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Patches' Pal
by "Socks the Catt"
© 2003 Socks Furrotica Press

Randy was on his couch, sweating and shaking uncontrollably. His skin felt like it was on fire, and the itching was getting worse. His breathing got harder as his body shifted in ways he never knew it could. Randy could feel the pressure on his face, his head, the base of his spine, his hands and feet, it was all so much, so fast, all his senses became overloaded. He closed his eyes, and hoped that it would end soon. Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped.

He opened his eyes, still panting. This wasn't his living room anymore, but he was laying on something comfortable. He was naked, not surprising as he had thrown his clothing off when he felt like he was going to incinerate. He was trying to get his bearings when a door opened up across the room. A bipedal calico cat walked in, tossed a pair of goggles onto the top of a dresser, and started to casually unbutton his short jumpsuit.

The calico then looked over to his bed, and saw someone there. Patches stopped, and looked at the stranger. "Oh! Hi!" he said in a friendly way. "Am I in the wrong room? That happens to me sometimes." Randy fainted. Patches blinked a few times, and sniffed himself to make sure it wasn't him.

It was late at night when Circe heard someone humming in the hallway. The song wandered down the hall, down the stairs, and towards the kitchen. Whoever it was sounded happy, but when she heard a pan hit the floor in the kitchen she became a little concerned. Circe decided to investigate.

When she got there, she found Patches dangling his feet over the kitchen counter, leaning into the cupboard. Most of his body was inside of it, his tail whipping around as he searched. It was almost amusing, if not comical to watch him kick his feet, trying to get inside deeper. Patches squirmed his way out of the cupboard, and felt for the floor with his paw.

"The catmint is over the stove." Circe said, with an amused look.

Patches turned around, a powdered donut stuffed in his muzzle. "Mmm nert gwin ferr dat!" he mumbled. He put down the box of cookies in his paws, and removed the donut from his mouth. "But thank you for telling me!"

"Hungry?" Circe asked with a grin. "You could go hunt something up, couldn't you?"

"I could!" Patches said, opening another cabinet. "But it's like fast food, you get tired of the same old thing day in and out, and catching birds isn't easy!"

Circe looked over what Patches had already gotten out. Peanut butter, bread, a knife, a plate, some jam, a jug of milk, and a sugar shaker. "Are you going to eat that here?"

"No, M'Lady." Patches said. "I was actually going back to my room with some sandwiches, work on some things yet."

"You'll get mice if you--" Circe started to say. Patches closed his eyes and grinned extremely wide. "Oh. I don't want any infestations."

"None at all, M'Lady!" Patches said, bowing slightly. "If you'd just put up the barn facility like I recommended I know that they'd all go there."

Circe sighed, and left. She smiled as she walked out of the kitchen, knowing full well what her cat was up to.

Patches returned to his room, and closed the door quietly. "Randy?" A tan tabby cat poked his head around the bed and out of his hiding spot. "It's me. I've got some sandwiches."

"You're sure it's safe?" Randy asked, his ears twitching. "You didn't tell anyone, right?"

Patches nodded. "Promise!" The orange tabby looked left and right before walking cautiously over to Patches. Randy covered himself up, embarrassed to be naked. Patches put the food down on his dresser, and opened his closet, retrieving a spare jumpsuit. "Here, if it helps you to feel better."

"Thank you." Randy said. Randy turned around to put on the jumpsuit. He grabbed his tail, and forcefully stuffed it through the hole in the back as it seemed to turn and twist on it's own agenda. The suit was about his size, and fit him like it did Patches. Patches snickered, watching the tabby. "Tell me you get used to this?"

"I have." Patches said happily. "But then again I wanted it." Randy buttoned up the suit, and cautiously moved over to Patches. "The place is a mess, I haven't cleaned it in a while. I wasn't expecting anyone."

"I wasn't expecting to be here." Randy said, slowly reaching for a sandwich. He looked around the room, and it was immaculately clean already, with the exception that the bed wasn't made. He looked into the other cat's eyes, a bit confused. "Where am I?"

"My room, but even more general than that you're in Circe's domain." Patches said. "Now where we are after that, I'm not entirely certain. I think we're still in the USA, but I've heard everywhere from Greece to England to one of many fictitious places." Patches laughed to himself. "The best I've heard is Atlantis. But after you've seen what I've seen, you believe it."

