“They need me at the studio. Since you’re here, can you keep an eye on Rose? Thanks!”
That’s what Josephine Magnus said as the ran out the door with her keys, leaving one very confused, eyepatch-wearing, male fox alone with…
“Where’d Mommy go, Unca Theo?”
His hyperactive “niece.”
“It’s just you ‘n me? All alone…? Wif no one to tell us what to do…?!”
That was the reaction the niece, Rose, gave as she was told of the situation. It was pretty clear that the little, black fluffball-of-a-fox was very excited to hear about spending the day with her “uncle…” but, the other fox was a little concerned… Back where he came from, he’d only watched a little baby, once-or-twice… and, even then, it was usually with the baby’s “god-aunt,” Jessie. Jessie was unnaturally good with kids. Him, though? That was debatable.
“What… does your mom do, again?” the fox-man asked his niece as he walked into the kitchen of his “sister’s” house.
“Mommy makes musics!” Rose excitedly told him as she followed, tail wagging and golden eyes filled with curiosity. “Wha’cha doooin’?”
The other fox – real name, “Joseph” – was poking around in the fridge as she’d asked.
“I’m just looking for a soda,” he told her.
He kind of wished he hadn’t, then, as he heard her squeal.
“Mommy never said we had sodie in th’ house!” Rose continued, enthusiastically trying to peek around her “uncle,” in search of the desired drink.
“I’m pretty sure I know why, too…”
“What we got, what we got?!”
Joseph looked around in the fridge, curious as to what they had, himself. However, the only canned beverages he could find were…
“Citrus soda, apparently.” He paused before asking, “Does your mom let you drink Splink soda?”
“Mmm… she saaays the sugar in it’s bad for me! Buuut…” The little girl brightly smiled. “She lets me sip, sometimes!”
He withdrew from the fridge, soda in-hand, and told her with a smirk, “Your mom sounds like a buzz-kill.”
“I dunno what that is,” Rose giggled. “May I have a sip’a your sodie, Unca Theo?”
He’d just opened the soda, preparing to take a drink, as she’d asked. When he looked at her, he noticed her soft, cute smile and bright, hopeful eyes. Of course, she was as bad at hiding her true nature as her mother, considering her little, black tail was wagging like crazy… Still… Joseph just sighed, rolled his good eye, and handed her the can.
Only to regret his decision a few seconds later.
“That… was a lot more than a sip, Rose.”
The can she’d handed back was much lighter than before.
“My ‘sip’ was at th’ bottom of th’ can!” was her explanation as she giggled and wiggled. When she covered her mouth and made an “urpy” sound, a moment later, Joseph couldn’t help but grin. He knew he’d been played, but he didn’t mind.
“Well, if your mom asks,” he said before taking an actual sip of his own, “don’t tell her where your ‘sip’ was.”
The two shared a smile, then, their individual fox tails wagging – hers, more rapidly.
“So, what do you want to–”
“I wanna show you my room!” Rose interrupted while grabbing his free hand. “C’mon!”
Well, he was about to ask what she wanted to do… so, with that question answered, he happily followed her deeper within the house.
“Welcome t’ my room!”
Joseph idly drank from what was left of his soda as he looked around the girl’s room. To his surprise, it was… pretty gender-neutral.
The room was averaged-sized – not too big, not too small, but probably more than enough for an eight-year-old girl. The walls were painted eggshell-white and covered in a number of things, such as posters of the random movies, new-and-old, as well as what looked like advertisements for toys and cartoons of-the-time.
A small, single-size bed rested in the rear-left corner of the room, covered in a soft, comfy-looking quilt, forest-green in color and decorated with intersecting stripes of darker and lighter greens. At the top rested some aqua-colored sheets which reminded him of the sea. The two pillows on the bed were also enclosed in that same color and fabric and, as he’d expected, there were also a couple of stuffed animals – one being a cute-looking raccoon thing and the other being a foot-tall teddy bear with blue-and-pink-frosted bangs. He smirked, recognizing the influence of a friend of his, there…
Sitting at the opposite corner as the bed was a chest of drawers. Unlike the bed, they were much more colorful, having a white body with red drawer panels and a blue top. It also had what looked to be a clock radio on top. A small toy chest sat next to that, white in coloration with gold trim. It was there where Rose had run to, after dragging him into her room.
