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I should have been more careful, really.

The week had gone well enough; a few more rounds of gaming over the weeknights, good progress on Call of Dreams on Saturday, and Sarah even pronounced that my back was healing well and I could start regular practise the next week.

I even got through the night without any romantic crisis, though once I got home, curiosity and frustration combined to prompt me to enjoy my resumed flexibility. Licking myself off was an odd but good feeling; the taste that followed, well… it wasn’t horribly off-putting, anyway. And that did keep it from getting all over the place.

Anyway… I’d have thought that all the time with them would’ve kept me on my guard. But no, when Dave Carpenter, my manager, stopped by my desk and said, “Tim? Could I see you in my office for a few minutes?” I wasn’t worried. I’d been doing decent work, always showed up on time and never clocked out early, so what did I have to worry about? He probably just wanted to talk about what I should work on next.

So, not wanting to lose track of where I was, I said, “Sure, Dave, I’ll be right there,” and finished that subroutine before following him into his office.

What a damn waste that was.

So there I was. Monday night… sometime shy of midnight. I was trying to decide if my liver would tolerate another dose of Scotch, and on the verge of deciding no but tossing it back anyway, when a shadow loomed over me.

There’s only one shadow I know that can loom quite like that. I tried to say, “Hi, Sam, how was your day?” but I couldn’t get four words in without stumbling.

“My God, Tim.” He sat in the stool beside me, fingers sliding under my chin. I think he was looking at my eyes; hard to say, really, as his were vague blurs. “I’ve never seen you like this. Alex said he’s never seen you like this. What’s wrong?”

“What’s it look like?” I’m not sure all the words got out, but something like them, anyway. “‘m drunk.”

In hindsight, I should’ve got smacked for that one, but at the time it seemed perfectly obvious and reasonable. Whatever the case, Sam just repeated, “My God. Excuse me, miss, how many has he – ? Oh, dear. Water, please, cool but not cold. Tim, please, drink this for me.”

I wanted more Scotch, not water. But I couldn’t refuse. Not when he was asking me like that. Not when he was asking me, period. I dutifully gulped down the clear water. And he ignored my protests that I’d be fine there, and half-led, half-carried me out the door. I shut up at that point; talking would’ve needed me to breathe more, and it was snowing out. It didn’t feel cold enough, but some part of me figured it had to be.

He got me settled in the truck and buckled in; by the time he’d pulled into the garage, the effort of paying attention to what was going on around me had me a little more focused than I had been. He ushered me across the empty portion of the garage, into the living room, and on his couch, with a big glass of iced tea in front of me, and sat down next to me to be sure I didn’t spill it.

“What happened, Tim?” he breathed. “Isn’t this going to cause problems with work tomorrow?”

“Nope,” I declared, staring down at the carpet. Probably softer than my sheets, that carpet. “Not tomorrow. Not the day after. Don’t have to worry about that any more.” I took a swig; it didn’t have quite the same effect without the alcoholic burn.

“What? What happened? I thought work was going well…”

“Too good, I guess. The whole project got bought out, every last line of code, by… some company I’ve never heard of. Angel. Ha!” Laughing that hard wasn’t a good idea; I coughed, and Sam had to rescue my drink before it spilt. “Some angels. Got all their own staff to work on it, I guess. Every last person on the IMCO team is getting the boot, and ’cause of some silly non-discover – uh…”


“That. They don’t want us to even see the code for our notice, so we’ve got nothin’ to do. One minute I’m tweaking the HSR, the next… none of my passwords work.” I sagged against the couch with a moan.

“But that’s not – oh my God, Tim…” One massive arm settled around me, pulling me in against him, and his snout pressed into my hair.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” I moaned. “Had to fight tooth and nail to get that job. Don’t have leads anywhere else. Can’t even get a profish – uh, work reference ’cause my boss is leaving, too…”

“Shh. It’ll be okay,” Sam murmured into my ear. “Trust me, Tim. It’ll be okay.”

He held me close, and I clung to him, crying like a teenager who’d just been dumped for the first time. His hands slid along my back, and his soft, bass rumble washed over me. I couldn’t even tell the words apart; he was trying to soothe me, I knew that much, but with that much trouble facing me I wasn’t about to be consoled.

I did notice, though, how he stiffened when I started lamenting my lack of romance. (And why shouldn’t I?) He got all the sordid details about how all my roommates either had girlfriends or hadn’t gone very long without; most of my co-workers had been happy with their social lives; but I was an unlucky enough sod that the two people I was really attracted to were unavailable, because they had each other.

