XI. Dinner and a movie

Story by Vexxus on SoFurry

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XI. Dinner and a movie

As told by Nina

A delightful scent of meat had filled the kitchen in the past thirty minutes. I hadn't fully mastered the secret recipe of my family's meat stew, so it had taken me slightly more time to prepare than my mother would need. It didn't matter in the end, as the simmering took the longest, and couldn't go any faster than it did.

Meanwhile, Milo hadn't been idling either. Dressed in his favorite sleeper, he had set the table for dinner, purposely omitting silverware at his own plate. He put his plastic airplane spoon there instead. Although it requires mutual coordination we hadn't mastered yet, Milo and I liked to feed each other. It helps us to get into our puppy mindsets, and we enjoy how such a simple act makes us feel loved by our significant other.

All this while, I had been standing in the doorway to the kitchen, idly petting Kaeden on the top of his head. Every time my hand touched his fur again, I could feel him trembling. I felt sorry for the poor Shepherd, and I wondered how he was really taking all this.

Once he was done with the table, Milo converted the couch to a twin bed. He put a waterproof sheet on it, so nobody would have to worry about leaks. Then came a regular sheet and a blanket we often covered ourselves with when we cuddled on the couch together. For some reason, snuggling is more comfortable under a blanket.

The sound of the doorbell derailed my train of thought.

"You hear that?" I asked, taking Kaeden's hand. "That's the sound of your girlfriend at our door!"

I guided the restless puppy to the door. He didn't say anything, but his eyes told me he was eager to see Lily again, even though she had been gone for only a few minutes. I opened the door to let her in, then quickly closed it behind her again.

"Well, I could've saved time by taking a bottle of shampoo outside with me," she remarked, putting down the dinosaur-printed shoulder bag.

"I'll get you a towel. Please stay where you are," I said, then went to do as I announced.

When I returned, Kaeden was tightly holding his stuffed wolf. His girlfriend had taken off the coat I lent her, and I could see she was fighting the urge to shake the cold rain out of her fur. I wrapped the towel around her shoulders, then helped her dry off her headfur somewhat.

"Goodness, Lily, you're all shaking!"

"Y-yeah, it has g-gotten kinda cold outs-side."

"Here, let me dry off your paws," I offered.

Lily nodded.

"There you go. Why don't you take Kaeden to the living room?" I suggested. "Milo has set up the couch, so you can snuggle up under the blanket with the boys. It should get you warmed up soon enough."

"That sounds wonderful. Come on, pup," she said, taking her boyfriend's paw. "Let's get warmed up."

I returned to the kitchen to see how the stew was doing. It was still simmering nicely, but I knew it wouldn't be done yet for at least another twenty minutes. Lily would be at room temperature again long before that, judging by the two 'puppies' that cuddled her from either side.

"Nina?" Milo called from the living room, using his puppy voice. "How much longer before dinner?"

"A while, but not too long," I responded as I returned back to the living room.

Puppies can't tell the time, so mentioning it would be out of character, wouldn't it?

"Long enough to watch Roundup Adventures?"

I smiled.

"I guess so. If our guests agree, that is."

"That'd be good for Kaeden," Lily said, giving him an affectionate hug from the side. "He could really use a distraction right about now."

The trembling 'puppy' in question nodded. "The storm's still bothering me a li'l."

"Are you okay with it, though?" I asked, wondering how much she really wanted to watch a children's TV show, not being a 'puppy' like us and all.

"Oh, it's no problem at all. Don't worry, I'll keep myself entertained," she said. "I'm more worried about what's going to keep Kaeden occupied in the current conditions."

Kaeden whimpered quietly and buried his muzzle in his girlfriend's side.

"In that case, I'll be right back."

Still wearing a smile on my muzzle, I took Milo's laptop from the sideboard and handed it to him.

"You pick an episode, okay?"

He lisped a 'yush', then powered up the device.

"Um, could you get the charger, please? The battery is getting low an' stuffs."

While he looked for the episode he wanted to watch, I retrieved the charger and plugged it in.

"How 'bout we watch the one with Hania learning to breath ice?" Milo asked.

"Whatever you like, angel," I reassured.

"Okies!" he replied mirthfully.

