By : Socks the Catt
© 2003 Socks Furrotica Press
"Was it bad?"
Tom looked up to see the woman who asked the question. Probably about his age, he figured. Nice figure, wearing a Sorority sweatshirt and jeans that complimented her figure. He looked down to his lunch, then back up to her. "Well, I guess there could be more chicken in it, but overall the soup isn't that bad today."
"No." she said while pantomiming at her mouth, like she was pulling on taffy. "I mean the face thing?"
"Oh!" Tom sat back. "You mean my fur coat?" She nodded, looking a little embarrassed. Tom grinned. "No, it wasn't so bad I guess. A little inconvenient, but not too bad." The woman sighed a little relief, the dog wasn't mad at her asking. Everyone on campus knew of him, and knew he had gone to that convention a year ago, but everyone assumed that his pitbull appearance meant he would attack them or growl or be snappy. She worked up the courage to finally walk up to him while he was taking notes from a textbook. Tom wagged his tail a little, happy for the company. "Why do you ask?"
"No reason, I guess." she said. "It's just that I see you here every day at lunch, and you always sit alone, and everyone says you're mean but you never look it. So I wanted to ask."
Tom half closed one eye, and looked at her with a "troublemaker" look. "You're not a reporter for the campus paper, are you?"
"Umm, no." she said with a little surprise. "Just curious, that's all."
Tom sighed in relief. "I've already told them I won't do an interview. No disrespect meant. My name is Tom." The dog offered a paw-like hand, she looked at it with curiosity. "I won't bite. I promise. And if I do I've had my shots." He raised his chin to show the metal tags around his neck.
The girl laughed, and took the paw cautiously, being careful of the claws on the ends. "Jenny." she said. She then looked over the paw in her hands, turning it over to see the pads on the bottom. She examined the claws, the coal black contrasting the white fur. "You don't mind if I…" She paused, looking for a polite way to ask.
Tom pushed a chair out next to him. "Might be easier if you sat down?" Jenny nodded, and sat. She looked over the paw, marveling at it. Three fingers and a thumb, the bones were remarkable to touch. Tom smiled. "You can call me T-Bone if you'd like." Tom said.
Jenny looked up. "T-Bone?"
"Beats being called 'dog face', doesn't it?" he said. Tom touched his studded leather collar with his free paw, and displayed to Jenny the brass colored bone-shaped tag that simply read "T-Bone".
Jenny looked at the collar, then his face. The markings were distinctive of a pitbull. A white stripe straddled with brown fur on his face, dappling around his white muzzle and wet black nose. Tom's brown eyes were soft, with some compassion in them. The collar around his neck almost seemed to constrain the obvious muscles in his neck, and down his strong chest. His belly fur was white, as far as she could see, with the brown fur of his shoulders covering down his arms and back to his white paw-like hands. The dog wore a hoop earring in his floppy ears, adding to the feeling of masculinity that he broadcasted. The fact that he always wore vests or ripped-off t-shirts left little to the imagination on his athletic build, or pierced nipples.
Tom smiled as he watched Jenny, he could sense her scent becoming more relaxed, which made Tom feel a little better. He'd seen this reaction before, and he knew this would be far from the last. Jenny finally put Tom's paw down. "How did it happen?" she finally asked.
Tom smiled, and shook his head. "It's more than I can tell you before my next class starts." he said. "Tell you what. Are you doing anything tonight? We can catch dinner and I'll tell you all about it." Jenny looked a little shocked. "I'm not asking you for a date." Tom said with slight amusement. "I'd just like to know if you'd like to sit at the same table as me for dinner tonight, here. Heck, bring your boyfriend.!"
Jenny sat back in her chair. "How did you know?"
"I'm a dog." Tom said very as-a-matter-of-factly. "I don't think you're the type to wear Stetson for men anyway. I can smell it on your sweatshirt." Jenny blushed slightly. "Please, don't take offense. It's just what I do. I can't help it as much as you can help breathing. I notice stuff about people."
"Is that why you eat alone?" Jenny asked.
"Naw." Tom said. "My friends have class this hour, and I don't." Tom closed his book. "Besides, I get some homework done here, less to do at night." Jenny looked at the book. Physical Therapy. "Surprised it's not veterinary medicine or something?"
"No." Jenny said. "I'm in the nursing program. I just thought I'd have seen you in my classes."