That was when he found a very effective way of shutting me up.

He kissed me.

It wasn’t like the tentative one I’d given him, either; he took hold of my cheeks, held me in place, and pressed his muzzle firmly against mine. For a moment I squirmed, but it was an automatic gesture, a reflex; his stroking hands had me melting against him in seconds. He kissed me with more intent than I’d felt in a decade, his tongue slipping in when I moaned, running over my front teeth. One of his hands stayed on my jaw; the other slid around, down along my spine, splaying over the small of my back and keeping me in close.

A cobweb could’ve held me there; there wasn’t even a slight chance I could get away from that grip.

At last the kiss broke, and I gasped, staring up at him. “Sam…?”

“Shh.” He stroked my cheek. “Like I said last week, Tim… it’s okay.”

He half-led, half-carried me up the stairs, and into the master bedroom; lit by night-light, it felt dark, rich, sumptuous. There was no sign of Sarah, and I was just sober enough to remember that the car hadn’t been in the garage either. And Sam was loosening my tie, unbuttoning my shirt…

God. I was terrified, but I couldn’t bring myself to resist. Not even with a word. Not even when he stripped down himself, and eased me onto my back, and…

When I’d tasted myself, it had felt different, but not all that special. Now, though… Maybe it was someone else doing it. Maybe it was because, specifically, it was Sam doing it, or maybe it was just how rotten I was feeling. But from the moment his lips caressed my cock, I was…


I don’t know that I could say it was pure bliss. I was conflicted; I didn’t want to be doing this; yet at the same time, I didn’t want it to stop. His hands roamed all over me, and they made me feel so good, so special, so… so wanted; he had me writhing in seconds, and it couldn’t have been a minute before I felt a wave of vertigo, a burst of sensation around my cock. And Sam just splayed a hand over my stomach and drank me right down.


When it was done, he tugged me properly onto the bed, tugging the covers over my shivering form. He slid atop them behind me, his arm draped over me; I could feel him, hot and hard, against my rear, but he didn’t make any move to take things farther, or to have me get him off in turn. He just held me, and whispered nothings over my ears, and stroked me, and somewhere in there, exhaustion claimed me, and I slept.

Rude as the night had been, the awakening was worse.

It was Sarah who woke me up, moving around nearby; she must’ve heard me stirring, because she looked over, smiled softly, and rested a hand on my brow, like a mother checking her child for a fever. “Hey, you,” she murmured. “I heard it was a pretty rough night; you doing okay now?”

I swallowed. I hadn’t been drunk enough, not when it happened, that I had a chance in hell of forgetting what had gone on in this bed around midnight. “Uh…”

“Don’t worry,” she murmured. “We’ll figure something out; we’ve got a few connections here and there, Sam especially. He’ll be able to find something for you.”

Sam… God. Thinking about Sam only brought the guilt crashing in.

The clock said it was eleven, and the window said it was daytime. So… not twelve hours ago, unless I’d somehow slept a day and a half straight, I’d been cheating on this woman in her own bed. And she’d been the one to wake me up in it.

She stiffened next to me, and I cringed. Had she just put it together…? But she just planted a kiss on my forehead. “It’s okay, Tim,” she murmured. “Really. Rest up, get better, and we’ll think of something.” With one last pat to my shoulder, she vanished, leaving a faint trace of perfume behind her.

I wasn’t feeling at all restful right then. Nor did I feel it was okay, or going to be. I was, in fact, terrified. I scrambled out of bed, and I had my clothes more or less on by the time Sarah’s feet reached the bottom of the stairs, though buttoning my shirt took a few moments longer. I slipped out of the room myself, creeping down the stairs.

“Ah. Here you are.” Her voice drifted out from the living room.

Oh, crap. My coat was in there. My shoes were by the door, but my coat was in the living room; there was no way I could get it without drawing attention to myself.

Oh well. It wasn’t a long way back to my place; I’d make do.

“Samuel Joseph Knight,” she went on in a hiss, “you have some explaining to do.

Oh God oh God oh God.

My fingers were fumbling on the laces, but I managed to do them tight enough that I wouldn’t trip over them. Sam’s reply was too low and indistinct for me to make out, but I heard very clearly indeed as Sarah went on, “Why is there a tiger in our bed who looks like there’s a meteor about to fall on him?”

Oh, shit. Not only had I screwed up, I’d done so in a way that’d make trouble between two people I’d called friends. Some friend I was.

Swallowing a whimper, I eased the door open and dashed through.

