It Started As A Vacation...

Chapter 2

I was awakened by bright sunlight shining through my bedroom window's open curtains and directly into my eyes.  "Mmrgh…" I groaned incoherently, then, attempting to escape the persistent advance of daylight, rolled over… and directly off the edge of the bed, hitting the floor with a loud "Thunk".  "Okay, okay.  I can take a hint, I'm up, I'm coherent!"  I lied to the universe in general while staggering into the bathroom.

As a rule, Jennifer usually got up early in the mornings.  While sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper, she was interrupted by a loud bang coming from upstairs.  "Better go upstairs and see what Nick's getting himself into…" she said to herself, putting down the paper.  Finding his room to be empty, she moved on to the bathroom. Walking into the bathroom, Jennifer was greeted by the site of Nick, obviously half asleep, pawing through the bathroom cabinets in search of something.  "What are you looking for kiddo?"  She asked playfully.  "Razor" came the somewhat garbled reply.  "What do you need that for?"  Not looking up from the drawer, Nick replied "I'm looking a little scruffy, figured I'd shave" Jennifer just crossed her arms and smiled "Oh… Never mind." I finished, remembering the important little detail that had slipped my mind previously.  Specifically, foxes don't shave. 

"Not a morning person?" Jennifer quipped.  "Sounds like someone needs some breakfast."  Then, sniffing the air, "Smells like someone needs a clean diaper first…" She corrected, leading me back to my room for a change.  After getting a fresh diaper, and trading the PJ's for a set of shorts, we headed back downstairs for dinner.  Halfway to the staircase, I realized that I had forgotten someone, turned around and dashed back to my room.  "I'll be right back!"  I yelled over my shoulder to Jennifer.  Quickly looking around my room, I found Jake lying beside the bed.  Picking him up and giving him a quick hug, I headed back to Jennifer at a more reasonable rate. 

Arriving downstairs, I discovered that once again Matthew had already gone to work.  Sitting down to pancakes and orange juice, I quickly dug in.  Out of curiosity, I took a section of Jennifer's newspaper, and began examining it as I ate.  The words were written in characters I hadn't ever seen before.  They looked sort of like a cross between Runic and some kind of Arabic script.  Needless to say, I wasn't going to be able to get much out of reading the paper any time soon.  Growing disinterested, I began to flip through the pages looking at the pictures.  On one page was a picture of a group of people standing in front of a building, on another was a portrait of a dignified looking cat at the top of what looked suspiciously like an editorial column.  Turning the page again, I discovered the comics section.

This proved to be of more interest than the articles, since I could look at the pictures and puzzle out the general context of the strips. After a few moments, I began to discover that comic strips apparently have some universal themes, notably family life, and the office.  In one comic, a fox was doing impressions of someone, I assumed the boss, only to discover in a later panel that the old badger was behind him.  While I was mulling over the concept of a universally bad joke, I noticed that Jennifer was watching me over the top of her newspaper.  She seemed to find the image of me sitting at the table with pancake syrup running down my chin, looking studiously at the paper rather amusing.  "I found a part I can understand." I said, laughing and pointing to the comic strips.  "It's good to keep up with what's happening in the news" She replied with mock seriousness. 

A thought struck me, "When will I start school?" I queried "I want to be able to read the paper like you."  "You won't be old enough to start school for quite a while" Jennifer replied.  "Besides," she continued, grinning "What's the hurry?  You get to be a little kit again, and this time you know enough about what being an adult is like to really enjoy it!"  I thought on that a bit, and decided that she had a very good point.  Since there really wasn't a whole lot I could do about having regressed, I might as well enjoy myself.  

As she was clearing off the table, Jennifer asked me "So, what do you want to do today?  Anything in particular?"  After thinking for a minute, I decided. "Is there a park near here?  I'd really like to go play on the swings."  "I think that we can arrange that this afternoon" Jennifer granted, regally waving her paw in the air.  "I have some things that I need to get done first though."  "Okay" I answered cheerfully "I'll help!"

After spending the morning doing some work around the house, with me tagging alongside, Jennifer made a quick lunch, then declared nonchalantly "After lunch we need to go out for a little bit."  "Where to?" I asked with great interest.  "Oh just here and there, nowhere important."  Jennifer answered vaguely, changing the subject as we left the house.  I guess that being treated like a kit lately had dulled my usual sense of suspicion, because Jennifer's evasiveness didn't set off any warning bells until the scenery outside began to look more and more familiar.