Randy ate a sandwich while looking around the room he was in. He then looked at his hands, what he knew were his hands. He now had tan and brown paws where he knew his hands should be. His underbelly was slightly white, and covered in fur. But he definitely was a tabby cat, that much was certain. The calico with him was at least friendly, and understanding.

"How did I get here?" Randy asked. Patches offered him a glass of milk, which Randy took. "I don't know why I'm a cat, or why I'm here, or how I got here."

"What can you remember?" Patches asked, sipping his own glass. "That might help."

"I was home." Randy said, his ears and whiskers drooping. "I was home, on my computer. And I was mucking."

"Mucking?" Patches asked. "They still do that?"

"Still?" Randy asked. "You say that like you've been here for a century!"

"It feels like it sometimes." Patches said. "But I've kinda lost track of time."

Randy nodded, finishing his sandwich. "Yeah. Well, I got up to get something from the living room. I walked in there, and I kinda felt dizzy. I fell to the ground, and there I was. So I got up, tried to get my balance, and fell again on my couch."

Patches nodded. "So then what?"

Randy shrugged. "Well I felt really hot, so I took all my clothing off really quick. And it wasn't helping, so I thought I was sick. So I just laid down on the couch, and felt myself sweating and itching and feeling like I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes."

Patches bit his lip and winced. "Usually it's not that bad." he said.

"Usually?" Randy asked.

"Oh, Circe's changes." Patches said, sipping his milk. "Usually when she does one it's not painful or anything. I mean Dan's was fast but he said it wasn't painful."

"Dan?" Randy asked, looking worried.

Patches shook his head. "I'll introduce you to him if you want. He's a cougar over at the big cat pavilion." Randy's eyes got a little glazy, and Patches shook his head slightly. "Back to topic tho. What happened after the bug bite thing?"

"That was about it." Randy said. "I thought I was going to die, I was so out of it. So I shut my eyes, I guess I went unconscious or something. I woke up here, in your bed I guess, and I saw myself like this." Randy opened his arms wide, displaying his fur. "I still don't think it's real yet."

"It's real." Patches said in a reassuring way. "Some guys never accept that, but the ones that do seem to enjoy the change."

"Guys?" Randy asked, putting his milk down. "You mean we're not alone?"

"Oh no!" Patches said with an excited look. "Haven't you looked out the window? The lights are still on, you can still see the carousel from here!" Randy looked at Patches with a confused look, then headed to the window to look outside. He could see carousel lights spinning in the distance slowly. Patches walked up behind him and opened the window. "Can you hear it? The music? Someone's being changed right now, probably a show horse or another wild horse. Circe has been on wild horse kick lately." Soft calliope music drifted into the window on the winds, and the two leaned against the windowsill and listened..

Randy looked at the lights for a moment, then something in his mind clicked. His knees gave out, and he found himself on the floor, eyes wide as dinner plates. Patches knelt next to him. Randy looked at him in a panic. "Circe? You mean the woman that changes men Circe?"

"Same Circe." Patches said, putting his paws onto Randy's shoulders.

Randy looked at his paws again. "I thought that was just a web site! I thought that was just stories." Patches shook his head. "You mean this is all real? I mean really real?" Patches nodded. Randy's eyes watered up, and he leaned back into Patches. "I didn't think it was the same place."

"It's real." Patches said. "Really real. Circe gives some lucky people what they want, deep in their hearts. She's really not as mean as some people think." Randy nodded to himself, breathing hard through his nose. "If I can ask, what muck was it you were on?"

"Furrymuck." Randy said quietly, still in shock. "This is a dead ringer for my fursona."

Patches smiled to himself. "She probably saw what you wanted to be, and decided to give it to you."

Randy turned to look at the calico. "But what about all the things I had? I've got college classes! What about my finals? I've got things I have to do! My parents, my family? What about my friends? What happens now?"

Patches offered a hug, and Randy took it. "One thing at a time, my friend." Patches said. "One thing at a time. We'll figure it all out, ok?" Randy nodded, feeling reassured by Patches. Randy buried his muzzle into Patches shoulder, and cried softly as the world felt like it was crashing around him.

The next morning, Circe opened Patches door and found the two cats asleep, the tan cat draped over Patches. The two of them were clothed in the short jumpsuits, but she was happy to see the two of them together. Something told her that Patches would be best to help the new feline into his new life.

Later on, Patches wandered into the kitchen, hiding the second glass under his arm. As he put the plate into the sink and started the water, Circe walked up behind him. "How's our latest guest?"

