The Best I've Been In Years

Story by Digitaltf on SoFurry

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More from Julie and Jim.... anything more would spoil the surprise.


This and the subsequent chapter deal with human/human sexuality, underage sexuality, sexual abuse and similar themes. Reader discretion advised.

"I don't know why I can't just drive myself, Jim..." Sam started complaining as we drove towards my place.

"Easy... you're broke, I have gas, and we're going to the same place now, and we'll be both going to the same place in the morning. Julie has her own car for when Gwen wants to go home, so... it works well all around." I smiled.

"But...." Sam started. I chuckled and looked over to her with a smile. "Sam... it's me. Remember me? I'm one of the good guys."

Sam chuckled. "Ok, ok... I'm sure there's some ulterior motive to it all, which I'll probably find out later, but... ok."

I smiled. "Samantha Jane... you can peel off the body armor starting now. There's no need to defend against the male gender when it's just me... as far as humans go." Gwen giggled. "And I know how you like canines so... Just relax and enjoy." I patted Sam's leg.

She flinched a little at the contact but sighed. "Yeah... I keep forgetting it's you. I'm just.... so used to things, you know?"

I nodded solemnly. "I know, Sam. I know. But I also remember the last time something went very bad for you. If you end up curled up in my lap snuggled to me, I wouldn't object in the slightest. Especially since I know it does you good to let some light into those dark places you have."

For the first time in likely quite some time Sam just blushed and looked sheepish, like Gwen had a habit of. "I... Thanks Jim." she sighed deeply. "I keep forgetting how good you are to me. To us..."

We soon pulled into the drive and the wolves stood on the porch and howled, announcing our arrival. The cats voiced their greetings too, and both Sam and Gwen looked to me with amazement as the door opened to disgorge 5 more canines who set about milling around the Blazer in anxious expectation. Julie stood at the top of the porch.

"Welcome to my humble abode..." I smiled at my guests.

"These.... are all yours?" Sam asked, astonished.

I nodded. "That and the one I mentioned spending a night or two up at the pound. Six in all, not counting the wolves."

"I didn't know you had wolves, Jim..." Sam began.

"I don't.... officially. They just showed up on the morning of All Saints Day. They were... a gift from a ghost of mine." I smiled, reminiscing.

Both Sam and Gwen shot me curious glances, but decided not to ask. "Ok," I said, "who's gonna help me feed?"

"I will!" Gwen shouted and bounded out of the car and up to Julie. "Hi Miss Purcell. How are you tonight?"

"I'm fine... Gwen, is it? I remember you coming to see Sam a time or two at the zoo, but we've never really been properly introduced. Call me Julie... " she smiled. "I'm pleased you could join us tonight."

Gwen blushed, and I called out, "Dogfood's in the mudroom in a tote, two bowls in there, two in the kitchen, two in the living room, and two out here in the pumphouse. The steel bowls are for the Cats... Julie will show you."

"Right Jim!" Gwen said and dashed inside.

"I'll help Gwen... Supper's almost ready. Chicken Parmesiana... I stole another of your recipes, Jim." Julie smiled and headed back inside.

"I guess that leaves us to feed the outdoor cats..." I smiled to Sam.

"How many are out here?" she asked as I started loading up a large bucket with whole frozen chickens.

I did a mental count. "Five... two brother lions, a tigress and her two liger progeny - male and female."

"I..." Sam smiled. "I'm sorry I questioned your obligations out here, comparing them to my little apartment."

I chuckled as we walked out of the mudroom, around the edge of the garage and were about to enter the woodshed, heading for the office corridor. "Well... it's alright. And it'll be even more alright after supper."

"Huh?" Sam asked in confusion. "What's going on after supper?"

I smiled broadly as I unlocked the outermost door to the corridor. "A surprise for you and Gwen, even better than being out here for a night out."

Sam smiled and shook her head. "If it wasn't you, Jim, I'd think you were putting me on, but since it IS you... I just wonder what I'm in for."

I laughed heartily as I started opening the wrappers, extricating the bag of gizzards and such, then dumping powdered mineral supplements into the cavities of the birds so the cats would have the proper nutrients while consuming just poultry instead of animal-grade mystery meat cocktail. "You'll like it, as it'll be a weight off your shoulders."

