“I hate the holidays.” Nick sighed to himself as he stared out the window at the newly fallen snow in his backyard. The holiday season always wore heavily upon the fox: for most furs it was a time to appreciate loved ones and count blessings, but to Nick they always seemed to point out how lonely his life was. It wasn’t that he was doing badly really, he always made the mortgage and even had a bit left over for fun, but he wasn’t really what anyone would consider successful, and besides, his job was just that: a paycheck. No sense of accomplishment or pride in doing something worthwhile. “But at least I have a loving family to come home to after work.” He snickered disparagingly, looking around his empty living room before turning back to the window.
The expression on his muzzle softening a bit, Nick looked back over the field behind his house. At least the weather had been nice lately, snowing a good foot and a half overnight and blanketing everything in a pristine coat of white. It created an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the colored glare of the season, a simple palate of whites and pale blues, not gaudy or artificially festive. Pulling a recliner to the window, Nick retrieved some items, curiously out of place in the possession of a twenty-something bachelor, from his bedroom then settled down into the chair. Reclining it backward, Nick burrowed in to a light blue, cloud print fleece blanket before grabbing an armful of plush fox and real tail (surprisingly closely matched in color), popping his paci in his muzzle, and watching the moonlight sparkle on the snow as he drifted off to sleep.
In sharp contrast to Nick’s house, in the living room next door the holidays were in full swing. Alison was a great fan of the seasonal festivities, decorating quite thoroughly, from the mistletoe in the doorways to the gracefully adorned tree dominating the center of her living room. This year would be something special she had decided, lounging in front of the fireplace, the vixen’s thoughts on the fox next door. She had been in the process of moving in when he had caught her attention, apparently not realizing yet that the long empty house across the fence was once again occupied, Nick had been less careful with his privacy than he would become in the following months.
Looking in her neighbor’s window, Alison had been quite surprised to see a male fox of about her own age, curled up with a plushie and quite contentedly napping on his living room floor in nothing but what was obviously a diaper. Startled but also intrigued, she went on the internet that evening and discovered a whole world she had never heard of before: Adult Babies and Infantilism. As she would get to know her neighbor a little better she found herself more and more drawn to the shy, awkward male next door. There was just something about his dreamy, slightly sad manner that Alison could never really place, as if he was in a world not quite the same as everyone else’s. And as December began Alison decided that it was time to make some things known to her neighbor, the only question being how to do it without scaring him to death…
She had given the matter quite a bit of thought over the last few weeks. It seemed fitting for her to make it a special occasion, something that would be romantic and memorable, and hopefully put Nick at ease with the idea of sharing something so personal with another fur. The holidays seemed like the perfect opportunity, and Alison had eventually decided that it could make a wonderful Christmas present for both of them. Planning everything out, she had bought a pacifier on a blue satin ribbon and a little box like the sort used by jewelry stores. Having gift wrapped it in green pastel tissue paper, she planned on showing up on his doorstep on Christmas eve, and hopefully seeing what developed from there. Imagining the expression on Nick’s muzzle, Alison grinned to herself as she began leafing through a catalog. One of the few things remaining to do was for her to decide what she would wear…
Flipping through the channels on the television, Nick grew more and more agitated. “It’s bad enough that I can’t get back to sleep, why does it have to be the evening of a million and one holiday specials?” One show after another came and went, and even the commercials between them were filled with happy couples and smiling families. After finally giving up on finding something to watch, Nick settled down to brood over his situation. “Where did it all go wrong?” he wondered to himself. Things had gone pretty well in his life until the later parts of school…it seemed like when he and his friends had grown up they also grew apart until they were all gone, leaving just him in the old home town. And as for falling in love and starting a family…well… Between his natural shyness and the fear of falling in love with someone only to be rejected when they found out about his tendencies, finding a mate was not something that Nick felt he would ever realistically be lucky enough to do. “And so here I sit…” he sighed with finality “Alone yesterday, alone today, and alone tomorrow…”
Beginning to pace around the room again, Nick found himself at the window again, staring out at the moonlit snow. Beautiful but empty. Staring off into space, he began to envision the future in store for him: working at the same dead end job every day, coming home to an empty house, and growing old alone. That really was the scary part, wondering what it must be like to sit around alone day after day, wiling away the time until entropy caught up with his body and death mercifully took him. Feeling a sinking in the pit of his tummy, Nick stared at his reflection in the windowpane. “Is that really all there is?” he asked aloud “Hollow hopes and an empty house?”
Giving in to his sense of melancholy, Nick slipped out the back door and walked out into the moonlight. Smiling a bit sadly he stared up at the night sky, raising his arms towards the stars as snowflakes began to lightly fall again. The quiet of the night was soothing to the fox’s fears, seeming to settle things in to shape for him. Breathing deeply, he settled down under a maple tree to watch the snow fall and maybe figure out which path was best to follow.
