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Chapter One

Love is the fireplace in front of which you and your beloved snuggle up, basking in its glow, sharing in the crackling of the fire that speaks more profoundly than words ever could.

Claire shifted in bed as she felt the covers around her being lifted and dropped. She tried to blink away the last bits of slumber and became aware of the two bodies that were warm at her back.

A slow smile spread across her face.

"Morning, girls."

"Good morning, Aunt Claire," said Jessica, leaning over to kiss Claire on the back of her neck.

"Are you up yet?"

"Give me a moment." Turning over, Claire saw her two nieces had piled into her bed. She reached past Jessica and brushed at her older niece's shoulder.

"Morning, Sarah. Sleep well?"

Sarah nodded.

"And pretty dry, too." She teased her hand through the back of Jessica's hair.

"It's just Wet Bottom here who needed a change."

Her young cousin blushed, but reluctantly nodded. Claire smiled and drew her into a comforting hug.

"That's fine. Are you dry now, dear?"

"Yep," said Jessica, brightening.

"Sarah's getting better about changing me in the morning."

"I should hope so." Claire looked over Jessica's shoulder to give her other niece a half-serious glance.

"That's part of her rent for living here."

Sarah laughed and began to scoot out of the covers. Claire and Jessica followed suit, and as she reached for her robe, Claire couldn't help but think of how odd but cute it was to see her two grown nieces standing there, wearing nothing but t-shirts and diapers. Jessica had always had incontinence, owing to traumas she'd gotten from living with her mentally unbalanced mother, while Sarah wore them purely as an alternative form of underwear, relishing the sense of comfort and playfulness they gave her.

The morning proceeded as it always had - or at least, as it had since Jessica and Sarah had come to terms with their respective diaper-wearing a few months ago. Claire walked into the kitchen to prepare breakfast, getting out the waffle iron and fresh fruit. The girls took their seats at the dining room table, having put on skirts or a pair of loose-fitting pants to cover up their diapers.

They had a quiet breakfast of waffles topped with fruit - strawberries for Jessica, blueberries for Sarah. And when they were done, Claire went back into the kitchen while the two girls went over to the couch in the living room.

Claire emerged a moment later with two baby bottles full of milk. She sat down between her nieces, giving them the bottles as she put her arms around their shoulders and drew them close. Sarah and Jessica drank eagerly from their bottles, smiling up at their aunt as they curled up against her.

They had engaged in this kind of behavior - which Sarah called "AB play" - ever since the incident about three months ago. Jessica had undergone a nervous breakdown, triggered by memories of her abuse and the sight of her cousin being treated and nurtured like an infant. Since then, she had learned to cope with Sarah's need for being "little" as a means of handling stress and finding emotional security. At the same time, Jessica had come to terms with her attachment to Claire, whom she saw as a mother figure. Claire was more than willing to indulge her younger niece in any way she desired, and now the girl was much better about her intimacy issues and being treated like a "baby girl" despite the negative connotations she'd built up around that image.

Even now, as Claire smiled down and rubbed Jessica's back with one hand, she could see how far they'd come from the days when she'd brought Jessica home after the abuse. The nine-year-old girl had been rendered completely incontinent and emotionally unstable, becoming physically and psychologically dependent on her aunt. She'd been so helpless than Claire had to feed her, bathe her, and diaper her for a few weeks. Even now, Jessica was still diaper-dependent, but she'd learned to accept them for what they were and finally had a much more stable life.

Almost half an hour after they'd started drinking, Sarah and Jessica set down their baby bottles on the floor. Claire reached down to pat them both on the back, which made them burp and giggle.

She grinned and pulled her nieces into a deeper hug.

"Love you, girls."

"Love you, too, Aunt Claire," Sarah answered. Jessica's only response was to snuggle even closer, giving her aunt's neck a quick nuzzle.

"So what's your plan for today?" Claire asked, tracing her finger along Sarah's cheek.

"Shopping? Go to a movie? Visit Brendan or Ryan?"

Sarah shook her head.

"Brendan's sister will be coming by today, so he won't be available for us. What about Ryan, Jess?"

Her cousin peeked her head up from Claire's shoulder.

"He's still in Europe with his friends. When I called him last time, he said he'd be back next week."

Claire glanced at her nieces with a pouting expression, but she didn't hold it for long and a smile came up in its place.

"Well, shopping it is, then."

------------------

It was at Macy's where Claire heard someone call her name - specifically in the undergarments section, where Sarah and Jessica were buying a few new bras. She turned around to see a woman about her age come trotting up to her. The woman stood out from all the others because of her hair - a dark shade of red with gold highlights - and a bright pink sweater with cream-colored slacks.

Claire needed a moment to register who this person was, and when she did, a grin of ecstasy spread across her face. She enthusiastically ran to embrace the other woman.

"Andrea! Oh my goodness, it's wonderful to see you! How long has it been?"

Andrea pulled back to regard Claire with a wistful smile.

"Not since Tammy's twenty-eighth birthday party. How've you been?"

"I'm doing great." Claire turned to see Sarah and Jessica with curious glances. She waved them over.

"These are my nieces. This is Sarah, Tom's daughter, and this is Jessica, Madison's daughter. Girls, this is Andy, my old roommate from college."

The girls were quick to say hello and smile. Andrea glanced at them and then at Claire.

"I have the vaguest memory of them at one of your family dinners. Of course they were probably still in diapers then."

Claire didn't fail to notice the slight jolt that passed through both girls at that remark. She knew better than to mention that the fact they were both "still in diapers" in such a public area, but she figured she would have to privately tell Andrea at some point.

"So how have you been?" Claire asked.

"Well." Andrea blinked, shooting a nervous glance at the two young women.

"Actually, not that well. I don't know if you heard, but Daniel and I got a divorce."

"Oh!" Claire put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"I'm sorry to hear that. How did it happen?"

"I'll tell you all about later," Andrea said, forcing a smile.

"Do you think we could go and have lunch sometime this week? I'd love to catch up."

"Sure. How about tomorrow? Give me a call before noon." Claire reached into a purse for a pen and paper to write her number down, which she then handed to Andrea.

"Great." Andrea gave Claire another hug and then waved at the girls.

"See you kids later!"

As she left, Jessica turned to Claire with a concerned look.

"How come you don't talk about her, Aunt Claire?"

"Oh, it's been a while, sweetheart." Claire glanced at her friend's retreating back and smiled.

"Besides, I had you to look after, so I hadn't much time for a social life."

Jessica nodded.

"So you're going to reconnect with her now?"

"Why not? You think you and Sarah are the only ones who get to have fun?"

Chapter Two

Love is a cup of coffee over which you and your beloved sit and chat, brewing together as you explore old memories and reconnect the past and the present.

"...And since that day, she's been living with us and doing well for herself." Claire smiled as she took another sip of coffee, then settled back into her chair to take in the rest of the pleasant little café.

"So you have no problem with the two of them being in... diapers?" Andrea asked. She leaned onto the table, looking a touch skeptical.

"Why should I? Jess has a perfectly acceptable condition and Sarah finds that it does good for her self-esteem and stress levels to wear diapers. They're happier because of it and that always makes me happy."

Andrea nodded, then glanced down at her coffee mug.

"Well, now it's my turn for confession." She glanced around, then leaned over to Claire and whispered, "I also wear diapers."

Claire blinked.

"Really?"

Her friend nodded.

"I was in a car accident about two years ago. My legs were in casts for a while and I lost complete control of my bladder and bowels, so I had to be in a diaper twenty-four-seven. At first, my mother would come to the house and take care of me. I asked Daniel to help out, and he did, but I could tell he wasn't comfortable with changing diapers on a grown woman." Andrea's face dropped.

"Even if it was his wife."

Claire reached her hand out to take Andrea by the wrist.

"Did he leave because of that?"

"Ultimately, yes. It snowballed because of other things - we were struggling financially, I had trouble finding work, and Daniel thought my lack of self-esteem after the accident was getting him down. We finally agreed to go our separate ways, and as far as I know, he's doing well for himself." Andrea shrugged.

"I've gotten a job as a floral arranger for weddings and baby showers, and it pays well, but otherwise my life has been pretty empty."

"Besides your mother, who else do you have?"

"Just you, dear." Andrea glanced up with eyes full of misery.

"I haven't been able to get in touch with our other friends and it was pure coincidence that I ran into you yesterday."

Claire didn't let go of her wrist, but began to stroke it.

"Maybe. Maybe not."

"What's that?"

"Maybe it's not a coincidence." Claire held her friend's gaze for a moment.

"I'd like to think that there's a deeper reason we ran into each other. I'm at this point in my life where my nieces aren't my overriding concern, and you're at a point where you need someone to help you stay grounded." She took a deep breath, and as she let it out, she didn't feel an ounce of regret in saying, "Think we should try being roommates again?"

"Roommates?" Andrea echoed. Her eyes roamed about, as if trying to settle on some point that wasn't Claire's face.

"I... I don't want to say yes, but I'm not entirely against the idea, either. How would you want to arrange it?"

"We'll just do like we did back in the old days. I'll pay my share and I'll help you find work so you can pay your share."

"Seems fair." Andrea seemed to brighten, but caught herself.

"But you won't mind living with the fact that I'm - " She glanced around and kept her voice low.

"That I'm incontinent?"

Claire blinked.

"Oh. Well..." Her first reaction was to say it wasn't a problem, but she knew that it would still feel like a problem for her friend. And she didn't want to seem like a guest who was only trying to be gracious about an unpleasant situation. But then Claire reached out and took Andrea's hand in a firm squeeze.

"I've spent ten years dealing with someone who has the issue as you," she said, "so I won't be the least bit embarrassed about it, and neither should you." After some hesitation, she allowed herself to smile.

"And you ever want my help in that regard, all you have to do is ask."

Andrea stared at Claire with a look of astonishment, but it soon gave way to joy and relief.

"That's a relief. Really, you don't know how much that means to me." Her smile faltered.

"When should we start?"

"Just as soon as I tell my girls." Claire smiled before taking her last sip of coffee.

"I'm pretty sure they won't mind."

Chapter Three

Love is the hand of a friend brushing back your hair, reaching down to help you up, letting you know that all is not lost, but that there is some mercy in a unrelenting world.

Claire watched as Jessica rummaged through the dresser, helping pick out what clothes her aunt would need to bring for her extended stay with Andrea. Sarah had done her part of getting the extra suitcases before going off to see her boyfriend Brendan that evening. It was amazing, as far as Claire was concerned, that her girls could be so quick and capable. She always had trouble connecting the lovely young women who managed her trip to Andrea's with the playful little girls she'd babysat on many a fine summer day. But then all Jessica had to do was turn to her and smile - like she did just now - and Claire had no trouble remembering.

"So how long do you think you'll be staying with her?" asked Jessica, as she put another rolled-up blouse into the second or third suitcase.

"I'm not saying I'm against it or anything, but - "

"No, that's fine." Claire smiled.

"It's hard to tell. Andy's a little unstable right now in her life, so I'm just going to help get her back on her feet, maybe give her a little break from her worries." She playfully rubbed at Jessica's shoulder as she passed.

"It seems like I have that effect on everyone I know."

Jessica smiled back and went to the dresser to gather up socks and underwear for the trip. Claire busied herself with pulling the suitcases together and putting her toiletries into a separate bag.

"So what are you kids going to be doing while I'm gone?" Claire asked.

"Besides seeing our respective boyfriends?" Jessica grinned.

"Not much else. I've got classes. Sarah's got work. We may hang out, but probably not too much." She paused in her packing, giving her aunt a suspicious look.

"Why, what were you thinking we would be doing?"

Claire shrugged.

"Nothing." Then she smiled.

"Well, I was just thinking how funny it would be if you two girls happened to play 'Baby' while I was away."

Jessica laughed.

"Well, no one does it better than you, Aunt Claire."

"True." Claire's expression softened to reflect her concern.

"Still, that doesn't mean you can't play without me. After all, I think Sarah makes a lovely baby girl and I know you're not so comfortable in that role."

For a moment, Jessica didn't say anything. Then she looked up at Claire and gave her a frown.

"Well, it's not that I hate it. I just have a lot of baggage that goes with it. Dealing with Mom and all that." She tried for a smile.

"I don't mind it so much when you do it with me. And Dr. Faraday says it's not uncommon for abuse survivors to want to regress, especially if it helps them come to terms with what they went through."

Claire put her hand on Jessica's shoulder.

"No one should have to endure what you did, sweetheart. And you know if you're not comfortable with Sarah's games, you only have to say so."

Jessica smiled and squeezed her aunt's hand.

"I know. Thanks, Claire."

"Of course." Claire reached down to start locking up her suitcases.

"Better get moving. Don't want to keep Andy waiting."

------------------

It was five hours later that Claire pushed herself back from the table in Andrea's dining room. She smiled at her old roommate, who cleared the table and began scrubbing the dishes in the sink.

"That was a wonderful meal."

"Well, that was a great recipe you gave me," said Andrea with a wink.

"Go and sit in the living room. I'll just be a minute after this."

"Need any help cleaning up?"

"It's not that." Andrea paused while cleaning off a fork and turned to Claire with an expression of concern.

"I, ah, also need to get changed."

Claire didn't even blink.

"Well, do you still need any help?"

"I thought you were joking about that."

"I know."

"You really don't have to, Claire."

"I know." She smiled at Andrea, recalling the first time she'd heard this from Sarah, and from Jessica years before that.

"But if you want me to... I will."

Andrea stared at her, seeming to be at a loss. Then she set the fork down in the sink and nodded.

"All right, then. I keep all my diapers and changing supplies in my dresser. In the bottom drawer."

Claire nodded.

"Okay. Finish cleaning up and I'll see you there."

She wasted no time in going to her friend's bedroom, and just as she had said, it was all in the bottom of her dresser. Claire was surprised to adult diapers of a different brand. These were Abenas, whereas Jessica had always worn Attends - and sometimes store-bought Depends, if it took a while for her shipment of Attends to come in. But she shrugged and got out one of the X-Plus diapers, as well as a box of wipes and a bottle of baby powder.

A few minutes later, Andrea walked into the room, wiping her hands on the front of her pants. Claire sat on the bed with her supplies, waving her to join.

Cautiously, Andrea sat down next to Claire. She seemed exceptionally skittish, which was the sort one would expect for a girl on her first date, but not from a woman in her late forties. Claire slipped an arm around her friend's shoulders and smiled tenderly.

"It's going to be fine, Andy," she said.

"You've had other people change you before, right? The nurses at the hospital? Your mother?"

Andrea nodded.

"Well, now it's your best friend." Claire leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.

"I get to be your nurse, mother, and therapist all in one package. So I want you to lie down on that bed, because I'm taking over from now on."

Obediently, Andrea lowered herself to the bed and reached down to unbutton her pants. Claire helped her remove her shoes and then slid off her pants, revealing the wet Abena brief she had on.

Andrea started to blush, but then Claire laid a hand on the front of her diaper, feeling the warmth and the wetness. She looked down at her friend and said, "It's okay. I'm with you every step of the way."

Before her friend could reply, Claire popped the tapes off the diaper and pulled it open. The smell of fresh urine filled the air, but it faded once the diaper was rolled up and thrown into a scented wastebasket. Then Claire applied the wipes to Andrea's rear, taking some delight in the fact that her former roommate seemed more intrigued by the process than embarrassed. Next came the powder, which was spread liberally between her legs.

Claire unfolded the clean diaper and slid it under Andrea's bottom. She pulled it up and fastened it on, adjusting the tapes to make sure it fit but wasn't so snug that it hurt. She smiled at her friend and gave her fresh diaper a loving pat on the bottom.

"All done."

Andrea patted the front of her diaper and smiled.

"Thank you, Claire. Thank you so much."

"Of course, dear." Claire dropped herself next to Andrea on the bed and put her arms around her.

"Anything for you."

Chapter Four

Love is the whisper of affection into your ear, the sweet nothing murmured that sends a tingle down your spine and unseals your heart.

Sarah glanced into Brendan's eyes as he carried her through his apartment, just as he did every time she came by. There was something about the glow in his eyes that was familiar to her, but she couldn't quite place it. She contented herself with being carried to the bed, where he'd laid down a thin blanket and a wicker basket.

"I thought we might have a special meal tonight," said Brendan while he gently lowered Sarah onto the blanket. He pulled the cover off the basket, revealing a bottle of red wine, two glasses, and two sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.

"An indoor picnic, as it were."