“Look, look, Unca Theo!”
And, it wasn’t long before she’d started pulling things out of it.
Joseph walked in, his tail swaying and ears perked as he watched Rose withdraw what was unmistakably a dollhouse and some little posable figures. He had to tilt his head when he noticed that some were of Beings – people without animal features – while some were of Hybrids – like Rose and himself. That kind of made him smile, too.
I’m glad Jo’s teaching her kid about equality, he thought as he casually sat on Rose’s bed. Being-Hybrid relationships are kind of sketchy, back home… Maybe, by the time Rose is grown up, her generation can fix that.
He hummed… then, he chuckled, shaking his head.
That’s putting too much faith in people.
“Let’s play ‘House!’”
A sudden suggestion from his niece brought the fox back to reality. When he looked again, he noticed that Rose was holding two figures – a female squirrel in a nice pantsuit and heels, and a male Being in dress slacks and a button-up shirt.
“You wanna be th’ mommy or th’ daddy, Unca Theo?”
“You’re giving me a choice?” He hummed… “Well, what do you want to be?”
“No fair, Unca Theo! I asked you, first!”
The girl giggled before waving the figures his way.
“Well, if you’re giving me a choice…”
Joseph raised a finger up. Then, he pointed at…
“I’ll be the mommy.” He smiled as he added, “She’s cute.”
“I’ll be th’ daddy, then! Yaaay!”
Rose seemed awfully excited about that, he noted…
“Come, come, Unca Theo! Sit wif me!”
The man watched as his niece zipped back over to the chest where she’d set the dollhouse up. After sitting on her knees, she looked back and brightly smiled, tail wagging and patiently waiting for her uncle to follow suit. It wasn’t long before he did, though.
“Now, let’s see…” Rose hummed. “Make up a story!”
“‘Make up a story?’” Joseph repeated.
“Uh-huh!” The girl gave a nod before saying, “What should we play like?”
“Oh, do you mean… make up a scenario– er, story for House?” the golden-furred fox said, trying to simplify his words for his niece.
She gave a nod before repeating, “Uh-huh!”
“Well, uh…” Her uncle paused before suggesting, “Why not pick for me? My imagination’s a little rusty… I haven’t done this since I was your age.”
“How long ago was that, Unca Theo?”
“Uh… well, hold old’s your mom?”
“Old!” the girl giggled.
“About that long, then.”
“Gosh… da’s a long time!”
He smirked as she giggled a bit more. Then, she settled down and smiled at him.
“Okay! I’ll think of something!”
It was a bit of time after that before she asked…
“Do you wanna work or stay at home, Unca?”
“My character, you mean?” When she gave another nod, he hummed… “Stay at home, I guess? Is that okay?”
Again, Rose seemed far more excited than he thought normal. It almost seemed like she’d been planning this particular game of House for a while, with how enthusiastic she was acting.
“Okay!” Rose clapped. “Put your character in the house and have her do stuff!”
Joseph blinked as Rose shuffled around to his other side.
“Where will you be?” he asked.
“You’ll see!” she giggled. “Now, let’s play!”
With that, the foxes began acting out their scenario…
“Gosh, the house sure does get messy…”
Joseph had placed the squirrel girl in the living room and seemed to be acting out her cleaning up. He’d used his best female voice, as he spoke, causing his playmate to stifle a giggle. So-far-so-good, he thought.
“But… if you make a game of it, cleaning is kind of fun! Let’s see how fast I can clean the living room, this time!”
Rose leaned up and whispered, “You sound just like my mom…!” before giggling, more. That made the fox smile, again.
“First, let’s turn on some music…”
He blinked, watching Rose stand up. She’d zoomed over to her dresser and was fiddling with the radio, there. A moment later, his ears perked. She’d turned it on and, to his surprise… it was set to music that he enjoyed when he a kid.
“Now, that’s what I’m talking about!” he continued, in his “girl” voice, as the smaller vixen rejoined him. “Music this good fills me with energy! Let’s get cleanin’!”
