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User:MatthiasRat/Bathing Alone

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Paradise story universe
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Works by MatthiasRat on Shifti
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This is the second story of Christopher's life in the Paradise setting.

Bathing Alone

Author: MatthiasRat

"There!" Rob exclaimed, stabbing at the paper with his pencil. The last question on the network administration homework was complete. As far as he was concerned, it was utter lunacy to give paper homework for a computer class, but his teacher was like eighty years old or something. He probably thought network administration meant making sure the card decks got from the programmer to ENIAC in the right order.

Of course, what most irritated him was that it had taken him a couple weeks just to get used to handling a pencil again. He stared at his hands, noting the black fur and short claws that tipped each finger. Three weeks ago they'd been human, but now, they were the humanized paws of a skunk.

Rob took the papers, stapled them, and put them away in his backpack. His long tail danced behind him as he sat on his bed. He stretched his toes and yawned wide, long red tongue sliding out of his mouth. When he'd finished stretching, he stared at his room. Three weeks ago it had been a mess. He'd never been very organized, just tossing things wherever it seemed convenient. But the week after he'd changed, Chris had come over and helped him straighten everything out.

And for the first time, Rob felt somewhat intimidated by Chris. That he was now a female bear, taller, and heavier than he was probably had a lot to do with it. Still, Rob couldn't help but be grateful for all that Chris had done in the last few weeks to help him adjust. He couldn't tell his roommates anything; even though they were all furry, they weren't changed and couldn't see that he'd become a skunk.

They could smell it though. Chris had been right to bring him all those scented candles and potpourri. He'd rather be made fun of for them than for stinking like a dead animal all the time.

Saturday mornings were normally reserved for sleeping in late, drinking coffee, playing games, and then doing homework. Not anymore. Now after his homework was finished, he climbed onto his computer to continue the project that Chris had labored at for six years: to find others like themselves. There had to be other people changed into animal-men out there. It was just a matter of finding them.

Rob dashed his fingers along the keyboard, being careful to strike the keys with the thick calluses instead of the sharp claws. Chris had been searching all wrong as far as he was concerned. His friend focused on identifying people she thought might be changed and sounding them out over weeks. But Chris was terrified of being discovered by the wrong people, though she could never quite say why.

Instead, Rob decided to find a place with heavy traffic, and expose himself. Chris had shown him what happened when they took pictures of themselves. She'd even shown him her photo album chronicling his/her various changes over the years. It was hard to believe that Chris had been a four and a half foot tall rat when they'd first met, and then until a few weeks ago, a female donkey! It was even stranger seeing his friend as a huge brown bear. Despite knowing Chris for over two years, he still had to remind himself that everyone else saw Chris as a guy.

And more importantly, Chris said she — he — wanted to be treated that way.

Last week Rob had gone to Walmart to buy a digital camera. He would have gone to Target where Chris worked, except that Chris would have become a very angry bear if she knew what Rob intended to do with it. What had taken him so long was getting just the right picture, and deciding where to post it.

There was one furry forum that Chris had sometimes trolled that traded stories and engaged in roleplaying, much of it as realistic as possible. Rob signed up, read through the traffic, and figured it was the most likely place for others like themselves to congregate. Now it was time to take a chance.

He churred to himself as he cropped and resized his photo until it met the web forum's standards. He took a deep breath and said a quick prayer as he uploaded it to the site. His long tail flitted behind him as he spent the next ten minutes posting banal replies in popular threads. Elsewhere in the apartment he could hear Trevor and Brett snoring, while Nick was taking a shower. Very typical.

He nearly jumped out of his seat when the phone started to ring. Damn skunk instincts! He used to be cool and collected, but since the change, any sudden noise startled him out of his fur.

It was Chris. Her deep, feminine growl had a cheery note to it. "Good morning, Rob! Are you free today?"

He scanned his calender. "Sure, what did you have in mind?"

"When was the last time you washed?"

If not for the fact that Chris was helping him adjust to being furry, he would have laughed off such a question. As it was, he hated to admit the answer, "Not since last week. Washing is such a pain, takes forever to dry off. And nobody seems to notice."

"They will," Chris replied, a little growl in her voice. "Go without long enough and they'll notice. Grab some shampoo and a few towels. Then come over to my place. I wanted to show you where I go when I can."

Rob blinked. "You don't use your shower?"

"At my size? Rob, I can't! I can't even fit! And I had trouble when I was a donkey too. My hooves might have cracked the tub." He could almost see her smile. "Trust me on this. It'll be fun. Get some towels and shampoo and drive on over. Oh, and bring the dog comb too. You'll need it. And something to snack on."