Turning away from the car window, I asked Jennifer "Where are we going?" growing somewhat agitated. Confirming my suspicions, she replied "To the doctor's for a check up." Remembering the last time that I was there, I was understandably apprehensive about going back.  "We don't need to, I feel fine.  Let's go to the park instead!"  "The doctor says that he wants to see you again for a little bit." Jennifer said.  "I don't want to see him though.  Every time I see him, something bad happens to me!" I replied, pouting slightly.  "Be that as it may, you are going."  Jennifer answered, in a tone that let me know that there wasn't any room for negotiation.  We drove the rest of the way to the hospital with me sulking in silence.


Upon arriving, Jennifer took my hand and led me through the automatic doors and into the waiting room.  Behind the counter, a middle-aged collie was serving as a receptionist.  As Jennifer was filling out the paperwork, the collie looked over the counter to see a little fox kit staring at the ground and nervously fidgeting with a stuffed toy. 

"Hello, little guy."  She greeted me.  Feeling suddenly shy, I ducked behind Jennifer, and peeked out around her tail.  "Relax, we don't bite!"  The collie said reassuringly amused at the shy little kit. Finishing filling out the forms, Jennifer handed back the clipboard, and the fox motioned us inside the office.  "Stand on the scale please." She instructed, then began copying down the information.  Finishing that, she measured me and wrote down my height before leading us to our little room.  "The doctor will be with you shortly." She said on her way out. 

The room was fairly small, but had two chairs, a stool and the examining table with its disposable paper cover.  Sitting down in one of the chairs, I began to nervously play with Jake.  Sensing my obvious discomfort, Jennifer motioned for me to come sit on her lap, which I gladly did.  Snuggling against her, I began to relax.  "The doctor is here to help me", I thought to myself "I don't have anything to worry about." Somehow, I didn't find my argument very convincing. 

A short time later, the wolf I remembered from my last visit came in.  "Hello, I'm doctor Cannis." He said, introducing himself.  "Now who's the patient?  Ah, it must be you!" he said, shaking hands with Jake. Even though I was nervous, I couldn't help but giggle a little at that.  "Oh wait, I'm sorry.  You're the patient, aren't you?" He directed at me.  Laughing, I shook my head yes.  Looking at the chart, Dr. Cannis asked, "You're Nick aren't you?"  "Uh huh" I nodded.  "And who is this?" He asked, indicating Jake. "That's Jake" I answered. "Well," diagnosed Dr. Cannis after listening to Jake's chest with his stethoscope, "He's perfectly healthy, now lets see about you."  He then proceeded to begin to examine me, listening to my heart with his stethoscope.  "Well, everything's fine there. How are the ribs feeling by the way?"  "A little sore" I answered.  Pulling out a tongue depressor, he instructed me to "Say Ahhh…" Which I did with enthusiasm.    Finally, after looking in my eyes and ears with his little light, he was ready to make his diagnosis.

"You are as healthy as can be expected under the circumstances, the ribs and tail will be a little sore for another couple of days, but everything seems to be healing up pretty well."  He began.  "As long as you are here, I'm going to remove the stitches too." He concluded, standing up.  Leafing through my chart in the doorway, he added as an afterthought, "Oh yes, I'd like to give him a vaccination of a strong antibiotic, just to make sure that you don't develop any infections." 

Hearing that, my tail slumped as the vision I had of getting through the appointment unscathed vanished without a trace.  The doctor ducked out briefly, to return with his little stitch removal tool, which he then proceeded to pick at me with.  It stung a little, but wasn't as bad as I had been anticipating.  As he left for the second time, Dr. Cannis said "That's it, except for the shot.  A nurse will be down here with that in a couple of minutes."

I felt cheated out of my minutes when the nurse entered the room just as the doctor left.  The nurse wasn't the collie from earlier like I had been expecting, but was instead a young and overly cheerful raccoon.  She kept up a steady stream of dialogue as she wiped a little spot on my arm down with the alcohol pad.  Clutching Jake and trying to be brave, I didn't really hear what she was saying at first.  "…Just a little mosquito bite!" she was saying, then poked me with the needle.  I flinched a little, but much to my satisfaction, didn't cry.  After putting on a Band-Aid, she pulled a roll of stickers off of her cart.  "Here you go." she said, giving me one.  "Can Jake have one too?" I asked.  "And one for Jake." The nurse chuckled, putting a sticker on the little fox. 

