Taylor Series Tom and Cat

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Tom and Cat

Author: Jetfire
Taylor Series story universe

I carefully swept up the back of the shop for the nth time that day and tried to keep my mind on task. It was not easy to do however. The air of the shop tingled with anticipation, the golden ring in my nose ached, and my tail swished from side to side with nervousness. I swept closer to the closed door of the boss's office and listened as best I could while still sweeping.

"-st to reconfirm, you are positive you both want to go through with this? Once we start, it is irreversible." the boss's voice drifted from under the door, talking on the phone with the client.

"Certainly, I'll be ready for you. Come by just after closing and all will be ready.... ... No there is no need to do much to prepare, just clean up before you come down."

There was a faint click as the handset was hung up, followed by the creaking of the chair. I quickly moved away from the door, still sweeping as I went. I was only a few feet away when the door swung open.

"MINOS!" Boss called before spying me in the dim back room. "Ah there you are. We have a client coming in tonight. I need you to make the preparations and cut the material."

I felt the ring in my nose tingle more, but the uneasiness drained out of the room now that I knew what was coming. I reached and took the folder out of his hands. "Yes sir, I'll get right on it."

Boss nodded and made his way towards the front room. "I know you will. Remember the material needs to soak in the solution for a few hours and dry thoroughly before we can use it; the client is coming just after close so we don't have too much time. I'll print out the patterns for you at lunch."

"Aye sir, I'll start the soak as soon as I get the solution ready," I responded, the broom handle resting on my shoulder as I flipped the folder open to skim over the recipes and material list.

Boss started to close the door between the store sections then paused. "And make sure you have the fans going over the mixture; that stuff can stink. With Prom season approaching, I don't want the smell to drive away any customers."

I felt a shudder go through me, a tension building in me, but there was nothing I could do about it yet. "Turn the fans on, yes sir."

While the boss worked in the main retail area, I trotted over to the workbench and flicked on the lights to examine the notes closer. As usual, they were clear and precise, listing what should be mixed into what and at what times and how they should be mixed. The recipes were mostly standard, but had enough unique properties that I had to triple check the amounts as I measured them out into marked containers for later use. The smell of the more odorous chemicals hit my nose and the tension built higher in me, forcing me to reach over and flick on the fans over the work bench area. With the muffled roar of the fans pulling the odors away the pressure within me eased, letting me continue working in peace.

I checked the list one final time with everything all laid out before me and was satisfied. I grabbed a clean bucket and started pouring the thick liquids in, being careful to keep the splashing down. Though nothing was particularly dangerous, they were not anything I wanted to get on my skin. After one final check between the recipe and the ingredients in the mixture, I threaded the shafts of the mixer blades through the bucket's specially designed top and snapped the top onto the bucket. I then carried the bucket to the mixer, slipped the blades shafts into the motor, and turned it on to the right speed along with the exhaust fan within the shielded area to draw the stench out.

I waited and listened for a moment to make sure the mix sounded right in the mixer, then returned to the workbench to continue. I grabbed a rag and blew my muzzle, trying to clear the harsh chemical scent out; and probably making a few ships out in the nearby harbour wondering why the foghorn was blowing in the middle of the day. The next steps would be dustier, but a good deal less smelly.

I rolled the industrial scale bread mixer over to the side of the workbench and checked the order of the ingredients. This recipe was simple enough, the powder, a binder and a softener basically, with a few extras that would be needed later. The client had requested a solid colour for the most part, but I was instructed to draw out small amounts for some specific highlights.

That all would not need to be done until after the lunch break, by which time the mixture would be set enough to mix the dyes in.

Reassured that I had everything correct, I filled the bin of the mixer and turned it on. I set an alarm to count down and go off when the mixing time was up. With some time to spare, I cleaned up the workbench, carefully wiping up and scrubbing the spilled drops that inevitably occurred, and putting the extra ingredients away.

Boss made his way into the back room, his experienced eye noting the state of the workbench and the two mixers going.."Are you done yet Minos?... Excellent. I'll double check your work and make sure these go to the right consistency. Why don't you go take a shower? you're full of dust."

My nose ring tingled sharply and my body tensed up, already turning towards the full bathroom at the rear of the store. "Yes sir," I quickly replied, trotting away to the full bathroom set up near Boss's office.

The shower felt wonderful; it washed away the dust that coated me and helped clear the remaining chemical stench from my muzzle. Since Boss hadn't given me any time limits, I took my time washing off, wiping off my glistening dark skin and relaxing in the water stream. I faintly heard a buzz from the bread mixer and sighed; it was time to get back to work. I turned off the water and dried off, the water beading on my slick body, and trotted back out.

I found the mixer was already turned off, the blades lifted out and the mixing bin ready to roll out. The mixer in the fume hood had been turned off and the bowl's top replaced with an airtight top to keep the sticky liquid from setting too much before we could use it.