Rob rolled his eyes and laughed. "Fine, Chris. I'll see you in a bit." Rob closed down his computer and gathered everything he'd need. He couldn't help but wonder the whole time what Chris had in mind.

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Christopher put down the phone, a grin creasing his muzzle. The big bear stepped gingerly down the hall, listening to the sounds of Leslie soaking in the tub. With utmost care he opened the linen closest and grabbed a stack of towels, and stuffed them under his arm. One of his claws caught on a loose thread, and he growled under his breath as he twisted his finger back and forth to free it without tearing the towel apart.

He slipped into the computer room, took one of the year three boxes from his closet, and removed a large shoulder bag. A pair of dog brushes and several bottles of shampoo rested at the bottom already; he shoved the towels in over them. He carried the bag into the kitchen, snagged a large plastic bag and shoved it into the towels.

Setting the shoulder bag down, he grabbed his lunch pail and loaded several fruits inside, as well as a package of pre-cooked sausage. He barely managed to close the lid. From her beanbag, Crystal watched him with lazy eyes. He smiled, walked over with the lightest steps he could manage as a bear and patted her on the head. She closed her eyes, leaning into the touch. He wondered how much his dog could see him, but she had never shown any sign that she could tell he'd changed. At least none that he knew, and he did know a thing or two about how dogs acted.

Christopher stretched and checked his attire. Tough denim shorts that only came half-way down his thighs, and a tank top that revealed as little cleavage as possible. No way he could risk wearing a bra with the tank top on. But as warm as it was that day, he wouldn't be able to wear anything more. Besides, if they were lucky, he wouldn't need any of his clothes for a while.

It wouldn't take Rob long to get there, but he wasn't going to leave without telling Leslie. He walked down the hall, careful not to knock any of the pictures down as he passed. With the back of his paw, he knocked on the bathroom door. "Leslie? Mind if I come in?"

"Okay," she called back.

He opened the door and was immediately greeted by a wall of steam. His tongue stuck out his face, and he blinked and waved one paw in the air to disperse the cloud. Leslie laughed, staring up at him — or rather, she stared at his breasts thinking that was where his face was. "Too hot for you?"

"Yes, a bit," he replied. "But it does smell good." Everything had a strong flavor of raspberries. Those bath lotions his wife loved so much were always too potent for him.

"Glad you can smell it," she replied, a little frustration creeping into her voice. "Pizza Hut is killing my nose."

"Hmm," he wished he could say he was sorry about that, but it made it easier to hide his beastly musk if she couldn't smell anything. He glanced at her body lying in the tub, filmy water covering most of it. Still, he smiled just staring at his wife. "Rob and I are going to take a hike."

"Oh? Wish I could do that. Dumb Pizza Hut making me work all day long."

He sighed. He did wish that they would have more time together, but now that he'd finally met another person changed like he was, it was hard not to want to get Rob out and do things together. "At least you have tomorrow off," he said, hoping that would cheer her up. "And you aren't closing tonight. I'm really surprised, with the Tech game and all."

"Tony's sick," Leslie replied. "Been sick for the last few days, but he came in anyway until today."

Christopher's ears perked slightly. Then he took a deep breath and let the momentary excitement abate. People getting sick in September didn't mean anything. "Well, I'll make sure I have something ready for you to eat when you get home. Anything you'd like?"

"Not pizza!"

He laughed deep in his chest, breasts jiggling inside his tank top. "I'll find something good. Love you, sweetheart! I hope your day goes well."

"Me too. Have fun hiking!"

Christopher closed the door, and then brushed the moisture from his cheek fur. Everything was set, now he just had to wait for Rob to get there.

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Rob pulled into the Chasewood Downs parking lot for the third time that week. The apartment complex was much smaller than Foxridge, and much less complicated. Chris said that there were more young families living there than students, and judging by the nicer cars he saw in the lot, Chris was right.

He was there for no more than fifteen seconds when he saw Chris climbing the steps from her apartment door. She lived with her wife on the ground floor apartment, and generally kept the drapes shut. She must know the sound of his car engine by this point.

The skunk felt his eye begin to twitch as he saw the bear walking out in only a tank top and shorts that revealed far more furry leg than he wanted to see. Probably covered a lot more for all the humans who would look at her. Of course, they all saw a guy. Rob tried not to stare at the way Chris's breasts bounced beneath her shirt.

