A Leopard's Warm Embrace

Story by Cheetahs on SoFurry

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am open for COMMISSIONS! If you want your own, personalized story, Click here  Support me on Patreon for novel chapters, snippets, short stories, and more awesome content+art! You get all the stories before everyone else does, plus various Patreon exclusive content that you can only get by supporting me.This story is a commission for the ever amazing Jones111 . His love for cats and ideas inspired the creation of this story so be sure to thank him in equal measure for his generous contribution to this story Alone. That's how a man remains after his perfect girlfriend abandons him. He has no courage, no hope, and his only solace is his zoo-keeping job. Nights become a safe haven, and the zoo a place to rest. After a night out goes wrong, our hero ventures inside the only place where he truly feels at peace. Felines understood him better than any human ever did. They were loyal, loving, and demanded very little in return. Well, almost. Every male needs a mate, especially a young leopard in his prime. Pity leads the human into the leopard's cage, but he soon finds out that fate has a hand in everything, and his feelings for the feline run deep enough to show the cat that males can taste the most intimate type of pleasure without a female nearby.  STORY STARTS BELOW For the past half hour I sat on my lonely bed. I knew I had a date. For the whole day I prepared for 7:30 PM. And I did nothing. It was 7 now. My lucky number. I kept staring at the red dots making up the entirety of this glorious number. They looked even. Whole. Organized. If a single dot was out of place, the whole display would have been thrown into chaos, and the clock standing on my nightstand would have been thrown away or smashed. It would have ended exactly where useless objects go to die: inside a festering pit of redundancy. A graveyard for electronics. And even then the clock would've had company. Other nifty gadgets discarded by pampered folks with an eye for perfection. I suppose I shouldn't blame them. Would I have kept redundancy in my life? Why? What need would I have of something that didn't work as it should? Every day I would wake up to that defective image that reflected my own imperfections. A broken clock for a broken man. I blinked when the time changed. 7:01. In twenty nine minutes my date would be at Generosity's, clueless to her intended partner's whereabouts. Did I care if she sat at an empty table in one of the most expensive restaurants in the neighborhood? Was I bothered by the fact that she would feel lonely in a sea of strangers? Did I even care enough about her to get off this bed? My hands gripped the soft sheets. Then, I pulled. My grip hardened until my fingers ached, and even then I refused to let go. Fuck. I hated when I couldn't find answers to questions, even if they were all senseless debris in the whirling vortex that made up my thoughts. I tensed, took in a deep breath, kept the air in my chest until my face reddened and my chest stung. Then, I let it out. Just like that. I felt strangely calm now when all that pressure had been willingly blown away. The answers? What answers? They avoided me, and I avoided them. I didn't want to know what my date looked like, felt like, what she wanted, what she wore, what her family was like. Like the blinking lights of the two little dots separating the hours from minutes, my mind worked in a steady, unaltered stream. 7:02 PM. My heart skipped a beat. My moment of tranquility was blew away as quickly as it came. Blood shot through my veins like an erupting volcano. I gasped, then I touched my chest, rubbing around my breast while pure fear raced through me. I wasn't ill. I wasn't dying. I just had a date to attend to. And it was getting really freaking late. Deep breaths. Steady rhythm. I had to remember. Had to calm myself down. Beat the impulses created by my faulty instincts. Four seconds in, eight seconds inside, four seconds out. I calmed within twenty of those breaths, a gift from the rigorous training I submitted myself before applying for the job at the zoo. Humans are naturally scaredy creatures. They are afraid of those stronger than them, those smarter than them, even those weirder than them. When you see a ragged looking fellow on the street you move out of his way. The mind doesn't imagine the threats, the scenarios, or the outcome. It freezes, allowing instinct to take hold and get you out of danger before it happens. And that's a powerful ally to have, even in a society that forgot its roots. I blinked. Then, the clock blinked with me. Shit. I couldn't move off this bed. Was it instinct that trapped me here? Or was it my pain addled mind that desperately wanted to avoid another blow? I didn't want to know. Knowing was unimportant. Irrelevant. Redundant. I didn't even care that much about me. The bed had always been kind to me. It offered me warmth, comfort, relaxation. Five steps to the right was my bedroom door, and another fifteen or so got me into the kitchen. I had food, water, and even booze to dull my senses. Yeah. I could survive in my own den for a while. But then I thought about the countless hours Angela spent to get me this one chance to piece myself together. If I didn't go out that door, all her efforts would sum up to nothing. Yesterday would mean even less for me. I took the whole day off to talk to one of my few online friends about my tragic situation, and she listened. Out of all my two faced contacts, one of them really listened. I've known Angela for almost a year now. She was a potential candidate for the cleaner spot we've opened, but her squeamish nature and an overwhelming distaste for animal feces put her off that position for good. I normally didn't like this kind of people. The world already was choke full of whimsy flimsy maidens in distressed or fancy dressed career-builders climbing the same, one way stair towards success, looking at asses and cars, counting their money, lying left and right to get the better girlfriend, the better job, the better suit. Angela seemed to be one of them at first. Then I got to know her a bit. I normally avoid contact with people and keep my interaction with them to a minimum after the rift that broke me apart months ago. But Angela was different. Her abusive dad and her drunken mother made sure she was as broken as me.  That's what got us together. Imperfection. If Angela wouldn't have fallen for her weed supplier, maybe she would have been the one waiting at the table situated inside one of the priciest establishments I was supposed to visit. 7:03 PM. Crap. I've been alone with my thoughts for a whole minute. That's way too long. I needed to move. To blink. To do something! "Clothes." That was the one word that put my world in motion. I jumped from my bed and headed towards the wardrobe. A dozen shirts greeted my eyes as I opened the double doors. Lions, lynxes, leopards, snow leopards, cougars, tigers. I had every last one of them staring back at me, laying down, scratching, grooming, sleeping. I couldn't go out like that. The Zoo's shirts weren't proper either, with the much too obvious writing and the badges I accumulated for good behavior. I shuffled from left to right until I found the only proper shirt I could wear for this occasion. A plain white piece of clothing, complemented by an indigo vest, with matching pants, fake leather belt, and cheap black shoes. I took my clothes off and dressed with the only modern clothing I had in my apartment. First came the shirt. I buttoned that bastard up, then put the pants on, pressing around the sides, forcing the unresponsive rim to fit my generous waist. Drat. I wasn't fat by any means, but when the heck did I get so big? I didn't remember these pants to be so small. I pulled, again, and again, and again, pushing the rigid cloth past its limits and forcing it to evolve. Riiiip. I froze for a second. I knew what that sound meant. I just didn't want my eyes to confirm. But I still looked, and saw the glorious fissure rippling along the line of the crotch. Crap. I shuffled through my drawer for another pair of pants. Luck smiled on me. I grabbed a cheap satin imitation and felt the static energy as it rushed along the tips of my fingers. Not exactly a proper pair for a night out, but good enough that even my eyes could mistake it for something more expensive. I pulled the pants up, sighed with contentment when the rubber band fit around me, then threw the ugly belt on the bed, and put on my shoes. My feet slid in easily. Then I met the top. I tried to squeeze my toes in through a rather uncomfortable wriggling motion, hissing and cursing with every breath. If I were to describe this particular experience, I would compare it with an alligator trying to crawl through a pool's eviction system. "Drat," I gasped. My eyes immediately jumped to the clock. 7:10 PM. I wasted seven minutes arguing with clothes like those fat, kleptomaniac bosses that I hated. I tied my shoelaces as quickly as my fingers managed and rushed to the bathroom, my breath hitching with every step. These shoes felt mightily uncomfortable, and the pants slid lower and lower with every step I took. I didn't have time to complain though, and no other choices to consider when even a trip to the bathroom spoke volumes about the kind of guy I was. Paintings on the walls, sculptures on every nightstand, embroideries on the table and the chairs, and countless other toys, plushies and books, all featuring the same felines prowling over my clothes. Was I obsessed? I see how some people would have branded me with an obsessive compulsive disorder if they came in here. I never gave them the chance to get past the door though. In my apartment, I was all alone, secluded from a society I disliked. I turned on the light, stepped in front of the bathroom mirror, and stared blankly at the guy looking back at me. He wasn't really ugly. Just unkempt. Shaggy, like a pure breed dog kept too much out on the streets. I ran a hand through my curly brown hair to settle it in place. A dozen spikes raised around my head instead, some straight, others bending at awkward angles. Great. I looked less of a weirdo and more of a hobo. I smoothened the front with a dash of water. Damn, that could touch felt good. I turned the faucet all the way and splashed a full dose of instant relief on my sweaty face. Then, I looked back in the mirror. As the water dripped down my face, I realized I looked nothing like the cats I care for. My clothes didn't make me look particularly clean, or tidy, or beautiful. They were just a poor mask covering the disorganized mess hiding within. I looked with the corner of my eyes towards the bedroom and caught a faint glimpse of the crooked shape of a number. 