"He's ok, M'Lady." Patches said. "He's still a little spooked, but I'll take him around the park today, see if he can find a place he's comfortable."

Circe smiled. "You don't want to know how I knew?" she asked.

"I knew you knew." Patches said. "Unless something bad is happening, I know you know when someone is changed in your domain."

"I think I understood that." Circe said with a grin, scratching him roughly on the ears. Patches smiled. "So when do I get to meet him?"

"I'll go get him, if you'd like? See if he's up to meeting you?" Patches said, washing the plate and glasses he used the night before. Circe nodded, and Patches went back to his room.

Randy was looking out the window, still wearing one of Patches jumpsuits. He watched as the park started to churn to life like a living animal waking up from sleep. He could smell food being prepared, he could hear the people walking around, ready to open up. He watched, spellbound at where he was. Patches walked up behind him, and hugged him gently. "I can't believe this is real." Randy said.

"It's real." Patches said. "I could bite your tail if that'll prove it."

"You leave my tail out of this!" Randy said with a laugh. "No, I want to walk around down there, see it for myself. You'll show me?"

"Yes." Patches said. "I'll show you. Oh! Circe wants to meet you!"

"Me?" Randy asked. "Why?"

"She likes to greet everyone, eventually." Patches said. "She likes to see her handiwork."

Randy nodded slowly. "Can I stay dressed?" Patches nodded. Randy let out a sigh of relief, then thought again. "And do I have to wear a collar?"

"Only if you want to." Patches said. "I've always loved collars, and now I wear mine all the time. If you want one I know where we can get one, but Circe doesn't make me wear this. I just like to."

Randy nodded, and licked Patches muzzle softly. "Thank you. For helping me."

"You're welcome." Patches hugged his friend, and took him to meet Circe. She admired his fur, and how he looked in Patches work suit. Patches them took Randy around the park, introducing him to all his friends, and all the people he knew.

The first stop was at the big cat pavilion before it started up for the day. He opened up the door "Dan?" Patches yelled out.

"What's new pussycat?" Dan came trotting over. "You missed one hell of a sunrise! Hey, who's your buddy?"

Randy's jaw hit the ground as Patches brushed off some snow from transformation rock. "This is Randy." Patches said. "He's new. I'm just showing him around the park."

Dan offered a paw. "Hey there!" Randy took the cougar's paw with no measure of unease.. "What? I'm not gonna bite! I've got that part under control." Randy shook his paw. "So are you the new tiger?"

"Umm-- I don't think so." Randy said. "The markings are too light."

"That's too bad." Dan said. "Patches over here showed me some pictures of that hab, it looks like it would be fun if you're into that kind of thing." Dan sat down on the snow, his fur thicker in it's winter coat. "So how's everything in the park?"

"Not bad." Patches said. The two of them made small talk as Randy looked around in awe, shivering a little. "I'm not gonna keep you too long tho." Patches said eventually. "I'm freezing my tail off."

Dan laughed, his whole body rocking as he did. "You need a winter coat! Or just ask Circe to make you a longhair! That'll keep ya warm!"

"If I stay over, I'll think about that!" Patches said. He scratched Dan behind the ears, and between his eyes. Dan rumbled out a deep purr, and closed his eyes for a moment. Patches got up, brushing his paw on his jumpsuit. "The pavilion opens up soon. See ya later?"

"Always!" Dan said happily. "Hey, you stop by anytime ya want, Randy. A friend of Patches is a friend of mine, comprende?"

"Umm, comprende, I think." Randy said.

Dan stood up, and shook the snow off his fur. "Hey, kid." He said, looking at Randy. "I know you're new, but just go with it bro. It's not that bad once you get used to it." Randy nodded slowly, and Dan snickered. "If you ever need someone, come on by. Door's always open, I always got time for a friend. Ok?"

Randy nodded. "Yeah, um, thank you, I think."

Dan walked over to Patches, and butted his head into Patches leg. "Gowan! GIT! You know the straights can't see you in here with me!"

"Allright!" Patches said with mock panic. "We're goin!" They walked to the door. "Have fun Dan! Seeya later!" Dan raised his chin, motioning his understanding. Patches closed the door, and Dan took in a deep breath of the fresh air. Happily, he moved on to see what was new today in his territory.

"He seems happy." Randy said.

"He ended up where he would be happy." Patches said, locking the employee's door behind him. "There's a few here that refuse to be pleased with their new life, and there's some who are only here in transit, but Dan's a keeper. He really likes his space."