Rob opened the passenger door, and Chris slung her shoulder bag and a lunch pail in the back seat on top of a pair of keyboards, and an old monitor he planned to get rid of. "You really need to clean your car out, Rob," Chris said as she slid the passenger seat all the way back. "This is a mess! What did I tell you about leaving messes around?"

"Hey, it's my car," Rob snapped. "And watch your claws on the upholstery too."

"I've been doing this for six years, Rob, trust me." Chris put one leg in, the huge foot and four inch claws coming dangerously close to tearing up the carpeting. But the bruin was right. She settled into the seat without causing any damage, although the car did sink an inch or two.

"Okay, so where are we going?" Rob asked as he pulled out of the lot.

"Get on 460 West and stay on it for a while." Chris struggled with her seat belt for a minute. Her belly was large enough that she had to pull the seat belt all the way out to get it to fit.

Rob took the left onto Tom's Creek and then put on his right blinker. "You know, even if we do get into an accident, you probably won't go anywhere."

"Don't get into an accident," Chris said, her voice humorless. "I mean it. The last thing we want to do is go to the doctor. What are they going to do to help us? They cannot even see us as we are."

Rob turned right onto 460 and sped up to 70. The speed limit was only 55, but the cops never patrolled this side of town. "Good point. Do you want me to slow down?"

"Heh, no. You'll need to go this fast to make it up Brush Mountain."

Rob laughed and nodded, his long tail twitching behind his head. He'd discovered that driving with a tail this long required slouching in his seat. He couldn't fold the tail directly up from the root. But if he gave it a few inches to curl on its own, he could manage it.

Farms and fields with grazing cattle and horses spread alongside the highway. He didn't see any dead skunks in the road, and he barely noticed his own scent anymore. But Chris certainly did; she kept rubbing her nose and trying not to make it obvious. "You can crack the window if you want. I'll leave the AC on for you too."

"Oh, thank you!" she exclaimed, gingerly pressing the button with the back of one claw. The rush of wind blew the fur in her face straight back. Her nostrils flared like a dog's from the pressure.

"So," Rob said as they started up the steep slope of Brush Mountain. The road stayed straight, but the incline was so sharp that almost immediately he lost ten miles of speed. "Where are we going exactly?"

"This place I know," she replied. "Very private, and nobody will ask questions about any animal hair we leave behind."

Rob glanced at the bruin, beginning to suspect something amiss. "What, is there a bathhouse out in Pearisburg I didn't know about?"

Chris laughed and shook her head. "Just enjoy the drive. It's a lovely day out." She stuck her snout out the window and made a show of sniffing. All around them the road was lined with trees in full summer colors. "Ah, you can smell the trees."

"You look like a dog with your head out the window, Chris."

She sat back in her seat and laughed again, a warm rumbling sound that made her seat shake. "I've been a dog twice now. You saw the pictures."

They reached the top of Brush Mountain and almost immediately started going down the other side. "Yeah, hard to believe all of them are you." He debated telling Chris about the picture of himself he'd posted to the forum. He glanced at the four inch claws on Chris's paws, and decided to keep quiet. She may be smiling and enjoying herself now, but no need to risk upsetting her. He's seen her angry one time, and he didn't like her when she was angry.

"So, how far do I have to drive?"

"Not that far. The turn's in Pembroke, just past Mill Mountain." Chris drummed her claws on her shorts. "You know that's where they filmed ‘Dirty Dancing'?"

Rob nodded. "Heard that at freshman orientation." What could possibly be in Pembroke? There was nothing in that town. "Wait, you said the turn's in Pembroke?"

"That's right. Where we're going is another few miles up the road."

Rob almost hit the brakes, but he kept his paw hovering over the accelerator instead. Once west of Blacksburg, 460 became very twisty and very mountainous. The last thing he wanted to do was lose control. "Don't tell me were going to the Cascades Trail?"

Chris laughed again, nodding slowly. She had that motherly look that made him so uncomfortable but looked so natural on her face. "Trust me, Rob. You're going to enjoy this. It's worth the drive and the hike."

"Oh it better be!" His long tail thrashed behind him in agitation. The bruin saw it and just laughed.

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The Cascades Trail led through a narrow valley between two ridges, following the course of the Little Stony Creek. The trail was only a little over two miles long, but it ended with a forty foot waterfall. The amazing scents, the beautiful sights, and the wonderful water had always made this one of Christopher's favorite destinations.

He stretched after climbing out of Rob's car. It was bigger than his Saturn, but he still took up every bit of room available. Already, the ridges blocked the sun, and the shade felt so wonderful against his fur. "Ah, this is more like it." He grabbed his shoulder bag and lunch pail, hoisting them both over one arm. "Come on, Rob. Have you been down here before?"

