Graffiti From The Apocalypse
“Will the last one left alive
Please turn out the lights.”
When all our technological wonders of communication were taken away: cell phones, blogs, email, forums, TV and the radio, and even the good old paper post, that’s what we were left with: writing on the walls. Once just the territorial pissings of the slow, for lack of any option it had become society’s medium of last resort. Notes from family and friends desperate to unite; warnings to anyone left to heed; bitterness venting to a cold and uncaring universe, to the gods that just maybe weren’t there after all, or worse, had thrown up their paws in disgust and resignation. And a common thread through it all, a desperate plea not to be forgotten. Somefur, somewhere, please, allow us to live on in memory if nothing else. I’d seen it all in my flight, all different but really just the same. On walls and windows, burned out houses and derelict cars. Left there by other refugees on their ways to and fro. All the same in substance if not detail. Except the paint on this wall was still wet.
Given everything else that was slowly going wrong with the world; you would have been hard pressed to find somefur that would have paid long odds on the end of the world being brought about by holes. Spreading, three-dimensional ink blots of black nothing that just started showing up across the world one day, slowly merging; growing, and multiplying across the planet. And nothing that went into them was ever seen again.
Except for the Shadows. Capital ‘S’. Nofur knew just what they were either…hominid shapes that looked to be the same stuff as whatever the holes were. Except they came out and hunted things. They killed the lucky ones: sometimes they drug furs back in with them instead. I was happier not knowing why. It would soon be discovered that the Shadows couldn’t be killed, not exactly. Sure they were solid and all, but when they got injured they just sort of dissipated back into nothing. Until they could reform, then they would pop back out of whichever hole they had originally come from. At which point they would be right back after you unless they were distracted somewhere else along the line.
That was the good news about the shadows: they weren’t all that bright. Hunting instinct, yes. Cognitive ability, not by all indications. Physically, aside from being creepy, they weren’t too much more capable than your average fur. A bit faster, and about equally strong. No one knew what to make of them, really.
They say discretion is the better part of valor…that means that the stupid tend to die first. I’m not stupid. When things I don’t know how to kill started invading the suburbs, I took the first thing with gas in it I could get my paws on and got my vulpine butt out of town. That had been four, no, five months ago now. The holes spread with no rhyme or reason, but the Shadows at first seemed to stick to the major urban centers. At least they did until they ran out of things to hunt. Then went the smaller towns, rural outposts, even the large highway convoys. Anywhere that furs congregated in groups. And the whole time the holes were spreading.
A lot can happen in five months and many hundreds of thousands of miles. I was on vehicle number seven, a two ton commercial diesel flatbed tow truck. I’d nearly cried the day I had to abandon the half million credit sports coupe I’d been driving previously, but there just wasn’t any usable gasoline left…all the stabilized stuff had been in military bases and first responder facilities: half of them had been absorbed by the holes, the other half were just too dangerous to get to. I’d totaled out three others before that (only two were my fault though…) and abandoned the one before the ‘shiny yellow toy’.
I’d been shot at several times (the wrecked car that wasn’t my fault), nearly caught in a huge fire, had run-ins with Shadows, been out of food, out of gas, out of water, and out of ammo. I even came pretty close to getting sacrificed by some whacko doomsday cult. The end of the world had been pretty good for the religious lunatic business, by the way… After all that all I really wanted to do was keep my head down and survive, which brought me back to the writing on the wall.
I hadn’t seen another living fur in probably two months, nor evidence of them in too much more recent times. It had to be one of us: Shadows couldn’t write. Hell by most evidence they couldn’t even see. Other furs could be a danger…on the other paw, who knows how many survivors are actually left.
It would be dark soon, then I’d just need to find some altitude and look for lights. Light never seemed to attract the Shadows, so it was much better to keep some on at night, make it harder to be crept up on. This particular part of the country used a lot of hydroelectric power, so in some places the grids were even up.
I had used the last of the daylight to find a good sized hill overlooking the little town, and sure enough, once it got dark I spotted a house out in the suburbs that was lit up like a beacon. The hard part proved to be actually getting there. Furs don’t like to live places that seem too fabricated, so most planned communities tend to mix up their roads a bit instead of just using a grid. Makes them not feel like a planned community. It also can make them a real pain to find your way around in if you’ve never been there before. And don’t actually know where you’re going.
Several wrong turns later I quit caring and just started cutting through lawns. By this point in the game who really cares, it’s not like the homeowners are even coming back, and even if they did a few tire tracks and some run over shrubs are the least of anyfur’s problems these days. I eventually found the house, in a cul-du-sac pretty much in the middle of the neighborhood. There was a very battered import station wagon parked in the street a few houses down, by the look of it where the vehicle had finally given up the ghost. The backseat had a collection of cardboard boxes of various supplies: food, bottled water, batteries…
My guess would be that the owners got themselves in some trouble further out and came into town looking for a new ride, then decided to spend the night when the station wagon died on them. Going up the walk I knocked on the door a couple of times, waited, then when I got no answer knocked again. Not getting an answer didn’t bode well, but I’d come this far already…
The front door was locked, but it also had one of those stupid windows inset into it, so letting myself in was easy enough. “Hello?” I announced loudly as I reached through and flipped the lock. “Friendlies, coming in! Anyone here?” It would be just my luck for some idiot to blow my head off by accident… It was conceivable that something bad had happened to the owners of the car: either here or wherever they had busted up the vehicle. Cautiously I began to systematically search the house, starting up front and working my way back towards the bedrooms.
Somefur had definitely been here, there were dishes in the kitchen sink, out of habit I guess. Only one fur, judging by the contents. Dinner had been some kind of pasta salad thing with what smelled like salmon. My tummy grumbled, reminding me I’d not had anything more complex than macaroni and cheese in a long while…but where was the cook? My question was answered when I got to the back bedroom. So far all the interior doors had been open and the lights turned on. One of the bedroom doors was closed.
“Well, guess this is it then.” I said to myself as I knocked on the door. (After this long without company I had started talking to myself, just for the noise.) The lights in the room were off, and it took me a minute of fumbling around to find the switch, then suddenly it sprung to life. My mysterious traveler turned out to be a she, and the reason I’d not gotten a response became quickly obvious.
The vixen curled up on the water bed was wearing a pair of high dollar noise canceling headphones. Probably not the best way to not become something’s dinner, but then neither is lack of sleep… She looked to be about my age, and had the coloration of arctic heritage, but with a few little red-orange spots throughout the black and grey markings of her silver coat. She looked really peaceful there curled up under the sheets with her muzzle half buried beneath the pillows, and I couldn’t help but feel a little protective of this stranger I had yet to actually even meet.
How does one go about tactfully waking up a stranger who has no reason to think you don’t intend them harm? I was debating this most important of questions when the light woke her up, rendering the point moot. Jerking up, she pulled off the headphones with that look of confusion one gets when quickly roused from a deep sleep. “Umm… Hi. I saw your note at the gas station…” I said lamely. Social interaction has never been one of my strong suits, and talking to a really cute vixen was only making things worse. “I didn’t know there was anyone left.” She yawned happily “I’ve not seen anyfur in…well probably more than a month now!” “Me neither.” I nodded, flopping down in a chair next to the bed. “My name is Nick.” “Lilly. It’s fantastic to meet you, Nick.”
We talked for quite some time, with me pointedly not staring at the pacifier on a pink ribbon Lilly was wearing around her neck. She had been traveling sort of crossways to the direction I had been going, and if she hadn’t taken a bad risk in a grocery store a few towns south we would probably have just passed on by. “Well, I’ve got plenty of room in the truck I’ve got, we can clean out your car in the morning if you’d like to come with me…” “I was really hoping you would offer.” Lilly admitted, looking relieved. “I sort of thought it was a foregone conclusion.” I shrugged “I know I don’t want to be alone during all this.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she laughed, jumping up and giving me a hug. Under the sheets, she was wearing a diaper. “So, what’s with the…umm…” I asked, doing my best to sound tactful. “I like them.” Lilly explained without a hint of self-consciousness “Little kit things make me feel comfy and safe.” “Not enough of that right now.” I agreed, to her delight, earning an enthusiastic hug. “The world is ending, anything that gives you a sense of security is just fine as far as I’m concerned.” “So, you’re going to play too, then?” she asked slyly. “We’ll talk about that later, kit.” I yawned, not saying ‘yes’. Or ‘no’. “You do look pretty tired…” Lilly observed “When was the last time you slept?” “About eighteen hundred miles south-east of here.”
“That’s no good.” Lilly informed me “It’s probably time for you to have a nap too. There aren’t any Shadows for miles, you may as well get some rest.” “How do you know that?” I grumbled, unconvinced. Reaching around the other side of the bed, she handed me a large starlight spotting scope with some kind of lens filter attached to it. “They glow in the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums. If you take the spectrum regulator off of one of these and put on an IR lens filter from a digital camera you can see them from miles away. I thought everyfur knew that…” “I didn’t get the memo, no.” I shrugged, pulling off my boots. “I’ve been keeping away from population centers since a week after this mess started.” “I’ll fill you in on the road.” Lilly nodded “But now it’s naptimes.”
The more I thought about it, the more naptimes sounded like an idea I could get behind. Folding up everything but my boxers, I set them in a neat pile on the dresser, then started looking around for a comfortable looking bit of floor. “Get up here, silly!” Lilly laughed, realizing what I was doing “The previous residents bought a nice bed!” Shrugging, I climbed in next to her chastely. She was right about the bed… “ ‘Night.” “Good night.”
I almost expected to wake up in the morning to discover that Lilly had been a dream, but dreams don’t hog the pillows. She looked quite content aside from more gnawing on rather than sucking on her pacifier. I didn’t see any particular reason to wake her up earlier than necessary, so I got dressed and went to see what I could dig up for breakfast.
The answer turned out to be ‘not much’. The electricity must only be working intermittently because all the perishables in the fridge had spoiled. That pretty much ruled out cooking anything breakfast-like…no milk, eggs, non-vegetable shortening, or meats. I did find a couple jugs of unopened juice in the pantry along with oatmeal packets and several half eaten boxes of dry cereal that were stale but hadn’t been claimed by the ‘critters yet. Setting it all out on the table, I continued digging around until I unearthed a package of tinned meat and a packet of chili seasoning. Sliced thin and fried crispy, it might not be very appetizing, but it was a source of protein.
“Something smells good!” Lilly announced as she padded into the kitchen, still wearing nothing but a diaper and her paci-on-a-ribbon. “It’s deceiving.” I warned “It’ll only be passably edible at best. Once the fridge goes there’s not much to work with.” “I’ll take some anyway.” She decided “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day you know.” “Every meal is the most important meal of the day.” I nodded seriously as I joined her at the table.
Despite its limitations, breakfast disappeared quickly and soon it was time to start thinking about moving on again. Staying for too long in towns was a Bad Idea. We both had backpacks we had left back in the bedroom, so leaving involved some rounding up of property. “Were you going to get dressed before we left?” I asked jokingly as she grabbed a plushie I’d not noticed the night before and tossed it in her backpack. “Aww…” she giggled wiggling her diaper-clad butt in my direction “You don’t like my tail?” “It’s a very nice tail.” I explained in a conciliatory tone “But where were you planning on keeping stuff without pockets?” “I hadn’t thought of that.” Lilly nodded, equally seriously before getting dressed.
I pulled up the truck next to the mortal remains of her car as she began unloading her stuff onto the curb. She had quite a lot more of it than I thought, but I didn’t have much in the back seats of the truck, so it mostly worked out. “You know” Lilly suggested as we shuffled around the last few things so I could see out the back window “this is a tow truck. We ought to go find another station wagon that runs, then winch it up on the back and use it for storage…” “That’s a good idea.” I agreed, shutting the back doors and giving Lilly a paw up into the passenger seat. (The step-up bar on the passenger side had gotten smacked forward into the wheel well and I’d ended up having to cut what was left of it off with a hacksaw.) “I’m not sure how this thing actually works, but we can probably figure it out…”
After everything was properly stowed away and we had both settled in we continued cruising the neighborhood where Lilly had left off the night before. Finding an appropriate vehicle was more difficult than you would expect: mostly all diesel cars are imports, and a lot of those were economy models; diesel wagons tended to be almost exclusively import luxury vehicles, which aren’t a large part of the market. It took quite a bit of looking but Lilly eventually spotted a suitable candidate through somefur’s garage window. (Which rather impressed me—my new companion had a keen eye!)
The former residents hadn’t bothered to lock the door on the way out, and the house showed the chaotic whirlwind of a hasty exit. “I guess they weren’t planning on coming back…” Lilly observed dryly after nearly tripping over a pile of clothes in the hallway. “Just more of the same.” I nodded “A kitchen full of food and a gas can for the mower in the garage, and they take the TV and jewelry box…” After a brief search I found two sets of keys for the car in a bowl on the microwave, but aside from that there wasn’t anything of use in the place, and after another thirty minutes of getting the car up on the flatbed and chained down well enough to stay there we were ready to get going again.
“So which way then?” Lilly asked as we got to the town’s intersection with the highway. “North-west into the flatlands.” I explained “There’s a lot of little speed bump towns out there, and some good sized national parks. Nothing with populations big enough for riots or rich enough to be looted to the walls already…just perfect for us to hide out for a while.” “Sounds good.” Lilly agreed “We might even find some farmhouses with bits of gardens left. It’s been longer than I’d like since I’ve had fresh produce…” “I wouldn’t say ‘no’.” I agreed, pulling onto the road at a leisurely pace.
We lapsed into a comfortable silence for a while as we went down the road. This particular stretch wasn’t too bad. The more rural areas had the benefit of not usually having the miles-long traffic pileups of the cities. “Take a look at the map and pick us out a good north/south road.” I suggested “There’s a marked-up one in one of my packs that I’ve been using…” ‘My pack’ turned out to not be descriptive enough after moving everything around in the back, and Lilly had to eventually give up and just start rummaging around in the supplies.
“What did you do, rob a hospital?” Lilly asked, apparently having found my medic’s bag. “Yes.” I agreed. “Oh. I see.” She nodded. “A lot of that’s recreational, but on the other paw if I got banged up on the road where would I be able to go nowadays?” “I’m not sure I like the sound of that first part.” She grumbled, giving me a stern look. “It is what it is.” I shrugged “I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping, then trouble concentrating, headaches, tummy aches…I’d rather mitigate symptoms than get distracted and have the Shadows grab me.” Lilly just snorted and went back to looking for the map bag, but I was pretty sure we weren’t done with this discussion.
The maps eventually turned up and Lilly set about picking out a route. “If we take County 112, that loops around through the hills for a long way northbound, then drops down south again and lets out on an interstate highway that goes through the southern bit of the flatlands by the state line.” “Sounds promising.” I nodded, pulling over to look at the route she traced over with her finger. “I think that will do nicely.” I agreed “Lots of little places, but nothing too populated, good and rural, and it’ll even probably have some nice scenery. We might even be able to pull some fish out of that stream along there…”
The turnoff ended up being a little tricky to locate, but in about two hours we were headed up into the hills. “Maybe we could stop for lunch in a bit?” Lilly suggested “I could stand to stretch my legs for a while…” The clock on the dashboard was saying it was after 2:00, I’d not realized it had gotten as late as it had. “The next pull-out we find will be lunchtime!” I promised “I need to mark the travel log anyway…”
There was a scenic overlook at the top of a particularly big hill about ten minutes up the road that even had concrete picnic tables and one of those cast iron barbecue grills the highway department used to put out in the 1930’s. “How’s this?” I offered as I pulled off the road. “If this is the best you have to offer I guess I can make do…” Lilly joked as she hopped out of the truck and scampered over to explore the overlook. Being more pessimistic, I took the opportunity to double check that everything was still tied down properly on the towing platform and that the truck hadn’t developed any glaring problems I might have missed previously. Better to do maintenance when not trying to flee from unimaginable horrors.
“I put foods out!” Lilly announced, popping under the hood where I was checking the fluids “We can eats any time you’re ready…” “Just making sure we can leave any time we’re ready, too.” I explained, dropping the hood. Grabbing a large aluminum case out of the back seat of the truck, I joined Lilly at the picnic table closest to the edge of the overlook, where she had set out a pretty decent looking (though equally random) lunch.
As long as we’re nom-ing, we might as well see what there is to see…” I explained, opening the case to reveal a large spotting scope and related hardware. “Ooh, nifty!” Lilly grinned appreciatively as I set up the folding tripod on the overlook wall. “Now scopes work differently from binoculars.” I explained as I screwed in a low magnification objective lens “They’re much higher power, so you don’t touch them, you just look through it. Otherwise your paws will make the image wiggle all over the place.” “How do you scan with them then?” she wondered.
“There’s nothing more attractive than a pretty female with intelligent questions!” I laughed, making Lilly blush. “The best way to do it is to scan with binocs and analyze with the scope.” Reaching back into the case, I handed her a pair of 12x40 binoculars.
“I see you’re got things covered on that front.” Lilly nodded cheerfully. “I try to.” I laughed, before immediately moving to correct a commonly held mistake most furs somehow pick up along the line. “Now hon, you’re doing it wrong.” I began, reaching over to where she was holding the binocular in front of her eyes. “The best way to go about it is to rest the viewing lenses against the underside of your brow ridge, so you’re kind of pushing up on them. They’re a lot more stable that way, and you’ll get a lot less eye strain.” “Okies!” she nodded attentively, switching the position of the binocs slightly before continuing. Lilly seemed quite content to play with the toys for a while, but I was ready for something to eat. “So you’re planning on standing watch then?” I joked, grabbing a handful of crackers “Give us advanced warning of chipmunk marauders?” “ ‘Zactly.” She agreed in a different, more child-like tone. “Can you eat and guard at the same time?” I cajoled. “I guess…” she agreed, taking a piece of jerky without shifting her attention from the optics.
Well if she wanted to have her fun that was fine, I just made a mental note to be sure she ate something before we eventually got back on the road. It wouldn’t do to have furs going hungry on my watch if they didn’t have to… “So, what do you see?” I asked idly as I helped myself to some of the jerky. “Trees. Rocks. A few little buildings down at the other end of the valley that could almost be a town if it just tried a little harder…” “Not finding much is always a good thing.” I agreed, opening a bottle of water and taking a drink.
“Put one of the high magnification objectives in the scope and let’s get a better look at that town.” I decided, moving over to the wall next to her. “So what am I looking for?” Lilly asked after getting everything situated. “Signs of habitation and anything out of the ordinary.” I lectured “Open or broken windows, flattened down plants, tire tracks that don’t seem to quite go where they should. Equipment that’s been left out. Anything like that.”
Lilly looked intently through the optics while I finished up my lunch. “Double check me, but I think this is the only thing that looks mildly suspicious.” She announced with a satisfied wave of her paw. Taking her place behind the optic, I saw a shiny new piece of chain with a padlock securing the gas pumps at the town’s one gas station. “Nothing else down there is shiny.” Lilly explained. “Good catch.” I praised “It was probably a regional owner trying to lock things down, but that’s exactly the sort of thing to watch.” After a few more minutes of observations I decided that “The town’s probably clear, let me just look around the hills on the outskirts too…Though the point is probably moot since it’ll take us a couple of hours to get there anyway, as much as this road loops around…”
“Do you think somefur would be hiding in the woods?” Lilly questioned “Why wouldn’t they be in the town?” “The town would be too obvious a place to shoot from unless there was already a fight going on to cover the noise.” I explained. “If you fire from in front of or behind buildings furs tend to assume you’re in them, and they draw fire.” “What exactly did you do before the end of the world?” Lilly asked as I finished putting everything up. “I sold TVs at Smart Choice.” I nodded seriously. “No you didn’t.” Lilly accused “That was out of a movie!” “Okay, you got me. I stole that line from a movie, I just didn’t figure you’d seen that movie…”
We puttered around the pull-out for a while longer, then grudgingly started getting ready to get back on the road again. “I’ve got to take a leak before we get going.” I decided. “I don’t.” Lilly informed me expectantly. “Umm… That’s nice?” I shrugged in confusion, not knowing what exactly this had to do with me, but not wanting to be potentially rude about it. “No, see… I don’t.” She repeated hopefully. “Oh…” I said with dawning comprehension “Umm… Well…” “Please?” Lilly cajoled, batting her eyelashes cutely. The ‘cute look’ is a sneaky, underhanded trick. It also usually works.
“Okay.” I shrugged. What’s the harm anyway? “Though I should warn you, I’ve no practical experience in the matter…” “Yay!” Lilly laughed gleefully, tail wagging with unrestrained enthusiasm. “We need a flat, relatively clean surface.” I mused “And unfortunately I don’t think anything this side of a sandblaster will get the dried on gunk off those picnic tables… Though… Hmm…” Having an idea, I told Lilly to hold on for a second, then moved the truck forward so that the front bumper almost touched the nearest of the tables. This put the hood of the big commercial vehicle at the perfect level to be used as a changing table if you stood on the picnic table’s bench.
“How about a nice clean hood?” I grinned proudly. It apparently met with Lilly’s approval, as she was already emerging from the cab of the truck with a large, rolled up beach towel and a cute little pink backpack with a variety of flower patches sewn onto it and a collection of pastel safety pins attached to the top strap. Her tail, I observed, had yet to slow its wagging as she spread the beach towel on the hood and scrambled up over the push bumper after it. “Well, I guess privacy really won’t be much of a problem…” I commented, turning to the backpack Lilly had brought along with the towel. “Nope nope!” she agreed in her little kit voice. Glancing up from the bag I saw Lilly busy taking off her shirt and unbuttoning her jeans, not content to wait for me. “Or modesty for that matter.”
Lilly just stuck her tongue out at me, then seemed to get distracted playing with her toes while I finished digging out what I assumed were all necessary supplies from her quite well stocked diaper bag. “Now you’re just being insolent for the sake of being insolent.” I accused, good-naturedly tapping her on the end of her muzzle with my finger. “A little bit.” She agreed playfully, batting at my nose with the end of her tail.
“Let’s see how these work…” I mused, looking at the now more than slightly bulging front of Lilly’s diaper. Everything fastened up with adhesive tapes, which was a whole lot better than the amount of apologizing that would be involved in the use of pins. Unfastening the tapes, I folded down the front of her diaper, then threaded her tail through the tail hole and slipped it out from under her, tossing it in the pull-off’s trash drum. There would never be a crew coming around to empty it, and for all anyone knew the holes could claim this place tomorrow, but it still didn’t feel right to just toss trash on the ground. Taking a package of wipes form the bag, I began to clean off Lilly’s diaper area. The reddish-orange highlights in her fur continued right on down to her toes, I noticed, trying to not seem like I was concentrating too much on…err…certain areas. Which is pretty hard to do when you’re wiping down the beforementioned areas… Lilly, meanwhile, seemed quite amused by watching me blush.
“There we go, all clean!” I declared after deciding everything was about as clean as they were going to get. “Now, how about we get you into a nice fresh dry one?” “Uh huh.” She nodded eagerly. Reaching in to the backpack again I produced a new diaper, threading Lilly’s tail through the tail hole, before asking her to “Lift up a little so I can slide this under you, please.” She readily complied, then I adjusted the tabs on the tail hole carefully before tapping the hood to get her to sit back down. I would much prefer to be careful rather than have her leak on my seats. “Now for some powder…” I said, sprinkling on quite a bit more than I expected. The holes in the little plastic can were deceptively large… “Oops.” I sighed mildly, brushing the excess off with the corner of the beach towel “That wasn’t exactly what I was expecting…I did warn you I’d not done this before…” Lilly just shrugged. “It’s okays. It’s only powder.”
Folding up the front of the diaper, I again carefully attended to the tapes before announcing “That should just about do it! Now let’s just get you dressed, and we can be on our way!” “Do I hafta?” Lilly asked “We’s not going to be there for hours, an’ I want’a go naptimes.” “Well I don’t see a problem with that.” I shrugged. Then, much to Lilly’s surprise, I scooped her up off the hood and carried her over to the passenger side of the truck, depositing her on the seat. “You would have gotten your paws dirty without shoes.” I said by way of explanation to the wildly giggling vixen. “Whee!” “I take it everything meets with your approval then…”
After sorting out and putting up the last of our stuff I draped Lilly’s clothes neatly over the back seat, fired up the engine, and away we went. With a little bit of shuffling of the stuff in the back Lilly was able to lean her seat most of the way flat, and after producing a large plush cat had settled down quite happily, but had yet to fall asleep. I put down my window, and lowered Lilly’s about halfway, so we had a pleasant little breeze going and everything. “It’s nice not having to drive for a change.” Lilly yawned idly “I’ve been on the road too long…” “We all have, hun, we all have. I didn’t even know you could get this tired of living out of a car.” “Once we get somewhere flat I can take over some of the driving. When we don’t have to worry about me running us off a cliff by accident. Then you can have some little kit time and I’ll be the grownup for a while.” I let that one pass without a response.