Boss was back in his office, but the door was open. I saw him working at the small lab bench he had in there for the more specific items. He had a mixture bubbling over a small burner, with a few items set to the side, ready to be added in. I trotted over and waited at the door silently, watching him add a ribbon, a buckle, a small bell, some hairs and a small vial of blood, mumbling softly as he did so. He kept his focus on the concoction for a long moment before finally looking up.

"Looking good, Minos... and excellent work as always. I'll print off the patterns and prepare the molds, why don't you go add the dyes and get the rollers ready?"

"Thank you sir, I'll get right on it," I responded, bowing slightly and turned to head back to the workbench. Boss was already swinging around in his chair to the computer to print out the patterns.

I double checked the consistency of the mixture; it was still very sticky and at just the right point to add the colouring. I cut off a few samples, weighing them to make sure I had enough for the extras, and set them to the side for hand mixing. First, I had to get the mixer going again.

I used a spatula to clean the mixer blades into the bin and to get the mix more or less concentrated at the bottom. I wheeled the bin to the dye station, a slightly modified paint-colour selector like most paint stores had. With the colour notes in hand, I squirted the dyes in, and used a wooden spoon to do a quick mix in to get the liquid partly mixed. I wheeled the mess back to the mixer, lowered the blades back in and set it going at a slower speed.

Behind me, I heard the plotter whine as it warmed up, then the jerky movements as the print head started printing out the pattern. Boss came out and checked to make sure everything was aligned and cursed softly, aborting the print and tearing the sheet out. I reweighed and labeled the highlight bowls with the dye code they each would be getting, while watching Boss out of the corner of my eye. He opened the plotter up, took out an ink cartridge and shook it before pitching it into the garbage. He jerked open a drawer under the plotter and rummaged among the papers and cables and manuals in there, grumbling under his breath. With a triumphant 'Ah-ha!', he lifted a sealed new ink cartridge box.

I phewed under my breath and refocused on my own work, making a mental note to remind the boss to pick up more ink cartridges tomorrow. The boss was NOT nice to be around when he was displeased, and nothing seemed to make him as displeased as when he ran out of printer ink. The printer clunked into action again and Boss let out a satisfied grunt at the printed results.

Boss reappeared in the corner of my eye as he went to the folder on the workbench and rummaged around the papers. He pulled out the list of molds to use, then gave the bowls of highlight mixes a look over with his experienced eye.

"Which one is this one?" he asked, bending close to decipher my scrawled label. "Needs another halfshot of red. Everything else looks fine."

"On it, sir," I responded, setting the last bowl down and grabbing the one he indicated. I added the requested squirt of dye and mixed it in quickly. My arms burned a little from all the hand mixing I was doing, but it wasn't any more than I was used to. I was thankful it wasn't an extremely detailed job. We had had one of those a year or so ago, and I nearly melted from the heat and the exertion of mixing all the bowls, each with their own specific colour. Finally, everything but the main batch was mixed to my satisfaction, and especially to Boss's satisfaction. A finger poke in each bowl proved that the dye was well mixed and wouldn't easily bleed later on.

Boss dropped off the molds we would need, then checked the clock over the workbench. He cursed softly and ran to the door to the store front. "Gotta go, appointment coming in to pick fabric for a bride and bridesmaids," he called as he ran, the outside door's doorbell buzzing just as he ran through the inner door.

"Welcome to Taylor's, I'm sorry to keep you waiting...." I heard him start to apologize as the inner door clicked shut, cutting off further noise from the front.

Alone again, I checked the tone of the big batch that was mixing, then sorted the bowls. Most of them would go into various molds and thus not need to be rolled out, but some did need to be sheeted. I looked over the various bowls, mentally flipping a coin to decide which to do first, and decided to do the molding first.

I pulled down a spray can of releaser and opened the molds the Boss had retrieved. I carefully sprayed the insides, and my hands up to my elbows just to be sure, then set the can to the side. I picked up one bowl and started scooping the mixture out by hand into the mold halves, pressing down to make sure all the details would be captured and there would be no air bubbles. Once done to my satisfaction, I joined the halves together and set them down to be put into a press later. The press would be able to keep pressure on the molds to fuse the halves together while not deforming them.

I worked steadily through the remaining molds, finishing them in record time, or at least record time for me. I latched the various molds into position in the press and turned it on, leaving it be to do its own stuff. I fished out some samples of the main mixture to add to a few more molds, the whole process reminding me of the Play-Doh I played with when I was a kid.

With the last mold in the press, I shifted my attention to the remaining bowls. I grabbed a heavy rolling pin from a shelf under the bench and dumped the bowls out onto the metal table top. I rolled each blob out, folding it over and rerolling it often before it reached the consistency and thickness I knew we needed. I carefully moved the sheets onto trays so they wouldn't stretch much more, and set them aside.

There was only the main mass left, but I had one task to do first. I made my way over to the plotter and took the pattern sheets out of the paper tray. I spread them out on the work bench, over a slightly thicker piece of plastic, and adjusted my lights. With a blade well trained from experience, I cut out the paper pattern and the plastic underneath. I added markings for some key points through the paper onto the plastic, then threw the paper away. The plastic templates I sorted out and set on another tray next to the sheets I had rolled out.