The skunk slipped a backpack on, bent half over, and moved his tail around several times. Christopher watched him curiously. "Just getting the kinks out," he explained. He rolled his shoulders forward a few times too, then stood up straight and nodded. "Yeah, I've been down here a couple times with Audrey. Last time she brought her sketch book and tried drawing the falls. You should ask to see her sketchbook next SOAP meeting."

Christopher laughed again. "Society of Anthropomorphics, how utterly appropriate, especially today. Well, let's get hiking!" He started up the trail, paws leaving the asphalt behind and treading comfortably upon the hard earth and numerous imbedded stones. A few roots and the occasional bit of grass also littered the path. Rob followed behind him after muttering something unintelligible under his breath. Christopher smiled.

Very quickly the path crossed a wooden bridge over the creek and followed the right bank. Huge rocks and trees surrounded them, and the dirt path several times gave way to smoothed stone. The creek flowed past, flush after the summer's rains. Birds chirped in the trees from time to time, squirrels dashed through the branches collecting nuts, and several critters thrived in the underbrush. Christopher could smell a family of rabbits, a pair of deer, and more birds than he cared to name, and that was just within the first five minutes.

Behind him, he could hear Rob churring to himself. "Wow. I never realized how alive this place was."

"Well, you haven't really left Blacksburg since you changed," Christopher said. His claws scraped the stone as he climbed over a large boulder. He grinned and pointed at the creek as it tumbled through stream beds and rock piles. "It's one of the nicest things about this, you really will love the outdoors. It was the way I felt most alive after I changed. I've come out here so many times by myself, but it is so much better with company."

Christopher smiled to the skunk, who nodded and hoisted himself up beside the bruin. "Yeah, it's nice to come here with friends."

Pushing back with his paws, Christopher slid down the other side of the rock, and continued down the trail. He shifted the shoulder bag to the other arm, and kept walking. Rob followed after, and for a time both of them just admired the view, the myriad scents, and the multitude of sounds that brought the forest valley alive. By the time they crossed the creek a second time, Rob was even churring again.

The path became increasingly jagged, going up and down and around jutting rocks. They were one step away from falling into the creek one moment, and then the next it was hidden behind a stand of trees. The path led them slowly uphill, as the creek coursed through fallen rocks; nearly every twenty feet there was a waterfall of a foot or more. The creek was too narrow to even contemplate kayaking, if Christopher even dared entertain such a ridiculous notion, but there were a few pools big enough for wading.

"And there it is!" Christopher pointed with one claw at the falls that they could now see through the trees. They'd heard it for a few minutes now, but only after climbing over a particularly narrow set of steps had they climbed high enough to see it.

"The hike doesn't seem as long as I remember it," Rob said. "But yeah, that's beautiful."

They continued to hike along the path. The falls cascaded down a forty foot tower of thin layers of stone. Christopher supposed it was slate or sandstone, but he didn't know for sure. At the bottom of the waterfall a large pool gathered, before flowing downstream through the valley. The pool was framed by a cul-de-sac even taller than the falls. Surmounting the cliff face were more trees. Opposite the falls, the path became a wooden bridge that connected some of the rocks jutting into the pool.

Christopher walked out to those rocks and stretched, "Ah, this is going to be wonderful!" He set down his lunch pail and shoulder bag, and then removed the phantom shoes from his paws.

Rob followed him out and stared wide eyed. "What are you doing?"

"Getting undressed," Christopher replied. "This is where I like to bathe when I can." He pulled his tank top over his head, breasts bouncing in the cool shade. Rob still stared, muzzle hanging low. "Remember, Rob, I'm really a guy still. What would Audrey say if she saw you staring at my tits?"

Rob blushed and turned around. "Jeez, Chris! What if somebody comes up here and sees you?"

"Sees us," Christopher corrected in a rather arch tone. "Because you are going to get undressed and join me in the water. Trust me, you'll love it. Just relax." He folded his tank top and stuffed it in his shoulder bag. Rob hadn't moved yet, but his striped tail was sticking way out. He rumbled a laugh. "And don't worry. People come up here to swim all the time, but not in the morning."

"I still say you're crazy, Chris."

Christopher shook his head, and unzipped his shorts. "Just think of it this way. After bathing here, you don't have to clean all the fur out of the bath tub. And you don't have to worry about clogging the drain either."

"This seems like an awfully long way to go to take a bath."

