TIMOTHY

By FireMane

 

 

 

            "Timothy, do you have a moment?" Misha asked.  Timothy looked up from his work, and nodded, waving her in.  "I was just noticing that you haven't taken advantage of your vacation time in quite a while."  The leonine executive shrugged.

 

            "That's true, but since when do I need a vacation?  I don't lead a very stressful life, and I can relax completely as soon as I leave the office, so you  don't have to worry about me getting overworked and burnt out.  I like my job."   There was a slightly defensive tone in his voice.

 

            The idea had been tossed around not long before of having him retire.  Some of his caretakers felt that he'd be much happier as a full-time cub, but he'd argued strongly against it.  Misha knew how much it took for him to speak against the lionesses that way, and had settled the matter herself.  She decided that Timothy would work until he chose to quit or proved himself incompetent,  and hers was the final word on the matter.

 

            "I know you like your job, Timmy," Misha used his cub name as a subtle warning, "But everyone needs a change of pace every now and again.  You must set a good example for the other employees."  Timothy sighed, but nodded, knowing how futile it was to argue with Misha.

 

            "If you insist." He conceded, "When am I clear for a day off?" This last was his own subtle message.

 

 

            "You have unavoidable meetings for the rest of the week." She informed him, "But I think we can safely push your schedule for the later part of next week back.  It looks like you're free for a five-day weekend.  That's when Michelle's turn comes up.  I think she has a couple of days of vacation accrued as well."  Timothy had the distinct feeling that his vacation was already well orchestrated.  His adult self resented that matters had been planned out without waiting for his consent, but his childish nature accepted that this was the way things were supposed to be, and within a few moments, his childish side won out.  The truth was, he wasn't really adverse to taking a vacation.  He did enjoy his work, but lately things had seemed very routine and mechanical, and he felt like he was just going through the motions.  He would have told someone about his feelings, but as soon as he made up his mind to talk about it, there was all this talk of retiring.

 

            Timothy knew that, deep in his heart, nothing would make him happier than being a cub.  But at the same time, the idea of giving up his adult side frightened him.  There were times when he couldn't believe how far he'd let things go already.  So he'd argued, and he'd fought, and he'd won the privilege of clinging to his adult life for a while longer.  Whenever work seemed boring or difficult, he imagined life without it, and pushed on.  He knew that turning his back on his job would mean cutting his last tie with his life as an adult, and that was a step he wasn't willing to take. 

 

            Timothy let himself pout as Michelle drove him home that following Wednesday.  His weekends usually seemed to slip away all too quickly, but this one seemed to loom before him.

 

            "Hey, Stormcloud," Michelle teased, "Why so sad?  We've got four days together!"

 

            "Four?" Timothy asked, "I thought my vacation was for five days?"  Michelle smiled.

 

            "It is.  But I have to go to work tomorrow and finish up a project, so I've made other arrangements for you while I'm at work."

 

            "What sort of arrangements?"

 

            "You'll see." Was all Michelle would say.  Timothy remained silent the rest of the way home, and Michelle could tell that he was pouting.  "So, what do you want to do first?" Michelle asked, as soon as they were inside.  She always asked, and Timmy usually said "play!" like a cute little cub.  His demeanor, however, was unchanged from the office.

 

            "Nothing in particular." Was all he'd say.  Michelle pulled him into his room, and pushed him back onto the changing table.

 

            "Oh, no, none of that.  You're going to relax and have a good time. Now let's get you changed." She stripped him out of his office clothes and laid them carefully aside, then untaped and removed his diaper. She had him cleaned and rediapered in a matter of minutes, resulting in a questioning whine from Timothy as she pulled the diaper over his erection. "Uh-uh, you know you don't get that unless you behave."  She dressed him in a T-shirt and shortalls, and led him into the kitchen.

 

            "Here you go, show Mommy how well you can feed yourself!" She cooed.  To her surprise, Timothy took the spoon and fed himself cleanly. "Wow, you did a great job of that!" She exclaimed, hiding her disappointment.  "What do you want for desert?"

 

            "Could I have some ice cream?" He asked.  Michelle sighed, knowing that she was still dealing with Timothy the executive.

 

            "Sure!  In fact, since you did such a great job feeding yourself, why don't we take it into the living room, and watch a movie?"  Timothy was agreeable, so she released him from his high-chair and sat him on the couch.  She came back with a burp-pad and a bowl of ice cream, and put the pad in his lap "Just in case."  She let him pick out the movie.  Michelle suffered through "The Ten Commandments" without complaint.  She hadn't even realized that movie was in her collection, though when she thought about it she remembered getting it as a gift from her father.  Just another of Dad's "subtle" hints.  After that, a diaper change and a bath were in order.  Both were performed with minimum fuss.  When Timothy was clean and dried off, she got him dressed again and sat him down for a good talking to.

 

            "Timmy, what's wrong?" She asked, "You haven't been this cold to me in months.  Is it... does it still bother you that I'm a man?"  Timothy shook his head.

 

            "No, I told you, I'm ok with that."

 

            "Then what?" Michelle demanded, "I don't plan to spend the next four days taking care of my boss!"

 

            "It isn't you," Timothy confessed, "I just..." The lion was silent for several minutes, and Michelle gave him time to find the words.  It wasn't until she saw the tears drip from his muzzle that she realized that he was crying.  Not as a cub, but as an adult.  She put her arms around him, and held him.

 

            "Shhhh... it's ok.  Just tell me what's wrong." She comforted.

 

            "I'm scared." He admitted between sobs. "I don't know that I want to be a baby all the time."

 

            "Nobody says you have to."

 

            "But everyone wants me to retire!" Michelle shook her head.

 

            "We just thought you'd be happier as a full time cub.  The only reason the subject came up was because you seemed so down at work lately."

 

            "I like my job." Timmy affirmed, huffing.  Michelle smiled, and stroked his mane.

 

            "Maybe so, but it sure doesn't seem like it most of the time.  For as long as I've known you you've always been stiff and formal at work, but the last few weeks you've been downright grouchy.  Misha says your work hasn't been as good either."  She lifted his chin so he was looking into her eyes.  "I've been half-afraid that you were starting to be more childish at work, that your adult side was slipping away."  Timmy nodded.

 

            "Me too.  But I don't know if I wanna be a cub forever!  It's scary!"

 

            "I know it is," Michelle nodded, "I felt the same way about being a girl."  Timmy shook his head.

 

            "That's different!" He protested, "You can stop if you want to."

 

            "Really?" She asked, "I've never really been a man inside, Timmy, I just got good at pretending because I had to.  Now that I'm lucky enough to work with people I don't have to pretend around... it's harder to put on a good act when you know you don't have to."

 

            "But I'm not pretending to be an adult!" Timmy whimpered, "I am an adult.  I just pretend to be a cub sometimes."