I turned off the big mixer, rolled over a larger set of rollers, and sprayed my arms down again. I lifted the mixer's blades out, scraped them off and tossed the blades into a sink for cleaning later. I dipped my arms into the mass and did some hand mixing to get a feel for it. Satisfied at the texture of the product, I pulled a tongue of it up and fed it into the rollers. I doubled it up a few times and ran it through the rollers again until it was ready.

Setting a few trays, I pulled the flattened material out over the trays, and used the templates to cut out the shapes. It was then my ears twitched and I heard the inner door open again.

"Man, that took longer than I expected, but it's done. Good sale too, she went for the higher quality fabrics, " Boss said, walking in and looking around, noting the press and the sheets already rolled out. "How are things going?"

"I'm doing the final cutting now, sir," I answered, not interrupting the cutting I was doing. I balled up some of the excess material and tossed it back in the bowl in case we needed more.

Boss came up and checked over the molds, looking at their id numbers and mentally counting, double checking our work. "Good good, the client will be here in a few more hours, so be ready."

I twitched a little, my ring buzzing softly but there was nothing I could do about it yet. "I will be sir. Just about done now... Will you want the chair or the table?"

Boss pondered a moment then made his decision. "Chair should work I think." He seemed to be trying to think of something else to say, but was interrupted by the door buzzer again. He shook his head a bit, tossing the idea away and made his way back to the front of the store, his standard greeting cut off by the door.

On my own, I was able to quickly finish all the cuttings, setting the pieces to one side to settle and await their use. I cleared the scraps off the table and out of the bowl, and sealed them in smaller containers in case we needed some for patching later. That rarely happened, but it was best to be prepared than to be caught off guard.

The rest of the afternoon seemed to go by slower and slower as anticipation built up in the store. I was used to it from previous clients, but it was hard to bear nonetheless. When they had set enough, I opened up the molds and trimmed and shaped the pieces then tossed them into bins for easy reach. Some pieces had to be combined together using some of the the special glue from the bowl in the fume hood, but the rest just needed to wait. A quick cleanup, washing the molds and equipment, and putting things away and I was just about ready.

The last thing I did was unfold the chair and set it in the middle of the room, in its own little spotlit area. I checked the straps were not frayed and all the proper bracing was in place, and was done.

The wait for closing time dragged out. I paced the room from corner to corner, tail swishing, feeling the tense energy in the air and being unable to do anything about it. I was ready and my ring was silent, a small blessing at least, but a curse as well, since it meant I had nothing to do but wait.

Finally, the clock reached 5, and the Boss locked the front door, hurriedly herding out the last customer. I knew the anticipation, the tenseness and the excitement would be getting to him as bad, if not worst than they gnawed at me. He lowered the blinds in the front windows, and propped the door between store sections opened.

"So are we all ready for tonight?" he asked, taking his suit jacket off and rolling up his shirt sleeves. His gaze took in the room, noting the bright lit chair in the center, the now-dimly lit workbench with the cut pieces laid out next to the covered bucket of glue from the fume hood, and finally to me standing to one side.

"I am ready, Sir. Everything is prepared as per usual."

Boss clapped his hands and made his way over, checking some of the cut and pre-glued pieces, wiggling them a bit and nodding approvingly. "Lets hope the client was not caught in traffic then. Time is Energy after all."

He ducked into his office and brought out the items I saw him preparing earlier and added them to the pile we would be working with, then went to wait up front. I moved to my usual position beside the inner door, and waited for my cue.

Traffic turned out to not be a problem. Within half an hour of closing time, there was a tentative knocking at the door, whoever it was not noticing the doorbell it seemed. Peeking around the door jamb, I saw Boss move forward and open it, letting the two people outside in.

The woman was tall, in her thirties and seemed well off. She exuded confidence, but also nervousness especially as she entered the store's environment. She was dressed in a windbreaker suitable for the cool, wet spring winds blowing up the street from the harbour. I noticed the coat glistened a bit, as if wet, but I couldn't recall if rain was in the forecast or not.

The man was a similar age, but stayed a step behind her. His red hair was cut short, almost military style, though his movements seemed less confident and slower. Knowing the usual clients Boss got, I assumed he was going to be our 'patient' and he had something incurable that wasn't showing too much yet. He too was dressed in a slicker that glistened in the shop's lights.

"Welcome to Taylor's, I'm sure you have a few questions, but we must take care of some formalities first," Boss said, herding the couple to the counter. The angle was wrong for me to see them any more, but I knew from experience what was going on. I heard Boss clear the counter off and knew he was revealing a runed circle painted on the counter. "Both of you please place your hands in this circle, your writing hands will do, Thomas's on the bottom... Thank you."

I tensed myself a bit and listened, the energy in the store building. Boss kept on going, not missing a beat in the spiel.

"I will ask each of you a question three times. Answer truthfully each time if you still agree to go through with this. If you have any doubts, now is the time to withdraw, but I will still need a deposit to cover my preparations."