Joseph made the squirrel doll scoot around the model house for a good three songs, his own body wiggling and tail wagging as he really felt the music. Rose seemed to be enjoying herself, too, since she was dancing in place next to him. Actually, he’d almost forgotten that she was a part of their role-play… Luckily, she hadn’t.
“Honey! I’m home!”
Joseph perked, hearing Rose call in a deep, squeaky sort of voice. He couldn’t help but grin at her attempt to sound manly… but, he quickly shook it off and turned back to the doll.
“Hi, honey!” he called as the doll, walking it to the door. “Welcome home!”
Rose brought the male figurine up, walking it inside the house. When she nudged her doll against his and made a kissing noise, Joseph gave his best girlish giggle.
“Miss me?” he teased.
“Only always!” Rose replied, trying not to giggle. “Wow, honey! The house looks sooo clean! What’s that, on the radio?”
“Just some music I used to listen to, when I was younger,” he said, making the doll giggle. “It keeps me focused and really moves me!”
“It’s moving me, too!” His niece moved the doll’s hand down, touching it to his. “Dance with me, Wife!”
And, just like that, Rose and Joseph put their dolls together and made them dance to the fourth song they’d heard on the radio, either of them singing along, really enjoying the music.
“That was fun!” Rose said after the song ended. “Wish they didn’t have t’ play news!”
“I know, right?” Joseph “giggled,” again. “Anyway, what would you like for dinner?”
“I was gonna ask you that!”
The fox-man grinned as his niece, still in-character, gave a belly-laugh.
“Oh, honey, you’re so good to me!” he said before making the doll lean in and kiss hers on the cheek.
“You deserve it!” was the man-doll’s reply as his arm was moved up and his fingers tapped her nose. “Now, what would you like?”
“Well… I got some hamburgers out, earlier, and–”
“Hamburgers it is!”
With that, Rose rotated the dollhouse and moved her doll into the kitchen area.
The scenario continued for quite a while after that, Rose’s character cooking the burgers in the kitchen while he and Joseph’s character chatted about their respective day. The fox was kind of impressed at how quickly his niece could come up with stuff to say. She was definitely a master of improvisation… or, perhaps, she’d already had the scenario planned but never had anyone to play it with. Either way, he was glad to see her have so much fun. It certainly didn’t hurt that he was enjoying himself, though!
“What was that…?”
After the dinner part of their play, the two foxes perked. A rumble had caught their ears.
“I dunno,” Joseph said, still voicing his character. “The radio said something about–”
And, before he could even react, he watched Rose drop her figure and run off.
Which left him to give chase, again.
When he’d caught up to his niece, he noticed that she was standing in front of the glass door at the rear of the house, her body wiggling and tail wagging with excitement. She was pawing at the glass and intensely focused on the sudden downpour of water that was falling from the skies. She was so focused, in fact, that she didn’t even acknowledge her uncle as he walked up behind her.
“Can I play in th’ rain, Unca Theo?!”
The fox was floored by the sudden, super-fast request. Her voice was so squeaky with excitement that he could swear his ears were ringing, in fact…
He blinked, then. She was staring up at him with the biggest, brightest sort of pleading eyes, her hands joined together in a begging motion. Somehow, he got the feeling that she wasn’t even playing her trump card, either…
“I… do your parents let you play in the rain?” he eventually asked.
“Not… no,” she said with unexpected honesty, looking away and folding her ears. “Mommy gets mad, when I do.”
“Well…” Joseph grinned before kneeling down and saying, “Mommy isn’t here, is she?”
The girl’s face lit up… then, she threw her arms around his shoulders in a tight hug!
“If you start to get cold,” Joseph said as he was pulled outside and under the back porch overhang, “I want you to come inside right away, okay?”
“Okay!” the girl happily squeaked.
“Also, try and avoid– what… what are you doing.”
Again, Joseph hadn’t been expecting that level of straight-forwardness. But, just as he’d noticed… the girl was yanking the straps of her navy-blue overalls down and wriggling out of the denim, leaving herself… quite bare. He knew she wasn’t hadn’t worn a shirt… but, he started to wonder if she’d been wearing anything at all, as the single garment flopped around her ankles.