7:13. That was two minutes to get out of the building, five more to get to the bus station, then another ten to fly past five stops. I was going to be late for sure. I stormed down four levels of stairs towards the lobby, then I took a mad dash towards the bus station. The people who happened to pass me by must've thought I'm crazy, holding my pants with both hands to keep them from sliding down. My ploy worked though. I arrived at the station exactly in two minutes, and the bus just got the green light. I climbed up. Only a couple more people entered the bus with me. I didn't expect it to be so empty at this hour. The front seats were taken by two couples, the middle ones were all empty, and the back ones became the property of delinquents. Yeah. That's what I called those brilliant youths whose only aspiration in life included smoking weed, partying, grabbing hot chicks and making the life of their fellow men harder. I took my eyes of them right before they noticed me, then took a seat near the front. I looked out the window, pretending to scratch one of my ears with one hand while the other stroke my chin to provide a fake feeling of deep seated intelligence. The bus took off. I sighed a breath of relief. Four more stations and I would arrive just in time. Maybe. Possibly. "Yeah, Joe, so what'ya doin' tonight?" Drat. Hood accent, unfinished words, loud voice. It was one of them. Don't look. Don't look. I kept screaming at my head that wanted to turn around just enough to catch a glimpse of a possible threat. Instincts. The burden of any intelligent man in our society. Can't live with them, can't live without them. "I'm plannin' on partyin', yo. Jackasses won five to one." "Yeah, cool shit. Cool shit," the first one patted his friend's back with audible smacks. Or maybe he slapped his own leg. I couldn't really tell when my eyes forcibly counted every taxi that passed by. "Sucks Sookie owes me that hundred bill man. I could've gotten really spoiled by now." "Yeah, fuck that dude yo. Never pays his fucking debts, but keeps askin and askin and askin. We should pound his fat ass!" I flinched at the booming sound of his threat. Shit. No weakness. I broke my own golden rule. Did they see me? I pretended to scratch my head while I straightened up my spine into a stiff statuesque position. "Hold on, dude. Don't get angry inside, or driver's going to kick you out." "Kick me out dawg? I don' even got a mothafuckin ticket." A fight ensued between the two amigos, with shouting and slaps and screams. Nobody in the whole buss said anything. They all waited and hoped for this issue to calm itself down as soon as possible. Me? I knew they would keep going after the mom joke broke loose. The bus slowed down. A surge of fearful excitement rushed through my cold veins. The doors opened. With the corner of my eye I saw five more people climbing in. They all crammed their butts at the front, pressing into one another, arguing who will get off first at the next station. "Yo, that's it. THAT'S IT!" "You wanna do it?" "Yeah. Lets fuckin do it!" I thought they were going to punch their heads out. Then, a second later, I heard their stomping feet lurching towards me. "Yo, good people, my friend and I just got robbed by our associate. If you can spare a buck or two for our drinkin' contest-" "Yeah. Just one. One for each head. Starting with you, baldie." "I...I don't have any money," a frail voice came. "Sure you do. Come on, get those tired hands rollin' gramps." "You've got no decency?" a woman intervened. "Ma'am, I got plenty. What I don't have is booze." Silence followed. Then laughter. The loud, obnoxious, panic inducing kind of laughter. I couldn't help it this time. My head turned just for a second to take a sneak peak at those assholes. They stared right back at me. "Yo, that one turned." "Which one?" "White shirt in the front." Shit. They were onto me. I hunched closer to the window, forcing my eyes to look at license plates, willing my body not to get up and do something stupid as they kept coming closer and closer. "Yo, my man." Crap. I smelled his stench and felt his breath on my neck. Without even looking, I saw the big one with the black and white cap sitting right next to me. That's how paranoid I became. "My man!" I shuddered when his arm came around my neck. No weakness. Look him in the eyes. Hold your breath. And no matter what, do not stumble over your words. "Y-yesss?" I turned around like a fearful rat, lips puckering awkwardly to mask the slight clattering of my lower jaw. They both laughed, their loud voices burying in my ears, overwriting the years of discipline I submitted myself to. My first instinct was to recoil, and I did. I leaned towards the window and hunched to make myself look small and pathetic. In the wilds, this was the kind of thing that got you killed. In a bus? It just got you robbed. "It's cool, sissy girl. All cool," The big one rubbed me like he was my best pal. "I just want a couple of bucks to party. Can you help us party, mahn?" he wrapped his arm harder around my neck. "Can you?" I had no choice but to face his ugly, stinking face again. "He's kinda cute bro," his friend said, exposing bad teeth and equally smelly breath. "Yeah, looks like a woman with pubic hair." "I...I ai..." "Money, bro," the big one slapped my head. "Do you have them?" I froze. No. I shivered from every joint in my body. "Shit dude, he's tremblin' worse than my girl on an overdose." "Look, I'm not hurtin' you if you give me your money." He started patting my pants. "Just a couple of bucks. That's all I ask for." "Ok. Ok," I nodded quickly. "I'll...I'll give you, yes? I'll give." They chuckled, laughed, and poked fun at me while I scrambled for my wallet. The big one took it right from my shaky grip. I thought he was going to take it all, but his reaction surprised me. "Shit man, he broke. Got only a couple of tens and a twenty." "Grab the twenty dawg. Don't wanna leave Mr Pubes with nothing." He liberated my wallet from the biggest bill I owned and threw it in my lap. "Thanks bro." That was it. An end to my nightmare, sweetened by mocking friendliness. Nobody talked. Nobody even moved from their seats. The buss emptied at the next stop, and new people climbed in, sat down and waited like the two jocks have never been there. I placed my wallet in my pocket and fixed my eyes on the passing blocks. I started counting them. After fifteen or so, I became like the rest of them, uncaring and oblivious to everything around me. The panic struck as soon as I climbed off the bus. Suddenly, I remembered why I only went out to work. My feet felt like gas, flimsy and unsteady. I looked around for something to steady my wavering balance, but everything moved and wobbled. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and focused. I was in control of my body, not the other way around. A dozen heartbeats later, my breath slowly steadied. I wiped the sweat from my forehead, then walked. I still had a date. A goal to accomplish. The weakness I felt before transformed into my ally. The fear gave me purpose. I ran like an Olympic runner, stopping only when Generosity stood right in front of me. It was a fine establishment. Expensive cars, well dressed valets running around, and lots and lots of people. There weren't many business suits around. A constant stream of vividly dressed party goers climbed out of the many taxies passing by. Weird. I thought this was a fine restaurant. Once my breath steadied any my body stopped sweating like a broken faucet, I approached. There was laughter, and behind it music loud enough to dwarf any normal sized conversation. I passed between a gang shouting profanities at one of the car drivers, slinked between the half naked girls pouring out from a side entrance, and rammed my side against the closest wall. Smoke entered my nostrils, choking my throat, making my eyes water and my throat sting. I muffled it as best as I could. Somehow, my safety measures still ran after the bus incident. "Hey." I ignored the voice, too focused on trying to keep my rasping itch trapped. "Hey, you ok man?" Someone touched my shoulder. I instinctively turned around, but in doing so I let loose that terrible pressure straight into the guy's face. He soured like a child tasting his first lemon, and I paled. His grip fastened hard around my neck. My muscles stung, and pain took hold of my senses as his clutch became seething agony. "What the fuck man?" he wiped his face with his free hand. "Did you just spit in my face?" "I'm sorry. I-I didn't mean to-" "Get the fuck out man." His quaking blow sent me stumbling deep into the sea of people. I got shouted at, I got called names, and I amassed plenty of insults. Right now, I cared for none of that. Like a feline inside the underbrush, I made my way through the army of hands, legs, and torsos until I finally saw light before my eyes. And colors. Lots and lots of colors. "Welcome to Generosity. I'm Amy, and for the modest price of a hundred dollars I'll be your hostess for tonight." Amy...that name had such a nice ring to it. Soft, delicate, nice. It was nothing like the rough bass thrumming inside my chest, the sound of instruments clashing senselessly against each other, the terrible cries of a man that desperately tried to sing. The war of sounds -because I couldn't call this thing music- that came from the depths of the establishment quickened my blood faster than the guys on the bus. Made me jittery and anxious, eager to escape this terrible place. I looked around and felt my overly hot skin sweat with the inevitable urgency of a looming threat. I had to do something. The noise. It was too loud. The light shifted colors too often. The people, too many. "Sir?" She touched my hand. I instantly recoiled. Her reaction was the same as mine. Creeping uncertainty draped over her eager brown eyes, dulling the life from her gaze and fading the smile from her lips. "It's my first- my first time," I licked my dry lips and took a short pause to swallow the nonexistent saliva down my arid throat. "I'll...yeah...it's...you're big. I mean this place is big." Amy chuckled nervously. "Yeah. Easy to get lost without an escort. Shall I accompany you?" She extended her hand towards mine, and I waited. I didn't talk, or look at her. I just waited. The awkwardness between us became so thick you could cut it with a knife. Other hostesses, attendants or whatever the heck they were came forth to greet the men and women pouring all around me. They all talked normally. Some laughed, others shook hands and complimented the girls on their looks. They all had a good time, while I was frozen stiff as a statue, sweating inside my only go-out shirt, hurting from the excruciatingly small size of my fine shoes, forcing my wandering eyes to stay still and focus on something while my mind tried its hardest to tame the tempest of emotions burning within my chest. I was trapped. Fight or flight. One of the oldest, most powerful weapons wielded by our instincts was now ramming its whole weight against the crumbling fortress of my conscious mind. My chest tightened. Within the span of two heartbeats, I felt dizzy, weak, and I had to time my breathing to survive. "Sir, if I can-" "Too much..." "Excuse me?" "It's too much. I can't...can't..." I took a stumbling step forward. "You're shaking. Are you alright?" I shook off her hand before she even touched me. "Leave me alone." "Amy, is everything ok?" "I think he's having a seizure." "Sir, can you look at me please?" Too many people. Too many voices. Too many eyes. I had to run. Fast. "Sir!" "Just leave me alone!" That one came out way louder than I wanted. I could almost feel the eyes staring down at me, wondering what kind of freak I was to scream like that for nothing. They didn't know. None of them knew the pain I've been through after she left me. Of the days I spent in the darkest corner of my bedroom to cry myself to exhaustion. I ripped those memories apart. Pushed them in the depths of my mind, locked them in my tightest drawer, but sometimes they still emerged. Several months after my perfect star dropped from my wide blue sky, I was still hurting. The thumping bass of the music and a well aimed shout aimed at my ear forced my mind back on the present. There were so many people around me dancing. Above, a disco ball was hurling zaps of color across the dancing floor. When did I get here? I bit my cheek to gather whatever focus I could muster. This club wasn't real. I mean not as real as it seemed. I made my way through the sea of people until I found a sign with the customary fork and knife. Restaurant. That's where I needed to be. I followed the directions. Several steps later, I found myself staring at white clothed tables, paintings of shepherds, fruits, knights and other historical figures, and waiters taking orders or delivering food in a clean and quiet environment. I breathed a sigh of relief. My muscles slowly relaxed, as if my tension, fear and anxieties all poured out with that one mighty tide of air. This was good.  