 

            "Are you sure it's not the other way around?" Michelle asked.

 

            "Yes!" Timothy snarled.  "I'm sure!"

 

            "Okay.  So why are you having so much trouble at work?"

 

            "I don't know." He confessed, "It just all seems pointless."

 

            "You'd rather be playing, wouldn't you?" Timmy sniffled, and nodded.

 

            "But I don't wanna lose my job.  It's the last adult thing I got left!"  He started to cry again, and Michelle held him and soothed him until he exhausted himself.

 

            "I think maybe we should put you to bed a little early tonight." Michelle suggested, as she led the still-sniffling lion into his nursery.  She tucked him into his crib and warmed him a bottle to help him get to sleep.  As he drifted off, she said, "Don't worry about it for now, Timmy.  You've got most of a week to be a cub and decide if you like it.  Let's just see what happens, okay?"  Timmy nodded, though he was really just responding to the tone of her voice.  He was already too drowsy to make much sense of her words.

 

            Timmy seemed in much better spirits the next morning.  Michelle fed him his breakfast and sat him down in front of the TV in just his diapers while she got dressed.  After she changed him, she had him wait on the changing table while she picked out his clothes.  He was surprised when she came up with one of his toddler outfits; a pair of snap-crotch overalls and a powder-blue shirt.  "But..." Timothy looked confused.  Michelle shook her head as she pulled the shirt over his head, making sure to fluff his mane back out over the collar.

 

            "You're not going to the office today, Timmy.  Remember?  It's your vacation."

 

            "Oh, right." Timothy nodded, "I forgot."  He slid off the changing table so she could pull the overalls up over his diapers and fasten them.  He sat back down and presented his paws for shoeing.  "So what am I going to do?  Can I just stay here by myself?  Is another Mommy coming over?"  Michelle shook her head.

 

            "Don't be silly, cubbies can't stay home by themselves.  Who'd change you?"

 

            "So who's going to come babysit?"

 

            "Nobody.  Don't worry about it."

 

            "But..." Michelle popped a pacifier in his mouth, silencing his protests.  "It's a surprise.  Trust me." Timmy nodded, letting the sucking sensation of the pacifier calming him.  He allowed himself to be led to the car, and sat passively as Michelle buckled him in.  Timmy woke from his engine-induced nap in time to see Michelle's station-wagon pull into the driveway of a large sunshine-yellow house, trimmed in a creamy brown.  The most striking feature of the house was its fence.  About halfway down the length of the house, there was a weathered-looking wooden fence, which looked to be about seven feet high.

 

            "Here we are!" Michelle declared, as she grabbed his diaper bag and got out of the car.  Timmy's pacifier had fallen out of his mouth as he slept, and Michelle rescued it and put it in the diaper bag before she unfastened his seatbelt and extracted him from his seat.  Timmy walked behind her, as though using her to shield himself from sight.  Michelle got the feeling that, had he been a normal-sized cub, he would literally have been hiding behind her skirts.  "Don't be afraid.  Nobody's going to hurt you."  She took his hand and led him inside.  Timmy didn't quite drag his feet, but he came close.

 

            "Hi!" They were greeted cheerfully by a matronly vixen, "You must be Michelle."  She looked up at Timmy, who ducked behind Michelle shyly.  "And this must be Timothy."

 

            "I think he's a little nervous." Michelle commented, putting her arm around him and bringing him forward.  "Timmy, this is Mrs. Crenshaw, she runs this daycare.  You'll be staying here while I'm at work."

 

            "But... I'm too big to be in daycare!" Timothy protested.  He'd barely finished saying as much when a wolf padded up to Mrs. Crenshaw.  He was dressed in a blue pullover that snapped at the crotch, looking for all the world like an infant's one-piece underwear.  The garment was pulled somewhat tight at the bottom, making the outline of a diaper exceedingly obvious.

 

            "Mrs. Crenshaw?  Can I watch a movie?" The wolf asked innocently.  Mrs. Crenshaw smiled.

 

            "Sure.  I'll come help you set up the VCR as soon as I'm done getting Timothy signed in.  Let me introduce you."  She turned to Timothy, who was standing with his mouth agape.  "Timothy, this is Jonothan, Jono, this is Timmy."  The wolf gave the newcomer a big grin.

 

            "Hiya Timmy!  Betcher gonna have lotsa fun here!"  Timmy just stood there in amazement, until Michelle nudged him.

 

            "Oh.  Um, yeah.  I guess so." Jono gave him another huge smile and trotted off to wait for his movie.

 

            "Still think you're too big?" Michelle asked, smiling, "I thought you might like some time to play with other children your age." Timothy shook his head.

 

            "I never thought that there were other children my age."  Mrs. Crenshaw nodded.

 

            "I hear that a lot.  My husband... God rest him... was the same way.  That's why I started this place.  If you don't want to think of it as a daycare, think of it as a support group instead."  Timothy looked around.

 

            "Are there... are there a lot of people like me?"  Mrs. Crenshaw smiled.

 

            "You wouldn't believe how many big kids I've met.  There are even a few just like you." Timothy cocked his head to the side.

 

            "What do you mean?"

 

            "You'll see.  Now, would you like to go watch a movie with Jono, or would you rather play?"

 

            "I... I don't know."  Mrs. Crenshaw put her hand over his paw, and Michelle slowly withdrew.

 

            "It's alright to be nervous, Timothy." The old vixen assured him, "You're in a new sort of situation, one you never really thought was possible.  But there's nothing to be afraid of.  I'm not going to make fun of you, or think less of you.  Neither are any of the other people who work here.  And the other kids certainly aren't going to criticize you."  Timmy nodded.

 

            "I guess you're right."

 

            "Do you think you'll be alright here?" Michelle asked, "I've got to go.  I'm going to be a little late as it is."  Timmy gave her a big hug.

 

            "Yes.  Thank you, Mommy."  Michelle smiled and had him lean down so she could kiss his forehead.

 

            "Be good for Mrs. Crenshaw." She admonished, and left, pausing to transfer his diaper bag to the vixen and tousle Timmy's mane.  Mrs. Crenshaw led Timmy slowly deeper inside.

 

            "What would you like to do now, Timothy?" She asked, "I can let you watch movies with Jono, or you can play with some of the other kids."

 

            "Um... I guess I'd like to watch a movie.  I still nervous."  Mrs. Crenshaw nodded.

 

            "That's understandable.  There's still a few hours until lunch, but if you want a bottle, I can fix one for you."  Timmy nodded.

 

            "Yes, please."  The matronly vixen sat Timmy down on a soft oval rug, which showed signs of having once been a solid color.  Though it was clean and was obviously cared for, years of oversized toddlers had left their mark, making the rug a splotchy mish-mash of multi-colored stains.  Jonothan had already picked the movie he wanted to watch, and Mrs. Crenshaw glanced at the cover. 

