" In the World Between Us and Them "
(c) Jeremy Kidd 1994
Inspired by Mick Collins' "Fayetteville" stories,
and"Plato" and "Admetus", drawn by Terrie Smith
Leon Hemphill was, by all definitions, an odd man. Human society had turned it's back on therianthropes, the genetically modified animal races it had created. Leon had rejected human society in return. He wanted nothing to do with a society that shunned it's children, for to his mind that was what the theris were, the children of humanity. The theris found him equally strange. Having been created to love and serve, and be companion to humanity, the theris often had a hard time grasping how a human could so dislike other humans.
Leon lived on the edge of the Obichome, the theri ghetto, in a huge warehouse. From there he ran his business, a sort of glorified junk-shop catering to the Theri's cargo-cult culture. The first floor was one vast shop, full of shelves, tables and racks of everything possibly imaginable, in varying states of repair. The second floor was a huge workshop, set up to handle everything from heavy wood and metal working to delicate machining and electronics. The third floor, seldom seen by outsiders, was Leon's home. Very few, human or theri, had ever seen that third level, and the few who had declined to speak of what they had seen, by Leon's request. He was a quiet, private man, who seldom left the shop except to purchase supplies, and to go on extended runs to other cities to buy his wares. He did a thriving business, as he had an uncanny knack for having or being able to get that "perfect" item people were looking for . . . for a price.
Because Leon wasn't all that old (he looked to be in his mid to late twenties), seemed to be moderately wealthy, and was rather difficult to get information about, rumours abounded about him in both the theri and human communities. The more mundane ones had him pegged as the disgruntled heir to some wealthy corporate magnate, or a quietly sequestered illegitimate embarrassment to some political bigwig. The more fanciful ones said he was a vampire prince, or an eccentric multi-millionaire! As such, he was the source of much speculation and curiosity, especially among the younger generation.
Leon was just putting the final touches to his restoration of a lovely old book, when there was a soft *peep* from the ceiling. He set down the binding tools, and rubbed his eyes "Yes, Ginette?"
The disembodied voice that answered was feminine, a pleasant tenor. "The alarm for the window in room twenty one has just been triggered."
Leon sighed, and rubbed his palms on his jeans "What are you reading for that room?"
There was a pause. "I am reading two contacts of medium size and mass, proceeding from twenty-one to corridor section ten."
"Do you detect any weapons?"
"I detect no power sources, but there are a number of intermediate size metallic objects. There is . . . one moment please . . . one of the contacts has triggered an anti-intruder device in room seventeen, attempting to open a locker without the security code."
Leon sighed, and pulled open a drawer. He took out a bundle of greasy rags, and unwrapped a large pistol. From the same bundle, he extracted several magazines of ammunition. One of the clips he shoved into the pistol's magazine well, the others he carelessly dropped into a vest pocket. He fished a small comm-unit out of a cubby-hole in the desk.
"Does this thing still work, Ginette?" he queried, tapping the earpiece into his ear.
There was a sputtering of static, and then a tinny version of Ginette's voice replied "It would appear it functions." Leon chuckled, and then slipped out of the room to pad down the hall way.
The room in question was halfway along the far side of the warehouse, in a section of the living areas that hadn't been used recently. Leon actually took up very little of the huge area of the third floor, most of the rooms being occupied by his collections, or various projects in progress.
"Contacts remain in room seventeen. Probable they are attempting to extract themselves from the anti-intrusion device."
Leon chuckled. Most probably, the security measure set off was a "tangle grenade", a device that sprayed a web of super-strong polymer strands specially designed to stick only to themselves. Struggling or pulling on them only wrapped you tighter.
As he approached the door, Leon could hear voices conversing in panicked whispers, one sounding tearful and nigh frantic. Through the doorway, he could dimly make out two figures, one crouching, the other laying on the floor struggling. Levelling the pistol, Leon sub-vocalized into the microphone "Ginette, give me lights in R-seventeen only . . . now."
The sudden flare of light was almost blinding, the two, clearly illuminated intruders immediately froze, blinking.
"Please don't move. I really don't want to have to shoot you." Leon stated in a clear, steady voice. The figure on the floor gave a pathetic, terrified little sob. Leon saw that his intruders were two young feline theris, one male and the other female. The female was caught in the tangle grenade, curled up on the floor, trembling. The male was staring at him with huge eyes, obviously furious and terrified, his fur bottled out to twice it's normal size. They were, Leon realized, just kids. No older than late teens. Both of them had the wild, strangely beautiful, motley mixed markings of second generation theris. The female looked to be in a horribly contorted position, until Leon noted she was digitigrade.
"You," stated Leon, centring his weapon on the male's chest "Move over to the far wall, and lay down on your belly." The little male hissed, and glanced worriedly at the female, and then complied. "Now place both of your hands on top of your head, and cross your ankles." Leon waited until the male obeyed, and then cautiously made his way over to the prone female, keeping his weapon pointed in the male's general direction. The female was watching him with wide, terrified eyes, her pupils dilated to huge black pools in fear.