With that subtle-as-a-brick-to-the-head hint, I heard the woman open her purse and take something out. There was a brief moment where I knew Boss was counting, then the clink as the funds disappeared into the money box under the counter. "Excellent, now lets begin. Hands to the middle of the circle, I'll ask you first Ma'am."

"Do you, Catherine Killiam, agree to the procedure we discussed, and agree to tend to your husband no matter what occurs as long as you live?" Boss intoned, the atmosphere in the shop thickening with building power.

The woman gulped and after a moment spoke. "I do so agree."

Boss waited a beat, letting her words sink in, then repeated the question. As he spoke, his voice went deeper, and it seemed as if the air grew even more still, awaiting her answer, pressing in on her, testing her resolve.

She hesitated longer this time, and I imagined her looking around, the power seeming to tempt her to stop now. I heard her take a deep breath and speak. "I ag-agree."

The pressure in the store grew even stronger, nothing seemed like it could possibly move. Boss spoke a third time, his voice going deeper almost inhumanly low toned. "Do you, Catherine Killiam, agree to the procedure we discussed, and agree to tend to your husband no matter what occurs as long as you live?"

I was sure she would back out then, especially after her tentativeness the second time. The pressure of the third question was meant to test her resolve, make absolutely, without a doubt certain she was ready to go through with this. She barely let Boss finish his question though, gasping out "I agree," in a single fast breath.

With that single phrase, the pressure seemed to snap and ease up, though it was still hovering over us. Boss would be focusing on the guy now, preparing his questions.

"Do you, Thomas Killiam, agree to the procedure we discussed, and agree to stay with her for as long as she shall live?" Boss asked, normal voice first as before.

The husband barely hesitated, though there was a waver in his voice, a weakness in it probably caused by what brought him here in the first place. "I agree."

Boss moved on to the second asking, the pressure returning faster than before, as if the building itself was leaning in to listen for the answer. Thomas's response was as fast as before, and a bit louder, "I Agree!"

Boss's voice deepened down again and the question was asked a third time. "Do you, Thomas Killiam, agree to the procedure we discussed, and agree to stay with her for as long as she shall live?"

The pressure returned, stronger than ever before, as if the entire world, the entire universe maybe, was leaning forward to listen to this response, judging how heartfelt it was. Unlike before though, Thomas didn't answer right away. I worried a bit that the pressure had found some weakness in his will, that he was going to withdraw. Curiously, I peeked around the door jamb and looked at the figures, lit by the glowing energy circle. The man didn't seem to be wavering, he seemed to be taking in the pressure of the observance, letting everyone have a good long look at him. Finally, he tilted his head up and shouted, seemingly loud enough for the world to hear. "I AGREE!"

With his proclamation, the light of the circle flared up. I heard Catherine gasp in surprise and flinch back, but Boss's grip made sure her hand did not leave the circle. The intense pressure faded away completely, leaving just the tension in the air that had been building all afternoon. Having seen enough, I returned to my position and waited for my cue.

"You may remove your hands. The oaths have been made thrice and are binding. In the future, if you change your mind about anything, or have any sort of doubts, please contact me as soon as possible. Breaking those oaths could have very... disturbing after effects," Boss informed them, his voice serious. "We've gone over everything before, so I doubt you have any more questions. I would like you to go to the back room through the door over there. My assistant is waiting there to help you."

"Will I be able to watch the... procedure?" Cathrine stammered out, her voice still having doubts even, or maybe especially, after feeling the pressure of the world watching them.

I heard Boss move from behind the counter and taking her arm gently; I soon saw the two of them near the front door. "I'm afraid not. What I do can be dangerous for the uninvolved to see. Look, there is an excellent restaurant down at the end of the road, why don't you go get some dinner? Come back in a couple hours and we should be done."

The woman still hesitated, but Boss's gentle prodding got her out the door, letting him lock it behind her. I was startled by a figure appearing at the doorway I was looking out of. He looked weaker and more tired than when he had come into the store.

"You must be the assistant," Thomas stated matter of factly, blinking his eyes to try and see in the dim room clearer.

I snorted and calmed myself, stood up straighter and nodded. I gently took his arm and started guiding him to the chair in the center, staying out of the light out of habit. "I am him, please come this way. We'll need you to strip out of all your clothes and anything else on your body, save for your wedding band."

Thomas let himself be lead, stepping into the light and stopping at the chair. He started slowly undoing the buttons on his shirt, hands shaking. He turned around to face me and trying to make out my form more clearly in the dim light. "Could you step into the light? I'd like to see you better before we start.... Get an idea of what's to come I guess." he asked, not stopping his disrobing.

I waited a moment, watching him take his shirt off and fold it, setting it on the chair for now. Most of the patients wanted to look at me before starting, but I found that waiting a moment made me seem less monstrous, more friendly to them. I stepped into the light and let him see me clearly. My body glistened a bit from a bit of polish I had put on earlier. I saw his gaze look me over, then focus at the top of my head and start slowly going downwards. I imagined what he saw looking at me.