"Yes, but you can't bathe every day and expect the fur to handle it." Christopher slipped off his panties, careful not to catch his claws on the satin. These he stuffed deep into his bag. He then pulled out his shampoo bottle and set that on the edge of the rock.

"Just tell me when you're in the water," Rob said, his voice strained. Christopher couldn't help but laugh at how thoroughly he'd embarrassed the skunk.

Sitting on the edge of the flat boulder, he edged himself off, legs sinking into the cool mountain water. He kicked with his paws, and then pushed away from the stone. The clean water rushed into his face, soaking his muzzle and even getting into his ears. He spun around, splashing and snuffling in delight. Ah, this felt so good! All the heat drained from him, and he felt only contentment.

Glancing back at the stone, he saw the skunk still standing there petrified. He laughed, "Going to join me?" He didn't wait to see what Rob would do. Taking a deep breath, he dived beneath the surface and looked for fish.

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After Chris had slipped beneath the water, Rob finally turned around and took a deep breath. His tail stood ready to spray the next person that startled him, but with each breath of the warm, clean air it began to relax. He glanced at the pool, and saw Chris swimming in the center, her paws only occasionally cresting the surface. Looking back down the trail, he neither saw nor heard anyone approaching.

"Okay, Chris, I'll try it your way this time." Rob pulled his shirt over his head, revealing the white fur on his chest and belly. He ran one paw through it, a smile tickling the edge of his jowl as he felt both its smoothness, and the tangles that he'd developed since the last time he'd brushed. She was right, he really did need to pay more attention to these things.

"That's a start!" Chris hollered from the other side of the pool. He looked up and saw her standing half in and half out of the water, her fur matted in thick clumps. She waved to him. "Hurry up and get in. I'll turn around for you too. So saying, she turned her backside to him. Rob stared for a moment at her stub of a tail over her heart shaped...

"Gah!" He averted his eyes from his friend's very female body. Three weeks ago, Chris had just been another one of the guys, or so he thought. Now she was a LOT of woman! "You aren't helping any!" She just laughed.

Rob shook his head, folded his shirt, and then undid the buttons fore and aft on his trousers. This pair he'd sewn himself — with Chris's help of course — and he was proud to say that it fit very comfortably around his tail. After kicking them off his legs, he folded them too. His boxers came last, after unbuttoning the tail hole. That had been more irritating than his pants, despite being easier to sew. This huge tail meant that he'd never be able to try anything on in a store ever again.

Chris had given him an old guide she'd used on how to properly size a guy, as well as a few of her meager drawings and instructions on sizing tails. Rob had never known there were so many different parts of the body to be measured for a proper tailoring job. When he'd complained about it, Chris had given him that momma bear stare and informed him that guys had nothing on women, especially when it came to clothes.

He really didn't want to know if Chris actually wore any women's clothing, apart from the bras and panties. Judging by the way she talked about herself, he suspected not, but it still felt creepy to think about.

Rob stuffed his clothes into his backpack and took out a bottle of shampoo. He set his next to Chris's, and then stuck a clawed toe in the water. The water was definitely cool, but not as cold as he'd expected.

"Did you remember your shoes?" Chris called. "If you stick your feet in the water and still have shoes on, everyone will think they're sopping wet. Trust me, happened to me once."

Rob clicked his tongue against his sharp teeth and yanked his toes from the water. He sat down on the stone, tail flitting back and forth, and quickly removed his shoes. He noted the toe of the one was wet once it became visible again. "Thanks! I'd forgotten!"

Rob slipped into the water, feeling the pleasant coolness spread over his whole body. He walked on his toes for a moment, the water deep enough only to reach to his arm pits. His tail sank as soon as it got wet. He heard a splash, and turned to see Chris swimming towards him again. The bear stopped halfway out and began treading water, her head the only thing above the surface. "Good! Isn't this wonderful? We can shed all we want, and nobody will notice."

"You know, it's been a really long time since I've been skinny dipping."

"I never had until I changed," Chris admitted. She waved to him with one paw. "Come and swim out a little. We'll worry about the shampoo later."

Rob leaned forward, sliding his arms through the water, and swam out toward the middle of the pool, not too close to Chris. The water rushed up the bridge of his snout, coursed around and over his ears, and in general felt exhilarating! His tail kept trying to sink, but otherwise, he couldn't remember the last time it had felt so good to just swim.

He started doing laps around the pool, pushing his legs behind him, swishing his tail back and forth to help give him extra momentum. Chris laughed warmly, "Maybe dolphin wasn't so far off the mark." She swam after him in lazy circles, but Rob was not about to let the bear outshine him.