* * * * *

The meal was rapidly finished... Chicken Parmesiana over angel hair pasta, buttermilk biscuits, and for dessert strawberry rhubarb pie with whipped cream or ice cream. I stood up. "Ladies... since I'm the only gentleman here..." this brought giggles from Julie and Gwen. "I'd like to present a gift to our guests, Samantha and Gwendolyn. But first, a question. Have you two ever been to the Masquerade Club?" I asked.

"We went once..." Sam admitted. "A bit costly, but seemed like a good party atmosphere. Why do you ask?"

I smiled broadly and Julie hid her face so as not to betray what was about to happen. "You two enjoy... special time with the wolves, right?"

Now it was Sam's turn to blush deep red. "I... we...." she immediately got defensive. "You know damned well we do! But I don't know what..."

I cut her off with a raised hand and a pleasant smile. "Samantha! Me, remember? Please. Julie and I have fun too, so we're all in good company here..."

Sam blinkblinked and sunk a little "Sorry, Jim."

I smiled tenderly. "Sam... it's alright. Just know that within my walls at this very moment you have nothing to fear from anyone. All here have secrets, some more than others. But we also share many things in common more than others we come into contact with." I smiled and sat down. "Enough of my speechifying. What you might not have known, Sam, is that there's a private club that's part of Masquerade... of... people trying unusual things. It's a sex club that's... somewhat elitist but also somewhat open. Everyone goes by a pseudonym, and everyone there has something to hide from the light of all society. Thus... anyone outing someone else, outs themselves too. Mutually assured destruction."

Gwen giggled and I poked her ribs. "You're a goofus at times, you know that?"

Sam settled a little. "Also, you've heard of Lavender Heart Kennels, right? The exclusive boarding place? That's where a number of dogs are "stored" that participate in things in the Club, like you two enjoy the wolves. I've talked with the owners, Gwen, and you can have a job there starting immediately. Keeping the dogs happy." I winked. "Offically it's "enrichment specialist", and it's not just the dogs for the club. It's a boarding kennel too, so there's new dogs that, from time to time, could use a "helping hand", so to speak?"

Gwen smiled. "I... think I'd like that. But that's sort of far for me to walk...."

I chuckled. "It would be from your present apartment, yes." I reached into my pocket and tossed Sam a set of keys over the table.

"What's this?" Sam asked, looking at the keys and the plastic fob on them.

"The keys to your new apartment." I smiled smugly.

Sam's jaw dropped and Gwen looked at me, shocked. "Really?" Gwen finally managed to say.

I nodded. "And it's right near the emergency exit for the kennels, so you two can have all the fun you like, anytime you like, and you won't have jack-shit for a commute to work."

Sam looked at me with a confused expression. "You mean there's... apartments there? In that big warehouse building?"

I nodded. "They're technically guest accommodations for the VIPs. In the building plans they're listed as "Auxiliary party room"s for the main club, but they're apartments nonetheless. The structure is zoned multi-purpose, so it's of no real consequence. And that means... you'll also have access to the private club's playrooms. Themed rooms for sexual fun. Hottubs, medical exam rooms,..."

Gwen shuddered when I mentioned that, and I patted her thigh. "Hey... we can work on that. It's more gynocology than cardiology." She shot me a weak smile, Julie looked to me with confusion and I just shook my head, leaving it for later.

"What's the rent?" Sam asked. "I don't know if we can afford...."

I cut her off with a hearty laugh. "Sam... rent, utilities... are gratis. You two get right-side-up first, and then we'll see what's what, ok?"

Sam looked utterly aghast. "Jim... how can you... you can't afford this, I'm sure you can't. Not... there, not like this, not...."

I smiled broadly. "Sam. Don't worry about it. Smile and say thank you. Really." I chuckled softly as Gwen reached over and tried squeezing the stuffings out of me. I wrapped my arm around Gwen and drew her close, patting her back. "I help out my friends. I even help out folks who AREN'T my friends. You two... I've known for long enough to be willing to help you when you're in a tight spot. No strings, no worries. My gift to you."

