Circe's Housecat
or, 'Software Patches'

by "Socks the Catt"

He wandered around the halls of the castle aimlessly. It was a pure wonder that he made It this far at all, and just being here made him feel giddy with delight. All his worldly possessions on his back, he was looking, searching.

"DARN IT!" He heard a female voice from a room up ahead. "Life was so much easier before these computers came along!" He followed the noise. "Used to be that you could just set up a spell or just sent one of the creatures out with a message but NO, NOW they want e-mail! Now they want links!"

He stood in the doorway silently, in awe. He saw a woman, not just any woman, but the woman he knew could only be Circe. Her Greek heritage was obvious. Her skin glowed with a radiance of the Mediterranean. He couldn't see her eyes, but he knew without seeing them, this was the woman he was looking for. As he stood in awe of her presence, he felt his heart pounding through his chest. All this time, all his searching, it all finally paid off. He found Circe.

Circe wasn't having a good day. Not only did she not get to transform anyone today because of this new-fangled computer, but now it wasn't doing anything she wanted to. Finally, she hit the monitor with her hand with a disgusted groan. "Why do you not work?" she screamed at it.

"Can I help?" Circe sat straight up in her chair, she thought she was alone, and had to hold herself back from throwing a spell out of reflex. She looked over to her open doorway, and saw a man. He looked to be barely a man, and had a beaten up look to him. Barely over 5'6", he was very thin. His sparkling blue eyes held an innocence about him, his dirty blond hair was long. His clothing dirty, unkempt, and almost falling apart. "Can… Can I help you?" he asked.

"Who are you?" Circe snapped.

"I'm Justin. I.. well I mean I thought I could…"

"Do you know where you are?" Circe demanded.

"Well… I mean yeah, I know where I am but I didn't think I was here!" Justin stammered. After a moment of looking at Circe, he managed to say "You're beautiful!"

"Oh, let me guess." Circe folded her arms in front of her. "You've come here to avenge your brother. I get one of those a week."

"No! I…"

"Your father then?" Justin shook his head fast. "Uncle? Cousin?" Circe stood up, and walked over to Justin. "I don't have time to deal with you right now, I've had a VERY bad day. And if you are not on the other side of my front door in five minutes I'm going to turn you into a mouse and throw you into Saurina's bog!" She poked him in the chest with her finger to make her point.

"But… But I thought that…" Justin was stammering again

"FOUR minutes FIFTY seconds! I suggest you leave." Circe said. She took a step back, and slammed her door into Justin's face. Justin stood in shock. "FOUR THIRTY!" he heard her yell. He then considered his dilemma, and made a sprint for the front door. Circe smiled at her little victory, then looked at her computer. "Oh, if you were only a man. I could make you into something worth while if you were."

Justin went out the front door, and it slammed shut behind him on it's own accord. He stood there, panting hard, eventually falling to his knees to catch his breath. It was dark when he found the place, and didn't know anywhere he could go safely in Circe's realm, banking everything on the large castle he thought might be hers. As he knelt there, he suddenly realized the stupidity of what he had chosen to do with his life. Dropping a career, your family, everything you own, all to chase a myth? And now that he found it, he couldn't tell anyone about it, and he couldn't ask for what he came for. He shucked off his backpack, skidded down the wall on his back and began to cry. It all seemed so stupid, so fruitless now. He never even thought that he would be refused by the beauty he longed for. He never even contemplated that she would slam the door on him, or make him a mouse, or feed him to an alligator. And he had been so stupid, he wasted all his life savings for nothing. With no other good options he could think of, he curled up around his backpack and cried himself to sleep.

At least, he tried to sleep. It started to rain. Justin looked up, and hung his head in defeat.

Mr. Airwick happily pranced from his garden back to the castle. Last nights rains really made his flowers smell wonderful today, even if the lightning scared last night's victim a little bit. No matter, nothing that a little breakfast couldn't solve, and Circe's kitchen was always open for him. As he happily pranced to the main entrance, he saw what he thought was a large package on the front door. As he got closer, he saw it was actually a man.
Airwick slowed down, and approached him cautiously. "Hello?" he said cautiously. Circe had a lot of men come to try to harm her, he knew. But he wanted to make sure this one wasn't going to hurt him first. "Umm, hello there?"