My head was a bull's head, complete with swept back horns and ears and a thick neck. My chest was broad and solid looking, with strong shoulders and arms, going to regular hands. My hips changed from the human norm, being shaped slightly differently to accommodate my different lower body. Since I rarely wore shorts, he could see my shaped maleness on my belly, sheathed and proportionately between a bull and human sized. I twitched my tufted bull tail a bit, drawing his attention down my strong legs to a set of bovine hooves. My entire body, from horn tip to hoof, appeared to be clad in shiny black rubber, though there were no seams at all. When his gaze made it back up to my face, I turned my head to one side and opened my mouth, sticking out my rubbery black tongue out past my rubber teeth. My blackened eyes, that I could still see with despite what common sense would say, blinked and stared back at him.

"Wow that's... that's..." he started to stammer out, hands frozen on his pants button.

"That's incredible, I know, I know," I finished for him, not wanting to rush him too much, but knowing that Boss was waiting for my signal to get started.

He recovered a bit, and actually got his pants unbuttoned but still held them up. "How did you?..." he started again.

I bit back a sigh and moved forward to help him, touching his arm. "How did I end up like this? There isn't much time for that right now, but we'll see about telling it another time. Now may we continue?" I didn't let him finish, crouching down and tugging his pants down, before realizing he still had his shoes on. This time I did let out a sigh and thought quickly.

I reached back behind him and tugged his shirt off of the chair. I then tugged his underwear down and nudged him to sit down with a solid thump on the chair. He let out a combined surprised grunt and moan of pain and I looked up out of concern, wincing at my own stupidity.

He was panting a bit and shivering a bit, despite the warmth of the room. His body was thinner than his clothing made him look, and much paler than any healthy person should ever have been. A few fairly fresh scars on his belly indicated recent surgeries of some sort, combined with markings on his arms.

He smiled weakly down at me. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna die on you tonight. Though I guess I should stop asking so many questions."

I grinned back at him and crouched down to untie his shoes and get them off. I felt a tugging on my head and a bit of a bending sensation. A glance up showed him holding one of my horns, tugging it a bit and bending it forwards. I ignored that action and refocused. "So if you don't mind me asking, what was it?"

He let go of my horn and it flipped back into its normal position, wiggling a bit and blurring my vision a bit on that side. "What else? The Big C. Doc's said I'd have a couple months at best, and it was too late for chemo or most anything. They carved out a couple lumps but it was a losing battle right from the start. Would you believe up until yesterday, I was bedridden, barely able to move?" I let him talk on, feeling him tense a bit then relax every so often as I striped off his shoes and socks and pants.

"Anyways, I had a bit of remission, enough that I felt I could move about and take care of a few last details while I could. Including this.... " He trailed off a bit and I looked up from gathering his clothes and bagging them up. I couldn't tell if he was hurting, or asleep or what until he picked up again. "Sorry, wandered off into memories a bit. Anyways, after the Doc's said I was big-time terminal, Cat and I started searching for other options. We stumbled across word of Taylor's and kept it as our last-ditch hope card. Well, all the rest of our cards are played out so here we are."

I started adjusting straps on him to hold him into place. They weren't really necessary, but they made our job a bit easier. My ears twitched as I listened to him babble on a bit. "We were talking with Taylor a few weeks ago, and made the plans and decisions on looks and everything. He also gave us a potion, explained how it was good for one dose only, but would give us 2 days of relative normality again, and if we decided to use his services, to be here before the potion wore off." Thomas laughed and coughed, wincing. "He charged us for the potion then and there of course; and after a lot of talking and such, we decided we weren't ready to go our separate ways in the universe just yet. And here we are."

I smiled sympathetically to him and nodded. "And here we are, aye. We'll start in just a moment." I finished gathering his old clothes and set them just outside the door, in the main shop. Boss was at the counter, counting up the day's receipts, though he seemed to be having trouble focusing. Just in the brief time I watched him, he recounted the same 5 bills four times.

"We're all set, Boss."

"Well it's about time," he snapped back at me, tossing the bills onto a pile, tossing the mess of them into the register, and slamming the drawer shut. I stepped to one side as he brushed past me, eager to get going.

I pulled the door closed behind me, moving around and closing the office door as well. Boss went up and checked the figure over carefully, pumping the chair to lift it up higher. "Are you all set, any last details you may want to change?" he asked, nodding to the pile of supplies on the counter.

Thomas gulped and looked over. He shook his head slowly. "She picked the colour for now... you said that is one of the few things you can change fairly easily right?"

Boss snickered and shrugged a bit. "More or less. It's not as easy as painting a room or turning on a light, but it can be done temporarily and more or less permanently. In any case then, lets get going while you have much of your strength."

He moved over in the dim room to a spot near the plotter and clapped his hands, turning on another spot light over his head. (Boss is a showman at heart, so I made sure that light in particular was plugged into the Clapper while setting up the room). He faced Thomas, clasped his hands with his elbows out, then lifted his feet off the ground, floating in air. Around the room, runes embedded in the walls began to glow, a variety of reds and blues and greens, and the anticipation that had been building all day culminated and focused on Boss.