The snow had got worse overnight; it blanketed the ground now, and huge fat flakes of it were swirling all around. I wasn’t even looking at the street signs as I ran; I just pounded along the sidewalk, and when I got to the corner, looked back to see my shallow prints already filling in.

If only everything were that easy.

I ran across the road and tore down the street. The cold air seared into my lungs, but I forced myself to keep going. I couldn’t stop, not until I got home…

Except that it dawned on me that I should’ve got to my townhouse by now, and hadn’t.

In fact, the buildings weren’t familiar at all, what little I could make out through the snow.

Oh, shit.

I didn’t know which road I’d turned down. The snow was so heavy that I couldn’t see where the street signs were, much less read them. And I didn’t know how far I’d come along it.

In short, I was lost.

And now that I’d stopped, the cold was setting in very quickly.

God damn it, what was I going to do now?

Okay… I’d turned off of a T intersection from Daxter. If I got back there, I’d just need to find my bearings from there. Maybe I’d see a road I recognized before then.

In the meantime… I started walking.

It really was cold; the deep gasps I’d been taking after my run seemed to have chilled me to the bone. Maybe if I kept walking, and jogged when I’d got a bit of breath back, I’d be all right. Or maybe I’d pass a convenience store, and could warm up and get directions.

I had to hope.

The rumble of a motorcycle briefly caught my ear, but it wasn’t a truck or even a car, so it didn’t worry me; I put it out of my mind, and kept walking.

Then it stopped beside me. “Hey! Tim!”

I turned, to see the rider lifting up his visor and peering out at me. A conical, bewhiskered face, with grey, concerned eyes and round ears – and that voice… “Ric?”

“Tim, what’re you doing out here? Without a jacket, at that?”

“Getting lost,” I admitted. “What are you doing here?”

“Heading home; I live just a bit further down. I couldn’t believe it was you when I saw you! Hop on, come inside, get warm and tell me what brings you out here!” He reached over; I took his hand, and let myself be drawn up behind him. I didn’t need to be told to hold on; I was starting to shiver, and even through his jacket, some part of me knew he was warm.

The chinchilla eased his bike forward, swinging out from the curb, proceeding at a modest pace another block down, then turning into the driveway. The garage door opened, and he rode down into it; once we got past the second door, blessed warm air surrounded us.

I looked over. Sure enough, this was an apartment building. Looked like a decent one, though I’m not really much judge. Even the parking garage was reasonably inviting and well-lit, anyway; it didn’t look like a place where someone could get randomly attacked by someone sneaking around

“Goodness, Tim, what’s got you wandering out here without a coat on a day like today? You look horrible,” he said, easing me to the ground and opening a box behind the bike seat, lifting from it a big canvas grocery bag.

I sighed, leaning against the nearest support column. “Don’t I bitch at you enough about work?” I asked. I’d have appreciated someone to talk to, but I really didn’t want to impose.

“Not hardly – I don’t get enough chance to listen to you as I’d like. I just picked up some hot chocolate mix,” he hefted the bag, “so let’s get upstairs, have some of that, and you can tell me what’s wrong, okay?”

Ric had, it turned out, a small but cozy one-bedroom apartment. He also had some nice, warm blankets; it was with one of these and a mug in my hands that I told him the story. About work, about my misadventures with the pair of skunks… about the night before, and my mad dash out the door just a short time ago. He listened to it all with wide, concerned eyes, his ears focused on me, interrupting only to clarify this point or that, and at one point, to get me some painkillers. When I was done, he sighed, resting a hand on my shoulder.

“Don’t blame yourself for this, Tim,” he said. “I’ve seen how strong they come across; I can only imagine what it’s like in private. And it sounds like they’ve encouraged it, even – both of them. Something about all this feels odd.” He gave my shoulder a squeeze. “But whatever happens… you’re welcome here, okay?”

An old thought struck me. “Ric?”


“That first night they were at the bar with me, and you said something about, well… about guys being scared off…”

Enrique stared at the opposite wall, maybe at the blank television screen. “I was talking about me, yeah.”

I looked at him. Really looked at him. He was tall, and fit, his fur like a shining cloud of silver; his eyes were keen and soulful. I looked around; he lived comfortably on his own, and even if he worked odd hours, it didn’t seem to be a bad job. “How could you not have someone?” I blurted.

“That’s what I asked myself about you,” the chinchilla pointed out. “And that’s why I didn’t dare try to get in touch with you, except when you were at Casey’s, as a customer.”

“Well…” I swallowed. “I’m here now.”