"Now that wasn't so terrible."  Jennifer said as we were walking back to the car.  "And now we get to go to the park!" This news cheered me up immensely (who says bribes don't work?), and by the time we arrived at the park, I was in a much better mood.


As we pulled into the park, I had my nose plastered against the window in anticipation.  It was huge.  From the parking lot, you couldn't see the main road at all.  The area was mostly wooded, with a playground built on a small field.  Further off, before the woods got really thick, I could see a stream running through the area. 

Jumping out of the car, I made a beeline for the playground, leaving Jennifer to lock up the car.  Being later in the afternoon, I had the playground all to myself.  Looking around quickly, I found the swings, and was soon airborne.  A short time later, Jennifer arrived, and situated herself on the grass with a book.    When I was little, swings had always been my favorite, and even when I was older, I was still known to indulge myself when nobody was around to comment.  Something about flying high up in the air always seemed relaxing to me. 

After quite a while, I began to get a little queasy, so I took Jake and went off to investigate the rest of the playground.  There was one of those merry-go-rounds, but those are no fun on your own, so I opted for the slides instead.  After climbing to the top, I discovered that I got a pretty good view of the park from up there, especially the woods.  They gave off an air of mystery that proved to be irresistible.  Having grown bored with the playground at that point, I decided to get Jennifer and see if she would let me go for a walk down by the stream.

Jennifer, it turned out, had fallen asleep while I was playing.  "She would probably be mad if I woke her up," I reasoned to myself "and as long as I'm not gone long, I don’t think she'd mind me looking around the forest anyway."  Having made up my mind, I headed down towards the woods.

The woods, it turned out, were just as neat as they had looked.  Walking for a ways, I marveled at how big everything was.  Looking up, I saw the trees seem to stretch to the sky, and the forest seemed to go on forever.  And everything was so green too.  Finding it pleasant just to be there, I started to drift further and further into the woods, until I found a nice mossy spot under a tree, where I sat down with Jake and just enjoyed the feeling of the moss on the pads of my paws.  Before I knew it, I had drifted off to sleep.


Waking up a while later, I discovered that the sun had moved quite a bit during my nap.  "Probably better head back to the car." I thought, getting up.  Shortly after which, I realized that I wasn't sure where I was.  More annoyed than worried, I headed back the way I thought I had probably come from.  After a while, I realized that if I had been going in the right direction, I should have already been there.  Getting a little concerned; I stopped for a minute to think.  Then I noticed a sound in the distance.  It was a car engine driving by.  "I must have looped around towards the road" I reasoned "If I get to the road, I can just follow it back to the parking lot."  With that in mind, I continued on.  "Jennifer is going to be really mad at me.  It was stupid to run off like that."  I thought bitterly.

After a few more minutes, I arrived at the road.  Except that it didn't look familiar at all.  "Crap, I would have to have found the only other road out here."  I thought as I trudged up the shoulder in the direction I hoped would put me on the main road.  The further I walked without hitting the main road, the more worried I became.  After I had progressed from worry to near panic, I noticed something strange by the side of the road.

It was what appeared to be an older grizzly bear in full biker's leathers.  He was huge, dwarfing the little fox kit, and boy did he look cranky, alternately swearing and poking at a large motorcycle.  He was so intent on what he was doing that he didn't hear me walk up.  "…You stupid piece of cantankerous crap!  You're pickier than my damned mother in law.  What's wrong this time?!"  "Um, excuse me" I said nervously, well aware that the bear was much larger than me and could probably bench-press a car.  "Huh, what?" the bear said, realizing there was someone behind him.  "Where'd you come from?" He asked, looking me over.  "I was at the playground and I went to look around in the woods and now I'm lost, can you help me find my mommy?"  I asked plaintively.  "Great, that's all I need." The bear muttered to himself.  Hearing him, I began to sniffle "I…I'm sorry I bothered you."  Then dejectedly turned around and slowly started to walk away.  "Aw, crap.  Hey kid!" the bear yelled after me "I'm sorry, come back!"  Dutifully, I walked back over.  "Listen, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped at you like that.  It's just that I'm having a bad day."  The bear apologized. "What's your name?" he questioned.  "Nick." "I'm Bruno.  Tell you what, I've got to go bark a tree, then after I get this thing running again, we'll go look for your parents, okay?" He said over his shoulder as he walked into the woods.