Sam just sat there and stared at the keys. "Jim, I.... I don't know what to say."

I smiled and tapped her knee gently with my boot. "You're welcome, Samantha Jane. Just enjoy."

With that she got up from the table and walked into the living room. Julie looked concerned and I shook my head. Gwen kissed my cheek and I winked to her, then nodded towards Julie as I got up to stand next to Sam, who was looking out the big picture window.

"Sam... it's alright. You're not beholding to me in any way for this. It's a gift." I said softly.

She turned, first anger in her eyes, and then she hugged me tighter than Gwen had. "Jim... I....." she took a shuddering breath.

I wrapped my arms around her and patter her back. "You can let go, Sam... I might be a man, but I'm not like others. You know that. And I'm certainly not like... you know."

I could feel the dampness on my shirt and knew she was crying. "I try so hard, Jim. You know I do. To keep it all out. To shut it away. To hate you men for... what happened. And then you go and do something like this. You do something good to shatter that hatred," she said into my chest, then looked up at me with tear-stained eyes. "I hate you for it, Jim. And I love you for it as well."

I leaned forward and kissed her forehead, at which she started sobbing against my shirt again. "It's alright, Samantha Jane. Let it all out. Be your true self tonight. No shell. No fears. The demons of your past can come out to play, but they can't hurt you so long as I'm here. Ok? Me. Not them. Me, Sam. Me." I murmured as I pet her back. Julie and Gwen came in, but stood in the doorway. Gwen hugged an arm around Julie, holding her tight.

Sam sniffled and then turned to see them, daggers in her eyes. I kissed her forehead again, she looked up at me, then smiled a bit meekly. "I just... I guard so much, Jim. And you just... pick the locks and force me to let it out," she said, her voice choking now and again.

"I know, Sam, I know.... Julie here... she's had a similar experience. Not as bad as you, but... still. And just like I've offered with you a hundred times before, and will a thousand times more, I've helped her through it." I offered, and Julie came over to put a hand on Sam's shoulder.

At first Sam shrank back but settled out soon enough. "It's true... I was... raped. Violently. Repeatedly. I'd just about given up on men at all but then I sorta... fell in with Jim here. The first few times I wanted to try. I really did. I wanted to... enjoy a man. I didn't think I could. And the first few times, I couldn't. But he didn't...." she blushed deeply then looked at me with adoring eyes. "He didn't freak out, he didn't get upset that I made him stop. And he certainly didn't force me. Eventually, I saw that he wasn't going to dump me then and there over it." She smiled as Gwen snuggled up to her again. "It was when we were off getting all the cats that are out there. And we... had fun. Eventually my thoughts of him took over what had happened and now.... we can enjoy intimacy without me being irrevocably plagued by the memories."

Sam looked at me with hopeful eyes showing through her tears. "You... really did... that for her?"

I smiled and nodded. "I'm patient, gentle... and you know how I make you feel already, Sam. I'd be willing to try to help you, too, if Julie doesn't mind."

Julie smiled at me. "You don't need to ask my permission, Jim. Not for something like this." She gave my arm a squeeze and a peck on the cheek.

I gave Sam a loving squeeze. "You can do it too... if only you're willing to try. I'm not trying to make you straight. It's not a powerplay with me, and you know that to be true. For me, it's a gift to you, just like the apartment. A gift to help you be a better you. To be who you are, to be who you want to be. Even if it's only me, it'll still be giving up something that's held you back for so long... those awful memories. And the fear they invoke." Sam looked up to me, tears still in her eyes. "Fear, hatred, worry... pain.... anxiety... sleeplessness... restlessness... anger. Let it all out. Let it leave you, as much as you allow." I sighed and took a deep breath. "It's ruled you so long, Samantha Jane.... take control of it and take control of your life."

Sam just buried her head in my shirt and sobbed. Gwen hugged us both and we wrapped our arms around her. I looked over to Julie who was crying too, but with a smile on her face.

"Jim... please... I want to try. Can I....?" she inquired, haltingly.

"My lap is yours tonight." I said, looking to Julie for confirmation. Julie merely smiled and nodded.