Tom shrugged. "I kinda missed a year." he said. "I'm trying to make up some gen ed's now." Tom checked the clock over Jenny's shoulder, knowing he had to get going. "So? What do you say. Dinner? Tonight? Here? I'll tell you the whole thing then. It's kinda a long story."
Jenny thought a moment, then figured she'd be there anyway. It would be an interesting dinner conversation. "Ok." she said. "7 PM ok?" Tom nodded, the tags jingling on his collar slightly. "Great! See you then!"
"I'm hard to miss." Tom said with a wink. "See you then!" Tom picked up his books and tray, and went off.
Jenny found herself watching him as he left, and sighing to herself as she watched him swagger out the doors and down the hall. Even the way he walked looked to be powerful, masculine. If he wasn't a dog, he'd be hot.
That night Tom grabbed his tray and filled it with what passed for a dinner. It was "burger and fry" night in the caff. He rolled his eyes once but took what he could get. He then sniffed around, and zeroed in on the scent he remembered from that afternoon. He walked over to Jenny's table. "Is this seat taken?" He asked.
"No!" Jenny said. "Been waiting for you!" She pointed around the table, introducing Tom to some of her friends. Tom nodded to each, offering a paw to the closest ones. "And this is my boyfriend Ben."
"Whaasupp T-Bone?" Ben asked with a smile. Tom and Ben tapped fists over the table.
"Not much!" Tom said with a grin. He looked over to Jenny, who looked a little annoyed. "I roomed with Ben last year, before the change."
"And you didn't tell me?" Jenny asked to Ben, who shrugged.
"Be fair to him." Tom said. "I only got back this semester."
"I haven't seen him since last November." Ben said. "We've been calling him T-Bone forever." Jenny rolled her eyes. "Hey, it was his idea."
Tom put a paw over his heart. "Guilty as charged!" Everyone at the table got a laugh from it. "It's been my nickname for a long time."
"The fur works for you bro." Ben said. "Fits the name now." Tom shrugged. It was good to see Ben again after so long.
"Ok." Jenny said. "So what happened in that hotel? I've been dying to hear your story all day! I mean I heard the news reports and saw that special on TV, but nobody really said what it was like in the hotel!"
Tom picked up his drink, took a sip, then took in a deep breath. It wasn't that he didn't mind telling the story, he just never wanted it to be mangled by a reporter with an angle. He looked around, not hearing anything like a tape recorder or similar. He figured he was moderately safe to be open. "Starts last year. Me and a few friends decided to go down to that costume convention down in Florida. Kinda last big fling before college really gets into swing, ya know? I went there with a few friends I know online and from home. This con put up this insane money prize for a best in show, and I went down there with my costumes to enter them into the contest."
Tom was finishing his unpacking with his other two roommates. "This is gonna be awesome!" Tom said, brushing the fur on his suit down. "So if you win you're buying beer, right?"
"Yeah right!" Pete said, hanging up his own fursuit. "You know we can't buy here! We're kinda under age, remember?"
"Hey, for the money being put up, I think we can buy a beer!" Tom said. Pete and Wilson laughed.
Wilson was already wearing his latest creation, a wolf suit he had made specifically for this convention. "What do you think guys?"
"You got the jaw to articulate?" Tom said, looking at the fake teeth of the beast. "Now THAT is cool!"
"You think THAT'S cool…" Pete said, reaching into the rolling steamer trunk he called a suitcase. "Get a load of THIS!" Pete pulled out a fox costume, and displayed it for them both to see. Wilson took the head off, and Tom ran his hands over it.
"I like the pile!" Tom said. "Where'd you get fur like that?"
"I am not telling!" Pete said defiantly. "I'll tell you after I take home first!" Pete said in a joking manner.
"Speaking if fur…" Wilson said, unzipping the suit he was in. "Where's yours Tom?"
"Hung up." Tom said. "I'm saving it for the judging. I've got my hall costumes ready to go, but I'm saving the real one for the judging."
"Ok, wait a sec." Jenny said. "What's a hall costume?"
"A costume that isn't the best quality but you can wear it hanging out at the con." Tom said. "It's a way to play a character or get into the spirit of a con before the costume contests. A lot of us make them, sort of practice for the real thing. And that was what I was wearing when it happened."
"It?" Ben asked.
