure that you can really tell. If I left the door unlocked, you could come in here every hour or so... and the next time you were away from the bathroom, you'd have accidents again." Well... the thought had crossed my mind. The look she was giving me suggested that she knew that. "Oh, and don't think you could hide it if you get wet by changing into another pair of training pants and not telling me. I put your training pants in here, too... another reason the door is locked." I nodded. She wasn't going to let me cheat. Oh, well, I could deal with that. I'd made it this time, after all... and now I knew that I didn't have to find Claudia... just call for her.

Claudia went back to what she was doing, and I went back to coding. My programming went a little more slowly, since my attention was divided, but I was still making good progress. Claudia interrupted me a while later, and we had lunch.

She served up crustless sandwiches, with apple-slices on the side. She also gave me a cup of juice... I stared at it for a moment. It had handles on the side, and a top with a spout. She told me that it had come in the same box as my training pants, and she thought it was a good idea, since I kept spilling my drink. Once again, she made it a simple choice... it was either drink from that, or she'd fix me a bottle. I didn't really like either choice, and I told her as much.

"Jack, you're being silly."

"I know." I admitted, "But what am I supposed to do? Everytime I turn around, you're treating me even more childish."

"Well, I'm doing my best to be gradual about it... but it isn't easy, when you regress in bounds like that."

"Like what?"

"You didn't notice? You suddenly shed several years yesterday evening. You started spilling your drink, making a mess with your food... and talking childishly."

"I hadn't noticed. How am I talking different?"

"Oh, it isn't really how you're talking... it's what you're saying. You keep automatically asking me to do things for you."

"Like what?"

"'Claudia, I'm thirsty.'" She quoted. "Not, 'Claudia, may I have something to drink', or 'Would you please fix me something to drink', but just a simple, childish 'I'm thirsty'. From your behavioral cues, I'd guess that your personality.. not your mental skills, mind you, just your behavior... is about that of a five-year old kit. I'm just trying to accommodate that, to make you more comfortable."

"But I..." Well, darn it, she had me dead to rights. "But I'm not a baby!" I finally protested. It was all I could think to say. She just gave me a big, warm smile.

"Of course you aren't, Jack." That made me feel better. "Five-year- olds aren't babies, silly. They're toddlers."

"T.. toddler?" That wasn't much better.

"Yup. Toddlers who spill their drinks and have trouble staying dry during the day and wet the bed at night. Just like you, Jack. That's why they drink from sippy-cups and wear training pants and diapers at night."

"But..."

"Go ahead, Jack. Prove me wrong. But until you do, I'm going to treat you like a toddler... unless you regress more. THEN you'd be a baby." I must have looked pretty glum. She came around the table and gave me a hug. "Oh, Jack, don't worry about it so much. No matter what happens, no matter how old you act, I'll always love you." That made me feel warm enough inside that I forgot about worrying. I drank from the toddler cup, and ate my lunch. At least you can't make much of a mess with sandwiches. Well, except for sloppy Joe's... but that's why they're called "sloppy," yes?

After lunch I got Claudia to take me to the bathroom, just in case, and then I was planning to go back to work. Claudia suggested that I should take a break, instead. After all, it would still be there when I got back to it, right? I could see the logic in that... and besides, I really wanted to spend some time with Claudia before going back to work. I know it was only for a few hours, but I still missed her terribly. She refilled my cup for me, and we went into the living room to sit on the couch—well, she sat on the couch... I sat on her lap—and cuddle while we watched cartoons. I idly played with her hair with one hand while sucking my thumb with the other.

"Dear, you're going to water-log your thumb doing that. Why don't you go get your pacifier?" I nodded and retrieved it from the bedroom. Claudia was stretched out on the couch when I came back. I was wondering if she was trying to be provocative, but she just pulled me onto the couch next to me and held me while we watched cartoons. After the "X-furs" went off, about an hour later, I got tired of watching TV, so I rolled over to face Claudia, and snuggled up against her. I wasn't sleepy... though if previous days were any indication, it wouldn't be long before I was.

"Mo.." I stopped myself, and prayed she hadn't noticed. I looked up, and she gave no sign of having heard me. "Claudia?"

"Yes, foxy?"

"Will you tell me story again?"