While Bruno was otherwise occupied, I took a look at the bike.  After picking at it for a while, I discovered that his breaker points were misaligned.  I tightened up the clearances with a screwdriver I found in the roll of tools Bruno had left by the side of the bike, then began reassembling the motorcycle. 

After returning from the woods, Bruno saw that Nick had apparently re-assembled the bike, and was now rolling up the toolkit. "Fixed the bike." I said shyly "The breaker points weren't aligned right. You should consider switching out you ignition for a solid state one if they have them here, your bike will be a lot more reliable if you don't have points to realign every five minutes." Bruno looked at me oddly "How old are you?"  "Well," I started to reply, somewhat confused by the question "I used to be nineteen in my other life but here the doctor said that I'm four or five now.  I guess I'll have to ask mommy, she'll know," I said with a sense of assurance. Seeming more confused than before he asked, Bruno decided to drop the question.  Changing the subject, he asked me "Where was this playground you mentioned?"  "It was in a big park," I replied.  "With a stream running through it, and a big woods."  "Well," said Bruno, scratching his head "there's only one big park around here, about twenty or thirty miles up the road.  You must have wandered off from there…"

Gathering up his stuff, Bruno started to get ready to leave.  "Why did you wander off anyway?" Bruno asked me.  "Jake and I wanted to go for a walk in the woods, but Mommy was asleep.  I thought she'd be mad if I woke her up, so I went by myself."  "I hate to tell you this, but she's probably going to be pretty annoyed with you anyway…" Bruno laughed, then realizing something, added "Who's Jake?"  "He's my stuffed fox." I replied, showing him to Bruno.  "Cute" Bruno replied, smiling.  "Well, might as well get going."

Starting up the bike, Bruno picked me up and put me on the seat in front of him, then dropped his helmet on my head.  "Put that on."  He instructed.  It was entirely unnecessary, considering that the helmet was much too large, and slid down over my eyes, coming to rest on my nose.  Pulling onto the road, we headed back in the direction of the park. 

It was kind of fun to be back on a motorcycle again.  Despite my accident, I didn't have any real fear of riding, though I did find Bruno's massive helmet to be a nuisance.  After a while, we turned back onto the road leading to the park, and things began to get more and more familiar as we went.  After about fifteen minutes, we pulled back into the playground's parking lot.  The first thing I noticed was Jennifer frantically looking around the playground.  "Boy am I in for it." I thought to myself.  "That's your mom, isn't it?" Bruno asked, rather rhetorically.  Getting off the bike, I ran to Jennifer, and wrapped my arms around her in a huge hug.  "Mommy!  I'm sorry I ran off and got lost, I know I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry and please don't be mad at me!"  I rambled.  "I was so worried when I woke up and you weren't there!"  Jennifer scolded.  "What in the world gave you the idea to wander off like that?"  Then noticing Bruno "and who is that?"

"That's Bruno.  He helped me find my way back!"  I told Jennifer as Bruno walked over.  Sticking out his hand, Bruno introduced himself.  "You're Nick's mom, I take it?  I found him up the road a ways.  He said you'd been at a large park when he wandered off, so I figured that we'd find you here."  "Thank you for your help." Jennifer answered frostily, then taking me by the hand, led me away to one of the picnic tables.  Looking back at Bruno over my shoulder, I saw that he looked a bit hurt by Jennifer's attitude towards him.  Then, shrugging, he got back on his bike, put on the helmet, and rode off down one of the roads that looped through the park.