"It." Tom said, taking another bite of his hamburger. "But I'm getting ahead of myself. So anyway, we did the first night of the con, got in touch with the other fursuiters there, and decided to meet up for a costume lunch on day two."
"Where you all have lunch in your... costumes?" one of Jenny's friends asked, emphasizing the last word.
"It's not as weird as cartoon cocktails when you think of it." Tom pointed out. "Besides, it's just everyone kicking back, having fun, sharing tips, stuff like that. Anyhow, so the second day comes up, and we're all getting ready. That's when I put on the dog."
"Need some help with that Tom?" Wilson asked.
"I got it." Tom said, applying the foam appliance expertly. He smoothed out the spandex suit, lining up the nipple rings with his own nipples. The illusion of piercings was seamless, even for a hall suit. As he pulled the hood over his head, he could hear Wilson struggling with a zipper. "I'll help ya in a sec."
"Ok." Wilson said. "Where's Pete?"
"He went ahead of us." Tom said, putting on the clothing he wore over the dog costume. "I got him into his fox suit already, he's gonna make sure they don't leave without us." Tom zipped up Wilson into the wolf suit, and helped Wilson get into the ripped-up shirt and BDU pants. Soon, they were both ready, and headed out.
As they hit the elevator, Wilson was falling into the character of "Darkwolf", a hero furry in a universe he created to write in. "Are you ready to fight evil, T-Bone?"
Tom laughed. "After lunch, ok?" They both laughed. "And as long as we can look for evil in the hucksters room, or the art area? There's this print of this doe that I want to go bid on!"
"AHH!" The wolf said as the doors of the elevator opened. "PORNOGRAPHY! A blasphemy to the minds of innocents!" A woman wearing a chain mail bikini with a sword on her hip walked in on his speech. The wolf turned to look. "Not you my fine lady!"
The woman smiled. "Is there anything WRONG with being a blasphemy?"
"Not at all!" T-Bone said quickly. The wolf playfully jabbed him in the side. "Hay! It's not like I'm not already warped!" He looked to the woman sharing the elevator ride. "Or blind."
"You're a cutie." the warrior woman said, patting T-Bone on the head. He grinned, and let out a murring noise of pleasure. "But don't count on it."
"No offense meant." T-Bone said, hand on his heart and the other in the air. She laughed as the doors opened, and the two canines got out.
"See you later, do-gooder wolf!" the woman said as the elevators closed behind them. "I'll fight the evil with you after the contest!" she added, patting her sword.
Darkwolf looked to T-Bone. "She wants me."
By the time they got to the con suite, the place was wall to wall with furries. They fit right in with the others in costume. Some were in their finest, some were in their hall suits, but everyone in the room was in suit, or at least some small token ornamentation of an animal. Pete waved them over to the table. "We're just about set!" he said over the noise. "We're just waiting on Shad to get here and"
A white light washed across the room, and everyone in the con suite felt a ripple of energy run through them.
"That's when it happened." Tom said.
"It?" Jenny asked. "You keep saying "It". What do you mean?"
Tom put his burger down, and looked to the ceiling for inspiration. "I can't really describe what it felt like." he finally said. "Can you imagine everyone in this dining room suddenly getting their deepest desire given to them at the same time?" The entire table looked to the dog with a confused look. "Ok, I guess not. But… Aww man this sounds like a religious experience. But it was like that. I mean a room full of people got to experience something they dreamed of but always knew they couldn't have. And I mean everyone." Tom picked up his soda and took another drink.
The people at the table sat silent for a few moments, until Ben finally spoke up. "So you always wanted to be a dog?"
Tom laughed hard, almost spitting out his soda. "NO!" He managed to choke out. "Well, not really." He used a napkin to wipe his muzzle clean between coughs and laughs. "I mean that was the suit I was wearing. With the piercings and the collar and the clothing and all that. And the change we all had was relative to the suits we wore. It was…" Tom tapped a claw on the table, looking for the right words. "The power of it! I never was this muscular, then suddenly I am. The rush. It was like a rush of pure energy at first. I mean it was incredible!"
He looked at his paws once, then at the people at the table. "I'm not really good with words. I can't really describe what I felt there. But in the moment, when the light washed through the room, I swear it felt like I had more life in me than I ever had before. And I remember feeling the mask on my face become my face. I remember standing there, it was like electricity shot through me. Nothing in my life felt like that. And I felt this connection to everyone in the room. I mean, right then, something happened, and we all got to touch it together."