I could make due with a secluded corner of serenity. I just needed to find the right table. I walked between the tables. So many people looked at me. So many waiters passed by me. I tried to ignore their unnerving stares. Seventy one. Table seventy one. That was the one. Numbers never lied. Now, if only those numbers revealed themselves to my eyes, that would have been perfect. Between the sneaky glances I threw on the sides and the careful path I chose towards the bathroom, I saw nothing that remotely indicated the table my date had  booked. Yeah. She chose the place, the table, and the overall mess I found myself in, and all that I could do was to play her game. "Hello?" I kept on walking. "Sir, can you stop for a minute?" Was he referring to me? I took two more steps before my back was poked. "Sir, if you could sit down and avoid blocking the way to the-" "I need to find my table," I interrupted him before I even saw his face. When I turned, I found out the one calling me sir was nothing more than a boy, probably four to six years younger than me. He wore a plain white suit and a red tie that went well with his spiky black hair. "Which one is it?" he asked politely. "Table seventy one," I scratched my neck. A nervous habit I still worked on erasing. "Seventy one...hmm...that's in the disco section. I'll have one of my colleagues lead you out. Gargulio!' A rush of panic traversed my spine. "W-wait. Disco section?" "Yeah. It's where the fun is at. My colleague will be here in a second," the youth said quickly, then peeked around me. "He's such a big slacker. I have to go. Please excuse me." He left. He left me alone, just like that. I had around five seconds to process his words before someone touched me yet again. I shrugged, then turned around too fast. My feet tripped onto one another, and I lurched to the side, crashing into an old man having dinner with his beloved. "Jesus Christ." "Watch where you're going you fool. Stain my husband's good suit." The youth's aid immediately worked on helping the old man, who babbled and cursed with indignation. "It's...it's no problem. We'll have his suit cleaned downstairs, free of charge, courtesy of Generosity." "You'd better. I paid good money for this table. I worked all my life. I worked all my life," the old man babbled. "It's...it's alright, sir. Let me help you." Gargulio had a quick tongue and the temper to match it. His eagerness to help calmed the pair of angry old men who shot profanities at me even as I removed myself from their presence. "I'll lead you to your table now, Sir." "It's no need, really. I can-" "I insist," he gripped my hand, much to my shock. Like a dog on a leash, Gargulio led me all the way back into that noisy mess I hated. We cut right through the dance floor, then climbed two rows of stairs to get to a fancy balcony. Sculpted wooden beams decorated the edges, forming alcoves for the tables that offered the best view of the dance floor below. It would have been a nice, cozy spot. The carpet on the ground gave it a homely feeling. They also had paintings featuring huntings on the walls, medieval armor pieces, and a ton of ash trays. If it wasn't for the smoke choking the breath out of me and the obnoxious music ramming against my ears, I would have enjoyed my stay here. "Table seventy one," Gargulio waved his arm as some sort of welcoming gesture, then threw me in my chair with a violent shove. "Enjoy your evening, Sir." "Asshole," I muttered under my breath. "Yeah. They all are." That voice made me jump in my seat. It was close. Probably a few meters away. My eyes went along the sides of the room, scanning a dozen people before I found her. "Oh," I coughed nervously, suddenly forgetting the main reason why I was here. She stood right in front of me. Crazy hair, bored eyes filled with mascara and other make-up crap, glossy lips. She looked average. I could do with average, as long as average didn't hold a cigar between her fingers. "Indeed," she kissed her slim cigar, puffed her cheeks, then blew her smoke right in my face. I turned around and choked in my hand like a gentleman. Manners were part of my integrity. I never sacrificed them, not even for assholes. "Are you gonna order up?" "Gimme a sec," I said, red-faced from that bloody smoke. I took a couple of breaths to calm myself down, but the air was leaden with the same toxic haze. "Yeah, I can't stay here." "Can't, or don't want?" "Both," I slapped a hand on the table and stared her down. "I'm not a smoker. For me, this is...it's death. Wanna get cancer? Fine, but don't pass it on to me!" "Wow," she laid back in her chair. "Charming. So, what'ya gonna get?" "I'm going to get myself out of here." "Good luck with that." My chair creaked with rising anger. I had to calm myself down, or risk becoming one of those people I despised. I focused on the woven branches resting my ass, on the smooth vines interwoven to create the table before me, and the can of coke my date held on the right side of her ashtray. A simple drink ordered in an expensive establishment. My mood soured just by thinking how much I was going to pay for a night I already hated. "Order up. They'll take hours before delivering your drink or whatever the fuck you want." "Yeah, I'll- where is the menu?" "Gone," she took another puff from her cigar. "What do you mean gone?" "I gave it away to someone needier than me." "Sure, because they really lack paper in a place like this," I crashed back in my chair with a heavy sigh. She still felt the need to lessen the distance between us, lunging over the table until I smelled the thick scent of cheap perfume under the haze of smoke. "Dude, they had a million stupid drinks for retarded prices. Coke's the only thing worth getting." "Well, what if I don't like coke?" I shot back. "You'll get Pepsi," she blinked. "And if I'm not a fizzy drink guy?" "You can get a pack," she tapped her cigar and smiled at me, spreading her glimmering lips enough to reveal a few yellow teeth. Disgusting. My silence put an end to this disastrous start to a date. Five minutes into the thing, and I already searched for courteous ways to leave this smoker inside its natural habitat. What could I say to her though? That she immediately fell down my shit list just because of this faulty habit? That her personality just wasn't my type? No. Assholes bailed out like that, and I wasn't one of them. Not now, not ever. "So..." I said tentatively. "Is this the first time you come here?" "Mhm," she pulled her phone from her purse and shoved it in my face. "This friend told me it's a fun place, and I believed her." BallsyQueen69 had an even crazier hair than my date. No. Let me rephrase that. She looked totally crazy with her rainbow colored hair strings, goth rings around her eyes, piercings in her nose, in her lips, in her ears. The most disturbing one lay just at the center of her lower lip, an ellipse that bypassed her flesh and showed me -and the other unfortunate souls that saw her picture- how a lip-less woman looked like. "It's...it's cool, yeah," I nodded thrice, keeping my eyes focused on the bottom of her phone until she took it away. "What'd you think of her?" "Who?" I went with the stupid question in hopes she would give up. "My friend." "She's...she's kinda cool," I lied through my teeth with total impunity. "Different. Above the rules. She's making a style for herself and that's commendable." "Jeez, really?" she took a puff from her cigar, as if she prepared to unleash hell upon me. "She's the most annoying bitch I ever met. She thinks she's this big model just because her huge tits and loose cunt give boners to every idiot. Do you know how many boned her, dude?" "Not really," I said, trying to look away. She didn't let me. "Three hundred. Over three hundred," her big eyes empathized her point quite well, making me feel really uncomfortable. "She's riding the D from morning till dusk. One time she said she skipped breakfast cause she drank cum from like...five different guys at the same time." I gulped down what seemed to be the largest blob of empty air I swallowed so far. My stomach tensed in response to the disturbing images created by my sorry mind. I blocked them all of course, but my nameless date kept babbling over and over about how weird her goth friend was and how much she enjoyed intercourse. "And this one time she got together with this military dude who had a dog. Yeah. Took the dog inside right after the dude boned her. She said the knot is amazing, whatever the fuck that is. I'd never let a fucking animal get anywhere close to my pussy." "Mghm," I nodded. "Can we...change the subject, maybe?" "Why?" she leaned her elbow on the table and cupped her chin, taking another blow from the small stump of her cigar. "Does sex make you uncomfortable?" "No. Not really. Sex with animals does." Another lie. I had nothing against animals. I loved them. Even stray cats had more dignity than this creature would ever have. They were also clean, and beautiful, two things I could not say about my date. "High five dude!"She held her hand up. "Come on, gimme a five." I met her with a resounding clap, just to get her crazy eyes off me. "Yeah!" she yelled excitedly. "Those freaks make me puke my guts out. Do you know there's like...millions of other people doing this shit? I mean, how desperate do you have to be to let your dog hump your ass?" "It's disgusting," I grimaced. "They're out of their minds." "Totally," she pointed towards my head. I backed away, thinking she was going to touch me, but she just laughed it off and continued talking. "Dude, desperation turns people into weirdoes. Makes them do really creepy shit." Her brown eyes squinted with mischievous intent. "To be honest, you look like somebody desperate enough to push it down the doggy hole." "Wh-what?" "You look like a dog banger. No offense dude. You're cool and all, but that hair is crazy!" I froze. Not even my eyelids moved. The music was gone. The people evaporated. All I heard were the eager thumps of my heart, pounding harder and harder inside my chest. My cold hands gripped onto my pants. I curled my fingers, trying to scratch, failing to dispel the shock that took hold of my body. Then, she laughed. She laughed so loud, so heartily, so wildly that my fleeing instincts jumped into action immediately. I recoiled back so hard, my chair fell backwards, sending me sprawling along the ground. My date got up, barely breathing from her bursting mirth. "Duuuude. You should've seen your face. You...hahahahaa.you shoulda seen your ffff--face!" "Please stop." "Or what? Are you going to crawl your way up and make me?" I scrambled onto my legs, then placed my chair in the proper position before I laid my hands on the table to look her straight in her crazy eyes. "It's a public place. It may be our first time coming here, but I don't want everyone to think we're a pair of delinquent whackos." "So what?" she waved her cigar bud in my face. "Why the hell do you care?" "I have integrity," I hissed. "Boo hoo." I thought that put an end to it. Yet, as I was slowly retreating to my seat, my date threw her arms up and screamed really, really loud. "Listen y'all. My friend here is a dog shagger!" Blood crystallized in my veins when I saw how many people were looking at us. "Does anyone have a pooch? My friend would love to tie the knot!" I threw myself at her, managing to grab both of her hands. "Shut up. SHUT UP!" "Get...get off me!" She groaned and tried to shake my grip off, but I was stronger than her. "Stop making a scene. Are you crazy?" "I'm not a fucking pussy you moron!" she shook herself, and when she failed to throw my arms off, she spat right in my face. I closed my eyes. That was my biggest mistake. She shoved her whole weight against me, and I met the hard ground on my back, with this crazy bitch right on top of me. "You don't tell me what to do, bitch," she slapped my face. I blinked, dazed by the pain rippling through my back. "No one." Slap! "Ever." Slap! "Does!" Slap slap slap! My cheeks burned so hot. I heard footsteps coming from behind. "Holy damn!" "Is everything alright?" "Miss, did that man try to assault you?" She looked at me, then fixed her eyes on the group of waiters. "Nah. He just poked fun at my tits. Do you think they're sagged?" There it was. The ultimate weapon of any woman. Three fully grown men of different ages stood before her, and not even one of them looked at me. I was the victim, laying on the floor, hurting from her abuse, and they only had eyes for her retreating cleavage. "Woohoo!" "No miss. You've got a really nice pair of jugs there." "Who is that guy anyway?" "My date," she rolled her eyes while the three waiters looked down on me. One was on the verge of laughing, one scowled as if I just said a thing about his mother, and the third smiled broadly, like a boss preparing to fire his most worthless of employees. "That guy? Really?" "You can do better, girl. Heck, I'll be your date if you ask me out." "Don't get ahead of yourself, Jim." They all started laughing, her included. "Yeah. Can you freaking believe it? My friend hooked me up with a fancy dressed hobo. His hair looks like a dog's for fuck's sake!" "Yeah. Kind of does." "Mhm," the other two agreed. "So what do you want us to do with him?" "Leave him here for a couple more minutes. I promised my friend I'd talk and well, the man always pays the bill." "Damn right, girl." "Damn right." They left. They all left. They left me alone with this bitch who humiliated me, hurt me, and now tried to scam me, all for a few seconds of staring at her boobs. Her freaking boobs! As If there wasn't enough porn on the internet to cover their desperate need for naked ladies! "Come on. Up," my date took a new cigar from her pack, put it in her mouth, and seated herself back at the table. "Come on, get up. Don't want your stupid ass to catch cooties or a cold or some shit like that." I was tempted to just remain there. Not like anybody paid any attention. The party goers were back to their meals and hushed talks from the moment the waiters left. But I couldn't let her win. I didn't want to allow her to wear me down completely. So I leaned on my hands, gritted my teeth against the pain, and managed to lift my way up into the straw-woven