"Please, oh Goddess, please don't hurt us!" she mewed "We didn't mean any harm! We won't do it again! Do what you want to us, just please don't . . . " her voice tapered off as Leon laid a finger over her muzzle, silencing her.
"I don't want to hurt you, little one. Just lay still a minute while I get this stuff off of you.". Leon walked to the cabinet she had tried to open, punched the security override code, and from an inside drawer pulled out a metal box with two electrodes. He walked back and touches the electrode to the web. The material stiffened for a second, and then began to disintegrate. Within a few seconds, it had disappeared. Leon thrust the pistol into the back of his belt, and knelt beside her, offering her his hand. Timidly, she took it, allowing him to help her up. The young male had stood as well, and was watching Leon.
Curiously, Leon took the time now to really look at his uninvited guests. The female was mostly black, with a huge mane of curly blonde hair falling to just below her shoulder-blades. A creamy white stripe ran from her forehead, down around her muzzle and then broadened over her chest to plunge down, disappearing into her thong. Her hands and feet were white, and there was gingery-orange striping on her arms.
The male was considerably more varicoloured than the female, mostly white on his face and chest, one arm mostly white, the other mostly black. His legs were white below the knees. Orange stripes slashed across his legs, face, and one arm, almost at random. His mane wasn't as curly as the female's, falling in soft waves to just below his shoulders. Both had leonine tails, long and sinuous, with a thick silky tuft at the end.
Leon abruptly brought himself back to reality. These were burglars, for pity's sake! He should be hauling them off to the police, not admiring their bodies!
But somehow, he couldn't. Looking into the female's wide, fearful eyes, he just didn't have the heart. They were just kids, really. Barely adult yet. And he'd always had a soft spot for cats.
He smiled, and gently took the female's hand in his own. "C'mon then." he murmured, leading her out into the hall and turning deeper into the warehouse. She followed, unresisting; the male trailing in her wake, obviously unwilling to leave his friend.
Leon led them into the depths of his home, to a room which the flick of a light-switch revealed to be a small, comfortable kitchen. Guiding the female to a chair, he waved the male to another. He pulled the gun out of his belt, extracted the magazine, and dropped the pistol in a drawer. The magazine he stuck in a pocket with the others. He wandered over to the fridge and opened it, taking out a jug of milk and filling two mugs.
"So, what are your names?" Leon queried, sticking the mugs into the microwave.
The female blinked at him, startled "I-I'm Admetus, and he's Pla-." the male hissed her into silence.
Leon locked gazed with the male, until the young feline looked away. "It matters not at all whether I know you names or not if I call in the police, you know. I prefer to keep things on a pleasant level here, and it would be somewhat easier if I could refer to each of you as something other than `Hey You'."
"Plato," the male sighed in resignation "My name is Plato.".
The microwave beeped suddenly, startling the two felines. Leon chuckled, and opened the door to remove two mugs of warm milk. He handed one to each of the cats. They looked back at him, confused. This was unusual hospitality from someone who's house they had broken into. "So," Leon began conversationally, settling himself on the edge of the table "Care to tell me why you two were sneaking about my back rooms, uninvited?"
"It's my fault.", Plato said firmly. "It was my idea to sneak in and have a look around. Admetus didn't want to, but I made her do it anyways. So just let her go, please. If you do, I won't give you any trouble, i'll just stay quiet and turn myself over to the cops when they get here.". Admetus started to say something, but Plato flashed her a look, and she stayed quiet.
"That's all very fine," Leon smiled "But I wasn't asking who was to blame. I was asking why you broke in."
Plato's ears flagged uncertainly "Oh." he said softly "Uhm, well . . . it's just that . . . well . . . nobody knows anything about you. This place is like one big mystery, and we wanted to, sort of . . . sort of . . . "
"Investigate the mystery? And make yourselves a reputation in the meantime? Impress your friends?" Leon supplied.
Plato nodded miserably. "Uh . . . yeah. Pretty stupid, I guess." He looked at Leon pleadingly "We're sorry, Mr. Leon. It was my fault. Please let Admetus go."
Leon grimaced, but it was mostly for show. He'd been thinking over the last few minutes. Four times now, in as many years, his home had been broken into. Three of those occasions had been like this one, curious young people out exploring and thrill seeking. It was beginning to appear his reclusive habits were the cause of the invasions of his place. Perhaps, just perhaps, it might work to let these two wander around the place a bit, find out what the place was like, and then let them go. With a little luck, it would get around that his place was just a house like any other, and the curiosity of these youngsters and their friends might be abated a little. Leon slid off the edge of the table and addressed the two felines.
"I am going to take a little time to consider what must be done here. You have free rein within the place to wander around, but don't try to leave, am I understood?" The two cats glanced at each other, and then back at Leon. "Don't get any ideas." Leon stated flatly. "Ginette, please make sure all entrances, and windows in the building are secure."
"Checking. Please stand by . . . ," came the reply. The two felines looked about in bewilderment.
"Ginette is my computer system." Leon explained. "Her purpose is to help me maintain my household. As you heard there, she's set up for verbal interface."
"Security-check complete. All entrances are secured. I am not reading any foreign contacts other than the two accompanying you."