Tom looked at his hands as they shifted from four fingers to three. His costume melted into his body, becoming one with it. He suddenly felt a tail, his tail, wagging behind him. He could feel his body shifting to accommodate a new form. His stomach flattened out, and became incredibly muscular. Tom looked around, and saw Pete's long, triangular muzzle form in front of his face. He looked as astonished and amazed as Tom felt, and both looked at each other with the same look, was it real? Was this really happening?
Wilson let out a howl, Tom and a dozen others joined in it instinctively. The roars, the yowls, the shouts of joy and fear as everyone in the room looked nervously at each other. Tom could feel his claws replacing normal nails. His senses overflowed with new information, smells he had never experienced before. He could smell Pete's fear, Wilson's excitement, and the mix of emotions in the immediate area around him
Tom felt his own face tingle as whiskers sprouted from it. Fur spread over his body, matching the suit he had previously been wearing. Pete's body shrank in size, his outer layer of clothing matching his new frame. Tom's body became smaller as well, becoming more powerful, more muscular, the pitbull in body that he had been in costume. He could feel his arms and legs bulk in size, as muscles ripped along his whole body. The feeling was intense, and he nearly doubled over in shock and slight pain as his frame gained more mass.
As quickly as it started, it ended. The room was silent, stunned into inactivity. The only noises that could be heard was the radio playing. Tom looked at his paws, and experimentally touched them with his new black claws. He looked up to see many of the other furs in the room doing the same thing. Using their hands, or what passed for them, to explore their bodies, pulling on ears, tails, and anything else that didn't look or feel quite right. Some had touched the one next to them, making sure that what they sat next to was real. Some wore clothing, some were nude but for their fur, but all of them were seeing if what they just experienced was real, or a hallucination.
Tom looked to Wilson, who was feeling his muzzle and ears. Tom cautiously reached over to touch. Wilson recoiled slightly, but sniffed at Tom twice. "T-Bone?"
Tom nodded. "If you're still Darkwolf."
"…still?" The wolf looked at the pitbull quizzically. "I've always been Darkwolf." The wolf said nervously. Tom looked around again, and saw the scene being repeated all over the room. He smiled, then laughed, then laughed harder. It was infectious, and soon the room was laughing their collective nervous energy off.
Suddenly, the suite door closed hard, and a large cartoony rabbit was standing with his back to the door. He looked into the room with terror in his eyes. "Don't go out there!" he yelled. "There's…." Then he looked into a room filled with critters like him. "OH fuck!" And the rabbit fainted.
Jenny was nodding, listening to the dog's story. "But I heard that the hotel was destroyed!" Jenny said.
"Not true!" Tom added, gesturing a pretend map in the air. "The main costume judging area was badly damaged, the gaming room was demolished, the vendors area was badly trashed, but that was on the main floor where most of the people were. I think they were judging a sci-fi costume thing down there. So imagine a room full of people with laser blasters losing their minds, thinking they're in a movie, and blasting everything that moves."
The others around table nodded collectively. Ben adjusted himself in his chair. "But you didn't lose your mind."
"Nope." Tom said. "In the con suite we didn't have a lot of blowouts. We lost Wilson into his character of Darkwolf, and more than a few others became their furry personality, we call them fursonas. But nobody went into a rage like a few on the first floor."
"Why?" Jenny asked
"Hell if I know." Tom said. "I still don't know what caused the whole hotel to do that. I mean, there was this gal on the couch with her boyfriend. She was wearing a tiger ear headband, and he was wearing a rubber wolf snout. She became a tigress and he became a blue wolf. It didn't seem to matter who you were, if you were in a costume of some kind you changed."
"So you had on a dog costume…" Ben asked, leading Tom.
"…and I became a dog." Tom finished. "I can scent track like a dog, I can bark, howl, move, hear, and see like a dog too. And the piercings are permanent. I can't take them out. But, I kept my mind intact. I think it's because we had a room full of furs. We all had the hope to become like this in the backs of our minds, and when we did it was just a natural thing, like we all said 'yeah, it's about time' kinda thing." Tom looked at his paw again. "At least that's the best explanation I've got. Since we all had the fantasy anyway, when it happened it was no big deal in our minds. So, we kinda kept most of what we had in here." Tom poked his head a few times. "A little changed, but I'm still me."