 

            "This is a very nice selection, Jono.  I'm sure Timmy will enjoy it."  She put the tape into the VCR.  "I'm going to the kitchen to get Timmy something to drink.  Are you thirsty?" The wolf nodded.  "I thought you would be.  I'll be right back, so you two sit tight and behave."  Timmy and Jono nodded, and sat with their attention held by the opening scenes of "The Lion King II."  When she returned with two juice-filled bottles, she found the two of them laughing and singing along with the tape.  She casually came up behind the wolf and slipped her finger into the leg of his diaper.  She felt the fabric shift, and knew that his sheath had parted, but other than that he gave no sign that he'd noticed.  With Timmy, she announced her intentions, and he nodded while she undid a few of the snaps near his crotch.  She decided they were both still dry enough to last through the movie, but told them that they'd both get changed as soon as the movie was over.  She handed them both a bottle, and left them alone to check on some of her other charges.

 

            "So, how old are you?" Jono asked when Mrs. Crenshaw was gone.  Timothy shrugged.

 

            "Uh. you mean really, or..." The wolf smiled.

 

            "I don't mean physically.  I'm this many." He held up all of the fingers on one of his paws.

 

            "Oh, I guess... I'm not sure."  Timothy admitted, "I guess I never really thought about it too much.  I mean, I, uh, wear diapers."  The wolf put a comforting arm around him.

 

            "Don't worry about it.  I was just wondering if you'd like me to hold your bottle for you while you watch the movie."  Timmy looked at him, puzzled.

 

            "I thought you were..."  The wolf shrugged.

 

            "Yeah, I'm an Adult Toddler, and I wear diapers and act cute, but that doesn't mean I can't be nice.  And don't worry, there are kids here in diapers who'll tell you that they're twelve.  I don't think we're paying much attention to logical consistency."

 

            "Oh.  Then I guess I'm three."  The wolf grinned.

 

            "Great!  Then you's liddlr'n me!"  He chortled, "Want me hold your boddle?"

 

            "Um, okay." Jono patted his lap, and Timmy put is head on the wolf's leg.  They stayed that way for the rest of the movie.  Mrs. Crenshaw came to get them just as the last of the credits were rolling across the screen.

 

            "Oh!  I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" She asked, smiling.  Timmy sat up as though spring-propelled, and Jono giggled.

 

            "'Course not!" Jono answered, "I was just holding baby Timmy's baba for him."  Timmy felt his cheeks growing warm beneath his fur.

 

            "Well, come on you two, let's get you out of those sopping diapers." She led them down a hall into another room.  On the way, Timmy saw that there was a room of nearly identical proportions across the hall, in which the walls were lined with cribs.  The room they were led to was arranged in a similar fashion, but with changing tables.  A rabbit, who looked to be in her early twenties, smiled as they entered.

 

            "Hi, Mrs. Crenshaw.  Hey there, Jono.  Who's the little lion?"

 

            "Brandi, this is Timothy.  Timothy, this is Brandi.  She's one of the people who work here."  The rabbit nodded.

 

            "Yep-yep, I got diaper-duty today.  So who needs a change?"

 

 

            "You take Jono, Brandi.  I'm going to be taking care of Timothy most of today, until he gets used to things." The rabbit nodded.

 

            "Sounds like a plan." She said brightly, "Come on Jono, let's get you out of that diaper."  Jono scampered over, and clambered up onto a changing table.  Timmy turned to Mrs. Crenshaw, who patted the surface of another table.  Timmy climbed up and waited nervously.

 

            "Shhh.  It's alright, Timmy.  I've been changing wet diapers for years.  I don't think yours is going to be much different."  She spent a few minutes stroking his mane, and she pulled a toy from his diaper-bag to amuse him while she worked.  The toy was a puffy ball on a spring, which she attached to the wall above his head.  Timmy's feline eyes were drawn to the tantalizing movements of the ball, and he became engrossed in lightly batting and catching it in his paws.  He was so wrapped up in this that he forgot what was going on, and Mrs. Crenshaw unsnapped his overalls, took his diaper off, cleaned him, and re-diapered him with little fuss.  She snapped his overalls back together, and gave him a gentle pat on his hip, eliciting a rustling sound from his diaper.  "There you go, all done." Timmy looked along his body in surprise.

 

            "Already?"  Mrs. Crenshaw nodded.

 

            "Yep.  Would you like me to introduce you to the rest of the kids now?"  Timmy climbed down off the table and nodded shyly.

 

            "Yes, ma'am.  May I have my blankie?"  Mrs. Crenshaw smiled.

 

            "I think that would be a good idea." She dug around in his diaper bag and came up with his security blanket and his pacifier.  She pinned the pacifier to a ribbon on his overalls.  "We'll have this handy too, just in case you want it." She explained.

 

            Jono's changing was taking a bit longer, and the reason for that was evident from Brandi's occasional exclamation of "My Goodness, what do we FEED you kids?" and Jono's resulting giggles.  Mrs. Crenshaw led Timmy back down the hall, past the room where he'd watched his movie, to the other side of the building.  They came to a room which was large enough to account for the remaining space for the building.  Each wall was painted in a bright primary color, and the floor looked like an explosion in Santa's workshop.

 

            There were three other morphs in the room, a bear, a fox, and a squirrel.  The bear was wearing a short pink shirt, trimmed in white lace, with a matching pair of plastic pants.  Her hair, which looked to be mostly unchanged by the Pandora Virus, was braided into two pig-tails, each tipped with a pink bow.  The squirrel was dressed in a navy blue, velcro-fastened diaper cover, decorated with bright yellow sun-shines, and a blue shirt.  The fox was very slight and short, probably having lost a good foot of height when he morphed.  He was wearing a pair of elastic-waist pants, tight enough to reveal that he was definitely not wearing a diaper, and a white shirt with a picture of a jet prominently displayed on the chest. 

 

            "Children," Mrs. Crenshaw's voice cut through the chatter in the room neatly.  She continued when she saw that she had everyone's attention. "This is Timothy.  Timmy, this is Joshua, Wendy, and Carl." She pointed out the squirrel, bear, and fox, respectively.  "This is Timothy's first day, and I want you all to be nice to him.  Where's Tony?"

 

            "Him hadda go p-potty." Wendy answered, stumbling over the word as though it held some particular distaste for her.

 

            "Honestly, I don't know why I don't just keep him in diapers like the rest of you kids."  The fox cleared his throat.  "Oh, Carl, of course I don't mean you.  Well, you play nice until he gets back.  Carl, you especially. You're the oldest kid here, and I expect you to be extra responsible and watch out for the littler children.  Understand?" The fox nodded.  Mrs. Crenshaw left, giving Timmy an encouraging pat on the shoulder, and gently pushing him into the room.  Wendy and Joshua bounced over to greet him.