I glanced at the folded up map behind the shifter, wishing for the millionth time that the satellite GPS system still worked: I knew where I was going but was less clear on where I was. The holes, it had been discovered with much consternation, absorbed radio waves, microwaves, and pretty much everything else a fur cared to try to bounce through them. As they grew the effective range of the world’s technology shrank in proportion. Since it was all basically useless I’d been slowly dismantling the truck’s array of communication and navigation bits and discarding them as I went. They took up room and were good for little else.
“Think we’ll get there before dark?” Lilly wondered mildly. “Probably a little after it.” I decided “But you can show off your Shadow detector…That will be fun, won’t it?” “Yeppers!” she agreed “I built it myself and everything!” “Well, I didn’t expect that you could just pick one up at the store. We never stocked them at work anyway.” I joked. “Sounds like a failure of management.” She decided seriously “They were all the rage back when there were furs still left alive to buy things.” “Yeah, the end of the world is kind of a downer like that…”
We lapsed into a comfortable silence after that, Lilly exploring the maps and I concentrating on the road, but both enjoying the others’ company. It wasn’t particularly difficult driving, but with the loaded tow truck it wasn’t stunningly fun driving either. “Find somewhere to stop a minute and take a look at this.” Lilly suggested with mildly confused curiosity. “There’s not much branching off from this road, except in this spot right here where there’s an almost highway sized offshoot that just goes out for a distance then stops at what looks like nowhere… Any idea about that?” “Well, it might have been a failed vacation resort, but they usually name the roads for those right away.” I mused “So my first guess would be some sort of old military facility, maybe a leftover SAC-NIKE site or something. Might be worth taking a look…”
Several more miles down the road we came to the turnoff. Whatever it was wasn’t visible from the road, and we speculated on what it might be as Lilly got dressed and I drove down the wide but poorly maintained road. “I’ll bet it’s a pizza place.” Lilly decided optimistically. “We’ll see in a minute.” I shrugged. I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be a pizza place. Which was too bad, really. Rounding a corner we found ourselves at a gate in a long, razor wire topped hurricane fence around a small cluster of buildings. The sign on the gate blandly announced we had located ‘Camp Stevenson”. “A National Guard armory.” I almost giggled with unrestrained glee. “Score!”
“I don’t understand.” Lilly stated as I got a pair of bolt cutters from behind the back seat “It’s not marked on the map…” “They rarely are.” I explained as I lopped the lock off the gate “In the event of civil unrest they don’t want furs like me to come by and loot the place.” “Like we’re doing now.” Lilly sighed. “Oh don’t be all moralistic with me. My tax dollars paid for all this, so it’s even less stealing than it usually is!” “This doesn’t bother you, does it?” “Not even a little bit.”
Driving through the base revealed that there was not a lot there: some offices, a combination mess/barracks, small arms range, vehicle maintenance shed, and lastly a squat, windowless concrete building with a set of heavy steel doors. “That’s the one we want.” I declared eagerly “Let’s just stop at the maintenance building and get a key.” The ‘key’ turned out to be neatly put away with the other tools, and Lilly couldn’t help but roll her eyes as I rolled out a cutting torch, its twin gas tanks sitting neatly on their pushcart. “Is that really a good idea?” she asked nervously as I wheeled it over to the armory doors. “Best one today.” I nodded, my tail wagging in anticipation of the toys that might be waiting inside.
Grabbing a pair of goggles from the cart, I fired up the torch and began the tedious task of cutting the latch out of the door. Modern commercial vaults are made up of alternating layers of metal designed to dissipate heat and make them harder to cut. They’re also expensive. This one was both older and cheaper, so it was a lot less trouble than it could have been. “I’m going to see what else there is around here.” Lilly decided, getting bored with the less than entertaining task and wandering off. I didn’t blame her, I was getting bored with it pretty quickly too.
After much longer than I had expected I finished up and was having some water waiting for the metal to cool enough to pry open with a crowbar, when Lilly returned, grabbing a water of her own and taking a seat next to me on the truck’s hood. “Well I found lots of cooking stuff, but the only food lying around was a couple cases of those army dinners…They were kind of heavy, so I thought we could grab them on the way out.” “It tends to be less trouble that way.” I agreed, sipping my water. “Other than that there doesn’t seem to be much of anything here. And the utilities aren’t even turned on: no power or water.” “I guess they didn’t have time to activate the place.” I sighed “That’s going to be the story of the last days of the world: the call went out, but there was nobody left to answer.” “True enough.” Lilly agreed “Which reminds me…” Rooting around in her stuff Lilly produced a large red marker and scribbled ‘Ahoy Maties!’ on the armory wall, adding a very cheerful looking skull and crossbones. The skull was sticking out its tongue. Lilly was apparently actually a really good artist…adding a few extra lines with a flourish, she gave the picture a pretty realistic sense of depth.
Stretching my shoulders out I put the cap back on my water and picked up the crowbar again, heading back to the door. “You’re really good at that.” I complimented as I poked around looking for a spot with good leverage. “I was a graphic designer for a marketing firm back when there were such things.” “Maybe we should get you some coloring books then.” I suggested, putting my weight behind the tool and earning an unpleasant squeal from the door. “I’ve got quite a few of them.” She nodded “They’re fun!” Giving it another sharp push, I heard something snap and the latch fell off into the building, leaving the door to swing free.
“Right.” I grinned, trading the crowbar for a flashlight and digging a large revolver in a padded holster from the armrest of the truck “Let’s see what’s behind door number two!” “Your tail is actually producing a breeze!” Lilly grinned, shaking her head. “I’m looking forward to getting something a bit heftier.” I agreed “The tow truck was owned by a repo guy who left this in it. It uses .410 #12 shot…he didn’t want to actually kill anyone, just scare them off.” “That was good of him.” Lilly said with approval. “Maybe, but it didn’t do him any good: I found it on the floorboard shot empty, and there was blood all over the ground and down the side of the cab. He probably ended up wishing he had something heftier too…” Lilly shivered, not having anything to say to that, but I could tell she was feeling a lot more nervous than she had been.
“Aww, honey, I’m sorry. I guess that was too much information…” I sighed, trying to think of how to set it right again. “How about this: after we’re finished up here I’ll feed you a bottle of that juice we have from yesterday, and maybe we can clean out the backseat some and set you up a nice little spot to do some coloring or something. How does that sound?” “Okies…” Lilly nodded, cheering up a bit and following me inside.
The building was obviously designed as a lowest bid proposition. The door I cut through led to an entryway/office with several desks, filing cabinets, and a main counter like you would see in any other warehouse in the country. Behind the counter ran a hallway with storage rooms branching off on either side at neat intervals. All of it was made of poured concrete, steel, unfinished wood and industrial light fixtures. Which, without power, just sulked sullenly in the ceilings. The builders hadn’t bothered with acoustic tiles in a drop ceiling, so every step we took echoed throughout the building.
“Cheery sort of place, isn’t it?” Lilly grumbled, taking her own little mini-flashlight from a pocket and adding its illumination to the much brighter beam of my full-sized one. “It has its appeal. And you have to love that ‘old gun store’ smell!” I disagreed, pulling open the steel door of the first storage room we came to. “For instance: that.” Shining my light into the room revealed rack upon rack of the military’s standard issue assault rifles, a light coating of oil causing their matte black plastic furniture to shine dully. Upon a closer examination I sighed in disappointment. “These are ancient… I guess I should have expected as much: the poor furs in the guard are always getting stuck with hand-me-down junk from the rich boys. It’s a damn shame really since they put just as much on the line as the rest of them.”
“They look just like the ones on the news.” Lilly wondered “What’s the difference?” “The triangle handguards tip you off.” I explained “They made them like that way back in the 1960’s…” Walking down the rows with increasing dissatisfaction, I selected guns at random, popping out receiver pins and checking their mechanical condition. Pins rattled in holes, springs bound, and gas blocks wiggled all down the line. “I could maybe put together a few good ones from parts, but these are really rough.” I sighed, obviously disappointed.
We continued down the hallway, but it was just more of the same until we got to the fifth or sixth room, which turned out to be where they stored the handguns. Looking them over I found on average they were a great deal newer and in better condition overall. They were still leftovers, but this time at least they had been sent in for ‘factory thorough repair’ and probably wouldn’t fall apart when somefur tried to use them. “You look less displeased this time.” Lilly observed. “I’d have preferred a heavier caliber than these M9 models, but at least these will work reliably.” I nodded as we moved back to the hallway.
The next several rooms were filled with pallets of flat green dry storage cans, their paper seals announcing the contents and declaring them to be ‘factory fresh’. Finally, the last rooms were all proving to be empty, a fine coating of dust testifying to them not having been disturbed for a long while. For the sake of thoroughness I went all the way to the end of the row, where, at the very last pair of doors I was given a surprise.
One of the doors at the far end of the hall had been fitted with one of those sliding circular hasp padlocks furs tended to use on storage lockers in bad parts of town. “Well what have we here?” Lilly asked curiously. “I don’t know, but let me go get the welder and we can sure find out…” Rolling the tank cart nosily down the hall found me in a very cheerful mood. Grinding the handheld sparker, I lit up the torch, which was soon followed by the dull ‘clunk’ of the now useless lock making acquaintance with the concrete floor. Grabbing the door’s latching bar I gave it a sharp tug, breaking through the splatter from the lock before it had time to cool and attach itself permanently to things I didn’t want it to. Like the latching bar.
Swinging the heavy door open, I shined my light inside and my tail began wagging uncontrollably. “What?” Lilly asked, moving behind me in the hallway. “We found some armorer’s private stash!” I laughed in absolute glee. A clipboard with a handwritten inventory list hung to the right of the door, attached to a hook somefur had epoxied to the concrete wall. (Less trouble than trying to drill it I guess…) Taking the list, I retreated to the hallway to pursue it in better light.
The top of the list declared it ‘Inventory: non-issue special use’, and ‘special use’ in this case could easily have been wiping out your choice of third world countries. “I don’t think I’ve seen that look on somefur’s muzzle outside of a toy store…” Lilly observed mildly, trying to read the inventory chart over my shoulder. Handing her the clipboard, I just nodded. “That’s a fair comparison.”
We went back out to the truck for a while and started migrating stuff from the backseat to the station wagon until it was clear enough to be used, at which point I flipped up the bench, showing Lilly the built in storage compartment. “Huh.” She said, eyeing the space. “Like that when I found it.” I shrugged “I’m not complaining, mind you. Though I suppose it could stand to be a bit larger. Actually, when you think about it, it was really quite inconsiderate of him not to factor it into his purchasing decision…” “I’m sure the thought keeps him up at night.” Lilly sighed. “Well at least I got the back seat all fluffy for you.” I pointed out.
Much as I would have liked to I couldn’t just take everything, I had pursued the list and made selections (mostly) based on the items’ potential usefulness. No mater how personally satisfying any particular thing might have been to own, if I couldn’t get ammo for it readily or if it was too complex to be reasonably sure I could repair it, then realistically it wasn’t more than dead weight. From a collectors standpoint it was a heart wrenching process, deciding what would be taken and what left behind.
“It’s going to be okay.” Lilly joked, patting my shoulder “You don’t have to look so sad.” “It’s an epic battle between greed and common sense.” I sighed “You couldn’t possibly understand the internal conflicts that are involved here…” “You look like you need a naptime.” She observed “Maybe we should take a break once we’re out of here…” “I might.” I agreed “But let’s get this done before we start planning too far ahead.”
We had packed my selections, taken more ammo than Lilly thought we could ever use, snagged the cases of MREs she had found earlier, and worked our way back to the main road to continue on our way. Once we were far enough down the line we had escaped the risk of me turning around and going back for something we had left behind Lilly announced that “We’re going to stop at the next pull-out and you’re going to take a nap!”
“That’s not really necessary.” I disagreed “We’ll make that little town in a couple of hours and then we can settle down for the night.” “You really look like you need it.” She explained gently “You can either do it, or I can bug you about it until you do it. It’s pretty straightforward, really.” “You’re not going to give up on it eventually?” I sighed. “Nope. I’m not planning on it, nope!” “I’ll acquiesce then.” I sighed. The path of least resistance was looking pretty good at the moment, and even though I’d only known her for about two days I was pretty sure Lilly was the sort of fur who could make good on that particular threat.
Ten minutes or so later we found a nice little pull-out and stopped for a bit. It didn’t have any facilities this time, but the view was nice and it was shaded from the late afternoon sun. We put down all four windows and I was starting to recline my seat back when Lilly interjected. “Nope. In the back please.” She corrected. Not bothering to argue, I climbed over the center console and settled down on the bench seat. It was a lot more comfortable than it looked. There were a couple of pillows that must have been part of Lilly’s things and I was able to get situated pretty happily. Lilly reclined her seat back a good bit, and after fiddling around with the radio got a CD of some nice, low key classical piece going. “I’ve got an Mp3 player too.” She told me “But it’s up in the wagon and I don’t really feel like digging it out right now.” “Well if you insist on being lazy about it…” I teased “Though I must admit disappointment with your work ethic.”
Reaching across the seat Lilly popped a paci in my muzzle. “Hush, you. It’s really hard to talk and nap at the same time!” she laughed, looking very pleased with herself. “Don’t think you’re getting it back.” I informed her around a mouthful of paci “It’s mine now!” “That’s quite all right.” Lilly agreed in a motherly tone of voice “You look cute with it anyway.” “Great.” I yawned, closing my eyes “The greatest ambition in my life has been to look cute…”
While I took my nap Lilly organized our ‘storage car’ a bit better, migrating some things back and forth until she was happy with where everything had ended up living. When that was taken care of she hopped back up in the cab of the truck and settled in with a bag of random balls of yarn, knitting needles, scissors, and other odds and ends. Knitting had been a trendy hobby in the months leading up to the end of the world, and one of Lilly’s friends had gotten her hooked on it several months previous. She had enjoyed the social aspect of it, sitting around and chatting while her paws were occupied in a repetitive little task. She wasn’t very good at it yet, but still she could make a mean scarf. And it was relaxing; it helped take her mind off of things…
When I woke back up the first thing I noticed was that the pacifier was still in my muzzle. The next thing I noticed was that it was pitch dark out, a shining veil of stars scattered across the moonless night sky. Lilly was knitting something under the map light, the knitting needles clicking rhythmically. “You should have woken me up hours ago.” I chided, feeling too happily rested to really mean it. “Probably.” Lilly agreed “But you looked too contented to bother.”
“Shall we then?” I asked, waving at the road. “I think so, yes.” She nodded seriously as I got back in the driver’s seat and cranked over the ignition. I put up the back windows while Lilly packed her project back up. Then before pulling back out onto the road I flicked a set of switches mounted to an auxiliary panel on the ceiling just above the rearview mirror. The road in front of us was instantly illuminated almost as if by daylight. “Whoa.” Lilly grinned, obviously impressed by the sight. “You really don’t mess around with headlights, do you?” “Headlights are a serious matter.” I nodded “I’m always on the lookout for something that could be useful. “What are they, anyway?” “Mostly bits and pieces out of the takedown lights off of police cars. There’s also a few goodies I got from an airport repair facility…just this and that really.” “You are the strangest fox I’ve ever met.” Lilly decided firmly. “We need to find you a shirt that says ‘Needs Adult Supervision’ or something.” “I always was more partial to ‘Warning: Flammable’ myself… I’ve had a lot of good times over the years with things carrying that label!”
“You are a stunningly bad example, you know that?” “Just wait until we break out some of the goodies from that National Guard base...” I laughed gleefully “I’ll show you whole new worlds of bad example!” “You’re really easy to entertain, you know that? I just give you a few things that go ‘boom’ and you’re good to go!” “Be that as it may, you’re still not getting your paci back.”
It was still quite a while until we got to the little town we had observed those many hours ago at lunch. I stopped again a ways outside of it, and we observed it again with both the binocs and Lilly’s gadget, and it still looked just as abandoned as earlier in the day, so in we went. There turned out to be nothing there. I mean nothing there: the town’s residents had stripped every building to the walls on their way out. “Well,” I sighed, trying a faucet in the last house we checked “there goes my hope for a hot shower.” “Could we keep going? What’s next on the map?” Lilly wondered. “I don’t remember there being anything for quite a way.” I sighed. “Well, I’ve stayed at much worse.” Lilly shrugged “Some of these still have some reasonably clean carpeting, and they have walls and a roof...”
She was right of course. We unloaded our sleeping bags, flashlights, and some snacks, and were going to settle in when a thought struck me. “We forgot the gas station. I’ll run over and check it out real quick first.” I left the truck with Lilly and went over on foot with my crowbar. The pumps had been chained in, so there must have still been the rule of law when the town was abandoned, otherwise the residents would have cut them open and topped up on their way out. It was an older setup, I noticed, and didn’t carry diesel.
I shone my light thought the grimy glass on the door, then forced them open and let myself in. The place was old, and didn’t really have much worth the effort, but mostly because it started out that way. There was one shelf of snack foods, a freestanding cooler of soda, and various small-scale auto repair parts and personal hygiene products. There was a little office/storage closet in the back which contained more of the same. I grabbed a trash bag from a shelf behind the desk and tossed in an assortment of candy, sports drinks, and other more random things when I noticed something useful under the counter: one of those battery operated LED camping lanterns. They’re about the size and shape of an old hurricane lamp, but they use a couple of hundred white LEDs and either D-cell or those big 9 volt batteries. I was elated.
After quickly rounding up all the batteries I could find I made tracks back to the house Lilly and I had taken over. “Find something good?” she asked mildly as I cam barging back inside. “Why yes, yes I did.” I nodded, flicking the switch on the lantern, which flickered for a second then illuminated the room with that sort of blue-white electronic glow. “Very nice.” Lilly nodded “That’s quite a bit safer than using kerosene indoors...” I settled down next to Lilly where she had made a little spot in the corner of the room. Not really as a mater of cowering, but because without any furniture it provided the only convenient thing to lean on. Neither Lilly nor I had ever bothered to grab a fold-up lawn chair in our travels. It never really seemed to have been that big a priority.
Lilly had a book of Sudoku puzzles that she was working on, along with a bag of unsalted pretzels and one of my recently liberated bottles of sports drink. Since she was up anyway and the light wasn’t going to disturb her, I set about loading one of my new toys: and Ameri-Arms clone of a M-1921 chambered in .22 long. It took an ubiquitous round, had basically no recoil even when fired in full auto, and carried a truly staggering amount of ammo in its drum mags. What’s not to love? Aside from having to load an entire 500 round brick into each drum. “Planning on starting a bootlegging business?” Lilly joked, noticing my project. “It only looks like one of those. I’ve got a real one back in the truck though.” “That’s good. I would hate to think you had to settle for a knock-off.” Lilly agreed solemnly. “This one has a threaded barrel, and among other things I found a C/FA rated suppressor back at that base.” I grinned. “Yes, well I found pretzels!” “Touché.”
Lilly cheerfully Sudoku-ed away while I spent the next little while cursing creatively at the drums. Then I noticed that they had a keyhole where you could use a socket wrench to wind the spring. Oops. Well Lilly didn’t need to know that. It might tarnish my aura of mysterious infallibility. Since I was mostly done anyway I just finished it up by hand rather than going back out for my toolbox. I had brought in my cleaning bag and meticulously disassembled and checked the rifle. Aside from a coating of heavy grease on all the metal surfaces it was in impeccable condition. Whoever had put it in storage knew their stuff.
I put everything back together, attached the suppressor I’d found, and snapped on an old green web sling I’d scrounged up. Hopefully I could find something a bit nicer down the road. Snapping in a drum, I chambered a round, put the safety on, then leaned it next to me in the corner. “I got you a sidearm while I was looting earlier.” I told Lilly cheerfully, taking an M9 from my ‘to do’ box. “I think that’s the most romantic thing anyone has ever given me.” She nodded seriously. “I know, I’m really just a hopeless romantic at heart.” I grinned. I’d already stripped and serviced the M9 when I was selecting the best few from the armory, so I just had to top up a few magazines and put it all away in the leather duty belt I’d located.
“I couldn’t find a pink one.” I apologized, partially seriously, as I handed it over to Lilly. “I’ll live.” she shrugged. “That’s the idea.” I nodded a little too seriously. “Whoa, downer.” she laughed, trying to lighten the mood. “A little bit, maybe.” I nodded, stealing a pretzel. “But who knows, it could always be worse.” “I’d rather you not make suggestions, the universe might be listening!” Lilly laughed. “It can listen all it wants.” I yawned “I’m taking a nap.” Idly I did my best to settle down on the carpet. While I was rolling around trying to get comfortable I discovered a unfamiliar bump in one of my shirt pockets, which on closer inspection turned out to be the paci Lilly had silenced me with earlier in the day. On an impulse I popped it in my muzzle, and was asleep before I could notice Lilly’s pleased expression.
It snowed overnight. ‘Things getting worse ’and all that, I suppose... It would have been far less unpleasant had all the power not been out. Or if I’d had the sense to use my sleeping bag as something other than a ground pad. Which was my fault, really. Lilly had displayed more sense and was quite cheerful, if not a bit under-dressed, when I woke up and looked around blearily. My paci, I noticed, had stayed put overnight, which may have accounted for the big grin she had on her muzzle as she watched me sleep.
“I’m up.” I announced, surreptitiously slipping the paci back in my shirt pocket. Lilly gave me a look that clearly said I wasn’t fooling anyone, but she let it pass for the moment. Lilly had already gotten dressed, and was, I noticed approvingly, wearing her shiny new pistol. “Oddly enough, I still haven’t looted up a good cold weather coat.” I complained “Where I lived we had respectful weather, none of this frozen white sky vomit!” “How is you not having the sense to have a proper coat the weather’s fault?” Lilly countered cheerfully. I just grumbled a bit as I rolled up my sleeping bag.
“I suggest we have breakfast in the truck.” Lilly offered “I started it up a while ago, so it should be nice and toasty by now.” “Have I told you how much I love you?” I asked thankfully, grabbing as much of our stuff as I could carry so we would only have to make one trip “Though without a working kitchen I kind of wish you had gone with a phrase other than ‘toasty’.” I made good time sprinting to the truck despite my heavy load...freezing your tail off tends to do that, and I was quite happy to be thawing out in the back seat.
Lilly had a cardboard box of breakfasty stuff out already, and the last of the juice was only partially slushy, so it looked fairly good in terms of breakfast. “I just wish we could boil some water for cocoa.” Lilly lamented while I was busy putting on most of my extra clothes. “It just so happens...” I grinned, grabbing a couple of bottles of still-liquid water and a ceramic coffee cup, then motioned coyly for her to follow me back out into the cold.
I fished an MRE out of the station wagon and extracted a thin plastic bag with a funny little brown rectangle in the bottom. “I shall show you a trick, oh little kit...” I poured one of the bottles of water in the bag, then folded the top over on itself and taped it closed. In a few seconds the bag had inflated itself and had begun to steam in the cold air. “Chemical heater.” I grinned, mixing some cocoa in the ceramic mug and setting it up to heat over the bag. “Just don’t use them inside the truck if you can help it...” “A useful trick, that.” Lilly grinned, giving me a hug “Have I told you how much I love you today?” “It’s just a pity I don’t have any cocoa left for you...” I joked, before hauling myself back into the truck.
In a few minutes I was joined in the cab by Lilly and her steaming mug of cocoa. She climbed in the other side of the backseat from where I was sitting and sighed happily. “I like cocoa.” she told me seriously. “I’m glad you’re pleased.” I agreed through a mouthful of graham cracker. We had the defroster on full, but it was barely keeping up, and by the time we had mostly finished eating the snow had started to look more sleet-like...it was really just short of ugly out.
“We may as well get going.” I sighed, climbing into the front and putting the truck in gear. “There’s nothing to recommend us staying here, and maybe the next place will have power. Or at least a fireplace.” “Will it be okay driving in this?” Lilly wondered, joining me up front. “As much as anything else.” I shrugged “If it gets too rough we can always pull over…sitting around in the cab is pretty much the same no matter where we are.”
It was slow going, and I pretty much had to stick to the low gears. “If the weather was a little bit better we could stop and play for a while.” Lilly sighed. “Maybe later today.” I consoled “Time and distance could clear it up a little…” “I hope so.” She nodded “It’ll be a bit hard to inspect things from a distance in this weather.” “I’d been trying not to think about that.” I agreed. We drifted off into silence again after that for a while. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence or anything, the weather just sort of made everything feel a little dreary. It was a good day to be inside, just not inside a car.
As the morning progressed into the afternoon the weather just kept getting progressively worse and our progress comparatively slower. By the time the sound of sleet hitting the windshield was drowning out the noise made by the heater fan I was ready for the day to be over already. “I need to stretch out a bit.” I sighed “My toes feel like they’re considering going on strike for better working conditions!” “Well…” Lilly groaned as she grabbed the map from the dashboard “It looks like we’re in the middle of a great big chunk of nothing right now…except for maybe…yeah, that might be something… Unless it isn’t.”