A few clicks later, the theme song played. It was good to see Milo got engrossed in the story pretty fast. Even Kaeden soon ignored the storm outside and turned his attention to the screen. To further block out any signals of what was going on outside, I closed the curtains in the kitchen and the living room.

The puppies didn't notice, however. They appeared to have forgotten about the storm, too busy watching the show and hugging their respective plushies. Time passed quickly, and even Lily appeared to enjoy herself. Well, maybe 'enjoying' is the wrong word, but it certainly didn't look like she was bored. Mostly, she seemed focused on her boyfriend..

I went to the kitchen every now and then, to check on the stew and stir the contents of the pot. When the episode was over, dinner was ready. I love perfect timing. Before we sat at the table, I briefly snuck into Milo's room to get our bibs out of his toy box. I also took Natasha, because I didn't want her to be left out.

Milo tried to hide behind Sharra when I returned carrying our bibs. His ears drooped a little and he let out a soft whimper. I couldn't see his tail, though, as it was buried under the blanket. In effect, I had a hard time figuring out whether he was actually embarrassed, or just pretending. 'In a relationship, when all else fails: communicate', my dad's half-joking advice echoed through my head.

"Angel, if you don't want your bib, just tell me. I think you should wear it, though. You're probably going to make a bit of a mess, and you wouldn't want to ruin your sleeper, would you?"

He quickly shook his head.

"That's what I thought," I reassured. "Now be a good puppy and go sit at the table, okay?"

Milo nodded and slowly got up. He unplugged his laptop and put it back where it belonged, before he sat down at the table, on his usual spot.

"Go ahead and take a seat at the other side," I said to the Shepherds.

With a bit of a grin on my muzzle, I took Milo's bib from the table.

"I don't know if Kaeden needs a bib, but if he does, he can use mine. I'm not going to play puppy yet, so I won't be making a mess of myself."

Kaeden looked quite fussy at the prospect of wearing a bib. Or perhaps it was only because it was more of a girly one? I couldn't really tell for sure.

"Milo has to wear one, see, Kaeden?" Lily spoke up, after a few moments of the Shepherd shaking his head back and forth in protest.

"But it's all... i-it's not even for a boy!" he said. "And I don't eat messy at all," he said, crossing his arms and putting on a pouty face of such intensity I had trouble not laughing. At least that answered my question about why he didn't like the idea.

"Remember what you learned, puppy?" Lily replied, in the same even, calm voice.

Kaeden's ears dropped back and he nodded, the fight in him seemingly escaping with his breath. He nodded, but I was a bit confused as to what had just happened. What had Kaeden learned where? Nevertheless, now probably wasn't the best time to ask about it. And besides, I had a puppy of my own to take care of.

"Milo, you'll have to let go of Sharra, so I can take care of your bib. Can you do that for me?" I asked kindly.

He whimpered, clutching the shark a bit tighter.

"Angel, what's the rule on plushies during mealtime? I can give you a bath, but Sharra won't like that as much."

I glanced at Lily, who grinned at the irony of a stuffed shark with water allergy.

"B-buh... but Kaeden is havin' his pwushie too!" Milo argued.

"You know what? Let's make a deal. You're going to give Sharra to me, and I'll put him somewhere safe. In return, you can hold my tail. Would that be okay, puppy?"

Milo's ears drooped.

"O-okays..." he said, slowly handing his plushie to me.

"Kaeden, maybe we should follow our host's example?" Lily added in. The Shepherd seemed to loathe giving up his plushie, but perhaps seeing Milo do so had sparked a bit of competition in him - not wanting to be the only one who couldn't manage a meal without his stuffed companion. As I walked by with Sharra in hand, he shyly handed his wolf to me.

"His name is Ikici, an' he won't bite or anything as long as you're nice to him. A-an' he likes sharks and stuff too, so, y'know, that's good."

If the poor dog had been blushing any harder, I think he would have caught fire. I gave him a gentle smile and assured him that Ikici would be perfectly safe until after dinner.

Sharra and Ikici got a nice spot on the couch, next to Natasha. Then, the moment we had all been waiting for was finally there. I took the pot from the stove and put it down on the dinner table, closely watched by three pairs of hungry eyes. Swiftly, so they would not devour me instead of the food, I dished up a serving for everyone.