 

            "Hi!" Wendy boomed, "I Winnie, and him Josh.  Wanna play wif us?"  Timmy's eyes widened.  He hadn't thought anyone's voice could be so loud, but Wendy's volume put his own roar to shame. 

 

            "Don't mind Wendy." Joshua chucked, "She hasn't learned the fine art of speaking below a shout yet."

 

            "I has too!" Wendy exclaimed, putting her hands on her hips.  For extra emphasis, she leaned forward and stuck out her tongue.

 

            "What do you wanna play?" Timmy asked.  He was answered when Carl dumped an armload of toys in front of them.

 

            "Cowboys and Indians, of course."  He strapped a plastic gun-belt over his hips, and started strutting around like John Wayne.  "Howdy, Pilgrim." He drawled. 

 

            "I thought you said we were playing Cowboys and In'ians?" Josh asked, scratching his head, "They didn't have Pilg'ims in the West!"  Carl sighed theatrically, and rolled his eyes.  He handed a big milk-maid's bonnet to Wendy, and a feathered headband to Timmy.  When Timmy didn't immediately put the headband on, Carl took it from him and placed it on his head.

 

            "There you go." There was a wet, muffled rumble from the general vicinity of Timmy's rear, followed by a pungent smell.  "I give you your Indian name," Carl pronounced mockingly, "Shits-in-his-pants."  Wendy and Josh stood there watching in shock, but Timmy just clapped his hands like an enthusiastic infant.

 

            "Goody!  An' I can give you an In'ian name, too!" Carl cocked his head.

 

            "What's that?" He made a strangled noise as Timothy grabbed a double-fistful of his shirt and hefted him into the air, almost effortlessly.

 

            "Bleeds-from-his-nose."  The fox gave his best attempt at a smile, under the circumstances.

 

            "How about we play a different game?" He offered, meekly.

 

            "Lets." Timothy agreed, lowering the fox to the ground.  Josh and Wendy giggled as Carl turned around, revealing a slowly-spreading patch of wetness on the front of his pants. 

 

            "Now, just what's going on here?" An authoritative voice asked from the doorway.  Timmy turned to find a man standing with his arms crossed, surveying the room.  Carl immediately ran up to him.

 

            "Tony!  He tried to hit me!" The fox whined.  The man shook his head, making tsk-ing noises.

 

            "Looks like someone's got wet pants." The man noticed.

 

            "But is not my fault!" Carl protested, "He picked me up and shooked me."

 

            "Now why did he do that?" Carl looked away and wouldn't face the question.  "I thought so.  Were you picking on the littler kids again?"

 

            "Nuh-uh!  I good boy!" The fox exclaimed.  Timmy watched the transformation of the vulpine with amazement.  As the conversation went on, Carl gave cues of being much younger than he'd originally acted, and by the time Wendy and Josh were called upon to bear witness, the fox was sucking his thumb and sounding less intelligible than Wendy.  Timothy wondered if he looked the same way, when he switched between his work persona and his cub self. 

 

            "You kids stay here and play, I've got to take Carl to be changed." He caught a whiff of the prevailing winds, and looked at the rest of them.  "And it smells like he's not the only one who needs a new diaper."  At the mention of the word 'diaper,' Carl flinched and his legs suddenly appeared to lose all rigidity. 

 

            He sat down forcefully and began to cry.  Tony sighed.  "Never mind, it looks like it'll have to wait.  I'll send Brandi back to check the rest of you.  Play nice."  He gave Timmy a look that said "Especially you," and led him to guess that Tony had been watching what was going on for a while before he'd spoken.  Timmy suddenly had the urge to suck his own thumb, despite the fact he was at least five years Tony's senior, and had twice the man's mass. 

           

            "That was great!" Josh giggled, as soon as he thought Tony was out of earshot, "I've never seen Carl that flustered!"

 

            "I didn't want to scare him that badly." Timothy said, "I just..."

 

            "Stood up for yourself." The squirrel interrupted, "Nothing wrong with that.  It's something us aybees need to do more often."  Timmy cocked his head.

 

            "Aybees?"  Josh shook his head.

 

            "Maybe Timmy not know his aphebats?"  Wendy suggested. 

 

            "Oh, A-B's.  I misunderstood you."  Josh nodded.

 

            "Yeah, it stands for Adult Baby.  Like us."  Timmy smiled.

 

            "And Carl."

 

            Wendy giggled.  "Yeah, `ike Carl."

 

            "Look who I brought!" Brandi announced as she entered the room.  Jono bounced in ahead of her and tackled Wendy, who rolled onto her back and giggled as the overgrown puppy greeted her in traditional puppy fashion.  "Now, who needs a change?"  Josh pointed at Timmy, and Wendy joined in as best she could under the barrage of nuzzles she was receiving from Jono.  She placed a hand on the seat of Timmy's overalls and prodded experimentally.  "Mmm-hm, do you want to be changed here?"  Timmy looked with alarm at his new friends, all of whom smiled in an almost-but-not-quite evil manner.  Timmy clutched his security blanket and clung to Brandi's arm.  "I'll guess that's a `no.' Alright, you little stinker, let's get you to a changing table." Brandi led him back to the diapering room.  They passed Tony and Carl on the way.  The fox's wet pants and shirt had been removed, replaced by an undisguised cloth diaper and nothing else, and he was curled up in Tony's arms, sucking his thumb and staring at the world with apparent incomprehension.  Brandi noticed Timmy's head turn to follow the regressed fox as they passed.

 

            "It's okay, Timmy," she reassured him, "He does that sometimes.  It isn't your fault."

 

            "What happened?" Timothy asked, "I mean, he was pretty much grown up while we were playing."  Brandi shrugged.

 

            "Not everyone is the same, Timmy." She explained, "Carl is usually older than most of the kids, but when he gets in trouble he reacts by getting younger.  Since he's bossy and a natural trouble-maker most of the time, he usually ends up that way before the day is over.  I guess he got an early start today."

 

            "Will he get better?" Timmy asked.

 

            "Of course he will.  He might even be old enough to play with the rest of you before your Mommy picks you up.  Until then, Tony'll put him in the playpen and keep an eye on him.  Here we go."  She had him hop up on the table and lie down, and proceeded to change him.  She took her time about it, and Timmy got the feeling that, despite her exclamations about the smell, Brandi seriously enjoyed her work.  He was lotioned, powdered, and put in a clean diaper, and his overalls were snapped back in place.  The bulge of his arousal was obvious even through the many layers that restrained it.  Timmy had grown used to having his leonine libido sated during his changes, and being efficiently changed from one diaper to another was starting to get frustrating.  Brandi checked the clock when she was finished.  "Looks like it's about lunch time.  Come on, let's get

you to the table."

 

            "What's for lunch?" Timmy asked.