“Well, out with it young one…” I laughed. “It looks like there’s an old railway tunnel just next to the road. It’s not a building but it will at least get us out of the weather for a little while… There!” she shouted, pointing off to the right. Instinctively I piled on the brakes, fishtailing the back end of the tow truck before coming to a halt. “Sorry.” Lilly cringed “I thought we were further out than this…” “It happens.” I assured her “It wouldn’t be the first dent I’ve put in this thing.”
With all the blowing snow the floods were worse than useless, which created a bit of a situation when approaching a three story hole in the side of a cliff via a rutted and overgrown path punctuated sporadically by a loose steel tie. “It’s certainly a tunnel.” I joked lamely, trying to lighten the mood a little. I stopped the truck about twenty yards from the entrance and turned to Lilly. “I’m going to put the floods on and creep in there. If anything feels wrong I’ll put it in reverse and stomp it; then hopefully we can haul tail down the road quick enough to not be worth the trouble.” “Sounds like a plan.” Lilly agreed. Putting the truck back in gear, we crept forward.
Hindsight proved it to all be rather anticlimactic. Once we’d made it in further than the windborne snow the headlamps had illuminated things all the way down to where the gentle curve of the track eventually blocked the view. Aside from old graffiti and some empty beer bottles there was nothing there to see.
We’d gotten out and walked around some, and while it was still cold without the wind and sleet it wasn’t too bad really. “Wonder how far this goes…” I mused, watching my flashlight beam disappear into the dark. Consulting the map, Lilly did a few quick calculations on her fingers. “Several miles linearly.” She decided “But it goes through instead of around like the road, so it would cut a lot more than that off our trip.” “It lets out near a little town, too.” I observed, looking over her shoulder. ”Relatively speaking, anyway.” “Do you think it’s passable all the way through.” “Probably.” I nodded “They’re built pretty solidly. You can pound hell out of a hard rock mine and anyfur inside would never even notice.”
Once the cold had gone from only mildly unpleasant to beginning to sting Lilly shooed me back into the truck and we continued down the road…err, tunnel. It was a bumpy ride, with one side or the other having to roll along the cross ties, but the heavy duty shocks did smooth it out a bit. “You’re still shivering some.” Lilly observed “We’re really going to have to find you a coat or something, otherwise you’ll end up catching cold!” “Yes, mother.” I sighed, rolling my eyes. All the jostling and vibrations coming up through the steering column was starting to make me sore and irritable, and I really didn’t want to deal with coats on top of everything else. “Watch your tone or you may find yourself in timeout!” she grinned. “I thought that was my line…” I laughed.
Despite shortening the route considerably it was still pretty slow going. I didn’t want to overdrive the headlights and come flying up on a cave-in. Or worse, a hole. Between the gentle slope of the tunnel and the bumpiness of the track I was only going moderately faster than I was out in the snow. But the driving was easier and we would still be making better time in the tunnel. “Can you imagine the old steamer cars they used to have?” I sighed “A hotel on wheels really would have been the way to travel way back when…” “Plus they had restaurants.” Lilly grinned, hearing my tummy grumble in irritation at my neglect.
“Did you want to stop and get some food?” Lilly asked indulgently. “It’s not like we’re on a tight schedule at the moment or anything.” “I think I’d rather keep on the move for a bit longer, at least until we’re back on an actual road for a change.” “That could be a while still.” She frowned a bit dubiously. “I think we’re pretty much there actually.” I explained “I’ve been clocking the distance on the trip odometer, and unless I’m really off about how long the tunnel is we’ve probably only got another thirty minutes or so.” “Well, it’s up to you…” she shrugged.
Roughly a half hour later we nearly hit the end of the tunnel. In the literal sense of the phrase: the exit was almost completely covered by a layer of icicles. “There’s something I’ve never seen before.” I mumbled curiously. Leaving the engine running, I got out, grabbing the 180 from where I hade braced it, barrel upwards, in the crack between the front seats, and cautiously approached the frozen wall.
Up close the ice wasn’t actually a solid wall, but rather drips and flows where water sheeting down the side of the mountain had slid down and frozen. “Hey Lilly! Come look at this!” I shouted and waved, motioning her over. “Pretty neat.” She agreed, joining me at the flow “But can we get through?” “Oh yeah, no problem.” I nodded “Most of it isn’t even an inch thick.” Finding one of the thinner spots I gave it a hard shove, dislodging a huge slab to topple onto the road outside. “I want to make a hole by hand though.” I decided “It would be no fun to scrape off a mirror or something by accident…”
A short amount of ice-whacking later and we were out; a dubious improvement at best considering the state of the weather. The first thing out of Lilly’s muzzle after we got back to the truck was “Right, you. Strip down and let’s get you dried off…I’m not having you get sick and die on me!” she had a point there: I’d done the brunt of the work with the ice, and lacking the proper clothing I’d soaked through to my fur pretty quickly under my shirt. The pants, luckily, were ripstop nylon, and pretty waterproof. They were also currently my only pair of non-shorts. I’d had to vacate a town where I was in the middle of doing laundry one day and my wardrobe was consequentially drastically reduced.
Lilly was already digging out a towel as I did my best to wiggle out of the various layers of shirts I was wearing while still behind the steering wheel and floor shifter. It turned out to be a bit trickier than I had thought, but then things usually are. Lilly enveloped me in the big towel she had grabbed and began vigorously drying me off. “Whoa! Hey! That’s good! Really!” I laughed, trying to bat away her overzealous ministrations a little. It didn’t do any good, and Lilly kept it up until she was satisfied I was as dry as I was going to get with the supplies on hand. Then she dotingly set the majority of the heater vents to point at me before being satisfied with her efforts.
“So. On to the next town then!” Lilly declared, waving us forward grandiosely “Somewhere nice this time if you don’t mind…” “Naw.” I grinned “I was planning on finding us a shotgun shack on top of a garbage dump. Something with a bit of ambiance and sophistication.” “You do know how to show a vixen a good time!” Lilly agreed seriously. “Who knows, it might even have a playground…” I continued. “What, in this weather?” she gasped, feigning shocked horror “You haven’t completed your cubsitter’s safety course, have you?” “Not all of it…” I whined, playing along “There was something good on TV that afternoon and I snuck out early.”
It took longer than we had thought to get to the next spot on the map, and I was beginning to get a little concerned that I had missed a turnoff or something. We hadn’t passed any roadside advertising or places where the pavement got wider: no signs of any bump in population to speak of. With the weather the way it was it was entirely possible that something could be twenty feet off the road one way or the other and Lilly and I would never see it.
“Wait! Over there!” Lilly announced, pointing her flashlight off to the right. Sure enough, once my vision wasn’t blinded by light reflecting back from the snow I could make out row after row of huge hulks looming off in the darkness. “Huh.” I mumbled, letting the engine idle “That’s really kind of obviously not a town. Heavy equipment storage for the highway department maybe?” “No!” Lilly giggled, overwhelmed with sudden enthusiasm “It’s an RV dealership! We can get a house!”
Her enthusiasm was contagious, and we were soon slowly cruising down the rows of what were actually tow trailers. There were a lot of them, cheap land trumping geographic convenience I suppose. “Let’s find the office, I want to look at brochures!” “More importantly, the keys will be there.” I agreed “I don’t want to have to break the door off something we’re keeping!” My prohibition did not however extend to the sales office, the door of which Lilly had pried open with record speed. I was honestly pretty impressed, I’d never really thought of her as having that sort of skill set, but I guess the fact she was still alive meant she had to learn breaking and entering somewhere… If the school system had worked on the concept of ‘learn or die’ too they may have been a lot more effective as well…
Lilly went straight to the sales counter and after grabbing a huge pile of brochures settled in on the floor with the LED lantern and was quickly lost in her shopping. The 180 and I meanwhile swept the building for whatever might need attention of one sort or another. All I found was empty offices and a supply closet full of junk nobody would ever want again. The electricity was out and the pipes were beginning to freeze. Out of habit I opened all the taps I came across. Who knows, it probably didn’t make one bit of difference if the plumbing broke, but what was the harm?
A break room revealed a fridge full of spoiled food and ketchup packets, plus coffee grounds that were pretty much worthless without power to run the coffee maker. Having run out of anything productive to do, I went back to check on Lilly. “I’ve narrowed it down to one of these two.” She informed me cheerfully as I sat down with her amidst the clutter. “So were we done here then?” I asked with a yawn “There’s nothing worthwhile in the offices…” “I think so.” She agreed, handing me two brochures before getting up and grabbing the lantern.
We went back to what was probably the manager’s office and I sorted through the filing cabinets until I found records corresponding to the models in the brochures, then picked out two files for ones that came with all the options that were offered. May as well get the nice one…price being no object. “Right.” I announced, going to a big pegboard full of keys hanging on the wall. “Spaces sixty-three and one seventeen.” The map on the wall showed them to be pretty close together, but on the far side of the lot.
“You still don’t have a coat.” Lilly sighed “I wonder if someone here has a suit coat or something?” Before I could say ‘no’ she disappeared back into the building, to emerge some time later with a long, very waterproof looking canvas duster. “Look behind doors in offices. She chided “That’s where businesspeople tend to hang things up!” “Ah.” I nodded “I guess that should have occurred to me by now…” I very happily shrugged into the coat, which aside from being a little large in the shoulders fit remarkably well. It had a heavy-duty zip in liner, and had quite obviously been waterproofed, but with one of those new silicon sprays, not the older and messier wax products.
“Much better.” Lilly nodded in approval “Now let’s go steal a house!” “Someone who lived up the highway from where I grew up actually did that.” I laughed as we loaded up and headed down the rows. “He just hooked a semi-truck cab up to a doublewide trailer one night and drove right off the sales lot with it. He even had to make two trips for both halves, and nobody said anything about it. No one actually stopped to think he might not have business doing what he was doing. True story.” “How did they catch him?” Lilly wondered incredulously. “Couple years down the road he killed a bunch of furs.” I shrugged “They figured it out when they were tossing the place for evidence.” “That’s more than a little bit creepy.” Lilly decided.
We stopped at the first place I’d gotten the keys for and I unlocked the door and let Lilly in. They didn’t keep batteries in them apparently, so the lights didn’t work, but that didn’t stop her from ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ over everything. Mostly it just looked like a camper to me. I ended up sitting down and waiting while Lilly finished her exploration, and of course just as I was getting comfortable she decided it was time to go see the other one. So we got back in the truck and repeated the process a few rows over.
“Definitely this one.” Lilly announced with certainty after finishing her second thorough inspection. “It’s just a little bit smaller, but I love the idea of having a bathtub!” “This one it is!” I nodded, tactfully not pointing out that they all really seemed the same to me. “Let’s get it hooked up and haul it to the service barn and I’ll get it going!” With only brief instruction I had Lilly directing me back with the truck (which was set up to tow just about anything) and we were soon using the ‘master key’ to help ourselves to the service department’s outbuilding.
It was one of those prefab sheet metal industrial things, but the company had gone to the expense of using spray-on insulation in it and installing propane heaters! “It’ll be reasonably pleasant in her in a little bit!” I promised Lilly as I turned on the gas and lit pilot lights “Then I’ll get the generator on the RV unsealed and we’ll get some lights on in here.” The second part was going to probably be a little bit trickier, but I chose to go with optimism until proven wrong at this point.
A few hours later we were inside enjoying warmth and electric lighting…there would even be water once the filler pumps had thawed out a bit. “I like it in here.” Lilly informed me a bit superfluously. “I could probably get used to it too…” I agreed. Besides the all important spa tub there was a bedroom in the back, a kitchenette, sitting area, and little loft bed up front. Most of the other models in this line had two bedrooms, the extra space being absorbed by the tub and a larger living area.
Lilly had been quite taken by the idea of playing house, and was puttering around organizing things back and forth between the cars and the RV. We were quite lacking in some of the more household sort of things, and I got the impression she was looking forward to fixing that as well. Once everything was unsealed and hooked up my part of the project was done, so mostly I just tried to stay out of Lilly’s overenthusiastic way so as to avoid being run over.
After quite some time had passed Lilly finally settled down next to me on the built in couch. “I’m happy.” She smiled “We’ve got our own little place now, nomadic as it may be…” Nodding my agreement I mused that “Next time we find a highway department storage yard I can salvage up some solar panels for the roof and we’ll even be able to keep off the genny most of the time. Maybe get a couple of CB radios to talk to the cars…I think this could work pretty well…” “I thought radios didn’t work?” Lilly asked curiously. “Not at any sort of useful range, no. But at ten feet they should be adequate…”
“We need to find a toy store so I can decorate!” Lilly added “I miss decorating.” “I’d settle for bedding that wasn’t actually a sleeping bag with notions of grandeur.” “I’m afraid we’re going to have to wait just a little bit longer for that one.” She consoled me. “See, I remember how way back in the day, like almost six months ago furs were always whining that big box retailers were opening in all these small towns and putting the local mom and pop stores out of business. But have one measly little apocalypse and suddenly there’s nobody around to sell me a set of sheets. It’s disgraceful, what lows have we as a society fallen to?” “Whoa, hey, take a chill pill!” Lilly interrupted me mid-rant. “Okay.” I nodded, fishing a tube of little pink tablets from one of my packs on the floor and popping a couple of them dry.
“I didn’t mean literally!” she glowered, very obviously gearing up for a rant of her own. “You may as well not bother.” I informed her cheerfully “In about two minutes I’ll not care about much of anything for quite a few hours.” “I’m less than enthusiastic about this.” She grumbled, waving a finger at me reproachfully. “Since we’re indoors, sort of, we probably ought not run the jenny tonight. But the shop heaters should keep everything toasty if we have the windows open in here.” I mused, changing the subject.
“So I guess we’re down for the night.” Lilly agreed. “Almost. I’d like to load up an ‘RV gun’ or two first.” “You’ve got a gun, I’ve got a gun, there’s a truck gun, and now the RV gets a gun…so pretty much everything needs one then?” Lilly teased gently “That might be just a little bit of an overkill…” “Yes, you liberal hippie east coast furs tend to make that mistake a lot.” I nodded. “There is no overkill, just ‘firing’ and ‘out of ammo’.” Getting up off the couch, I wandered back to the truck and went digging in the storage locker under the back seat.
I returned to the RV with a rifle, cleaning kit, and roll of adhesive backed Velcro. “This is our new friend ‘old woody’.” I explained, setting everything down on the table then beginning to affix Velcro straps over the RV door. “’Old Woody’?” Lilly asked, raising an eyebrow. “I think you’re officially done doing anything even remotely dangerous for the evening.” “Okay, but you’re going to hurt ‘Old Woody’s’ feelings, being inconsiderate like that…” I agreed cheerfully leaning the rifle aside against the wall.
Looking at the clock hanging on the wall (which she had set during her moving-in phase) Lilly decided that “It’s gotten a little later than I thought anyway, so it might as well be bedtime.” “Okay.” I agreed again. Bedtime didn’t sound too bad, especially with an actual bed today, and it’s not like I was eager to do more driving in the sleet. Shutting the RV’s door, I wandered to the bedroom in the back, beginning to yawn a bit already. ‘Don’t care’ and ‘awake’ tended to be somewhat exclusive of each other, and I was feeling more than a little bit done with the whole mess for today.
The bedroom had the official ‘big bed’, and then a smaller fold down bunk over it, which had a latching mechanism that just didn’t seem to want to cooperate with me. I was just fixing to give up and go get a screwdriver when Lilly came in to see what all the swearing was about. Assessing the situation she sighed and reached over my shoulder, unfolding the bunk with ease, then folding it back up again. “I thought we could just share the nice one.” She explained “It’s more than big enough…” “Okay!” I agreed, nodding in a way that somehow managed to be both cheerful and tired at the same time. “Down to your shorts, fox!” she cautioned as I took off my boots and prepared to just flop down “You’re not getting the sheets all dirty…” Moving to comply, I completely missed the playfully sly expression on her muzzle.
I had very little left in the way of clean clothes, but I’d been wearing my current set for quite some time and since we now had a laundry hamper, in they went. Then my belt, watch, wallet, and the big revolver all went into one of the drawers of the RV’s built in dresser. Since I was going to the trouble (and had the option) I washed my muzzle in the sink and brushed my teeth. The water heater had yet to catch up, so it was a liquid, but very cold, process.
“I’m back!” I announced, giggling a little as I came back into the bedroom. It had been how long...months maybe...since I last knew where I was going to sleep two nights in a row. All in all I was quite pleased with how things were working out today, and not just because of the happy pills… Lilly had settled down on the little sofa/bench across from the bed with a roll of para-cord out of my toolbox and was rather industriously making a net of some sort. “Are we going to catch rabbits later?” I asked, flopping down on the bed to watch her work. “I’m making a wall basket for my plushies.” She explained patiently “That way they’re nearby but not competing with us for surface area.” “Oh, okay.” I nodded “That makes sense. Though I would have preferred you not use rope with a 1,200 pound shock rating for it. I suppose it really doesn’t matter all in all…It’s not like I paid for the stuff.” “That’s generously apathetic of you.” Lilly grinned playfully.
Putting down her project, Lilly joined me over on the edge of the bed, sitting on the bed frame next to me and playfully batting at my muzzle with her tail. “So…” she began, drawing out the word to only recently discovered lengths. “You left your paci in your shirt pocket.” “Oh, it’s mine now, is it?” I teased, fluffing the fur of one of the little orange spots scattered through the silvery white of her fur. “Yep. I gave it to you. You kept it. Your pace.” She explained seriously. “Well, I’m glad we got that cleared up.” “I have some other things I’d like to give you, especially since you’re in such a receptive mood right now…” she smiled wickedly. “Why Lilly, I do believe you’re trying to take advantage of me!” “Yes, yes I am.” She agreed, her smile broadening. “Okay then!” I agreed cheerfully.
Lilly wandered around quickly gathering things up with her tail wagging madly and an expression on her muzzle that probably held a great deal of similarity to mine when I was breaking into that armory the other day: pleasant expectation. I suddenly started to get the sneaking feeling this could end up as one of the great disasters of our age. But hey, everyone loves a good train wreck, right? “Lay down, kit!” she instructed, gently pushing me to the bed. Taking my pacifier from where she had left it on the built in dresser/nightstand thing, I popped it in my muzzle and contented myself with staring idly at the ceiling. It could really use embellishment of one sort or another, I decided. The light tan paneling wasn’t exactly ugly as such, just kind of…institutional looking.
My musings were suddenly drug back to the here and now as Lilly deftly removed my boxers. I ‘eep’-ed and looked around for something to cover up with, but the lack of available bedding stymied my attempts and I had to settle for blushing vigorously instead. Lilly, meanwhile, looked to still be enjoying herself immensely. “Silly little boy.” She chided good-naturedly “You did me yesterday, what did you think was going to happen?”
I didn’t have an answer for that one. I’d never felt so exposed in my life. It wasn’t entirely just the being naked part, I’d been naked in front of strange furs before, and they had been violently hostile. No, I realized, it was much more about the trust that was involved here: I was giving Lilly my safety and autonomy of action. I was trusting her to be kind, to be safe, to act in my best interests. She didn’t have to. But I believed she would, and suddenly I realized something else: I would have even without all the meds. Sure, it would have been much harder to act on, but the feeling was still there. Amazing, the things we learn and the places we learn them…
Lilly was just threading my tail through my first diaper’s tail hole when she realized that I realized. “What changed?” she asked curiously after she finished settling it down under me “You seem a lot less tense all of a sudden…” “I think I’m falling in love with you.” I told her, cautiously optimistic. “It’s a little bit scary, but I want this.” “I think I am too.” She nodded back “You can probably guess how glad I am to hear that.” “Just a little.” I laughed, the tension dissipating into a mood of pleased self-assurance. Really rather a nice beginning for a new home.
“We probably ought to finish this up!” Lilly laughed, blinking her attention back to the task at paw. “We have all night…” I teased “And you do seem to be enjoying the scenery!” Thoroughly blushing, Lilly informed me that “While that may be true we have to get up early tomorrow morning to see about looting up some linens.” “They’re not going to sell out if we don’t get there early enough…” I disagreed. I’ve never been friendly with mornings, and a little thing like the universe going all topsy-turvy wasn’t going to change that. “None of that now, my little kit.” Lilly nodded patiently “You know full well they always suggest you ‘shop early for the best selection’.”
I couldn’t help but grin at that… Lilly seemed to have an answer for everything; it was nice spending time with somefur who could think on her paws. No small wonder that she survived long enough for us to have met. While I was contemplating things as they were Lilly had taken the opportunity presented by my passive cooperation to finish up diapering me before I resumed acting the brat. Producing a jar of baby powder from amongst her still as of yet un-stowed belongings, she sprinkled on a generous amount of the fine white powder, then folded up the front of the diaper between my legs and fastened, then rechecked, the tapes. Then, once she was completely satisfied with the quality of her work she playfully smacked me on the bottom. “That’ll do it!” she nodded “And a fine and proper job if I do say so myself! Wouldn’t want you accidentally leaking your first time, now would we?”
“Nopers!” I agreed with a nod. While Lilly set about putting everything away in their newly proper places in the RV, I took a moment to try to get a little bit familiar with my new situation. The diaper was soft, and what could best be described as ‘thick’, sort of like wearing sweatpants under tight jeans…a pleasant feeling of contact. It did make walking a teeny bit awkward, but not as bad as I would have thought it might…they also did seem perfectly happy staying up on their own as I moved about the trailer experimentally. If I thought about it , it should have occurred to me that with the amount of product development that must have gone into them over the years I shouldn’t be all that surprised when they functioned as advertised…or at least so far. I had yet to…umm…test their full capabilities yet.
“We’re going to have some quiet time now.” Lilly admonished me “I’m getting jittery just watching you…” “There’s lots of new stuff to see in here.” I explained “It’s enthusiasm, not rampant hyperactivity!” “They’re not mutually exclusive you know.” I was informed. Taking the hint, I flopped back down on the bed, wishing yet again that the RV dealership had a ‘décor’ section or something I could loot. It’s not like they wouldn’t have been able to sell the stuff, especially if furs could roll it into the purchase price on their loan notes…you could have overcharged the hell out of ‘em and still done a brisk business. “It’s just good business sense.” I grumbled testily. “What dearest?” Lilly asked, returning from the other room. “Nothing of any particular consequence.” I shrugged “I was just a bit…disapproving of the inefficiencies of this place’s previous management. They were apparently missing some good opportunities here…” “You seem quite sure of yourself.” Lilly observed, setting two bottles of juice on top of the built in nightstand before sitting on the edge of the bed frame and beginning to take off her shoes. “I’ve got a pretty framed piece of paper that I didn’t bother grabbing when I fled for my life that says I should be.” I nodded seriously before sighing and rolling my eyes to the ceiling. “Though it’s not exactly good for anything any more…” “Well, there isn’t a thriving market for graphic designers right now either, so we can be unemployed together!” Lilly laughed cheerfully, pulling off her shirt and stepping out of her jeans, in the fur but for her diaper.
“You don’t get to have all the fun!” she grinned, climbing into bed next to me. She scooted over and settled down against the corner made by the walls and patted her lap invitingly. I snuggled up in her lap and would have been more than happy to just drift off for the night, had she not announced that it was “Time for dinner!” and offered me the business end of one of the bottles of juice that had found their way in from the kitchen. I accepted it into my muzzle with rapidly diminishing hesitation and had soon worked out how exactly one used it. Turns out that some air had to be allowed in or the nipple would collapse on itself, rendering it an exercise in futility.
Lilly must have widened the hole in the nipple a little because the bottle seemed to flow the juice better than I had assumed it would. Which was fine by me: I had discovered that I was more than slightly hungry, and I was pretty sure that all the actual food was still outside in the truck. The battle between wanting food and being too happily comfortable to want to actually get some was easily put off with some glucose and grape flavoring. At least until I’d run out of juice.
I had ended up closing my eyes while having my bottle…for some reason it sort of felt right that way, and when I opened them again I saw Lilly looking down on me with a very loving, happy expression on her muzzle. “I’ve never been on this end of things before…” she mused “I wonder if I usually look as content as you do right now…” “Yeppers.” I nodded “I like that look. Seeing you happy makes me happy too.” “Aww.” She smiled, rubbing my tummy, which grumbled with authority. “Hmm…” she joked, picking up the other bottle “And it sounds like this will make that happier as well…”
I couldn’t argue with that logic, and we had plenty of juice left: I wouldn’t be depriving her of anything if I had the second bottle as well. “Go on” she cajoled “you know you want it!” I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “You sound like the most clichéd, made-for-TV drug dealer ever!” “That’s why I went into design instead of theater.” She informed me. “If it makes you feel any better, I can’t sing to save myself…I can however act my way out of a traffic ticket like no fur you’ve ever met!” “You are a very strange little kit, aren’t you?” Lilly accused cheerfully. “On the whole I prefer the term ‘barking mad’, as a foreign coworker used to say…” I corrected seriously.