Sam sniffled and smiled up at me with a tender, sweet expression. I knew she felt vulnerable. I knew she felt victimized. I also knew she felt safe with me or she wouldn't have wetted my shirt in such a free manner.

"Gwen... Julie... how about you two pick the movie. Cleo will just have to satisfy herself with lounging somewhere other than my lap tonight." I commented.

Julie stood up and got the master index. "Who's Cleo?" Sam managed to ask, sniffling as she looked at me."

I turned a quarter-step and pointed. "Her."

Sam gasped a bit and Gwen squeee'd with glee upon seeing the lioness. "What's wrong with her? Her face is... deadpan," Sam asked, looked confused and somewhat concerned as Cleo padded over to Gwen.

"She has a brain injury that kinda messed with her normal expressions.... but... it does have some unusual benefits. Isn't that right, Cleo?" I asked. Cleo nodded affirmation, which startled Gwen and Sam.

"Did she just...?" Sam asked.

I nodded. "Yes. She comprehends most human speech and can indeed answer yes-or-no questions. But that's also why I have to keep her a secret. Scientists would like to dissect her brain to figure out how this came about. I can't let that happen, so her and her cubs have to remain a secret."

"Cubs?" Gwen asked excitedly.

I nodded. "Upstairs. Far door on the left, but just a moment..." I turned to Cleo. "Is it alright if Gwen visits your cubs?" I asked. Cleo nodded. Gwen squee'd in glee again and up the stairs she dashed. Sam looked up at me. "Jim Peters... I.... " she just sighed and hugged me close. "You're the only man I think I love."

I patted her back and Julie smiled. She then realized. "I'm... I didn't mean it... not like..." she stammered.

Julie smiled. "Sam, I understand. I know you're not about to steal him from me. I know you can't. Jim and I have something here. And I'm not about to get jealous. Not of him and the cats, or the dogs, or even you and Gwen. He told me long ago that love takes many forms. I understand now that it's true. He loves Cleo in a way different than he loves me. He loves you in a way that's still different. It's not that he loves me less or more, just differently, and I'm more than willing to accept that. Let him help you, if he can. He helped me... and even if our paths diverge at some point, I'll never forget him, nor regret loving him for his kindness, his gentleness, or his help."

Sam looked to me. "I... someplace I can change?" she asked.

"Bathroom's the only door on the left down that hall. That's if you want to. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do tonight. Ok?" I cautioned.

"I... think I want to try, Jim. I...." she took a shuddering breath. "While I have the enthusiasm, while you've got my gates open and bars down. I want to see how far... how..."

I just patted her rump as she started to stammer. "Go ahead... Julie can select a movie for us." I winked and Sam grabbed one of the duffels and headed for the bathroom.

"Gwen..." I called up the stairs. "Sam's changing for the evening. If you want to as well, come on down and head to the john."

"They're so CUUUUUUTE!" Gwen said, coming down the stairs slowly.

I couldn't help but chuckle. "Yes, they are. And growing more each day." I gave her a gentle squeeze. "Go with Sam... we'll be here. Maybe this time we'll get a lot further than the last time." I patted her rump too as she bounced off to the bathroom.

Julie stood to stand beside me. I wrapped my arm around her and kissed her cheek. "Things might get a little weird from here on out," I murmured softly. "Please don't be frightened or weirded out by any of it. If you question things, tread lightly and watch me for cues. This is the most vulnerable Sam's let herself be in quite some time. In fact, this may be the furthest we've gone since I've known her. And Gwen... has some demons of her own, so... if I take a more dominant role, just let me have my lead, ok?" I asked.

Julie smiled. "After how you were with me, I've no right to question your motives, Jim. Do what you feel is right. I know it's to help two of your friends... and I know we both will share a bed afterwards without any worry." she leaned up to kiss my cheek. "I trust you with my life, Jim Peters. And I trust you with theirs, too. I'll do whatever I can to help."

Just then the door to the bathroom burst open and Gwen came running out in an over-length nightshirt, panties, and nothing else - I could tell. Sam... came out less enthusiastically, but dressed similarly. I sat down in my recliner and unlaced and removed my work boots, then peeled off my socks while Julie called out, cheerily, "My turn!" as she dashed upstairs and soon came back down in one of her oversized nightshirts as well. Sam settled into my lap, curling up some.