 

            "Well, I don't know.  It depends on what your Mommy told us you could eat when she signed you in.  Carl's probably getting two bottles of formula and a bottle of juice."  She looked at Timmy, "Somehow I think your lunch is going to be a bit more... beefy." Timmy grinned.

 

            As it turned out, Timmy's lunch consisted of mashed potatoes (with gravy, already stirred in), a Salisbury steak (cut into pieces), and a bottle of grapejuice.  Timmy was most of the way through the meal, which he decided to eat mostly with his fingers, when he started feeling drowsy.  After he managed to smear potatoes from his forehead to his nose while yawning, Brandi sat down next to him and fed him the rest. 

 

            Timmy knew from experience that naptime came shortly after lunchtime, scheduled or not, so he didn't bother to protest when Mrs. Crenshaw announced that it was time for everyone to find their cribs.  He allowed himself to be led, with shuffling paws, down the hall into the nap room.  The crib rail was lowered, and he climbed up.  The head and foot of the crib were made of a clear plastic, and Brandi wrote his name in big blue letters on the outside with a marker.  Timmy gave little assistance as his overalls were removed, leaving himlying in the crib in his diaper and his shirt.  He felt the sheets being securely tucked under his chin, felt a stuffed animal being slid into his arms, and a bottle into his mouth.  The last thing he heard as the warmth in his stomach, which was being joined by the warmth of the bottle he was drinking, lulled him to sleep was the sound of the crib-rail being latched into place.

 

            Timmy woke, and looked around fuzzily for a few minutes.  His sensitive ears picked up the soft rise and fall of a quiet conversation nearby, though he couldn't make out the words.  One voice he recognized as Mrs. Crenshaw, but the other one was new to him.  Guessing naptime was over, he rolled over and pushed up into a crouch, feeling the wetness in his diaper shift as he moved.  He looked down and saw a large dark patch where he'd been sleeping, and understood why they'd removed his overalls. 

 

            The door slid farther open, and Mrs. Crenshaw poked her head in.  Seeing Timmy sitting up, she lowered his rail and helped him out of bed, shaking her head at the condition his bed and shirt were in.  She put a finger to her lips to warn him to be quiet, and gestured toward Wendy and Carl, who were still curled up asleep.  Timmy felt wetness trickle down the insides of his legs with each step he took, as the movement of his legs, no matter how wide he spread them, squeezed his saturated diaper.  He was led across the hall, and into the changing room.  Inside, he saw something that took his mind completely off of his drippy predicament.

 

            There was a lion in the changing room.

 

            "Timmy, this is Tanabi.  Brandi had to go home, so he'll be taking over for her."

 

            "Hey there, cubby." Timmy just stared, his mouth working but unable to form the words.  Mrs. Crenshaw wisely guided him onto a changing table and removed his shirt. 

 

            "Timmy," She warned, "I'm going to have to go check on Carl before he wakes up and..."  From across the hall they heard a very authentic renditionof an infant's wail, joined quickly by a deeper, female voice.  "Wakes up Wendy." She finished lamely.  "Can I leave you here with Tanabi?"  Timmy nodded, and the vixen left.  A few minutes later, the crying faltered, then ceased.

 

            "Are you alright?" The other lion asked.  Timmy stared at him with wide eyes.  Timothy guessed that he was probably in his early or mid-twenties.  In contrast to Timothy's bulk, Tanabi was slender and lean.  Timmy nodded.  Tanabi prodded Timmy's diaper, and it squished.  "Looks like you need to be changed.  It's ok.  I've done this before." 

 

            Tanabi untaped the diaper and removed it, then cleaned the "younger" lion's fur.  Reaching under the table, he pulled out a clean cloth diaper andhad Timmy lift up so he could position it.  He reached for a bottle of lotion.

 

            "I'm going to rub in some lotion, so you don't get a rash," He explained, "I won't do anything you don't want me to."

 

            "Ok." Timmy whispered, squirming slightly.  Tanabi squeezed a generous dollop of lotion into his paw, and slowly spread it across Timmy's hips, inner thighs, lifting him slightly to spread it across his rear, then working up to massage his balls and member.  Timmy relaxed and closed his eyes, and Tanabi heard him purring softly.

 

            "Do you like that?" He asked, smiling.  Timmy nodded, and Tanabi gave him a few strokes in reward.  "Do you want me to do anything else?"  Timmy looked away.

 

            "I'm not sure." Timothy answered, "I'll need some time to think about that." Tanabi smiled, and leaned down to kiss Timmy's forehead.

 

            "Maybe next time, then.  For now, we'd better get your diaper on before you make a puddle!"  Timmy felt his cheeks grow warm under his fur as Tanabi powdered him and pulled the diaper up between his legs.  A few expertly placed pins were inserted to hold it in place, and a pair of plastic pants were snugged into place.  "Ok, all done!  Do you want your overalls back on?"  Timmy nodded, not entirely comfortable running around in just his diapers yet.  "Ok, let's see what we can find."  He rummaged around and came up with the overalls Timmy had been wearing before his nap, and a spare shirt Michelle had thoughtfully packed.  "Ok, gimme your arms!" Timmy obediently put his arms up, and the shirt was pulled over his head.  Then Tanabi helped him into his over-alls, and fastened the straps.  "There you go.  Would you like to go play?"

 

            "Actually... I'd like to stay here and talk to you, if that would be okay." Tanabi smiled.

 

            "I'd like that." Mrs. Crenshaw poked her head in, and Tanabi nodded to her.  She came in with Wendy in tow, followed by Tony, who was cradling Carl in his arms.

 

            "Sorry to intrude." She apologized.

 

            "No problem, Mrs. Crenshaw.  Timmy and I were just finishing up." Tony laid Carl down on a changing table in the middle of the room, and fastened what looked like an airline seatbelt across his chest.  Seeing Timmy's curious look, Tanabi explained, "That's so he doesn't fall off while he's getting changed.  Really little babies like Carl need a lot of watching out for." Timmy nodded, noticing how much the fox squirmed during the process.  Wendy was a bit more well-behaved, though she kept up a constant line of chatter with Mrs. Crenshaw, against whom the stream of conversation broke harmlessly.  Wendy's chatter was only half-intelligible anyway, and the vixen just nodded and answered where it seemed most appropriate. 

 

            Timmy was unabashedly staring at Tanabi.  The young lion smiled back, and Timmy giggled.

 

            "I take it you've never seen another lion before?"

 

            "Not a boy.  I've seen lots of girls."  Tanabi grinned.

 

            "Lucky!  Lionesses are hard to find!"  Timmy shrugged.

 

            "I... um, hadn't really thought about it in a while."  Timothy admitted.

 

            "Well, tell me a little about yourself."

 

            "Well, I'm a lawyer for Pride, Inc."

 

            "'Made with Pride, in the USA?'" Tanabi quoted.