Conversation on my part lapsed at that point as Lilly decided it was wall nigh time for me to finish the other bottle so she could set it down. As I nursed she told me more about her life before it all fell apart: her parents, both lost in the initial days of this mess; trying to wait things out, still going in to work at her oh so newly acquired job, her first since she graduated from college the year before. In better times she had taken a year off after school to travel and see the world; had very nearly taken a job abroad, but decided she just wasn’t ready yet to be that far from everything she had known for longer than a vacation…
Lilly told me about when she was growing up, in a nice little neighborhood in the suburbs. There wasn’t actually a white picket fence, it would have been against the neighborhood association’s regulations, but there might as well have been. Summer camps, solstice parties, trips to the mall, and dances at school. I was honestly a little jealous of it all, but at the same time glad: Lilly was a really nice vixen, she deserved happier times. “So yeah, I really wasn’t prepared for all this… Mostly I think I made it through on sheer dumb luck.” She concluded a bit sadly. “Hey, luck is a good thing to have!” I said, trying to cheer her up a bit if I could.
Putting the now empty bottle on the table, Lilly nodded. “I was lucky enough to find you. Just promise you won’t leave me, okay?” “I won’t.” I agreed. The mood was getting much heavier than I would like all of a sudden, so to rectify it I latched on to the end of Lilly’s tail. “Mine!” I grinned playfully, waving the end at Lilly. “I’m pretty sure not.” She informed me patiently. “Nope, you’re wrong and I’m not discussing it any further.” I disagreed. Then with a sense of finality I popped my paci back in my muzzle, settled in to her shoulder a bit more thoroughly, and pretended to quickly go to sleep. The only problem was that as comfortable as I was it didn’t take long to drift off to sleep for real. Lilly just sighed and settled down as well.
I was drug back awake some time later by the urgent need to pee. “I was wondering how long it would take you to wake up…” Lilly teased “You’ve been squirming around for a while now!” “I’ve got to potty.” I explained patiently. “I’m sure you do.” Lilly nodded playfully “That was my evil plot with all that juice earlier!” “Sneaky little girl…” I sighed. I was all comfy and really didn’t feel like getting up again so soon.
As I was trying to sit up, Lilly put an arm around my shoulder and shifted her position a little, putting most of her weight on me. “Oh no, none of that now!” she laughed, her grin growing wider “You’re not going to go and spoil my nefariously well laid plans!” “I don’t know about that.” I disagreed “I’m pretty confident I could just pick your fuzzy little butt up and take you with me if I got the notion.” “Maybe you could, but…” Lilly stopped mid-sentence and glomped me, tickling me mercilessly.
“Hey, no fair! That’s cheating!” I laughed, trying to get away. Lilly was having none of it however, and did a quite effective job of blocking my best efforts at escape. “Silly little guy, I always win eventually, you may as well give in now and save yourself some tickles!” “I’m not kidding!” I warned though my now nearly uncontrollable laughter “I’ll go find us a timeout chair around here somewhere! Aww…” “Too late!” she informed me in a singsong tone, stopping her merciless tickle attack. And it was. Laughing, complaining, trying to escape, and not wetting myself turned out to be too much to handle all at the same time, and you can guess which one slipped…
“I’m feeling very angry with you, young lady!” I grumbled, doing my best to sound appropriately stern and put out. “No you’re not.” She countered cheerfully, kissing me lightly on the muzzle. (I apparently need to work on my ability to fake sounding stern and put out.) “You’re feeling warm, and more than a little bit squishy!” Lilly teased, patting the now somewhat swelling front of my diaper. “Well, yeah.” I agreed mildly “You can add in sleepy as well while you’re about it…”
“Sleepy does tend to come along for the ride most of the time these days.” Lilly agreed “It’s just part and parcel now, I guess…” I just nodded at that. A lot of things came part and parcel these days, few of which were pleasant, and a great many were worse than just being tired. I tactfully didn’t point that out to Lilly though: we had such a comfy little time going, I had no urge to risk spoiling things with unpleasant little truths. “You look like you’re thinking pretty seriously about something...” Lilly mused, rearranging the sleeping bag we had unzipped and were using as a blanket. “Nope, nothing more than anything else…” I shrugged before popping my paci back in my muzzle and snuggling down again.
“I’m thinking pretty seriously about something…” Lilly told me with exaggerated seriousness…which I met with equally exaggerated snoring. (Which is trickier to do with a paci in one’s muzzle than I had initially thought it would be.) “Well, it’ll wait until the morning.” She decided. “’S nice here.” I agreed sleepily “Everything can wait for the morning. Mostly. Probably. I think. At least I’m pretty sure. I guess.” “You’re rambling, sweetheart.” She told me gently. “I know.” I nodded, closing my eyes “I’m the only one I’ve had to talk to in quite a while, so I guess I sort of got in the habit of talking to me.” “I feel like if I thought about it just a little bit harder that sentence might start to make sense.” “Nope. Not in a bazillion years.” “If you’re certain about that…” “Tired. Not sure about anything right now…”
“Tell me a story?” I asked. In spite of needing the rest I really didn’t want to be the first one to fall asleep. I felt like I was supposed to be looking after Lilly, and it just sort of struck me that it would kind of be like I was shirking a duty. “I told you lots of stories earlier.” Lilly argued “It’s your turn to tell me one!” “I don’t know any good stories though; I’m not all that interesting!” I whined, refusing to open my eyes. Maybe I could convince her I was still asleep…somefurs talk in their sleep, right? “Nope, it was your idea, tell me a story!”
“Okay.” I sighed “Umm…Once upon a time there was a little kit who didn’t know that it’s not a good idea to let your classmates know you’re smarter than them. So he ended up lonely and picked on until one day in high school he went crazy and decided that since he mostly didn’t like all the other furs he had to deal with (and get beaten up by) every day he would just do exactly whatever the hell he felt like whenever the hell he felt like it. And pretty soon he was having all kinds of fun with other crazy, antisocial , cubs, and learning how to do lots of great crazy-fur things, most of which he was pretty darn good at.”
“But then he had to go to college and grow up and stuff, which was not all that much fun. Then he floated around doing random odd jobs before heading off for grad school. Except that while he was waiting for the semester to begin bits and pieces of the world began to disappear and the rest of it developed an infestation of a rather unpleasant flavor of ugly. And, valor only being useful to the living, our little kit got his fuzzy butt on the road to discretion as quickly as was possible. And, as you can see, it worked out okay in the end: I’m still above the dirt and all those mean ‘ol ‘normal’ furs have probably been eaten alive by now.”
“You seem more than a little gleeful about that idea…” Lilly observed mildly. “Don’t interrupt, little one, it’s impolite.” I chided gently. “The moral of our story, and I always put a moral in my stories so that you can learn and better yourself because of it, is that anyfur who tells you that stealing cars, breaking and entering, blowing things up, and being able to shoot straight aren’t useful, positive, life skills are full of it and will probably end up being eaten by some shambling horror.”
“Good talk, Nick.” Lilly laughed “I feel educated, and I’m sure I’ll be better for having heard it.” “Hey, it started with ‘once upon a time’ and ended with a useful moral, that’s the best you’re going to get until I sober up some.” “I wasn’t making fun of the story!” Lilly objected “As a matter of fact I’m going to take it’s advice and make you teach me how to shoot second thing tomorrow morning…” “Second thing tomorrow morning?” I asked, rising to her bait. “Well yeah. We’re both going to need to be changed first…”
When I awoke again it was still dark, but Lilly was gone and something was banging around from the living area of the RV. More than slightly concerned, I grabbed my big revolver from where Lilly had set it down on a shelf the night before and went to see what was going on.
It turned out to be Lilly in the little kitchenette, making some tea. Looking a bit startled by my rapid appearance she just raised an eyebrow and waited for an explanation. “You were gone in the middle of the night and I heard something banging around in here…I thought something might be wrong.” I explained a bit defensively as I slumped down on the couch. “My soggy-bottomed hero!” Lilly laughed “It’s actually mid-morning. We’re inside a service garage, remember?” “Right…” I nodded “The skylight panels are probably covered over from the snow.”
“Is it cold in here, or is it just me?” I wondered, changing the subject. Lilly had put on some loose-fitting sweatpants and had an open flannel shirt draped around her shoulders, so it was entirely possible my naked-but-for-a-wet-and-no-longer-warm-diaper ensemble was just less appropriate for the weather than I had assumed. “The heaters ran out of propane overnight.” Lilly explained “I guess they hadn’t filled the tank in a while…” “Pity.” I sighed “But it was nice while they worked. I wonder if they have a bottle filling station for stoves and grills and things around here we could tap off of…” “It’s the same tank.” She sighed “I took a look out back when I first got up, and there isn’t even a cylinder exchange cabinet back there, just the one big tank and a windbreak for the equipment.”
“Those things hold tens of thousands of cubic feet of gas, and we end up with an empty one.” I sighed, accepting a cup of tea from Lilly. The warm drink did cheer me up immensely, and after a few sips I was sounding a lot less grouchy than when I had first gotten up. “We need to get you changed into something warm.” Lilly explained with authority “You seem bound and determined to take cold on me…” “I don’t have any objection to that.” I agreed “The diaper makes it a little hard to run if we were going looting later.”
We went back to the bedroom where Lilly laid down a towel for me to lie down on before untapeing my rather bulky old diaper and whisking it off, then expertly cleaning my neither regions with some pleasantly scented, but colder than the diaper had been, wipes. “I’m not sure that was much of an improvement in the ‘shiver reduction’ department…” “Well, we’ll get you some clothes here in a second…Are you going with boxers this time?” “For the moment.” “Only ‘the moment’?” “Only ‘the moment’!” I agreed. Lilly gave me the biggest grin I had ever seen from her at that.
“What about you?” I asked as I pulled on the closest approximation to warm clothing I had available at the moment “Didn’t you need changing last night?” “I took care of it before I went prowling around outside this morning. Like you said, it’s hard to flee in a droopy diaper.” “Aww…” I pouted “I didn’t get to help.” “There will be other opportunities.” She jokingly consoled me. “Fine.” I grumbled as we secured everything in the RV, then climbed up in the truck. I had to scoot around in the driver’s seat to get my duster settled. Long coats are good and waterproof, but they tend to be kind of a pest to sit in…”
Kicking the engine over, I rolled up to the bay doors, where I had to get out, deal with the coat again, pull out of the building, deal with the coat a third time, then close up the garage again after us. “Well, that was kind of a task…” I grumbled after finally getting settled in to the driver’s seat for keeps. The truck’s heater, still in the process of warming up, was having trouble keeping up with the door being open so much, which was making my tail all poofy, and that in turn was making me a bit cranky.
“I suppose it’s only polite to not leave everything open to the elements when we’re done looting their business...” I sighed, rubbing my paws in front of one of the heater vents. “Don’t do that again without your coat…” Lilly grumbled in reply, looking over the top of the currently useful road atlas. I just nodded in agreement; it wasn’t worth losing an argument over… “I’ve been looking over the map, and I think our best shot at finding big box retail is going to be a town about a hundred and seventy five miles south of here.” Lilly told me “It’s much bigger than the ‘whistle stops’ we’ve been going through, but the map shows it as having had a population of only a little over four thousand.” “That’s probably about as close to ideal as we can hope for.” I praised, leaning over the armrest to look at the map with her. “They always locate them on the outskirts of small towns…it makes furs feel less guilty about driving by their neighbor’s small business to buy at the mega-mart if it’s not across the street from the stores that they’re running out of business.” “That’s kind of a cynical thing to assume.” Lilly mused. “Cynical hell. I learned about that in one of my marketing classes…”
Once we were moving again we had to backtrack a ways to get to the crossroads for the southern road we wanted to be on, but it’s not like we were on a schedule. It was still snowing a little, but it was fluffy, almost decorative stuff, not the heavy ice of the day before. “Unless things on the road get dicey on us we should be there just a bit before lunch time.” I decided “Maybe we’ll get lucky and there will be something good to eat there…” “Or popsicles!” Lilly agreed “I haven’t had a popsicle in months!” “We can check.” I agreed “Now that we have a freezer it’s actually a possibility now…” “Alternately, the whole place could have burned to the ground.” Lilly shrugged “So let’s try not to get our hopes up prematurely, okay?” “And I’m excessively negative?” I laughed. There was just something so out of character about a pessimistic Lilly that it struck me as being really funny, and I ended up suffering from giggle fits for the next dozen miles or so.
One thing which I wasn’t really happy with was the fact that the further south we went the more consistently level the terrain was becoming. Scouting a town is much easier if you can get altitude on it, and by the time we could see the outskirts of our destination an overlook would be impossible. We ended up stopping about a half-mile out and I climbed up on the roof of the trailer with the spotting scope to see what there was to see.
The place was uninhabited, no surprise there, and it looked like it had been vacated under hostile conditions. There were several wrecked cars within sight, and, while it was hard to tell from this distance, it kind of looked like some of them had been shot at. Smudges of soot and char coated parts of several buildings and the roof of a third had caved in entirely. “This doesn’t exactly look good.” I told Lilly as she scrambled up next to me on the roof. I let her take my place at the scope, and she saw for herself.
“Well, there’s a mega-mart on the eastern road out of town, but...” “Yeah, ‘but’...” I agreed. “The thing is the place looks like it’s been empty for a while...see how the ash has puddled up and run downhill? That’s from a heavy rain.” “You’re thinking ‘yes?” Lilly asked, shooting me an incredulous look. “I’m thinking maybe.” I corrected. “Let’s circle around and take a closer look at the actual store.”
‘Circling around’ is a lot more problematic when roads aren’t involved. It took some maneuvering, but we got it done in time and set up to spy on the defunct store. “Well, there’s still stuff in there...but it looks like parts of the ceiling has fallen down...” Lilly observed. “The drop ceiling or the roof?” I questioned. “The ceiling tile part.” I was informed “That’s called a drop ceiling?” “I did wiring for a while.” I nodded “As a result of which I’m way more familiar with them than I would prefer. But, it happens to be very useful to us in this case...come on.”
Pulling up a safe distance from the front of the building I left the engine running and got out, the 180 in paw. “Grab one of the flashlights and follow me: back and to my right.” Lilly fell in and we approached the door, stopping at the sill for me to pry them open: no power, no automatic doors. “Shine the light on the floor...see how there’s a grey dust all over the place? That’s from the broken ceiling tiles.” “We’re looking for paw prints!” Nodding, I continued scanning the isles before we moved cautiously deeper into the store.
After a tense thirty minutes or so we finally declared the place truly empty. “That’s a good step forward.” Lilly cheerfully grinned “Let’s get the truck over here and shed some light on the situation.” Driving floods are somewhat less useful than overhead lighting, but after I’d parked the truck actually touching the sliding doors it was a good bit better than nothing...
“I’m going to find us some sheets!” Lilly declared, pattering off in one direction while I went off in another. The first thing I wanted to look into was some short-range radios. They turned out to be back with the automotive stuff. I grabbed two pairs of about the best of them as well as a soldering iron and some random junk electronics that I could cannibalize for parts. I began wandering through the store, picking things up as I went: a couple of tarps, two extra rolls of duct tape, pens and colored pencils for the travel log along with a ruler and one of those cheap school protractors. I’d been planning on trying to improve my mapping and logbook, and the RV was now providing a place to do it. I had almost finished in the stationary and office supplies isle and was turning to leave when something caught my eye: a pink and blue scrapbook titled “ Baby’s First Years”. “Oh, that is just too good!” I laughed, adding it to my pile, then detouring to the photo department for a camera and a stand alone photo printer.
I met back up with Lilly at the RV. She had hit the house wares section like a tornado, and was in the process of unloading an entire shopping cart. “I’ve just about got everything.” she told me “I only need to see if there is any salvageable food once I get this all set up.” She had already made a good dent in it, as attested to by the large pile of packaging on the ground outside the door. There was bedding, curtains, dishes and silverware, soap, coat hangars, and any number of other things you take for granted will be there until they aren’t. “It looks nice.” I complimented “Very cozy.” “I’d like to get a plant or two, but the store doesn’t have a garden center.” “We should try to grow some tomatoes.” I agreed “They’re easy: if you can’t get tomatoes growing you should just pack it up and go home...”
“We should finish up here and put some distance between us and this place...we still don’t know what exactly happened here.” Lilly reminded me as we finished up with her cart. “I’ll go raid up some clothes if you want to check for food.” I offered before we departed again on our respective tasks. Clothing was pretty easy due to my stylistic disinterest and I was soon hauling off a pretty good sized pile of stuff. As an afterthought I grabbed another pair of boots as well. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have them since we had the extra room now. I couldn’t really think of anything else in particular that we could use, so I just went back too the car and started unloading things.
Lilly joined me a few minutes later with a rather forlornly empty cart. “There was a leak in the roof over there and everything is way too rusted up to risk eating.” she sighed “All I could salvage was some jerky that was in plastic bags, a few things of chips, and...freezer pops! That was the redeeming feature of the expedition!”
Lilly very rapidly heaped the packages of little single-wrap popsicles in the freezer, which turned out to be a whole lot bigger than I had thought and easily absorbed several boxes of them. “And now I think it’s time we get out of dodge.” I told Lilly seriously. “I’ve got this creepy feeling in the back of my mind like maybe we’ve pressed our luck too far as it is...” “Lets go before we have an opportunity to find out.” she agreed. I guess my paranoia was a little bit catchy. Regardless, we got back in the truck and made an end run for ‘somewhere else’. When we were maybe a mile or so off, up a gentle little rise on the side opposite the one we had come in on, Lilly asked for me to stop a minute. “It’s been getting cloudy for an hour or so and I’ll bet it’s dark enough to use this.” she explained, digging out her detector gizmo. Lilly hopped up on the flatbed of the truck and played around with the controls on her machine for a minute or two before determining it to be satisfactory, then set about inspecting the town. “What purpose exactly is that supposed to serve?” I wondered a bit impatiently. “It satisfies my curiosity, now hush...” “Well, nofur can say I don’t satisfy the females...” I joked, feigning lewdness. “Perv.” Lilly accused, not looking up from the glass.
Deciding it wasn’t really worth the trouble, I climbed back in the driver’s seat figuring she would be done when she was done and not a moment sooner. Since it couldn’t be helped, and we weren’t going to eat yet, I settled for closing my eyes for a minute. So of course just as soon as I’d slid down into the seat Lilly scrambled up into the cab, double time, and encouraged me to “Get us out of here, like, yesterday!” Questions are best saved for when one isn’t in immanent danger: I didn’t ask, I drove.
“The east end of town bloody well crawls!” Lilly spat, trying to latch her door, drop her pack, and not break her scope all at the same time in the bouncing vehicle. “There wasn’t anything until I was looking over an office in downtown, then it seemed like they were everywhere!” “A hole may have opened up inside the building or something.” I pondered aloud “I’ve seen ‘em just show up, but there isn’t anyfur left to eat there...it really doesn’t seem like it would be worth their trip...”
“We should probably hold off on lunch for a while.” Lilly grumbled “I’m hungry, but I don’t want to stop while that place is in the proverbial rearview mirror.” “Let alone the literal one.” I agreed. “I just sort of wish we knew what exactly it was that’s got the shadows so riled up. That’s going to bug me for a while.” “Yes, nothing like a little otherworldly ADHD...” Lilly teased, ruffling my headfur.
Shifting her attention to the map, she determined that “If we stay on this road it will eventually put us out back on the old route.” “That sounds like about as good a plan as any.” I agreed “How far out is it? Maybe we can wait and just have lunch when we get there.” “Two hundred, maybe two-ten on the outside.” Lilly estimated. “A good long time to wait for lunch.” “I tossed a bag of cookies in the backseat.” I offered “If you ask really...” Lilly was most of the way over the seat and into the back before I’d gotten through the sentence. “Or you could just hunt them down like a starving wombat. Either way is fine, really.”
Lilly was back a minute later with the bag of cookies and a huge grin. “They’re chocolate chip!” “They are, yes.” I indulged “At least that’s what the package says.” “Nope, they’re in there!” she laughed, tearing open the bag and skillfully extracting a cookie before popping it in her muzzle and chewing happily. “I’ll have one too I guess.” I decided. “Maybe if you ask really nicely...” she began before my paw snaked in and extracted a handful. “Yoink!” “I guess we both need to work on our manners some...” Lilly laughed. “I won’t tell if you don’t.” I offered.
I didn’t pull over again until we had put a good hundred miles between us and the Shadows. They’d given no indication they had noticed us, and historically didn’t bother chasing prey this far, but ‘better safe than sorry’ was the order of the day. We ran across a pull-out that was ten foot or so from a little stream, which was as peaceful as it was scenic. “Handy timing.” I observed “My tail has pretty much fallen asleep so it’s about time to move around for a while...”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going swimming!” Lilly declared as we climbed down out of the truck. “I could be convinced...” I decided “Did you happen to grab some more towels at the store earlier?” I wondered. “Yeppers! They had some nice ones too!” Lilly informed me before ducking into the RV and emerging with two of them. “What about swimsuits?” I asked, trying to stump her. “We’re well past the point where those are necessary...in more way than one!” she grinned coyly. “If you say so.” I sighed.
“Aww...Does nakies make my little kit uncomfortable?” Lilly teased as we walked down to the stream. “A little bit.” I admitted “Not all of us are exhibitionists...” “It’s only exhibitionism if there’s somefur around to see.” she corrected cheekily. “You’ve got me there I suppose.” I granted as she began to strip down, folding her clothes and setting them neatly on a big rock. “I guess you’re here though.” she grinned evilly. “See, watch! I’m even wearing my good panties!” Her good panties, I observed, were pink with purple flowers on them. Hey, it’s hard not to observe once she’s decided you’re going to...an attractive vixen in panties wiggling her butt at you tends to be distracting.
I doubt it was so much Lilly getting tired of making me blush as it was her eagerness to play in the water, but eventually she traded games and went splashing in. “Cold!” She yelped, nearly jumping right back out. “What did you expect?” I laughed merrily “Just because the sun warmed it up outside doesn’t mean that the water forgot it’s snowing up the hill a bit!” “No, really, the water is great! Come on in with me!” Lilly suggested with a mildly faked cheerfulness. “I’m going to.” I assured her “But in my own good time.”
Sitting down on the big rock that Lilly was using as a clothes rack I surreptitiously tried to judge how cold the water really was while casually taking off my boots. Once she was in, Lilly was splashing around quite happily, so it couldn’t be all that bad, could it? “You’re never going to make it in at that rate!” Lilly yelled from mid-stream, waving at me with a ‘come hither’ sort of motion. My pants and shirt followed the boots, and I took my revolver out of its holster, setting it at the top of the pile, quickly available if the unforeseen arose. (Lilly’s automatic, I observed a little disapprovingly, was bundled up with the rest of her stuff. Sighing, I let it slide, reminding myself not to expect too much from somefur who wasn’t in the habit.)
When I was finally ready I gingerly started to wade out into the stream. The water wasn’t horribly cold, but it didn’t let you forget it was there either. “Gradually”, however, wasn’t acceptable to Lilly. “Too slow!” she declared, grabbing my paw and pulling me into the briskly chilly water all at once. “Argh!” I spluttered when I came to the surface, my ears laid backwards against my head in displeasure, dripping water from my whiskers. “Mean!” “A little.” Lilly agreed “But very funny! Besides, you looked like you were having second thoughts about coming in!” “Was not!” I objected (an obvious lie) “I just believe in caution and safety!” “No you don’t.” she laughed, splashing me. “Should I start listing examples, or shall we just leave it at that?”
I just stuck out my tongue and pretended to sulk. It didn’t work very well, nor last very long, and once I had adjusted to the water temperature all was quickly forgotten. We splashed around for quite a while: it was fun, overshadowing for a time everything that was going on. At least until the storm we had driven out of started to catch back up with us. Once the ambient temperature began to drop the cold water began to get a lot less tolerable, and we mutually decided it was once again time to displace.
“Let’s hit the trailer for a bit and hang the towels up to dry before we get back on the road…” I suggested. “Did we want lunch before we left?” Lilly mused. “I’d really like to put some more distance between us and that town before the storm catches back up to us. Better to pick where we want to stay instead of where we have to stay…” “That is a consideration, yes.” Lilly agreed.
We got back on the road quickly, spurred on by the ominous looking clouds we were trying to stay ahead of. Turning on one of the map lights, Lilly began pursuing the road atlas. “The weather’s only going to get worse as we gain altitude.” “Do you see anywhere that looks more promising than everywhere else on there?” I wondered, shifting into a lower gear as we started up a steeper than average hill “I don’t want to sound excessively negative, but the weather is getting less pretty every second.” “I see a couple of possibilities.” Lilly nodded “The best of them is still at least an hour or two off still…it will just have to depend on if we can keep on moving for a while longer.” “That’s really sort of the working definition of civilization these days.” I sighed as the first big raindrops began to fall.