By the time they returned to the rock with their things, they both were laughing and relaxed. "Okay, Chris, you were right. This is fun." Rob stretched and wiped some of the water from the fur around his eyes. "How long did you expect to stay here?" He felt something brush along his side and he jumped. "Hey!"

But Chris was several feet away, standing on a higher rock perch, exposing most of her body to the shade. "That was just a fish," she said, smiling and exposing her fangs. "They're quite tasty, if small."

Rob stared at her, horrified. "Don't tell me you've been eating them raw?"

"I've done it before, but I prefer cooking them." She gave him a knowing look. "I bet you're wondering how it would taste, and that skunk part of your brain thinks it's a wonderful idea."

Rob grimaced, and turned away. "Yeah, yeah. Chris, what are you doing? Somebody could walk up the trail and see you."

"You can hear as well as I that nobody is coming. And if they were, I'd just jump back in the water. But if we're going to wash up, we need to be able to get our fur above water. How are you on washing your back?"

He laughed, "Oh, I use a scrub brush."

"Let me see your back. Lean forward." Rob did so, rolling his eyes. "Hmm, your stripe looks a little dirty. Here, come over here and I'll wash your back for you. You can do the same for me."

"Audrey would kill me if she saw me washing another girl's back."

"I'm a guy, Rob."

"You sure look like a girl to me."

"You'll only be washing my back. Now stop being silly and get over here. Look, I've already grabbed your shampoo."

Rob argued with her a minute more, but finally found himself leaning over the edge of the broad, dry rock, arms crossed, muzzle laying over his paws, while Chris spread shampoo over his back. "This really isn't necessary."

"Oh shush," Chris said, and Rob could feel her spreading the shampoo across his back fur. "I'm afraid you're not going to have much of this left when I'm through." She started to rub at his back with her paw pads, and Rob had to hold back the gasp when she began to push.

"I brought a second bottle. Heck, I go through those travel bottles just on my tail! Being a fur is really expensive."

"It can be. It's why I buy most clothes from Goodwill, except for special items." Rob stared at the rock wall and trees, trying not to think about the four inch claws even now combing through his back fur. The shampoo scent overwhelmed everything else.

"So," Rob asked. "How have you kept this secret from Leslie?"

"Carefully. I showed you most of my tricks already."

"I mean, how come you haven't told her?"

Chris didn't say anything for several seconds. Her paws moved up to Rob's shoulders and began kneading his fur. "I wanted to after we were married. But only a few days later, I went female again, and..." She sighed and drummed her claws along his shoulders. "How am I supposed to tell her we're both women?"

"How are you even intimate? Ow! You slapped me!"

"Be glad I did it with the back of my paw too!" Chris said, a growl in her voice. "That's none of your business."

Rob rubbed the back of his head with one paw and ground his teeth together. His tail flicked in agitation, bumping against her big belly. "So why did you marry her?"

"I'd become male again. I thought if we were under the sacrament of marriage, I'd stay male. It didn't work out that way." Chris moved her paws down past Rob's shoulder blades and made circles in his fur, rubbing the shampoo in thoroughly. "Speaking of which, will we see you and Audrey at Mass tomorrow?"

Rob sighed, "I really need to start going to church again. Audrey feels a little awkward at Mass still."

"Leslie was the same way, but she started singing in the choir and loves it now."

"I wonder..." Rob said whimsically. "Did we change because we're Catholic furries?"

Chris laughed, a warm rich sound that made the water ripple. "I doubt it, but it's kind of odd that the only Catholics in SOAP would be the only ones really furry. If there are others like us out there, I'm sure it is no respecter of religion. I've read the prophecies of St. Malachy and others, and I don't remember anything about animal people in them."

Rob chuckled and shook his head, "Yeah, probably not. So, hey, do you think I should tell Audrey?"

Chris stopped rubbing. "Do you want to?"

"Well, I want her to draw me as a skunk. I'm not really a dolphin anymore. Maybe she can draw you as a bear."

"Maybe. I'm not really comfortable with the idea of telling other people."

"And when we find others changed like us? You know we'll learn more about why this is happening. Hell, we may even..."

"Watch your language!" Chris snapped, giving him another bat on the back of the head.

"Okay, okay!" Rob shouted, wincing. "Whatever you say, momma bear!"

"Momma bear?" Chris said, the shock plain in her voice. "Am I... really acting like that?"

"Yes, you are. I was afraid you'd start scrubbing my head for me, so ‘I wouldn't get any in my eyes'."