Justin opened his eye weakly. The rains kept him up, then the overpowering cold of wet clothing kept him up, and now that the sun was up it was getting harder to rest, but he still tried. He looked in front of him and saw a skunk standing in front of him. Justin was cold, wet, and feeling miserable. Pleasantries were out of the question. "Hi Airwick."

The skunk twitched his ears, and looked over the man. He took a tentative sniff of the air, and he was not familiar. He looked over his puffy eyes, his torn and wet clothing, the soaked backpack, and then back at him. "Do I know you?"

Justin adjusted himself, propping himself up on the wall. "No, I don't suppose you do. I'm Justin. And I'm guessing you're Airwick."
"You… know me?" the skunk said cautiously.

"Yes. And I know where I am, and I know who lives here, and I know what I'm doing here, and I feel just so stupid about it all." Justin put his hands up to his eyes, and wiped away another tear. "I can't believe I've been so stupid."

Airwick looked at Justin carefully. Last night's rain obviously soaked him, he was shivering and cold. He thought a nice, luxurious fur coat would help him feel warm. But he promised Circe that he would only transform in his garden, not anywhere else. Justin looked thin, pale, and his eyes looked defeated. In his human life, Airwick may not have cared because this man looked like any other homeless man. But since his transformation, and through helping others realize they had their own calling as skunks, he took a different view of life. "Have you eaten anything?"

Justin shook his head. "Not since the other day, no."

"Why don't you come in and have something to eat with me?" Airwick asked.

"Circe threw me out last night" Justin said, looking down.

"That doesn't sound like the Circe I know." Airwick said in wonderment. "Ok then, don't move, I'll be right back." The skunk pushed through the small access door that vanished seamlessly back into the door once he went inside.

Justin slumped into the wall. "Trust me, I'm not going anywhere." he said quietly.

Airwick went into the kitchen, and ran into a raccoon there. "I need a basket, and some of those yummy muffins!" he said. The raccoon nodded, and climbed up the cabinet to get a basket. Airwick grabbed a knife, some jam, and other food stuffs and dropped them into the basket the raccoon threw down.

Circe wandered down into the kitchen and saw the flurry of activity. "And why are you so active this morning Mr. Airwick?" she asked in a sultry voice. "Ahh! Circe! I believe we have a stray outside!"

Justin brought up his knees and held onto himself for warmth. He thought of removing his clothing, but he had nothing to change into. And even if he did, his backpack was soaked, everything in it was waterlogged. Not like anything in it was valuable anymore. He didn't really care abut time, it all seemed so useless now.

Airwick poked his head back out the magical door, a basket in his mouth. He looked at Justin as he walked through. "Schoory tat took scho lawng." he slurred around the handle in his mouth.

"It's ok, I have nowhere to go." Justin said, offering to take the basket.

Airwick let him take it, and sat on his haunches next to Justin. "It's such a lovely morning, I thought I'd eat outside. Please, help yourself." Justin looked at the muffins with a sideways glance. "They're just muffins. Nothing will happen, other than you might feel better." Justin examined one, but hunger took command and he plowed through four muffins before slowing down.

The skunk ate along with him, in silence, until Justin slowed down enough to let him talk between bites. "You were hungry, huh?"
Justin nodded. "Yeah, guess I was. Hey, thank you for getting these for me."

"Not a problem." Airwick said. "So how did you get here? And how did you know my name?"

"How do I know?" Justin said "Are you kidding me? I'm a big fan!" The skunk cocked his head at an odd angle. "I've read all the stories, I know all the myths, all the legends, the fiction, the web pages, everything!"

"Stories? Web pages?" The skunk asked. "What stories?"

"Stories from others. About how you make men into skunks. How Saurina makes men into alligators. The Bunny Hutch, the dog kennels and caves, the Drake, the stables, the roo-go-round. Heck, I even know what happens to guys who try to smoke weed here." Justin said, polishing off muffin number five. "They're all on the web site."

Airwick blinked, feeling a little self conscious. "You… I mean you know these?"