Even though it was still mid-afternoon it pretty quickly grew dusky out, and with the heavy rain (luckily not freezing again yet) visibility was poor. It stayed like that all afternoon, which really threw things into a very bleak sort of mood. The rain drumming on the outside of the truck was kind of relaxing in an odd sort of way, and Lilly eventually reclined back her seat and drifted off to sleep. I kind of envied that, and wished I could take a turn, but since we had yet to find somewhere safe to teach her to drive the rig it would remain strictly my task for the time being. Actually, considering the weather, it would have been my task at the moment regardless…
After a moment’s consideration it suddenly struck me as really funny: the household tasks of the apocalypse. It wasn’t take out the trash, do the dishes, take the pups to school…now it was drive the house, change your companion’s diaper, and stand watch for unknown evils. I couldn’t help giggle at that. “Bye honey! I’m off to loot some groceries! Don’t forget to mark today’s vortexes of doom on the map!” “That’s one of the things I love about you.” Lilly mumbled, barely bothering to open her eyes “You can laugh about just about anything.” “I try.” I agreed “It adds to the pervasive sense of mystery that surrounds me. The females love it!” “Yes we do.” She nodded, leaning up to kiss my muzzle.
“So, are we almost there yet?” Lilly asked in her little kit voice. “We should be.” I nodded. “You’ve been asleep for quite a long time actually.” Lilly put her seat back in its full upright and locked position, then did her best to shake off the last of the sleep that still gripped her. She got the atlas from the dash and glanced over my penciled in mile markings and did some quick math in her head before announcing that “It’s probably about three miles still, assuming I’ve not miscalculated somewhere along the line.” “That’s good, I’m getting kind of tired of driving. It can be a little…tedious sometimes.” Lilly clucked her tongue in sympathy then we lapsed into silence again.
The closer we got to somewhere we could stop a while the more cheerful my mood became, until by the time it was ‘just over the next hill’ I was humming cheerfully. Right up to the point where we came around a bend in the road and actually saw our destination. Lilly groaned. It was a pretty good summing up of the present situation. Even from a distance the little town was a ruin. With the spotter, it was worse, if such a thing were possible.
Since it was still raining I mounted the spotter to the driver’s side window so it would still be inside and dry. Lilly climbed into the back seat with her technological little toy and did the same. The town was a complete ruin: there wasn’t a building still standing that wasn’t a burned out shell, and even the majority of those had collapsed into piles of rubble. “That is not what I was hoping to see…” Lilly grumbled in disappointment. “Nor I, but at least it looks like nothing hung around to occupy the rubble…” “That’s because there’s nothing left worth occupying.” She told me slowly, using that patient tone of voice usually reserved for particularly dim little children. “Point being there’s only one road that goes through here…at least we probably won’t need to backtrack.” “That’s true.” Lilly agreed. “Maybe we can find a wall or two here that are still sturdy enough to use as a windbreak. Somefur had to have used stone or brick when they built here!”
We packed everything up again and carefully made our way into town. It was really slow going: the rain had turned all the charcoal and ash into a slick, viscous mud of indeterminable depth, and aside from traction problems we also had to watch for hidden obstacles that could tear up a tire or possibly even crack an axel. “I wonder what happened here…it looks like the Shadows hit them pretty hard.” Lilly mused nervously. “Wasn’t the Shadows.” I disagreed “This was strictly us furs. Look at some of the emplacements we keep passing, there’s bullet holes on both sides: it wasn’t defenders falling back, this was two groups digging in and shooting it out with each other. And judging by the amount of damage they were at it for quite a while.”
“So why aren’t there still furs around the area?” Lilly asked a little plaintively. “Who knows?” I sighed. “Maybe they wiped each other out. Maybe the winners took what they wanted and left. Hell, maybe they thought the fire would spread to the woods outside of town and burn the whole county down…” Lilly had a really dire, almost haunted expression at this point. “Are you okay?” I questioned “I think that’s the most bothered I’ve ever seen you.” “With everything else going on now…furs killing furs…just…I don’t know, doesn’t seem right.” “Kind of superfluous, isn’t it?” I yawned, sounding more callous than I’d intended. “Society’s baser instincts aren’t going to change just because the world is ending. Just ask whoever used to live here…” “Can we go?” Lilly asked weakly “I don’t think I want to spend the night near here, this place is depressing.” “We don’t have to.” I agreed “There’s nothing left here that we can’t find somewhere else.” Lilly nodded thankfully as I continued on through town and back out the other side. I didn’t tell Lilly, since it would only make her worry, but I wasn’t feeling as cavalier as I had let on about where the winners had gone. If the residents had won, they would have more than likely stuck around the remains of their homes, or at least left a sign telling stragglers where they went. If some traveling group of thugs had wiped out the town of course they would police up the guns, but I doubt they would take time to bury the bodies. Even after a fire and the local critters there should be lots of bones from an action of that size. No, there was something more confusing, and in all probability less friendly, that had occurred here. Oh yes, I was quite all right with spending the night somewhere else.
We had found an acceptable spot down the road a bit, a runaway truck ramp that happened to be cut into the leeward side of a hill. It wasn’t a parking garage or an overpass, but it’s what we had. We migrated back to the RV, and once the heater had warmed everything up it was really thoroughly comfortable.
“It’s too bad there aren’t any car washes left.” Lilly mused while we tried to decide on a late lunch/early dinner “Everything got pretty goobered up driving through all that ash…” “Maybe we can steal a pressure washer somewhere.” I agreed “I’ve seen ‘em before, I’ve just never needed one…” Deciding on food wasn’t working all that well, so eventually I just started to cook. By declaration dinner was going to be a mutant macaroni and cheese. With red sauce. And mushrooms. “I want some planters.” Lilly informed me “Fresh vegetables are part of a healthy, well balanced diet.” “No argument there.” I agreed “I’m all for food and eating.”
I had the pasta bit done and was working on the sauce, while Lilly was watching me across the little bar-counter thing. We didn’t have any butter, so I was making judicious use of olive oil in this case…it smelled okay, so it would probably work out. “We can try out our new plates!” Lilly grinned as I pulled the last of the food off the stove. “That’s true, yes.” I agreed “Though not for a little while, this stuff is still quite hot.” “I can wait if I have to.” She sighed dramatically “Though I will hold you to account for the delay!”
“Well, there is something I can think of to do in the meantime…if my kit is done being a big girl for the day…” “Not quite yet.” She grinned playfully “But I think you are!” “After dinner.” I negotiated. “Now.” “Are you sure about that?” “Now would be good, yes.” “Okay then!” I agreed cheerfully. Lilly gave me a surprised look for the briefest of moments, then took my paw with a grin and led me back (the admittedly short) distance to the bedroom. “That was easier than I expected.” She informed me happily. “I thought I would have a much more difficult time convincing you when you weren’t…you know…tweaked out of your head…” “Wonders never cease.” I agreed, flopping down on the bed. I wonder if she knew how much her tail tended to wag when she was happy? Somefurs get embarrassed when you point things like that out to them, so I thought better of asking her about it.
Sitting down next to me, Lilly began undoing my bootlaces. “I don’t actually have a bib any more, mine were in the stuff that I couldn’t go back for, and umm...specialty retailers are a bit hard to find these days. It’s really a pity how much stuff I simply can’t replace any more.” “If you ask nicely I might make you one. Sewing stuff isn’t all that hard.” I offered. “Do you think you could?” Lilly wondered hopefully. “I wouldn’t be able to cut it as a professional tailor, but I could do some simpler stuff, yeah.” “You’re a clever little boy, aren’t you?” she asked rhetorically as she pulled my shirt over my head, then launched into stealing my pants, soon leaving me on the bed in the fur.
“Next up...” she began, cheerfully slipping my tail through the tail hole of a diaper she produced from the built in cabinet. Slipping it up under me, she fastened the tapes on the tail hole, then got everything properly situated before digging around for the powder. “I know it’s around here somewhere, I just don’t remember where I...ah, there it is!” I couldn’t help but be a little bit amused by the look of triumph on her muzzle when Lilly presented the jar for my inspection. “Yeppers!” I agreed. It was powder. And she found it. So that did in fact cover all the claims she had made. She sprinkled on a goodly helping, then closed up the bottle and set it aside. Looking at me laid out on the bed for a moment, Lilly finally laughed and decided that “I suppose I can’t just leave you there like that all night...” “No. Food first.” I agreed. “Uh huh. I wouldn’t mind eating either.” Folding up the diaper’s front, Lilly fastened the tapes, then helped me up from the bed. “You next?” I queried cheerfully. “Not yet.” she shook her head. “I’m still going to be a big girl for a while. I really want to feed you dinner tonight!” “Okies!” I nodded eagerly as we went back to the main room.
“So...food then a movie maybe?” Lilly suggested as I settled down at the bar-table. “We don’t have a TV do we?” I wondered aloud. “You didn’t read the brochure for this thing, did you?” Lilly chided “That big panel in front of the storage box over the hitch folds down and there’s a very large TV/DVD combo on the back. It’s even got surround sound built into the room!” “Do we have any DVDs?” was the immediate follow up question. They’re sort of dependant on each other to be good for much, especially since nobody was broadcasting anything (at least nothing identifiable) any more. “There is a peculiar little vertical storage rack under the TV...or maybe over the TV. It’s kind of a matter of one’s perspective...”
We had settled down on the sofa, Lilly bringing along a bowl of my macaroni concoction and a fork. “Here we go!” she nodded, sitting down next to me. “Nothing for you?” I asked curiously, seeing the lack of a second bowl. “You first, I’ve been looking forward to this, and eating at the same time would just complicate things.” “As you like.” I nodded. Her enthusiasm was kind of catchy, so if that’s what she thought, then okay. I just made a mental not to be sure that she got enough food this evening: nobody was going to bed with an empty tummy on my watch.
Scooping up a forkful of my probably-food, Lilly looked at me expectantly. “Thinking about it.” I declared “I might not want red food today after all...” “Yes you do.” she giggled as my tummy called my bluff “You’ll have to try harder than that if you’re planning on pulling one over on me!” Well that worked less well than I’d anticipated. “Now open up... Here comes the airplane into the hangar!” Opening up, I snapped the pasta off the fork, being careful not to accidentally catch any stray parts of my anatomy in the process...it’s never a good idea to snack on your tongue; there’s really not a positive spin one can put on that situation.
“Good little fox kits don’t bite.” Lilly informed me with a frown. “Not a fox.” I told her matter-of-factly “I’s a dwagon!” “Are you now? Well you don’t look much like a dragon to me...can you breathe fire?” “Actually, yes. But I need a barbecue lighter, and it’s not a good party trick to do indoors.” I explained, earning a look as Lilly tried to decide if I was serious or not. “We can go outside and I’ll show you, but let me get some pants first...I don’t want a frostbitten tail.” I offered, moving to stand up. “I’ll take your word for it, now sit! Dinner time!” Lilly instructed firmly, offering another forkful of my dubious noodle creation. I sat. And I ate. Which was okay, I was hungry, and hungry always leads to cranky.
The food wasn’t bad, it just stood to benefit from meat and some fresh plantlike things. Or else more garlic, you would be surprised what you can fix with enough garlic. One of those I could do something about: I resolved to see if I could find some edible wildlife in the morning before we moved again. If we were lucky we might even be able to find some not-too-rotten-to-sprout garlic cloves in a grocery somewhere...
Plotting too deeply while being fed is a bit counterproductive, and between that and the minor awkwardness of getting used to actually being fed ended up making it kind of a slow process. But I did manage it without making too much of a mess. (I had the sneaking suspicion that the minor spills weren’t entirely an accident on Lilly’s part. But she seemed to find it all rather cute, so it was all in good fun I guess...)
Finally my bowl was empty and my tummy was full, so after dabbing a few stray sauce spots of my muzzle and chestfur Lilly declared the operation a success. “Movie time!” she declared, setting the dishes in the extremely runty excuse for a dishwasher, then flipping down the hidden screen and thumbing through a rather large collection of movies than I expected. Lilly eventually settled on The Lion King. Not my first choice, but not a bad on by any means. It did however bring up a fantastic idea. “It’s too bad there aren’t any zoos around here. That would be some really easy fresh food!” “That wouldn’t be very sporting, shame on you!” Lilly chided. “If I’m out trying to put food on the table I’m not out there for fun.” I defended “If I decide ‘Hey, I thin I’d like to eat that elephant.’ or something I’m going to go about it as efficiently as possible. ‘Cause then I’ll be eating the elephant instead of having it appreciate how sporting I am.” “I imagine elephants are quite high in cholesterol.”
For some reason that completely derailed my train of thought, and all I could do throughout most of the opening scene was giggle wildly. “Way too easily amused.” Lilly sighed, rolling her eyes before continuing her dinner. “Actually...” I remembered, getting my cleaning kit and the rifles I’d been intending to work on the night before. I dug out a drop cloth to keep the carpet clean, then began setting everything out on the floor in front of the couch. “So which one of those is for me?” Lilly asked innocently. “I’m not sure you’d want either of these.” I explained “The shotgun tends to break thumbs if you’re not attentive enough and the 14 is hard to handle without practice, especially for smaller framed furs.” “No fair, I want one!” she teased around a mouthful of pasta. “Okay. I’ll be right back.” I agreed, hopping up and trying to make a quick dash for the truck. I didn’t really feel like putting on clothes to go thirty feet, but I didn’t want to get lectured for not doing it either, so quick was the order of the day.
I knew exactly what I was getting and exactly where it was, though I hadn’t counted on the difficulty of climbing up, barefooted, on the slippery flatbed, in the rain. I was quite proud of managing it without slipping and breaking my neck. Lilly was standing in the RV’s doorway yelling dire warnings and waving a flashlight at me. I popped the back hatch of the wagon, sorting through the contents until I found the particular oblong blanket wrapped package I was looking for, then headed back to the RV with it along with a cardboard box and one of the many cases of ammo I’d brought along.
Back at the RV, Lilly was not amused. “At least take your coat next time, you’re going to get sick one of these days!” “I come bearing gifts!” I grinned, ignoring her completely. Pushing aside the dishes on the table-bar thing I unwrapped the package, revealing a model 16. “Didn’t you say all of those were crummy?” Lilly asked, a bit grumpily. “Have a little faith, small one.” I sighed, feigning insult as I rapidly took down the weapon and wiped off the extra oil. “This one was somefur’s pet...see how the internals don’t have any wear, and all the casting and machining marks have been cleaned off? They used one of those forty year old receivers for the registered serial number, but they welded the whole thing up and re-machined it. Then they rebuilt it with all brand new parts except for a very early first model fire control group...I couldn’t even begin to guess where that came from, they may have just machined out the parts themselves. So instead of having burst mode on the selector you get legitimate auto-fire. It’s a nice piece of work...” “That’s good, I guess.” Lilly nodded, managing to sound confused and mollified at the same time.
“Pay attention, you’re going to need to learn how to do this.” I instructed. “I was.” Lilly nodded, picking up the now clean pieces and reassembling them. Correctly. On the first try. Yeah, she may have been paying attention, at least a little bit. “Well, that’s a good start.” I praised “But don’t get all complacent with me yet!” “Not everyfur is a homicidal maniac you know…” I was informed with mock seriousness. “Brat.” I accused, sliding the cardboard box to her across the floor. “I’ve got a starter kit for you there: cleaning stuff, a sling, broken shell extractor, mag pouches, and many, many, spare clips…” “But when do I get my utility belt, Captain Marvelous?” “In bits and pieces over a very long time.” I teased back “Think of them as merit badges!”
Despite her kidding around, Lilly was taking things quite seriously, and launched into situating her stuff once I began cleaning up the 14 again. I watched her out of the corner of my eye while I worked (occasionally to the detriment of my fingers), and she had quite quickly figured out how it all worked, and where it all went. When she was done with that, she began idly loading magazines while watching The Lion King. I, however, was missing quite a bit of the movie as I meticulously scrubbed the grease out of the guns, then oiled and reassembled them.
When I had finished I set the guns aside and flopped down on the floor in front of the couch, turning my attention to the movie. It wasn’t even half over: a meerkat was singing about ‘no worries’, and Lilly was humming along cheerfully. Now I’ve never been a big fan of musical numbers. Like, ever. But Lilly didn’t seem to mind, so there I was… Ah well, she was enjoying herself, so I could put up with it for a while. (Mostly because it was raining and I couldn’t find an excuse to be outside.)
“You look about ready to fall over.” Lilly observed “Would you like to hop up here next to me and rest a bit?” “Uh huh.” I nodded, doing just that. Laps, it turns out, are good for napping in, and even if I didn’t actually fall asleep I ended up the closest thing to it. I kind of sort of watched the movie, and I kind of sort of thought about tomorrow’s driving, and I kind of sort of slept through all of it. Through it all Lilly was idly skritching behind my ears, smiling every now and then when something tickled and one or the other reflexively twitched. “You’re a sleepy little kit, aren’t you?” “Just wait until I teach you to drive…” I yawned, paying a bit more attention to the ‘being awake’ side of things. “You probably should teach me how to shoot first.” Lilly suggested. “You failed to mention that…” I observed, propping myself up on my elbows and giving her a bit of a look. “I know the basics.” She defended “That’s the end the bullets come out of, and the hole in the bottom here is where you put the little metal bullet boxes in…” I just stared at her until she finally broke down laughing. “Okay, I admit it, I was just trying to reboot your brain there…” “You know I can take merit badges away too, right?” “Aww…but I like my utility belt!” Lilly grumbled, holding it possessively. “I’ll give you a pass on it this time, but don’t let it happen again, got it?” I conceded in my best attempt at a ‘law enforcement’ voice.
All was well and good again after that, at least aside from me being sleepy still. We got back to the movie (and my almost-nap) though the wind blowing sleet up against the side of the RV was kind of a distraction until one got used to it enough to begin tuning it out as a background noise. I guess that’s what furs meant by the whole ‘tin roof’ thing. The movie eventually ended, at which point Lilly cajoled me into getting up from her nice, comfortable lap and going on the immense forced march to the bedroom. I flopped down on the bed and buried my muzzle under the pillows, more than happy to call it a night. Lilly apparently wasn’t quite ready for bed, and I could hear her moving around for a bit before she settled down with a paperback book, propping herself up with a collection of pillows and stuffed animals.
My spot having been a bit disrupted, I had to snuggle up all over again. (I’m so horribly put upon…) This time Lilly’s shoulder had conveniently located itself to fill the role of headrest, which was nice since she was practically lying on my previous one. Squinting a little bit, I noticed one of Lilly’s orange spots was located just past the end of my muzzle. I watched idly as it moved slightly when she turned pages. And by scootching around a little, I discovered I could make the fur ruffle as I exhaled through my nose. This turned out to be entertaining for quite some time, and if Lilly noticed she chose not to say anything about it. Did I mention her little orange spots were really kind of cute?
As far as it went it would be safe to say that I was done for the evening…there were still things which could stand doing, but nothing with an urgency that wouldn’t keep until tomorrow. That decision being made, I decided I was out for the night, regardless of Lilly staying up and reading…it wasn’t that much light, after all… The only problem was that about the same time I’d decided on it being bedtimes she began to unconsciously fidget around. Which proved to be more than a little bit of a distraction, as far as going to sleep was concerned.
“Wha’z matter?” I mumbled, muzzle still partially buried in the bedding “You’s squirming alots…” With a giggle Lilly took my paw and placed it on crinkly plastic-cloth that could only be part of a diaper. Since the only choices were ‘hers’ or ‘mine’ I had a pretty good idea whose it was, but for the life of me I couldn’t recall her getting changed. (I must have been more tired than I thought…) As I was pondering that curiosity I began to notice a spreading, squishy warmth growing across the front of Lilly’s diaper, which began to bulge under my paw. I moved to remove the paw in question, but Lilly held it there, placing hers on top of mine and pressing down gently. She was, I noticed, breathing more heavily, and her giggling had taken on a distinctly excited tone.
After a minute or two I could feel the expanding of Lilly’s diaper slow, then gradually taper off entirely. “That’s what.” She informed me with a satisfied little sigh as she released my paw and kissed me gently on the muzzle. “Is my little girl going to need a change tonight, or are we good until the morning?” I asked, rubbing her under the chin (with the paw that wasn’t still, almost as if by it’s own accord, lingering on the front of her quite prominent diaper bulge. “Morning.” Lilly decided firmly. “That works.” I agreed as cheerfully as my advanced state of tired would allow.
I was just settling back down again, this time to maybe get some actual sleep, when I felt Lilly tapping me on the shoulder. “Psst…Hey! Know what? Know what?” Lilly asked in her little kit voice. “Glbrgh…Hmm?” I managed, displaying the full power of my intellect. “It’s your turn!” “I don’t have to tinkle right now. Maybe later…” “Aww.” She grumbled, sounding disappointed. “Well you gots to tell me when you do, even if I’s sleeping an’ everything. Otherwise I’ll haft’a sulk!” “Okay, I will.” I promised. Anything to get some sleep… “I means it.” She yawned before trailing off and starting to snore quietly “’Cause I’ll be…”
It was well into the A.M., but not so much that it could be called morning, when I grew restless enough to realize vaguely that I was awake. No sunlight invaded through chinks in the armor of the blinds on the windows, nor were there any suspicious noises or motions to hint of things that cold require an alert (and heavily armed) response, so all in all I was mostly happy to just let it ride and go back to sleep. But sadly the closer I came to awake the more insistent I realized a nagging pressure in my bladder was becoming. Bothersome how that works out sometimes…
I debated my options for a bit: Lilly was lying on my tail, so getting up wasn’t feasible (even if I wanted to, and the fact that I really kind of didn’t came as a little bit of a surprise to me) so really it was a question of wake Lilly up, or don’t wake Lilly up. Lilly had expressed an interest in being woken up, but then she needed sleep just as much as I did… Regardless of which way it went, the decision wasn’t going to wait very long before it resolved itself without my input. (On the question of output…)
“I know what you’re thinking about!” Lilly whispered in my ear, tickling the little hairs in there and making it twitch flat reflexively “You’re not a very subtle little kit!” “Not thinking. Am asleep.” I disagreed, doubting I would be particularly convincing. “Sure you are.” She agreed. I could almost see her nodding in the dark. “But I think there’s something else you were maybe thinking about telling me?” I could feel her paw drifting down across my tummy, her fingers tracing arcane and unidentifiable shapes in my fur before coming to rest on the front of my diaper. “Am I wrong?” “Nope nope.” I agreed softly, blushing in the dark as I began to let it go. Lilly was wagging her tail excitedly: I could feel it brushing up against my leg under the covers.
As the now familiar warm dampness began to spread through the diaper I could feel it begin to soak around into the back, and I began to really hope Lilly had gotten my diaper’s tail hole adjusted properly. Accidentally wetting the bed wouldn’t be ideal, particularly since it was well below freezing outside. Drying out a mattress would be all kinds of tricky if it came down to it. Lilly, it would seem, had none of my concerns regarding diaper failure, and gleefully announced that “Wow, you really soaked it…I don’t remember you having that much to drink with dinner!” as things trickled to a halt at long last. “Was drinking soda all afternoon to make sure I stayed alert.” I explained. “Silly little boy, caffeine is a diuretic, you know…” Lilly laughed pleasantly, giving the front of my now bulging diaper a pat. “Or could you have figured that part out for yourself?” “Six or eight of anything will make you have to tinkle.” I pointed out, casting doubt on her scientific theory. “That doesn’t in any way invalidate my point.”
“Anyway,” Lilly said, changing the subject “Is my little kit going to need a change now, or in the morning?” “Morning is okies.” I nodded deciding to go with Lilly’s earlier answer. Morning couldn’t possibly be that far off at this point anyway…how long does it actually take to develop diaper rash, I wonder? “Well then it’s time for all the little ones to be getting back to sleep!” “Good point, well made.” I agreed as we settled back down again. Lilly curled up against my chest, draping my arm across her before quickly drifting back to sleep. The sporadic squishy feeling of Lilly rubbing up against my diaper as she shifted around in her sleep was…distracting to say the least, but as tired as I was it still wasn’t long before I was sound asleep as well.
I awoke to an insistent pounding on the side of the RV. Daylight was weakly filtering in through the blinds by which I estimated that it was maybe 7:00 or so: dawn had barely broken. I was out of bed and heading for the door in record time. I didn’t know what would be banging on the wall, but it couldn’t be anything good. Slamming my paws into my boots without bothering to lace them up, I grabbed the shotgun from where it was leaning up against the wall and began thumbing in bird shot rounds as I hit the door. If there was something on the wall I didn’t want things to over penetrate and put Lilly in harms way. At only ten or twenty feet the pellets wouldn’t even separate from the shot cup unless it hit a hard target. Like a wall, then it would just shatter. With soft targets, like anything that walks, it would tear ragged, two-inch holes. On top of that, the ancient first-war trench gun had the mechanically interesting quirk of being designed without a trigger disconnecter: if one was so inclined one could hold down the trigger and just cycle the pump. Every time the bolt locked shut the gun would go boom. It would leave a nasty bruise behind, but in a tight spot you could empty all 9 rounds in about four seconds. So, short version, I fully intended to mess up something’s day.