"The same one?" She asked. I shrugged.

"If you wants to."

"Are you sleepy already? It isn't quite nap time yet..." I shook my head.

"Uh-uh. Just wants a story." She smiled, and gave me a hug.

"Well, lets see... I used to know quite a few fairy tales... but that was centuries ago. How about a Native American legend?" I nodded. That would be fine. "Well, let me tell you how porcupines got their quills. You see, long, long ago, porcupines didn't have quills, and the other animals..." She told me the story, and I lay there safe and warm in her arms. I'm sure that's why I didn't notice that I was getting wet. Claudia did though. She didn't call it to my attention, just kissed me on the head for what seemed to me to be no reason at all, and continued her story. Training pants, however, differ from diapers in several ways... one is that they do NOT retain heat. I was very shortly cold and miserable. I looked down... and saw that all of the planes and trucks on my pants had faded, to be replaced by the word "WET" in big, bright blue letters. Guess they did more than just "change color". Claudia saw that I noticed, and stopped her story, just when the bear was about to step on the porcupine's quills for the first time. "Did my little one have an accident?" She asked sweetly. I hung my head and nodded. "No, it's ok, I'm not mad. Just try not to let it happen again, or we both know what will happen." Yeah, I could kinda guess. She took the sopping pants off of me, and cleaned me off. "We'll let you stay like that for a while, so your fur can air out, since I'm going to put you down for your nap soon. I think we should probably put you in a diaper for your nap, don't you?" I nodded. She turned off the TV, and we sat and talked for a while, about anything and everything other than what was happening to me. Then Claudia wanted to play a game with me she'd thought of a while back. I was agreeable, and I wasn't acting tired, so she had me lay back and close my eyes.

"The way the game works is this. I'm going to brush my paws near you, and you guess where I'm touching."

"Doesn't sound too hard." I said, closing my eyes. Suddenly, I felt a light touch. "That's my toe.. wait, no it's my ear.. hey!" I opened my eyes when I felt her brush across my penis. She wasn't even near me. "How did you.."

"Telekinesis, foxy. The hard part is telling where I'm actually touching with my paws. Want to try again?" I nodded, and closed my eyes. I felt a light touch brushing by my cheek. I wasn't sure if she was really there, or if I was imagining it... or if she was using her powers again. It was an interesting game, especially once I started to recognize the subtle differences between the two types of touches. Nap time came sooner than I expected, probably since I was lying down with my eyes closed. After I yawned for the third time in almost as few minutes, Claudia decided that the game was over. She picked me up and carried me to bed. She gave me my teddy bear to keep me busy while she got me dressed. She put me in pajamas, explaining that they, too, had come from the same box as the training pants. They were warm and cuddly and childish, with a zipper extending from ankle to neck and little slippers sown on to keep my hind-paws warm. When I was attired to her liking, she sat down beside me and gave me a nice, cool bottle of apple juice. I asked her to sing to me again, and she obliged by singing me a soft, familiar lullaby, which quickly carried me off to sleep. Claudia was still there when I woke up from my nap, and she got me undressed an' put me in a dry pair of training pants, with instructions to try and keep them that way. She said we'd probably take a late dinner, so she let me have a snack of cookies and milk before sending me back off to hit the computer.

As before, I was distracted from my programming by the task of staying dry, but I made progress anyway. I knew I could finish it before I went to bed, if I came back after dinner and put in the last few touches. I was deep into a section of code when my body gave me a vague, warning that my bladder was full, which lacked any sense of urgency what-so-ever. I knew better, though, and I immediately stopped and called for M.. Claudia to come and take me to the bathroom. Once again, she made a big fuss about it and praised me. I'm sure I was grinning like an idiot when I went back to work. Claudia came back later to tell me that dinner was ready. I hadn't been paying attention for a few minutes, and I worriedly checked myself. All the dinosaurs were still the same color as they'd been when I'd put them on, so I guess I was safe.

"Claudia?"