"Lovely," Sarah replied. Taking up one of the wineglasses, she scooted herself to a more supine position as Brendan filled her glass and then his. They toasted to each other and took a drink. Sarah grinned and leaned over to kiss Brendan on the cheek.

After they feasted on the eggplant sandwiches and finished most of the wine, it was close to eleven-thirty at night when Brendan asked about how long Sarah could stay.

"As long as you like," she answered, absently swirling the last drops of wine in her glass.

"Aunt Claire's staying with a friend of hers for the next few weeks and Jess's fine with having the whole house to herself for a night."

"Then" - Brendan took the glass from her hand and set it on his side table - "you wouldn't mind doing some AB play?"

"Figured we'd get to that part," Sarah said with a grin.

"All right. Which role do you want - Daddy or Baby?"

"Haven't done Baby in a long time. You up for being Mommy?"

"Sure. You clear off the bed and I'll get the diapers."

It took a few minutes to get everything set up. Brendan tucked away the remnants of their picnic in his kitchenette while Sarah put out a pair of clean diapers on the bed. She knew that what she and Brendan called "AB play" wasn't the same as what Adult Babies throughout the Internet called it. He wasn't a Daddy - nor she a Mommy - in the strictest sense of the term. It was more like they were both overgrown infants or toddlers, one of whom took care of the other. If anything, they were only playing a more romantic and mature version of "House" - just two kids having fun with serious roles.

When Brendan came back in, Sarah had already slipped off her panties and put on a diaper. Even though she was playing Mommy, she was still a kid at heart and she had as much right to enjoy the feel of a diaper as her boyfriend did.

She waved him over to the bed, where he eagerly slid off his pants and shoes. A flick of her wrist snapped the remaining diaper open, and Sarah expertly slid it under and over Brendan without any fuss. She took her time taping it up and adjusting it, letting her "baby boy" soak in every moment of maternal affection.

"My little lovebird," she whispered, bending over to nuzzle her nose against his.

"Such an adorable little thing."

He smiled and drew her in for a kiss. She answered that kiss with a softer one on his bottom lip, and then another on his left cheek, and one more on his right.

After one or two more such kisses, Sarah wrestled Brendan into a half-seated pose across her lap, while she repositioned herself by the big pillows on his bed. He watched Sarah attentively as she pulled off her shirt and then the straps of her bra, exposing her breasts to him. With his head cupped in the crook of her arm, Brendan tentatively put his lips to her nipple and began to suckle.

"Mmm," Sarah murmured, stroking his hair.

"That feels nice, Baby. Such a good little baby."

And then she stopped, although Brendan kept going. It suddenly struck Sarah that she was sounding a lot like Claire when she played Mommy, and it was in Claire's eyes that she'd seen that sparkle before - the same one she'd seen in Brendan's eyes earlier that evening. It was the sparkle of youth, or perhaps romance. But why, then, would her aunt show that flash of desire when she talked about her roommate from college?

This was a line of thought that Sarah was not at all comfortable with. She shook her head and glanced down at Brendan. He was still breastfeeding, lost in his own world of contentment. The sight was enough to pull Sarah out of her reverie and focus on her own desires. Whatever the deal was Claire would have to wait for another time.

And now that she thought about it, she was feeling warm in her diaper - not like the warmth of wetting it, but the warmth of something deeper, more sensual. Her free hand began to trace its way down Brendan's chest and stomach, hesitating just above the waistband of his diaper.

"Go ahead," he whispered, pulling away from Sarah for a moment. His eyes were bright with passion.

"I'll do the same for you."

Sarah smiled.

"You'd better." She let her hand rub along the front of his diaper, adding friction to the stiffening bulge she felt there. Brendan moaned and pushed himself to her other breast, which elicited a startled gasp from Sarah.

He reached his climax within a minute and Sarah was happy to just hold Brendan while he panted and closed his eyes in bliss. Then he shifted in her arms and kissed her tenderly, and before she knew what was happening, his hand was tracing its way down to her diaper, giving it that determined rub that brought tears to her eyes and a cry from deep within her throat...

------------------

In the shadows of Andrea's bedroom, Claire looked at her roommate while she slept alongside her. They had agreed to share the bed since it was easily large enough for two people and Andrea felt bad about making her friend sleep on the couch. And besides, she seemed to need such an emotional commitment that Claire felt obligated to be with her while she slept, helping wipe away all the anxieties of her life.

Andy, Claire reflected, had always been cute in her sleep. Even in college, she had a tendency to curl up into a fetal position, tucking her arms around herself like a hug and making that high-pitched whinny when she snored. But after her years with Jessica, it seemed to Claire like her roommate was just the same as her niece had been during those first years living together - a lost little girl who needed a home and a mother.

I'm not her mother, Claire thought, but I can't help being motherly when I change her and do all those other things for her. Is that so wrong?

She found herself reaching for Andrea and pulling her close. The other woman didn't resist, being too far gone in her slumber to even notice. Claire slid one hand down to pat the thick nighttime diaper Andrea had on and rubbed her back with the other hand. The impulse in her was so strong that she found herself leaning in to kiss Andrea on the cheek - and then the neck, and the shoulders, and the forehead. But she was irresistible, just like darling little Jessica had been that first terrible night -

- The girl lay trembling, even as the covers were drawn over her and the quilt was tucked in.

"Shh," said Claire, enfolding her niece in a tight hug.

"It's okay, sweetheart. You're with me. You're safe."

Safe. That word was key. The girl's tremors began to still, but her anxiety wasn't fully gone. And Claire knew part of that anxiety was the fear that this was only a dream and that her aunt wouldn't be there in the morning.

"You're safe," Claire repeated, giving her niece a few extra goodnight kisses.

"I love you so very much, sweetheart. You're going to be fine - "

"You're safe with me..."

Claire felt something shift in her arms. She turned to see Andrea blink and glance up at her, and to her growing horror, she realized that she'd actually whispered that last part of her memory out loud.

"Andy..." Claire whispered, trying to clear out the trepidation from her face and voice, but her friend shook her head.

She responded by snuggling deeper into Claire's embrace, giving her a gentle kiss on the neck, and whispering back, "It's fine, Claire. I... I really needed to hear that. You don't know how wonderful that sounds right now." Andrea looked up into her friend's eyes and smiled through the vague shadows that enveloped the whole room.

"And for what it's worth, I couldn't have asked for a more loving companion."

Claire had no idea how to answer that. All she could do was bend down and kiss Andrea on the forehead, just like she'd done with Jessica, and smooth out the back of her hair, hoping that they'd just be able to fall asleep and get through to morning already.

Chapter Five

Love is the word that slips out in a perfect moment, like a raindrop splashing into a pond, almost unnoticeable when it sinks in, but leaving many ripples in its wake.

It was three days after that first evening with Andrea that Claire began to suspect something unusual was going on.

Her suspicions were slowly aroused at breakfast on the first day, when Andrea was a bit too eager to handle everything for Claire, from cleaning the dishes to laying out her clothes for work to changing her own diaper so that Claire "wouldn't have to bother." At first, it seemed like a simple gesture of kindness - the sort of thing an old roommate might do, especially Andrea had always been quick to help Claire out back in college, just as Claire had done the same for her.

Then, on the second day, Andrea had called her "darling" no less than six times.

And on the third day, she'd surprised Claire before bed, coming up from behind to plant a kiss on the side of her neck and whisper "Good night."

That next morning, Claire lay awake in bed, trying not to look at or make any contact with her former roommate. It was painful to be so distant, but she knew that she needed some kind of space between the two of them.

She had no way of knowing what was going through Andrea's mind. There'd be a glimpse of something during their meals or when Claire was changing her diaper. The woman's face would drift into a satisfied smile, and she would be positively radiant, like some kind of full-grown cherub. It was the smile of love. The smile of joy.

To Claire, it was both a delight and a terror.

Andrea had never, as far as she could remember, ever given that kind of a smile. This was a side to her - the wonderfully happy side - that she'd never seen before. Even being with Daniel, her long-time boyfriend and future husband, has never elicited such a rise out of her.

So later that day, as Claire came home from work, she dropped her bag and coat by the door and went over to find Andrea preparing dinner in the kitchen.

Her roommate spun around from the salad she was tossing and flashed a grin as Claire entered.

"Hey, beautiful! How was work?"

"Not bad." Claire reached behind her shoulder to rub the back of her neck, then stopped as she realized how much of a nervous tic that was.

"Do you have a moment? There's something I wanted to discuss with you."

"Of course." Andrea put down her salad tongs, wiped her hands on a kitchen rag, and went with Claire to sit at the dining room table. She folded her hands in front of her, giving Claire a pleasant, unassuming smile.

Taking a deep breath, Claire slowly looked up at her friend's face.

"Andy, I feel bad about asking this, and I really, really don't mean to offend you, but..." She shook her head and said, "Are you coming on to me?"

Andrea blinked.

"Pardon?"

"It's just that - " Claire slowly rubbed a hand down her face, trying to recollect her thoughts and get out the speech she'd rehearsed on the way home.

"Ever since we started living together again, you've been different around me. I know a lot of time has passed since college and I know you've had a terrible injury and a terrible divorce, but I get this feeling from you." She gestured to Andrea's face.

"Your eyes light up, your voice sounds intense, and you seem to want to hold onto me a little longer every time we hug or go to bed. I just need to know if my suspicions are just that - suspicions."

Claire let out an anxious breath and saw that Andrea was staring at her in shock. Then she noted the glistening tears gathering in her eyes.

"Oh, Andy," she whispered, reaching for her hand.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be like that - "

"It's not - " Andrea let out a shuddering breath that seemed to make her whole body tremble. She looked away, as tears streaked down her face.

"I... I've been lonely, Claire. I've been on my own for a year and a half. No husband. No kids. Even my own mother had to stop coming because of her health..."

She couldn't continue and simply broke down in full-hearted sobbing. It was a well-honed maternal instinct that propelled Claire out of her seat and over to Andrea. She draped her arms around her friend's shoulders, letting her head rest on her bosom and the tears soak into her blouse.

"And then you came," Andrea whispered, her voice muffled by Claire's chest.

"And when you did, I could just... forget about everything that had happened. It was like we'd never been apart for all those years. It was... magical being together. And even the way you changed me - " Andrea slowly lifted her head to look into Claire's eyes.

"You became the kind of mother I needed. It was like I could start my life over again." Then she sniffled and added, "Because you were my Mommy, Claire."

"Andy..." Claire didn't have any other words for her. She was too trapped in the swirl of her own emotions to even think clearly.

She loved Andy; she was afraid to love. She was shocked at her confession; she was overjoyed to hear it finally come out. She felt pity for her friend; she was scared to get too close. And it occurred to Claire that this must have been what Jessica had felt as a child: suffering at her mother's hands, wanting desperately to love her, but so full of revulsion and sorrow at what was happening.

And then, Claire was still. She continued to hold Andrea close to her, but she no longer felt that anxiety that threatened to push her away. Jessica had taught her to love without shame. She would do the same for Andrea, no matter the consequences.

"Andy," Claire whispered, "I'm here for you."

Very slowly, Andrea lifted her sparkling eyes to meet Claire's gaze.

"I'm here," said Claire, forming a smile, "and I love you."

A tiny squeak of joy flew out of Andrea's mouth, which broadened to a smile, and before she had any time to react, Claire found herself locked in a passionate kiss with her best friend. Her first instinct was to pull away, but she relaxed and surrendered to the moment, feeling every subsequent kiss like a tiny thank-you from Andrea. It felt strange to be doing this with her friend and roommate, but she didn't really care. The love she felt was sincere.

When they finally pulled away, both Andrea and Claire were smiling nervously at each other. Claire pulled Andrea into another hug and planted a kiss on her forehead.

"You really do love me," Andrea whispered.

"I do," Claire answered, more than a little surprised.

"I don't always think about it... but I haven't had any kind of romantic relationship since..." She shrugged.

"Well, not for a very, very long time."

"Stay with me." Taking Claire's hand, Andrea bent down to kiss her on the palm.

"We can be happy together, Claire. I'll make you happy. I promise."

Something in Claire wanted to say no. She thought for just a moment about what she'd have to say to her nieces. Her mind was racing through possibilities about going back home and getting some distance from this emotional mess.

But she couldn't stop looking into Andrea's warm and loving eyes, and the more she did, the harder it was to say no. Claire could not say if she really was a lesbian or bisexual, but she did know her love for Andrea was just as real as her love for her nieces. And if it meant staying a little while longer, so be it.

"Darling," Claire whispered back, giving another kiss on the forehead, "not that I want to spoil this moment, but do you need a change?"

Andrea nodded sheepishly.

Claire smiled and lifted her out of her chair.

"Then come with me, young lady."

Chapter Six

Love is the invitation into one's home, to come in from the cold and find warmth in the presence of others.

Jessica fidgeted with the shoulder straps on her backpack as she and Sarah walked up to the front door of the house where Sarah's parents lived. They'd made the drive up to spend a three-day weekend with them, and it was important since Jessica hadn't been to Sarah's house in what seemed like forever. She had some memories of it at one or two Christmases; all other family interactions usually took place at their Grandma Sharon's house, which was a halfway point for both sides of the family.

"You're sure we can't go to a drugstore out here?" asked Jessica after Sarah rang the doorbell.

"I'm sure you've got plenty of diapers to last the whole weekend," Sarah replied with a tender smile.

"I mean, you've got so many in your backpack that it looks ready to burst."

"Yeah, but some days I need more diapers than usual."

"And if we run out, then we'll go buy more," Sarah concluded, still smiling.

"You worry almost as much as Claire, Jess."

"It's what I get for living with her for so long," Jessica said. She gave her cousin a suspicious glare.

"Just you watch. You'll turn out just the same by staying with us."

Just then, the door opened. Standing there was Sarah's mother, Laura. Much in the way that Jessica was said to be a younger version of her Aunt Claire, it could be said that Sarah was basically a younger version of her mother. Laura was a fairly tall woman with long auburn hair and a heartwarming smile. As soon as she saw the two girls on her doorstep, she let out a fierce giggle and swept them both into a hug.

"It's wonderful you could make it!" Laura exclaimed. She pulled back to give Sarah an appraising look.

"You seem to have put on a little weight, dear. Is Claire just spoiling you rotten?"

"It's what she does best," Sarah replied.

"And it's good to see you, too, Mom."

Laura turned to Jessica, which made her smile widen.

"And how are you, dear? How's school going?"

"Just fine, Aunt Laura. Getting good grades. Sometimes staying out of trouble."

"Well, that's just grand." The older woman led the girls into the house, taking the suitcase Sarah was holding.

They moved into the den, where Sarah's father, Tom, was sitting on the couch. He had a thinning brown scalp and a healthy moustache, which fit Jessica's image of him as a rough-and-ready football coach. But Tom was no less of a wit than Laura and Sarah, though he was the most reserved of the trio. He greeted the girls with a broad smile and turned down the volume on the TV.

"The Packers lost, can you believe it?" he asked of no one in particular, then gave a rueful shake of his head.

"Well, I guess with you kids around, the weekend won't be a total loss after all."

"Thanks for the warm welcome, Dad," said Sarah.

"Jessica, darling," Laura piped up, leaning in conspiratorially, "sorry to be a bit of a bother, but do you need a change?" She lifted up Sarah's suitcase.

"I was just going to put this away in the room you girls will be sharing anyway."

"Oh! Um..." Jessica gave a slightly embarrassed smile. It was still a bit odd for her Aunt Laura to be changing her, as the only other relatives who did it had been Claire, Sarah, and Grandma Sharon.

"Well, if you insist..."

"Sure! Right this way!"

Jessica followed her aunt down the hallway to Sarah's old bedroom. It looked about the same as the one Sarah had at Claire's house, except it was a bit larger and had more posters on the walls. Jessica set her backpack down on the floor and took out a fresh diaper, her wipes, and a bottle of baby powder.

Laura took them from her and waved for Jessica to lie down. The girl obediently put herself on Sarah's bed, helping her aunt by pulling down her jeans and exposing her fairly damp Attends diaper.

"Sure haven't done this in a while," said Laura, smiling as she undid the tapes and slid off the old diaper.

"Well, I haven't been here in a long time," Jessica replied.

"True, but I meant that I haven't been in the habit of changing too many diapers like Claire has." Laura gave her niece a wistful smile.

"My own baby girl has been out of diapers a lot longer than you, dear!"