Careening out the door in nothing but a droopy diaper and pair of unlaced hiking boots, I continuously made my way around the corner of the RV, shotgun barrel leading the way. Expecting I’m not even sure what, I rounded the corner and was met by an unexpected site...a partially broken off tree branch blowing around in the wind. A slow buildup of ice had snapped it halfway back to the tree trunk, but not broken it entirely, so whenever the wind caught the sail-like protuberance it banged up against the RV.
Feeling silly, let down, and more than slightly cold, I turned to hurry back inside before having to explain myself to Lilly. No such luck, however: as I was double-timing it back inside she was coming out with almost equal haste... Though it should be noted that she had grabbed a bathrobe, it’s pockets weighed down with clips, the 16 in her paws, and strapped shut hastily with the belt from her jeans, her sidearm prominently in place. “It’s a tree.” I sighed, embarrassed. “A branch came down from the weather.”
“Did you shoot it?” Lilly asked, dead seriously “Trees can be pretty dangerous an....” Not even able to finish the sentence, she broke out in a fit of giggles before grabbing me by the tail and dragging me back inside. “Now seriously, how long would it have taken to put on a coat? Now we’ve got to dry you off too!” Wiping down the shotgun with an oily rag, I dumped out the shells and leaned it back up against the wall. Lilly laid her 16 on the kitchen table-thing, then carefully hung her well-stuffed and weighty robe on the back of a chair. “You’re going to have to find me a vest or something, dearest.” she explained, ducking into the bathroom for a towel “I can’t very well keep going to save the day in a bathrobe!”
“Well, duty called.” I sighed, sitting cross-legged on the floor so Lilly could reach my back from her seat on the couch. “You said doody!” she giggled as she started in on my headfur and shoulders. I just sighed theatrically and rolled my eyes, wondering how a fine mist could have soaked my coat through so quickly. Maybe it was a sign I should switch to a better quality of shampoo. Maybe even something that came in sizes smaller than five gallons... “So, what’s the plan?” Lilly asked, rubbing my back quite pleasantly with a new towel. “I’d prefer to stay put until the afternoon, see if the sun will clear up the roads some.” I explained. “And since it’s pretty woodsy out I was thinking about seeing if I could find any edible looking critters around here...I’m sick of jerky and potted meats!”
“Aww, is my intrepid little hunter-gatherer getting a bit picky with his diet?” she grinned back, amused by my unexpected vehemence. “He is, he really is.” I agreed more mildly. “Well, I don’t disagree in principle.” she nodded “It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything fit to eat in that category...even those freeze-dried pouches from the ration packs are starting to sound appealing.” I was pretty much as dry as I was going to get, and had stopped shivering, so Lilly declared things done “Except for the obvious...”
“I’ve a firm grasp of the obvious.” I informed Lilly seriously. “I’ll get a firm grasp on your ‘obviously’ if you try to go outside like that again!” she told me equally seriously “Nofur is scheduled for getting sick on my watch!” “You don’t have a watch.” I noticed, pointing to her wrist “I guess it doesn’t make any difference though. It’s not like we have anywhere to be...” “I broke mine.” Lilly explained “I was running away from some Shadows in my office building way back at the very beginning of all this, and I banged it on a door jam. ‘Crunch’, and then no more watch. It was an expensive one too, I got it to wear to work...” “Mine wasn’t.” I grinned, holding up my wrist. “It was just a cheap piece of junk and it quit working one day. I left it on a picnic table at a rest stop down south somewhere that probably doesn’t even exist any more...”
“Let’s go get changed for the day.” Lilly suggested, changing the subject before the mood in the RV continued growing any bleaker. “I’s starting to get a little bit itchy.” I agreed, taking her paw. Once we were getting set up in the bedroom, Lilly patted the spot on the bed. “You first, you’re getting a little bit antsy, and besides, you’re going to need actual clothes if you’re going to work outside in that weather.” Nodding, I flopped down on the bed, waiting patiently as Lilly unfastened the tapes and slipped off the old diaper before beginning to clean up my diaper area with some of the now quite familiar wipes. Then once everything was properly clean she blotted me dry with a towel, then worked in some powder for good measure “Just to be sure you don’t develop a rash.” she explained as I grabbed some boxes and one of my shiny new (metaphorically speaking) pairs of heavy pants. “That and because you like the idea.” “Yes, and because I like the idea.” Lilly agreed.
“Right! Your turn then, little girl!” I announced after I finished buttoning up my flannel shirt. “Are we going to be a big girl or a little girl for the next little bit?” “Little girl!” she lisped as she climbed up to the spot I had recently vacated. “Okay, but no wandering around out in the weather without proper clothes, promise?” “Okies!” she agreed cheerfully, though showing a little bit of impatience in her expression.
Deciding to be a little bit of a brat for no particular reason I puttered around in the supply drawer supposedly looking for something, despite having everything neatly set out for me on the bed. Lilly did pretty well as far as patience was concerned, aside from some almost subconscious little whining noises. “Good little kits try to be patient...” I told her (barely suppressing a grin) before popping her paci into her muzzle. It didn’t do anything for the puppy dog eyes though. (All Canids by the way, can do the puppy dog eyes, not just ‘dogs’, and Lilly, it turned out, was good at it.)
After another minute or two I decided that I had kept Lilly in anticipation long enough, and pretending to have just noticed the supplies neatly set out on the bed declared innocently: “Oh! There it is!” Lilly gave me a look somewhere between amusement and exasperation at that one, but she was too happily involved with her paci to comment.
Unfastening the tapes on what turned out to be a very soggy diaper, I was a little bit surprised by how much they would actually hold. Somewhere out there was a chemical engineer who really knew their stuff... Tossing the old diaper in the trash bag Lilly had brought from the bathroom, I opened up the package of wipes. Methodically I began to wipe up her girl parts, eliciting an involuntary little shiver. The wipes were cold, and she hadn’t been soaked completely through with slushy rain just before being changed… When I thought about it I could vaguely recall seeing a warmer advertised in some newspaper circular back when there still were such things…it would certainly be something to keep an eye out for.
“There we go!” I announced when I was thoroughly done “Spotlessly clean! Well, not spotlessly, I’m pretty sure the spots are permanent…” Taking a fresh wipe, I playfully scrubbed on a few of her random spots, earning a giggle for my efforts. “Nope, those just don’t seem to have any intention of coming off, do they? I suppose I might as well just give up on it…” Sighing theatrically, I began to work in some of the baby powder. Lilly just had a happy grin on her muzzle. Aside from the cold wipes she would be quite content to just stay here all day. Aside from preferring a better parking space, it wouldn’t bother me either…
With a little bit of a sign I slipped a fresh diaper under Lilly’s bottom, threading her tail through its tail hole and fastening the appropriate tapes. “Moving on to the last step…” I joked, folding up the front and fastening up the second set of tapes “And you’re good!” I declared, giving her a hand up. “Going to look at the maps.” She told me “Try to do some semi-long-term planning…” “My long-term plans have mostly been ‘don’t die’.” I agreed as we moved back to the living area. Lilly had brought in the map bag the night before, along with my notebooks, so it didn’t take very long for her to have completely covered almost every available flat surface.
Clearing a spot to sit down, I pulled on my hiking boots and snapped on a chest strap before setting out my equipment. Mini binocs, a capeing knife, several feet of paracord, compass, and a pair of extra magazines for the 14. As an afterthought I also grabbed a couple of chemical light sticks as well. I had made a point of always carrying a disposable lighter and multi-tool, so after getting my sidearm and putting on my hat I was ready to go.
“Okay, I’m off to find us something tasty!” I announced “Stay out of trouble while I’m out.” “Gloves?” Lilly suggested after looking me over. “I haven’t found a decent pair yet.” I explained “They’re all too damn thick, it makes it hard to do things…” “Just don’t let your paws get frostbitten.” She warned, not exactly satisfied with my answer. “I won’t. I promise.” I assured her before stepping outside into the weather.
The best thing to do would be to get some altitude on the situation, so I followed the truck pull-out uphill as far as I could, then cut through the woods to the top of the ridge. It wasn’t the highest point in the area by any stretch of the imagination, but it was still a decent vantage point. Settling down in under a relatively dry rock overhang I took out my binoculars and started glassing the area.
Lilly had settled in to ‘travel agent’ mode pretty quickly after Nick had left, dividing the many and varied papers into neat, manageable, little piles around a centrally placed map of the continent. The initial organizing of things had been a lot tougher than she had originally anticipated: organization was not one of Nick’s strong suits. Neither, she had to admit after reviewing his notes, were abbreviations. His shorthand was truly something to be stared at. Rubbing her temples, she eventually decided that there was nothing for it but to wade in and try to make sense of it as she went.
As time wore on the big map sprouted more and more new ink and highlighter. Known danger spots, reported danger spots, extrapolated danger spots…she penned them all in with a concise, neat form. If she stopped to think about it for too long it was pretty scary, the growing hashed out areas slowly spreading across the map. And probably even worse, the spots that they just didn’t know. Were they infested? Were they gone, sucked into some gaping black pit of who knows what? Were there other survivors still holding out, but with no means of communication? Damn it, she realized suddenly, she should have made Nick take a radio with him. It probably wouldn’t have actually been good for anything, but it would have made her feel better about spending time alone again.
Nick was certainly one of the stranger todds she had met in her somewhat sheltered life, certainly nothing like the males she used to date. But then he had been accepting of her, all of her, while she would never have even considered trying to explain infantilism to any of her old boyfriends…it just would not have gone over well at all… Sure, Nick might speak his mind at an inopportune time or place, any inopportune time or place, but on the other paw she couldn’t see any of them dragging all over a mountain in this kind of weather just to be sure that she had something good to eat for dinner.
A good dinner wasn’t going all that well. “All the critters have the sense not to be out in this.” I thought dourly “At least all the ones big enough to be worth eating…” I’d been sharing my spot with a band of hyperactive little rock squirrels that put in an appearance as the wind picked up and the ice started to blow. There were cute for the first half hour, distracting for the next few, and now I just wished I could potshot a couple without scaring off everything in the county.
My patience could not get much thinner at this point, but admitting defeat rankled as well, so I decided to try and keep at it for a while longer. Eventually something would have to wander by, unless I really, really lost the game of averages…
It ended up taking another two hours, but eventually a mule deer made the mistake of poking its head up for a look around during a lull in the storm. “Finally!” I grumbled in exasperation, making not of its whereabouts before starting out. The 14 was a good rifle, but it only had open battle sights, not a scope, and while it could probably pop a mulie out at seven hundred yards, I was pretty sure I couldn’t without a scope. That whole needing glasses to see the end of my muzzle thing again… It was going to be a long walk to get close enough to pop a cap in Bambi, especially with everything iced over and slippery like it was, but then since when had life ever promised to be easy?
The further I went, the less close to easy the task became. Down the hillside, up the next, and along the ridge at its peak, I was slipping, sliding, and swearing for at least twice as long as I had thought I would be. Eventually I did get set up, and when next my quarry raised its head I was ready for the shot…which I missed completely, totally misjudging where it would reappear. “Oh hell no!” I swore, dropping the selector on the 14 down to full-auto and burning off the entire magazine as my future dinner snorted and turned to flee.
After recovering from the momentary shock of being battered around by the 14, and taking a moment to appreciate why an ordnance selection panel had decided to switch over to a more ‘controllable’ service rifle, I determined that yes, in fact I’d got it. Several times more than necessary. Along with a good bit of the pine tree behind it. Sitting down on my heels, I scooped up a handful of snow and popped it in my mouth in lieu of the canteen I’d not thought to bring. There was still a lot of work to be done before ‘critter’ was ‘dinner’. “Don’t give me that look.” I grumbled at the now cooling carcass “I still have to lug your heavy butt back home.”
It was a bit after 12:30 when Lilly looked up again from her project. She was pretty sure she’d heard a rifle going off a while ago, but sound could travel a long way echoing around up in the hills so that really didn’t correlate with when Nick would be back, just that she was pretty sure he was successful. And would more than likely be a combination of tired and smelly when he got back. Thank the gods for having a shower…
Her work on the maps was going well, and she was quite pleased with the results. (As well as the excuse to play with colored pencils…her symbols did kind of look like something you would see on the front of a kindergartener’s fridge.) Aside from being pretty it did a good job of staking out trends and explaining which direction they should probably start going in: in a few words, north-north/west. The creepy little boogers were averse to cold and dry, it would appear… That was a useful thing to know. “So the southwest, all the way up north across the border.” She mused aloud. “I always did want to see the National Parks…”
With the direction generally sorted out, location became the next major issue. Obviously anywhere west of here: there appeared to be a salient of activity not too terribly far from their present location. That was probably where the Shadows the other day came from. Really, by the look of things the best idea would probably be to risk one of the big highways for a time, cut across the flatlands to the southern deserts as quickly as possible, then take it from here. The I-906 would take them straight through, and it was the only big route she could be sure would not be in dangerous territory. It was a shame that the Shadows wouldn’t stick to roads instead of just sort of overlapping across everything. Inconsiderate of them to say the least.
Idly popping her paci in her muzzle, Lilly began making some notes in a blank notebook from the pile. The main concern, really, was if the areas they would be traveling through might have already been stripped bare by previous waves of refugees. It was a very real concern that they would have to deviate too far off the highway in search of supplies…how much diesel could the big tow rig carry, anyway? Nick had put on auxiliary tanks, she remembered the gauges, but… The door banged open as Nick let himself in, hanging up his coat, then flopping on the couch, obviously exhausted.
Cleaning and processing the mulie had been long, tiring work, and hauling back the meat on an improvised travois had been even more so, but the thought of tonight’s dinner had a way of keeping me motivated. “I got dinner!” I declared from my collapsed pile on the couch “Lots of dinner!” “We probably should bring it inside before something else decides to eat it.” Lilly observed, ducking outside and bringing everything in over the course of about three trips.
I tried getting up to give her a hand, but she just waved me back down with a stern look. When it was all finally inside she set about with a roll of plastic wrap packaging everything before popping the neat little bundles into the freezer. “That will about do it!” she announced, washing her paws before sitting down at the island-counter thing. (I was basically taking up the whole couch, I noticed ruefully.)
“I have some routes sketched out on the maps, but first you are going to shower and take a nap.” I was informed. “I think I’ll go shower, then maybe take a nap.” I decided, as if it had been my own intent. “Good idea.” Lilly nodded as I stripped down and headed for the shower. Since we hadn’t tried it yet I didn’t know how well the hot water would work, but once it got going things were surprisingly satisfactory. I did my best to quickly but thoroughly scrub down: my footpaws were sore from all the walking, and I really did just sort of want to lie down for a bit.
After a lot of hot water and a nontrivial amount of shampoo I reluctantly shut off the shower and shook off as well as I could in the available space before getting out and grabbing a beach towel from the cabinet. Lilly was waiting for me back out in the living area when I emerged again. “Let’s get you settled in for naptimes, then I think I’ll do some reading for a while. You wouldn’t believe how burned out on maps I am right now.” “I can make a guess.” I nodded, observing the stuff she had strewn around the place. “It would appear you’ve been a busy girl while I was out…” “Yeppers!” she agreed cheerfully.
Lilly settled herself in at the little armchair/writing desk combo with her paperback while I snuggled up with whatever random bedding happened to be in the way at the time. “You’re not taking a nap too…” I grumbled “Who am I supposed to snuggle with?” “Here you go!” she announced, taking a bug stuffed wolf out of her ‘plushie net’ above the bed and tucking it in next to me. “There see? I’m a problem solver!” “Uh huh.” I agreed. “You didn’t blow up anything though, so only partial credit.” “Is that how you usually solve problems?” Lilly mostly joked. “It’s happened occasionally.” I yawned “But I don’t admit involvement, mind you…” “Of course not.” She assured me “And I had nothing to do with that Robo-Bunnies advertising campaign…”
“You monster!” I growled through a more vigorous yawn “How could you set that horrid, shrill, mind-numbingly repetitive drivel loose on the world?!” “Oh please, melodramatic a little?” Lilly laughed “Besides, it was nowhere near as bad as the ones for the Baldling dolls they were selling a year or so back for the winter solstice…remember those?” “Ugh, yes. And I was happier before you reminded me.” Lilly just grinned at that one, then reached over and skritched under my muzzle for a little while before returning to her book. “Fine. But I’m only forgiving you once. Next time you’re going to time out.” “Not if I send you there first!”
I didn’t really have a response to that particular piece of logic, so I just ‘harrumph-ed’ at it and dropped the subject. Nobody wants to start a timeout war…then we would need a timeout treaty and timeout peace accords… It would end up being a lot of trouble. And what happens if we end up in a timeout cold war? It could be years before we had a timeout détante… Bleagh, you can tell it’s time for a nap when my train of thought starts wandering like that…
Tired and sleepy unfortunately don’t always have any real correlation to each other, and instead of actually sleeping I just kind of lounged around with the wolf plushie, watching Lilly read her book. Which was actually a lot more interesting than you would think. Lilly really got into her novel, and you could sort of tell how things were going in it based on the expressions on her muzzle. She would grin, barely not laughing aloud, or have little twitches of surprise in her eyebrows, a frown of disapproval…it was pretty entertaining to watch, actually. And then, right about the time I had given up on it, I fell asleep.
I felt a lot better after my nap. Carrying stuff through snow is hard work. Lilly was still sitting next to me reading, and while I didn’t know the time she had made a lot of progress in her book, so it must have been a nontrivial amount of time. “Are you back then?” she smiled, noticing I was awake. “Yep.” I nodded, stretching “I hope you didn’t let me sleep too long, I don’t want to hold up our progress just for a nap.” “First, it’s really not been all that long, and second if you need rest unless there is an emergency I’m going to let you sleep until you wake back up. It’s much healthier that way.”
“So…maps then?” I asked after stretching out everything and putting on a pair of pants. “Well,” Lilly began, showing me the ‘big map’ “Remember that this is the least crummy of some bad options, but we need to get out of this area.” Looking at her map I really couldn’t argue with that. “So I’m thinking the best thing to do would be to follow this road out west.” Observing the path she traced, I nodded in agreement “There are worse options. It all depends on how passable the road still is. The worst case really would just be ending up having to stick to some of these back roads paralleling the highway. We shouldn’t stop until we are clear of it though…” “Agreed, then.” Lilly nodded “Let’s get this over with…”
We grabbed the more specific maps Lilly had prepared, along with a bag of snacks, her book, and a fuzzy fleece blanket, then shut everything down and got back on the road. Lilly hadn’t bothered to change out of her more childish outfit, she just grabbed one of my flannel shirts and a pair of sandals. I was a bit concerned about her being cold, but after curling up in the blanket she seemed quite content with things so I just let it be. As usual she was a quite competent navigator, and we had soon found our way up to the highway on-ramp.
“It doesn’t look too bad from here.” I observed. “From here.” She agreed. I had stopped in the middle lane of the westbound side, and we were seeing what there was to see with the glass. It was three lanes in either direction without a median strip, just a crash wall. One of the great western super-slabs it was not. Passable, the much more important consideration at this juncture, it managed wonderfully. At least for the visible mileage it was completely clear. There was a scattering of abandoned vehicles on the soft shoulder, but they were just that: out of gas and left behind. Much less scary than the other option…
And away we went, though slower than I would have preferred. There hadn’t been anyfur along to plow snow or de-ice things all season so it was a bit slippery. “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. Keep those wheels rollin’.” Lilly was humming to herself happily. “I’m trying to.” I agreed “At least as much as the road will allow.” “Let’s not aggravate the road then, it’s going to be a long haul today…” Glancing over her shoulder at the map, I had to agree with her. But as long as the road conditions didn’t deteriorate we would make pretty good time.
‘Good time’ ended up lasting about four hours. Lilly had put on an audiobook, but was keeping a sharp eye on things for the first two hour or so (as did I), but the bland repetitiveness of the trip eventually began to wear, and complacency to develop. Lilly ended up napping in her cozy little blanket nest, and I was driving a bit too fast while watching the road a bit less than I should have been. So when we came up
over the top of a particularly blind hill and nearly into the single largest traffic pileup that I had ever seen I had to do some creative deceleration to keep from adding us to the huge pile of twisted metal and shattered plastic.
“Whew! That was a near thing!” I yelped, trying to will my heart rate back under control while quickly backing us up out of potential range at the same time. “What? What’s happening?” Lilly yelled, trying to extract herself from her blanket. “The road is blocked.” I explained as we came to a halt. “Time to appraise the situation…” “It would seem so, yes.” She agreed as she reached for the binocs.
It was an incredible mess. All three westbound lanes were a solid wreck, spilling over the crash barrier and into the eastbound lanes, where it in turn caused its own smaller but still impressive mess. “I’ll have to walk it and see if it can be pulled apart where it blocks the soft shoulder, but it looks like we’re going to have to pass on the dirt…” I sighed. “As long as there isn’t anything living in that mess I can put up with a bumpy ride for a bit.” Lilly assured me. “I agree with you wholeheartedly on that one.” I nodded
After a sensibly long time watching the accidental roadblock neither Lilly nor I could find anything that would suggest that things were not exactly what they seemed to be. “I’m going to go walk that mess.” I decided “It isn’t going to get any safer if we wait, and I want this in the rearview mirror before the sun goes down. You keep watch with the spotter.” Lilly didn’t look particularly happy with that, but then I wasn’t either. The wood line’s proximity to the road prevented us from just taking a wide loop through, so it couldn’t be avoided.
Taking one of the walkies and my 180 from the dashboard, I hopped back out into the cold. “Testing?” I asked, keying the mike. “It’s working…at least for the next couple feet…” Lilly informed me. I hadn’t moved the truck, so the first bit of my tour was actually hiking down to the wreck. Up close it had obviously been there a while: rust coated scratches and chips, leaves piled up inside broken windows, and there was only the faintest smell of spilled fluids. There was still a strong smell of decomposition about the area though. I tried not to think about that. It was a good sign though: Shadows wouldn’t have left the dead. All that had been here were local scavengers, things that couldn’t open a car door. So, truly a horrendous accident then.
I told Lilly what I had found out, hearing her relieved voice telling me to be careful and watch out for snakes. Only having snakes to worry about was a big relief. You have to focus on the little victories these days… The wreck seemed to go on forever, I rounded a bend in the road and lost sight of the truck behind me (to Lilly’s radioed consternation), and still the pile of wrecked vehicles continued. I was almost beginning to give up hope of ever getting past it when I rounded another curve and found the cause of it all: a jackknifed trailer lying on its side blocking the entire westbound side of the highway.
It was a refrigerated tanker truck, which had almost broken in half at the middle when it flipped. Hazmat corrosion and inhalation placards decorated the back bumper, but broken open like it was whatever its cargo had been, it was long gone now. Looking around the back of the truck carefully, I found the placard with the chemical identifier number: UN1017, committing it to memory before turning around and going back the way I had come, inspecting the soft shoulder as I went. All in all it was pretty clear, and the few obstructions were all things I was pretty sure I could move with the tow truck’s push bar. By the time I got back I was feeling pretty positive about things…
Hopping back up into the cab, I set the 180 across the dash and explained the situation to Lilly while pawing through the contents of the glove box. Inevitably whatever I am looking for tends to find its way to the bottom of what I’m looking in, and after way more time than two cubic feet justify I produced a little black paperback book. “The Pocket Ref.” I explained as I flipped through its miniscually thin pages “Home of all knowledge in the universe.” Ignoring Lilly’s dubious look, I found the chart I was looking for. “And UN1017 is…drum roll please…gaseous chlorine!” “Like in pools?” Lilly wondered, more than a little confused. “Like in pools. Well mostly, they usually chemically bind it to calcium so it’s safer to handle in pools, but its natural state is a gas.” I explained “Very toxic, and heavier than air, plus it’s mostly colorless. Down in that little valley where it could just sit out of the wind…ugh. Bad scene. By the time anyfur realized there was something wrong their lungs were already destroyed… We’re a little short on staffed emergency rooms these days, not that they would be able to do much good anyway…” “Will it be safe to drive through?” “Oh yeah.” I nodded “As a gas it’s pretty unstable, so it doesn’t take all that long to break down into nothing. So yes, it’s long gone now.” “It’s still kind of creepy though…” “No argument there.”
We started down the soft shoulder slowly, doing my best to avoid bashing things up on the uneven surface. The first big obstruction was really nerve wracking, but by using the low gear tree and starting slowly it all just kind of scooted out of the way with a screech. From the other car. Which was exactly how I preferred it, given the option. Score one for vanadium steel… “It looks like this is going to be doable.” Lilly decided. “It’s probably going to take longer than I would prefer though. I’m not comfortable being hemmed in like this.” I grumbled back. Despite my pessimism we really did make good time, and before I know it I was gingerly trying to shove the crumpled tanker trailer out of the way. That proved to be the only rough part of the exercise, and I eventually had to use the winch to lift its rear axels up off the ground before they could be swung out of the way. (Effectively folding the tanker the rest of the way in half.)