chair. "Chill." Her words just flew by. She wasn't even there for me. I scratched my fingers, one at a time, focusing my attention on the bad music playing on the dance floor below. "Dude, chill." What the hell did she want now? "You're freaking trembling. Calm the fuck down or you're going to give me a heart attack for Christ's sake." "I am chilling, alright? Your stunt made sure of that." I swatted her hand from the air when she tried to touch me. Our fingers met. Hers, warm and nice, mine, ice cold and clammy. She instantly recoiled, wiping her hand on her blouse with a look of disgust on her face. "Freaking hell dude, no wonder you're having a freaking seizure. All that tension is making you explode." She deserved a nasty reply for this, but I pressed my jaws shut, trying my best to push back my rising rage. "Chill, alright? Jeeze..." she extended her hand towards me. "Here, take a bump." The table shook under my half clenched fist. "Alright, fine. I'll just let you be you fucking freak. Talk about showing some bloody gratitude when I'm trying to save your ass." "You did this. All of this! I was fine. We talked like normal people, then you went crazy on me." "No, YOU went crazy on me by grabbing me like a fucking rapist!" "You were shouting lies in a PUBLIC place!" "So what?" she blew a cloud of smoke in my face, then took advantage of my coughing fit to unload her shit on me. "So freaking what? Nobody cares about us. The stains on their boots are more important than you or me. We're invisible to them, dude. Didn't you see that?" "All...haagh. All I saw was you making a freaking scene." "So bite me for having a good time. It's not like I'm the only crazy bitch around here. Look around you, dude. Everybody's waaaaaay out of it. They have bigger shit to worry about than some random dog fucker falling on his ass." Those last two words really pissed me off. I stood up, barely resisting the urge to just turn around and leave. "Enough of that. You either talk to me like a normal person, or I leave you here with a bill fat enough to make you cry." She laid back in her chair, sucking almost a quarter of her cigar. "Whatever dude." This time, I made sure to swerve out of the smoke's way. We didn't talk to each other. Not until one of the waiters came to get my order. I got water, the cheapest item on the menu, and stared absent mindedly how my date poked at her phone. Like the rest of these people, she was in her own element. I could leave, right now. But something held me back. Old etiquette, respect for Angela, plain laziness, or just anger at how this night turned out. I couldn't figure that out on my own. "Are you working?" I asked, expecting no particular answer in return. She tapped her finger three more times on the screen. "Nope." "Student then?" "Nope." "You're doing nothing?" "I'm chatting." "Good," I nodded drily. "A productive activity for a productive woman." "Yo, I'm not that old yet. And stop prying in my life. What are you, some kind of IT guy, trying to read everyone you meet?" "Zoo caretaker." "Oh! You clean animal shit for a living. My deepest condolences for your awesome job, sir nobody." "I'm-" "No," she slapped her phone down. "I don't want to know it." "Why the heck not?" "Names make everything complicated. I'm just a random bitch tonight, and you're a creepy dog shagger with hobo hair, otter eyes and a mouth that droops way too often." "Charming. And what does that make you? Miss Universe?" She leaned towards me. "Do I look like a good girl to you?" "No." "Then don't bother telling me any pretty shit. I'll bite." "Wow...You are a bit of a bitch." "Dude, I'm the biggest and meanest you had so far." She picked her phone and resumed her tapping. "I fucking hate this music. Go on. Tell me more about this animal janitor thing you're doing." As crazy as she was, I felt a pathological need to reveal some of my life to her. It's been so long since I talked to somebody face to face. Just letting the words roll out of my mouth chipped away at the rust left behind by my past girlfriend. She was the best there was. Kind, pretty enough for me, and loved animals as much as I did. In a year or two we wanted to move in our own place, then get married, get a couple of pets, and live a life of adventure traveling from one wild area to the other. She was my light, and I lost her. Nothing had been the same since then. I never got out, never talked to people. I even ordered my food from the internet to avoid eye contact. The only solace I had was my zoo keeping job. The people there had a code not to care or interact much with each other, and cats took my mind off the pain. Their beauty kept my eyes off all the ugliness in life. Their strength gave me power when I was weak, and their tenacity to live on and hope for a better future kept me going when I wanted to quit so many times. I told this crazy girl how much I really appreciated my cats. It might've been a mistake considering how many names that earned me, but I allowed them to pass by me unrestrained. I no longer cared about the implications of words. I just wanted to say them. To remind myself I was still a human being after all the months spent in seclusion. Minutes passed. Then, an hour rolled by. I counted time by the amount of puffs she took. One cigar lasted her about five minutes. Couple that with another ten minutes break, and you have fifteen minutes of continuous rambling. She had eight more cigars in her pack. Two hours of talking, two dozen or so insults thrown my way, and thirty bucks down the drain. That's how my date went. I escorted her out despite her complaints. I was scarcely prepared to fight off muggers or perverts, but here I was, walking side by side with a girl whose company I despised and enjoyed in equal measure. Was I crazy, craving for a way out? Insane for trying to confirm that my life had hopes of changing from the constant monotony that rained down on me these past months? We traversed four blocks on foot so she could meet up with her friend. I remained behind. The other girl, a blonde wearing a raincoat, looked at me through her rain coated glasses. "Hey, there's a creep out there that's eyeballing you pretty hard." "Yeah," the crazy haired waved towards me. "He was my date. Tragic, isn't it?" "He looks like a coyote that's being pissed upon. You sure he's cool?" "He's a janitor." "Really?" "Yaah! He cleans animal poop and flings it god knows where. He told me all about it. I think he might be into animals." "Ewwww... really?" "Freaking tragic." "Let's get out of here. He creeps the hell out of me." She turned towards me. One last look. One last farewell. "See you around, dog shagger!" I willed my trembling lips into forming cohesive words. All I managed was a weak, stunted, mewly slur. Shit. They didn't even hear that. Both of them turned their backs towards me. I tried to lift my hand and wave them goodbye, but my whole arm felt encased in stone. They crossed the street, then walked a couple more steps towards the subway. In a few minutes, they were gone, and I was alone again with only the cold rain keeping me company. They were right. I was more of a coyote than a feline. I was lonely, uncared for, scavenging my way through life without any particular goal in mind, while felines were the exact opposite. From the moment they opened their eyes, they knew their purpose: grow, eat, sleep, hunt, mate, raise offspring. Heck, even coyotes did that. All animals did, except humans. I was the oddity. A creepy guy who gazed into nothing while people passed all around me. She was right. They didn't see me. None of them touched me or asked me if I was fine. They just...moved, while I sat there like a statue. A strange pressure welled within my chest. Was it pain? Fear? No. It was loneliness. That bitter blade that cut through the flesh, sapping every positive energy and replacing it with a dark void of hopelessness. She was crazy, and stupid, and had a potty mouth, but crap, did I miss her already. I sniffled once. Was I really going to cry here, out in the street, in public, for a smoker? Maybe I wasn't as normal as I believed myself to be.  I slapped my cheek so hard I trembled. No. I had to look forward. I had to live. I needed to move! With a deep breath, I took a step forward. Then another, and another, until I joined the train of people heading towards Victory's Square. Like them, I found a purpose. I wanted to dull my emerging pain inside the mugs of one of the cheapest and best pubs in the city.

It took me about ten minutes to get there. Inside, the air was heavy with talk and alcohol, making my head spin for a the first few steps. I went straight towards the counter. Dan covered the weekly shifts. He was my favorite bartender, and I was one of his favorite clients. He got me a spot right at the edge, knowing how much I valued a silent wall's company over another human being. So I sat in that hoisted chair, with my feet placed on the metal rim below like some strange anthropomorphic bird, watching Dan go about serving the other clients. I liked his merry attitude. He was always happy. Always smiling. He had plenty of problems. Nobody who handed out alcohol was completely clean. Dan had been living inside the bottle for a couple of years after his wife left him for the promise of wealth. She was a gold digger, and poor Dan found that out way too late. I felt a bit sorry for him, and I say a bit only because I would've been faster to make my judgment. If Dan shared my alacrity, he would've been a free man pursuing his dream of traveling around the globe. And I would've sat here waiting to be serviced by a morose drunk. I smiled weakly. So many things could've gone differently if we only paid a little bit more attention to the small details. Take for example that man to my left. The one with his hands on the counter and an overall look of eagerness draped all over his face. He wore a full business suit and had a gold engraved watch at his wrist. Well done hair, slightly muscular build, and a voice calm enough to put a baby to sleep. He wasn't here to sulk about his problems or forget about them like the boisterous folks behind me. He just wanted to take a pint or two to work up the courage to probably go on a date or an important meeting. How did I know that? His left hand, clutching the counter hard enough to put strain on the fingers. Calmness always came at a cost. The good guys had to direct their negative energies elsewhere, while assholes let them loose without a care in the world. "So, we meet again!" Dan's voice boomed as he walked towards me. "We meet again," I shook his hand with a smile. Dan had a firm, vigorous grip. It always made me feel good and secure for some reason. "So, what can I get for you today?" I pulled my hand back to cup my palms together. "I don't know. Something good." "You always say that, you rascal," Dan laughed, pointing out my habit with a meaty finger. "That's certainly going to be Narsdragen beer." "Tsk," I clicked my tongue. "I was thinking. Rubbing my hands together is not the international symbol for your cheap-ass home brew." "You always say that. You always do that, and you always get the beer." "Well, try me." The bastard returned in a minute with a mug filled with that deliciously cloudy brew. "Thanks Dan." "Drink moderately. And oh, I forgot to ask. What's it going to be for tonight? Drunk, tipsy, or a bit of both?" "I'll go with both." "That bad, huh?" I chuckled. "Had an interesting date, to say the least." "Tell me about it in a bit. Gotta...gotta get to them." "Run fast!" I drank my first mouthful watching Dan liberate patrons from their money and empty mugs and serve full ones in return. I suppose I could have compared him to Santa Claus or some benevolent figure. He took away people's pain and gave them hope. Or at least something to look forward to. I took down the first mug faster than I aimed to. A shame. Narsdragen was a slightly expensive beverage rumored to be brewed by Vikings. It sounded ridiculous, but I was one of the few idiots who chose to believe in rumors. I liked this particular lie where an extinguished civilization had more secrets than historians believed at first. Why? Because if a race of conquerors settled in a place enough to craft their own brew, then a modern man living in modern times had a chance at straightening up his life. I still needed help though. The second mug helped me somewhat, but it was the third that lifted the weight from my tongue. I was telling Dan about my first time in college and my terrible anxieties at being around girls when the clients became boisterous. "Clover! Cover for me for a bit!" Clover was his son. Well, his adopted son, but Dan loved him just the