Unfortunately, Jessica knew it was otherwise, but she also knew better than to say so. Sarah still hadn't found the courage to tell her parents about her own diaper-wearing, although she and Jessica agreed that it was more of a personal interest and she didn't have to tell her parents everything about her life.

It took Laura a while to finish powdering off Jessica's bottom and taping on the clean diaper. The young woman relished it, though, especially in the tender way Laura adjusted the leg openings and patted her on the rear.

"Thanks, Aunt Laura." Jessica sat up and promptly hugged her aunt.

Laura seemed taken aback, but she relented and returned the hug.

"You're very welcome, angel." She bent her head down to kiss Jessica on the cheek and then stroked her hair.

"Just be sure to let me when you need a change and I'll be there. You don't always need Sarah for that, right?"

"No, not always." Jessica smiled up at Laura.

"That's why I have you, Mom."

Her aunt gave a soft exclamation of joy and wrapped Jessica into an even tighter hug, followed by a more determined kiss on both cheeks.

"I love you, too, baby girl."

It felt wonderful to say something like that, and Jessica knew that her therapist, Dr. Faraday, would have approved of the big step she was taking. She was being honest about her emotions and her needs.

Now, she thought, we'll see if I can't help Sarah do the same...

------------------

Claire smiled down at Andrea as she reached to pat her on the front of her freshly-taped diaper. Andrea grinned and stuck her thumb in her face, just like Sarah would do sometimes. It only made Claire's smile widen and she couldn't resist bending down to give her friend another long kiss.

Andrea pulled away to give Claire an appraising look.

"I think it's wonderful that we're being honest with each other, but I don't want to rush into things."

Claire nodded.

"Of course not."

"At our age, we don't have to be foolish."

"What would be the point?"

"We can always take our time."

"We sure can."

They stared at each other for a moment longer, and then Claire threw herself at Andrea again. Their lips meet in a twisting, moaning kiss, and Andrea's hands worked furiously at getting Claire's pants off. Then both women were rolling about on the bed together, helping each other remove their shirts and bras in between kisses, and it wasn't long before they were fully exposed - Claire having stripped down to her panties, and Andrea wearing only her diaper.

It was Andrea who raised the stakes by kissing Claire down along her neck and shoulders, spreading her kisses and caresses along her breasts and her stomach, and then stopping just along her waistline. Claire was in complete ecstasy, to such a degree as she had never known before. But she wasn't prepared when Andrea slid down her panties and suddenly thrust her tongue into her.

A loud gasp escaped Claire's mouth and her eyes squeezed shut as wave after wave of pleasure went coursing through her body. Andrea probed deeper and deeper into her, rooting around for that spot where everything would -

It was over almost as quickly as it had begun. Claire arched her back high before she fell onto the bed sheets again, gasping for air as she slowly pulled herself together. Andrea came up to kiss Claire on both cheeks, and then on the lips.

"You were..." Claire was still panting and wiping the sweat off her face.

"That was... that was..."

"Shh." Andrea put a finger to her friend's lips and nuzzled the side of her neck.

"Don't spoil the moment. Just enjoy yourself."

Claire sighed and turned to kiss her again.

"I haven't had pleasure like that since college... back when I was dating Jon."

"And I haven't been with anyone since Daniel," Andrea replied, giving Claire a kiss just below her earlobe.

"My turn now."

"What should I do for you?"

"Whatever you want to do. Let it come naturally."

Slowly, Claire pulled Andrea into a hug and continued kissing her. With one of her hands rubbing Andrea's back, her other hand traced down her breasts and stomach before sinking past the waistband of her diaper.

Andrea moaned and pulled away from the kiss. As Claire began to rub her inside the diaper, Andrea bent her head down and put her lips to Claire's breast. She continued to moan, but her lips began to suck at the nipple, and Claire found herself moaning along with her. She kissed the top of Andrea's head and began to rub harder, sliding her finger in and out, teasing her into the same climax she herself had enjoyed.

When it was over, Andrea was shivering against Claire, her lips absently sucking away at her breast. Claire marveled at the sensation. She had become so many things in this moment - lover, child, and mother. She could see that Andrea had been unfulfilled, not only in receiving pleasure, but in wanting to give it as well. And Claire had always told herself that her deepest pleasure was in the care and devotion she'd given to Jessica and Sarah, but Andrea had reawakened that primal desire in her - a longing for complete union with another person, wrapped together in unabashed love. In this way, being with her nieces was only a small comfort, and she could see how her affections for them was linked to the affection she now gave Andrea.

"Don't stop," Claire whispered as the other woman's lips began to pull back from her breast. She put her hand through Andrea's hair.

"Please, keep going."

Andrea smiled and shifted to the other breast. Claire sighed contentedly as they went on. She felt very maternal now, holding her love in her arms, nursing her and being completely there for her. And the fact that Andrea was wearing nothing but a diaper only strengthened that feeling.

But this is something I could never share with Sarah or Jess, thought Claire, but a teasing smile came to her lips. Or could I...?

Some time later, they got dressed and sat down for a dinner that had long grown cold after all their lovemaking. When they had finished eating, Andrea led Claire into the bathroom so they could take a shower and clean each other off. Then it was time for one more diaper change and then straight to bed, with Claire holding Andrea close to her, just as she had done on their first night together.

"Good night, darling," Andrea whispered.

Claire kissed her and stroked her hair.

"Good night, love. Pleasant dreams."

Chapter Seven

Love is the honesty that comes gushing out of your mouth, shattering the silent illusions that had sealed you and your beloved together, now threatening to tear your romance asunder.

"Jess?"

With a soft groan, Jessica let her eyes drift back open. She turned around under the bed sheets to glance at her cousin in the soft darkness of her bedroom.

"What?"

"Was there something you wanted to ask me earlier?" Sarah shifted onto her side to get a better look at Jessica.

"When I was changing you, you seemed like you wanted to talk about something."

"Oh, right." Jessica scooted herself closer.

"It's probably nothing. Aunt Claire told me before she left that... well, that she thought you might enjoy doing a few baby games while we're spending time together." She blushed.

"I'm sorry. This feels like a bad time to bring it up - "

Sarah shook her head.

"Not at all." She reached her hand to stroke the back of Jessica's neck.

"I thought for a second you might be suggesting I come out to Mom and Dad about my fetish."

"Oh, of course not."

"That's good, because I won't." Sarah smiled fondly at her cousin and wrapped her into a hug.

"You might be right about playing our little game, but I don't actually want to be the Baby next time." Her eyes twinkled in the shadows.

"I want you to be my baby girl."

Jessica was speechless. She worked her lips, trying to respond, but couldn't. All she could feel was Sarah's arms around her, cuddling her silently, whispering sweet nothings into her ear. There was something about breastfeeding and the joy she'd felt in her diaper play with Brendan, and how much she wanted to be a Mommy to someone like Jessica. But it all might as well have been a burst of static as far as Jessica was concerned because she couldn't quite make sense of what Sarah was saying.

Being her baby? The thought echoed in Jessica's mind. It splashed like a pebble in a pond, conjuring up ripples, summoning all those unpleasant memories that she had been able to face -

- Memories like being forced to drink milk from a bottle, to be held in what only resembled a mother's embrace, when in fact there was no love in those arms, and told how much of a "baby" she'd always been -

"Jess?" Sarah asked softly.

A blink brought Jessica back to reality. It had been a while since the memories had gotten a chance to overwhelm her. She met her cousin's worried glance and decided that this wasn't the best time to discuss this sort of thing.

"Sarah, let's get one thing clear," Jessica said sharply.

"I am no one's baby girl. Not yours, not Aunt Claire's, and definitely not my mother's. So I'll say 'Good night' and then go to sleep, all right?"

"All right, Jess." Sarah pulled herself away very slowly, looking very sad. She closed her eyes and turned away, facing the wall so that her back was to Jessica.

And that was when Jessica realized that she'd spoken a little too strongly. She had meant to be gentle in her dismissal, but there was still a bit of emotional heat coming off that bad memory. Her therapy with Dr. Faraday and Aunt Claire had helped her get some of her demons out, but even now, there was still one or two that refused to go away.

Jessica let her eyes fall shut and tried to sleep, but all she could hear was the sadness in Sarah's voice. She prayed that they could sort it all out in the morning.

------------------

"You were what?"

Andrea looked away from Claire's shocked stare.

"I admit it. I was attracted to you back in college." When she met her friend's gaze, she spread her hands defensively.

"I was confused back then. I really wasn't sure if I liked guys or girls. Or both."

Claire folded her arms.

"And so every time I went swimming or came out of the shower, you were checking me out?"

"Well," - Andrea gave a coy smile - "not every time."

"Andy!" Claire scooted over from her side of the couch to grab her girlfriend and bring her close. She tried to look serious, but it wasn't working.

"In retrospect about last night, I suppose I shouldn't be upset. It's not like your feelings weren't justified."

"Then you're not mad?"

"Not really." Claire glanced away for a second.

"Well, let me amend that. I have the right to be mad, but I'm not. Like you said, you were confused. But you could have told me then." She grinned.

"We could have at least gotten one kiss and then been done with it."

Tears suddenly began to collect on the edge of Andrea's eyes.

"But then I'd have still married Daniel and I wouldn't have you now to - " Her voice cracked, and before Claire could say anything, Andrea turned away in shame.

"Andy," said Claire. Her hand brushed alongside the other woman's face.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. You know I'll always care for you."

"Always?" Andrea turned back with a timid smile.

Claire nodded.

"Yes, always. If it hadn't been for running into you at the mall and having coffee together, I don't think we'd have rediscovered our bond like this. And as much as I still think of you as my friend and roommate..." She bent down to kiss her softly on the lips.

"Well, we both needed that special someone in our lives. Part of me is glad that I was yours, just as you were mine."

"I love you, Claire," said Andrea, pulling her in for another kiss.

They stayed on the couch like that for a while, as Claire reached down to pat the back of Andrea's skirt and trace her fingers along the waistband of her diaper. She gave her girlfriend a soft smile and then nuzzled her on the neck, hoping they might take a nap together, if only to wake up in each other's arms.

------------------

When Jessica woke up the next morning, she discovered that Sarah had already gotten out of bed - and had changed her cousin's diaper while she was still asleep, if the dryness of her diaper and lingering scent of baby powder was anything to go by. So it took Jessica a moment or two to recall what she'd said to Sarah the night before, and suddenly her confusion turned to guilt.

Moving very slowly, Jessica searched around for her pants and a new t-shirt. She didn't bother taking a shower or fixing up her hair, and went straight to the kitchen. Just as she expected, her aunt and uncle were still asleep, and Sarah sat alone at the table, still in her robe, silently sucking on a pacifier.

When her cousin didn't even look up from the kitchen table, Jessica knew that any of her words or excuses wouldn't fix things between them. But she did have one trick that had always worked on Claire for any unpleasant occasion.

She went right up to Sarah and took her by the arm. When her cousin looked up, still sucking on her pacifier, Jessica went under her arm and curled herself up on her lap, so that Sarah's arm fell over her like a hug. It only took a moment, but soon Sarah was giving Jessica a real hug and reaching around to gently brush a hand through her hair.

While this was going on, Jessica lifted her hand and delicately took the pacifier out of Sarah's mouth. Her cousin didn't resist but watched with anticipation as Jessica examined the pacifier in her hand.

She was ready for all the bad memories to come flooding through her mind - like having her voice locked away behind a pacifier by that madwoman of a mother, sucking on it day and night except for when she was sobbing - but there was none of that, much to her detached surprise. So Jessica plopped the pacifier right into her mouth and began to suck on it, feeling very cute and safe.

A pair of lips brushed against her forehead, and she heard Sarah whisper into her ear, "You are too adorable to let go. My lovely little sweetheart."

Jessica's only response to that was to continue sucking away and letting her eyes drift shut, while Sarah gently rocked her and hummed the faint notes of a lullaby.

Chapter Eight

Love is the new horizon you and your beloved explore, facing new perils and unimagined joys, with the confidence that comes from holding hands.

A week after discovering and professing their love for each other, Claire and Andrea were sitting on the bed together, which seemed to be a frequent activity for them whenever Claire was home from work or Andrea was in between floral arrangement jobs. Claire was receiving a very sensual massage from her lover, lying facedown with her top off and her eyes blissfully shut.

"Lower, please." Claire stretched and sighed.

"Mmm, that's it. There's a little knot in my lower back - that's the one..."

Andrea continued kneading her fingers into her back, but she bent down briefly to kiss Claire on that very spot. It sent a tingle through Claire, a jolt that liquefied her whole body into ecstasy before settling into a deep peace. She was of reminded of how Sarah would have a similar reaction whenever someone touched her on the back of the neck.

"So I was thinking, dear," said Andrea, as she got to work on Claire's hips, "that maybe we go do a little more... experimenting together."

"How much further we can go?" Claire wondered aloud. They'd already kissed and made love. It seemed like there wasn't a single square inch of their bodies that they hadn't explored in the past few days.

"Well, we've gone physically, emotionally, spiritually..." Andrea's tone turned suggestive as she trailed off.

"But what about psychologically?"

Claire turned her head around. Andrea had stopped massaging her and was doing nothing more than staring back with a playful expression. This was more like the girl she'd known back in college - that rambunctious, redheaded rapscallion who adored late-night parties and couldn't stand having nothing to do on a Friday or Saturday night. But it took a while for Claire to adjust to the fact that neither of them were still living it up in college and had, for all intents and purposes, slowed down.

Still, love knew no boundaries as far as Claire was concerned, so she turned a big, bright smile onto her lover.

"What did you have in mind?"

Andrea turned her over and leaned down to give Claire a soft kiss. Then she drew back and grinned.

"I was just thinking that you've been so giving ever since you arrived. Yes, I've been making all our meals and doing my half of the laundry, but you seem to love doing everything else for me - the most important of those things being, obviously, changing my diaper."

She leaned close enough to Claire's face, as if she were ready for another kiss, but held back.

"It occurs to me, though, that I haven't done much for you. I feel like I should be able to take charge once and a while, instead of letting you handle everything."

"Well," said Claire, feeling a mite uncomfortable discussing this without her shirt on, "I don't know that I really 'take charge' of anything."

"Yes, you do. Don't get me wrong. It isn't a bad thing." Andrea stroked the side of Claire's face with the blade of her hand.

"But I think you should be passive for once in your life. It should be your turn for being taken care of."

"I'm touched, Andy." Claire took the hand stroking her face and kissed its palm.

"Really, that's very sweet of you."

"So here's the rule," Andrea declared with that let's-get-things-done tone she'd used to persuade Claire to go out on so many dull Friday nights.

"From this moment on, you are to be completely docile around me. You can say whatever you like, but you have to do everything I tell you to do. And in return" - Andrea's smile threatened to split her cheeks apart - "you'll be showered with all the affection and attention I'd give to my own daughter. If I had one, anyway. Is that clear?"

"This isn't going to involve some kind of humiliation, is it?" Claire still had too many unpleasant memories of the similarly authoritarian approach taken by the sorority they'd pledged for in college - and that seemingly endless week when they wore rabbit ears and fluffy cotton tails to every single class.

Andrea chuckled and gave her another soft kiss.

"No, nothing like that. At least, I don't think it'll happen." She shifted on her legs to get a higher seated position on the bed.

"One never knows..."

Claire figured that this would a highly unusual experience for her. And of course Andrea would have the final word on when this exercise ended - if indeed, it ever would. So like everything else in her life, all she could do was shrug and decide to make the most of it.

"All right, Andy," Claire said with a wistful smile.

"I'm entirely in your hands."

"Good. Take off your pants."

Claire didn't hesitate. She slid her jeans off and dropped them onto the floor, so that she was sitting on the bed in just her bra and panties. Andrea ran her eyes over her more-exposed body, giving a slow and appreciative nod.

"Very good, Claire," she said, lowering herself onto her back.

"Next, I want you to take off all of my clothes."

Again, Claire didn't waste any time. She removed Andrea's socks and shoes, and then her jeans, as though she were prepping her roommate for yet another diaper change. Then she went to slip off Andrea's blouse, and after a quick questioning glance, removed her bra as well.

Now Andrea was lying in just her diaper - a slightly wet diaper, Claire noted. She was panting slightly, but offered a fiendish grin.

"I hope you're ready for the next bit because it's a little complicated."

This feeling of uncertainty was quite refreshing, Claire had to admit. This was a far cry from the ordinary nights she'd spent with her nieces or even the parties she and Andrea used to attend. It was a deliberate loss of control, and she was starting to like it.