Once the runes started glowing, that was my cue to start. I grabbed a brush and poured some of the glue from the bucket into a smaller, easier to manage container, and grabbed the first piece, a pointed rubber ear, pink on the outside, a deeper red lining the inside. I slathered some glue on the raw side of it and carefully positioned it on Thomas's head, adding some specially cut pieces of pink rubber to cover the rest of his human ear. Already I could feel the Boss channeling power towards the chair, the rubber warming in my hand and warming the underlying flesh.

Boss and I made a good pair with this. The stuff I had so patiently mixed into the glue and rubber, when in the presence of magic, tended to take over most types of humanoid flesh it comes in contact with. Being rubber, living rubber granted, I was immune to it, but the Boss definitely was not. Without the Boss to focus the power and direct the magic though, at best all of my efforts would lead to a human with rubber glued all over him, and at worst, say if I tried it with wild magic in the air, I'd probably end up with a misshapen rubbery lump that hopefully wouldn't be alive. Boss needed me to apply the pieces that helped guide the changes, and I needed Boss to apply the magic and control the speed of the changes in the process.

I glued the other ear to his head and checked to make sure they were balanced and pointed the right way. Thomas's expression was a bit stunned as the power curled around him and the heat built on the side of his head. I knew he could still speak, but was probably a bit stunned so far. It was one thing to hear about it, to think about doing it, but another entirely to actually go through with it.

"We're taking care of the extras first, stuff that doesn't cleanly map up between your old body and your new," I explained, gluing down his hair and adding the scalp piece, gluing it to his forehead first and then tugging it over the back of his scalp. I made sure the ears were settled in place and the seam smoothly glued down with the rest of the pink scalp cap.

"Muh... muh scalp burns..." Thomas finally stammered out as I glued the cap got firmly in place.

I simply nodded and grabbed a few more pieces, moving around behind the chair. "Your head's got your brain, and it has to change too of course. The scalp will help the change go a bit faster and make sure it happens correctly. Don't want to lose your memories or anything."

I couldn't see his face at that point, but I did see his body tense and shiver briefly. Behind the chair I crouched down and lifted the back a little. "Try not to move too much," I warned him, rubbing the base of his spine to make sure I found his coccyx area, and then proceeded to glue the molded long cylindrical tail into place.

I lowered the back of the chair a bit and moved back around front. I looked at his face, seeing a mix of fear and relief and smiled encouragingly. I fetched a few more pieces from the workbench and crouched down at his feet. I proceeded to glue on the translucent rubber claws to his toe tips, one on each toe. With the claws in place, I slipped on some prepared 'slippers, that bulked out the bottom part of his feet. Glued on the bottom of the slippers were redder pads that were textured to provide more grip. I finally tilted his feet down a bit and tightly wrapped a few pink sheets around his feet, gluing them in place and keeping his feet pointed down. As I was finishing the second foot, I could already feel the first one warming and reshaping a little, the new foot shape and position becoming more natural.

"Try not to move too much, " I warned him needlessly as I returned for more supplies. I crouched down in front of the chair again, lifting his hands as he watched on in fascination, most of the fear fading, though I could see him already tentatively wiggling his toes as they changed and reshaped.

I glued the rubber claws onto his finger tips similar to his feet, and slipped gloves onto his hands. These were a bit different from his feet however; there were nubs around the finger tips that I carefully molded around the base of each claw on each finger. They still had the redder rough patches on his palms and each finger joint.

"Flex your fingers," I ordered him as I finished the other hand, noting the changes already in place. The puzzled look on his face changed to surprise as he flexed his fingers and felt the rubber claws retract a bit into his tips. "The rubber won't scratch much, but being able to bring them in will help in general," I explained. I took his pink coated hand and rubbed where I had covered his wedding ring. Within a few moments, I felt a heat building and the golden ring glowed and seemed to melt out of the pink rubber-flesh.

I stepped back and looked him over, glancing over at Boss. Boss was deep in trance, floating cross-legged in mid air, but didn't seem to be ill. I fetched more supplies and stood next to the chair. "I'll finish off your face next since it'll have the most remaining details." I explained, holding up a rubbery mass with tubes hanging from it. I turned it around and showed him the feline muzzle, plastic whiskers, split lip and rubber fangs and all. "A pain to prepare, but one of my better works if I do say so," I explained with a proud grin. "You won't be able to talk much till it takes effect and you get used to it, but it shouldn't take long. Any last words?" I prompted.

Thomas pondered a moment then smiled weakly. "No, lets do this," He said, sweating all over.

I checked the fit briefly to be sure it would work; the muzzle wasn't huge but it was going to stick out noticeably and reshape his head more than a bit. Satisfied that it would work, I added glue to the nostril tubes and the upper jaw area and carefully slipped it in, making sure his lips and teeth went into the prepared areas, along with the tubes into his own nostrils.