"So you haven't changed at all?" one of Jenny's friends asked.
Tom shook his head. "I did. I can feel it once in a while. I mean, I've got these instincts that I've been learning to trust. It's kinda like that voice in the back of your head? But it doesn’t whisper, it screams at you, and you just kinda do it. Really impulsive, it's why I can see why pitbulls have a temper, I've got this hair trigger that I've been learning to turn off. I'm also doing a lot of things that the "T-Bone" character would have done too. Like the clothes, or helping people or knowing how to drive a motorcycle. That's kinda it's own thing, but I'm like this mix of T-bone and Tom, but it feels natural. Like it's always been like this. It's really weird."
Jenny nodded, and asked "So you always wanted to be a dog?"
Tom looked down to his plate. "Not really, this wouldn't have been my first choice."
"But isn't that the suit you made?" Jenny asked, trying to understand the concept.
"A lot of costumers make costumes in several species." Tom said. "The pitbull was one of my hall suits. I had a raccoon hall suit too, and this squirrel that was just overly cute. I'm thankful I didn't wear that one out. I cringe to think what that would have been like. Out of all my suits I brought with for hall use, the pitbull was probably the one I could live as the most."
"But you said that wasn't your first choice." one of Jenny's friends asked.
"It wasn't." Tom looked down, and then around. "This is kinda embarrassing." He buried his head in his paws, shaking his head with an anguished groan. Finally, realizing that he would never get off the hook, he took in a deep breath, preparing for the worst. "My best suit, and the one that I would have liked to be wearing if I knew this was going to happen, it was a skunk."
"A SKUNK?" several people at the table said, almost in unison.
Tom nodded, his tag jingling as he did. "Yeah, a skunk." A few people at the table got a laugh out of it, and the unexpectedness of it. "To be honest, I'm happy I didn't wear that suit. It was a mascot style suit, and I saw what happened to a few others in those. One guy became a mute bear, no mouth at all, he didn't need to eat but he got trapped in a body where he can't even talk to someone. But I'm ahead of myself again."
"I just can't see you as a skunk." Ben said. "At last it explains your desktop screen when we roomed together." Jenny looked to Ben curiously. "Female skunk type person, total T&A shot."
Tom bit his lip. "I wish you didn't tell her that."
"It's normal." Jenny said. "For someone who doesn’t get any." The table got a laugh, including Tom. Jenny smiled, and Tom put a finger in his mouth, drawing in the air to give her "one point".
"Well it's not like I'm ever going to." Tom said, trying to keep from embarrassing himself. "I mean, would you go out with me? I'm a dog, and it's almost bestiality to do anything with me. And I feel kinda funny doing anything now. It's something I may get used to, or not, I don't know." He looked to Jenny. "It's one of the reasons I don't mind eating lunch alone."
The brief silence was interrupted by Ben "So then what?" Ben asked. "You're all in the room, the rabbit guy falls in, then what?"
Tom took in a breath, mostly to shake what he just said from his mind. "Ok, to understand this, try to imagine being able to hear stuff and smell stuff you never have before." The group nodded. "It's like the world explodes in front of you, and you can see every detail. So we're all in the con suite, and I can hear, and I mean HEAR clearly, stuff happening on the first floor. And we're on the fifth floor, on the other side of the building."
"They're killing each other down there!" a large St. Bernard said. "We gotta help them!"
"And do what?" a wolf asked. "We'll probably get killed ourselves of we go down there."
"We must do something!" said a tigress with her wings folded neatly behind her shoulders. "If we don't we're as guilty as the ones doing the damage."
Tom listened to the discussion intently, and looked to Pete and Wilson. "Wils… Dammit. Darkwolf?" The black wolf nodded. "And you're still Pete in there?" The fox nodded too. "I hate to say this, but I'm feeling this need to do something too. I think this dog body comes with baggage."
"We should help the weak." Darkwolf said, playing every inch of his character on the MUCK. "It's our duty."
Pete sighed. "I'm sliding into my fursona." the fox said. "I know my name is Pete, but I know if you called me Highwire I'd reply faster." The fox closed his eyes. "And I'm feeling like I'm a part of the 'amigos' too."