Andrea met her gaze and said, "Now, Claire, take me onto your lap, so that I'm facing down."

Reaching for her partner, Claire scooted onto the bed and pulled Andrea into a supine position across her lap, resting her hands atop her bare back.

The grin Andrea wore didn't lessen when she said, "Now spank me."

"What?"

"Do it!"

Instinctively, Claire gave her a soft pat on the back of her diaper - hard enough to register, but not nearly so hard to cause actual pain. She was too flabbergasted to even realize what she was doing.

Andrea shook her head.

"Not like that. Be hard. Don't hold yourself back."

Claire bit her lower lip.

"I don't believe in spanking anyone, Andy. Certainly not after what my niece went through."

"I know, Claire, but she was being spanked to punish." Andrea's gaze narrowed.

"I want you to spank me for the sake of pleasure."

"I still don't - "

"Claire, please."

Andrea's voice caught her off-guard. It was full of emotion - almost a hunger, like the voice of a starving person. She was watching Claire intently, ravenously, as if a swat of her hand could satisfy her completely. To give some encouragement, she began to wiggle her diapered rear up toward Claire's face, all but begging her to strike.

No, thought Claire. Not to strike, but to play.

That's what Andrea was doing here. She wasn't asking for punishment, but to be engaged in a way that went beyond the norm. So this wasn't really disrespecting Jessica and her past.

It was an invitation to cut loose.

So Claire let her eyes fall half-shut and began to swat Andrea on her bottom. She was rewarded with a series of laughs, squeals, and deep-throated moans from her lover. And with every swat, Claire felt her lips spreading toward an unabashed grin, and her eyes fell completely shut. The spanking developed its own rhythm - up and down, up and down, a soft moan from Claire matched by a deeper cry from Andrea, as though they were trading off on the same breath, inhaling and exhaling with each swat.

Slowly, Claire's blows began to subside, and she laid her hand against the fluff of Andrea's diapered bottom, which was now soaked with sweat. Andrea lay panting and smiling on Claire's lap, cuddling her quietly with relief, and it amazed Claire that she could do such a thing to her friend and not feel any shame.

She felt grateful for the opportunity and couldn't wait for her next task.

Chapter Nine

Love is losing yourself in the arms of another, becoming dependent on the embrace of your beloved and finding peace in the crook of their elbow, resting your head on their shoulder.

Changing her cousin's dirty diaper was, Sarah reflected, not the worst thing in the world. It was unpleasant and a bit trying to say the least, but she could easily imagine a more terrible fate. And there was nothing wrong in bringing a smile to Jessica's face when she was put into a clean and comfortable diaper.

She threw out the old diaper and turned to flash a quick smile at her cousin.

"Be right back."

A few steps brought Sarah to the living room, where her mother and father were putting on their coats for their night out with friends. This was the last night that Sarah and Jessica were going to be staying over, and they felt it would be best to try out their new "Baby game" while Sarah's parents were gone. Jessica had initially wanted to wait until they got back to Claire's house, but Sarah encouraged her to go for it this evening and see if it was worthwhile.

"You kids won't be too bored while we're out?" her mother asked as she slipped on her overcoat.

"Not really," said Sarah, folding her arms.

"We'll probably just watch a movie or something and go to bed early. It's a long drive back to Claire's tomorrow."

Her mother nodded, for which Sarah was grateful. What she'd said was true, but of course she'd left out all the details about their real plans, like playing Mommy and Baby Girl, and having some fun with their diapers.

"Well, I guess then we'd better say our goodbyes now." Her mother threw her arms around Sarah and hugged her firmly.

"You kids take care now."

"We will, Mom."

Her father came over and hugged her as well, though he held Sarah at arm's length to regard her.

"Now, don't start any wild parties while we're out, okay?"

Sarah smiled fondly.

"Just how wild do you think we could possibly be?"

Her father's reply was a light chuckle.

"Well, there's always a first time. See you later, sweetheart."

It took only a minute or two for her parents to get out of the house, into their car, and onto the road. Then Sarah locked the front door and went back to her room.

Still lying on the bed, Jessica had kept her diaper exposed and was now sucking on a pacifier. She looked up at her cousin with puppy-dog eyes that made her heart grow warm and tender.

It was time to be a Mommy.

"Hey there, baby girl," Sarah whispered, bending down to kiss Jessica's forehead.

"You been a good girl today?"

"Mmm," was Jessica's reply, muffled by her pacifier. Her eyes fell shut as Sarah began to brush away some loose strands of hair.

"Then let's get started." Sarah looped her arms around Jessica's shoulders and waited for her cousin to do the same to her. Then she carried the younger girl down the hall and into the living room, where she'd surreptitiously placed a bottle of juice behind the couch.

Placing Jessica on her lap, Sarah reached back over the couch and came up with the bottle. She shifted her "baby girl" closer to her right shoulder and gave her a sip of apple juice. Jessica eagerly began to drink, occasionally giving Sarah a soft cuddle when she gulped down her juice. Sarah responded by pulling her into a tighter embrace and planting a swift kiss on the tip of her nose.

When she'd finished, Jessica pushed the bottle away and rested her head against Sarah's shoulder, letting her eyes drift shut.

"This feels kinda nice," she said, sounding very much like a nineteen-year-old girl despite looking and acting like a one-year-old.

"You're a good Mommy, Sarah."

"Only because I have a wonderful girl like you to practice with," replied Sarah with a fond smile. Her hand snaked its way through Jessica's hair.

"Now that you've had your bottle, what else should we do?"

Jessica tightened her arms' embrace on Sarah.

"I'm pretty sleepy, Sarah. Would you mind if I just went to bed early? That way, if I wake up later tonight, we can still play before your parents get back."

"Or even after that," Sarah added with a smile, "if we're both in bed when they get back - not to mention as quiet as possible."

"Sounds like a plan."

------------------

Sarah was snuggled close to Jessica in her bed, with the lights turned out, when she heard her parents come home.

Jessica had quickly fallen asleep, and Sarah had drifted in and out for a while. But she held her breath as she heard the dim opening and closing of doors, and did her best to stay motionless when she heard the creak of her bedroom door sliding open and saw a shaft of yellow light from outside fall across her bed.

"Already asleep?" she heard her mother whisper.

"How precious."

"Ahh, let 'em rest," her father murmured.

"They've got a long trip tomorrow."

Her mother sighed and said, "All right."

Once the door was closed and their footsteps faded into silence, Sarah let out the breath she'd been holding all this time. Her lips curved into a gentle smile as she slipped her hand onto Jessica's lower back.

"You awake, baby?" she whispered into her cousin's ear.

"You ready to play, you cute little girl?"

Jessica's eyes slowly slid open, as though she hadn't been asleep at all.

"Yes, I am, Mommy."

Sarah grinned.

"Well, I think I've got a paci for a sweet little girl like you." She reached into her pillowcase and took out the pacifier that she'd hidden there when they went to bed. It would have been a disaster if her parents had peeked into her bedroom only to glimpse Jessica sucking on a pacifier in her sleep.

She slipped the pacifier into Jessica's mouth and pulled her into a tighter hug. The younger girl snuggled against her cousin's breast, the way a newborn would with its mother.

That comparison wasn't lost on Sarah.

"Does my baby girl want her midnight feeding?"

Jessica stared, having noticeably stopped sucking on his pacifier. Sarah could well imagine what she was thinking - it was wrong, it wasn't natural, it simply was too absurd to even consider.

And she could also imagine the counterarguments - there was little point talking about absurdity when it came to a nineteen-year-old girl in diapers; this was a gift being offered entirely out of one's own body and soul; and this could be done once, in the spirit of play, and then never brought up again.

All those thoughts were visible in Jessica's eyes when she looked up at Sarah and said through her pacifier, "Mommy, can I have some milk?"

"Of course, dear." Sarah slipped off the top of her nightgown and unhooked the clasp to her bra, exposing her breasts. She took Jessica into a lower position, continuing to hold her tenderly as her "baby girl" hesitantly put her lips to a nipple and began to suck as she'd done with the pacifier.

A surge of ecstasy welled in Sarah's heart. She felt like a young woman and an old mother, both a child and an adult. And she knew that the gentle motion of Jessica's feeding at her breast was the connection all mothers ultimately had with their children.

Jessica continued to feed until she fell asleep, and as Sarah did the same, a final thought passed through her mind -

She wondered if her Aunt Claire had ever felt this kind of a connection.

Chapter Ten

Love is the deep breath you take before a plunge, or the role you play for the sake of your beloved - overcoming fear in the name of joy.

Claire was amazed in how much she'd let go of her inhibitions over the course of a single evening - a very romantic evening, granted, but an evening nonetheless.

She'd kept up her passive role, being totally obedient to Andrea's commands. But she was never harsh to Claire, showing no acrimony in her tone or her touch. Every caress, every whisper, was gentle and thrilling. And the past few hours together had been full of surprises: tickling and spanking, playing out rape fantasies and mother-daughter roleplaying games.

It was the last of those games that Andrea was now gearing up for, but this time in the role of Mommy, with Claire as her Baby. And so she stood over Claire, who lay nude on the bed, wearing a yellow summer dress and holding a diaper in her hand.

"You just knew it was going to come down to this," Andrea said with a grin. She began to unfold the diaper, keeping her eyes fixed on Claire.

"I mean, haven't you ever been tempted to try one on, after changing your niece so many times?"

Claire blushed and turned her gaze away.

"Well, sure. But it's not that big a deal. And I certainly wouldn't try it if I thought Jessica might take offense."

"Fair enough." Andrea stretched out the now-unfolded diaper and gestured for Claire to lift her legs up.

The diaper was slid under Claire's bottom, and as she lowered herself onto it, she felt another thrill run through it. But this ran deeper than anything she and Andrea had been doing all evening - it was the thrill of something she'd done for Jessica and Sarah, but denied herself. Now she felt the padding come up between her legs, watching Andrea take her time as she held the diaper in place and taped it up, and Claire found herself staring in wonder at the diaper she was wearing.

Her diaper, she thought blankly. For years, it had always been "Jessica's diaper," and more recently, "Sarah's diaper." But now this diaper was hers to wear - and use, if Andrea desired it.

Taking her seat on the bed next to Claire, Andrea reached behind the pillows and took out a soft blue blanket. She wrapped Claire into the blanket and pulled her into her lap - which wasn't easy considering that they were both roughly the same size, so Andrea could only manage to get her girlfriend's upper body over her lap.

"What an adorable baby you are," Andrea exclaimed. She bent down to kiss Claire on her forehead; the other woman responded by teasingly sucking her thumb.

Slowly, Andrea began to rock Claire in her arms. Humming out her mouth was a faint lullaby, which Claire recognized as something like the one she'd sung to Jessica on those first terrible nights together, when she'd been more of an infant than a nine-year-old girl. Hearing that tune again was strangely comforting, though she'd never imagined she'd be on the receiving end.

Claire let her eyes fall shut, and drifted off into a state of rest that wasn't quite sleep. Dimly, she could still perceive the warmth of the blanket, the soft melody Andrea hummed, the crinkle and padding of the diaper she wore, and the tender lips that kissed her every so often on the forehead.

She knew, now, what Jessica had sought in her embrace all those years ago - and in all the years since. She knew what Sarah sought in her reversions to babyhood, where she could stop being an adult and cuddle up with her Mommy or Daddy as an adorable little girl. And looking into Andrea's eyes, she understood why her lover now relished getting her diaper changed - so intimate and affectionate were those moments that they could never be unpleasant.

"Do you like being my baby?" Andrea whispered, stroking Claire's face with the blade of her hand.

Claire nodded and popped her thumb out of her mouth.

"Yes, I do, Mommy."

With a squeal, Andrea leaned down to plant another firm kiss on Claire's lips. Surrendering herself to that kiss, Claire willed her body to yield, so that the sensation reached all the way through her - including her bladder, she realized too late.

A sudden warmth spread through the backside of her diaper, which Claire would have also found sensual had she not been blushing with embarrassment. Andrea noticed this with a loving smile and another kiss on the forehead.

"All better now," she said, and unwrapped Claire from the blanket, exposing her half-naked body and fresh wet diaper.

Claire smiled and rubbed the front of her diaper, savoring the warm patch along her bottom. She looked over at Andrea and could already read her intention in her eyes. Intention became action, as she slipped off her dress and bra, so that she was left in her own thoroughly soaked diaper - just the same as Claire.

Their eyes met, and within an instant, their arms were flung around each other, lips locked in a series of lingering kisses. Andrea pulled back to reposition herself on top of Claire, so that both their diapers were touching front-to-front, particularly where they were wet.

Slowly, Andrea began to flex herself up and down against Claire. The way their diapers rubbed against each other was thrilling. Claire found herself gripping Andrea's shoulder with one hand and the bed sheets with the other. Her head tilted back, moaning except for the heavy kiss her lover planted on her.

They reached a climax, and Andrea fell shuddering against Claire. The two women lay entangled in each other's arms for a long time and said nothing.

------------------

"Andrea?"

She looked over at Claire and smiled.

"Yes, dear?"

"I don't want to spoil the mood," Claire said with a downward shift of her gaze, "but I feel bad about keeping" - she waved her hand over the room - "all this from my girls."

"You think we should tell them the truth?"

Claire nodded.

"They're both pretty mature. I'm sure they'll understand."

Andrea took a deep breath and let it out slowly, as though defusing whatever inner tension she might be feeling.

"Okay, then. When do you want to tell them?"

"All soon as possible. Let's get packing."

Chapter Eleven

Love is being who you are without shame with those who care most deeply about - and the feeling you get when they accept you without shame.

Jessica and Sarah were just sitting down for breakfast when they heard the front door being unlocked. Their eyes met in breathless anticipation as they heard footsteps, and lo and behold, into the dining room came Claire and Andrea.

"Aunt Claire, you're back!" Jessica cried, running up to tackle her aunt in a hug.

Claire held Jessica tight against her bosom and smiled.

"Hey, kiddo. Miss me?"

Sarah came up, offering less aggressive hugs to her aunt and Andrea. She pulled back and examined them both, seeing how relaxed and genuinely happy they were. It made a difference considering how anxious Andrea had seemed the first time Jessica and Sarah met her.

"How was your visit?" Jessica asked, still holding onto Claire by the shoulder.

Their aunt gave a tender - albeit hesitant - smile.

"That's actually why we're back a little earlier than we expected. Let's sit down first."

The girls joined Claire and Andrea on the couch, so that Jessica and Claire were up against each other in the middle with Sarah and Andrea on each end. Claire began to idly stroke the side of her niece's face as she spoke.

"Andy and I have reached a new point as we were reestablishing our relationship. We've gone beyond being friends and roommates." Her eyes shifted back to Andrea, who nodded, and then refocused on her girls.

"We're in love."

Sarah blinked.

"You mean - " She swallowed.

"You're a...?"

Claire nodded.

"I believe lesbian is the appropriate term."

An uncomfortable silence stretched across the living room. Sarah noticed that Jessica didn't seem to be reacting to the news at all - her eyes were fixed on some distant point. No doubt she was thinking about the past, going over her memories of Claire when she'd started living with her, and there wasn't much of a distinction between the young woman and the young girl she'd cared for.

"How did you two..." Sarah whispered, "you know... figure it out?"

"I guess you could say something just clicked between us," Andrea replied, her voice strong and steady.

"I have to confess that I was always a little attracted to Claire, and I guess my feelings just came out when they did."

"And it hasn't been great for us in the romance department, you must admit," added Claire. She spread her arms in a modest shrug.

"Think of it as us settling down in our old age."

Sarah nodded; she could understand that, even if she was too young to appreciate it as they did.

"So where does that leave you, Jess...?"

Her voice trailed off as she saw the look of consternation on her cousin's face.

"Jess?"

Jessica blinked, then shook her head.

"What?"

"Are you all right?" Claire asked.

"I just - " Jessica bit down on her tongue and grimaced.

"I don't want to put this the wrong way, but I really don't know how to feel about this." Her eyes drifted up to Claire's curious gaze.

"I'm not mad or anything. I just don't..." She worked her mouth a few times, then shrugged helplessly.

"I don't know how to respond."

"Take as much time as you need, darling," Claire said softly. She bent down as though to kiss her niece on the top of her head, but paused halfway and settled for another stroke down the side of her face.

"In the meantime, I've asked Andy to stay with us for the next week. Just to give her an idea about life in our little home."