Pulling back on the road past the truck, I accelerated quickly until we were up the other side of the hill and back outside of that unfortunate little valley of death. “I really don’t want to stop again until we’re well away from there.” I sighed “It’s really pretty depressing.” “I’m fine, let’s just get past this piece of highway.” Lilly nodded. As best as either of us could tell from the maps we still had quite a way to go before the relative safety of the western deserts.
“Are you good to drive until we’re off this highway?” Lilly asked “You’ve been at it for quite a while, and it’s going to be getting dark soon…” “I’ll be fine.” I assured her “I had that big nap this morning, I’m not even vaguely tired yet.” “Well, just don’t push it if you start getting tired, okay?” “No problem.” I agreed “But only if you break out dinner. I’m hungry again…” “I think we can do that.” Lilly smiled. Finding the snack bag again, she began dispensing various finger foods for our snacking enjoyment. I had to be a little bit careful to avoid things that would get on the steering wheel or shifter, but when Lilly noticed my efforts she began to amuse herself by popping random snacks into my muzzle.
As the sun went down and the headlights kicked in her game grew harder and harder until eventually she gave up and put the food away again except for a couple of cans of prepackaged tea. “I might take a nap for a little while.” She yawned, reclining her seat and snuggling down into her blanket. I was going to make a joke about it, but I caught a look at her out of the corner of my eye and cut it off before I started. She didn’t look so good, seeming skittish and obviously a little bit pale, even through her fur. Not everyfur could handle carloads of the dead, I guess…
About the time Lilly passed into a peaceful slumber we made it down into the beginnings of the flatlands, which was both good and bad: the driving was both easier and quicker, but it was also a whole lot less interesting, and after the first hundred or so miles I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. Luckily, there’s a pill for that, and after fishing out a tube of the little yellow tabs and popping a couple I could feel my pupil dilating solution, with its characteristic blink-free tendencies, kicking in. Grinning stupidly to myself I popped one of the cans of tea and kicked back to watch the miles roll on by. It was going to be a long night, but at the moment I’d be the last fur on the planet to notice.
When Lilly woke up again it was with a very confused expression on her muzzle. It was daylight, and outside her window there was only a mildly rolling expanse of reds and tans. “Well good morning!” I grinned, laughing at her temporary confusion. “You drove all night?” she accused in exasperation “I thought you were going to stop when you got tired.” “I am.” I agreed “As a matter of fact I was just looking for a place when you woke up.” “Your pupils are still dilated. “ she observed, obviously not happy about it. “Probably.” I nodded. “You haven’t seen my sunglasses around here, have you?” “I put them in the little tray thing on the side of your door. Don’t change the subject.”
“Okay.” I grumbled back, finding them and putting them on. It made an immense difference, no wonder I was getting cranky... “We’re several hundred miles into the great western desert, maybe thirty miles south of the alkali badlands. We have to skirt around to the west of those before we start going north because nofur has ever been dumb enough to cut a road through there. Meanwhile I’m tired and not exactly feeling fantastic, but there’s an intersection just down the road that looks big enough to have a super-stop so I’m hoping for fuel and shade.” Lilly was obviously trying not to be sympathetic, but was failing at it until eventually she just sighed and shook her head. “I wish you hadn’t done that.”
I could tell she was gearing up for a lecture, but I was spared having to try to look properly chastised by the appearance of the truck stop I had been hoping for. “You were right!” Lilly grinned as we pulled into the facility. I bypassed the smaller ‘civilian’ islands and went around to the big commercial diesel ones on the other side, picking one in the middle for its superior shade. To my outright joy the digital readouts on the displays were still lit up. The station’s electricity was on! “It must be on one of the big nuclear power grids out here.” I laughed, setting the parking brake and killing the engine.
“Not so fast!” Lilly cautioned, grabbing me by the tail as I was getting out of the cab “What if there’s something lurking around in there?” “I’ll kill it.” I explained cheerfully “It’s kind of been that sort of evening...” “I can’t really argue with that logic.” Lilly sighed, looking like she really sort of wished she could. Picking the 180 up from the dash I tried climbing out again. It worked better with my tail not being used as a leash... I strode regally up to the door to the trucker’s lounge...only to discover it was locked. So, it turned out, was the main front door.
“That’s actually good.” Lilly mused “they just locked up and went home and no one has been back since, so there’s probably still plenty of fuel and supplies.” “True.” I agreed “I just have to pry one side of the door out of the frame and we’re good to go.” Which is why I own more than one crowbar. Having the right tools always simplifies a job. “The great thing about sliding doors” I lectured as I worked “is that they’re designed to be pushed open in an emergency, so the sides by the walls are typically pretty easy to break the hinges on. Like so, and we’re in!” Leaning on the broken hinge, I soon had the gap wide enough to comfortably walk through. “And it’ll push right back again when we’re done...”
The full-pane windows easily let in enough illumination to find the light switches behind the registers, and after a search of the building to assure we were alone Lilly and I began to do some more casual browsing. It was your typical super-stop, aside from the mini fast food franchise being closed. No big loss there, I’ve had gas station pizza. “Well, I suppose we can shop at our leisure.” Lilly grinned “It’s nice to be a bit more relaxed about it!” “Yep, just one thing first, last, and always...” I corrected. Leaning out the door I noted our pump number, then poked at the tank controls until I had the system convinced to turn on the pump. “Be back, little one!”
No matter how harmless things might seem I was unwilling to pass up or put off a chance for fuel. I’d put on a lot of miles the night before, and while I could go quite a while longer on the reserves, why risk it? Putting in the filler and starting the pump, I took the opportunity to check the fluids. The water in the windshield squeegee had long since dried up, so I had to put that task off for a while... Things could even be back to normal if you ignored what the vehicle actually was. Well that and the machine gun hanging by its strap from the corner of the hood.
I’d finished my tasks and was half asleep on my paws when the pump dinged its completion, prompting me, in its own gentle way, to move the filler to the other tank and start all over again. Then when that one was full I topped off the tank for the RV’s genny. Finally, and with a little reluctance, I declared everything officially ‘full’ and put the nozzle back on the pump. “And now with life’s most overriding concern taken care of, you’re free to move around the building.” I laughed to myself. Before I had joined up with Lilly I used to talk to myself all the time, just to hear a voice in the silence, but now that I had company the habit had been slowly passing. It’s really easy to get used to not being alone, just not the other way around.
Going back inside I found Lilly wandering around with a pen and some scratch paper inventorying what she wanted to take with us. “We’re good on fuel!” I announced, hopping up on the front counter with a grunt. It wasn’t the most comfortable of seats, but it did supply a commanding view of most of the super-stop. “That’s good.” she agreed from somewhere in the vicinity of the refrigerator cases. “So you’re not taking your nap like a good little boy because...?” “I’m all awake now after doing the car.” I explained patiently “So no naptimes until I’m tired again.” “It doesn’t work that way.” Lilly explained equally slowly ‘You need a nap, so you are going to get a nap.”
“But I’m not tired.” I whined, hopping back up and going over to where Lilly was picking over a selection of canned goods. Reaching into the nearest cooler, I grabbed a beer in defiance of the sign ordering furs “Don’t break the 6-packs!” Popping off the bottle cap on the edge of a display shelf, I swigged half of it at a go while trying to think up a more convincing argument. Sadly the only thing that was forthcoming was a disapproving look from Lilly.
“What? It’s not like I’m driving.” I sighed “Come to that it’s not like there’s even anyfur left to enforce the open container laws...I wonder if a liter bottle of bourbon will fit in the truck’s cup holder...” “You most certainly will not!” Lilly huffed “Don’t think for a second you’re too big to spank, little kit!” “Okay! Okay! I surrender!” I placated “No spankies necessary!” “Good.” she harrumphed “There had better not be...” Man, Lilly was kind of cranky this morning. I guess she got up on the wrong side of the pickup cab... “And weren’t you going back to the RV for a nap?” “I guess if I really have to...” I sighed, grabbing the rest of my six-pack from the cooler then heading for the door. “I’ll be in shortly to check on you!” Lilly yelled after me.
On the way out something occurred to me and I swung by the register, grabbing a couple of rolls of scratch off tickets from the display. Wouldn’t it be fun to win the lottery? Putting the beer in the fridge back in the RV, I turned the air conditioning down to a much cooler setting against the already developing afternoon heat. Just because it was winter didn’t mean it wasn’t going to be way hotter than I prefer during the afternoon. Rummaging around in my maps bag I eventually found my little calculator and along with a butter knife from the kitchen I was good to go.
There’s something mindlessly fun about scratching off the little boxes, at least if you’re not paying two bucks a pop for the privilege, and before too long I was happily engrossed in my little game. Since there really wasn’t any win or lose without a way to cash in the tickets, (or money of actual value, for that matter) I kept a running tally on the calculator, just so I would know if I was having fun or not. In general the calculator thought I wasn’t, but it wasn’t the one getting to scratch off things, so I could see how it might feel that way about the process.
“That doesn’t look much like taking a nap.” Lilly observed, having come up behind me while I was otherwise occupied. “Ah! Don’t do that!” I yelped, my tail frizzing up to twice its normal size. “Sorry.” she sighed “I should get a bell or a loop of keys or something...though the fact remains that you’re not napping.” “I’m playing the lottery.” I explained, sounding a little grumpy, even to myself. “And it will still be there when you get back up.” she told me, gently taking my paw and leading me to bed. She obviously didn’t need a nap: Lilly was alert and energetic and cheerful...and the fact that was kind of getting on my nerves only went to prove she was correct about the nap issue. Crud.
Detouring to the bathroom I took a moment to wash all the scratch-off goobers from my paws. I didn’t want to be picking it out of the bedding for the next million years. Then with that task complete I stripped down to my boxers and climbed into bed. “It’s probably good you got the a/c started up already.” Lilly sighed “It’s getting hot out and it’s not even lunchtime yet. No wonder nofur with any sense lives out here…I’ll take cold and snow over the heat any time!” “It gets cold here too…” I yawned “There just isn’t enough moisture for snow. Or much of anything else, really.” “It’s just depressing out here: everything is so brown and dusty!” “There’s a lot of color here actually.” I disagreed, feeling an irrational need to defend the area. “Yeah, but it’s all variations of brown and tan.” “There’s some really pretty sunsets though, it’s not the desert’s fault you slept through them so far…” “Well, maybe this evening…” Lilly conceded, deciding she wasn’t going to win the discussion while I was tired and grumpy. Making me take a nap was a good consolation prize, she would settle for that…
Lilly reached over and got the blinds for me. Despite that, there was still a fair bit of light filtering in through the edges, and the room ended up being more dim than dark. I pretty quickly discovered that I was tired enough that I really didn’t care. The beer helped out in that respect as well. “I’m going to go finish sorting through the truck stop, then we’ll have a late lunch or early dinner when you are back up and about.” Lilly decided. “Don’t wait on me to eat if you get hungry, okay?” I instructed “I can always grab something later. I don’t want you going hungry on my account.” “My little kit gets melodramatic when he’s tired.” Lilly observed with good humor “Nofur is going to starve to death around here any time soon, you realize that, right?” I just stuck out my tongue at her. I wasn’t awake enough to be witty any more.
I was already well on my way to being asleep by the time I heard the RV door bang shut behind Lilly. Fishing around in the bedding for a bit, I located my paci, then popped it in my muzzle. The next step was to figure out how to yawn without losing it again, but I fell asleep before working out the details.
For the first time since it all started I had a nice dream. Lilly and I were living somewhere in the great northern forest. It was fall, and the leaves were changing. We were parked a little down from the top of a gentle rise, a small stream flowing through the valley below us. There were birds singing and the sun felt warm on my fur.
Lilly was sitting at a wooden picnic table knitting something. I had to laugh at that, Lilly never struck me as the knitting type. She looked up from her work at the noise and smiled, waving me over. “How’d it go?” she asked. “Fine!” I smiled back “Everything is going wonderfully.” It seemed like the right thing to say: this was the best I could remember it being. That probably wasn’t what she meant but by now I would take whatever I could get good-news-wise.
I flopped down across from her at the table, watching her work. “I’m getting better at it.” Lilly explained with pride “I only have to unstitch it every now and then, not like when I just started learning and had to redo about every third line.” “Very good!” I agreed supportively “So what’s this one going to be?” “I’m making you a scarf. It’s going to be that time of year again soon, and we never did find you a good one.” Looking at the completed end more carefully, I burst out laughing. “I love it!”
She had used muted, almost cammo shades of greens, grays, and browns in the yarn. The pattern, however, consisted of pacifiers, baby bottles, and diaper pins, with a row of teddy bears making up the border at the end. “I hope it gets cold soon so I can wear it!” I giggled enthusiastically. “Have patience.” She giggled back “At these latitudes we’ll have more cold than you could ever possibly want in a little bit…I just hope I get it finished first!”
“I have full confidence in your abilities in that regard.” I told her seriously before leaning over the table and giving her a kiss on the muzzle. “Still, it’s too bad that there’s not much south left, it would have been nice to winter over back in the desert where there aren’t hard freezes like there are up here. I’ll take what we can get though, I imagine we’ll have to head even further north eventually.” I fought down the urge to ask her about it: this was just a dream, not a horrible premonition of a bleak and hopeless future. Time to change the subject.
“I was thinking about going down to the river for a swim…” I suggested. “Hmm…” Lilly mused, badly feigning serious contemplation “Well I’ve gotten close to a foot done on the scarf so far today, so I guess I could spare some time out of my busy schedule.” “I love your work ethic.” I informed her, equally seriously, as she packed her project up into a little tote bag full of yarn that she had next to her on the bench. “I’m just going to run this in to the RV… You might as well leave your clothes up here too instead of dragging them around all over the place.” “Makes sense.” I agreed, following her into the RV and beginning to neatly set my clothing into a tidy little pile. Lilly on the other paw just flung hers in a pile on the couch until she was down to just her diaper. (Which, I noticed, had colorful prints on it like the ones they sell for little little kits: hey, it’s my dream, they can have prints if I want them to…)
“Well come on then!” Lilly laughed “We’re not getting any wetter standing around here!” Taking my paw she drug me down to the river. We walked along the water’s edge for a bit, eventually climbing up on a boulder that jutted out into the middle of the stream. “Are you sure you don’t want to change into something else before we go?” I asked, checking the water temperature with a toe. It was perfect.
“No I don’t, and neither do you!” she explained gleefully, then promptly pushed me in. And when exactly did I end up in a diaper I wondered as I started treading water. Jumping from the rock and splashing in next to me, dream-Lilly grinned mischievously. “I have co-author credit on this one!” “But it’s my dream.” I protested. “Yes, but your subconscious wants it this way. And so here we are.” She explained patiently, attempting to ruffle my headfur, but thwarted by it being soaked through.
“You look so dour.” Dream-Lilly accused “Cheer up! Just because this isn’t real doesn’t mean we can’t have a nice time…” “So did you want to do some really hardcore dirty things then?” I asked innocently, deciding to be a brat. “Apparently not even in your dreams.” She teased, circling me in the water “Try not to be too disappointed. And hey, you can always ask Lilly when you wake up…maybe she’ll do that thing with the base of your tail that you’ve always wanted to try, or…” “That will be more than enough of that!” I interrupted, blushing profusely. “Aww…are you still being a little repressed?” she grinned, continuing to circle “That’s okay, really I was just trying to distract you so I could….Rawar!”
Dream-Lilly pounced me from behind with a huge splash. “Oh you are going down now, kit!” I laughed as I popped back up from the water. “No you’s won’ts!” she laughed back, still firmly attached to my neck. “Not in a million-billion years!” she might actually be right I realized, ducking underwater and trying to break her hold only to be expertly sidestepped. If dream-Lilly was able to pick through my subconscious then she logically was just as good in a brawl as I was. And while I doubt I could actually hurt a dream, I still wasn’t about to jab dream-Lilly in the kidney or something…it just wasn’t something you did to furs you like, regardless. Though that did conspire with dream-Lilly against me in this case…
“I win!” she declared, misunderstanding my momentary pause for concession “I’m the champion! All shall bow down to my…Aak!” Dream-Lilly’s victory speech was rudely interrupted when I flung myself backwards into the water. “No fair!” she laughed, breaking the surface a few feet away, having let go in her surprise. “How is it not fair?” I grinned back cheerfully. “Because I was winning.” She explained patiently “If something makes me not be winning it must not be fair. That’s logic.”
“I see…” I nodded “So you are admitting that I won, then.” “I said no such thing!” she disagreed in mock annoyance “You must be using some kind of evil foxy mind control or something.” “No, just my stunning and witty intellect…” I told her, taking my turn at patient explanation. “Harrumph.” Dream-Lilly grumbled, turning away in a sulk. “Aww…” I sighed, swimming over to her “Don’t be…” I never finished my sentence: as soon as I was in range she quickly turned around and pounced me again, this time ending up facing me with her arms around my neck. “Fooled you!” she informed me in a singsong voice “That’s twice now!”
I just sighed and scooped her up into my arms. “Yes you did.” I agreed, slowly wading back towards the shore. (Not such an easy task when my footpaws only just barely reached the bottom of the stream…) “Now you’re sulking.” Dream-Lilly observed, giving me a little kiss on the cheek. “Am not.” I argued “I’m just concentrating on not sinking.” “I suppose I can support that idea if I must…” she agreed somewhat dubiously “But only to humor you, you see.” “I do appreciate the effort on your part.”
As we reached the shore, I didn’t put dream-Lilly down, nor did she make any motion along those lines either, so I just carried her on up to the big rock where we had abandoned the towels. She wasn’t all that heavy, or else my dream could have been flattering me with greater strength than was warranted. (Either way was fine with me…) The warmth of the sun felt good on our fur after the cooler waters of the river, and without needing a word we decided that it would be nice to sun ourselves for a while on the big rock outcropping. The rock itself was nice and warm under my footpaws and I was starting to really look forward to sitting down for a while.
I kneeled down to set dream-Lilly down on the rock. My now completely saturated and thoroughly bulging diaper made bending down just a shade this side of impossible, not entirely unexpectedly. Dream-Lilly also found it quite thoroughly amusing. “Okay, okay…” I grumbled, flopping down in a manner that managed to be completely devoid of any sort of grace. “Being grumpy doesn’t make it any less funny!” “I can see that.” I agreed, scooting around trying to get comfortable. I could feel the absorptive gel in the diaper squish around as I settled in, and the front of it had a very perceptible (though not unpleasant) weight pushing down on my little boy parts. “I know what you’re thinking about!” dream-Lilly grinned playfully, causing me to blush. “Shouldn’t you be concentrating on…umm…sunbathing or something?” I asked, feeling unduly embarrassed. “Why? I don’t photosynthesize, you know.” I just snorted and turned my attentions to attempting to photosynthesize. It turned out to be tougher than it looked.
“Nick…” dream-Lilly asked coyly after we had been lounging around for a while. “Hmm?” I mumbled, only slowly starting to pay attention again. (I was pretty close to drowsing off by this point: it was really nice out.) “Could you do something for me?” “What does my little girl need?” I agreed. “Will you unfasten the front of my diaper?” “Why?” I asked a little nervously. “Because I want you to.” She explained as if that was the most logical reason in the world. “Okay then.” I agreed. Dream-Lilly seemed a bit more forward than Lilly was. Kind of. …Well, maybe not entirely so, actually… “I’m waiting…” she laughed, lying flat on our rock “Shall I write out some instructions? Actually, come to think of it that could be quite rewarding…” “Or we could just go with trial and error.” I nodded seriously “As incredibly complex a procedure as unfastening tapes is I’m pretty sure that I can rise to the occasion…” “I’m pretty sure you’ve already ‘risen’ for the occasion…” Yet another blush. Dream-Lilly was certainly on a roll today. “Hush kit…” I chided, doing my best to divert the subject…to really any other subject.
Scootching over next to dream-Lilly I unfastened one set of side tapes, then the other before folding down the front of the very bulbous and consequentially (internally) form-fitting diaper. “Okay, lift up and let me get your tail.” I instructed. “Nopers! Just like that!” Dream-Lilly informed me cheerfully, but in a tone that brooked no argument. Wiggling her bottom around in her gel-padded cushion, dream-Lilly giggled happily. “Squishy!” She was right about that, I had to admit, I’d been trying to do the same thing myself for a little bit, just without dream-Lilly’s exhibitionistic tendencies. Though that was strictly my hang-up: she was the only fur around to see it, and dream-Lilly would probably enjoy the show anyway…I know I was!
Eventually dream-Lilly was satisfied with her customized cushion, she smiled kind of wistfully and promptly took a nap. Which brought up an interesting philosophical question: what would happen if I took a nap in a dream? Do you dream in a dream, or just kind of watch your dream self sleep? That had the potential of being incredibly boring…as opposed to dream-Lilly, whom I’m pretty sure was going out of her way to be as interesting as possible.
A large part of the reason I couldn’t nap if I wanted to was because dream-Lilly was so distracting lying there naked in her open diaper for all the world to see. It was an odd mix of innocent and oh so naughty looking; drowsing there with the breeze lightly ruffling her odd silver-white coat with the sprinkles of little orange-red spots… One of the nice side effects of my overfilled diaper was that its large bulk did a good job o f hiding just how much I had ‘risen to the occasion’ as dream-Lilly had so euphemistically pointed out earlier. The obvious down side of course was that its rather ‘pressing’ contact down there was only making the occasion more risen to than it already was. What’s the gentlemanly thing to do with an exhibitionist? Is giving them privacy the polite thing to do, or could that be considered a slight? Does it even matter in our case, considering our relationship? Does it count since dream-Lilly isn’t even Lilly? And why do I always end up with life’s stupidest problems? After way more consideration than it had any right to be taking I came to the conclusion that the hell with it, it was my dream, I’ll be lecherous if I want to! The decision made, I was just turning to ogle…when I woke up.
“Did you have a good nap?” Lilly asked pleasantly after having successfully poked me awake. “I suppose.” I nodded “I was having a nice dream until somefur had to go and wake me up…” “I hope I was in it.” She said thoughtfully “You were blushing in your sleep, it must have been a good one. Fill me in! And don’t leave out any smutty little detail!” “It wasn’t that kind of dream!” I defended, feeling more than slightly picked on by circumstances. “You would have a lot more credibility if you could say that without blushing.” Lilly observed, to my surprise not seeming annoyed about it.
“So why did you wake me up then?” I queried, trying to change the subject. “Two things. First you said that you wanted to watch the sunset, in which case the time will be soon... Second, because I wanted to eat dinner at this alleged ‘sunset’ of yours, and the food is done burning horribly, so I’d say we’re pretty close to the time to break out the lawn chairs and get things underway!” “It can’t possibly be almost dark yet, not with me being this tired still...” I grumbled, but still slowly got up and got moving. “I am so going right back to bed after this. I protest in the strongest language the assertion that this had any even passing resemblance to a good night’s sleep.” “Well you do apparently have enough energy to make a proper row about the situation, so you can’t be too sleep deprived.” “Shows what you know.” I sighed, lacing up my boots in the final step of the process before being officially ‘ready’.
“You’ll be much more cheerful after we get some food in your tummy!” Lilly declared with great cheer. “Hungry little kits are grouchy little kits!” “You must have been snacking already, then.” I accused playfully. “Guilty.” she agreed. Outside (well away from the fueling islands) Lilly had set up a pair of folding chairs facing west along with a flipped over milk crate to act as a table, on which rested two plates with some very edible looking mule deer steaks. A little cook fire smoldered a short way further past the chairs.
“On second thought, I think I’m all right with getting up.” I decided, literally trying not to drool. It smelled that good, particularly after weeks of canned meat and single-serving bags of potato chips. “Thought so.” Lilly nodded. The sun wasn’t quite on its way down yet as we settled in for dinner, but the sky was beginning to pick up the first hints of orange, so the time was approaching steadily. My working plan was for the food to be long gone before the sun was. “Don’t scarf your food.” Lilly chided, knowing full well what I was likely to do before the issue even surfaced. Lying unconvincingly, I assured her that “I wasn’t going to!” She just gave me a look at that which very clearly gave the impression that my denial lacked even a modicum of credibility. “Okay, so maybe I would have.” I admitted, exhibiting more restraint in the matter once I actually started eating.
Dinner (yes, to my pleasant surprise) was good. Really good. Not that ‘have been eating junk for way to long’ acceptably better good, but fantastic good. There wasn’t any more conversation until we had both run out of dinner. “And here’s the show!” I smiled, pointing off to the west where the sun was just beginning to slip below the horizon. Its last rays of light, fading from oranges into reds and purples, gave the desert landscape’s already oddly colored formations a shadowy, borderline surrealistic hue. But the really spectacular sight was the same effect among the few feathery little clouds still holding out in the sky for some unfathomable reason of their own.
“Told you it was pretty.” I said, finally breaking the silence once the sun was well and truly gone, replaced by the huge swath of stars that make up the night sky outside the reach of modernity. “You were right.” she agreed “That really was something to see...” After that we just sat for a while, talking about nothing and everything all mixed together. The subject eventually turned to our route and if we wanted to stay around the super-stop for another couple of days. I was of the opinion that since supply-wise it was on the upper part of the ‘Pyramid of Looting’, it would be a decent place to rest for a bit. “You know, aside from the whole ‘nothing much to do around here’ aspect of it.”