Randy thought about that a while as Patches unlocked the main door. A few people walked in, barely noticing the two cats that let them in, and walked around to see the larger cats in the exhibit. The two then walked around and toured the rest of the park. Patches introduced Randy to everyone he could find, and who could talk to them that day.

While walking through the wharf, Randy asked "So what do you do here?"

"Electrical maintenance." Patches said. "Computers, the lighting, wiring, all that."

Randy nodded, then thought about that for a moment. "So what am I doing here?"

"Well," Patches said, stopping in the middle of nowhere and looking around. "What would you like to do?"

Randy looked around, and thought about it. "I'm not sure. I don't know what I can do here." Randy twitched his ear once as a reflex, and looked around. "I mean, I've been in college for a year looking into a broadcasting degree or communications or advertising or doing TV or radio or something. I don't even know what I'm going to do when I… Wait, that's all over, isn't it?"

"Well, not really." Patches said. "One thing I've learned about this place is that it's a dream factory. A lot of dreams can happen here, once you come to terms with your change." Randy looked confused. "There's this whale I'll introduce you to, he's over in the Bay-Side Amphitheater here. He sings a good version of 'Louie Louie'. He can tell you his story better than I can."

Randy laughed, looking around him. "Do you think Circe would mind if I stayed on? If I can't go back, I can do something here."

Patches smiled. "I don't think she'll mind." He paused. "I don't think I'd mind either."

Randy smiled himself. "I think I could live with that too." The two smiled to each other, and continued their tour.

That night, Patches was in his room while Randy was exploring the castle by himself. "Yes M'Lady?" Patches said to the air.

"It's nice to know my cat isn't deaf." Circe said, walking in from the hallway. "I suppose Randy is adjusting well?"

"Yes." Patches said, finishing up his schedule on his PDA. "We talked. He said he'd like to--"

"I know." Circe said. "I spoke with him myself a moment ago. I told him he could stay here." Circe sat down on a char in front of Patches computer. "He also wanted to know if I was going to rename him, like you."

"Are you?" Patches asked.

"No." Circe said. "I change men, not their names. I enjoy when they embrace their animal side and abandon their old human names, but that's something that they must do themselves. He said he'd think about it." Patches nodded. Circe's face changed to a more serious look. "Do you love him?"

Patches put down the PDA in almost a shock. "M'Lady?"

"Do you love him?" She asked insistently. "I've seen you with him through the day. You seemed to be more than friends. So, I'm curious."

Patches shifted a little and laughed uncomfortably. "Curiosity and a cat?" He snickered a while longer, then sobered up. "I do, M'Lady, but not how you think." Circe motioned for Patches to elaborate. "I feel a kind of kinship with him, ya know? He's a cat, I'm a cat, It was kinda nice to sleep with him last night, he puts out a lot of heat, it was nice. But I mean, I love him, yeah, but not in-- umm-- I mean I--. Oh this is embarrassing--" Patches started to fluster, and his ears turned bright red. "I mean if he wants to stay with me I won't throw him out. I wouldn't mind having a roommate, but I wouldn't-- you know-- not without his approval I mean-- You know what I mean, M'Lady?"

Circe nodded, letting him off the hook. "I understand."

Patches took in a deep breath, leaned forward on his bed and kissed Circe's hand gently. "I love you too, you know." he said, his eyes looking sincere. "And I thank you for giving me this gift, every day." Circe nodded with a smile. So rarely did she get thanked, the novelty was still there. "He can stay with me, can't he?"

Circe nodded. "I have spare rooms, but if you're not against sharing I won't object."

"Thank you, M'Lady." Patches said quietly, kissing her hand again. "When he gets back, I'll ask him if he wants to stay with me."

"Gladly." Both turned to see Randy there. "I heard, and yes." Patches smiled wider. "I'm also thinking of changing my name while I'm here. Take the name I called myself on the muck. Zigs."

"Zigs?" Patches asked

"Short for Zig Zag." Randy said. "Here, look." He unbuttoned his jumper, and lowered it to his hips, and pointed at the stripes in his fur. "See? How the lines do that. It's how I always talked about myself on the muck, so if I look like this, I may as well be Zigs."

Circe smiled to herself, this was a moment she always liked to be there for, when a man accepts themselves as an animal, and no longer fights their change. She felt more than a little satisfaction from the moment. She enjoyed her victory.