"Feeling better, Sam?" I asked.

"Feeling vulnerable, Jim," she responded and shuddered a bit.

"It's me, Sam. Me. Nothing can or will hurt you tonight any moreso than you let it." I gave her a one-armed squeeze. "Be you. No shells, no bars, no security lasers..." she smirked a bit at that. "Just... be... you."

She sighed and relaxed, curled to me as Julie came back down and started going over the index with Gwen. "Why do I feel safe with you, Jim?" Sam asked.

"Because, with me, you ARE safe, Samantha Jane." I murmured in response, kissing the top of her head as the two seemed to select the romantic drama, "Water for Elephants". Cleo roaring back as the MGM lion intro flashed across the screen with its trademark roar.

* * * *

Sam remained cuddled to my chest for the duration of the film, listening to it and occasionally turning to watch. "Jim?" she asked at the end.

"Yes, Sam?" I replied.

"You said I could be me tonight... could we... " she stopped mid-sentence.

"What would you like to do, Sam?" I asked, thinking I knew what she wanted to say.

"Can we... just get naked for right now? I'm... enjoying this a lot, being close to you... feeling safe... I think I'd like... to take it a little further? If we could?" Her voice was as though she was younger... much younger. Not the stalwart, dominant Sam I knew at work, but instead Samantha, the woman who just wanted to be cuddled... loved. Not hurt. Afraid that the demons of her past would show their heads in a way that would cost her yet another friendship. Afraid to let a man into her heart... onto her body.

I looked to Gwen, who was now a little unsettled. I kissed Sam's head. "If you want to, that's what we'll do. But you'll have to let me up so I can, and I think I'll have to help Gwen a little first. Are you going to be alright if I help Gwen?" I murmured to her, but the others heard anyway.

"Jim? How do you light the oil heater? It'll get cool in here without it." Julie asked.

I thought for a moment. "Our bodies will adjust to the lower temperature, and we'll be cuddling anyway..." I smiled as Gwen had been hugging to Julie the same way she typically did to me. Well.. almost the same.

Sam looked up to me and then looked to Gwen. "Ok, Jim... Help her first... then... I want you to... help me, too. With that?" Her gaze was hopeful, vulnerable yet again.

I smiled tenderly and nodded. "That I can do. Maybe Julie can pick out another movie, or you can help her this time, Sam." I said. Sam nodded and got up, standing and stretching her legs a bit while I stood and started unbuttoning my shirt. The cooler air hit my body and it wasn't bad... just cool. I knew it'd feel colder for the women, but... it would be alright. It always was. Gwen was looking down as I stepped over and knelt down by where she was sitting on the sofa.

"Gwen... would it be ok?" I asked, taking her hand.

"I... Jim you know..." she started shuddering. I took both hands in mine and stood. She looked up at me, fear plain on her face. I hugged her. "It'll be alright." I whispered. "I've seen them before. You know that. So has Sam. Julie is the only one and you have nothing to fear from her."

"I can't help it, Jim. You know.... what it's cost me in the past." Gwen was shaking as I lifted the hem of her nightshirt just enough to hook my thumbs into her panties.

"May I, Gwen?" I whispered. She nodded against me and I started lowering them until they fell to the floor at her feet. "Now for the big one... you can do this, ok?" I murmured.

She looked up at me with the same fear that I'd seen so many times. I smiled tenderly down at her and she buried her head in my chest, hugging tightly. "You ready, hon?" I whispered softly.

"No, but... please do it. You know I can't do it for myself." she nearly whimpered. "Not with the lights on."

"You can do it for yourself, Gwendolyn... you can, but it's easier if I did it." I started raising the hem of her nightshirt higher and higher. "It's ok... it'll be ok, you'll see." I murmured as it rose above her stomach, then breasts. She lifted her head, then haltingly let go of me to lift her arms as I lifted the inverted shirt from her. She then hugged tight to me. I rubbed her back. "See... almost there. Now all you have to do is let go and hug to my side." I whispered.