"I think you hurt his feelings mommy."  I commented, somewhat worried about Bruno.  "Don't change the subject!"  Jennifer retorted, still obviously mad at me for wandering off.  "Besides, he's a bad influence.  It was very irresponsible of him to have taken a little kit for a ride on a motorcycle!"  Sensing that I was in enough trouble as it was, I decided not to point out that he had been nice enough to see that I got back to Jennifer all right.  Sitting me down at the table, Jennifer began to lecture.  "You should never wander off alone like that, what if you had gotten hurt?  Nobody would have known where you were…" As she went on, I realized with a start that Jennifer really wasn't mad at me, just worried about losing me.  Wile it felt good to know that someone cared that much about me, it also made me feel really guilty about making her worry like that.  "…so don't ever do something like that again, okay?"  she finished at last.  Hugging her again, I answered "Okay mommy." and nodded solemnly.   "Let's go home, it's almost time for dinner." Jennifer concluded, taking my hand.  And with that, we walked back to the car.


Arriving home, Jennifer noticed a that the 'New Message' light on the answering machine was blinking.  Pressing the button, we heard Matthew's voice issue from the little gray box.  "Hi guys.  I've got a bit of bad news I'm afraid.  We got an urgent assignment, which we have to have a preliminary report written for by tomorrow, so I'm going to miss dinner, and probably won't be home until really late.  Sorry about that, but duty calls…"  "Well, I guess it'll just be us tonight."  Jennifer commented cheerily.  Then, noticing something, she said, "Come here a second little guy."  Sticking her finger under the elastic of my diaper, she confirmed her suspicions.  " Time for a fresh diaper!"

While I was walking with her to my room, I began to get an odd feeling in the back of my mind, like something wasn't quite right, but I couldn't place what it was.  Lying on the table while Jennifer sprinkled baby powder on my diaper area, I realized what was wrong.  "Have you seen Jake?"  I asked her, the feeling getting worse.  "Let me think" Jennifer replied while threading my tail through the tail hole, then fastening the tapes on the diaper. "No, I don't think I've seen him in a while.  I'm sure he's around here somewhere, just think where the last place you saw him was."  Thinking back, I realized where I had last seen him.  "Oh no!  I left Jake in the park!"  I yelled, beginning to get panicked.  "We have to go get him!"

"Okay, calm down."  Jennifer said, finishing up.  "We'll go find him."  Getting back in the car, we headed down to the park, with me nervously fidgeting with the seatbelt the whole way.  "Don't worry" Jennifer said reassuringly as we pulled into the parking lot "We'll find him."

We looked all over the playground and the picnic tables, but without any luck.  After close to an hour, we had meticulously searched the entire area, and it was beginning to get dark.  "I'm sorry Nick, but he's just not here" Jennifer said as we walked back to the car and headed for home.  Dinner was a quiet affair that night, with me spending most of the time just pushing things around on my plate with a fork.

Matthew got home shortly after we had finished dinner.  Walking past the living room, he saw Nick curled up on the corner of the couch, looking miserable.  Walking over to him, Matthew sat down next to Nick on the couch.  "What's the matter little one?"  He asked me.  Sniffling, I replied "I lost Jake at the park, and when we went back to look for him, he wasn't anywhere around, and now I'll never see him again, and I miss him."  "Oh Nick," Matthew said consolingly "I know you liked Jake, but we can get you another little friend." "But I don't want another one, I want Jake back." I said, beginning to cry again.  Matthew picked me up and began to rock me on his lap, until slowly I stopped crying and began to drift off to sleep.  Carrying me to my room, he tucked me into bed, and quietly left, whispering "Sleep tight Nick, Tomorrow's another day." As he closed the door. 


The next day, I wasn't feeling very well.  Jennifer did her best to cheer me up, making me cinnamon rolls and orange juice for breakfast, but it didn't really help, and I ended up spending most of the day inside just staring out the window.  Time passed quickly, and soon enough it was getting on towards dinnertime.  Matthew had called around lunchtime, saying that he was going to be working late again, and that we shouldn't expect him to be home for dinner again, so Jennifer decided we were going to eat early.  "And after dinner," she commented to me while I watched her cook "we'll go into town and get ice cream cones.  Maybe that'll cheer you up a bit, hmm?"