“Why… are you– hey, wait!”
But, he was too late. Not even a half-second after stripping, Rose was off like a shot and parading around the backyard, wearing nothing but her fur!
Joseph needed a minute to calm down. He hadn’t really planned on seeing his niece in-the-fur… But, as he sat in a cushioned patio chair and watched her play… he started to realize that, honestly? It wasn’t that big of a deal. Because, much like her mother, the girl was covered, from-head-to-toe, in plush fur. Granted, hers was as black as a cast-iron frying pan… but, it was all quite fluffy, from what he could tell, easily able to hide what little there was from prying eyes. And, if he remembered correctly… her sort of behavior ran in his – and, apparently, her – family, besides. In fact… if it hadn’t been for a slight difference in physical attributes, he might have been out there with Rose as she played in the yard and splashed in puddles, having the time of her life in the downpour. Really, it was kind of an adorable sight.
At least… until she’d decided to jump into the sandbox.
“Rose, no!” he called, reaching out as she rolled around in the sand. “Rose, why…?”
“Mud, mud, muddy-muddy-mud…!” he heard her sing as she made a big mess of herself, tossing clumps of soggy sand around and even spattering some on her body. He had to hide his face behind his hands, then. He’d realized why Josephine didn’t like Rose to play in the rain…
His ears perked and he looked over at the girl. She seemed distraught, suddenly.
“Rose?” He blinked his good eye before asking, “Are you–”
“Unca Theo! The rain!”
He blinked for a second time, then… The rain was easing off. Rapidly, at that.
“Da’s not fair!” his niece grumpily shouted, crossing her arms and pouting.
“Tell me about it…” Joseph murmured. He was already looking around the backyard for something to rinse his niece off with. Apparently, Mother Nature wasn’t going to do it for him…
“Mud isn’t as fun without rain to put it back!”
He looked her way, again. Her ears were folded and she looked kind of upset, strangely.
“Well,” the fox said to her. “We could always put you in the bathtu– er, Rose?”
Again, he blinked. Rose… had vanished!
“Rose…? Where are–”
Another look around the backyard revealed… that the girl had run around behind a nearby tree and was hiding behind it.
“Well, you’re filthy…” Joseph commented, gesturing to her with one hand. “How–”
“No! Baths!” she shouted with a stomp of her foot.
“C’mon, Rose… don’t make me pull rank, here.” The fox crossed his arms. “I’ve let you get away with–”
“No baths…! Unless…!”
He blinked as she interrupted him. A second later, she skittishly trotted over to him, her body still caked with sand and mud.
“‘No baths, unless…?’” he repeated, looking at her as she grinned up at him. Her tail was wagging, too… He knew she was up to something.
“No baths… unless you take one, too!”
After giving another blink of his eye, he smiled. “Okay.”
“Okay!” She beamed, seeming content with that answer. “Um… can I have a towel, please?”
“Well, yeah.” He chuckled before asking, “Where are they?”
“Guest bath. Um… across from my room!”
“I’ll be right back, then. Stay here, okay?”
She gave a nod before hugging herself. He tilted his head… then, he frowned.
“You’re cold, aren’t you?”
“N-no…!” was her immediate response. But, her shivering body told him otherwise.
“I’ll grab a couple towels. We’ll get you into some nice, warm water, then.”
“O-okay…” She frowned… then, she smiled. “Th-thanks, Unca!”
Joseph gave a nod before going in search of towels. A short while later, he returned to his niece… who was shivering more violently than before. He was quick to wrap her and pick her up. He didn’t even mind when she wrapped her muddy arms around his shoulders and hugged on. Anything he could do to keep her from catching a cold was worth it, to him…
“I hate baths…!”
Joseph chuckled. He was kneeling near the bathtub of the master bathroom, running water for the little girl who, thankfully, had stopped shivering so much.
“I want bubbles…” she said, giving him a pout. “Can I have bubble bath? Please?”
“Sweetie,” the fox said as he reached over and ruffled her hair, “you’re too dirty for a bubble bath. The suds would all turn brown.”
“D-da’s not fair!” she cried, looking upset and throwing her arms down. “I–”
“But, if you’re good…”
The girl blinked… He’d tapped her on the nose.