"Oh yeah." Justin said, feeling better to actually talk about it all to someone. "That's why I had to find her."

"Circe, you mean?"

"Yeah." Justin said, offering the last muffin to the skunk. The skunk nodded, and Justin left it for him. "I sold everything I owned, stuffed the last bit of clothing and other stuff into this backpack, and searched for her." Airwick nodded, letting Justin talk to his content.

"So I took all my money and went to Greece, and tried to trace the steps of Homer's Odyssey. But that really didn't do anything for me, because the terrain changed and I couldn't find the right place there. So I took another look at the stories and realized that Circe is doing something different now, she's putting up temporary places all over the world to lure men in and transform them into beasts.

"So I flew back to the US, and looked around there for places that were magical. I ended up in Louisiana, in New Orleans. I saw some guy walk into a bar that sold Ursa beer. I tried to follow him in, but the door vanished before I could go in. So I managed to find someone who said she was a psychic and paid her a lot of money to help me find where the spell came from.

"So I went there, but it was like a router. I took that to Sedona, then from there to California, up north to Canada, east and south to Montana… before I was done I think I hit ever state in the union." Justin laughed to himself. "Sounds stupid to chase something like that, huh?"

"No, you found her, didn't you?" Airwick observed.

"Yeah, I guess I did." Justin said. "But now that I did… Well… Last night I was walking around here. I thought I could walk in, say hello, and ask Circe to transform me. But she didn't even want to see me, she didn't even want to talk to me. She said she'd feed me to Saurina."

Airwick chuckled. "Saurina wouldn't eat you, you know."

Justin smiled. "I know, I guess I knew all along. But I just wanted to… Wait a minute, let me get this." Justin fumbled into what was left of his backpack, putting his waterlogged seeping bag to the side to pull out a well-beaten dark green nylon collar. On it was an equally beaten in plastic tag that just read "Patches".

Airwick examined the collar. "Who's patches?"

"She was my cat." Justin said. "A calico, wonderful cat. When she died I kept her tag, and put it on a collar I bought for… well for me." Justin looked to the ground, slightly embarrassed to admit that. "I know male calicos are rare, and most are sterile and can't breed, but when I found Circe, I wanted to become a male version of Patches."

"Then what?" the skunk asked, working on his second muffin.

"Well, umm, if she'd have me, I wanted to… What I mean is that I was gonna ask Circe… If she'd like to… I mean if she needed…" Justin was fumbling over his own words. "I want to help. There, I said it."

"Help?"

"Help like you help, or like I can help. I mean, last night she was having a hard time with her computer. I used to do software engineering and troubleshooting, and I wanted so much to really help her out. I mean, it's just windows. I could probably fix the problem without breaking a sweat and make it work flawlessly. But…" Justin hung his head into his knees. "But I think I made her more mad than anything else."

"You could go home, can't you?" Airwick asked.

"No, I know the rules. Once you've found here you can't go back. And even if I could, I have nowhere to go. I'm out of money. I have only what I'm wearing. I don't have a home. My family disowned me. I gambled everything and I lost. Well, I won, but I lost. I don't know. If she won't have me, would you?"

"I'm sorry?" the skunk looked up, then the light bulb turned on when he understood. "Oh, well, if you'd like, I'll be in the garden later after breakfast."

"Yeah." Justin said, feeling defeated. "After breakfast." That's not what he came for, but he'd rather be a skunk than a bunny, or an alligator. "Thank you for the muffins, they were delicious."

"No problem!" Airwick said. Justin put the small things back in the basket. Airwick picked it up in his mouth again. "I'll go tawk too Karisse phoor yew." he said, around the handle.

"Thank you, my friend." Justin reached to touch Ariwick's head, and cautiously petted him. Airwick cooed happily before pushing through the magical swinging door with the basket in his jaws. Justin found himself alone, still cold, but at least his belly was full. He looked out in front of the castle, and looked over the grounds. "It's remarkable." he said to himself. "It truly is beautiful."

Airwick scampered to the kitchen and dropped off the basket. He jumped into a chair and looked to Circe, who was closing a spell. "Was that enough?"

"Actually, yes." she said. "I almost feel bad for throwing him out last night. And I simply MUST find this web site!"