After dinner, we washed the dishes (Jennifer washed, I spilled soapy water all around the sink), then Jennifer drove us into town.  The ice cream parlor was in a little shopping center near the mall.  It really was an interesting place, with an old fashioned soda fountain, and a marble counter and tabletops, and if I hadn't still been so upset about losing Jake, I would really have enjoyed looking around.  The teenage chipmunk behind the counter smiled warmly at me (Why is it that just about everyone seems to think I'm cute?) and asked me what I'd like.  Standing on my tiptoes, and looking into the freezers, I decided to try the mint chocolate chip, which I always liked when I was a human.  "I'll have some of the green kind please." I asked. "I don't think you'll like that kind" Jennifer commented smiling.  "I like mint chocolate chip." I said, slightly defensively.  Her smile widening to a full-blown grin, Jennifer explained that "That's not mint chocolate chip, its alfalfa sprout.  It's a very popular flavor among their herbivore customers, but you'd probably not like it much."

Deciding that she was probably right, I settled for chocolate in a waffle cone.  After helping me into one of the high backed chairs at a table near the window, we began to eat our ice cream, watching the people outside pass by.  Looking over at Jennifer, I noticed that she had some ice cream on her muzzle.  For some reason, this struck me as funny, and I began to giggle.  "What?"  Jennifer asked, looking at me in an amused sort of way.  "You've got ice cream on your nose mommy!"  "So do you," she retorted good naturedly "but I'm not laughing at you!" Finishing up her ice cream cone, Jennifer wiped off her muzzle, then turned her attention to me.  "Hold still" she laughed as I ducked away from her napkin "you'll only get it on your clothes too!"

Eventually she won, after which we began to make our way back to the car.  It had gotten dark while we were in the ice cream parlor, and, with an electric hum, the streetlights turned themselves on.  As we walked through the parking lot, suddenly three dogs stepped out from behind a car.  I sensed trouble immediately.  They were younger than Jennifer, and looked like disreputable characters.  Slowing down, Jennifer looked around the parking lot for help, but other than us it was deserted.  Flicking out a knife, one of the dogs, apparently the leader growled menacingly "Gimme your purse!" and grabbed her by the arm.  "Let her go!" I yelled, hitting the dog in the stomach.  Wincing, the dog turned his attention to me. "You little punk!" He yelled, pushing me into a car.

He started walking over to where I had fallen, snarling at me, when a large shadow appeared behind him.  With a roar, Bruno grabbed the dog with the knife and threw him halfway across the parking lot into a tree.  "Just what the hell do you think your…" one of the remaining dogs asked, trailing off as he got a look at the massive, and obviously very, very angry grizzly bear.  "Go away or I'm likely to do something bad to you." Bruno said in a quiet voice.  Deciding that he was quite serious, the dogs grabbed their friend and ran off into the shadows. 

"Are you all right?" Bruno asked, kneeling down to help me up.  "You're bleeding" He noticed, wiping at a spot on my forehead.  "It's just a scratch." I said trying to stand up.  "Where's Jennifer?  Is she okay?"  "I'm here," she said, walking over, looking a little shaken up by the ordeal.  "Why did you come back?" Jennifer asked Bruno "Especially after I was so rude to you earlier."  Looking genuinely surprised, Bruno replied "Because you needed help.  Besides, I found Nick's little critter."  Walking over to his bike, Bruno pulled Jake out of his saddlebag.  "I found him at the park, and Nick seemed really attached to the little guy earlier, so I thought he would be upset about losing him."  Bruno smiled a little self-consciously. 

"You found Jake!" I yelled ecstatically, running over and giving him a huge hug.  "I missed him so much, and I thought I'd never see him again."  Making a decision, Jennifer asked Bruno "Would you like to have some coffee with us?"  "I just might take you up on that." Bruno replied. 

After a quick drive, we were back home, sitting down to coffee.  Well Jennifer and Bruno were, I was having hot cocoa.  ("Coffee isn't good for little kits.  Besides, it would keep you awake all night.)  "So, tell me about yourself" Jennifer asked, somewhat awkwardly trying to start the conversation.  "There's not much to tell really."  Bruno started.  "I worked in civil engineering for quite a while, but I quit that when my wife died.  Now I run a winery a little bit west of here.  I enjoy working in the vineyards, it's really peaceful, gives me time to think.  I guess I never really got over losing May."  Looking at his paw, Bruno started absentmindedly fidgeting with a wedding ring that I had not noticed him wearing before.  "I'm sorry, I'm venting, aren't I?" Bruno commented, smiling sadly. 