"Smell weird," he stammered out as I got it in place, but I quickly shushed him, making sure the glue set properly to his flesh, the upper part of the muzzle already warming in my grip, the Boss knowing it was important to get the muzzle joined quickly or risk a misshapen mass. I applied the glue to the lower jaw and the attached tongue tube and slipped it onto his jaw. I reached in, bending the rubber fangs and bent the hollow tongue a bit with my fingers. "Stick your tongue in as far as you can; it'll feel like it's tugging for a bit but then ease up," I explained and waited as he obeyed my orders.

I added extra rubber around his cheeks and shaped most of his face, leaving his eyes uncovered for the moment. The heat from his head area was becoming really noticeable and I knew I had to speed up a bit. "This may sting a bit, but it is imperative you keep your eyes open or you could be permanently blinded," I warned him, reaching for the prepared eyes. I applied the glue to the back and waited, seeing him go wide eyed as instructed, mouth too full to comment. I held the back of his scalp and pressed the eyes into place, feeling a shudder go through his body. I used more scraps and glue and a blade to sculpt a bit of an eyebrow ridge and eyelids for him, feeling them warm and become active even as I worked. Staring, I could sense as the rubbery eyes blinked and cleared slightly, restoring vision.

"Ad urd," he said through his muzzle, not having much control over it yet.

"I told you it would, but it should be the worst of it," I countered and worked on the rest of his face and head and neck, adjusting the whiskers and making sure he had a decent appearance, even as his ears twitched on their own and the face came alive under my fingers.

"Not too much longer," I explained getting some bigger pieces and moving around the chair.

The next bit went fairly quickly, wrapping his arms in sheets of the pink rubber and gluing it down, then doing the same to his legs up to the tops of his thighs. He erf'ed in surprise as I tugged what looked like a pair of crotchless underwear up onto him, and squirmed more than a bit as I basically had to lift him and give him a wedgie with said underwear. With it in place however, I was able to glue it around the base of his now swishing tail. I let him sit back down a bit, adjusting the rubber around his exposed member a bit, then went to get the last big pieces, the chest pieces. Those went on easily enough with enough glue to squish it into place. I knew I didn't have too much more time, but I was almost done.

"I'm about to get VERY personal with you. Just hold still, let things happen naturally, and it will be done soon," I explained, getting the last few pieces ready.

I glanced at him and saw his rubber eyes widen as realization dawned on him. His gaze went down to his still uncovered groin and I nodded. While he watched, I reached down and squeezed his member, beginning to stroke him harder. A soft moan hissed from his lips as I exposed his glans. Working quickly, I coated a prepared red-rubber covering shaped similar to a feline glans, and slipped it over him. I followed it quickly with a pink sheath over top of it, gluing it partly in place. While I worked, I felt him squirming in a mixture of pleasure and embarrassment, but held him steady until the glue set up.

I stepped back and looked him over for any forgotten spots then nodded to myself, noting how the seams in the rubber sheets were already melting into solid flesh. I replaced the bindings on the legs and arms and stepped away to one side. "All yours now Boss," I said quietly.

At my words, Boss uncrossed his legs and landed again, the power pulsing all around us a bit with his movements. He approached Thomas slowly, who looked up and shuddered in a bit of fear. Boss reached the chair and swung it around so the rubberizing feline faced away. To see better, I moved carefully around the edge of the room.

With a quick hand gesture, the items Boss brought from his office leaped off the bench, threaded themselves together into a collar and flew to his hands, a bell tinkling softly. I could sense a constrained something in the collar, ready to move on. Mumbling what seemed like nonsense words, Boss curled the collar around Thomas's neck and buckled it in place.

I saw his body tense as the spirit in the collar slipped in, joining his own spirit in the body. The joining seemed to speed up the change, his tail thrashing from side to side, and his body softening a bit, losing some of the human angularities and taking on a feline grace. An inhuman howl rose in his throat as he tensed, arching upwards then slumped down, panting hard.

The howl triggered something else, the completion of the spell, as Boss snapped out of his trance and the light from the runes faded away. Shaking with exhaustion, he turned away silently and went back to his office, closing the door behind him, leaving Thomas to me.

I approached the rubber feline cautiously, glancing over the restraints and reassuring myself they were solid. I saw the eyes blink and look up to me, a soft growl slipping through his lips as he recovered. "What.... was.... that?!?" he gasped out finally.

"An integral part of the magic I'm afraid, or at least that's what Boss says. I'm not clear on all the magic details myself. But it's an important step in the process."

I undid his arm restraints slowly and then his legs, leaving him to try to stand up on his own when he was ready while I continued.

"You see, we can't just rubberize you, because it would rubberize your illness too... and we're no closer to a cure for rubber cancer than we are to a normal one. So we go the animal route to confuse the disease basically and knock it out that way. The trick is finding a balance between the animalness and the humaness; go too far animal, and you won't know how to control your body. Stay too human and your illness will still get you. So Boss did a merge of spirits if you will, took you a good deal further towards animal than you would think possible... but gave you a similar animal spirit to help guide you in your body's use."

He sat there a long moment, tail moving slowly as he digested that. He seemed tempted to get up and try walking but not quite yet.