Chris resumed scrubbing the skunk's back and rumbled under her breath, "Sorry. Sometimes this gets the better of me. I don't know. I've been alone for six years, Rob. Now I'm not. I can be myself, and it feels so good."

Rob could hear the pain in her voice and felt ashamed for his outburst. He lowered his snout to his paws and rubbed one fingertip over his pink nose. "I'm sorry, Chris. It's just hard to think of you as a guy, especially when you sound like my mom."

Chris didn't say anything for a few minutes. When the bruin did speak again, she first stepped back, lifting her paws from his back. "Okay, you're done. Rinse off down there in the current."

Rob nodded, and climbed out of the water. He left wet paw prints on the stone, but at least his feet were mostly human. At the far end of the pool, the water flowed quickly down into the gully. He slid into the water, took a deep breath, and dived under, rubbing at his back with his paws to get the shampoo out. When he surfaced, he saw Chris working shampoo over her chest and all that it contained, a dour expression on her broad muzzle. Rob blinked, and dived back under in embarrassment.

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Christopher scrubbed his fur hard. Momma bear? He knew he had some maternal instincts in this form — a by-product of nearly everyone being smaller than he was — but he hadn't expected Rob to pick up on them so fast. What had gotten into him anyway? He was usually reserved, quiet, allowing others to take the lead.

He glanced over to where Rob washed off. The skunk still had some suds clinging to his back, but he kept dunking himself and scrubbing. The answer was right there. He wasn't alone anymore. He had somebody to share the difficulties of a furry life with. Of course he would let go the restraint he'd held for six years.

Now that he knew, he could better hold it back and reclaim at least the small portion of his masculinity that the female bear wiring allowed.

Still, when it came time to scrub his breasts, he worked them hard, and ended up scratching himself with one claw. He swore under his breath, and dived under the water, wiping the shampoo foam off. The cut stung, but it only bled a little. It would heal in a few days, and nobody would even see a scar.

Christopher surfaced and held back the roar that burned his throat. It came out as a low growl, but nothing more. He turned and swam across the pool, making for the waterfall. About twenty feet before the falls, the pool gave way to slick stone. He climbed onto this, and moving forward on all fours, claws digging into the stone to aid his traction, he crossed to where the water splattered into the rock.

Bracing his paws on the inch-thick stacked shelves of slate, Christopher stood, letting the water pound into his snout and face. He closed his eyes, and shifted one paw at a time until he'd turned completely around, letting the waterfall drive into his back. Every one of his muscles were pummeled by the force of the water, soothing and stretching them against his bones.

The massage soothed him so much that he didn't hear the skunk clawing onto rock plateau. "That looks good," he heard, and opened his eyes. Rob stood a short distance away, eyes on the waterfall. The last of the suds were gone from his back. "Can I join you?"

"Be careful, it's powerful." Christopher stepped aside, lowering to all fours to keep traction on the slick rocks. He sauntered to one side and sat down, splashing his claws through the spray while Rob crept under the falls. The skunk spread his arms wide, and then shouted when the water shoved him to his knees. His long tail slammed into the rocks, the fur spreading out two feet on either side.

"Oh you weren't kidding!" Rob laughed as he did his best to stay up. He chittered from the strain, but managed to put first one foot, then the other beneath him. Spreading his feet, he groaned as he stood back up. The skunk laughed in triumph. "Oh this is great!"

"Don't stay there too long or you won't have any fur left."

Rob nodded, but lingered for a minute more. When he finally crawled out from under the waterfall, he was coughing as he laughed. "Oh wow! Okay, enough of that."

Christopher smiled and splashed a bit of water at his friend. "Shall we finish washing up?"

"Need me to wash your back?"

The bear pulled his jowls back, revealing even more fangs. "As long as you don't mind scrubbing a momma bear."

Rob chuckled and shook his head. "No, I don't mind."

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It took Rob twenty minutes to fully scrub Chris's backside. Though the bruin was taller than he was and weighed at least three hundred pounds, he still hadn't realized that he would also have to contend with the thickness of the brown fur. Though she leaned over the dry rock next to their bags, he had to walk around behind her and scrub her shoulders from either side. He tried not to look at her breasts as they hung down. It bothered him that he hadn't even done anything like this with his girlfriend yet, but who else was going to do this for Chris?

When he finally finished, he let his sore arms soak in the cool water. A pair of hikers came by a few minutes later, said hello, snapped pictures of the waterfall, and then returned back down the trail. Rob had made sure to stay neck deep in the water. Chris had dived and stayed under for so long that the skunk began to worry.