“But after last night – “

“Ric.” I found his hand, clung to it, and forced myself to keep looking into his eyes. “Right now, I could really use someone holding me without any of that sort of complicated stuff to worry about. If… if you’re still interested, I’m willing to take a chance and leave the getting-to-know-you bit for later, if you’ll just…”

“Hold you,” the chinchilla finished, curling his arm around to draw me in close. “I’ve dreamed of doing that with you, tiger. That, and more. Like those dreams you told me about just now, only… farther.”

I swallowed. Another fear took hold of me – but it was a simple sort of fear. Uncertainty, worry for the unknown. Worry that I’d screw up.

But for now, the rest of the world could go hang.

“Show me,” I pleaded. “I want to know what it’s like.”

And so I wound up in a strange bed for the second time in a day; but this time, there was no worry about some absent person looming over my shoulder. No worry that someone would mind what we were doing. No worry that we’d get in trouble. There was just him, and me, and soon enough absolutely nothing in between us.

Ric was a head taller than me, but he was a lot closer to my size. And as he started feeling around my body, soft, whispered urgings made me do the same in kind. God, that fur… it was even softer than it looked, and it looked like a wisp of heaven.

And he responded so much more than the last girlfriends I’d had. Than any of them, really. A light touch here made him arch toward me, breath catching; a stroke there eased his breath out on a moan. And when my fingers found his erection –

The whimper he let out then was as intoxicating as any drink he’d ever served me.

He had a good size to him – longer than mine, but not as thick. Not too far off from mine; not enough so to be intimidating, certainly. And the way he squirmed and moaned as I stroked him was… very gratifying.

When he started touching me in kind, I lost all coordination; I surrendered to his touch, and I didn’t bother to stifle my own pants or groans. He laid me back onto the bed, and he moved over me, straddling me. One delicate hand caught my shaft, cradled it against his own.

It was just as intense, just as delirious, as the first time I’d felt myself against a girl that way – but somehow more energetic, rougher. His mouth found mine, and we did our best to devour each other that way; his hot breath over my whiskers and cheek made me feel not only wanted, but needed.

I felt myself getting close, and I squeezed his shoulders, trying to get his attention; the kiss broke, and he brushed his lips along my jaw, still sawing his flesh against mine. “Come on, Tim,” he breathed, nipping at my throat. “Let it out for me, that’s it…”

The bite would’ve been enough to set me off on its own; coupled with the desire in his words… I thought my balls were going to explode. I certainly did make a big mess over the pair of us, squirming and thrashing, and the only thing that kept me from crying out was how hard I was gasping for breath.

Somehow I wasn’t sated, though; when Ric started to draw away, I caught his arm. “Do it,” I hissed.

Ric’s brows arched. “What, now?” he whispered. “But you – “

“Do you feel me getting soft, Ric? ’cause I sure don’t.”

He glanced down, curled his fingers around my penis; I shivered – it was quite sensitive, yes – but it felt so deliriously good I almost asked him to just keep doing that. Almost.

“Okay, Tim,” he laughed. “I’ve never seen someone quite so eager, I don’t think…” He turned, reached into a drawer, and pulled out a squeeze bottle. “Just tell me if I need to stop, okay? Don’t be a hero.”

I just nodded; I wasn’t sure I could honestly make that promise, right then.

And then he leaned over me, and coaxed me to pull my knees up toward my chest; when I proved myself flexible enough to just wrap my legs around him, he grinned. “You open up a world of possibility, Tim,” he purred, kissing my nose.

And then it was time.

It was uncomfortable at first. Not because it hurt, no; Ric was way too gentle for that. It just felt weird. But the fondness in his eyes reminded me why he was doing this – he wanted me to feel good.

And when I focused on that… it did.

And he slid on into me. I panted, I squirmed, I clenched around him; he paused when that happened, but kept going on after, until his body pressed right against mine.

It felt… right. Just as much so as anything I’d ever done with a girl before.

He rocked against me, and he must’ve been hitting something good, because each little motion made me squirm. The whole business was amazing; at some point, I’m pretty sure I came again, but I couldn’t possibly pick out the exact moment.

I sure knew when Ric did, though; he gasped against my throat, his fingers digging into my shoulders as he muffled a soft cry there; and I felt him… shifting, inside me; felt a warmth there, and knew it was his spunk flowing into me.

And I hadn’t felt a better thing in years.

We wound up spooned together, but unlike my prior night, he was under the covers with me, and he didn’t need to soothe me; in that one moment, I think all my cares just kind of dropped away.

If I dreamt, I didn’t remember it.

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