Tom nodded. He felt the pull of T-Bone as well, and the part of the 'super hero' group of furs was emerging. "Ok, dammit. I say we roll. Let's get down there, see if we can't get something done. It does sound like they're dying down there."
"Yes." Darkwolf said. "Let's go. I'm on point." As the three left, they were followed by many other furs across several species.
"We did what we could." Tom said, pawing through his fries. "I think the cops stopped short calling the SWAT team out there tho. I mean, cops were there as we were pulling downed walls off of people. Well, some were people. The St. Bernard guy is an EMT, he set up a triage in the lobby to help the worst injured before the paramedics could get there. And damned if that barrel around his neck wasn't helpful." Tom looked around and saw confusion. "I don't know how that worked either. But he had this small keg around his neck that had something in it, he made folks drink it and they'd get better. I can't explain it, I was just happy it worked."
"Did anyone die?" Jenny asked.
"Probably." Tom said. "I don't know. I mean we had a few close calls with people who became things like dolphins or fish or mermaids or like that. Thankfully there was enough space in the fountain to put some of them. We had to pull a few basket cases off the walls, or off each other. There was this one guy in a vampire costume that we had to…" Tom looked down and shook his head. "Well that's neither here nor there."
"You didn't hurt him, did you?" Jenny asked, almost horrified.
"Not permanently, no." Tom said, looking down. "But I'm not proud of what we did. I kinda lost it into the dog."
"Lost it?" Ben asked.
Tom sighed. "If I'm not careful, I find myself falling into pitbull instincts. It's not pretty." Tom put his paw on his neck. "These muscles aren't for show. Just to see if I could do it, I bit through a broom handle once. I mean clean through it. I decided then I needed to get a handle on the pitbull before I could do anything in the real world."
Ben felt chills go down his back. "That's why you took a year off, huh?"
"Hey man." Tom said slightly defensively. "I didn't want to come back into the dorms, get pissed at someone for having their stereo too loud, knock down his door and go primal on them. My instincts may be canine, but I'm still a person in here. I know I have to live with what I do." Tom stopped suddenly, and forced his shoulders and back to relax. "Sorry." he said sullenly. "I get emotional about that still."
"Sokay bro." Ben said. "It's cool."
The table stopped talking for a moment, ant Tom finished his burger. "So yeah, we helped some people, we broke up a few fights, got a few scraps on. Then we were told by the cops that we had to stay in town until further notice, until they figured this out." Tom snickered. "Yeah right, like they have more of a clue than we do."
"So what did you do?" Jenny asked, still fascinated.
"What could we do? We stayed there. The hotel let us stay for free, so we all kinda did for a week or so."
"And you didn't leave?" Jenny asked. "Not even to go for food?"
"Well, some of us did." Tom said. "I hit up a convenience store for basic supplies."
"Ok, I got some more stuff." T-Bone said, dumping the bag on the bed. "More soda, some snacks…" He pushed the box to the side quickly. "I also got some detergent, we can try to do laundry before we run out of clothing to wear."
Pete picked up the box Tom had shoved to the side. "Milkbones?"
"They smelled good." Tom said quickly, trying to hide the rest of the bag's contents. "Ask Darkwolf, he's been chowing on them."
Pete opened up the bag Tom folded quickly. "Dog food? A dog dish too? Tom!"
Tom pursed his muzzle. "I can't help it." he said. "It's like cravings, I can't stop it."
Pete rolled his eyes "I suppose I'll have cravings for field mice now?" Tom shrugged. "Where is Wilson anyhow?"
"The con suite." Tom said, grabbing the box of Milkbones. "I was going to go there myself."
Pete nodded. "Just don't eat all those. It'll ruin your appetite for dinner."
"Ok Mom!" Tom grinned. Pete scratched Tom behind the ears, who jokingly thumped his leg on the ground.
"And that's what we did." Tom said. "We spent a lot of time talking with the others who changed. Mostly the furs but a few of the other costumed people too. It was really therapeutic, we got to get it out of our systems, figure out what we were going to do from there. The change wasn't going back to normal, and the world outside was still normal. We talked about staying in the hotel forever and forming our own little society there, but you gotta go out sometime."
Ben nodded. "So that's when you came back to college?"