"Thank you Ginette. Please respond to any voice queries these two have. They're going to be wandering the house while I think on what to do with them. They have a security level of 3.1, understood?"
Leon wandered to the door. "I'll let you know what i've decided in a little while. Make yourselves at home." They watched him in disbelieving silence as he closed the door.
The sound was so soft that Leon almost didn't hear it, concentrating as he was on the task of restoring the mechanism of the ancient clock he'd recently bought in a New Jersey junk shop. He looked up to see the young female, Admetus, watching him quietly from the doorway.
"What are you going to do?" she asked softly.
Leon wiped his hands on a rag and sat up on his stool. "Oh, i'll fix it and sell it in the shop for a tidy sum. Theris seem to have a passion of oddities and antiquities.".
A smiled played across her muzzle for just a moment, whiskers jutting forward, ears pricked in amusement. Then it was gone. She stepped towards him, into the pool of light cast by the lamp hung over the table. "Please, " she whispered "You can't let the police take Plato. He'll never live." She looked straight into his eyes, full of fear and resolve. "Plato has already been arrested once. It's bad enough how theris are treated if they're arrested . . . if the police get a repeat offender . . . " her voice trailed off.
Leon turned to face her. He realized that he was going to have to tell her what he intended, now. Otherwise she might do something foolish, for love's sake. He studied her in admiration, this beautiful, loving, determined little female. Ah well, maybe some good would come of it anyways. "I don't . . . "
His words were cut off abruptly as she laid a paw over his mouth. For an instant, Leon was suddenly terrified as he realized he was in an enclosed room with a large, strong, well-armed and highly intelligent predator. She leaned in close to him and spoke. "I'll give you anything you want, including me. Just let Plato go, and you can have me for the night, and then turn me over to the police.". She reached up with the other hand, and undid the bow which held her top closed. With a fluid shrug, the chemise slid to the floor. With the same liquid motion, she slid astride his lap, wrapping her legs around his waist. He tried to speak when she took her hand away from his mouth, but his lips were almost instantly sealed as her muzzle pressed down against them.
Leon had been alone for a very long time. Estranged from his own kind, and abhorring the idea of abusing the love for itself humanity had programmed into theri-kind, he had cut himself off from such intimacy. It was very difficult to say no to Admetus. She was all that he might have asked for in a lover: beautiful, thoughtful, sexy. But this was even less fair than anything he might have planned to gain a lover. She had obviously worked herself into a passion to seduce him and gain his favour. It was, though inadvertently, coercion. And Leon wanted nothing less than to force someone's love. Ever-so-gently, he broke the kiss. "Nobody is going to jail, little one." he said, "And the last thing I want to do is force you into my bed. If ever I should take you as my lover, it will be as a friend as well." He smiled and gently stroked her cheek. "You are both free to go as you please.".
Admetus sighed, a sound of relief so deep, her whole body shook with it. She laid her head against his chest. "Thank-you."
Leon sat like that, holding her for a while, savouring the feel of her fur, the scent and warmth of her. "It would be nice, " He thought wistfully "To have someone like this of my own."
"Admetus, are you . . . " Plato stopped in the door, his confusion obvious. His lover, clad only in a thong, was in the arms of their captor. He took a tentative step into the room. "Oh Admetus! You didn't . . . not for me!" There was pain in his voice.
Leon shook his head. "No, she didn't, Plato. Although she would have, to save you. I never intended to keep you two here, or to turn you over to the police. I just wanted to give you a scare, and let you roam about the place so you could tell others, so they would leave the place alone." He stood, letting Admetus get her feet under her. "You're free to go anytime you like.".
Plato reached out a hand uncertainly, and laid it on Admetus' shoulder. In an instant, she was in his arms, kissing him fervently, holding tightly to him. Leon watched in amusement as the young male's pupils dilated, and nostrils flared. He doubted that a theri female, once worked into the level of sexual desire Admetus was, could very easily turn it off. "You're welcome to spend the night. If you like, there's a spare bedroom just down the hall, across from mine." he offered.
Admetus smiled over her shoulder at him, eyes bright. Her tail lashed excitedly. Leon chuckled and crooked a finger, indicating that they should follow him. At the door to the room, he waved them in with a grin, and turned to give them their privacy. But a claw hooked into his shirt, holding him. He looked down into Admetus' face, then across to Plato. The female's eyes were bright and intent, Plato's were uncertain, and a bit confused. "Wouldn't you like to stay with us?" Admetus purred.
Leon startled slightly, then stood there as conflicting emotions and desires battled within him. "Do you mind?" he asked, finally, looking significantly at Plato.
Plato's whiskers flicked back and forth as he considered the question, then suddenly his ears flushed pink as the full meaning of the question sank in. "Oh! Uh . . . No. I mean . . . it's just that . . . well . . . I never . . . " he trailed off, flustered. Then he took a deep breath. "I've never slept with another male before, but I'd like to try."
Leon smiled, and slipped an arm around each of them, snugging them against his hip. As Admetus nuzzled against his neck, Leon kissed Plato's muzzle. The young male hung back for a moment, and then relaxed, leaning into the kiss.
Admetus shut the door behind them with her tail.
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