"Yes?" I held up my arms. She smiled fondly and scooped me up. She carried me into the kitchen and deposited me in front of my plate. She'd thawed out a couple of steaks and cooked up a side of french fries. My steak looked to be very well done, for which I was grateful. Hers, on the other paw, looked like she hadn't bothered to do more than warm it. It felt odd to be eating steak and drinking from a toddler cup. The two seemed somehow incongruous, though the fact that she'd cut my steak up for me made it less so. We were having a conversation about chat rooms and 'netiquette', when I realized that I had to go... and as soon as I realized it, it was too late. I gave a helpless "yarf", but my bladder had emptied itself almost completely before I could do more than stand up. Claudia looked down, and shook her head. The dinosaurs had all but vanished, and the "WET" message stood out on a darkened white background. What was more, the pants hadn't been able to absorb everything, and they leaked, drenching my seat and the insides of my legs.

"Well, foxy, your seat's already wet, so you might as well sit down and finish your dinner before it gets cold." She said calmly, "Then we'll get you cleaned up. Let me know if you start to get too uncomfortable." I wanted to break down crying as I sat back down and felt the pants squish beneath me. I stabbed at my steak as though it had somehow been to blame, and ate sullenly, despite Claudia's attempts at conversation. When I was finished, she had me stand up, then inspected the damage. She shook her head again. "You're soaked from the waist down, foxy. You're going to need a bath before we get you dressed again."

"How about I take a shower?" I suggested, hoping to salvage at least a little of my adult dignity. She thought about it.

"Well... that would give me time to clean everything up here. Is my little one sure he can manage by himself?" I nodded. "Well, alright, but you call me if you need anything, ok?"

I stripped off my soaked training pants and hopped in the shower. It felt good to be doing something for myself... especially something with such adult connotations. I lathered myself up and got rinsed off, and let the warm water beat it off of me. I was relaxing in the delicious feeling when I heard the curtain rustle behind me. I took a step backward, expecting to feel Claudia standing there. Instead, I felt something cold and metallic press into my back.

"Don't move." A harsh, heavy voice said, "If you make a sound, or try to call out with your mind, I'll rip a silver nail through your ribs. Got it?" I nodded. Who the hell was this. "Turn off the shower and step out. Don't try anything, mortal. If you make me kill you, then that's one less meal I have to catch, understand?" I did. I guess I should have paid more attention when Claudia told me about visiting the vampire newsgroups... guess one of the nutcases must have learned her address. I got out of the shower. "Turn around, and don't scream." I turned around.

The snarling face of a wolf glared at me. For a moment I was reminded of my nightmares so forcefully that I couldn't have screamed even if I'd wanted to.

"I see you remember me. That's good. I know you don't believe me, but I'm actually here to save you." I noticed the large weapon in his hand when he lowered it a few degrees. I took that as a sign that I was allowed to speak.

"Save me from what?" I asked.

"From the vampiress who has you in her thrall."

"Claudia? But I don't..."

"She has you under her control. She's a telepath... she can make you think or feel anything she wants. Trust me, I've seen this a thousand times before."

"You have?" I asked, surprised. He nodded.

"Oh, yes. Vampires always have mortal thralls to do their dirty work."

"What.. Who are you?"

"I am Tilthos, the Vampire Hunter." He made a mocking bowing gesture.

"V.. Vampire hunter? You mean you're going to..." He nodded. "No! I won't..."

"Let me show you something. I've been studying your thoughts for a while now, while you slept. You are a fool to trust a vampire. They are cold and heartless. I should know. I am one." My eyes widened.

"But..."

"No more talk. I will show you." With a wave of his arm, the bathroom vanished, and in the blink of an eye we were elsewhere. "Do you know this place?" I looked around. I was in a dark room full of draped furniture. I shook my head. "We are in the North Wing of this castle. Your mistress has taken you here?" I shook my head again. "I thought not. She wouldn't want you to see this until you were completely in her power. This is what she had planned for you!" He pulled the white dropcloth off of the furniture, and I gaped at what he revealed.

I was standing in what was obviously a baby's nursery. Everything was decorated in bright pastels and adorable prints... and everything was way too big for a normal child.

"This would have been your fate, condemned to remain forever her thrall. Has she not been grooming you for this, slowly molding you to fit her needs?" I couldn't answer. This made everything Claudia had said seem like a lie. That couldn't be. I loved her... didn't I? Nobody could force that, could they? I was dreadfully confused. "I can free you from her grasp. You can have a normal life again. All I need you to do is lead her here..."