 

            "That's us!" Timothy affirmed. 

 

            "Sounds like fun."

 

            "I like my job." Timmy answered, almost mechanically.  "Sorry, that's been a bit of a sore point lately."  Timothy explained.

 

            "Poor cubby." Timmy nodded.

 

            "My mommies think I'd be better off as a full-time cub." Tanabi smiled.

 

            "Doesn't sound too bad.  I can see where that would be scary, though."  He did a brief double-take, "Did you say Mommies?" Timmy nodded.

 

            "Yeah, I've got lots of mommies, Mommy Misha, Mommy Michelle, Mommy Jenny..."

 

            "This is a long list, isn't it?" Timmy nodded vigorously.  "You're luckier than I thought!"  The cub smiled.

 

            "It just worked out that way." Timothy explained, "I ended up working with a couple of lionesses, and they found out about me being an.. um, A.B., and from there one thing led to another.  It's funny how things work out.  I mean, everything seemed like it was a logical progression, but when I look back on it, it seems, well, absurd in some ways."  Tanabi nodded.

 

            "Well, that's life for you." He laughed, "And the natural instincts of a lion."

 

            "You don't seem surprised to see another lion." Timmy noted.  Tanabi shrugged.

 

            "Well, I've seen a few.  Actually, most of the lions I've seen have come through here.  A surprising number of lions are AB's."

 

            "Really?"

 

            "Yup.  There's you and Paradox.  And Nightchild, but he's just wierd.  I'm sure you'll meet them eventually.  There are a couple from Great Britain, and I think there's one from Canada."

 

            "Paradox and Nightchild?" Timothy asked,  "These are actual people?"

 

            "Well, they probably weren't born with them, but those are their legal names.  But, hey, who are WE to judge?" Timmy giggled.

 

            "I suppose so.  How about you?" He asked, "How'd you end up here?"

 

            "Oh, yes, that reminds me." Mrs. Crenshaw had finished with Wendy, and came over to see Tanabi, "Did you remember to wear your trainers today?"  The lion's ears folded back in embarassment.

 

            "Yes, ma'am." He answered.

 

            "Good.  And a change of clothes?" Tanabi nodded. "Good boy.  Bring Timmy back to the playroom whenever he's ready." She left them, leading Wendy off to play.

 

            "I thought you were a big b.. an adult?" Timmy asked.

 

            "I am a big boy, silly." Tanabi grinned, "Didn't you hear her say I was wearing trainers?  I don't have a lot of money, so I pay for my occasional stays here by coming in and working.  Mrs. Crenshaw's really nice about that.  Besides, I have a great time taking care of cute babies... like you!"  Timmy was about to protest, but Tanabi started tickling.  Though not, as a rule, ticklish, Tanabi seemed to know all his weak spots, and Timmy was soon curled up on the changing table in helpless giggles.  When Tanabi gave him a chance to breath, his thumb planted itself firmly in his mouth, and he stared at Tanabi with wide eyes, not too far off from the sort of look Carl was directing at the two of them as Tony carried him off.  "Are you ready to go play now?"  Timmy nodded enthusiasticly.  "Well, tell you what.  I'll see if I can't trade jobs with Tony.  He'll be spending most of his time with Carl anyway."  Tanabi led his charge back to the playroom.

 

            "Hihi 'nabi!" Jono greeted him excitedly, "Is you here to play, or is you a big boy today?" Tanabi giggled.

 

            "I'm always a big boy, silly." Tanabi answered, "I'm working today, though.  Hey, Tony?" The human looked up from where he was amusing a very infantile Carl, "Mind if I take over here?  You can take Carl back to the changing room."  Tony shrugged.

 

            "I'd rather not." He answered, "You know that."

 

            "Please?  I'll owe you a favor."

 

            "Alright, but don't think I won't take you up on it." The human lifted Carl out of his playpen.  The fox stared at him curiously.  "Come on, we're takin' you for a plane ride."  How much the regressed fox understood was unknown, but it was apparent that he knew the words "plane ride" well enough.  Tony held him parallel to the ground and carried him off, making whooshing noises as they turned.  Timmy was amazed that he could hold on to the fox at all, given how much he squirmed and squealed in his delight.

 

            "Tony doesn't like getting stuck on diaper duty." Tanabi explained, as the man left.

 

            "He doesn't like changing diapers?"

 

            "I don't think he minds that, but he doesn't enjoy it like Brandi does." Timmy nodded.  "Besides, he likes being here, where he can impose order on all this chaos."  In the meantime, the other children had rummaged around in the toy pile and located props for a new game.

 

            "Arrrrrr!" Jono scowled around an eyepatch,  "I be peg-leg Jono!"  A few chairs and several cardboard boxes later, a pirate ship was constructed.  Jono (as the oldest remaining child) took the wheel (a frisbee) and guided his crew on a voyage of depravity and mayhem.  Of course, the fact that two out of the four were openly displaying their diapers and the depravity consisted of (politely) pillaging a box of toys may have detracted from the intended effect.  Tanabi struggled to avoid smiling as Timmy ran up, wooden saber in hand, and asked, "Mr. 'nabi, may I please pillage a cookie?"

 

            Cookies were distributed to the scurvy crew, after which the ship was dismantled and the cubbies took to playing hide-and-seek.  Of course, being the overgrown cubs that they were, they didn't hide very effectively.  Not that it mattered much, since the other players were equally inept at looking for them.  Wendy gave herself away by giggling when Josh walked right by her hiding spot.  She was concealed under a blanket, which was just large enough to fully cover her head and most of her shoulders.  Timmy and Jono managed to conceal themselves a bit better, Jono hiding in a pile of plushies and Timmy behind the playpen Carl had vacated, but Jono was revealed by the rustle of his diaper.  The hunt for Timmy continued until Josh started using his nose.  The squirrel ran his nose along the ground like a bloodhound, and followed the scent intently until he looked up and his muzzle bumped into the crotch of Timmy's overalls.

 

            "I found you!" He exclaimed, then added, with a snort to clear his muzzle, "You're wet!"

 

            "Ok, looks like Timmy's going to be 'it' this time." Tanabi announced.  "Come over here and let's give the others a chance to hide."

 

            "How long do we get this time?" Josh asked, as Timmy closed his eyes.

 

            "Oh, about as long as it takes me to check Timmy's diapers." Was the casual reply, and Timmy once again felt his cheeks getting warm.  He also realized that he could feel his diaper getting warmer while Tanabi was unsnapping his crotch, and squirmed as he realized he was wetting in the middle of being checked.  A gentle pat on his leg and a soft rumbling noise from nearby suggested that Tanabi was aware of what was happening, and enjoyed it almost as much as Timmy.  The snaps were fastened again, and he heard Tanabi call out, "Ready or not, here he comes!"