"You may need a working computer first." the skunk said. Circe shot him a sarcastic look. "I like your truth muffins. He couldn't lie after eating those..." he suddenly popped his eyes open, realizing he ate the muffins too. "Uh oh…"

"So tell me Mr. Airwick, my fine skunk," Circe leaned into the table, nose to muzzle with the skunk. "have you transformed anyone lately?" Airwick put his head on the table, and used his paws to try to keep his muzzle shut.

Justin was still sitting near the front door. His clothing was starting to dry out, and he watched the carnival-like place start to power up for the day. From where he sat he could see a few people wander in, look confused, and head to a pavilion. He felt a little ridiculous, spending so much time looking for Circe when all these fortunate men were finding her by just being in the right place at the right time. He couldn't see the transformations happen, but he did see a man enter one pavilion, and a rhinoceros leave into a pen on the other end. "Lucky." he said aloud.

"Not necessarily." He heard. He was too tired to be shocked or scared, he just slowly turned to look back to a woman. Circe. Olive skin, long brown hair, the body of a goddess. "He didn't seem too happy to become that, but he'll adjust."

"What will you do with him?" Justin asked flatly.

"Oh, not sure. I know of a zoo that could use a rhino. As hard-headed as he was in life I think this is an improvement. Don't you agree?" Circe asked, Justin nodded. "Can I see the collar you brought with you?" Justin nodded slowly, and handed her the green collar. Circe looked it over carefully "It's a nice collar." she said.

"Thank you." Justin said. "It barely fits me now. I've lost a lot of weight since I bought that."

"You don't seem to be as nervous at seeing me as you were last night." Circe said, toying with the collar.

"I'm kinda tired." he said. "I couldn't sleep with the rain and all."

Circe offered her hand to Justin, who took it. She helped him stand, deceptively strong for a physique like hers. "I'm sorry I snapped at you last night. I was mad at the computer, not you." Justin looked deep into her eyes, feeling himself warm up from the inside. "Do you think you can help me with my computer?" She asked with a flirtatious voice. "Be my little patch-up expert?"

"I can try." Justin said, the effects of his breakfast still affecting his answers. Circe led him into the castle, down the hallways that he had walked the night before. The whole time Justin was flying high. Before long, he was in a room with her, and a computer. Circe offered him a bath-robe to change into. Justin took off his old clothing and changed. Circe pointed to the computer table, and Justin sat down in front of it.

"Ok, here you go! I have a lot I need to attend to, but I'll be back later. I need to get to this internet place." she said, playing innocent.

Justin nodded. "I'll have you surfing in no time M'Lady!"

Circe turned to leave, then stopped, turning to face Justin. "You never asked about payment or a reward."

"No." Justin said. "I didn't." He turned on the main box with a grin. "It's my pleasure." Circe smiled to herself, and left to go attend to the planning of her big horse show.

Justin dove into the computer software all day. "Oh Bill, what did you do to her computer…" he asked to himself while playing around with Windows. It took a few hours, but he managed to get her hooked into the internet, had the computer running at optimal capacity, and had removed all the things she wouldn't need. he thought a moment, then placed up a firewall, security software, and anti-viral software from a few sources he knew about.

It had been several hours. Circe heard some typing coming from the room as she walked towards it. In her mind, she thought that this stray at her doorstep couldn't do what he claimed to. But, as she opened the door, she saw that the monitor was filled with colors, animations, and all sorts of movement.

"Ahh! M'Lady!" Justin said happily. "Good! I got it up and running, you're hooked in for your e-mail, web surfing, usenet, AAANNNNDDD…" Justin rolled back in the chair. "I put in all the software you should need for security as well. It would work better from a mainframe or a central network computer, but in a pinch this will work."

"Oh? Let me see?" Circe leaned over the chair Justin was working from and watched him type. As he typed, Circe gently stroked him behind his ears. Justin purred softly, he always liked it when someone did that.

"And I went through and got rid of the spy wear too." Justin said. "And I… mmm… ooohhhh…. don't stop that… mmmmm…" He leaned back in the chair as she used her nails to stroke him. As she did that, Justin's ears took on a definitive point to them. In moments, he had his head completely back on the chair, purring softly, eyes closed in bliss. His ears began to grow more pointed, forming into a triangular shape, and reforming onto the top of his head.