"There's one thing, however." Randy said. "I don't want to wear a collar or anything like that. Not my idea of something fun."

Patches smiled. "You don't have to!" he said happily. "I'm just happy you'll stay."

"I don't really have much choice." Randy said. "I don't have anything else to wear but your stuff." The two cats enjoyed a laugh together as Circe discretely left them alone for the night. She had a fun story to tell her sisters.

A week later, Patches walked into a staff cafeteria for lunch. He got his favorite tuna salad, and sniffed the air. He smelled lemon chicken, smiled, and walked up to Zigs and gave him a hug from behind. "Hey there Patches!" Zigs said, pushing a chair out with his foot. "I was wondering when you'd get here!"

"The 'Kennels of Tomorrow' went haywire again." Patches said, sitting down. "It groomed some poor guy into a poodle." Zigs stifled a laugh. "What's worse was he changed into a stag while it happened!" Zigs tried not to spit cola out of his nose laughing. "Oh, laugh it up fuzz ball!" Patches said sarcastically.

"I'm sorry!" Zigs said through the laughter. "I just can't believe that we'd open it up after the last time!"

Patches rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Don't remind me of the 'Pomeranian Incident'!" Zigs laughed out loud. "We've got it closed now, and me and Axel are gonna tackle it in an hour or so." Patches took a sip of his soda. "Everything going well on your first day?"

"Yeah." Zigs said. "I didn't think I could do it, but that show idea is working out really well! I love hosting it!"

"Excuse me?" Both cats looked up at a man, in his 30's, holding a dollar bill. "Know where I can get change for a dollar?" Both pointed to the change machine in the corner. "Thanks." And the man walked off.

"I knew you had it in you!" Patches said excitedly. "Still gonna DJ the rave this weekend?"

"You bet!" Zigs said. "Have you seen the record collection in the attic? She's got everything there! And the turntables are state!"

From across the room, the man pounded the side of the machine, trying to get all the crinkles out of the bill he could. Patches looked over with some interest, but looked back to Zigs. "I'll be there!" He took a bite of his sandwich.

Zigs smiled. "Sounds great! I'll lay down some music on tape and we can dance. Oh! What do you think of the threads?" Patches looked over Zigs, how his short-sleeved tan button down shirt went with his khaki cargo shorts with the tail hole, and the shoeless look was perfect. "Zigs" was embroidered on his shirt, under the funhouse logo and "Entertainment Director" under that.

Patches smiled and nodded, swallowing his tuna salad, giving a thumbs up sign with his free hand. "I like it! But it makes you look like that croc hunter guy."

Zigs laughed. "Well, yeah, but it looks SO good with the stripes! It's not as utility as yours, yeah, but I'll get a few more colors and styles so I can--"

"STUPID MACHINE!" Both cats turned to the man, still trying to get the bill into the change machine. He fed the bill in, and it took. "FINALLY!" He said, staring at the display.

"3... 2... 1..." Patches mumbled. On cue, the man's features suddenly shifted. His hands touched the machine as his pants became too large for his changing frame. As they fell, his long, thin tail grew out from his belt line. His front paws gripped the machine as his skull shape flattened out. His ears became pointed, then flopped down on the sides of his canine head. His mouth opened, and as his muzzle formed he let out a whimper. His fur suddenly grew in, white on black.

The dalmatian touched the ground with all four paws, his watch falling next to his shoes and pants. The dog was still wearing a button down shirt and a necktie, and looking around very confused. Zigs shook his head, and got up from the table. He took the necktie around the dog's neck, and led the dog back over to the table. "I really think we should put a disclaimer on that machine." he said. "At least this one has a leash pre-attached."

Patches nodded, putting down his sandwich. "Want me to take him to the canine run?"

"I got him." Zigs said. "I'm pretty much done eating. You relax and eat, we'll catch up tonight. Can you toss this stuff for me?" Patches nodded. "Thanks. I'll see ya later!" Zigs leaned in and happily rubbed muzzles with Patches. Both cats purred softly, and smiled to each other. "Ok, come on boy! Let's go!" Zigs sounded excited to take the dog out. The dog whined, but followed the cat by his silk leash.

Patches shook his head, and finished his lunch. He cleaned up the clothing left behind, and put it into the lost and found. He admired the watch, but knew he had no use for it. He checked his PDA, and saw a message that the computers were crashing back at the Drake hotel. Patches sighed, "At least some things never change here."