same. The man had almost the same age as I did. He gave me a nod, and I waved at him despite knowing how uncomfortable that made him feel in public. "Oops. I should- shouldn't have-" "He'll get past it," Dan waved me closer towards the corner. "Spill it out now." "The beer?" I lifted my mug. "Nah. I don't wanna throw it away." "Not the drink you idiot. That tale you wanted to tell me about." "College? It's really not that great." "I know. Skip to the date." "Wait..." I looked at him as if he transformed before my very eyes. "How did you know?" "You told me on Monday right after you had five mugs of this stuff." "Oh. That explains it," I laughed, then focused enough to straighten my bearings. "The date was planned strangely, went strangely, and made me feel just the same." "What was so wrong about it?" Dan asked. "Lets see," I said as I grabbed the mug with both hands, feeling the imperfect lines waddling along its form. "My friend's friend chose the place, and I only found that out after I got this surprise date. Then, it took me two whole days to prepare physically and mentally for it. On the big day, I got mugged in the bus, almost had a panic attack inside a restaurant that looked and felt more like a cheap club, then I got lost, and then I finally met up with my date who is, by the way, crazy." "Wait...you got mugged?" Dan's eyebrows locked with concern as his eyes scanned over my body. "It's nothing big," I reassured him with a quick pat on his shoulder. "Just two punks borrowing twenty dollars from me. No big deal." "And nobody did anything? Didn't you call the cops?" "For twenty? Come on." "It's still thievery," Dan said. "It is," I agreed. "But I had no time for that because I was too eager to meet my date!" He leaned closer to me, close enough to smell all the different shades of liqueur impregnating his shirt. "Is she really...you know...mentally ill?" "She called me a dog shagger out loud," I whispered. "Really?" "Freaking really," I said. "She screamed loud enough to have the nearby people look at us. Then she flashed her tits at the three coming waiters and everything went back to normal." "Boobies," Dan chuckled. "Yeah. Boobies," I patted his shoulder again before grabbing onto my mug. "It went better after that. I told her about my job and how much I love those cats." "Let me guess. She called you a cat molester." "Close. Kitty banger." "Why didn't you leave?" "Good question, that," I took another sip of bittersweet Narsdragen to wet my throat and refresh my mind. "I don't know. I really, really fail to remember what kept me there." "Eh. Lets not get into that," Dan turned around to quickly wave something to Clover. "Want another one, by the way?" "Yeah, please. Refill it." I sat alone with my thoughts while Dan did his thing. There were many things I wanted to tell to this man. I knew him so well, yet he knew so little of me. Perhaps today was as good a day as any to change that. "Here you go," Dan placed the full mug right in my grip. "This one is on the house." I laughed, he laughed, then we both became sorely serious. "Come on, Dan. I fail at dating and you reward me?" "What better way to discourage quitting than encouraging progress?" "You're too bloody good to me," I took a hearty sip. "The world needs good people. Need more of you, more of Clover, more of...pah. It is how it is anyway. Do what we can now, in the present. Keep sober. Past and future? That's what gets you drunk, son." "Mhm," I nodded, then took a couple more sips. "Dan?" "Hmh?" "I want to tell you about my job." "As in, feeding cats, taking them on walks, trying not to die?" "There's more to it than that," I said and waved to my left. "Can you grab a chair?" "I can stand just fine," he dropped his arms on the counter and propped his chin on top of them. "So are you part of some secret agency I'm not aware of?" "Nah. Nothing like that," I chuckled. "These cats...how to put it? Some of them are really special to me. You hear left and right about the joy of finding your soul-mate, raising kids, building a family. Well, those cats are my family. I've been with some of them since they were cubs, no older than a couple weeks. Padi is a great example of that." "The leopard?" "Yeah," I nodded, then refreshed myself yet again. "I hand-raised him from cubhood to adulthood, and that felt...it felt so...gah. It's hard to find ways to describe that sense of accomplishment you feel when they take their first steps or hunt their first squirrel. Or the trust that builds between you. Padi depended on me to feed him. He remembers how I held him when he was a small cub, pouring milk into his mouth with that crappy syringe. It's why I can feed him by hand two years later." "Isn't that a bit stupid, lad?" Dan's voice oozed with concern. I lifted a finger. "From our point of view, yes. We tend to see the claws that cut through our flesh, the teeth that can snap our necks, that mass of muscles that takes us down in the blink of an eye. Those are details. Stupid, fearful, idiotic details. Tell me, what do you tell to an animal when you are reluctant to even feed it?" "I don't know, lad. I'm not that good with beasties." "Fear, Dan. They feel that. If we can't trust our animal companions fully, why the heck do we expect them to trust us?" "Because we feed them? Shelter them? Raise them?" "All good points," I nodded. "But the trust should always be mutual. That's what leads to love. It's the kind of affection we have for our family, our dear ones. We'll provide for them, care for them, and argue sometimes, but we'll never, ever hurt those we care about." "Hah. Tell that to my wife." "Or my ex," I chuckled and waved my hand away. "They're irrelevant." "Yeah. Yeah they are." He said that, but his eyes betrayed him. Dan knew that. He looked towards Clover, pretending to use his simple sign language for extra orders. I knew the truth of it. He didn't fully recover from his loss, just as I haven't recovered from mine. I took another sip of beer. Then another. And one more. Even the slightly sweet taste couldn't wash away the bitter regret resurfacing from the depths of my mind. My ex was so good to me. So good and kind. She helped me turn my crappy apartment into a proper home. We bought everything together, from furniture to electronics to trinkets. Heck, she was the reason I had cats prowling all over the place. "Shit." "Hmh?" Dan looked at me while I brushed my eyes. "It's...gah, I'm becoming emotional. Your beer isn't doing its job, Dan." "I'm not giving you another unless you want to step into drunken territory." "Nah, keep it. I just..." my breath stopped the flow of words. "My job is the only good thing I have in my life. Nobody cares for me more than my cats, and I..." I took another hefty pause. Dan patted my shoulder. "Come on. Out with it." I pushed the mug away to look straight at him. "I love my cats. I really, really love them. Without my Padi, Sera, Jafar and the others, I would be nothing. No one would love me. No one would care about me. No one would miss me as much as them if I...if..." "Shh." Dan pulled me into a hug. Good move. My voice started to crackle. A few more seconds with my emotions would've made me cry right there in public. "I know how you feel about these felines, lad. Now more than ever," Dan slowly pushed me away. I could see it in his eyes he prepared to give me one of his life lectures. "It's great to have animals attach themselves emotionally to you, but you need people in your life as well. Human beings that can understand your emotions, that can talk, and hug, and help you through your problems." "Wrong," I shook my head. "Most of the humans I met are nowhere near as loyal or caring as my cats. Those savage killers everybody despises offered me more than anyone ever did." "More than me, or her?" Dan shot my ex right at me. It was a foul move, but a good one nonetheless. "It's not like that." "That's how the world works, lad. Felines were made to lay with felines, and men with women. You can love your cats, and yes they can comfort, lick you, even trust you with their lives. But they can never offer you children, a stable home, or a stable relationship." "I don't need that," I took a quick drink, then slammed the mug onto the table. "I don't need any of that." "Maybe not now, but years will pile up. Time is ruthless. Wait long enough, and nobody will take you. Years will roll by, and you'll remain as lonely as you are now. Thirties, forties, eighties. Years will be the only things you'll add up, lad." My chest tightened. Liquid moisture rolled down along my flushing cheeks. I blinked again to clear the stinging sensations from my eyes, and I saw Dan looking at me with utmost remorse. "I...I got stupid. Sorry. I shouldn't have said that." "Nah, it's alright," I took out my wallet and gave him everything I had. "Keep the change." "It's too much, lad. I can't-" "Keep it. You're a good man, Dan. Buy something nice for Clover." I turned around to leave. "Where are you going?" "You know where," I said, then rushed out of the pub before my emotions got the best of me. The walk to the zoo was as lonely and painful as the loss I incurred. I tried to take my mind off it. Believe me, I did my best. Nobody recovers from such loss so quickly. My life had been so perfect by that point. I had everything figured out. Everything... "Stupid. I'm bloody stupid," I mumbled to myself as the hard soles of my shoes slapped onto the humid asphalt. I got used to the sting rushing through my toes. When pain was the only constant in someone's life, they either adapted or perished before its might. I wanted to be a survivor. Like my cats, I vowed to myself each time I woke up that I would fight through to see another day. That's what gave me strength. The determination to return to those who depended on me to live. The desire to be with the felines I loved. The hope that one day my life would stitch itself back to normal. When I arrived at the zoo, my feet were numb, my mouth half dry, and my bladder full enough to feel uncomfortable. I waved to Tony to open the door. He knew me. I came here every night to collect my thoughts. Usually I told him about how the day went, but it would've been mightily embarrassing to piss myself in front of him. So I quickly made my way towards the feline enclosures, using the paths I knew too well to navigate through the darkness. We had lights mounted above the corridors, but we set them to the lowest intensity to give the animals at least a faint semblance of a proper night. I made my water to Sera's enclosure. The tigress was definitely asleep. Despite my intense crave to see her, I bit my needs back and kept on walking. Jafar was asleep too, piled with his mate and offspring. Drat. Was no one of my lovelies awake this night? I fixed my eyes upon Padi's cage to see a sliver of movement. He was awake. Not only that, but he was grooming himself. With his hind leg raised above his head, Padi had unrestrained access to the equipment that made him a male. I crouched low to the ground, watching silently how his small, glistening member poked in and out of its sandy sheath with every lick. All felines groomed every part of their bodies, but the recent discussion with Dan made me wonder. Did Padi feel the same desire for companionship as I felt? Was he as lonely as I was? In his intimate moments, could he be dreaming of a perfect mate to build a family with? There was no way I could find out that answer just by looking at him. The rascal saw me as soon as I got up. He jumped onto his fours, rubbing along the bars and pawing out for me. I had no choice but to walk towards his enclosure with a wide smile on my face. "Hello there, you eager kitty. How are you doing tonight?" Padi tried pushing his nose between the bars, but he didn't have quite enough space to fling his broad tongue over to my lazy arms. I waited a couple more seconds, amused to see his desperate attempts to greet me. Then he started rubbing his cheeks on the cold iron. It was just damn too adorable to see such a big, magnificent creature act like the cub I raised two years back. I reached a hand towards him and got a quick feel of his warm, arid nose before his barbed tongue slid all over my skin. Felines had such a rough feel to their tongues. The same barbs that scraped meat off the bones felt like small needles rubbing along my skin. The sensation wasn't what I would call pleasant, but I liked what it implied. Felines groomed their siblings, or parents, or even their mates. They took care of those they trusted, and Padi's overly eager tongue was washing my hand dry. I spread my fingers and turned my palm around to feel more of his broad tongue. There wasn't much saliva coating the middle