"That sounds like a good idea," Sarah said, cracking a delicate smile.

Andrea coughed politely into her hand.

"Well, uh, I think we should get started. I may or may not need some help, Claire."

Claire nodded, then turned back to her nieces.

"You kids are going to find out about this one way or another, so I feel it's only right to reveal this now."

"Reveal what?" asked Jessica.

"Show them, Andy."

Andrea gave a hesitant smile of her own as she slowly unbuttoned her jeans and pulled them down. Sarah was amazed to see the top of an Abena X-Plus diaper sticking out - a slightly wet Abena, she noted from years of experience.

Jessica was dumbfounded. She stared right at Andrea, looking her up and down as though she couldn't make herself believe what she was seeing. Working her mouth a few more times, she managed to get out the words, "You, too?"

Claire nodded.

"Come with me and I'll explain everything."

------------------

The rest of the day went without incident. Jessica and Sarah had watched Claire help Andrea change her diaper; they couldn't help smiling at the older woman's slight embarrassment, having gone through and watched the process so many times themselves. Then Jessica had gone off to her classes, Sarah to work, leaving the two older women to enjoy a quiet afternoon.

After a light dinner and watching a movie on TV - Casablanca, which happened to be Sarah's favorite - the four women decided to get ready for bed. Claire and Andrea worked on unpacking their luggage as Sarah and Jessica put on their night clothes and changed each other's diaper. They came into Claire's room, where they found their aunt doing the same for Andrea.

There was a look on Jessica's face that gave Claire pause as she finished taping up her girlfriend's diaper. She frowned and then slid a careful glance at Andrea.

"Jess, if it's not too much trouble, would you mind letting Andy sleep in your room for tonight?"

Her niece frowned back.

"Can I sleep in here with you then?"

"That's the idea," said Claire, offering a quick wink. She turned back to Andrea.

"If you're okay with it."

The redheaded woman shrugged it off.

"Fine by me. I'll let the two of you get some quality time."

Claire smiled and pulled Andy in for a kiss - not on the lips, since she doubted her nieces were ready for that, but firmly on the cheek. Andy returned the kiss just as discreetly and smiled as she and Sarah took their leave.

A moment later, Claire and Jessica were under the covers, with the lights turned out and their arms tight around each other. It felt so much to Claire's mind like the first night she'd held Jessica after rescuing her from the abuse - and the first night she'd held Andrea in a similar fashion. Even now, her hand was absently running itself through her niece's hair, cradling her tenderly against her bosom.

"Are you all right, sweetheart?" Claire whispered.

Jessica shifted her head up and nodded.

"Just a bit tired."

"From your trip?"

"And everything else we've been doing."

"I see." Keeping one arm around Jessica's shoulders, Claire brought her other arm down to brush her hand on the girl's lower back, hovering over the waistband of her diaper.

"And you're sure there's nothing at all you feel like talking about?"

Jessica shifted again, but with more evident anxiety.

"It's just weird, that's all. Seeing you and..." She licked her bottom lip and blinked.

"Well, seeing you involved with someone else."

"You think you and Sarah get to have all the fun?" Claire retorted with a smile.

"I've had more romantic moments than you've had dry diapers, sweetie."

This remark only served to bring a pout to Jessica's face.

"Hear that? That's the sound of my sympathy for you walking out the door."

Claire chuckled and pulled Jessica in for a hug and a kiss on the forehead.

"Oh, my darling. My precious baby. You'll never have to compete for my affection." She leaned close to Jessica's face, almost to where their noses were touching.

"You know why I'm with Andy? Because my poor, frail heart wasn't enough to contain all the love I have for you and Sarah. I had to go and borrow someone else's."

Jessica cracked a smile and dropped her head against her aunt's chest.

"I think it's cute that you think that sort of talk works on me."

"If you think that's cute, you should've seen me in a diaper."

If Jessica's head had been able to snap up any faster, Claire surmised it would have flown right off.

"What?"

"You heard me."

"I... you..."

Claire grinned and pulled her niece in for another kiss - this time on the cheek, right where she'd kissed Andrea goodnight.

"It's a little complicated, but... Andy and I were experimenting with our relationship. After helping her get changed and doing all sorts of things around the house for her, she wanted to repay me by playing Mommy for a night."

"So her idea of repayment is to baby you?" Jessica shook her head.

"No, before we even get into that - you wore a diaper?"

"I did, and I even wet it, too." Claire smiled through the gloom at her stunned niece.

"Now I see why you and Sarah take such delight in them."

Slowly, almost glacially, a smile crept over Jessica's perplexed face. She pulled herself even deeper into her aunt's embrace.

"So you really enjoyed it?"

"Very much so." Claire kissed her tenderly, this time on the lips.

"And I did it because I love you. And Sarah. And Andy. You're all the reasons I'm alive and happy." A feral grin split her face in the dark.

"To have a life with such wonderful and stunningly beautiful women is more than I ever ask for."

Jessica smiled.

"I love you, too, Aunt Claire."

She lifted one hand and rested it on her aunt's bosom. Claire responded by leaning down to brush away the hair from her niece's face and then slipped down the top of her nightgown, exposing her breasts.

There was some shuffling under the covers, and it wasn't long before Jessica had tacitly agreed to start nursing Claire's breasts. Claire sighed and moaned quietly, never bothering to hide the smile of joy and love on her face as she regarded the content face her niece made while having her fill of milk. It was tender beyond anything they'd ever done, and yet, Claire couldn't help but wonder why they hadn't tried it before. They were close enough to be mother and daughter, after all, and she'd always had that favorite dream of giving birth to Jessica and raising the girl as her own biological child.

So how could this intimate act be wrong, if that were the case? Claire had no answer for that, nor did she want one. She was too content to adore Jessica as she nursed, and as they fell asleep in each other's arms, Claire had time to give her niece one last goodnight kiss.

Chapter Twelve

Love is the confession of one's sins to the world, to your beloved, and to yourself - to stand humbly and repentantly before everyone, ready to be made whole once more.

Jessica was pacing nervously in front of the glass doors at the West Terminal, watching people coming in and out of the massive airport. She saw tired faces, smiling faces, and anxious faces - but none of them was the face she most wanted to see.

And then, slipping out of the crowd with his backpack slung over his shoulder, was the man she'd been waiting to see.

Before he could even get out a hello, Jessica had flung her arms around Ryan and was laughing.

"You're home! God, I've missed you!"

"Nice to know I've been missed," said Ryan, weakly smiling back.

"You look terrific, Jess."

"And you look like you need something to eat," she shot back.

"Not to mention a very long nap, young man."

"Now that's what I'm talking about." Ryan threw his arm around her shoulder.

"Lead on."

------------------

There were few things that Jessica could make competently, and spaghetti with meatballs was one of them. Add to that a bottle of red wine and some candlelight, and the end result was a fairly quick and simple, yet entirely romantic, dinner for Ryan. He dug into his food with great delight, even though most of the cuisine he'd sampled during his trip through Italy had been some variation of pasta and beef.

Jessica continued to help by cleaning up the dishes and preparing the bed for Ryan. She'd hesitated on her way to the bathroom when she saw that Ryan hadn't gone to sleep, but was waiting for her on the bed.

"Get some rest," she said.

"I just need to pop in here for a bit and get changed."

"Before you do that," said Ryan, without any of the tender smiles he'd favored her with throughout the evening, "I need you to hear something. Something important."

Jessica nodded and joined him on the bed. She couldn't help noticing the weight that seemed to be pushing down Ryan's shoulders and neck - and the reluctance that kept his eyes from meeting hers.

"It's about the trip," he said slowly.

"I know I've told you plenty in my e-mails, but..." His tongue darted over his bottom lip, and Ryan slowly pulled his gaze toward his girlfriend.

"Something happened. Something that I didn't want to put in an e-mail."

"What was it?"

Ryan still could barely look at her when he said, "I... think I cheated on you."

Jessica remained very, very still.

"What?"

"It was in Prague," Ryan explained, his tone never shifting from its melancholy air, his face never meeting hers.

"Colin and I were at this party - I don't know whose house it was. This place was huge. It had tons of alcohol, tons of techno music, and tons of European girls looking for a good time."

When Jessica didn't say anything, Ryan shook his head and continued.

"There was this French girl, Suzanne, and her boyfriend Gerard. Colin introduced us and then got sidetracked by a bunch of Romanian girls. Well, I remember starting to chat with Gerard, and then Suzanne came and got me another drink..." He bent his head even lower, as though the memory itself was too heavy to carry even in his thoughts.

"Next thing I knew, I was in a dark bedroom, and all three of us were naked. I was on top of Suzanne, and Gerard on top of me, and everything was just one terrifying blur - "

His voice cracked and Ryan fell silent, leaving Jessica with a distinct mental image of her boyfriend being forced into some drug-induced three-way with a pair of malicious Frenchmen. She shut her eyes against that image, but it endured, and she knew that the names Suzanne and Gerard would never again sound pleasant to her ears -

And then Ryan was talking again in that pitiful tone.

"...wanted to tell you once I woke up alone the next morning, but I didn't want to - " He bit his lip.

"I did not want to gloss it over in an e-mail." And at last, his eyes looked directly into hers.

"You of all people deserved to know the truth, and I didn't want the fact that I was several thousand miles away to be an excuse for avoiding you when you found it."

Jessica answered all that with a very quiet, "I see."

She was angry. She was sad. She wanted to hit him. She wanted to curl up on Claire or Sarah's lap. But most of all, she wanted to take this moment of guilt and agony, crumple it up like a paper ball, and burn it forever.

But she couldn't - the pain was there, unavoidable and unrelenting.

It's only pain, she told herself. It hurt when I lived with Mom at the end. It hurt when I came to live with Aunt Claire. It hurt when I found out about Claire and Sarah, or about Claire and Andy. I can get through this. I will get through this.

"This is a lot to take in," she told Ryan, who watched her intently.

"I get that you didn't want to lie about it or try to pass it off, and I respect that." Jessica let a smile come to her lips.

"Deep down, I forgive you. Deep down, I accept you and your honesty. But on the surface, well..."

"I understand," Ryan answered, sounding much calmer and less self-pitying.

"And if you think I deserve any kind of a punishment - dump me, mock me, anything like that - then I accept that, too." His hopeful expression began to darken once more.

"Believe me, I didn't expect to get over this easily."

Jessica nodded.

"Well, in all honesty, I think you've done a better job at punishing yourself than anything I could have done." She shuffled over to the headboard of Ryan's bed and lowered herself onto her back.

"But you really think you need to be punished, then maybe I'll start by having you change a very wet diaper."

"On the contrary, Jess," Ryan answered with the ghost of a smile, as he crept toward her like a timid puppy, "nothing could please me more."

Chapter Thirteen

Love is the recognition of yourself in another's eyes, and in turning that recognition into a mutual feeling - the basis of a family, no less.

Sarah sat down next to her aunt and regarded her nine-year-old cousin: shivering and silent, wearing a t-shirt and a skirt that barely covered the Pull-Up underneath, with a plain white pacifier in her mouth. Such a sad thing she was, filling Sarah with both pity and revulsion.

"Would you like to hold her?" Claire whispered into her ear. Her arms were wrapped tight around her younger niece, but her eyes were fondly gazing at her eldest.

Sarah nodded and took her cousin Jessica into her lap. The little girl shifted and gave a tiny whine, but the teenager soothed her with a hug and a kiss. She looked into the girl's eyes and began to see that spark of life inside - the pre-teen girl behind the mild infant, the one Sarah had spent countless hours playing with and babysitting, just as she was doing now.

"I love you, Jess," Sarah whispered into her cousin's ear.

"I love you so very much - "

With a blink, Sarah stepped out of her thoughts and back into the present day. She was again a twenty-two-year-old woman, but still standing in Claire's bedroom. It had been barely two minutes since she'd gotten home from work and still had on her blue skirt and lime-green blouse, when she'd come into her aunt's room for a change.

She was still examining her thoughts when Andrea came into the room with a smile.

"Hey, Sarah. How was work?"

"Oh, fine." Sarah gave her a hug and a returning smile.

"Don't mind me. I, uh, just came in here to change my diaper."

Andrea nodded.

"Would you like me to help?"

"Sure!" An unguarded laugh came out of Sarah.

"I mean, I can manage it on my own pretty well, but if you want to help take off the old one and put on a new one, that'd be great."

"Let's do that. On the bed, please."

Sarah lowered herself onto her aunt's bed and hiked up her skirt, revealing her wet diaper to Andrea. The older woman smiled and moved over to the dresser she now shared with Claire, where she kept her own supply of diapers. She came back a moment later with a clean Abena diaper, a bottle of talcum powder, and a packet of baby wipes.

The first part went by fairly quickly. Andrea quickly removed and rolled up the old diaper, tossing it into a wastebasket. Sarah, meanwhile, speedily wiped herself off and gently spread some powder across her abdomen and her bottom, which wasn't as easy for her since she'd had more experience doing it for her cousin or her boyfriend, but she did well enough.

Andrea hesitated when she reached for the diaper. She tilted her head and gave Sarah an embarrassed smile.

"Hope you don't mind I'm using a different brand. It's a bit thicker than the kind you and Jessica use."

Sarah shook her head.

"I've actually never tried it, though Jess has. But I think I'd like to."

"Then here it goes." Andrea lifted up Sarah's legs with one hand as she slid the diaper underneath. She pulled up the front and gently fastened the four tapes onto it, then guided her hands around the diaper to make sure it fit properly all over. When she was done, she gave Sarah a warm smile and patted her new diaper on the bottom.

Wiggling on the bed, Sarah regarded the Abena with a pleased grin.

"This feels nice. Like a big cushion. Thank you, Andy."

"You're welcome, dear."

The older woman turned to leave, but Sarah sat up.

"Would you like me to return the favor?"

Andrea blushed as she looked back over her shoulder.

"Oh, you don't have to do that."

"I know."

"It's sweet of you to ask, though."

"I know."

A brief silence followed, punctuated shortly thereafter by Andrea's softly-spoken, "Well, I suppose, since you were nice enough to offer..."

------------------

A few moments later, Sarah and Andrea were curled up together on the bed, their diapers more or less exposed, when Claire came into the room.

She put her hands on her hips and grinned.

"Well, isn't this a pretty sight! And I thought I couldn't be any more in love with either of you!"

Andrea smiled back.

"Just helping each other get changed. Speaking of which, when's Jessica going to be back?"

"Oh, not tonight." Claire sat down on the foot of the bed.

"She's picking up Ryan at the airport, and as I understand it, she'll be keeping him company and won't be back until tomorrow."

"So we have a whole night to ourselves." Andrea pulled Sarah closer into a hug.

"Just the three of us."

Claire caught the gesture and met her girlfriend's steady gaze.

"What exactly are you thinking, Andy?"

"That since you've invited me into your family," Andrea said teasingly, "we need to start acting as a family. So tonight, I say we let Sarah see what it's like to have two Mommies instead of just one."

Sarah did a pretty good facsimile of a little girl's eager smile.

"I get to have two Mommies? Yay!"

Claire laughed.

"That doesn't sound like a bad idea at all. So we'll have an expanded version of our 'Baby' game."

She reached out to pull her niece from Andrea and into her own arms. Sarah curled up as tightly as she could in her aunt's embrace and let her eyes fall half-shut.

"I love you, buttercup," Claire whispered, her eyes contentedly closed.

Sarah giggled.

"You haven't called me that in a long time."

"I'm trying out new names for you, my little peach cobbler."

"Sounds more like you're ready for dinner, Aunt Claire."

"My little biscuit and gravy."

"Okay, Aunt Claire, you can stop now."

"My little corn on the cob."

"Seriously. Just stop."

------------------

Andrea and Claire took turns being "Mommy" to "baby girl" Sarah that evening. Claire dressed up Sarah so that she was wearing only a soft blue t-shirt and diaper, with her hair done up in pigtails. Meanwhile, Andrea cooked dinner - a roasted chicken with potatoes, gravy, and a light salad.

When it was ready, she took Sarah into her lap and tucked a napkin into her shirt like a bib. Andrea began to feed pieces of chicken and salad to Sarah just as Claire told her to do, watching with a big smile on her face as the young woman gobbled each piece from her hand. Claire picked at her own meal while she watched the two of them playing and thought about all the times she did just that with Jessica.