"Thing is, we can just make you part animal and part human, and toss in an animal spirit, because then you're animal spirit and your human spirit will constantly be at war, and you'd be a danger to others. That's where the rubberization comes in. Toss that new element in place, and both spirits are in a confusing body that is almost what they are used to, but not quite. Since you are sentient and know what is coming, it gives your own spirit an upper hand in controlling it."

He pushed himself up slowly and stumbled forward, taking a few tentative steps. I caught him as he almost fell and held him till he regained his balance.

"Take it easy, just think like you're walking on your toes all the time.... Anyways never forget that that animal spirit is in there at all times. You can keep it in check most of the time, but it can sometimes get the upper hand... especially feline spirits. Just in case, the collar is a fall back. It's tied to your wife, who's your keeper now. Any order she gives you MUST obey, no matter what spirit is controlling your body. It does takes some getting used to but it isn't too bad in the end. It's better than going nutso and tearing up the garden, or something worst. You may be rubber but you can still cause significant damage if the feline gets loose in control of your body."

I helped him walk around a bit until he got used to it. He constantly looked down at his shiny body, flexing his claws in and out and touching his face as if he couldn't believe it. While I guided Thomas, I heard the door buzzer go off. Boss wearily slipped out of his office and headed to the store front barely glancing at us. I heard him open the door and greet Catherine as she came in. The first thing she asked, concern clear in her voice, was how Thomas was.

"Don't worry, everything went fine. He's just getting used to his new feet now," I heard Boss reassure her, stifling a yawn. "He'll be out in a minute, once he's ready."

Thomas froze for a moment and gave himself another look over, a new doubtful expression going over his face. "I've got a robe here you can wear out if you want. But I think you are ready in any case," I reassured him, trotting into the darker areas of the shop and returning with a robe. He was still hesitating as I put it around his shoulders and helped him get his arms into the sleeves. "Go on, you aren't getting any younger, but you are certainly going to get a lot older than you would have now," I added once he was ready, giving him a shove towards the door.

He stumbled a bit then regained his balance and walked to the door. He froze in the doorway and stared at someone I couldn't see. I heard a gasp and Catherine stammered out, "T-thomas? Is that you?"

There was a long pause then a rush; from my position I could see the two reach in the middle and hug, though Thomas seemed a bit unsure of his body still. "It is me," he finally mumbled out, muzzle nuzzling against her head.

"How do you feel? Are you all right? " she added, pushing back a bit and looking him over but not letting go of his arms.

"I'm not sure. I feel fine, I feel exhausted, disoriented... but I feel more energetic than I've felt in years. It's gone my dear, the cancer, I can that it is completely gone."

Boss moved up behind them and coughed quietly. The two turned their heads and stared a moment, before Catherine let Thomas go and gave Boss one of the biggest bear hugs I've seen since the last life we turned-slash-saved. He let it go on for a bit then gently pulled her away, holding up an envelope.

"Here are some notes on care and such you will want to do. Pretty standard fare for the most part, though I wouldn't say common sense since there aren't enough like you to be common-anything yet." He smiled weakly at his own old joke then waited. "Once I receive the remainder of the payment, you can have this and be on your way."

Catherine gasped, surprised at her own forgetfulness and started rummaging around in her purse. She finally pulled out an envelope of her own and they exchanged. Boss held his new envelope to his forehead for a moment then smiled and tossed it onto the counter.

"Thank you ma'am, mon chat; it was a pleasure doing business with you." Boss started gently guiding them towards the door, shushing Catherine's stream of 'thank you's'. "If you have any questions or concerns, or want a new colour, feel free to contact me. Advice is free, colour alterations will cost you. But if you'll excuse me, it has been a very long, exhausting day and I would like to get going," With that and a pleasant smile, he nudged both out the door and closed it, flicking the lock on it.

As soon as the lock turned, I moved forward, out of the back room and looked at Boss. He was watching and waved briefly from a lifted up shade. I heard car doors slam shut and the vehicle pulling away.

Boss let the shade drop and groaned softly, stretching and popping his back a bit. "Same as usual Minos. I'm gonna take tomorrow off, or at least the morning. Feel free to put off the rest of the clean up till tomorrow if you want to."

I felt a faint twitch in my nose ring, but it wasn't close enough to an actual order to make a difference. I grinned at him and nodded. "Sure thing, Boss. Enjoy your day off."

Boss merely waved me off a bit and wandered to the counter, clearly exhausted. He tossed the envelope and the rest of the register's cash into the money box and tucked it under his arm. He then grabbed his own coat and draped it over the shoulder. I stepped to one side and started back to the back room as he unlocked the door and stepped out. As soon as the door lock clicked close again, I felt the last of the energy fade out all around, the tension in the air melting away and leaving just my own fatigue. I looked around, debated cleaning up anyways and decided not to.

In a far corner of the back room, partly hidden by storage racks and boxes, was a curtained off area. I trotted in and flicked a small lamp on, revealing a bed, a couch and a TV. I grabbed the remote and flopped back on the couch, bouncing slightly and turning the tube on at the same time. I dozed off before the screen had even warmed up.

Preceded by:
Taylor Series Succeeded by:
Erin and Aaron