"I've been wondering," Bruno asked, changing the subject "Where did you learn how to work on motorcycles?  I mean, it's a little bit strange for a cub your age to know about stuff like that."  "When I was a human I used to be older." I shrugged  "Working on cars and motorcycles and stuff like that was a hobby."  "So how did you end up becoming a fox kit and living here?"  Bruno asked curiously.  "I was on vacation, and I had a motorcycle accident actually." I replied "Jennifer and Matthew found me and got me help, and I just sort of ended up being a fox in the process." Bruno nodded, as if that made perfect sense.  A thought occurred to Bruno, he glanced down at his watch, and, realizing what time it was, stood up to leave.  "Well, I've got to get going, I have to be up early tomorrow.  Thanks for the coffee."  "Drop by for a visit next time you're in the area."  Jennifer told him as we walked to the door.  Standing on the doorsteps, we waved until Bruno's taillights faded into the night. 


Seeing me yawn as we went back inside, Jennifer decided that it was time for bed.  "But I'm not tired yet!"  I argued.  It would have been a better argument if I had been able to finish the sentence without yawning, as it was Jennifer wasn't particularly impressed.  "Nope, It's bath time for you, little guy."  Deciding that a good hot soak would be really nice, I went along quietly.  Bathing today took longer than normal; my various adventures had left me utterly filthy.  Picking some little burrs out of my headfur, Jennifer commented that "You seemed to have brought most of the park home with you." "I was going to give them to you for your birthday" I joked "but since you've already found them, I suppose you can keep it now."  Laughing, Jennifer instructed me to hop out, then dried me off and sat me on the counter to be re-bandaged in a few spots.  After finishing with that, we headed for my room.  While Jennifer was putting me in a new diaper, we heard Matthew come home.  "I'm back!"  He yelled.  "Just a minute, I'm finishing up with Nick."  Jennifer responded, then after applying some diaper cream, taped up the diaper and sent me on my way.

Seeing Matthew sitting on the couch in the living room, I rushed in.  "Matthew, Matthew!  We found Jake!"  I yelled excitedly, presenting the fox in question for inspection.  "We saw Bruno in the mall, and he had found Jake at the park, and he brought him back!"  I explained rapidly, sitting down on the couch next to Matthew.  "That's great!"  Matthew responded, genuinely pleased that I had gotten my little fox back.  "I guess someone had a busy day today."  "More so than you'd think" Jennifer commented, coming into the room and sitting down.  She then proceeded to relate the events that happened at the ice cream parlor. 

"It's a good thing that Bruno was there to help you two."  Matthew said soberly.  "That could have been a bad situation."  Then more cheerfully "And he brought Jake back for Nick too.  I'd like to meet him sometime…"  "He's really a sweet old man" Jennifer commented "I judged him too quickly the other day at the park.  I guess maybe I was just worried about Nick getting the wrong ideas from hanging around with him."

"You know," Matthew started "I was thinking about taking Nick to my office tomorrow, and showing him around."  "Tomorrow would actually be a good day for that" Jennifer replied "I have some things to do that he wouldn't be interested in anyway, and that would keep everyone occupied for at least all morning."  "How about it?"  Matthew asked me "Would you like to come to work tomorrow and see my office?"  Thinking about it for a minute, I decided that it might be fun to see where Matthew went every day.  "Okay." I answered "I wanted to know what you do all day anyway."  "Then it's settled." Matthew said, smiling.  "If Nick is going to go to work with you tomorrow, we should go find something a little more presentable than his typical wardrobe." Jennifer decided.  "Come on, time to go dig through the closet."

Following Jennifer upstairs to my room, I asked her "Why do we have to go find clothes?"  "Because people at Matthew's office dress up to go to work, so you'll need to wear something nice so you fit in." Jennifer answered.  "We bought a couple of things that you could wear when we were at the mall the other day, we just have to decide which one you like best."  "Oh, okay" I answered.  "Do I have to wear a tie?" I asked as an afterthought.  "I don't like ties very much.  They get in the way."  "You don't even own a tie, so I guess we don't have to worry about it."  Jennifer answered, amused by the thought of the little kit in a suit and tie.