Circe smiled. "I could use someone like you." she whispered into his now feline ears. "I know you want to be like your calico, but I want to make a compromise."

"Mmm? yes M'Lady?" Justin whispered.

"If you'll help me with all this new technology, I'll keep you on as one of my assistants." she said softly. "You know male calicos are usually sterile?" Justin nodded. "Small price to pay." he said dreamily.

"You won't be. You're going to help me open the big cat pavilion sometime in the future. But you're also going to be my tech expert." she said. Justin was in heaven, still getting his ears scratched. Circe moved her hand under his chin, and gently stroked him there. "What do you say?"

"Just call me Patches, M'Lady." he said softly.

"There's my boy." Circe said. As she stroked his chin, a little fur formed on it. She wheeled him over to the center of the room, and coaxed him to get out of the chair. Once on the ground, she ran her fingers down his robe, which split apart along the back and disintegrated. Justin was now naked on the floor, feeling no shame, as Circe stroked his head.

As she ran both hands along his face, a soft muzzle formed. His nose and mouth pushed forward gently, forming a triangular point just over his mouth. As she cradled his head he could begin to feel it's form change. It became more rounded, more feline. She placed her fingers over his closed eyes, and dragged them down.

Justin opened his eyes, and Circe smiled happily as she saw the almond iris in a pool of blue. "It this real, M'Lady?"

"Yes Patches." she said. She giggled as she painted on his face with her fingertips, placing orange streaks against his white fur on his head. "You like?"

"Yesss!" he replied softly, almost a whisper. She stroked all the hair off the top of his head, and let hem feel the enjoyment of guard hairs growing in, followed by the soft fur of a shorthair calico. Circe drew a circle around his left eye, and watched as a black circle covered it. Then a broad stroke, letting the orange fur form from his muzzle over the top of his head, contrasting with the white fur under his chin She played wih his ears, making the right one black and the left one white, before going down his body.

As Circe stroked, Patches body grew a base of white fur. She spent an hour just laying there with him, stroking him. The whole time he purred, mewed, and kept on thanking her. Circe rubbed his hands gently, massaging his paw-pads into existence on the palms. The black pads became soft, supple, then she worked on his claws. Gently, she rubbed the tips of his fingers, causing his nails to sink into his fur, reforming as sharp, retractable claws. When she did this with his feet, he giggled uncontrollably.

"Ticklish, little one?" she asked.

Patches nodded. "A little bit, M'Lady."

"I'll need to remember that!" She said, massaging his big toe into it's first claw. Once done with his paws, she rolled him over to his side, and gently rubbed along the base of his spine. He moaned as he could feel a tail starting to form.

"Aaahh! Yess! MMM!! Thank you Circe! Thank you!" he said as a nub of his tail grew out She took hold of it, and gently pulled. He could feel a few uncomfortable pops as she gently pulled his still-forming tail out, but it wasn't too unpleasant. Patches took Circe's free hand in his paws and kissed it over and over. Circe giggled, she hadn't done such an enjoyable long duration transformation in a long time.

Finally, she looked upon a mostly white cat laying down on the floor. She held up two fingers, and began to make broad sweeping strokes along his fur. As she did, rust orange streaks formed to create a mottled white and orange effect. Soon, his fur was covered with orange and white. She then used her other hand to create black patchwork along his fur as well, taking care with how she did so. Patches was to become a masterwork, she didn't do bipedal animals very often. But Patches would need to keep his working paws to type. She placed the black markings in places that looked right, on an elbow, the base of his tail, the back of a knee, a streak on his side snaking around his outer arm, making it creative.

Circe took her time, making his right foot-paw white, opposing paws in orange, and his left hand-paw black. He opened his eyes again, finding himself laying in her lap. "Thank you M'Lady!" he said.

"I'm not done with you yet, my pet." she said. She ran her hands down his body, and he could feel his feet shift. Patches took in a deep breath as his feet cracked, and shifted into a digigrade form, he would now walk on his toes and paw pads. At the same time, his body shrank slightly into a smaller, more powerful package for hunting. She made one more sweeping motion with her hands, sweeping over his whole furred form, making sure it all looked right for a calico.