Kaeden looked at his girlfriend longingly, probably waiting for her to give him permission to eat. She, in turn, gave me a questioning look as well, albeit a much more restrained one. I smiled, and turned to Milo.

"Angel, what do we always do before we eat?" I asked him.

Before he answered, I felt him grab the end of my tail. He was obviously in his puppy mindset now, but I couldn't discern whether or not he was deliberately so.

"We... we's say thankies?" he replied after a few seconds.

I nodded and waited for him to do what he was supposed to.

"Um, thankies for makin' food, Nina."

"Yes, we definitely appreciate it. Much better than the fast food I was planning to get at the hotel - which reminds me, I should probably call and cancel our reservation after dinner." Lily looked over at Kaeden then, who was staring intensely at his food.

After a few moments, I think he realized we were all staring at him, when he looked up eyes wide as dinner plates.

"What do we say, Kaeden?" she prompted him.

"Oh! Um, s-sorry. Thanks, Nina, it smells really good," he said, drawing out the syllables in 'really'.

"You're all welcome. Now go ahead and eat. I think I'm not the only one with a rumbling tummy."

The verbal silence that followed confirmed my suspicions. For a while, the soft sounds of the silverware touching the plates was all we heard. I didn't need to encourage Milo to eat, either. He was at least as hungry as I was, and he eagerly swallowed every spoonful of stew I scooped up for him.

I noticed Kaeden was eating on his own - and both were eating rapidly. Given that Kaeden evidently lived as a puppy around the clock, I kind of had expected him to have to be fed by his girlfriend. Maybe that simply wasn't something they did, or perhaps they were hungry enough to forego the activity. They both seemed to be enjoying the dish.

"Wow, Nina. This stuff is really good! How do you cook this?" Lily asked after a few minutes.

I heard Milo chuckle next to me, as he already knew what I was going to say.

"Sorry, but I'm not allowed to tell you. It's a secret recipe that has been in our family for a couple of generations now, passed down from mother to daughter."

"So you can't tell us what you put in it?"

I scooped up another spoonful and offered it to Milo.

"Nope. Unless you're allergic to anything, in which case I'm sorry I didn't ask before."

"Oh, no, that's not the case. I was just curious."

"It started out as any other recipe did, but when my great-grandmother perfected it, she made her daughter sign a contract."

Lily cocked her head. "Really? Why is that?"

"More or less as a joke, but they both liked the idea and my grandmother carried on with that tradition."

"You never told me about that, princess," Milo said, talking in his grown-up voice again. "What does that contract even say?" Lily asked.

I giggled.

"I'm not allowed to talk about 'The Secret' with anyone but my mother, my grandmother, my daughter, or my daughter's daughter." I explained, making quotation marks in the air with my fingers. "The latter two, of course, aren't that relevant for me, but you get where it's going, right?"

"Probably. Most of it is show, isn't it?" the Shepherd continued.

"I think you could call it that. But you and I both know life can be a lot more fun if you still play pretend every now and then."

"Actually, I wanted to ask you some more questions about that. You... you're not always Milo's caregiver, are you?"

I slowly shook my head, looking down at my plate.

"Did... I say something wrong?"

"No, it's just... I don't know. Maybe I'm kind of embarrassed to talk about it."

"Let me guess, that's because I'm not a littlefur? Well, I'm trying to understand you guys better, that's why I'm asking. I want to know more on how I can make Kaeden happy, but that's hard if I can't grasp what this is about for him. I may not be a 'puppy' myself, but I'm immersed in it daily. I promise I won't judge or anything."

Closing my eyes for a few seconds, I tried to gather the courage to talk again.

"We, um... Milo and I tend to switch up a lot. Sometimes he's little, and on other occasions, he takes care of me."

"But usually, we play puppy together," Milo added.

By now, we were done eating, so Milo could participate in the conversation more easily. Kaeden, as usual, didn't say much, but he didn't seem to be discontented, so I assumed he was doing okay.

"How does that work?" Lily asked. "If you're both little, don't you need a caregiver?"

"It's pleasant to be taken care of, but playing puppy is our main interest. To us, it's about letting go of adult responsibilities for a while, and to consciously decide not to think of any worries we might have."

"I discovered it after my parents... y'know..." Milo said shyly.

Lily nodded in understanding, and Kaeden's ears perked up.