of his tongue, but the edges were a really slimy deal. Soft, squishy, moist. I pushed two fingers between his lower fangs. Padi tried to push me out with a wry face and a soft growl. I tickled him under his tongue, sending him a few steps back to lick his whiskers. "Tickles, doesn't it?" He agreed with a chuff and started rubbing himself against the bars all over again. I couldn't just sit and watch now. I pushed both hands through the bars to feel as much of him as I could. With one hand I caressed his twitching ears, rubbed his head and scratched at his chin, while I sunk my fingers into his dense side with the other. He was warm. So warm, so clean, smelling of grass and dust, two of my favorite scents that sent my mind soaring all the way to the grassy plains Padi originated from. I was so lost in the entrancing feel of his coat and the rumbling purr rolling inside his throat that I completely failed to realize my right hand was no longer brushing his neck, but his side. I felt his flank pass by my left, then grabbed onto his long, silky tail almost instinctively. It jerked upwards. My dormant mind awoke with the strange jolt. When I blinked, Padi's spotted side was replaced by the brown pucker of his tailhole, clenching quickly over the trembling form of his tawny spheres. Crap. By the time I noticed his protruding tip, it was too late. Three sprays of urine flung straight into my face. I closed my eyes just in the nick of time. The warm, musky fluid hit me head-on, but I felt its pungent warmth slithering down my skin rather than eating out the insides of my eyes. "Pffft..." I spat, grimacing worse than a leopard tasting the fragrance of a female in heat. "The heck, Padi? Why the heck did you-" His rumbling purr flared to life, a pleasant song that relaxed my tensing muscles. Within a second, I felt his tongue upon my chin. He slid the warm thing over my puckered lips, climbed along my nose, and gave my forehead a good scratch before he repeated all over. A couple of licks were a poor trade-off for being marked like a tree, but I liked. Call me crazy, but I enjoyed the implications of Padi's musky scent. Felines marked the things they cared about. His urine, as displeasing as it was to my nostrils, made me feel desired. His tongue, barbed and rough, made me feel at peace. And his smooth, rumbling purr was the best song I could ask for. Within four to ten licks, Padi killed whatever rebellious words threatened to leave my mouth. "Alright, it's enough," I stumbled back, almost tripping on my own legs. "Turn around and leave." His amber eyes stared right at me, blooming wide in the darkness. "Come on. Go to bed. I just wanted to see how you were doing before turning myself in for the night." He blinked. I blinked too. After a couple of moments, Padi seated himself on his haunches. His eyes never left me. Was I that obvious? Did he feel my intentions so quickly? I chuckled and walked back towards him. "You're too freaking smart for your own good. I'll have to come up with new ways to surprise you since words obviously fly way past your fuzzy ears." Yeah. I never planned to leave. The only place I planned on sleeping in tonight was Padi's warm belly. I just wanted to surprise the fuzzy bastard, and by the looks of it I failed spectacularly. I put in the code for the digital lock and opened his door in the span of two breaths. As soon as the portcullis opened, Padi was all over me. His paws latched around my neck, his nose buried in my throat, and his warm, rolling breath made my heart beat faster. I took a step back under the added weight of a full grown feline pushing its bulk all over me. Padi definitely saw the exit. He wasn't stupid. With one leap he could have been free. That wasn't what he desired though. His whiskers met my lips, and soon his tongue poked out to lick my face. So warm. So slick. So pleasant. I held him tight against my chest while he greeted me just like I taught him in his youth: with licks instead of bites, and rubs instead of nips. Sure, his big canines couldn't hold completely still, and he grabbed a couple of times at my nose, but I didn't feel an ounce of pain. He was very gentle, and very affectionate. "A'ight," I mumbled, feeling my lips quite sticky due to all the saliva oozing away from his slick lips. "Back. On the ground." He wasn't dropping. I wasn't eager to push him away either. I liked rubbing heads with him, sniffing into his fur, and meeting his warm nose with mine. Padi missed me. I felt it as clearly as I felt his whiskers tickling my chin. He didn't want freedom right now. He wanted me. I slowly eased him onto the ground once his hind legs started stumbling for balance. The witty leopard twisted mid air, landing on his back with a soft thud. I grunted, rushing towards his back to make sure he wasn't hurt, but the rascal wanted my arms to be out of the way. His front paws grabbed around my neck, the soft pads pressing hard against my skin to shove me right into his neck. "P-padi," I managed to say before my mouth was struck full of silky fur. My Padi was frighteningly strong. It only took another shove from his limbs to send my head further into his chest and my body falling onto the ground. Padi was ecstatic to obtain dominance over me. He licked and grabbed around my neck, trying to make me concede with gentle bites. I wasn't about to be hunted. Not today. I dug my fingers into his fluffy belly and scratched the fluff out of him. Padi squirmed like a silly cat. His front legs pulled back, trying desperately to stop the siege of my quick hands. "Submit," I hissed between my teeth as I blocked both his flanks with a well propped arm. "Submit!" His soft pads slapped my face, forcing my eyes shut. He kept doing that, knowing I had no means to defend myself when my only free hand was secured by his strong jaws. Padi had me. I tried to go for his neck and finish him off, forgetting the most important rule of feline taming. Never assume you're quicker than your cat. "Gah," I dropped on my back, exposing my belly as a sign of submission. "You win this one, you bastard. Come on. Open up now. It's over." Padi's eyes glimmered with playfulness. I felt his tongue slide upon my skin two more times before he allowed me to break free. I took that opportunity to close the door. Padi wasn't going to leave, but a one of the guards would have given me a hard time if I showed any signs of carelessness. The door clicked shut, masking my instinctive wincing. Damn my frail wrists. I rubbed around them to work some heat under my skin. Padi looked at me intently. I lay next to him. The cat pushed his head under my arm, soothing the damage by rubbing his head and muzzle around. Silly bastard. I grabbed his fuzzy head right under my elbow. He kicked all his legs, and growled, and spat at me, but no amount of drool weakened my resolve. I got my revenge on him by tickling his nose, his chin, even his tongue. Poor Padi shook his head several times when he found himself free, probably stiff from the whole minute of entrapment. "Come here," I patted the ground next to me. "Let me fix you up." Padi looked at me for a few moments. I imagined he would be a bit salty at me, but he pleasantly surprised me when he rolled onto his belly to lay his fuzzy head right on top of my chest. I sunk my hands into the dense fur of his neck, rubbing with slow, circular motions. The leopard's ears twitched joyfully. His eyes half-closed, a soft purr escaping his maw with each rolling breath. "There we go. You're fine now. All calm and relaxed..." I whispered while my fingers worked into the strong muscles of his neck. I soon started to ache. Leopards might have been similar in build with house cats, but their size gave me quite an area to cover. I did my best to go down his muscular chest and rub some life into his shoulders, but my wince betrayed my pain. Padi's ears flicked at that. His widened pupil was fully revealed when his eyelids pulled all the way up. "Shh," I slid two fingers between his eyes in an up and down motion. "Relax. I got this." A front paw fell on my shoulder. Then another. Padi pushed both my hands into the ground, keeping me firmly pinned under the silky warmth of his pads. "I can swipe you off. Don't try me." The cat slowly dragged the rest of his body on top of me. His weight was evenly distributed, but he was still a full grown animal pressing upon my chest, my belly, my crotch. "This=this wasn't your best idea, fuzz ball," I chuckled. "Get off and we'll...we'll work something out." Padi dropped his head on my face, pushing my head into the ground. Crap. At times I forgot he was just as lazy as any cat. I humored him for a couple of minutes before I brushed him off. Poor Padi wasn't eager to have his favorite napping stop rebelling against him. He rubbed enticingly around me, running his head under my neck, then the whole length of his majestic body before his tail slid along my neck, long, sinuous, and delightfully flurry. His tip tickled me. Padi knew I enjoyed it, because he turned around to do the same thing a couple more times. This was a cat that knew how bribes worked. Three of these complete circles, and I already felt more amiable. I scratched his neck as soon as he came around and pointed towards the end of his enclosure. "What do you say about some running, eh?" Padi grabbed around my hands, trying to pull them away from his legs. "Come on. Let's get some blood into these lazy muscles." He rolled on his back, reaching towards me while his adorable eyes pleaded me to heed his desires. "Gah, alright. No wrestling tonight. I would've beaten you anyway." And Padi was quite happy with that. I lay with him on the ground, belly up, looking at the stars, trying very hard not to fall asleep. When you had such a convenient source of warmth pressed against you, the temptation to sleep turned from commodity into a mild annoyance. I needed to run for a bit. Padi got up along with me. I turned my nose when I felt his tail coiling around one of my legs. "Now you want to play? Really?" He ran ahead, inviting me to join his games. I had no chance to catch him with these stupid shoes. I kicked them off, one by one, then ran after his fuzzy tail. I was slow though. Too slow. We both knew that. Padi just loved to taunt me. Every time I reached for his fuzzy tip, he put a burst of speed, sending flakes of dust onto my bare feet. I was almost winded out when he finally decided to be caught. I fell upon him with all my might, giving him a rub to remember. The rascal then rolled on his back to expose the white of his belly. Figures. Ten minutes of hard massage to please his predatory muscles were not quite fit for his fuzzy highness. "What do you want next, my lord?" I grabbed one of his paws and ran my thumb along his meaty central pad. He didn't mind that, so I moved to his little toes next. He was equally silky there, and even more sensitive. Padi shook his foot. The fuzz growing between his toes was unbearably ticklish, a weak spot I loved to exploit. "Shall I rub more of your feet? Tickle them, like this?" He squirmed as I got hold of a hind paw as well to apply the same treatment. Sharp, slimy teeth grabbed and nibbled at my hands, but I didn't let go even when he started kicking, thankful that he kept his claws sheathed. Padi was always considerate, even now, when I tickled him to death. When the tips of a claw raked my skin I finally let go. "Maybe that's not a proper punishment. We should rub the belly!" I shook and rattled his fur. "Rub rub rub rub!" Padi's throat rumbled and crackled with all manner of noises. I wasn't even sure if he enjoyed himself or protested. I decided to play it safe by finding new interest in his meaty flanks. "Or should we feed on the rich meat lying underneath this fur?" I asked, trailing a finger along the white pathways sneaking between the faint rosettes decorating the inside of his haunches. "Should I be a kitten, rubbing smoothly? Or a predator?" Padi shuddered when I took hold of his meaty legs. He pawed at me, seemingly eager to shake off my grip, but the protruding tip of his member spoke another tale. "Oh, whoops," I let him go with a bursting chuckle. "Don't use me as your personal latrine a second time." Padi had no such intentions. He remained right there, with his legs spread, looking at me rather insistently. I could tell he wanted something. "Getting lazy again, eh?" I dropped next to him and pushed my left hand under his neck. I came out on the other side to slowly rub along his chest while my left busied itself with the silky feel of a fore paw. I slinked between his fingers. He was so warm. Padi remained completely still. He looked up, swishing his tail from side to side, with