“Once we get you clean, I’ll run you another bath with all the bubbles you want. Okay?”
Rose looked to the side… before looking up at him.
“Huh?” He tilted his head.
“Can we share the bath…?”
“You said you were gonna have a bath, too…!” she suddenly exclaimed with a pout. “I wanna share my bubbly bath with! If we have t’ have a bath, it should be fun!”
He almost told her that he didn’t mind baths… but, something stopped him.
“I don’t like baths, Unca Theo…”
She’d spoken in a calmer, somewhat timid tone. Her ears were folded and she was looking to one side…
“Rose?” he asked. “Are you okay?”
“Mommy tol’ me…” She sniffled. “She tol’ me somethin’ bad happened to me, in a bath, one time. Something that scared her! I don’t ‘member what… but, I really-really hate baths!”
She sighed, then.
“You… had a bad experience with baths, when you were younger, huh?” Joseph asked.
“Uh-huh…” She softly nodded. “I know I gotta take ‘em, sometimes…”
The girl looked toward her uncle, offering a gentle smile.
“I just don’t like doin’ it alone! I get scareded…! So… I wanna share my bath with my faaavoritist unca… so, it won’t be so scary. Mommy just sits near, usually… but…”
She paused, then… before walking over and giving her uncle a big hug.
“I miss sharing baths with my Mommy or Daddy… It made me happy.”
“You are such a little manipulator, you know what?”
“I dunno what that means…” she whispered with a giggle, feeling her uncle stroke her head. “Does it mean ‘yes?’”
“Let’s get you clean, first…”
She heard him chuckle, making her tail wag with hope and excitement.
“Love you, Unca Theo…”
“I love you, too, Rosey.”
After the bathwater was run and adjusted to a usable temperature, Joseph instructed his niece to climb into the tub. She was hesitant… not out of fear, but out of pure stubbornness… But, when he reminded her that she’d be getting a bubble bath if she behaved, she was quick to toss her towels off and hop in.
“G-gosh… It’s just right!” the girl beamed as she contently squirmed within the water. “How’d you do that?”
“Honestly?” Joseph said as he reached over and retrieved a bottle of wash, “this is about how warm I like my water, too. Of course… I’m usually taking a shower, instead.”
“I wanna shower!” she giggled. When she noticed him squirt some solution into his hand, she politely asked, “Are ya gonna wash me, Unca?”
He paused, then. For some reason, he hadn’t even considered the possibility that she might want to clean herself. He’d just grabbed the liquid wash and prepared to start in…
“Make me clean, Unca Theo!” she suddenly encouraged. “I bet you do a good job!”
“Aren’t… aren’t you…?”
“Aren’ I what?”
She happily smiled his way, her tail swishing under the water. He’d wanted to ask if she was too old to be washed by someone else, but…
“Eh, never mind.”
Having her encourage him… just made him want to fulfill her expectations.
“When I was li’l, Mommy used t’ wash me…” the young fox said, a cute purr rumbling out from between her words as her uncle started rubbing and scrubbing. “You’re just as soft ‘n nice as her, tho…”
“Well, I… guess I’ve had some practice?” he idly commented as he ran his fingers through the fur along her back and head.
“Mommy says she did, too!” Rose merrily laughed. “Did you practice on each other?”
“I… Sure,” the fox said, working up a lather. “Tell me if it gets in your eyes, okay?”
Joseph seemed pretty content to cleanse his niece of dirt and grime, that day. He actually had bathed his own niece, Iris, before… but, Rose was a fair bit older than Iris. She was also a bit better-behaved, too, funnily enough. Or, maybe… she just enjoyed having someone else clean her. He knew he certainly did… though, that was usually with a lover, not an older “relative.” And… quite frequently, it wasn’t just to get clean… He quickly shook his head clear of those kinds of thoughts, though, redoubling his focus on the young vixen in the tub.
“Are you okay with washing your front side?”
Rose’s ears perked and she looked his way, her eyes a little unfocused. She really had been enjoying herself, apparently!
“I said, ‘are you okay with washing your front side?’”
“Want me clean?” The girl splashed him with the slightly-dirty water before saying, “You do it!”