It had seemed a lot easier while she was still planning it out, Alison decided as she got ready to go next door. While worrying about Nick’s reaction to things, she had never thought that she would be as nervous as she found herself. “This is ridiculous.” She said aloud sternly, staring herself down in the bathroom mirror “You’re a grown up, self confident vixen. You have never been nervous about asking out males before, and you’re not going to start now!” Nodding in agreement, she went across the hallway to get the little wrapped box from the top of her dresser, putting it on her coffee table as she sat down to lace up her boots. Even though she didn’t like to admit it to herself, she was a bit nervous…somehow this felt different from other times in her life. She was venturing in to uncharted territory for the first time in a long while…
“Well, here goes…” she said to herself as she pulled on her coat and walked out the front door, package in paw. The houses in the neighborhood were set on pretty good sized lots, but not so far apart that it took any real time before Alison was knocking on Nick’s front door. When nobody answered after her second try, Alison turned the doorknob experimentally, and, finding it to be unlocked, decided to let herself in. “Hello? Anyone home?” she asked, looking around the foyer. She could see that a fire was burning in the living room, so someone had to be home, and a brief glance around the rest of the house showed that there wasn’t any lights on outside of the living room. “Nick? It’s Alison, from next door…” Stepping into the living room, Alison felt a draft coming from the sliding glass door leading out in to the back yard. “Ohh…” she laughed as her confusion evaporated. She had seen Nick take walks out back at odd hours off and on, probably when he needed some fresh air, or just to clear his head she thought. “The simple answers are usually the right ones.”
After a minute’s thought, Alison decided that she would go and meet Nick out under the stars. Stepping out on the deck, she quietly shut the sliding glass door behind her, making sure not to leave it ajar as Nick had done…no sense running up the heating bill after all. The snowfall was starting to pick up a little bit, but it wasn’t much more than light flurries yet, and the moonlight still made everything glisten and sparkle. Leaning a little on the patio railing, Alison looked out across the field behind their houses, she noticed him sitting down under a tree along the edge of the field. Smiling to herself as she remembered Nick’s tendency to stare off in to space, Alison walked out towards the tree, her footsteps crunching in the snow.
As she approached where Nick sat, Alison noticed that what she had originally thought was a shadow cast from the maple tree was actually a curious looking black spot in the snow. Growing a little bit worried, Alison furrowed her brow as she noticed a glint of something contrasting from the flat blackness of the spot, something with a different sort of reflection than the snow, a reflection that was harsher somehow, that lacked the twinkle of the moonlight. Suddenly noticing a coppery tang in the air, Alison blanched before rushing over to Nick’s still form. With his muzzle slumped on his chest, his fur matted down and discolored, he looked so fragile sitting in the snow curled up tightly as if to keep warm…except for one paw which was set out away from him, in the middle of the slowly spreading dark patch in the snow. “Nick! Oh no!” Alison began to ramble almost incoherently. Beginning to cry, she flung the knife off in to the woods before turning her attention to the fox’s still form.
Nick awoke into a hazy sort of feeling, punctuated by a dull ache in his wrist. “…wasn’t supposed to wake back up.” His mind told him accusingly, bits and pieces of memory coming back to him. Still, he was somewhere soft and warm, which wasn’t so bad really. It soon became apparent to him that focusing on any one thing was still a bit too much to ask of himself, so he eventually just let his senses wander, picking up the end of a conversation in the hall outside. “…found him pretty quickly.” A deep male voice was explaining “Luckily the cold helped to slow down the bleeding. That’s probably why he was still alive when you got there.” “Who found me?” he wondered to himself as his attention drifted away from the conversation. He wasn’t expecting any visitors that evening, and nobody was in the habit of checking on him regularly. Some random do-gooder maybe, out to spread holiday cheer to the neighborhood? As he pondered, Nick heard someone walk up to his bed, and then the scrape of a chair on a tile floor.
Doing his best to get his eyes to focus, Nick took in his surroundings. Looking from the hospital bed to his bandaged wrist, Nick’s gaze came to rest on his next door neighbor. Seeing that Nick was awake and at least a little coherent, Alison scooted her chair closer to his hospital bed and took his paw in her own. “Why?” she asked softly. “I was lonely.” Nick said simply “I’m just so tired of being by myself.” Reaching into her purse, Alison produced a disheveled looking little box, which she opened, and gently placed on Nick’s chest. Seeing the pacifier inside, Nick turned to her in confusion, trying to decide if she were making fun of him or not. “You don’t have to be.”