"I began wetting the bed, and my grandmother soon got tired of the extra laundry. Well, mostly, she felt concerned about me. She told me she could help me wake up in a dry bed, so I asked her what I had to do. Granny showed me a cloth diaper and explained she wanted me to wear it to bed."

"And did you... did you like it?" Kaeden asked curiously.

Milo shook his head.

"They didn't fit me that well, and I found them uncomfortable. Besides, they had to be washed too, so the laundry issue wasn't resolved. But then I switched to disposables, which I did find comfortable. I like the soft padding and the smooth plastic, and they don't itch like the cloth ones did."

He pulled my tail a little bit closer.

"Gradually, I began to trust my diapers, as I always woke up in a dry bed. I wet almost every night, but after a few weeks, that changed as well. I had woken up dry once, but I needed to piddle badly."

"And you decided to use your diaper?" Lily asked.

Milo shyly nodded.

"I had never done that on purpose before, but I loved it. It held everything, and I felt safe and warm. My diaper was always a bit clammy when I woke up, and I had never experienced the feeling of knowingly wetting one."

"Then how did you get into the other stuff? When did you get that shark, for starters?"

"I, um... I bought Sharra a couple of days after I moved out. Before that, I had a teddy bear. After my parents died, I often felt lonely, especially at night. My grandmother picked up on that, and she got me a teddy to hold, so I wouldn't have to sleep alone. I didn't believe it'd work at first, but I soon became friends with it, y'know?"

Lily cocked her head.

"Like how Kaeden and his wolf are cuddle buddies," I explained.

The Shepherd grinned, and his girlfriend's facial expression told me she understood it.

"Eventually, I began wearing a diaper on days when my grandparents were out. I didn't discover more of my inner puppy until I moved out, though. That's when I bought Sharra, and a pacifier, and a sleeper. All of those things make me feel safe. I guess that's what infantilism is about for me."

"So it's kind of a way of feeling safe and relaxed. I think I get it," Lily said. "You needed those emotions and feelings, and since you already had to wear diapers for a medical problem, you kind of brought in the rest of the puppy stuff with it. That's kind of how it happened with Kaeden, I guess."

The other dog nodded.

"It's a long story," he said. "But I like that... that I'm not in control. That I can trust Lily to do what's best for me. I guess I've never really liked taking charge of things, and a puppy is kind of the best example of the stage in your life where you _have_to trust someone else to take care of you. It makes me feel safe and relaxed, too."

"Not all that different, then," Milo said, nodding his head. "But what do you mean about it being a long story? Didn't you need them for the same reason I did?"

Lily and Kaeden gave each other an odd look at this.

"It's your decision, puppy," she told him.

"I-I should probably ask her if it's okay, right?" he said quietly, although I could still hear.

"If you think that's best," she said, placing a hand on his arm.

Kaeden turned his head back to us. "I-it's... I want to explain, but, it's, um... complicated," he said, finally. "Later this evening?"

I nodded my approval. I didn't get what all the fuss was, but evidently something was going on. As I recalled, I got a similar answer when I asked Lily about how she'd met Kaeden. What could those two things possibly have to do with each other? Lily wasn't an infantilist and didn't wear diapers, at least as far as I could tell, so what could their meeting story have to do with why Kaeden found playing puppy to be safe and relaxing?

"And what about you, Nina?," Lily said, breaking my train of thought. "You don't wet the bed, do you?"

I slowly shook my head.

"To keep it brief, I've been a puppysitter for a few years, and I eventually got jealous of my charges. Contrary to Milo, I started with a plushie and a pacifier. He's the one who introduced me to diapers, and I immediately loved it. They make me feel little, even more than Natasha and my pacifier do. I really like wearing diapers, but I don't need them to play puppy, though."

It was now Kaeden's turn to cock his head.

"It's mostly about the mindset for me. When I let my inner puppy come out, I enjoy how I let go of grown-up responsibilities, especially when Milo takes care of me. As an artist and a student, I sometimes find myself in a situation where a lot of people have high expectations. It can get pretty stressful, and playing puppy helps me to escape the pressure for a bit, and it allows me to continue working with new energy when I decide to be big again."

"Okay... I think I understand the two of you better now. Can you explain some more about when you're both regressed, though? You can't be a caregiver when you're little, can you?"