After the hikers left, the bear emerged with a fish between her teeth. The fish was almost a foot long, and it flopped desperately, but in vain. Chris climbed out of the water, and yanked a plastic bag out of her bag. Rob kept looking for the hikers to see if they'd turn back suddenly and see Chris naked. He wasn't sure what was worse, them seeing a bear or seeing a naked guy with a fish in his mouth.

But the hikers never came back, and soon Chris had a second fish in the bag with the first. She filled it water, and then set it so that the fish could sort of swim and breathe. Rob gestured to the bag and asked, "I thought you brought lunch."

"I did. This is dinner. I promised Leslie she wouldn't have to eat pizza tonight."

While her fish mourned their fate, the skunk and bear finished scrubbing themselves down. By the time he'd cleaned his tail, he was halfway through the second bottle of shampoo. But he felt cleaner than he had since he'd changed. Breaking out their towels, they laid out on the rocks, drying in the air with the towels covering their nudity.

"So," Rob asked as he ran the dog comb through his tail fur. The last thing he needed was for it to tangle. Chris had warned him, but he'd stubbornly learned it the hard way. "How often do you come out here?"

"Once a month," Chris replied. She twisted a towel as tight as it could go and rubbed it across her chest. "Unless it's below freezing. I could stand the cold, but I don't want to take a chance on the ice."

Rob turned his tail over and brushed the underside. He'd squeezed it as dry as he could, but it was still damp. He certainly wouldn't get back into his car until his tail was completely dry. "Well, when you want to go again, give me a call. I had a lot of fun."

Chris smiled and ran the twisted towel behind her back. "Thank you." She set the towel aside and pulled her lunch pail into her lap. "Now, I don't know about you, but I'm starved."

Rob couldn't agree more.

An hour later they felt dry enough to leave. They climbed back into their clothes, laughed and chatted about school, work, the other furs, and everything except being furs as they made their way back to the car. The drive back was quiet, with Chris rolling down the window and enjoying the breeze like a dog.

When Rob drove the car into the Chasewood Downs parking lot, they sat still for a moment. Chris turned a bit and scratched her snout with the pad on one finger. "See you tomorrow?"

Rob shrugged, "I'll do my best. See you on Friday at least."

Chris nodded and climbed out of the car. Rob waved once, then took off. He turned on the radio, but didn't listen. When he reached his apartment, he found Brett watching Anime. "Oh, hey Rob. Somebody called for you, didn't leave a message. Said he'd email you."

"Thanks, Brett. Did you get a name?"

The lanky sophomore chuckled and shook his head. "Oh... oh sorry. I forgot to ask."

Rob waved one paw, slipped his tail in the door and shut it behind him. "Don't worry about it. Where's Trevor and Nick?"

"Out shopping. Where'd you go?"

"Hiking with Chris. Thanks for the message."

Brett stammered. "Sorry I didn't get the name."

Rob walked down the hall and waved his paw. "Don't worry about it!" He shut his bedroom door, turned his chair to one side, and sat down at his computer. He wondered who would have called.

Apart from the usual bevy of spam, there was one message that caught his eye. "Take down my picture?" he said, confused. "What?" He clicked the email. A few words about violation of policy, a warning that his account will be banned, and then, an attachment. Rob stared at the file name for five minutes. He blinked, claw poised over the mouse button, his heart trembling. Could it be?

The file was named "What_Do_You_See.jpg"

Rob closed his eyes, and clicked the file. Slowly, his tail jittering like a newborn calf, his eye lids crept back open. Before him was what could only be a human bull in a business suit. A phone number was at the bottom of the screen.

Rob jumped from his chair, breath ragged, and snatched his phone. He swore as his claws jabbed at the numbers. It took him a minute before he managed to get the number in right. The phone rang twice, and a gruff voice answered. "Hello?"

"I see!" Rob shouted. Then, catching himself he added, "I see a bull in a business suit!"

"And I saw a skunk," the voice replied. "Now take your picture down and we can talk."

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Though Leslie wouldn't be home for a few more hours, Christopher started cleaning the pair of fish. There would be enough for the both of them, but the bear would have to snack on a few things before his wife returned. He was in the middle of scaling the second fish when the phone rang.

It was Rob. Christopher picked it up and said, "Hey, Rob, what's up?"

In an excited shout, Rob exclaimed, "We're not alone! We're not alone!"

And as Rob explained his conversation with the bull, Christopher fell to his knees and cried for joy.

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