his glistening tip still greeting the cold air of the night. "Too lazy to even go to the bathroom. Well then, don't tell me I didn't warn ya. And if you come to me to clean you, I'm going to just grab these ears and twist!" I proved my point in a rather stupid fashion. Padi hissed at me, and I quickly apologized with a quick kiss on his ear. "Sorry about that. I'll be cool." He pushed his nose into my neck and kept rubbing to find a comfortable position. I chuckled silently, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of a proper laughter. I didn't want to spoil the bastard by becoming a tickling victim every time his lengthy whiskers stroke a nerve up my neck. Besides, it felt great to feel his warm breath rolling through the nape of my shirt and warm me up during this rather cold night. Padi remained completely still after he found the right spot. Me? I just looked at the star speckled sky. Padi's jerking paws or twitching tail sometimes caught my eyes, but I never lingered for more than a couple of seconds. I knew every part of his body as intimately as I knew my own. I gently ran a few fingers between his front legs. I could tell he was still awake by the way his chest rose with each breath, or the twitch in his legs. Maybe he was trying to fall asleep, or maybe he wanted to trick me. Either way, I allowed my palm to sink into his warm, exquisite fur and get a better feel of his beating heart. "My dear Padi...I should really visit you more often. I had you for two years. Two long years. I spent more time with you than with any other feline, yet I feel...incomplete," I sighed as I slowly pushed my chin against the top of his muzzle. "I was there to see you grow through the first year of your life. Do you remember how you sneaked into my bed at night, even if I explicitly told you to remain in your own little basket? Or the times when I found the whole house reeking of your urine?" I gave him a couple of moments to react. The only reply I got was his tail, lazily swinging on top of one of his flanks. "You do. You were big enough to remember, you lazy kitty," I rubbed his chest slowly until I reached one of his front legs. I curled my fingers around the meaty base, then slowly slid towards his foot. "These nimble legs always kept you ahead of my punishments. Every time I tried to educate you, you ran. Then you always came back..." I reached his warm pads and clutched his paw tight within my palm. "You always came back to me, even when you knew you did something wrong. You were so brave. So little, yet so brave..." A puff of warm air escaped from his mouth. I lifted my head to gaze upon him. Padi's eyes were wide open, staring at me with two giant pupils akin to ripe grapes. His warm nose touched my neck, and he pushed me gently until I had my neck completely exposed. Padi laid his head on the top of my chest with a long sigh. He only glanced at me briefly before his eyes settled on the sky above. "Witty bastard. Always trying to learn something. Always following my examples," I rubbed his neck and released his paw from my clutch. Padi stretched his legs. I took that opportunity to slide closer towards his belly, and stroke him just the same. With slow, suave motions that instilled peace and tranquility just like the dark sky above us. "Star gazing is so calming. So peaceful. We should have done this more often. I feel...I think I haven't been as good of a parent to you as a proper leopard. I took good care of you during the first year, but my life became more complicated after that. She came in my life, Padi. The girl of my dreams. That perfect mate we males hope to meet. And it felt good. Everything went so good. I was happy. Almost too happy to notice how quickly the days passed by. Before I knew it, I lost track of time. The only time we spent together was during training. We no longer ran, no longer fought, and barely lounged with our bellies up like we used to..." My blood quickened in my veins, and my throat felt heavier with each passing heartbeat. I sniffled once to calm myself and focused my attention up in the sky, and into Padi's fluffy belly. "It was my fault, and I'm sorry, Padi. I'm really sorry I wasn't able to be here for you every day, and see you grow into the magnificent feline you have become. You're beautiful," I massaged his belly with one hand while the other stroke him along his jaw. "So, so beautiful..." The compliments got to his head. With a throaty purr, Padi got off my chest and started rolling around. I laughed happily and stoked his delight with eager rubs. I caressed his neck, massaged his feet, rubbed his belly, and even tried to reach his flanks when I noticed his gender. Padi indeed grew more than I expected. His maleness was completely out, glistening in the faint light coming from outside the enclosure and jerking with every beat of his heart. He was small, like any feline, but I've never seen him so big before. I gulped down whatever moisture I had in my mouth and bent forth to continue my rubbing session. Padi's legs trembled when I reached his hindquarters. His muscles shuddered increasingly quicker the closer I approached towards the base of his tail, and he growled, pushing his head into my neck to lick me with quick, eager strokes. "Padi, what-" His tongue rolled over my face, almost entering my mouth. I closed my eyes, allowing him to groom me to his heart's desire. He licked, again and again, his barbs becoming more uncomfortable to my irritating skin with every stroke. As much as I hated it, I had to dig my hands into his purring neck and push the eager feline back. Padi licked his whiskers, still trying to lick me like an eager dog. "Alright, I know. You love me. But I told you I'm different. Your tongue hurts me if you keep licking so often." Padi threw off my hands with a shake of his head. I thought he was going to pounce me, but instead his nose went straight between his legs. Wet sounds emerged along with his tongue. I pulled myself up to see what the fuss was about, and remained completely stiff when I saw his tongue rolling around his unsheathed maleness. My first instinct was to push him away and save his sensitive organ from the unrelenting bite of his barbs, but then I realized Padi didn't need my help. He wasn't showing any signs of discomfort. I felt so stupid all of a sudden to interfere in feline business. Of course he knew his body better than I did. I just felt responsible for him. Years of raising a cub from infancy did that to anybody. Only that my cub, my little Padi was no longer so little. He had needs of his own. The way he licked around his member, with such long, delicate strokes sent my mind back an hour ago when I first saw him grooming himself. I asked myself if Padi felt the need for a female companion, and now I saw his member tense and harden under the touch of his tongue. I felt him tremble underneath all that fur. I heard his purr hitching in his throat to make room for a soft, needy mewl. I finally understood. Once Padi pulled back, I grabbed his head and lowered him in my lap. "Oh dear. Dear me. It's time, isn't it? You're eager to get a mate, and I..." I bit my own rambling tongue. "We'll do something about that. I'll get you a mate. I don't know how, but...I'll work something out for you. Fuck, I can't even imagine how it is to be in this cage all day by yourself. You must get so lonely..." Padi rolled on his back to paw at my head.  I avoided his sluggish strikes. This needy kitty trembled with desire, and he still worried about my welfare. Why couldn't I do the same? I was a male too. One that understood the absence of another's touch as well as Padi. I needed to teach him how males released the weight when the burden became too unbearable to hold in. Only...I didn't know how. He was my cub, yes, but still a feline. My date's words rang in my head. Kitty banger. Dog shagger. Society frowned upon those who discarded or failed to adhere to the rules, and what I was thinking tethered on the precipice of a dangerous pit. Was I prepared to break the norm for Padi? Could I go one step further and show him he didn't need to suffer from the bitter sting of loneliness? Absolutely. I grabbed his head again and stroke him, both to calm him and myself. "I didn't really prepare to have The Talk with you. Heh," I chuckled. "Has to do with you being a feline, and me being a stupid human who believed utter nonsense. I..." I faltered for a moment. "How to go about this now that you're here, purring in my lap, with your needs shamelessly exposed before my eyes? Males have desires that extend beyond feeding or sleeping. We need companionship, and sometimes, we need more than that. You've grown big enough to reach that last part, and me? I was too distracted and stupid to realize that until now." Padi happily purred in my lap. What was I doing, talking to a cat about mating? Did the beer get to my head? Or was it pity? No. I didn't pity Padi. I wanted to protect him from all the pain I suffered after she left me. I realized I needed more than words to do so. I knew what I had to do. The only problem was willing my hands to do it, which implied breaking through all the stigma created by the same people I branded as idiots a few seconds ago. I had to make up my mind. Was I Padi's parent, or the chained product of a society that had its head so deep in rules, it forgot how to live properly? "Alright, get on your belly," I slowly guided him into a perfect, belly up position. "There you go. Now stay like that. You can look at me and growl all you want, but try not to kick me in the face while I do the deed. I have no idea what's about to happen." Or how to do it for that matter. Padi looked so adorable, with his front paws hovering above his chest and his hind ones spread on either side. He looked at me intently. Too eagerly, as if he wanted me to take the extra leap. I rubbed his belly reassuringly, yet more to reassure myself. My stomach felt tight due to nerves, and my hands unreasonably stiff. "Alright boy. Try to...try to enjoy yourself, alright? I'm gonna...yeah, I'm going to do it." I was going to jerk a leopard off, and all I did was now was babbling, slurring and breaking my own conviction. That was stupid. I fell on my knees for a better position and advanced towards his hind legs without the trace of a doubt. I cared for Padi too much to bail out now. I loved him. I told myself I would do everything for him. And now was the time to prove that. Padi's tensed when I slid over his muscular flanks. I rubbed him around to get him used to my touch and test his reaction. Everything went too well. He could barely keep his legs still with excitement, and his tail jerked furiously from side to side. Glistening beads fell down from the lurching tip of his maleness. He was throbbing so hard. Without flinching, I took my hand off his fur and cupped the base of his member between three of my fingers. Padi jerked up, causing my fingers to slide down the hard flesh of his member and into the soaked mess that was his bloated sheath. He was warmer than I expected, and wet. The silky fluid felt nothing like urine. I realized he must have been hard for a long time to coax out so much lubrication. I took a deep breath, then rubbed my way up his member. His barbs flared with the might of his throbs, catching into my skin like the soft needles of his tongue. He was hot. So slick, so warm, so little. My breath stuck in my throat while I gently cupped the entirety of his penis. Padi kicked at the air with a paw. Liquid warmth oozed down my fingers to trickle between his flaring barbs. I embraced his member hard for a few seconds, then let loose. Padi's mating instinct urged him to thrust when the pressure vanished. His legs jerked, and drops of fluid spurted into the air from his cock. "Stay still," I said as I tried to grab his jerking cock. "Still, Padi. Freeze!" He didn't listen. I got jabbed a couple of times as I tried to grab him, but after a few failed attempts I took hold of him and held him trapped despite the thumps pounding in my chest. Padi mewled strangely. He spread his claws out. A shiver traversed his body, making his tail stiff and his member stiffer. From the way he panted, I knew he wanted more. Up and down. That had to work given how lubricated I was. I slowly slid towards his tip, watching his reaction with wide, eager eyes. Padi spread his legs even further apart. His toes flared under the rising shivers of his member, then curled once I slid down to his base. I repeated that motion a couple more times. Padi's claws came out of their sheath. He stretched his spine like he often did after a good nap, but I knew better. His member throbbed harder and faster within my