His form had burnt-orange stripes, black patches, and his haunches was a soft, snowy white all along his underbelly and chest. She touched the tip of his tail, leaving it orange tipped with a black mottled areas up the length of white and orange. Finally, she looked up to his face, and frowned a little.

"Something wrong, M'Lady?" he asked.

"I know I forgot something…." she thought aloud. "OH! How could I forget?" She placed both her hands along his muzzle, and through her fingers whiskers sprouted from his muzzle. Patches purred louder, the feeling of whiskers being stroked for the first time. She then placed her fingers over his eyes, and gave him whiskers over where his eyebrows had been.

Finally, she raised her hands and scratched Patches under the chin. "All done!" she said, playfully.

Patches looked up to Circe, and held her hand in his paw, crying tears of joy. He kissed her hands many, many times. "Thank you M'Lady Circe! Thank you!" Patches said, falling all over himself. He watched as she took the green collar from next to her on the floor, and placed it around his throat, with a perfect fit. He sighed happily, having found an inner peace.

"Rest for now Patches." Circe said. "There's a few more things I need to do with you, but not when you're tired. Let me take you to a room that you can call your own." She helped him to his hind-paws, he noticed he was shorter than she was now. He also noticed that he was more muscular, a formed predator by Circe's divine hands. They walked across the hall to a room that had many windows in it. The floor was carpeted, and there was a warm blanket on the floor. "Go ahead, sleep for now."

Patched kissed her hand one more time, and laid down in a sunbeam. In moments, he was asleep, exhausted from his transformation, thinking loving thoughts of Circe.

She closed the door gently, thinking of the fun having a house cat will be. She'd have to teach him how to tell 'guests' from 'real' mice, but having someone around to do some of the day to day mouse removal, not to mention electronic wizardry… well, it couldn't hurt. But right now, while Patches slept in a sunbeam, she had other things to do, like dealing with the guy who was making an ass of himself in the equine pavilion.

*****

Circe was tapping at the keyboard. Patches helped her install the server in the castle, and had already drawn up plans to computerize most of the rest of the complex. It would take time, but that was a luxury she had. As she was typing, the system slowed down a little before snapping back up to speed.

"Hmm, that's odd." She said aloud. "Where's Patches when you…"

"Yes M'Lady?" Patches asked nonchalantly.

Circe closed her eyes and bit her lip. She was used to this, but it still caught her by surprise every time. "I thought I belled you."

"Umm, you did." Patches said, flicking the bell on his green collar with a finger. "Is something wrong?"

Circe sighed. "I make you a calico, but yet you're still a ninja." she said. "The system slowed down."

"Might be another cracker." Patches said, chewing on a whisker without thinking of it. "Should I send out the usual trace measures?" Circe nodded. "Will you turn this one into a snake too, M'Lady?"

"Depends." she said slyly. "This one might be more like the new bear we just got and want in. Oh, and once you're done with that, I need you to work with Axel on the Merry-go-round. We need to have it working at 100% efficiency before the horse club comes in."

Patches liked walking around in the main park in his utility jumpsuit. He modified it to have short sleeves and short length pants, as well as wearing it as open as he could to show off Circe's handy work and his calico markings. Modesty kept him from walking around in the public park naked. But he was proud to be such a masterpiece of her hands. A lot of people thought at first he was a mascot character or something, and he always played with the kids that came. Patches smiled, thinking of going out to interact with the future members of the park and their guests. He knelt over Circe, and took her hand. "As M'Lady wishes, it is my pleasure." Patches said, his bell chiming as he bent over to kiss her hand. Circe found it charming for a once stray to act like a true gentleman. Patches turned to walk away, his tail rolling casually as he stepped.

"Oh, Patches?"

"M'Lady?"

"Stop chewing on your whiskers. It's a bad habit." she said casually. Patches stopped, nodded, and went down to where the server was kept. Circe looked at the monitor again. "Now that's an interesting idea… I wonder if I can get this artist from the web site to make a visit?"

The End