Once dinner was over, they proceeded to the couch, where Claire sat with a bottle of apple juice in her hand. Andrea deposited Sarah into her lover's arms, and sat down to watch Claire give her niece the bottle. They were curled up as close as could be on the couch, smiling and content even though the only thing happening was the sight of a girl drinking from a baby bottle.

When she'd finished, Sarah handed the empty bottle to Andrea and nuzzled the side of her aunt's neck. Claire responded with a kiss on her forehead and then held Sarah out to look down at her.

"I've a surprise for you," she whispered, reaching up to undo the buttons on her blouse.

Sarah immediately realized what it was and glanced at her aunt with surprise.

"So you know about what Jess and I were... doing...?"

Claire nodded.

"And I'm not ashamed to say we did a little ourselves. It seems only fair to let you and me share a similar experience." She leaned closer.

"If you want to share this with me, that is. You only have to say no and it won't happen."

"But I do!" Sarah exclaimed, then fell silent.

"At least, I think I do." She looked over at Andrea, who still sat against Claire, hands folded in her lap, gazing expectantly at Sarah.

"What do you think, Andy?"

"It's your body and your decision," Andrea replied with a tender smile.

"And for your information, I've done this with your Aunt Claire, and it feels wonderful."

"Thanks, love," said Claire, shifting in her seat to give Andrea a quick kiss. She turned back to Sarah and pulled her close to her now-exposed bosom.

"Well?"

For a moment, Sarah didn't do a thing. Then she scooted up on her aunt's lap and put her lips to the nearest breast. Claire began to stroke her hair as Sarah began to suckle her, feeling the milk wash away the taste of apple juice in her mouth.

"Oh, baby girl," her aunt cooed, reaching down to rub Sarah's back.

"My lovely, lovely little baby girl, whom I love so very, very much, yes I do!"

Andrea laughed and put a hand on Sarah's stomach.

"Does that feel good, baby?"

Sarah looked up and smiled despite the nipple in her mouth. She closed her eyes and continued to nurse, feeling like the loved little girl they told her she was. The milk that flowed into her was as warm as the arms that held her and as soft as the diaper she wore between her legs.

The diaper, she knew, would be warm, too, once she let herself wet it, but that would be a while from now. So Sarah laid back and enjoyed her aunt's embrace and the attention of her two "Mommies."

------------------

Getting ready for bed was just as playful. Claire helped Sarah and Andy change out of their wet diapers, and then the two older woman slipped into their nightgowns. They escorted Sarah into bed and pulled the covers over each other, so that the three of them were snuggled up together in the darkened bedroom.

"It's funny that I'm rarely alone at night anymore," Claire commented as she put her hand against Sarah's cheek.

"I've had Jessica in bed with me most often than not, and then there's Andy, and now there's you. My darling Sarah."

Sarah smiled and ducked her head against Claire's breast.

"Well, it's rare for me to be spending the night with you like this, Aunt Claire, but I like it."

"So do I," Andrea whispered, joining hands with Claire and leaning over to kiss Sarah on the cheek.

"This feels nice, Claire. Just the three of us, being... well, a family."

"Isn't it?" Claire reached past Sarah and took Andrea's face in one hand. They moved in for a kiss, and when they pulled away from each other, Claire bent down and took Sarah's face in her hands. She paused for a moment, doing nothing except smiling, and then leaned down to kiss her niece gently on the lips.

Sarah accepted the kiss and pulled back to see her aunt staring fondly. A sudden blush came over Sarah's face, and she ducked her head again toward Claire's breast.

"No need to be shy, sweetheart," Claire whispered, wrapping her arms around her niece.

"You're just so beautiful that I have to find new ways of showing my affection."

"And again, that's why I'm here." Andrea responded further by sliding her arms around Sarah's waist, pulling her into half an embrace that Claire was completing. Sarah felt warm between the two of them, but she couldn't say it was unpleasant. Almost like being in the womb, if she could only curl up into a fetal position.

"Go to sleep, angel," said Claire, brushing back some hair from her niece's face.

"We'll give you plenty of time to get up tomorrow for work."

"Do I have to? Can't I just stay with you?"

"I have to work, too, my little cupcake. But don't worry. I'll be thinking of you all day long."

"And Jessica will be back with us tomorrow night," Andrea murmured softly into Sarah's ear.

"She'll be here to play with the three of us."

With a slow sigh, Sarah relented.

"Okay, but tomorrow's going to be extra fun if we get Jess involved, all right?"

Claire smiled and leaned in for another kiss, this time on Sarah's cheek.

"It will, dear. I promise. Now, go to sleep."

Sarah nodded, feeling a weight on her eyes as she put her head against Claire's breast for the last time.

"Good night, Aunt Claire. Good night, Andy."

"Good night, Sarah, my love."

"Pleasant dreams, sweetie."

Chapter Fourteen

Love is introducing your companion to wondrous new experiences, helping them plunge their own depths and see life through another's eyes.

There were few things that Jessica remained self-conscious about at the age of nineteen. She wasn't desperate to be noticed, wasn't eager to catch the eyes of any fine young man passing by, and wasn't embarrassed by the fact that she wore a diaper under her jeans.

Still, that didn't mean she didn't try for modesty and do her best to keep her briefs well-concealed when out in public - like right now, when she and Samantha were coming out of the Hot Topic store at the mall.

Jessica felt her bladder void itself as soon as they crossed the threshold, but she didn't register it as anything but a sudden warmth and wetness between her legs. She paused and gave her friend a knowing look.

"Uh oh." Samantha shook her head and flashed a teasing smile.

"Does somebody need a special visit to the nearest restroom?"

"I know there's a family bathroom over at the other end," Jessica suggested.

Samantha pointed toward the corridor adjacent to a nearby Gap Store.

"Or we could just sneak into one of the single-occupant bathrooms down there."

Jessica followed her gaze and nodded.

"That sounds much better, but there won't be a table for me to lie on."

"Is it really that hard for you to be changed standing up?"

"Well, no..." Jessica thought about it. Frankly, she'd gotten so used to lying down for a change that it was almost second nature to her. Years of being changed by her Aunt Claire or Cousin Sarah had meant falling back onto a bed and staring up toward the ceiling while being prepped for a new diaper. But she figured for Samantha's sake, she could bear to stand this just once.

She followed Sam into the nearest ladies' room and waited for her to set their bags down by the sink and lock the door. Samantha turned around and held out a waiting hand.

"Give me your purse."

Jessica handed it over and began to pull down her jeans. She let them drop and started to undo the tapes on her diaper. Meanwhile, Samantha was rummaging through her purse, taking out wipes, powder, and a clean diaper.

As Jessica rolled up and tossed her old diaper into the trash can, Samantha wiped and powdered her off, just as she'd done a million times before. It didn't seem all that different even though Jessica was standing up instead of lying down - the clean-up was as thorough as ever. Soon enough, Jessica was back in a clean diaper, and Samantha was helping her pull her jeans up all the way over it.

"That wasn't too bad," Samantha commented, giving her friend a gentle pat on the butt. She smiled and turned to open the door.

"Think you could handle it?" asked Jessica.

Samantha paused and turned back.

"What?"

"This," said Jessica, exposing the waistband of her diaper.

"You remember what you said earlier, about how you could handle what Ryan went through? I want to know if you think you're able to handle what I've done all my life."

The other girl folded her arms.

"What kind of a deal are we talking about? Could we make it a little more interesting?"

"Okay, then." Jessica grinned.

"Here's the bet. If you can wear a diaper for the next hour and a half - and use it - then I'll pay you twenty bucks. If, however, you start to chicken out or don't use it, then you have to buy lunch for the next two days."

"You," Samantha said slowly, "are so going to regret this. And before you say anything else, I don't regret what I said about Ryan earlier. You're letting him off way too easily."

Jessica stuck out her tongue.

"So go on. Teach me a thing or two about how to punish somebody." She grinned again.

"If you can, Sammie."

"Oh, you are so going to be sorry you said that."

It took Jessica only a few seconds to find another diaper inside her purse and wait for Samantha to yank down her pants. She smiled as Jessica came up and diapered her in a few quick moves. It certainly helped that Jessica had plenty of practice doing the same for her cousin Sarah and was starting to get some more practice with Andrea, too.

"There you go, babe," Jessica proclaimed.

"Your first diaper!"

Samantha glanced down at the thick Abena diaper she now wore instead of her panties, which Jessica had taken the liberty of stuffing inside her purse. She gave it a few taps on the front and back, which caused her face to wrinkle in amazement. Jessica knew how she felt in an abstract way - granted, she'd never had much time to adjust to diapers, but she could appreciate how it must feel for someone without her condition and her life experience.

"C'mon," said Jessica, tugging Samantha's pants back up and reaching around to unlock the bathroom door.

"Let's keep on shopping!"

------------------

In a way, it was rather enjoyable for Jessica to be able to take charge like this for once. It was usually her habit - around Claire, Sarah, Samantha, and just about everyone she knew - to defer or be passive, to not be a bother to anyone. But for once, Jessica was free to dictate terms to someone else. She was free to see what it was like to have some responsibility over another person, even though it was only for twenty dollars or two days' worth of free lunches.

Samantha had needed some encouragement getting out of the bathroom, as her diaper was interfering with her natural stride. Jessica had taken her hand and guided her down the corridor and back into the mall.

They strolled along the lower level, doing more window-shopping than anything else. But Jessica was enjoying it, although she did feel bad for Samantha, who was blushing and averting her gaze from people passing by. She could remember what it was like to be out in public, quietly convinced that everyone could tell she was in a diaper and making some judgment about it.

And it had been on one such occasion that she was holding hands as well -

- Her hand squeezed that of an older woman's, and her voice came out as a quiet, pained squeak.

"Can we go home now?"

The woman standing next to her bent down, so that her arms fell around the girl in a soft, comforting hug.

"Don't you worry, sweetheart. We won't be much longer, all right? Just one more store and then we'll go home. I promise."

The girl had tried for a smile as she glanced up at her aunt. The older woman had smiled back and kissed her cheek, whispering yet another proclamation of love that meant the world to the little girl, who was still so self-conscious about the thick diaper she wore under her skirt -

Blinking, Jessica found herself back in the present. She was still holding onto her friend's hand, and was gripping it a little more strongly than she'd anticipated. Smiling back at Samantha's curious expression, Jessica made up an excuse about being distracted by thoughts of Claire and Andrea, and what they might need for the house.

The first hour came and went fairly quickly. Jessica kept a close eye on Sam, watching her for any sign of needing to go or that she might back out. But she seemed to be handling her diaper situation fairly well. Jessica had to admit that she feeling more just a little proud for her friend.

She felt motherly as well. It was a new experience for her, that she could watch someone go through what she once did, that she could feel for them what Claire and so many other relatives must have felt for her after being rescued from her mother - to see a young person go through the hurdles of life, ordinary or otherwise. Like Claire had done with her, Jessica felt her heart soar at the thought of Samantha succeeding at her task and heartbreak at the thought of it being otherwise.

Fifteen minutes before the deadline, as they came out of an American Eagle Outfitters store, Jessica had decided that the twenty bucks or the paid lunches didn't even interest her as much as the hope of helping Samantha through this experience.

Right as she crossed the threshold back into the mall, Samantha doubled over and grabbed for her abdomen.

"Oh. Uh oh."

Jessica leaned over.

"What's wrong?"

"I really, really need to use the bathroom," Samantha replied, glancing nervously from side to side.

Jessica nodded.

"Come with me."

Taking her by the hand, she led Samantha back to the single-person bathrooms over by the Gap. Locking the door, she yanked down her friend's pants and pushed her diapered bottom onto the toilet seat.

"Sometimes it helps to be sitting down," Jessica explained.

"I haven't needed it since my bladder's uncontrollable, but for Sarah, going on her own was like this." She offered Samantha an encouraging smile.

"The important thing is to just relax."

Her friend nodded and closed her eyes.

"Okay. I got it. Just relax. Just... relax."

Jessica crouched at her side, her arms tight around Samantha's waist, her head pressed into her friend's breast. She closed her eyes as well and waited, thinking back to how it must have felt for her Aunt Claire when they made their unsuccessful attempts to get Jessica potty-trained again.

After a long while, she heard the faint whiz from inside Samantha's diaper and saw a small yellow patch on the front. Jessica smiled and looked up at her friend, who was wearing an expression that suggested both disgust and relief.

"Guess what?" Jessica exclaimed.

"You did it!" She leaned over and kissed Sam on the cheek, then reached into her purse for twenty dollars.

"I have to say, Jess," Samantha said slowly, as she began removing the diaper, "that this was kinda fun, but I hope to never do it again for as long as I live."

Jessica nodded in understanding as she threw out the diaper and took up the wipes.

"Well, what about just wearing the diaper and not wetting it?"

"Maybe," said Samantha, looking a bit wistful to her surprise.

"Maybe..."

Chapter Fifteen

Love is the security of a hug after a night of fear and sorrow, the hug that tells you that you don't have to face your troubles alone.

The scene was simple enough in her mind. Jessica was on the bed with Ryan, her arms intertwined with his, lips matched in a long and sensual kiss. They both were down to t-shirts and their respective forms of underwear - boxers for him, a diaper for her...

But then the scene changed. Suddenly Ryan wasn't in her arms anymore. Now there were others in the bed with them. A man and a woman about their age, with sharp features and hungry eyes. Their nude and angular bodies morphed around Ryan's, and though he reached out for Jessica, her hand grabbed at nothing as the wraiths pulled him from her side.

The wraiths had names - Suzanne and Gerard - although why Jessica knew that, she couldn't say. But there they were, claiming Ryan for themselves, deaf and blind to Jessica's protestations.

Suzanne pulled Ryan on top of her, gripping his manhood and driving it into her with a wild yelp. He flinched away from her, but a pair of strong hands pushed him onto her. Those hands belonged to Gerard, and Jessica could only watch in mute horror as the young man proceeded to slide his own manhood into Ryan, violating him just as Ryan was being forced to do the same to Suzanne.

His screams became mingled with Jessica's, which became further mixed with the passionate moans of Ryan's captors. But Jessica found herself under a spell of another sort soon enough.

A delicate hand reached out to her, tracing the edge of her face. Jessica turned and looked up into a worn face, beautiful and sad, with matted hair and large eyes -

The face of Claire's older sister, Madison. The face of Jessica's mother.

"What'sss thisss?" the creature hissed into Jessica's terrified face.

"Sssuch a sssweet little girl sshouldn't be crying! No tearsss for Mommy, underssstand?"

Jessica tried to speak, but the mother-creature refused. Its clawed hand gripped her by the throat and began to squeeze, snarling and hissing all the while. And through this violation, she could still hear her boyfriend's own terrible rape from the other side of the now seemingly-infinite bed, his tears matching her own, their blood and sweat being mingled together -

"Jessica!" a new voice called out.

With a gasp, Jessica woke up in her bedroom. She was lying in sweat-dampened sheets, panting and staring up into Claire's worried face.

"Are you all right, darling?" her aunt whispered, stroking Jessica's cheek.

"It was just a dream," the young woman replied softly, trying not to cry.

Claire shook her head.

"No, dear." She bent down and brushed away some of the slick hair from her niece's forehead.

"Because if that was a dream, then how could this be happening?"

Without further preamble, Claire leaned forward and planted a very passionate kiss on Jessica's lips. She felt her aunt's tongue inside her mouth, and a whole new vista of revulsion and panic filled her to the very core of her being -

"Jess? Jess! Wake up, Jess!"

Again, Jessica's eyes flew open, and this time it wasn't her Aunt Claire standing over her, but rather her cousin Sarah.

Just to be on the safe side, she didn't say or do anything for a while.

Sarah stared down at her nervously.

"You were having a nightmare. I could hear you all the way next door."

Jessica glanced past her cousin at the open door.

"I... I didn't wake Claire and Andy, did I?"

"I don't think so," said Sarah. Then she wrinkled her nose.

"Come on, Jess. We'd better get you cleaned up. It seems like you could use it."

As was typical of her nightmares, Jessica had wet and messed herself in her sleep. She sucked on her thumb as her cousin dutifully changed her diaper, trying not to think about her nightmare - or the nightmare within the nightmare, or if it had just been one long terror for the whole night. Either way, she didn't want to dwell on it, and hoped it would be nothing more than an unpleasant memory by morning.

When she'd finished changing her, Sarah pulled Jessica up into a hug. Not a strong hug, but gentle and soothing. Jessica closed her eyes and laid her head against her cousin's breast.

"Do you want me to stay in here?" asked Sarah.