Sam was sitting in my recliner, knees to her chest, Julie was seated casually on the sofa, both watching me undress Gwen. She looked up to me, saw my smile, and some of her confidence returned. She swiveled a little, then some more, Sam smiled a bit from her closed-ball position, and Julie sighed, the tension having broken as it became clear what Gwen was so concerned about...

Amid the little B-cup breasts lay a slightly-faded rough midline scar, from just under her neckline down to the upper part of her stomach revealing that she had received thoracic surgery at some point in her life, and another scar across her pelvic brim just above her bare mons bore mute testament to major abdominal surgery, likely more recently. She was ashamed of both, constantly thinking that others would see her as ugly, or "sliced up like a turkey on Christmas". I kissed the side of her head. "See... all that worry for nothing."

Gwen looked up to me and blushed, smiling sheepishly. "I know... I... should have known. You were the first to not stare, or make comments, ... you just asked, and I answered. You weren't freaked out by them, and.... you let me cuddle to you when I needed it." she leaned up and kissed my cheek. "Thank you for doing that, and for me tonight. You know how I... have trouble..."

I just shushed her with a finger to her lips and smiled. "It's alright, Gwen." I smiled as Julie stood and dropped her panties, then lifted her shirt with much less ceremony or worry. Holding Gwen's hand, I gave it a squeeze and left her with Julie before standing before Sam, hands outstretched to take hers. "Your turn, Sam... if you want to.

Sam looked frightened, and flinched when both my hands touched hers. "I... I want to, Jim. Really I do, but... I'm... afraid."

"Afraid of me, Sam?" I asked. She nodded. "What are you afraid of me doing?" I inquired further.

"You'll..." she took my hands as she stood, facing me. "You'll hurt me. You'll... make me do things. You'll... you'll..." she said... answering but not really thinking.

"Why would I do those things?" I asked, my hands on her shoulders, smiling down at her.

"I... " she sighed and hugged me tight. "I know you wouldn't do any of that, Jim. I know it inside, but that doesn't stop me being afraid."

I patted her back. "I know... step by step. Do you want to take the next step, Samantha?" I asked. She nodded. "Can you do it yourself, or do you need my help like Gwen did?" I asked.

She looked up at me, then silently stepped back and dropped her own panties. Then she slowly lifted her shirt off, revealing her breasts and bare body before me in its entirety. She stood back for a moment, then began shaking. I reached forward and touched her arm, at which her eyes flashed daggers, then just as fast she grabbed tight to me again, her breath coming in gasps as I wrapped my arms around her. She sniffled some more just as before.

I barely heard Gwen whisper in Julie's ear, "This is the first time she's been completely naked around a man in.... almost forever."

I smiled over to the two and patted Sam's back. "You ok there, Sam?" I inquired softly. A nod came as the response. "Do you want me to undress further, or do you want me to remain as I am for right now?" I asked.

She sniffed deeply and looked up to my face. "I..." she closed her eyes and half whined. "I know it's you, Jim. I know it yet the fear's there. I want to know, though. I want to be able to... at least with you. I know I'm safe with you. I... don't want you to undress further, but I do want you to. I want to know the feel of your skin on mine. I want... to curl up in your lap again flesh to flesh. I want.... to know what it feels like to have a real man inside me because I want it, not because he tells me. I want.... " her breathing was rapid and she whined again. "I'm afraid, Jim..." she started shaking.

I unbuttoned my jeans and let them drop just past my recliner. Before I dropped my skivvies, I murmured. "You know I won't be able to control it... right? If I let it free?" She was still clinging to my front, tighter than ever as she shook, but she nodded. "I know... I... know." she said between shuddering breaths. I pondered, then dropped my briefs as well, standing there, nude, before the three women with one shuddering as she clung to me for dear life.

I pirouetted us about, so I was standing against the edge of my recliner. "I'm going to sit down now... you can snuggle up as you had been, as you want to be, ok, Sam? I said quietly. A nod was my response. I slowly sank into my chair and scooted back. Almost before I had stopped she was seated crossways in my lap and her head pressed tightly against my chest, her outer leg drawn up some as she half-hugged to me.