"No." Tom said. "I needed to think about that more. But that was a few months ago. Anyhow, back at the hotel, we all did stuff. We ordered in for pizzas, we freaked out the cops by holding a "critter picnic" on the front driveway area. A couple came over, and we talked with them. It was cool. But the pool party was priceless."
"You can swim?" Jenny asked flatly.
"Dog paddle!" The people around the table laughed, Tom grinned. "Oh come on, you knew that was coming!"
Jenny put a finger in the air to mark Tom's point back to him. "Swimming, huh?"
"Yeah." Tom said. "Me, a few other dogs, the otters, a beaver, a tiger or three, some of the mer-folk we had a good time."
Tom surfaced from the pool bottom and shook his head. He had long shucked modesty and was skinny dipping with the others in the pool. A dolphin brushed his hip, and he patted it to the surface. "So what are you gonna do Kel?"
The dolphin squeaked, then spoke broken words. "Know not. ocean? pool?"
"I'm just worried about you, bro." Tom said. "You can't live forever in chlorine."
"Choices? None." Kel replied. "pity? none."
"No pity." Tom said. "Just trying to help."
"Thanks. Friend." Kel said. Tom ran his paw along the dolphin's side as it dove under the water.
"We're gonna call an ocean research institute." Tom turned to the polar bear in the water with him. "We're hoping they can move him somewhere he'll be happy and safe until he learns more about his body."
Tom nodded. "What about you?"
The bear shrugged. "Thought of moving to the arctic and freaking out the natives." Tom laughed. "Naw, I'll go back to my old life."
"What?" Tom asked sarcastically. "Were you always a polar bear?"
"Nope." the bear said. "I run a moving company and I play arena football on the side for fun." Tom let out a good belly laugh at that. The bear shook his head. "Way I see it now, I can dead lift a couch, and crush QB's! I can just pick up where I left off! I may have a good shot at the NFL now!"
"Oh you gotta be kidding me!" Tom said. "Everything's changed! We're totally different now! We can't just go back and expect everything to be the same as it was!"
"The only difference between a week ago and today is my fur coat and my strength." The bear said. "Besides, do you think a QB wants to see this mug just before it crushes him into the turf? Hell no! Talk about a game face! We're lucky, we can still think. I know you can wear clothing, a lot of these guys can't even do that. You can sit and wallow about it or move on with your life." The bear lumbered out of the pool, letting his fur drain by standing there. "Me? I'm moving on."
Tom tapped his glass a few times with his claw. "And I thought about that a lot." Tom said. "I did get a lucky hand in the deal. I met one cat who's going to be naked the rest of his life. He puts on clothing, it vanishes. He had to wear a belt so he could hold onto his cell phone and money, and that barely worked." Tom reached up, and unbuckled the collar around his neck. "I can even do this, which is more than some can do now."
Tom looked at the tags on the collar he wore, and he sighed. "You know who I feel the worst for? The ones who were dressed up as aliens. We broke up a fight of klingons and romulans in the lobby that almost turned bloody, and a week later what was going to happen to them had crashed on the ones who still had human thought. I heard a few are working at movie studios or trying to get some kind of licensing agreement so they can work. But a lot of the blowouts, the ones who lost themselves into the character of what they became, they may not be able to resume a normal life. But I've got my mind, I've got this new body, and I've got the freedom to make choices. So I decided last May that I had choices in my life, and I chose to move on, and actually do something with my life rather than wallow in the fact that I'm a dog." Tom put the collar back on as the table looked at him with collective head nods.
"So I decided to reinvent myself. I mean totally. I'm still Tom, but I'm more T-Bone." Tom pointed to himself for emphasis. "I'm also this dog. So I got my head back on, and decided to embrace this pitbull I became, and to go with what life has given me. How many people get the chance to redefine their life completely? I've got this new body, like hell I'm wasting it. So I'm still going for sports medicine, but now I've got a few more options in my life. Why blow it?" Tom twitched an ear. "Besides. Hank was right."
"Hank?" Jenny asked.
"The polar bear." Tom said, pointing to his face with a grin. "It is one hell of a game face."
The offensive linesman got into his stance. It was the home opener, and he felt confident. Before the snap, he heard a very feral, low pitch guttural growl, very close to his head. He looked up, and directly into the face of an angry pitbull. The dog's muzzle was frothing, bloodlust in his eyes, barring his teeth and drooling.