 

            Timmy opened his eyes and looked around to see where the other cubs were.  Wendy had chosen a somewhat better hiding spot this time; She was behind Josh's tail, which was sticking out of a cardboard box.  Of Jono there was no sign.  In keeping with the spirit of the game, he decided to find Jono first, walking right past Wendy and Josh, ignoring their giggles as he waddle/stalked around the room in his heavy diaper.  His ears twitched as he strained to locate the missing cub, and he was rewarded by the sound of Jono's heavier breathing.  He turned his head suddenly, and his muscles tensed in anticipation.  Knowing he was spotted, the wolfcub dashed out from behind his rocking chair, trying to make it to safe ground.

 

            He never had a chance.

 

            With a snarl, Timothy's legs flexed and propelled him forward as if acting under their own power.  In a flash, he covered the distance between them, and it was only at the last second that he realized he needed to check his momentum.  He put on the brakes, sending him tumbling forward to crash into the wolf instead of pouncing him like a fleeing gazelle.

 

            "Wow!  You play rough!" Jono said, as he rolled the lion off of him.

 

            "Sorry.  Maybe I shouldn't be 'it' anymore." Timothy offered, standing up and helping the wolf to his paws.

 

            "It's ok.  I'm used to it.  I played football in high school."

 

            "It's probably time we got you changed anyway." Tanabi offered from behind them.  "Come on out!" He called to Josh and Wendy, "It's time to see who needs a clean diaper."  The cubs assembled, though it required some corraling on Tanabi's part, and it was decided that Jono and Wendy were still dry enough to keep playing, but Timmy and Josh were in need of a change.  Jono and Wendy wanted to play video games, so he led the entire group down the hall.  Once he had their game set up and they were playing happily, he took Timmy by one hand and Josh by the other, and led them away to be changed.

 

            "Come on, cubbies," He smiled, "Let's get you into something nice and dry."  Along the way he passed Mrs. Crenshaw, who was carting a load of linens, which radiated a soft heat and the smell of warm cloth.  Tanabi let her know where the other two cubs were, and she nodded and asked if he needed a hand.  Tanabi assured her that he had everything under control, which prompted her to glance obviously down at his pants.  Tanabi smiled, knowing that he was still dry.

 

            Tony was amusing Carl with a ring of big plastic keys, which rattled together when he shook them.  Seeing them enter, he let the fox catch the toy, which immediately found its way into his mouth.  Tanabi sent Josh over to be changed by Tony, who made a show of putting his back to the two lions, blocking them from the squirrel and fox's eyes.  Tanabi smiled, and had Timmy climb up on the changing table again.

 

            "Made up your mind yet, cubby?" he asked, as he undid the snaps all the way up the insides of Timmy's legs.  Timothy shrugged.

 

            "I'd like to but..." Tanabi patted the cub's bottom.

 

            "You mean this?" Timmy giggled.

 

            "Well, I... you're a boy." He blurted, then looked away as though ashamed.  It was Tanabi's turn to look confused.

 

            "It says on your form that the person who brought you in was male.  And it said that you were allowed to choose if you wanted it or not, so I thought..." Timmy nodded.

 

            "Mommy Michelle is different.  She's got a penis, but... I don't know.  I guess it really isn't any different." Tanabi resumed the process of changing the cub.

 

            "Well, don't talk yourself into doing something you aren't comfortable with," he warned.  "There's nothing wrong with being okay with doing it with one person but not another."  Timmy nodded, giving a slight 'erf' as Tanabi cleaned his penis.

 

            "It took a little while, but even though I knew that Mommy Michelle was a man, I didn't think of her that way.  It just didn't seem important."  Tanabi nodded, sliding the lump of wet cloth out from under the cub and wiping him clean.  A clean diaper was produced and fitted around Timmy's tail, and Tanabi flipped the front of the diaper up to cover Timmy's erect member without pinning it in place.

 

            "This is your decision, cubby." He reached over and gently scratched behind the other lion's ear.  If you aren't old enough to make it on your own, then you certainly aren't old enough to need to make it."  Timmy nodded, and Tanabi returned to the task at hand.  He rubbed in the lotion, and was reaching for the powder when he felt Timothy's paw on his arm. 

 

            "Tanabi?  Would you, please?" Tanabi smiled, and poured another generous dollop of lotion into his paw.

 

            "Sure.  Wouldn't want you getting a rash *there*, now would we?"  Timmy giggled and shook his head.  Tanabi stroked him, slowly building up the tempo until he was pumping with long, firm strokes.  Timmy moaned softly in pleasure, and Tanabi put his pacifier in his mouth.  He put a finger to his lips and gestured with his head to where Carl was.  Timothy whimpered, feeling a roaring climax building within himself.  Timmy bit down on his pacifier and came with an almost painful feeling of relief.  He looked down to find his penis wrapped in a small cloth diaper, skillfully placed by Tanabi at the last possible moment.  He lay there breathing heavily, and spat out the shredded nipple of his pacifier.

 

            "I'm sorry." He said softly.  Tanabi nuzzled his cheek as he deposited the sperm-soaked diaper in a designated container.

 

            "Don't be.  You kept quiet and didn't bother the other children.  The paci can be replaced.  Now, let's get your diapers on, before I have another mess to clean up!"  Tanabi gently sprinkled powder over Timothy's hips, and pinned his diaper on securely.  "Looky what you've got!" He held up a pair of blue plastic pants decorated with circus animals.  Timmy giggled weakly and, with great effort, lifted his legs so they could be threaded, along with his tail, into the plastic pants.  "Well, what do you want to do now?" Timmy shrugged, feeling small and shy despite the fact that he was the largest person in the room.

 

            "Could I have a bottle, please?" He finally asked.  Tanabi smiled.

 

            "Sure.  Come on, we'll drop by and see how Wendy and Jono are doing on the way to the kitchen.  Do you want me to snap your overalls back up?  It's pretty warm today."  Timmy shrugged.  "Then how about we take them off?"  Timmy nodded, and Tanabi unfastened the buckles and helped him wiggle out of his overalls, leaving him in his t-shirt and plastic pants.  Tanabi tucked the overalls into Timmy's diaper bag, and helped the cub toddle on unsteady legs back down the hall, giving Tony an appreciative nod on the way out. 

 

            Wendy and Jono seemed rather equally matched in their video game when Tanabi checked in on them.  Josh was cheering Jono on, who had apparently not done as well on the last few rounds.  The game seemed a little like an upside-down Tetris, as the players aimed little colored balls in an attempt to clear the screen of other little colored balls.  Mrs. Crenshaw looked up from the laundry she was folding. 

 

            "Did everything go alright?" Tanabi nodded.