Jessica thought about it. Part of her wanted to say yes, if only so that she could be safe in waking up with Sarah's arms around her, being held by the big sister she never had. But part of her wanted to be left alone, content in the knowledge that she had a cousin who loved her and an aunt with even more devotion to her, and that with their help, she had come this far through all her traumas and turmoil.

In the end, she looked up into Sarah's eyes and said, "I'd let you stay here, but only if you really want to."

Sarah nodded and got into bed with Jessica. They wrapped their arms around each other and shared a quick kiss on the cheek before drifting off to sleep, one far more peaceful than anything she'd experienced for a very long time.

------------------

Jessica woke up to find that Sarah was gone. She then remembered that it was Sunday, and that her cousin usually went out to get a pick-up order for breakfast at a local diner, where they had the best scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes. This brought a deep smile to Jessica's face as she got out of bed, changed her diaper, and got dressed.

She went over to the living room, where she found Claire sitting on the couch. Her aunt smiled and patted the seat next to her.

As Jessica sat down, Claire leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.

"Good morning, angel. Sleep well?"

"Not exactly," said Jessica, fidgeting just a bit.

"I don't know if you could hear, but I had a nightmare or two."

"Oh?" Claire's face creased into a frown.

"I didn't hear you at all. It's strange since I usually do."

"It's okay, though. Sarah took care of me."

Her aunt smiled again and drew Jessica into a hug as gentle as the one Sarah had given her in the middle of the night. Jessica responded by kissing the side of her aunt's neck and snuggling deeper into her embrace.

They stayed that way for a moment, but eventually Claire began to shift in place. She stroked the side of her niece's face and whispered, "Darling?"

"Yes, Aunt Claire?"

"Andrea's going to be in the shower for a while, so I wanted to talk to you about something." She lifted Jessica's face toward her own.

"Something important. But first I wanted to know... the nightmare you had. Was it about your mother?"

Jessica was about to say yes, but stopped.

"Well, in a way. It wasn't a flashback like I usually have them. This one was different. More abstract..."

"Tell me."

She recounted to Claire the twisted images she saw of Ryan and his seducers. Her aunt's face clouded over when she mentioned the hideous form her mother had taken on, and actually blushed when Jessica got to the second dream that involved a surprising kiss from Claire. When she was finished, her aunt was still stroking Jessica's hair and had moved down to caress her back as well.

"It's good that Sarah was there for you," Claire finally said.

"I wish I could have done the same, but - "

Jessica shook her head.

"No, that's all right. Really. Everything worked out fine, and whatever this thing with Ryan is will blow over soon. I'm sure of it."

Claire, for some reason, didn't seem convinced. So Jessica put a hand on her shoulder and asked, "What did you want to talk to me about?"

The older woman was about to say something when the front door opened and Sarah came in with two plastic bags full of food. She smiled and waved hello at the two women on the couch before passing into the kitchen.

Jessica turned back to her aunt, but Claire was wiping away a different expression from her face. She gave the girl a tender smile and said, "It can wait, dear. We'll have some breakfast and at some point, I think I'll be ready to talk with you about it, okay?"

"Whatever you say, Aunt Claire." Jessica gave her aunt's hand a squeeze and a kiss before following her into the kitchen.

Chapter Sixteen

Love is tender like a lamb, fierce like a lion, and unpredictable like the sea. It can be any or all of these things because of the design of the human heart.

Jessica opened the front door and grinned as soon as she saw her friend Samantha standing there.

"Sam! You made it! Come on in!"

With a hesitant smile of her own, Samantha crossed the threshold and took off her jacket and purse.

"Hey, Jess. You're, uh, sure that your aunt's all right with this?"

"Of course!" Jessica took her by the arm and guided her through the living room toward the master bedroom.

"She's the one who recommended this after I told her about what happened at the mall last week. She thinks it'll do us both good."

Samantha followed her into the bedroom, where Jessica had set everything out for her next "experiment." She'd taken out the usual changing supplies, along with one of Andrea's thicker diapers and a plain white diaper cover that would muffle the sound.

Andrea herself was visiting her mother that day, while Claire and Sarah were still at work, so Jessica had the house to herself. She reveled in being something of a hostess as she directed her friend to lie down on the bed.

As before, she wasted little time in taking off Samantha's pants and underwear, despite the way her friend blushed and tried to cover herself up. But Jessica only smiled as she sprinkled some baby powder over the abdomen and rear, and then proceeded to put a clean diaper on.

"There you go," said Jessica, patting the back of Samantha's new diaper.

Samantha wriggled in place and smiled coyly back.

"Thanks, Jess."

Pulling her into a hug, Jessica helped Samantha onto her feet and laughed as the other girl's natural gait became a waddle with the thick diaper between her legs. She took Samantha by the hand and guided her into the living room, then instructed her to wait for just a moment.

Jessica slipped into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of orange juice, which was the only kind of juice her friend liked. She came back to the couch and scooted over to let Samantha lie in her arms, savoring the moment as she looked down at her friend in a way neither of them was used to.

"Drink it all up, baby girl," Jessica exclaimed cheerfully. She was amazed to see Samantha cautiously start drinking from the bottle, and soon she grew determined as she drank, her face softening like that of an infant. It only made Jessica love her more.

Minutes passed, as the girls stared back at each other, holding each other and feeling very secure. Then Samantha let go of the bottle and sat up. Jessica gently pat her twice on the back, which got a small burp from Samantha, who blushed and giggled.

Their laughter came to a halt when they heard the front door open. The two girls turned to see Claire coming in. She paused as soon as she saw Jessica and Samantha on the couch, then flashed a brilliant smile.

"Hello, darlings!" Claire set her purse onto the coat rack and clapped her hands together.

"I'm so glad I got home just now!"

Jessica blushed and pulled Samantha into a tighter hug.

"Don't mind us, Aunt Claire. We were just playing like you told us to."

Claire came over and sat down next to Jessica on the couch. She reached over and gently took Samantha into her own arms, twisting her around so that her legs were in Jessica's lap and her head resting against Claire's breast.

"Are you enjoying yourself, Samantha?" Claire asked with a tender smile.

Samantha nodded and nestled deeper against the older woman. Claire laughed and bent down to kiss the girl on the top of her head.

Jessica watched the two of them together, thinking how there had been a time when such a sight would have been a psychological trigger. The incident that occurred upon seeing Claire and Sarah in such a position was still an all-too-recent memory. But now Jessica could recognize that she was as much as a girl as a woman, and that her aunt was as much hers to treasure as she was her own person, free to live as she pleased and free to love whom she pleased. It was that fact alone that helped Jessica appreciate her aunt's newfound romance with Andrea, because Andrea was someone in need of Claire's love, and she made Claire happy in a way that Jessica had never seen before.

But she wasn't completely happy. In the back of her mind, Jessica could recall the shadow on Claire's face when she'd said there was something important to discuss. But what could it be? It seemed like there weren't any secrets left between them.

"Ahh!" Samantha cried out. Her eyes widened and she fidgeted in Claire's arms.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?" asked Claire.

"I have to pee," the girl whispered. She blushed and ducked her head against Claire's breast again.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be!" Jessica reached over and patted her on the knee.

"There's no shame in this household, understand? You never have to apologize with us, Sammy."

Samantha flashed her an indignant look.

"You know I hate being called that, Jessie."

Claire laughed and stood up, picking up Samantha as she did, and began to walk out of the living room. Jessica followed the two of them into her own room, where her aunt laid Samantha down on Jessica's bed and stroked her hair.

"Just let go, dear," Claire said reassuringly. She leaned over and kissed the girl on the cheek.

Samantha nodded and closed her eyes. Her face tightened for a moment, and then she sighed. Jessica could hear the faintest hiss from inside Samantha's diaper and she gave her friend an encouraging smile.

"There now," said Claire.

"Wasn't so bad, was it, angel?" She put her hand in between Samantha's legs, giving the wet and warm part of the diaper a few pats.

"Looks like you soaked the thing, Samantha. Better get you changed quick."

It didn't take long to put Samantha in a clean diaper once more, and when it was over, Jessica came up and hugged her friend for a while.

For the moment, at least, everyone was happy.

Chapter Seventeen

Love is a test of faith - in yourself, your beliefs, and the people in your life.

It was a brisk winter morning as Jessica and Sarah got ready to go to the mall yet again with Claire and Andrea. Sarah was even putting on a second diaper for the warmth and for the long stretches of shopping she'd be doing with her family.

They had just put their coats on and were leaving their rooms when Claire called out from the hallway, "Jessica, sweetie? Could you come here for a second?"

Jessica glanced at Sarah, who shrugged, and turned to her aunt as she came by.

"What do you need?"

"Change of plans, dear," said Claire.

"Remember that very, very important thing I needed to discuss with you a while ago?"

"I... think so."

"Well, we need to talk it over now, so I'm afraid you and I can't go to the mall right now."

"What about me and Andrea?" Sarah asked, her face riddled with concern.

Claire offered an encouraging smile despite her seriousness.

"You two can go on without us, this time. We might catch up with you later this evening, okay?"

Sarah nodded and Andrea came out from the master bedroom with her coat on. She took Sarah by the arm and guided her out the front door without another word.

Jessica slipped off her coat and followed her aunt back into her own room. She sat down with Claire on the small bed and waited.

Claire curled herself up against the pillows on Jessica's bed. She took a minute, as though collecting her thoughts, and then slowly turned her gaze toward her niece.

"I know we never try to keep secrets from each other," said Claire, "but this was something that never seemed like the right thing to bring up around you, especially when your flashbacks were more frequent. I was content to let it be, but once I spent more time with Andy, I couldn't help thinking about our college days and everything that happened then." She blinked and her voice became sadder.

"Including what happened... to you."

Jessica didn't say anything. She sat next to her aunt with a patient expression. Claire had always been strong for her, and Jessica would do the same in return.

For a moment, Claire was quiet. Then she glanced at Jessica again.

"There is hard to say, but... how much do you remember of what happened before your dad left?"

Jessica sat very still.

"Not much."

- She remembered the fights between him and her mother, with someone's name being shouted, a photograph that was of particular offense to her mother, and constant accusations of cheating, all heard from the crack of a bedroom door in the dead of night by a small and already troubled girl -

"Well, when your mother was institutionalized after what she did to you, I learned that what triggered the incident was your father leaving her and you. She said it was because he was seeing another woman and was running off with her... and that she blamed you for it."

Jessica nodded. She could acknowledge all this despite the distant pain inside.

"The thing is," Claire said slowly, looking sad, "is that I'm the one to blame."

"What do you..." Jessica shook her head.

"I don't understand, Aunt Claire."

Claire pressed her hands into her face.

"It was me, darling... I was the one that your father wanted to run away with."

Jessica stared back in disbelieving horror. She had no words for this. She knew that her bladder was silently unleashing itself out of terror, and her diaper grew warmer every second, but she couldn't begin to care with this revelation tearing through her.

"Jon and I dated in college," Claire explained.

"We were good together, but we grew apart after a while, and he married your mother and had you. Over time, Jon became... desperate. He didn't want to be a father, he wasn't in love with Madison anymore, and he felt no obligation to stay with either of you anymore."

Claire spread herself back against the pillows, uncurling her body and avoiding her niece's gaze.

"He came to me a few days before he left, saying he was still in love with me and wanted me to come with him. I said no." Tears began to leak out of the corners of her eyes.

"I said no... and this happened..." Her voice caught and she let her gaze drop toward Jessica.

"I'm so, so sorry..."

She'd heard those words before - while being held over a crib, wearing a shirt and a diaper, as her aunt whispered how sorry she was - and hearing them again made those memories come alive.

Claire was crying more forcefully now, and before she knew what she was doing, Jessica rushed over and squeezed her into a hug. They grabbed at each other, trying to pull each other as close as possible, both of them crying and whispering apologies.

"I'm so sorry," Claire whispered furiously into Jessica's ear. She kissed her over and over across her face, mingling her tears with her niece's.

"I love you, darling. I love you, I love you, I love you..."

"I know, Aunt Claire. It's all right." Jessica was as nestled as she could be in her aunt's arms, pretending like they were being reunited for the first time after the abuse, and she was rediscovering a mother's love in the embrace of her mother's sister.

"My child," Claire whispered, "my baby..."

Jessica kissed her on the neck and on both cheeks, continuing to hold onto Claire and whisper back her love.

------------------

Some time later, Jessica woke up from a very deep sleep. She shifted to her left, finding that she was lying on the bed with Claire, whose arms were wrapped around her from behind. Jessica smiled and patted the arm around her waist.

It was then that she realized just how full her diaper was. The area below her waist was starting to itch and she was even detecting the faint odor that usually came with a leak. Jessica grimaced and delicately pulled herself free from her aunt's arms. Then she stood up and went over to the dresser to very quickly change her diaper.

She was just unfolding and slipping on a clean one when she heard Claire yawn. Her aunt was blinking sleepily and smiled as soon as she saw Jessica.

"Need help?"

"I think I've got it," Jessica replied, hesitantly smiling back.

Claire laughed and slowly pulled herself off the bed. She came over to Jessica and pulled her into another hug just as the young woman finished taping on her diaper. Her aunt's hand slipped down to pat the back of the diaper, eliciting a giggle from Claire and a blush from Jessica.

"Are you all right?" asked Claire, her other hand brushing through Jessica's hair.

"You're not upset?"

Jessica shook her head.

"It's... shocking, more than anything. But I can't begin to imagine what it was like for you. Having to live with that guilt, all those years..."

Claire hugged her again and kissed her on the forehead.

"Oh, darling. There are no words for it. I just want you to know the truth, because you deserve to know... and because I can rest easier knowing that there won't be anymore secrets between us."

Jessica smiled and leaned back into her aunt.

"I love you, too, Claire."

She felt another kiss from Claire, this time on the back of her neck. Then her aunt leaned down and whispered, "Want to help me with something?"

"Sure. What do you need?"

Claire pointed to Jessica's dresser.

"Go and get a diaper for me."

"Okay."

Jessica went over and pulled out an Attends diaper from what she considered to be her underwear drawer. She was surprised to see, when turning back around, that Claire was now lying on her bed and reaching down to take off her pants.

Her mind was blank for only a second as the pieces suddenly fit together about what her aunt had meant by getting "a diaper for me." Jessica glanced at the Attends and then at Claire.

"You can't be serious."

"Oh, but I am," her aunt playfully responded. She tossed her pants off the side of the bed and smiled.

"I said there wouldn't be anymore secrets between us, and I meant it. Andy showed me what a thrill diapers can be, and I wanted to share that with you."

"That's..." Jessica tried not to grimace, but couldn't manage it.

"That's sweet of you, but I don't think you have to do it just for me - "

"I'm not. I'm doing it for us. If Sarah were here, I'd do it for her, too."

Jessica sighed. She knew that when Aunt Claire was determined to do something, there was no arguing with her. So she waited for Claire to remove her underwear, feeling a little embarrassed to be seeing her aunt like this, and struggled to contain her emotions as she unfolded the diaper.

Sliding it under Claire's bottom, Jessica pulled the diaper into place and began to attach the tapes. Claire, meanwhile, had stuck her thumb in her mouth and was sucking on it.

"You know, it's very distracting when you do that," Jessica said as she finished diapering her aunt - then recoiled at the sheer oddity of that thought.

"And yet you love me anyway," Claire warmly responded. She reached out to take Jessica by her hands and guided her to lie on top.

They cuddled for a moment, and Jessica found it unusual to see her aunt in a diaper, but she seemed happy with it, and Jessica could hardly blame her. She herself had found a way to accept being incontinent and found some delight in being diapered - especially if Claire or Sarah was the one diapering her. They had that look of motherly or sisterly love that Jessica had never found with her own mother.

"Mommy," Jessica whispered into Claire's ear.

"You look funny in a diaper."

"You think so, baby?" Claire brushed at the back of her niece's hair and sighed.

"Well, I feel wonderful, and so should you. Because you are, dear."

They kissed each other on the cheek, and Jessica knew that this woman was her real mother after all - not the one whose name was Madison, not the one whom her father had married and then deserted because he couldn't have Claire - but this woman holding her. This was the only mother she could ever ask for.

Once again, Jessica felt herself drifting toward another nap, but before she fell asleep, she had just enough time to wonder what Sarah and Andrea were doing without them.

Chapter Eighteen

Love is spending time with a stranger and finding her to really be a friend.

Andrea glanced at Sarah as they drove away from Claire's house and toward the mall.