“This isn’t ‘behaving…’” Joseph commented.
He tilted his head as she giggled and retrieved the bottle of wash, then.
“Mommy ‘n I used t’ play ‘round, sometimes…” she said as she put some solution into her hand. “She doesn’t like washing my front, either.”
The male fox turned away, giving his niece a little privacy as she started in.
“She says, ‘You’re old enough to wash yourself, kiddo!’ But, when I was li’l, she ‘n Daddy used to wash me from th’ tips of my toes to th’ tops of my ears! But, not no more! Grown-ups’re so weird! Nekkid time is the bestest time!”
Joseph didn’t know what to say, to that. He was just kind of mesmerized by the girl’s words. Had her parents not taught her any sort of modesty? It was baffling to think about…
“I’m done, Unca Theo! Lookie!”
Joseph blinked, turning back to the little vixen in the tub. She was standing, covered in soggy, clean fur and some suds. His ears fell as he watched her pose and turn, her small body bending and her fur flicking water. Something about the situation made him feel… odd…
“Y-you, uh… yeah, that’s good,” he eventually commented.
“Bubble time…?” was her immediate, excited response. She was leaning over and wagging her sopping-wet tail, throwing water all over the rear wall near the tub.
“Yeah… yeah, uh… where–”
“Under the sink!” She squealed as she added, “I want berry, please!”
Joseph quickly excused himself to the area under the sinks as Rose pulled the plug out of the bathtub. It didn’t take him too long to find the berry bubble bath… though, he was a little surprised by how many other kinds of bubble concoctions that his “sister” owned. Vanilla, cinnamon, mango… Even one that, allegedly, smelled like fresh linens. He didn’t understand why anyone would want to smell like bedspread… but, he didn’t really need to, he guessed.
“I cleaned the dirty water out!” Rose called, catching his attention. “Can I make a new bath, now, Unca Theo?”
“Okay!” So, she did.
“Is, uh…” Joseph started as he headed her way. “Is this the stuff?”
As soon as he got close enough, the black-furred fox grabbed the bubble bath out of his hands… then, she squealed and giggled like she’d gone mad!
“Yummy berry bath!” she exclaimed, hugging it against her chest and brightly smiling. A moment later, she handed it back and said, “Three caps, please!”
Joseph blinked… then, he looked at the back of the bottle.
“It says… ‘one cap for a luxurious, berry-scented bath,’” he read.
“Dunno what ‘luck-sure-ius’ means, but it’s wrong!” the girl giggled.
Not wanting to argue with her, Joseph decided to pour a cap in at the start, just to see what happened. When it didn’t produce many suds, he added another. Two caps seemed like just the right amount, considering that, after only a half-minute, there were enough bubbles to cover a sitting adult… but, the excited expression on his niece’s face told him that… she really wanted three. And, so…
He poured a third in before capping the bottle and setting it to one side.
“Is the water a good temperature, Rose?”
“Uh-huh…!” She beamed at him as she sat there, playing with bubbles. “Join! Join!”
Oh, yeah… He’d forgotten about the offer she’d made him…
“I… don’t suppose you’d let me take a shower, instead?”
When she scowled at him… that was all the answer he needed.
“Okay, but…” His ears fell as he started to remove his shirt. “If your mom asks… tell her that I just, you know, washed you.”
“But, you did wash me, Unca Theo!” she giggled, gently splashing in the sudsy water.
“I mean… don’t tell her that we took a bath, together.”
The girl looked his way, tilting her head and watching him undo the fastens to his pants.
“Why not?” she innocently asked. “Daddy ‘n I used to share baths all-the-time!”
“Then, one day…” She pouted as she said, “He told me I was ‘too big for that.’ I miss baths with Daddy… We used to play with boats, ‘n get into splash fights, ‘n stuff like that!”
“Can’t you, uh… can’t you do that at the beach?” Joseph said, hooking his thumbs around the waistband of his boxers… while covering himself with his tail.
“We should go to th’ beach!” she giggled. “But, Daddy has work ‘n Mommy’s lazy…”
“Hey, what’s wrong, slow-poke?” she suddenly asked. “Hop in, a’ready!”