"That's why we call it _playing_puppy. It's mostly about playing for us. For instance, we bottle-feed each other when we're little just as well," I explained.

"And what about diapers? I always check Kaeden, and I change him as needed... do you check each other, maybe?"

"Nah, not when we're both little," Milo said. "We don't have real accidents, so we know when we should change. We almost always change each other, though, even when we're little."

"Isn't that weird? I mean, if I would be playing puppy too, I think it'd be kind of strange if Kaeden changed me."

"Maybe you're right, but isn't all of this kinda weird?" my boyfriend asked rhetorically.

"It's not primarily about the role play for us. I enjoy taking care of Milo, and it's a special way of showing how I love him. It's a form of nurturing and bonding we both enjoy, and it's a great way to calm down either of us when we're tensed or feeling down."

"When we're both playing puppy, I drop my act for a moment when I change Nina. The same goes for her when it's the other way around," Milo added. "That's the way the cookie crumbles, I guess."

"I think I get it," Lily said, nodding her head slowly. "With Kaeden, he likes knowing that someone else is in charge, of being able to depend on me, I guess."

"So that's why you're in diapers all the time?" I asked the little Shepherd.

Kaeden blushed a little, but nodded. "Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think that's why I like it. Having a constant reminder that I need to depend on someone else makes me feel all... safe and warm."

"But don't you have a job, or, like, family events or something? Wouldn't someone notice?" Milo asked.

"Lily says I need to accept the idea that somebody might notice someday... but nobody has so far," Kaeden said. "I think when you're the one wearing them it's on your mind so you worry about it, but it's not really something anyone else thinks about. And if they did, they'd probably assume I had a medical problem and that it would be rude to ask about it."

"Which isn't far from the truth..." Lily added playfully.

"So, do you take care of yourself at work then? If you can't help when you go... I mean, that's like eight hours or more before you'd see each other again, right?"

I didn't think wearing like Kaeden was something Milo would want to do, but I was still interested in how they made it work. It seemed like it would be very difficult, but seeing it happen right in front of me was definitely piquing my interest in the idea.

"I'm actually mostly okay during the day, but, no, Lily still takes care of that stuff when I'm at work. I mostly have temp jobs with construction agencies, so Lily either comes to my job site at lunch time or home to check me, and change me if I need it. I could last longer, but, y'know, it's best not to so I don't get a rash or anything."

"I have a pretty flexible job," Lily explained. "Not far from home, or any of the places Kaeden has worked. Often times I walk to work during the summer. It's good for us to see each other during the day, and it lets us maintain the lifestyle, I guess you could call it. If it ever got impractical, we'd work something out."

"Okay, but what about actually playing puppy?" I asked. "A lot of the times you seem pretty grown up, even though you're always wearing a diaper. Doesn't that make it hard to get out of 'puppy mode'?"

Kaeden shrugged. "Sometimes I'm in that mindset, sometimes not. I can slip in and out of it pretty easy, but if I need to be an adult I can. If I want to be a puppy, I can do that too. And it's easier to feel like Lily's in charge if I don't have to simply wait until 'adult time' to be changed. It's always when she thinks it's best, no matter what. I'm always kind of a puppy in that sense, I guess, but... I can still be an adult and be functional and productive and everything, yet still have that sense of safety with me throughout the day. And some of that has to do with the story we'll explain later, too."

"In our case, though, Kaeden is the only 'little one' in the relationship," Lily said, taking over the reins. "When he really wants or needs to play puppy, we always know what roles we fill. I know you said it's not really about role-playing for you, but how do you decide who's going to be little when you play?"

I shrugged. "We usually just ask each other what we want. And when I notice Milo has had a particularly hard time, I take care of him. Or at least the first half of the evening. Every now and then, he invites me to join him."

"Which you always do, because you can't resist it," my boyfriend said a little teasingly.

"Oh, hush you. Who's wearing the bib as we speak?" I playfully countered.

Lily laughed, and even Kaeden snickered.

"Alright, alright, you got me," Milo surrendered, taking the bib off. "I suppose I'd better go do the dishes."

"I'd appreciate that, angel," I said.

Just when Milo got up to do as he announced, the lights in the living room and the kitchen flickered, then went out completely. To add insult to injury, the sound of thunder rumbled past the window.

X. Through the Looking-Glass

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