"So that's what she's going to tell Jessica. Now do you see why it was best for us to be somewhere else?"

"I do," Sarah replied with a forlorn face.

"Poor Jess."

"Don't forget poor Claire." Andrea shook her head.

"I may have had to deal with some issues after the accident, but I can't begin to imagine what it's like to hold all that guilt in for so many years."

"Well, you had to live with your feelings for Claire, right? It was probably close to what she felt."

Andrea smiled.

"True." She turned toward Sarah, keeping an eye on her and her other eye on the road.

"So, what do you say we make this day a fun one, anyway?"

"By all means," Sarah answered with a grin.

------------------

Three hours later, at around a quarter to five, Sarah and Andrea came out of the mall with two bags each, happy and exhausted. Sarah tossed all the bags into the back of her aunt's car and then got inside.

Andrea was on her cell phone as she started the car up and pulled out of the lot.

"No, that's fine. You two deserve a night alone. I actually wanted to go and get a few things from my place... Sure! We'll be back around eleven, then? Great. Bye, love."

"Talking to Aunt Claire?" Sarah asked.

"How's Jess?"

"She's fine. They're patching things up and planning to spend their evening on their own." Andrea slid her gaze toward Sarah as they came up to a red light.

"So how about we go over to my house and I'll make you some dinner?"

"Sounds great." Sarah wiggled in her seat and glanced down at her skirt.

"I hope you've still got some diapers left, because I may need a change once we get there."

Andrea laughed.

"You and me both, sweetheart."

------------------

The trip to Andrea's house took only slighter longer than a trip to Claire's, and within the hour, Sarah was lying down on Andrea's bed and changing her diaper. Andrea stood in the corner with another diaper in hand, waiting to do the same.

Sarah looked up as she finished putting on the last tapes.

"Your turn!"

Andrea gave an embarrassed smile as she lowered herself onto the bed next to Sarah.

"I should warn you now. It's going to be a bit messy."

"Believe me, I'm used to it," Sarah replied, answering with a casual smile.

"All right. Here it goes, then." Andrea pulled down her pants and quickly began to open up her diaper. As promised, she'd filled it quite well; the stench wafted through the air, and while Sarah did grimace slightly, she didn't seem nearly as disgusted as one would suspect.

Andrea rolled up the used diaper and handed it to Sarah for her to throw out. Then she thoroughly wiped herself down and liberally powdered the area between her legs. By the time Sarah came back, Andrea was taping up her new diaper and putting her pants back on, feeling much more relieved.

Next time she went shopping, she decided, she would get herself changed right away if she had to deal with a dirty diaper again.

"Thank you, dear." Andrea sat up and looked the young woman over.

"We should probably get started on dinner if we want to eat by - "

She stopped as soon as she heard a jingle from the front door of the house and the heavy footsteps as someone came inside. As if that wasn't enough, a deep voice called out, "Andy? Are you home?"

Sarah glanced at her in confusion. Andrea patted her absentmindedly on her arm and called back, "I'm in here, Daniel."

A few moments later, her ex-husband came into what had once been their shared bedroom. He looked about the same as the day he'd left: tall, dark-haired and tanned, wearing blue jeans and a white dress shirt with the first two buttons undone. Daniel had gained some weight since the divorce had been finalized a little over two years ago, but otherwise he was still the same.

He smiled awkwardly as he took notice of Sarah.

"Oh, sorry. Didn't know you had company." He offered his hand.

"I'm Daniel."

"How do you do?" Sarah replied, putting on a very gracious smile.

"You remember Claire?" Andrea said quickly, standing up with Sarah.

"This is her niece, Sarah. She's, ah, been helping me with some floral arrangement jobs lately."

Daniel glanced at Sarah, then back at Andrea.

"Oh, you still doing that? Thought I heard you were thinking of giving it up."

Andrea hesitated.

"Well, I was. But I started seeing Claire again, and she told me how Sarah needed the money, so I thought I'd take her on, and we've actually been doing very well. Honestly."

She prayed to God that that excuse didn't sound nearly as bad to Daniel as it did to her ears.

"Well, glad to see things are looking up." Daniel's smile faltered.

"Uh, sorry for dropping in like this, but I just came by to get that photo album we never used. Cheryl wanted to use it for all the pictures we've collected of the kids, and I remember that she'd liked it when she saw it on our coffee table - "

"Oh, of course!" Andrea motioned for him and Sarah to follow as she moved out of the room and over to the linen closet. She opened the door and reached for the second-highest shelf, which had a pristine but empty photo album on it.

She handed the album to Daniel, who smiled.

"Thank you. This really means a lot to us."

"You bet." Andrea glanced nervously toward Sarah.

"We, uh, were actually about to make some dinner. Would you like to join us?"

"I'd love to, but I really have to get back," said Daniel, still oblivious to the panic emanating off the two women.

"Family night. You know how it is."

"Right," Andrea said softly. She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them and forced a brilliant smile onto her face.

"Well, it was great seeing you again, Dan. Be sure to let me know when you're coming by next time."

"Will do." Daniel turned to Sarah and nodded.

"It was a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise," said Sarah, giving him a weak smile.

Andrea followed her ex-husband to the front door, waving him off as he left. She closed the door behind him and turned around, feeling very hollow inside.

The problem with Daniel was that he was unattached to people. He'd never had a deep sense of empathy and he had a deep reluctance to go beyond his comfort zone. It had led to him abandoning Andrea when she became incontinent, and it was continuing in his new family saga with Cheryl and his kids, Melissa and Jonah.

In any case, dealing with Daniel was never a pleasant experience for Andrea. She began to see why she'd run to Claire for help and romance in the first place. She was a fountain of compassion, quick to sympathize and support in a way that Daniel wasn't.

Sarah drifted into the living room where Andrea was standing. Neither of them said a word to each other. Then Sarah quietly came over and hugged Andrea, resting her head against the older woman's breast.

Andrea was thankful for Sarah being there. She kissed the top of the girl's head and tenderly brushed at her cheek. Sarah stayed just as she was, radiating affection just like her aunt.

A moment later, Andrea guided Sarah's face up and smiled.

"Thank you, dear. You really helped me get through that."

"I understand, Andy." The smile on Sarah's face was more benevolent than what she'd shown to Daniel.

"It was an unpleasant situation for you and you needed to stay strong, so I tried to be strong for you. That's all."

"Well, I'm grateful. And how about you let me show my gratitude by making you some chicken alfredo?"

"Sounds delicious," Sarah replied, giving another hug.

Andrea kissed her on the forehead and sighed.

"Such a sweetheart you are. Let's get started."

Chapter Nineteen

Love is being there for someone when other people can't.

"Lunch time!" Jessica called out as she raced past Samantha. They were just on their way out of biology class and heading for the quad.

"Slow down, Jess," Samantha replied. But she knew it was futile. Jessica had lunch plans with Ryan, which would be their first time together since Ryan came home from his extended vacation.

There would be no force in Heaven or Earth that could keep her from that date.

She watched Jessica come to a halt in the middle of the quad, where all the other students were milling about on their way to lunch or in between classes. Samantha only started to feel concern once she saw her friend checking her cell phone with a dismayed reaction.

"Jess?" she called out, slipping past one young couple that was quietly making out in full view of everyone.

"Hey, what's wrong?"

Very slowly, Jessica turned toward Samantha. She looked like she was on the verge of tears - an expression that Samantha knew all too well and always set her on edge.

She didn't say anything but held up the phone for Samantha, who glanced over the text message on its screen: Sorry Jessica. Film Club meeting at noon. Lunch tomorrow?

Samantha couldn't resist putting her arm around Jessica's shoulders.

"I'm so sorry, Jess. Do you need a minute?"

Jessica shook her head and then started to sniffle. It only added to the heartache that Samantha was feeling for her, and she tightened her arm around her friend's shoulders.

"Hey." Samantha nodded toward the east end of the quad, where the student union was.

"You want to have lunch with me? Hmm? What do you say?"

Jessica slowly lifted her head and met her friend's gaze. Her eyes were blinking back tears, but she put enough effort into her voice, answering with a soft, "Thanks, Sam."

------------------

Samantha did her best to be extra-generous toward Jessica for the rest of the day. She paid for lunch, took time between classes to help Jessica get changed, and even made plans to stay over that evening at her Aunt Claire's house.

This last detail wasn't that big a problem, as it was Friday and thus they had the weekend ahead of them. Jessica called her aunt to confirm that Samantha could stay over, but it wasn't really an issue either because Claire had often called Samantha her "third child" - Jessica and Sarah being her first and second, naturally.

At around five in the evening, Samantha parked her car in the driveway at Claire's house. She knew that Sarah would be out with her boyfriend that evening and supposedly Claire was dining out with her new girlfriend Andrea. It meant she and Jessica had the whole house to themselves.

"Let's get you changed," said Samantha as she followed Jessica inside the house.

Jessica glanced over her shoulder and smiled.

"That's sweet of you, Sam, but I don't really need it right now."

"If you say so, but you know you only have to ask me once."

"I do." Jessica's smile faltered as they reached the hallway that led to the bedrooms and turned around to face Samantha completely.

"Sam, I hate to ask this, but... why are you being so nice all of a sudden?"

"What, I can't be nice to my best friend?"

"No, it's not that. It's just..." Jessica frowned and shook her head.

"Is it because of that text that Ryan sent me? Because the truth is I feel fine, really."

Samantha touched her on the arm.

"Well, maybe a little." She gently pulled Jessica closer - not close enough for a hug, but enough for their level of intimacy.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is... I know you've been going through a lot of crazy things lately. Ryan, Claire and her girlfriend, her and your dad..." She took Jessica by the other arm and looked her straight in the eye.

"I just want you know that I'll always be here for you, no matter what."

Jessica smiled, then caught herself.

"Wait... you're not about to confess that you're in love with me, are you?"

"You couldn't be more wrong!" Samantha answered with a laugh.

"No, I mean as your friend, Jess, I'll always be here for you. If Ryan can't make it or Claire or Sarah aren't available, you can always know that I'm here."

Jessica nodded and then latched onto Samantha in a warm hug.

"Thanks, Sam. It means a lot to me."

"You're welcome, sweetie." Samantha looked past Jessica's shoulder toward her bedroom.

"So, do you still need a change?"

"I don't," said Jessica, "but it sounds like maybe you do..."

"I do not!"

"Liar."

"So true."

They giggled as they walked the rest of the way to Jessica's room. Samantha dropped herself onto the bed as Jessica rummaged around her dresser. She came up with a diaper in one hand and a bottle of talcum powder in the other.

"I wanted to try something new with you," said Jessica as she set down the powder and began to unfold the diaper.

"But you know the drill. Pants off, girlie."

"Huh-uh." Samantha kicked off her shoes before sliding down her pants, which Jessica put on the floor by her dresser.

Jessica laid the diaper on the bed in front of Samantha, who spread her legs and lifted her butt up. But Jessica motioned for her to stop and reached for the talcum powder instead.

Unscrewing the top, she sprinkled some of the powder onto the clean diaper, instantly giving it a nice perfumed smell that wafted over the whole bed. Samantha inhaled that scent and smiled. It was surreal that she was actually enjoying this kind of thing, but given how long she and Jessica had been friends, it didn't faze her all that much. And though she would never admit to her other friends, Samantha did like being babyish once in a blue moon.

"Here we go," said Jessica, gesturing for Samantha to lift her bottom up again. She slid the now-powdered diaper underneath and waited for her friend to settle down on it before gently pulling the front up and taping it on.

Samantha examined her diaper with a grin and gave it a friendly pat. She wriggled her diapered butt around for good measure and getting a good whiff of baby powder.

Jessica bent over her friend and smiled.

"So adorable!" She sat on the bed next to Samantha and rubbed her hand over the diaper she'd just worked on.

"And she's waterproof, too!"

"Oh, ha-ha. Real funny, aren't you, Jess?"

"Hey, now. That's no way to talk to your future roommate."

"Roommate?" Samantha glanced up at her with concern.

"What are you talking about?"

Jessica's expression softened.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I not mention that before? Claire and I were talking just the other day about the possibility of when I might move out of here - if ever. I said I'd do that if it meant I could get an apartment with you or Sarah."

"And you didn't tell me this earlier today because...?"

The other girl shrugged.

"I was distracted by Ryan, I guess. Sorry."

Samantha pouted.

"Why, you naughty little - !" She pulled Jessica onto her and they struggled playfully against each other as Samantha tried - and failed - to aim several swats on Jessica's own diapered bottom.

In the end, they fell back onto the bed, laughing and exhausted. Jessica curled up in Samantha's arms and laid her head on her friend's shoulder, like she was ready to take a nap.

Actually, Samantha thought, that doesn't sound like a bad idea after all.

Before she knew it, they were both drifting off into a gentle evening slumber.

Chapter Twenty

Love is a moment that says more about you and your beloved than any words ever could.

A few days later, Claire sat on the couch with Andrea, holding her hand as they waited for Sarah and Jessica to come home from their respective job and classes. It had been a turbulent week for the two of them, making last-minute arrangements and getting things in order - all without tipping off the young women about what they were planning.

When she heard the front door open, Claire squeezed her girlfriend's hand. She watched as her youngest, Jessica, came into the room with her friend Samantha, each of them carrying a purse and a small stack of textbooks. They'd been inseparable for the past three days, while Jessica had been trying to patch things up with Ryan, relying on her best friend as her emotional bedrock.

Jessica brightened as soon as she saw Claire and Andrea.

"Hey there! You're home early!"

"We've something important to discuss," said Claire. Once she saw her niece's face darken, she added, "It's not anything disappointing, I promise. Put your things away and sit with us. We're just waiting for Sarah to get here."

"Okay!"

Five or six minutes passed before Sarah came home. When she entered the living room, Jessica was sitting next to Claire, now in a clean diaper, and Samantha was in the armchair to the right. Sarah smiled and waved at everyone.

"Take a seat, dear," said Claire.

"We're having a family meeting."

She waited for Sarah to sit down, watching as she delicately settled onto the arm of the couch by Andrea. The faint rustle from beneath her long skirt was all the evidence Claire needed to know that her eldest niece was wearing her diaper - one she used for convenience, not necessity - and she couldn't help but remember that happy weekend they'd spent by themselves, being just an aunt and niece.

Hopefully, they'd have many such weekends to come.

"This is something that Andrea and I have been planning ever since she moved in with us," said Claire, patting her girlfriend's hand for emphasis.

"She's going to sell her house and move in with me for good."

"That's great," Jessica responded, "but won't it get a lot more crowded here?"

"That's why I'm taking half the proceeds I make from this sale," Andrea replied with a grin, "and giving it to you."

Jessica was dumbstruck. She exchanged a surprised look with Sarah and Samantha, and then all three girls were staring expectantly at Claire.

"It's true," she confirmed.

"Actually, we've already put that money to use on your behalf." Reaching into her pocket, Claire pulled out a few pieces of paper that were stapled together and unfolded them.

"This is a lease for an apartment in that building just down the street. We bought it for all three of you girls."

"You didn't," Sarah said, her face twisting like she was trying to seem both happy and shocked at the same time.

"Oh, but we did," Claire asserted, still smiling.

"Think about it: no more having to share with your maiden aunt, being closer to work... and Brendan - "

"I'm sold," was Sarah's hasty reply, followed by an embarrassed smile.

"Plus you two will be even closer to campus," said Andrea, turning toward Jessica and Samantha.

"And there'll be plenty of money to cover you for the first six months while you're looking for work."

"I was looking for a job," Jessica admitted.

"You think I'll be able to find something in the next few months?"

"Why not?" Andrea lifted her hand, which held onto Claire's.

"Your aunt's already in the act of getting me a job at her shop. I think you'll have the same luck."

"Okay, but Sam and I aren't working there. We'll find something on our own." Jessica gave her aunt a pointed look.

"That's one thing I want to be able to do on my own."

"Point taken," Claire said reassuringly.

"So, what do you think, girls? Does this sound like a fair proposition to you?"

Jessica exchanged another look with her cousin and her friend. Then the girls turned toward Claire and answered with a resounding, "Yes!"

"I'm so glad," Claire answered.

"Of course, this does mean I'll expect to see you all at least once every weekend. Even if it's just for a few hours."

"Not much of a catch," Samantha commented.

Claire turned and flashed her a brilliant smile.

"Who said it was, dear? You may outgrow me, but I'll never be able to outgrow any of you."

THE END

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