"NO!" I shouted. I may have been confused and my feelings were in a tangle, but I knew that, whatever else might be a lie, my love for Claudia was true. "I won't betray her! I..." Whatever else I might have said was cut off when I looked into his eyes... and knew the powers of the true vampire. His eyes held me like a snake's, fascinating me, terrifying and compelling me, and I was caught in the grip of his will. "I had hoped that you would help me willingly, but I see I'm going to have to do this the hard way. She cannot sense me, but she can sense you, and I will use you as a beacon to draw her to me. In the meantime, you will tell me what you know of her." I felt a cold tearing in my mind as he began pawing through my memories. He broke off, though, when he sensed Claudia approaching.

"Jack?" She called, "Jack, where are you, you naughty little fox? I thought I told you not to play around in here. Are you all right, sweetie? Your mind is so cold..." With an effort of supreme will, I broke the distracted wolf's hold on me.

"Claudia, don't come in here! It's a trap!" Melodramatic and cliched, it was true, but it was all I could come up with on the spur of the moment. With a snarl, the wolf cast me aside just as Claudia came into the doorway.

"Jack!" She called my name as I fell. "What's going on here?" She demanded of the wolf.

"Vampire, your time is over. Cooperate, and I will kill you swiftly."

"I-DON'T-THINK-SO!" She snarled, "Especially since I doubt you could deliver on your end of the bargain."

"Who made you?" The wolf demanded, "Tell me that, and I will spare your thrall!" Me? What did I do?

"Nobody 'made' me!" She retorted, "I'm the only one of my kind!" The wolf gave her a grin that revealed a set of saber-toothed jaws.

"Do not try to fool me. I know the curse of the Vampire well. We are all given this curse by another... your maker cares not for you, but his name could bring you a swifter, painless death."

"No, it's true!" I said, flinging myself between them, "Read my mind! I'll show you."

"Jack, get out of the way!" Claudia shouted, but it was too late. The wolf's eyes had me again, and I felt as though my very soul was on display. I forced myself to ignore the feeling, and concentrated on Claudia's past, as she'd told it to me. He seized upon the memory and ran though it in a blur, absorbing the information faster than I could deliver it. Then he was done, and he released me. I sagged as my muscles lost their forced rigidity.

"So it's true. You are an anomaly. But no matter. You are vampire, a drinker of blood. You must be destroyed." One wonders how he felt about mosquitoes. "Taste the light of an artificial sun, ghoul!" He raised a second weapon, this one with a wide flared end. He pulled the trigger, and I screamed as a bright blast of light flashed from the end of the gun. But sunlight, even artificial sunlight, won't kill Claudia. It merely drives her powers beyond control. I took shelter as best I could as the furniture in the room smashed and the air became a maelstrom of splinters. I realized that I'd made a puddle on the floor... but damned if I didn't have a good excuse!

The wolf was thrown off by the unexpected effect of his weapon, but he used it to his advantage, closing the distance to Claudia while she was incoherent. I couldn't just stand by and let him kill her... I left my marginally safe hiding place and threw myself in his way. He barely even paused as he swept me aside with a slash of his claws.

Though I was an ineffective barrier, I managed to accomplish my goal in a roundabout way. When Claudia felt the wolf's claws slash me, it snapped her out of the energy high. She ignored the wolf, who's blows bounced off her instinctive psionic barrier, and saw what he'd done to me. I lay there with three slashmarks from my shoulder down to my side, and in at least one place, I could see my ribs. Then the blood welled up, obscuring everything. I was in unbelievable pain... but I was smiling. Because Tilthos had fucked up in spades when he hit me.

"Nobody messed with my cub!" Claudia screamed. The force of her will was such that every object around her was pushed back by about a foot... including the wolf. He saw her coming and tried to defend himself, but there was just no way. Claudia was so enraged that she never consciously thought to use her powers... she just laid into him with a wild savage shriek that rose in pitch until it shattered the windows. Her paws flew so fast as she pummeled and clawed him that they became a blur. She grabbed a double fist-full of his fur and rolled back, throwing him across the room to slam against the wall. To my amazement, he got up, though one arm dangled uselessly and he had to lean against the wall to support himself. Even as I watched, though, his wounds were healing. I didn't have much time to pay attention to that, though... my own wounds were quite serious, and I felt a darkness creeping up on me.