She took a shuddering breath and looked up to me. I smiled at her. "You alright, Samantha?" I asked. Her eyes were wide, wild with worry. I smiled softly and she said, quietly, with a shuddering breath. "yes."

"Do you want to watch another movie?" I asked. She laid her head back on my chest as her breathing started normalizing. She nodded reply. I pondered what to put on... something soft... sappy... I sighed a bit thinking through my movies. I didn't really want something that'd unbottle my own demons while I was dealing with Sam's, I canted my jaw. Balto? No. I'd think of Maverick. Same with Iron Will and Never Cry Wolf. To Dance With A White Dog would ... remind me of Max, even though Ghost was laying just a couple feet from me. Beethoven wasn't exactly happy, even though Reggie was sacked out over by the stairs. Cleo had gone up, but Secondhand Lions isn't exactly the right kind of show for how Sam was. Christmas shows were out, and so was The Trial of Lassie, or any of the Homeward Bound/Incredible Journey variants. I couldn't rightly think... uplifting, love story but no animals.

I smiled as it came to me. Union Pacific. I mouthed the words to Julie who looked confused for a time. I repeated the action several times until she caught what I was saying... or not saying, as the case was. She got the right disc in the changer and I smiled as the familiar overture music started. It was a Cecil B. DeMille classic, and one of my favorites for its railroad theme, but this time it was the "conquer your challenges" that I was going for with Sam, who remained cuddled to my chest as the movie rolled. My chair was still scooted to right next to the sofa so Julie leaned against my other arm, and Gwen was snuggled to her, lay-sitting with knees folded and her feet under her. Sam's breath was soft and even, almost as though she were asleep against me.

She flinched as I moved to put the footrest up and lay back a little, but she adjusted her positon on me and sighed contentedly, having relaxed more and more. I sighed happily as the tension seemed to leave her body. "I've not seen her like this ever," Gwen whispered to Julie. "Not even with me or other girls."

Julie smiled back, and whispered back. "Jim's such a sweet guy. I don't know why he hadn't been snapped up by someone else before I met him."

I shushed both with a finger to my lips, knowing there'd be plenty of time for discussion later. Sometime during the show Cleo came down to use the bathroom... Gwen kinda watched as the lioness went down the hall and into the door. Her head then whipped around to look at me incredulously when the flush was heard and Cleo padded back in to lay down near the steps. I smiled and nodded, affirming that she did indeed just witness a lioness using a toilet.

The movie came to an end, and the clock on the wall told me that sleep would be advantageous at this point. Sam was half-snoozing against me already, so I got Julie's attention and motioned for her to turn down the lights, toss me a flat-ish pillow, and to cover us in a blanket. I was only one-handed at that point, with the other wrapped around Sam, who shifted comfortably as I stretched out, reclining all the more in the chair to lay out more comfortably myself. Julie snuggled up spooned with Gwen after she'd turned off the lights in the living room, and I set the TV to play a few BBC programs and turned the volume way down.

Sam sighed deeply with her head nearly covered. "You ok, there, Sam?" I whispered.

"The best I've been in years, Jim." came the murmured response. "The best I've been in years."

I closed my eyes, drifting off into pleasant slumber smiling, knowing just how far Sam had come with me tonight. Grateful that I could help her with her invisible wounds as much as in the past I'd helped Gwen with her visible ones.

Odds and Ends

A knock came on my door. "Kommen sie!" I called out. "Hi Mr. Peters. You wanted to see me?" Zack asked as he popped his head in. "Yeah, I did. Have a seat." I said casually as Zack came in and shut the door behind him. It was Noble and Grace's...

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You Realize, This Means War

I took the next day off to split some wood, which Julie dutifully helped with as I educated her some about the different kinds of wood, burning habits, and similar issues that would affect performance of wood stoves and boilers as I operated the...

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To See Another Morning

"Sir... you can't. SIR! I said you CAN'T go down... SIR!" a feminine voice called down the hall in louder and louder tones. A knock came on my door as I heard the tap-tapping of shoes along the corridor. "SIR! I told you that you CAN'T just walk around...

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