"Meat." the dog sneered. The linesman's eyes got wide, as he looked into the eyes of a rabid carnivore. The ball went in motion, the linesman never saw the dog coming.
"T-Bone plows through his cover!" the radio announcer said excitedly "AND SLAM! The quarterback takes a seven yard loss and skids another two on his back! WOW that looked painful!"
"You said it Corey!" the color analyst said. "This first year walk-on has just obliterated the QB on the first play of the game! We've all been looking forward to seeing this kid play and WHAT an impression he leaves on the offense! WHO LET THE DOG OUT!"
"They're probably wondering who let him in!" Corey quipped. "Or where the phone number is to animal control!" T-Bone howled to the sky in celebration, and jogged back to the huddle before the officials could hit him with unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. His teammates slapped his helmet or his tail as he ran past.
"I guess that gives a guy a rep." Tom said with a laugh. "But if I can score a scholarship out of it, I'm game. It's kinda a release for me, I get to let out the pitbull aggression somewhere it won't really hurt anyone."
Jenny nodded. "So what's the worst part of being a dog?"
"Besides the dirty looks and the people that bark at me?" Tom asked. "Well, the cost." Tom pulled out a pair of sunglasses. "I had to have these custom made. $300 for the frames. My pants are all custom fitted for my tail and hips. Off the rack stuff doesn't fit canines. I needed to get shoes custom made too so I could go into some stores. The school lets me go bare pawed, which helps. I had to sell my ski stuff, I'm gonna have to buy all new gear if I can even get boots to work for me. All my old clothing doesn't fit anymore. Thank God for e-bay, I sold all my old stuff and started buying new stuff. Like I said, I kinda reinvented myself. Ask Ben, he remembers the old me."
"You'da never worn a Harley shirt." Ben said with a grin. "Definite improvement from the old you."
Tom rolled his eyes. "I guess I did go for this kinda tough guy look, huh?" He laughed. "It feels right to wear this stuff. It feels more like who I am now. Sounds really stupid, but I think when I changed and got more like this, it felt right to dress the part too." Tom shrugged, and tugged on the lapels of his denim vest. "More comfortable too, the vest don't bind on the fur on my arms. But I gotta still get more stuff done. I needed to buy a new mountain bike, have my car altered or buy the motorcycle my instincts tell me to get…" Tom patted his paw pad as he talked, making each point. "but on the bright side my food bill went down." The table looked at him funny. "You're eating dinner, I won't tell you my normal food of choice. It grosses people out."
The group at the table thought about it for a moment as Tom finished his drink. "Do you eat dog food?" Jenny finally asked.
"I told you I wouldn't tell." Tom said. "Besides it's good for my coat." The group erupted into a loud "EEEEWWWWWW!" sound. "What? I'm a dog! It's totally natural!"
"We didn't need to know that!" someone said.
Tom smiled, and shrugged. "That's why I wasn't going to bring it up!"
After a short laugh, Ben asked "So are you going back? I mean to other cons?"
"Sure." Tom said. "I keep in touch with a lot of my friends from the con still, at least the ones who can type or hold a phone still. And we're thinking of going back on the year anniversary. I mean, my shots are up to date, I've got my drivers license back finally, the county MADE me buy my own dog license too. It's just ridiculous. But it'll be good to swap stories and talk about what we're up to now with some of the others that made it. I'm hoping Darkwolf can come, I'm worried about him."
Jenny wrinkled her nose. "They made you buy a dog license and have shots?"
"That's another story." Tom said. "I think they just wanted to give me a hard time. But since there's no laws about it, I can't say it's like discrimination or nothin'." Tom looked down to his tray. "Hey, I'm going for some ice cream, anyone want any?" A few of the others nodded, and they got up to go back in line for more food.
Jenny leaned into Tom while he was in line. "There's one more thing I gotta know." she asked quietly. Tom turned and nodded. "Can you… umm… You're, like, a dog, and can you… lick yourself?"
Tom gave her a sly look. "Yes I can." he said quietly, a look of mischief creeping across his muzzle. "And you've got a boyfriend, so I won't tell you what else I can do with my tongue." Tom let his tongue roll out of his mouth, and he licked around the top of his muzzle clear around to the other side. Jenny felt her face go flush with heat, and Tom smiled to himself as he casually ordered a soft serve cone.
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