I think that was what brought Claudia off her frenzy. She shook herself a few times, and visibly forced herself to calm down. Ignoring the rapidly healing wolf, she came to me and looked at my injury.

"Jack, baby? Can you hear me?" I nodded weakly. "You've lost a lot of blood, but I think I can fix you up. Just lie back and relax." She put her paws on my chest, and I felt a strange, tingling warmth flowing into me, chasing away the chill and the pain. Strength and vitality returned to my limbs, and my heart beat with renewed vigor. "You'll be a little weak for a while... but I think that'll do." My eyes widened as I saw the wolf looming behind her, ready to strike. He never even had a chance. Without moving or even batting an eye, Claudia sent him flying to crash against the wall again. "Be a good kit, Jack, and sit there quietly while I deal with him, all right?" I nodded. She turned away, and I could see the fierce anger in her eyes. Boy, was he going to get it.

"Go ahead and kill me." The wolf said wearily, "You've won. I've never seen any of our kind with powers such as yours. I cannot defeat you." She nodded.

"Well, now that we've settled that, why don't we move on? You came into my home, kidnapped my baby, and tried to kill me. Why?"

"Because we are Vampire! We are a plague on the face of the earth that must be purged, and no other has the power to kill us."

"So you just hunt down your own kind and kill them? Doesn't that make you an even worse monster than them?" The wolf nodded.

"It is even as you say. But when I am done... when the Master dies, then we all shall crumble to dust. On that die, I, too, will die and atone for my sins." Claudia shook her head.

"It's obvious you have some serious issues to work through. You may wish to reconsider your current career. I'm letting you go... but you will never be able to come near us again... we will not exist, so far as you are concerned." The wolf nodded.

"It is a deal."

"Oh, you misunderstand. I'm not offering a deal. I'm telling you how it will be after I erase our memories from your mind and implant an avoidance geas."

"What of your thrall?" The wolf asked, "Are you going to erase this from his mind, also? I have revealed your lies for what they are, and your power over him will never be complete." Claudia just raised an eyebrow.

"Well, Jack, how about it? You've seen everything that was in this room. Who do you want to believe, him, or me?" I didn't even have to think about it. I crawled over and climbed up into her arms, and clung to her.

"Mommy!" I answered, and snuggled in. I looked back at the wolf and stuck my tongue out defiantly, knowing I was completely safe.

"I think that about answers that." I saw the wolf's eyes go wide for a moment, then they dimmed and glazed over. The wolf mechanically made that gesture I'd seen when he'd teleported me into the nursery, and he flicked out of existence. "Now, let's go get my baby dressed, shall we?"

From then on, she was my Mommy. My behavior had regressed completely when she healed me, and while I could still do all the things I had done as an adult, I needed her to take care of me. She decided that living out there all alone was probably not good for me, so she began inviting a select few to the mansion... mostly people like me and Jeremy and their Mommies and Daddies. Before long, the mansion was bright and alive again... and in time, Claudia's schoolhouse found use again. It was fun going to my first day of Kindergarten with all the other little kits and cubs and pups, even if I was the only one there who was still in diapers... and the only one over three feet tall, too.

I haven't let becoming an infant again stop me from developing, though. I've taken up art... starting with coloring books and crayons, I'll admit, but I'm pretty good now... and Claudia says I get better every day. 'Course, I don't know that her opinion counts... she puts all of my stuff up on the fridge, even when it was just scribbles. My programming firm finally got bought out by Claudia's company... it now makes an obscene amount of money. If I still cared about such things, I'd be a millionaire and then some. It's funny, though... I still have to ask Claudia to buy me stuff when we go to the mall... just 'cause it feels better that way. Claudia is so happy now, surrounded by her new family. I actually gave some thought to Claudia's offer to make my body match my behavior... but why bother? I have enough fun as an overgrown toddler, and she's strong enough to lug me around without worrying about how heavy I am.

Well, it's almost nap time, so I guess I'd better finish this up. The ending? Well don't be silly.

We all lived happily ever after, of course. What else is there to say?