“You were threatening to teach me how to shoot at some point in time.” Lilly reminded me “And I do need to get used to the truck so I can start helping out with the driving. It’s nice and empty out here: there’s a lot worse places to do it.” “I guess we have a plan then.” I agreed as we mutually decided it was about time to turn in for the night. While I smothered the fire with dirt Lilly folded up the chairs and grabbed our dishes, then we retreated back to the RV for the night. “You closed up the gas station, right?” I threw over my shoulder as I washed the dishes. “I did, yes. Wouldn’t do to have snakes or something take up residence overnight now would it?” “Glad to hear it.” I nodded seriously “I’m not sure I could make myself put on my boots again tonight, and I forgot to check!” “You are such a slacker, I don’t know why I put up with you.” Lilly joked mildly. I threw my shirt in her general direction.
“That nap wore off pretty quickly...” she observed “I didn’t have you penned in for throwing things for at least another hour, maybe an hour and forty-five minutes...” “I’m quite advanced for my age.” I told Lilly, managing to keep an expression that said my reasoning made perfect sense on my muzzle, while she was just as obviously trying not to giggle. “Well” I yawned “I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to call it a night...” “I can get behind that.” she nodded, following me into the bathroom and grabbing her toothbrush over my shoulder.
“That one’s mine...” I told Lilly seriously, deciding to play a joke on her. “No it isn’t.” she disagreed through a mouthful of toothpaste while trying to talk and brush her teeth at the same time. (Mostly that just ended up on the mirror and left me wishing she hadn’t...) “Well, it’s the one I’ve been using.” I shrugged nonchalantly. She looked at me contemplatively for a second, then turned me around by my shoulder to face her. Before I could react beyond a startled yelp she kissed me, long and deep. “Well.” Lilly grinned at my flustered expression when our muzzles finally parted “Now that everything in there has been thoroughly introduced the toothbrush isn’t that big a deal, is it?” Reaching across me to put it back in the cup, Lilly then began heading out for the bedroom, tail flicking playfully. Then, turning around in the doorway, she added as an afterthought: “And don’t forget to floss. It felt like you have something stuck in your back teeth...” before continuing on into the bedroom. I dutifully flossed my teeth.
I felt much better the next morning. Sleep tends to work that way…by the time I’d made it to bed the night before Lilly was utterly zonked out for the night. By the look of things she was lucky to have made it down to her panties before giving in for the evening. That was good, the way I was feeling I doubt I could have provided much help without waking her. I had beaten her out of bed this morning too, I observed with a slight frown. She must have been more tired than she let on… I made a mental note to talk to her about saying something if she needed rest…no need for martyrdom. “Breakfast then.” I mumbled to myself, quietly closing the bedroom door behind me. A fun-filled day outside requires a good breakfast…
We didn’t have any bread, the stuff had all long since gone bad one way or another, but looking in the freezer I found several boxes of frozen waffles that Lilly must have found yesterday. Since those would be best right out of the toaster I held off and started on a pot of tea and side dishes. As far as I knew you couldn’t get bacon from a mulie, but I was pretty sure I could make an approximation of it if I sliced flank steak thin enough, then cooked it right. I was certainly going to try, anyway. Powdered eggs weren’t worth it…I missed eggs. Adding some canned peaches, I started in on my final trick of the morning: making hash browns from instant mashed potatoes.
Everything was almost done when Lilly’s muzzle found its way to the smell of food, bringing the (mostly asleep) rest of her along for the trip. “Grlbh…food?” she mumbled, dropping into a chair by the table. “Almost.” I promised, slipping a cup of tea between her paws. She took it gratefully then began the arduous task of actually waking up while I finished cooking our breakfast.
By the time the food was out she had reached some semblance of hungry coherency and quickly dug in. “I’m particularly proud of that…I’m naming it ‘fakin’.” I grinned as she dipped the first piece in syrup, then popped it in her mouth. “It’s acceptably adequate.” She decided after a brief analysis. “I know, it’s not pork.” I nodded, spearing a waffle with my fork. “If there was still a southeast I’d suggest hunting up a tusker…” “I didn’t say it was bad…” Lilly assured me quickly “It’s just a bit different.” “I take no offense.” I nodded “I just wish we had bacon. And real coffee. Lousy Shadows, buggering up a perfectly good apocalypse…”
“So. Shooting after breakfast then?” Lilly asked, changing the subject before I could get on a rant. “Then driving this afternoon, once outside gets nasty-hot.” I explained. Lilly was eyeing the last waffle, so I pushed the plate across the table towards her. “Eat!” “I was hoping to.” She assured me. I finished off the hash browns and we split the remaining peaches, then after cleaning the dishes we were ready to move out.
“Grab an empty pack, I was going to get drinks from the store, but I’ve got to hump the ammo so you’re delegated.” I explained. “Gotcha.” Lilly agreed, heading out on sports drink duty while I rounded up a couple cans of ammo and my 14. We met by the truck then hiked out several hundred yards from the super-stop before setting up.
We had brought the lawn chairs along as well, and I gave Lilly the standard safety lecture and manual at arms for her guns while we loaded magazines. She kept up well, despite it being pretty early, and we had soon moved on to the more practical aspects of the lesson. “Usually it’s better to start out training with a .22, but since we don’t actually know if we have the time for that we’re going to step things up and get you competent with your service arms.” I explained. “Let’s break out the machine guns!” Lilly nodded with enthusiasm. “No. Bad girl.” I disagreed “No machine guns until you can consistently hit your target.” She scowled at me, but dutifully began plinking away at the collection of random junk I’d set out at various distances.
After a couple of hours of Lilly shooting and I giving the occasional pointer she had reached a level of pretty acceptable proficiency, so it was declared that it was time to switch over to handguns for a time. We could hardly expect to have access to an assault course in the near future, so general proficiency and lectures were going to have to be good enough until experience could fill in bits and pieces along the line.
By the time it had gotten hot enough to make it hard to concentrate we had finished up the sports drinks, burned through most of the ammo, and made some good progress with Lilly’s skill set development. “Too hot out now.” I grumbled “Late lunch in the a/c, then driving practice. Also in the a/c…” “I’m detecting a trend developing there.” She grinned, rounding up our stuff. “I would hope so. Now come on, even my toes are starting to sweat!”
We beat a hasty retreat back to the super-stop for hydration and sustenance, settling down on the wonderfully cold linoleum floor to clean the guns in the process. More specifically Lilly cleaned the guns. I observed. We call it ‘supervising’. “So, driving lessons now?” Lilly mused, as she popped in the retaining pins on her 16. “I’m not done being tired yet.” I informed her. “Ours is not a desert species, we’re not put together to work in this sort of weather for long periods of time…” “Well if you want to be lazy I guess we can be lazy for a while.” Lilly teased, grabbing another drink from our little pile. “Besides” I filled in “the floor just feels too nice to abandon just yet.” “When you’re right, you’re right.” She agreed “Just don’t point out how truly filthy this floor must be…”
‘Resting’ in this case mostly involved sitting around and grazing on the station’s snack foods. “If you can drive a stick you’ll pick up the double-‘H’ pretty quickly.” I explained through a mouthful of candy bar. “I’ve never driven a stick.” Lilly informed me cheerfully “It’s not something normal furs in the modern age need to know how to do…” “Well, we now find ourselves in the post-modern period.” I grumbled, the future health and well-being of my clutch plate suddenly in jeopardy. “No honey, ‘post-modern’ was an art style.” She corrected “And all this stuff really has little to no resemblance to it.” I just stared at her for a minute, trying to decide if she was making fun of me or not. “Design major, remember?” she shrugged, rolling her eyes to the ceiling “We have strong opinions on this sort of thing. It’s an important and necessary part of civilized…I’m not going to convince you, am I?” “Unlikely. I’ll be more than happy to humor you about it for a while if you’d like though, just as long as there won’t be a test on it later…”
Driving instruction was a fur-raising experience that afternoon. Besides the usual trouble everyfur has learning the timing of the clutch, Lilly simply had trouble with a vehicle that big. (Thankfully I had uncoupled the trailer first!) “I don’ like this thing.” She sulked in her little kit voice “It’s stupid!” “It just takes practice, you’ll get the hang of it eventually.” I reassured her kindly “Do you think I just got in and went the first time I drove this sort of thing?” “Yes.” She nodded emphatically “Yes I do.” “It was a rhetorical question, little one.” I sighed “You’re just supposed to nod and feel better about things.” “How does that solve anything?” “I don’t know, I just thought that’s what grown-ups always did… Now lets give it another try!”
And another, and another, and another. By the time the sun was on its way down again we were agreed she could probably manage well enough to make a go at practicing on the roads tomorrow, at least until we ran out of flat or came across another pileup. We returned to the super-stop for a dinner of things that didn’t come from our supplies, then I filled the tanks while Lilly wrote our standard greeting on the inside of the station’s bay windows.
As we settled down for the night in the R.V. I observed that “After being out in the dust all morning I think baths all around are in order.” “I’m pretty sure I’m carrying half the desert around in my fur right now.” Lilly agreed “It’s either baths or starting an indoor sandbox!” I knew how she felt: I’d gotten about a million pounds of gravel out of my shoes when I had dumped them out earlier.
“So…Did I do well today?” Lilly hinted. “Yes you did.” I agreed tolerantly. (But pretending to completely miss her innuendo…what can I say? It was kind of fun making her work for it…) “Well then, since I did so well isn’t some kind of…reward…in order?” “You may be on to something there.” I nodded, trying to keep a lewd expression on my muzzle without bursting out laughing. Getting up from my seat I watched Lilly’s expectations fade from the corner of my eye as I went to the freezer and retrieved two popsicles. Snipping the plastic tops off, I offered her the choice of flavors. (She took grape.)
“Now do you think you can be a good little girl while I go run the bath?” Lilly’s ears had perked back up and her tail was thumping excitedly by the time I was moving towards the bathroom. We had yet to actually use the sauna tub that had been one of the major ‘purchasing’ decisions on the RV selection, and this seemed like a good time to give it a test run, particularly since we could refill the tanks before we left.
I set the tub to filling, then went back to the main room to check up on Lilly. I found her sitting on the floor, in the fur, playing with my remaining scratch-off tickets. Her popsicle was only evident by a purple residue on her muzzle. That hadn’t taken long! I stepped around her cheerful, but very sprawled out game, and turned on the stereo, putting on a soothing classical disk from our pretty random collection. “Bath now, or are you going to be occupied for a while there?” I asked oh so seriously. “Now.” Lilly decided after taking a minute to weigh the pros and cons. She scrambled up and padded after me to the bathroom.
“Since you’re already nakies you may as well hop right in!” I nodded after turning off the taps. “Yay!” she giggled, scrambling in quicker than I would have thought possible. (Guess I shouldn’t assume that she was as tired as I was, after all…or else she had switched over to energy drinks at some point without me noticing.) “What about you?” she asked, looking at me expectantly “There’s plenty of room…just bring the duckies first!” “Duckies?” I wondered, feeling lost for a moment until Lilly pointed at one of the cabinets and I figured out what she had meant: we had apparently acquired a number of rubber tub toy duckies somewhere.
I grabbed several, and began plopping them in the water one at a time, taking an odd delight in watching the currents from the jets catch them and move them around in the water. When I ran out of ducks to Lilly’s great delight I added a squirt or two of bubble bath to the mix, rapidly filling the tub to nearly overflowing with a froth of bubbles. “I’m still waiting on you…” Lilly observed patiently, taking my attention away from ducky hide and seek. “Ducks are mesmerizing… Drawing me into their hypnotic web of evil…” I mumbled, not paying her much attention.
“Foxy! In!” she instructed firmly, flicking a few beads of water onto my muzzle. “Okay, okay! No need to get impatient!” I sighed, slipping out of my clothes and into the tub. I settled in facing her with a satisfied little grunt. The water felt nice, and for a moment I found myself wondering what the chances of being able to take a nap in there without drowning might be…And then I found myself being poked by a well-manicured foot-paw. “Why are you all the way over there? You’re making me feel a bit unloved!” Lilly joked. “If that keeps hanging around over here I’m going to eat it…” I grumbled, but dutifully moved to the other side anyway.
“There you are!” she grinned “And you didn’t even eat any of my toes…” “You’re welcome for that, by the way.” I yawned. Slouching down a little and tucking my head into Lilly’s shoulder, I mused that “It’s nice. Maybe I’ll just take a nap here.” “Nope nope, you’re here to get clean.” She shook her head. “Not gunna. Can’t make me.” “It’s going to get done one way or another…” she assured me, then a moment later I felt her gently begin to shampoo my fur, starting with my head, then slowly working her way down to my shoulders and chest. “You’ll feel much better once you’re all nice and clean.” “I’m not arguing with that…” I agreed “Clean is a nice privilege.” “Necessity, honey, not privilege. It falls in under ‘personal grooming’, like brushing your teeth or combing your fur out in the morning.”
Lilly continued on washing her way down, even as she lectured about the importance of hygiene and personal appearance. I wasn’t actually sure if she was listening to herself either…I was mostly just focusing on how nice the water and everything felt. I was also becoming pointedly aware of where her washing was slowly creeping along to. The closer she got to my ‘personal places’ the harder it was to think about other things. I was getting kind of agitated, despite trying not to, and Lilly kind of obviously noticed. “Settle down, little guy. There’s no need to get all jittery.” “I’m not jittery.” I lied “It’s just that my ducky was trying to escape down the drain when I wasn’t looking.” Lilly just continued to wash down there, making no comment on the growing amount of ‘attention’ she was getting for her troubles. “It’s not good to fib.” She chided sternly. “I wasn’t fibbing!” I defended a little hotly, shifting position so I could make eye contact…only to see Lilly giving me a very stern, very no-nonsense, very ‘don’t start with me you won’t win and we both know it’ look. “Well, maybe just a little bit.” I deflated. She was right, of course.
At which point I realized she had finished up and was now playing with my toes, obviously very pleased with herself. “You are quite easily distracted, have you noticed that?” “Apparently so.” I nodded. I felt almost cheated out of it, truth be told, and I really hoped that it didn’t show on my muzzle. “I can’t decide if you look embarrassed or disappointed.” Lilly observed. “Does it have to be one or the other?” I asked, not fibbing this time. “That’s a start!” she grinned, running her fingers through my headfur. “Though it doesn’t help me get clean!”
“Not the subtlest of hints…” I laughed in spite of myself. Yoinking the washcloth out from under her paw, I took up the shampoo and started lathering up her headfur. Idly I wondered if I had been as dirty as she was: fur could retain a lot of dust and grime when it set its mind to it…of course Lilly had been shooting prone earlier which had to have aggravated the problem, especially with a flash hider kicking up dust every shot. “Mmm…” Lilly grinned happily, partially closing her eyes “Maybe we should just take a nap here…” “Nope nope! We’re here to get clean!” I remembered with a laugh.
“It’s bad form using my own words against me.” I was informed as I shampooed her shoulders. “There’s an exemption for irony.” I explained patiently “Ironic opportunity trumps just about everything, you know that by now surely.” “Yes, but I was hoping that you didn’t know.” Lilly laughed “That’s almost the same thing as being right.” “Heh.” I grumbled, moving down to her back (and points further forward) “And you accuse me of fibbing!” “Semantics and fibbing aren’t the same.” Lilly disagreed cheerfully “Grey areas and omission are still technically true.” “So your argument is that technical correctness is the same thing as truth.” I asked credulously “Because I would think that an intent to deceive will separate the two…” “No, ‘truth’ is provable fact…it is correctness by definition…” Lilly debated. “And I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve been in a tub having a philosophical discussion with a naked todd with his paw on my pee pee!”
The paw came off as quickly as if I had been scalded. I didn’t notice, damn it, I just got distracted talking with Lilly and kept on with her bathing…right up until I’d gotten involved enough in the conversation to forget I was doing something! “Ohmygod sorry!” I wheezed, blushing intensely “I wasn’t…I mean, I didn’t…sorry!” Lilly grinned wickedly and whispered a suggestion into my ear that would have made a trucker blush. I was already quite busy blushing, so it didn’t make all that much difference in the long run. Blushing eventually hits a plateau where no matter how much more embarrassed you get it just won’t get any redder. It’s the same reason males can’t use a penis and a brain at the same time: there’s only so much blood to go around.
“Well, I guess I caused a seg fault crash in the bathing program.” Lilly sighed, extracting the washcloth from my paw “But at least you were basically finished with it anyway…” Legs and toes, then we were declared officially ‘clean’. “The water was getting cold anyway…” I sighed wistfully as we got out of the swirling waters. “Everything is getting cold.” Lilly observed “I think we left a window open or something…” Snapping out of my relaxed little daze into alert concern, I grabbed my pistol belt from its hook on the wall and went to make sure there wasn’t some form of impending peril waiting for us in the living room.
Anticlimactically, it turned out that I’d forgotten to latch the door, and the desert winds had worked it open. The screen behind it, however, remained latched and locked, keeping out the worst of the windblown dust. “Well that was a letdown.” Lilly observed over my shoulder, pistol in paw “Close the door before my tail freezes off!” I did. Fur is a good insulator. When it’s dry. And at the moment I was pretty sure mine was in the process of icing up as well… “I refuse to run the heater in the middle of a desert!” Lilly informed me as we resumed our belated trek to the bedroom. “I can see that as a matter of principle.” I agreed “Though you do recall our earlier discussion about irony?” “Nofur likes a know-it-all…” she grumbled, feigning annoyance.
I flopped down on the bed with a grunt. Thanks to the recent adrenaline rush I was wide awake, though physically I would be much more properly described as ‘exhausted’ or maybe ‘collapsing’. “I know what you mean.” Lilly sympathized, reading the expression on my muzzle (which was in a metaphorically huge font…) “It was a rather ‘fun and action packed’ day, wasn’t it?” “You make it sound like a bad summer movie when you put it like that.” I laughed “Maybe I’ll just catch us on DVD in a few months; it might be less bother that way!” She laughed at that “If you’re not in a hurry you can probably just see it on TV eventually and save us the rental fee…”
“That’s my practical little girl!” I praised “Maybe we could even switch from disposables to cloth…we could save even more that way!” “Worst. Segue. Ever.” Lilly grinned, a twinkle in her eyes. “I know. I’m ashamed.” I nodded sadly “There’s no excuse for it.” “No little kit time for you until you come up with something better…” “Now that’s just mean.” I whined “I don’t pick on you when you’re worn out, do I?” “You’re right.” She relented “But you had better not make a habit out of it, got it?” “Yes mamma…” I nodded contritely as I tried to decide if she was serious or not. My brain really had packed it in for the night… “I’m just teasing you.” Lilly explained, frowning as she caught on “We need to try to get you to be less touchy about things. It worries me a little that I might accidentally hurt your feelings…” “Promise me you’ll never mean it, and I’ll promise you I’ll always forgive you.” I offered seriously.
“I think we can agree to those terms.” Lilly nodded happily. Then with a giggle she announced “Now on to other business!” and began digging through our collection of supplies. “You first this time.” She said, gently pushing me back down to the bed when I attempted to sit back up. Nodding, I lay still again. “It’s much less time-consuming when you’re only wearing a gun belt.” Lilly teased. “Maybe you should consider a permanent wardrobe adjustment…” “Spoken like one who has no idea how badly getting sand in their sheath chafes.” I accused, this time causing her to blush for a second before quickly recovering her composure and trying to pass it off as nothing. ‘Score a point for me.’ I grinned to myself, I don’t recall ever having been able to make Lilly blush before.
Threading my tail through the tail hole of a diaper from the drawer, she slid it up under me, then left me lying there with it unfolded for a minute while she located the can of powder. With a more than slightly wicked grin on her muzzle she set it aside on the little built-in headboard-shelf thing, then went back to rummaging in the drawer. “No powder?” I asked curiously as she made decisions about something just outside of my line of sight. Lilly was obviously enjoying creating suspense, and pointed ignored my question…
Picking out the one she wanted, Lilly held up a bottle of diaper cream for my inspection. “It’s hypoallergenic, made of all natural ingredients, and has Aloe Vera in it!” “It’s for smearing on one’s neither regions, not putting on sandwiches, why does it have to be all-natural?” I pointed out curiously. “Because it…umm…It just does!” she explained, a little flustered. I guess the question hadn’t come up before… “Furthermore” she grinned, getting back on track “it is specially formulated to prevent and relieve chafing on kits’ sensitive bits!” “I see…” I nodded knowingly. “But you should have told me that you were getting a rash…” For a second Lilly stared at me quizzically, not sure if I was really as dense as all that, or if I was just playing her along. She eventually decided that it was the latter, to my thorough amusement. “And best of all, it smells like vanilla!”
As Lilly snapped open the lid I had to admit that yes, it really smelled like vanilla, to an almost but not quite overpowering degree. While I was thinking about all this Lilly squirted a dollop of it into her paw…and then instantly had my full, undivided attention. She gently rubbed the lotion into the white fur of my inner thighs, leaving the fur damp with little discolored streaks where the peach hue of the lotion overwhelmed the white of my fur in spots where Lilly had spread it on more thickly.
Switching to my sheath and…umm…related dangly bits, Lilly squirted out a bit more lotion from the bottle. “Oops!” she giggled, dribbling a few random splotches into my chestfur on her way from one place to another “Guess we’ll have to clean that up next…” Grinning wickedly the whole time, she folded up the front of the diaper and expertly fastened the tapes. “There’s that done.” Lilly declared. Grabbing the still-damp washcloth from the bathtub, she daintily cleaned the lotion drips out of my chestfur before informing me that I was good to go. “I’m not quite sure I want to go.” I yawned, looking at the ceiling idly “Getting up and walking all the way across the hall just seems like so much trouble right now…” “Are you really that tired?” she asked, looking at me much more seriously. “I’ve never done all that well in hot weather.” I explained “It always seems to take a lot out of me physically.” “Well, let’s get you to bed then. Being tired is a very obvious way of your body saying you’re not meeting all of its needs.” “But what about you?” I argued, feeling like kind of a jerk for walking out on her turn. “I’m quite all right with being a big-girl tonight…besides, somefur has to be the better judgment for two around here since you don’t have any.” “Was that a little harsh?” she asked, a look of concern growing on her muzzle “I didn’t mean for it to come out quite like that.” “I knew what you meant.” I assured her “And besides, how could it be all that harsh when it’s true?”
“Have I told you I love you recently?” Lilly smiled indulgently, shooing me into the bedroom where I flopped down with an exhausted sigh. “Just wait here for a minute, I’ll be right back.” ‘Waiting here’ fit into my plan to not get back up until tomorrow morning perfectly, so I made no attempt to argue the merits of her instruction as she ducked back out to the bathroom. (I assumed.) Stifling another yawn, I rooted around with the bedding for a bit until I was happy with the little nest I had created, then settled down to wait for Lilly to come back. There really wasn’t any sense trying to fall asleep when she was going to be settling in herself (most likely waking me up again in the process) in a few minutes anyway, so I just kind of amused myself playing with the row of switches on the bed’s headboard. They did all sorts of random stuff: lights, thermostat, ceiling fan, some of them even produced some noises outside the room I couldn’t quite figure out the sources of. Oh well, I’m sure they all seemed like a good idea to somefur when they were designing the thing…
“You probably shouldn’t be doing that until you know what they all do…” Lilly sighed, coming back in from the hallway and flopping down next to me on the bed. “Aw, don’t worry, the self-destruct switch is up front next to the stove.” I laughed. “The big red one under the hat cover.” she agreed seriously “But I was more concerned with you turning out the lights on me when I was in the bathroom...” “Oh. Sorry about that.” “You should be.” Lilly nodded, feigning tremendous offense “If it wasn’t bedtimes you would be going straight to time-out!” “This conversation seems very familiar for some reason.” I shrugged, apparently not showing the proper amount of concern, which resulted in Lilly tossing one of the sheets over my head. “And I’m the one who needs time-out?” I grumbled with as much tired annoyance as I could pretend to muster. Trying to decide if I was long-suffering and patient or just bratty, I pointedly didn’t remove the sheet, instead just curling up with it draped over my head. “I’m pretty sure there’s somefur under there...” Lilly joked. I could feel her snuggling up next to me and then the corner of the sheet was lifted up, finding us nose to nose. “Hey there!” she laughed, kissing me on the nose “I found you!”
“Yes you did.” I agreed sleepily, kissing her back “Though at this point I’m not quite sure what good you think it will do you...I’m pretty sure I’m too tired to be good for much of anything at the moment...” “And on that note it’s bedtime for sleepy little kits.” Lilly decided, flipping the sheet back over my head with a yawn, then turning out the lights. “Yes, yes it is.” I still had the vague feeling that there was stuff left that needed doing, but curled up there with Lilly I couldn’t think of any pressing reason to worry about it. Things always seem to have a way of sorting themselves out in the morning...
To Be Continued…