Going through my dresser, Jennifer made a few selections.  There were two or three different rompers that she picked out, as well as a pair of nicer long pants, and a couple of shirts.  "Well, let's see." Jennifer thought aloud. "We probably ought to go with a pants and shirt combo."  She returned the rompers to the dresser.  "So the real question is, what goes best with the pants."  As Jennifer pondered the great mystery of the clothing combinations, I soon lost interest and tuned her out.  I had always been of the school of thought that there are two types of clothing: those I like and those I didn't.  Which meant that I was really enjoying one of the other fringe benefits of regressing, specifically that nobody expects a little kit to keep up with fashions.  Apparently, Jennifer was of the mindset that whatever I wasn't expected to worry about became her sole responsibility.  End result: she spent quite a while looking through my clothes, while I happily sat on the bed and played with Jake. 

We, or more accurately Jennifer, finally decided on the pants and a nice green shirt to go with it.  Having me try it on, Jennifer told me to turn around a few times while she inspected her handiwork.  It met her satisfaction quite nicely.  "Let's go downstairs and show you to Jake!" Jennifer said, looking quite pleased with her selections.  "It seems like you really enjoy getting to dress me up in things…" I commented to Jennifer as we walked downstairs to the living room.  "It is fun actually" she replied "Besides, you are such a cute little kit, and everything looks simply adorable on you!"  "I'm not adorable!" I pretended to pout "I'm ruggedly handsome with fangs and a tail and…"  "A pointy little nose, and perky little ears." Jennifer interjected, laughing at my act.  At that I tried my best to look annoyed and pretended to growl at her, which only brought on a fit of giggles in us both.  "That must have looked totally ridiculous."  I said after I finally quit giggling.  "Actually," Jennifer said, still smiling "You looked really…"  "Let me guess," I smiled "you were going to say I looked really adorable weren't you?"  She just nodded, smiling at me, then reached over and rubbed behind my ears.

We found Matthew sitting on the couch in the living room, flipping through the newspaper.  Dropping down on the couch next to him, I tried to grab his tail, but sensing me, he pulled it away at the last minute, then began to swish it around in front of me while I tried unsuccessfully to catch it, with Jennifer watching our little game.  Quickly growing tired of this game; I faked left, and then skillfully caught his tail as he swished it to the right. (In all probability he let me win…)  "I caught it!" I laughed.  Reaching over, he snared the end of my tail, and then said seriously "I'll trade you."  After skillful negotiation, the exchange was made, with me having bargained a cookie out of the trade as well.

While Jennifer went to the kitchen to get me my cookie, I showed Matthew my outfit.  "Very nice." He commented "You'll be the best dressed fox in the office."  At that point, Jennifer returned with cookies for everyone, and I forgot all about Matthew's office as I nibbled on one.  After I had finished, Jennifer turned to me and said, "Come on little guy, its way past your bedtime." And with that, we retired back upstairs to my room. 

After checking my diaper, which proved to need changing, Jennifer started preparing me for bed, leading me to the bathroom and having me brush my teeth.  Then it was time for a fresh diaper, and a footed sleeper.  Making sure that I had Jake, Jennifer tucked me into bed, and was getting ready to go back downstairs.  "I'm not tired yet." I asked plaintively "Could we talk a little before I go to sleep?"  Looking at the clock, and then looking back at me, Jennifer conceded.  "Okay, but just for a little bit."  "Where does Matthew work?"  I queried.  "In a building downtown."  "Are the people there nice?" I asked.  "Of course they are nice."  Jennifer answered "Why?"  "I'm just a little scared to meet a bunch of new people, that's all.  What if they don't like me?"  "Oh honey, they will.  Don't worry yourself about that, everything will be just fine."  "Okay mommy."  I said, beginning to get a bit drowsy.

"Goodnight Nick."  Jennifer said, getting up quietly to leave.  "Mommy?"  I asked, beginning to fall asleep.  "I never thanked you and Matthew."  "For what?"  Jennifer asked, a bit surprised by this new line of conversation.  "For everything.  For saving my life, for bringing me here…for caring about me. For everything…" Rubbing behind my ears, Jennifer replied "Matthew and I always wanted a kit of our own, and then we found you, like an answer to our wishes.  Thank you for staying and being my kit.  You've brought us a lot of happiness."  "Goodnight mommy." I mumbled, reaching up and hugging her.  "Goodnight little one." 

To Be Continued…