 

            "Yeah, but I think Timmy needs a new paci." He handed her what was left of the old one, and the vixen's eyebrows rose.  "I'm going to fix Timmy a bottle.  Does anyone else want one while I'm at it?"  Josh did, but Jono and Wendy were too engrossed in their game to answer.  "Stay here and be good, okay?" Timmy nodded, and plopped down between Wendy and Mrs. Crenshaw.  Timmy relaxed and let his mind wander as he watched them play, not really bothering to try and understand what was going on, but enjoying the pretty moving colors.  When Tanabi returned with a pair of bottles and a cup of sweet-smelling tea, Timmy had to remove his thumb from his mouth to reach with both arms toward the other lion.  Tanabi handed a bottle to Josh and the tea to Mrs. Crenshaw, who was very appreciative, and sat down next to Timmy and and patted his lap.  The cub curled as much of himself as would fit into the offered lap, and snuggled down as the bottle's nipple was pressed against his lips.  He felt every muscle in his body untense as thick chocolate warmth rolled across his tounge and down his throat.

 

            He realized that he'd dozed off again only when he felt Tanabi shift underneath him.  He sat up, and rolled into a classic cat-stretch, much to the amusement of the other children.  He felt a dampness on his back, and idly wondered how he'd managed to leak in that direction. 

 

            "Tanabi!" Timmy turned around to find his leonine caretaker sitting in a small puddle.  Mrs. Crenshaw sighed, "Well, at least you were wearing trainers this time.  Do you want to go get changed, or do you want me to do it?"  Tanabi looked down and half-shrugged.  "Alright, then, I guess it's up to me.  Jono, will you keep an eye on the others until I get back?"  The wolf nodded, and Mrs. Crenshaw took the lion's paws and helped him stand up, pausing only to strip Timmy's wet shirt off.  She shook her head as she displayed the shirt to Tanabi.  "See what you did?  You should apologize to Timothy for getting his shirt wet." The young lion traced a circle on the floor with his paw, and stared down.

 

            "I'm sorry." He said.  Despite his bashful posture, it was apparent that he was enjoying himself.  His erection was threatening to stretch the elastic of his trainers beyond repair.  Mrs. Crenshaw had him take a clean cloth from the laundry she'd been folding and clean up his puddle before she led him out of the room, amid a chorus of childish giggles from Wendy and Josh.  After a few minutes, though, they all settled down and went back to playing their game.  Josh eventually got tired of losing to Wendy at their puzzle game, so he offered his controller to Timmy, who accepted it with some hesitation.  The last time he'd played video games, they consisted of a little yellow face being chased by multi-colored ghosts.  Wendy went easy on him, but he still couldn't seem to make the character on the screen do what he wanted it to.  When Tanabi and Mrs. Crenshaw came back in, he gladly yielded the controller to Jono.

 

            Tanabi's wet pants had been replaced by a pair of blue plastic pants very similar to the ones Timmy was wearing.  Mrs. Crenshaw sat him down next to Timmy, who could hear the soft rustle of a very thick disposable sliding against the vinyl of the plastic pants as his rump rested on the ground.  Tanabi noticed Timmy glancing down at his change of clothes, and squirmed in pleasant embarrassment.

 

            "Enjoying yourself?" Timothy asked.  Tanabi nodded and squirmed harder.

 

            "Looks like we're gonna be playmates after all for a little while." The other lion answered.  "Do you want to go play?"

 

            "Oh, I don't think you'll have time today," Mrs. Crenshaw informed them, "Timothy's Mommy should be here soon to pick him up."

 

            "Awwww!" Both lions pouted simultaneously.  The elderly vixen put a comforting arm around them.

 

            "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll get to play some other time.  Tanabi, if it'll make you feel better, you can stay the night with us.  Jono and Timothy are getting picked up by their parents, but Wendy and Josh will be staying overnight, and I could certainly use some help."  Tanabi nodded. "Even if it means I have to change another set of diapers."  He giggled and blushed, which made Timmy smile.

 

            "What about Carl?" Timmy asked, causing everyone to look at him in surprise.  Well, everyone except Jono, who made use of Wendy's distraction to rocket ahead in their competition.

 

            "Carl will be going home with Tony." Mrs. Crenshaw explained, with a note in her voice that said there wasn't going to be any further explanation.  Timmy's eyes widened in understanding, and no further explanation was needed.

 

            As if on cue, Michelle poked her head in the door.

 

            "The man at the front said Timmy was back here.  Ready to go?" Timmy

jumped up.

 

            "Mommy!" He ran over and threw his arms around her.  Michelle smiled and patted her oversized cub as he engulfed her in his embrace.  As soon as she could free herself to breathe, he started trying to relay his entire day to her in the space of a few minutes, "I played pirates and had cookies, and we played hide and seek and video games and met lots of people and..."

 

            "Whoa, whoa, whoa." Michelle laughed, "There's plenty of time to tell me all about it on the way home."  He dashed over and pulled Tanabi to his feet, and presented him to his Mommy.

 

            "This is Tanabi and he's a lion like me!"  Michelle put a hand to her cheek in mock surprise.

 

            "Really?" Timmy nodded, "Well, I'm glad you told me, because I might not have figured it out."  The lions giggled, and the other kids joined in.

 

            "Pleased to meet you." Tanabi offered his hand, and Michelle gave it her best limp-wristed shake. "You've got a real cutie-cub." Michelle smiled, and Timmy did his best to hide his face in her shoulder.

 

            "Thanks.  Come on, Timmy, we need to get home so I can make dinner.  Do you want to help?" Timmy nodded enthusiasticly.  "I was afraid of that."

 

            "Hold on.  Do you have a piece of paper?" Michelle nodded, and rooted around in her purse, coming up with a pen and a scrap of paper.  Timothy scribbled on it and handed it to Tanabi.  "That's my office number.  I don't have a steady home number, but you can find someone there who'll know where I am." Tanabi looked at the swirls of ink, and half-smiled.

 

            "Sweety, why don't you try being old enough to write, and then give him your number."  Timmy blushed, and tried again, making legible numbers this time.  "Ok, now, wave bye-bye!"  Timmy turned and backed out of the room, waving to all his new friends.  As he was almost out the door, Tanabi darted forward and gave him a peck on the cheek, sparking another round of giggles from the toddlers.

 

            "Thank you very much." Timothy said as Michelle buckled him in.  "I

think I have a better idea of what I want now."

 

            "Good!" Michelle shut his door and got in on the driver's side.

 

            "I think you're right.  I am losing my adult side."  Michelle's face froze, then she forced a smile.

 

            "So you want to be a cub full time?" Timmy shook his head.

 

            "Not yet.  But I think there'll be a time when I won't be able to help it.  But I'd like to keep working until that time comes, on one condition."

 

            "What's that?"

 

            "I want to have at least one day like today every month."  Michelle gave him a genuine smile.

 

            "I think Misha will agree to that."

 

            "And..."

 

            "And?"

 

            "Can Tanabi come over to play?"