grip. Hot strings of fluid hit my palm. Crap. He was going to let loose in my own hand. A crazy thought speared through my head, and in the half drunk state I found myself in, I believed it. I didn't want Padi to just spend his first time in such an ordinary way. He deserved better. He deserved a female. I looked upon his eager member, then licked my lips. I didn't have a female to offer him right now, but I had something that felt similar. I released his little member and lowered my head to his crotch. The spicy smell of his musk almost made me choke. It was pungent, like his urine, but also had a sweet tinge to it. I rubbed his legs and belly a couple of times, taking one last look at him. Padi's wide, lust filled eyes stared right back at me. I needed no more encouragement. I formed a thick ring by pursing my lips, then slowly took him in, one row of barbs at a time. Padi shook violently. His throat burst with a wild growl. He barely lodged himself inside my mouth and he already started trembling erratically. I steadied his trembling legs with my hands while my lips tightened around his eager shaft, taking in his warmth, his taste. I felt the same heated strings hitting my tongue, only that now I could taste their salty, sea-water like taste. I licked around his little cock with my tongue. The barbs caught onto my flesh, irritated it, but I swirled around him and bathed him with all the saliva I had in my mouth. Padi remained still for a moment. His memebr tightened once, twice, thrice/ Then, the leopard loosened inside my mouth with a loud, moaning growl. His flanks shivered madly during his peak, undoubtedly working up the strong jets of seed that splashed against my tongue. I took them all in. With my eyes closed, my nose buried in the leopard's fuzzy crotch, my chin seated upon his firm spheres and my mouth wrapped around his cock, I took everything he offered. I felt not a tingle of shame as Padi's surging pleasure rushed through his muscles to liberate within my mouth. I didn't feel gross, weird, or abnormal. For me, the metallic taste of his aqueous seed was the ultimate proof of success. Padi grew into a beautiful young male. He had his whole future ahead of him, and the fact that he produced healthy, fertile seed filled me with a warm sense of pride. His eager member gave me everything it held inside. I gulped down the hot slickness of his ejaculate after every three bursts. He spurted really fast, and with every throb his barbs flared wider to grip onto the female's receptive walls. Padi only had my tongue, and my lips to penetrate, but I knew the semblance was uncanny for him. His eagerness to spend his seed pushed me to lick and suckle his member to completion while I rubbed his belly and kneaded the pads of his hind paws. They trembled constantly, curling and clawing at the air every time his crotch tensed. After a few intense moments, his bliss subsided. I liberated his paws first, then slowly pulled my head back. The haze of seed clung to his crotch, the same pungent taste that now filled my mouth. I gulped down as much as I could while my sore tongue worked overtime around my lips. The next time I blinked, Padi jumped me. The bastard fell right onto my chest and gave me a grooming to remember. His eager tongue was all over my face, and would have entered my mouth if I wasn't quick enough to clamp my jaws shut. "Clean yourself," I pushed him away to take a breath of relief. He wasn't overly eager to do so. Spending his essence made him feel overly affectionate. I spent a couple more minutes stroking his beautiful body, convinced that his own scent would enter his nostrils. It did. While Padi groomed his privates, I walked away a couple of steps to still my racing mind. Yes, I sucked off a leopard. Yes, my date would have been furious. But who gave a shit about what she thought? I told her what she wanted to hear. Nobody knew how much I really loved my felines. Not even Dan. I told him the truth, and he barely believed me. I was surrounded by organized monkeys, and the truth was what I wanted to make of it. Plain and simple. "I gotta pee." I pulled my pants down on the eastern edge of the enclosure. The trees had many claw marks on them and reeked of leopard urine. I let out my own stream, thinking of Padi while my bladder emptied itself in the grass. Where was he now? Was he still grooming himself? A rush of warm air touched my bare butt cheeks. I turned around, placing my wet, flaccid member straight in Padi's face. The leopard managed a quick sniff before I stumbled away from him. "Freaking stalker. Find your own tree to pee on." Padi sniffed the wet ground, then turned around, spraying his own fragrance over the tree. "Happy now?" He swung his long tail around and shoved his head again towards my crotch. I wasn't prepared for this. One part of me really wanted to push him away, while the other felt bad for chastising an innate curiosity. I felt him with all my senses. Denying him this curiosity felt wrong, and selfish. "Padi, this isn't...get away. Please. You-you did your crotch sniffing, alright?" I said as his warm breath fell upon my bare cock. His nose seemed awfully interested in what I had between my legs. Then, his tongue poked out, rubbing all those barbs along my much too sensitive sack. I jumped away from him, pulling my pants up in a rush. "Don't do that again. Ever! I'm sensitive down there, and your tongue is...it's no good there." Like he listened. The bastard rushed straight to me, shoving his muzzle between my legs once more. I fought him off this time, only that he was awfully stubborn. I had to pinch his ears and pick on his whiskers to finally get a break. Even then, Padi walked at my side, following me wherever I went. "What do you want now, eh? Want to see me when I take a shit too?" He rubbed his head against my legs, one at a time, purring softly. I steeled my heart and kept walking around the enclosure to vent whatever steam I had inside me. Padi still followed me. He passed between my legs, rubbed himself against me, licked my fingers and sought affection like an oversized house cat. I could only last until we reached the far end of the enclosure. Once we reached the bushes, I allowed my hands to rub him freely. The leopard thoroughly enjoyed his treatment. He marked from time to time, then returned, demanding more ear rubs, chin scratches, or tail straighteners as I liked to call my tail scooping technique. We managed a whole tour around the enclosure. I prepared to lay down when Padi turned his tail towards me. "Another round?" I asked. I did get it, straight in the freaking face. And I barely had time to wipe off the pungent urine. Padi took me down with a single leap so he could roll all over me. I entertained his behavior because he was a stubborn bastard, but I didn't expect my arms to go numb before his limbs did. He was still on top of me, with his crotch pressed against mine, his head placed on top of mine, his front paws wrapped all around me. And he licked and nuzzled me a lot. I was completely clean off his urine, yet he still insisted on grooming me until I finally found the guts to push him away. Padi rolled on his back. He purred so loud, and seemed so energetic. I looked over his body to find what irked him, and I found it. His member was out and about again, throbbing defiantly in the breeze created by his restless tail. I crawled over to him. "Sheesh, Padi. You're really worked up tonight. Is one of the females in heat?" He pushed his muzzle against my lips, wet and eager to lick me. I pulled back. "I can't solve your problem right now. I'm sorry, buddy, but it's just us." Just us. Two healthy males cursed by fate to never find a proper female to love right now. I looked over to his equipment again and flexed my fingers. I had the means to relieve the fire burning inside his fluffy belly. If I did it once, I could do it again. "Alright, hold still my boy. I'll take care of you," I rubbed him from the top of his head to the far edges of his hind toes. Then, I noticed myself hesitating before his private parts. I realized I never touched them properly. For a man who prided himself on knowing every part of his leopard, I was still far away from my goal. His perky spheres stood just out of my reach. They looked so fuzzy and soft. I was so tempted to touch them. I rubbed Padi's hind paws with a hand while my bold one reached for his pouch. Then, I touched them. Padi's claws came out as soon as I made contact. He didn't kick me, just growled loud enough to make me know that spot was off-limits. "Alright. I got it," I slid my fingers towards his sheath. "But what about this?" Padi tensed like a spring once I got hold of his cock. He started humping and trembling into my hand, pushing his flaring barbs eagerly against the hard flesh of my fingers. I held his member for a few moments to get myself lubricated, then slid down towards his tailhole. His paws curled inwards when I touched him there. The purr reverberating from his throat gave me the reassurance I needed to properly inspect his pucker. It was warm, and hard, not unlike his cock. The creases created by his flesh felt slightly strange to the touch, though not stranger than the spasms quivering from within. How did a leopard feel down there? Did Padi want me to pierce him? I looked upon his member, noticing how wet it got after rounding his tailhole a couple of times. "I have a crazy idea. I'm not sure if you're into this, but it's worth trying." My words and his purr lent me some heavily needed reassurance. I used the slime from his cock to lubricate his entrance, but it wasn't enough. I needed something stickier, and in greater quantities. Padi was more than eager to supply me with his saliva. The smell of his own member made his nostrils flare, and his tongue was much too eager to clean me. I rounded the insides of his lips to get the slimiest lubrication upon me, then smeared it over his tailhole, feeling his eager contractions pounding under the pads of my fingers. He was ready. "I'm going to get inside you now. Don't claw me too hard, alright?" He was way too aroused to even care about what I said, and I was much too curious to delay. I pushed my middle finger in, gasping at how quickly I penetrated his hidden shelter. Padi's squirming muscles drew me in on their own, and the leopard certainly enjoyed his treatment. He clawed at the air, making a wry face between a growl and a snarl. He breathed quickly through his flared nostrils, heated by the pounding beats of his frantic heart. I rubbed his chest reassuringly while my naughty finger probed his insides. He was as hot as I presumed, and rather loose. I slowly pushed my finger out, then delved back inside. Padi's cock jerked up when I was halfway in. His muscles tensed. I remained trapped within his halls until three quick spasms squirted aqueous precum right onto my chin. "Drat," I mumbled as I worked myself back inside him. "You like it. I can tell by how quickly you squirm. Are you sure this is your first time?" Bad joke, I know. I must have been the only maniac crazed enough to suck off and finger a leopard. Padi liked it though. He was receptive to my touch, craved for it whenever I pulled out. I stimulated his sensitive tailhole a couple more times before I took my squelchy finger out. "That's...yeah. That's the first time I touched a cat like that. Crazy, huh?" He didn't share my opinion. After he found his tailhole liberated, Padi fixed me with an intent gaze, his paws reaching towards me. I leaned forth to see what he wanted, and found myself trapped by his quick limbs. His tongue bathed my face, his purr deafened my ears, and the smell of his overly lubricated cock entered deep within my nostrils. He needed me. I was a fool to convince myself otherwise. I gently pried his limbs apart to stand up on my feet. Padi remained on his back, still looking at me, still hard, still throbbing. Damn. I had to go way over the edge, didn't I? Once he tasted pleasure, he was eager to feast on it once again. I took my clothes off. Fuck apprehension. Fuck society. Fuck all those who got between me and my desires. Nobody ever knew me as well as Padi did. Nobody believed me when I shared my feline joys with them. Padi was always here for me, when all the people I considered important in my life were bunched up in their homes, too busy earning cash, banging others, or criticizing anything that stepped on their sensitive toes. My shirt definitely lost some buttons as I raced down my belly. I threw it on the ground, and my pants quickly followed. I even took off my socks so I could be completely naked. Down to my skin and hairs, just like Padi was. Even with my mind made up, I hesitated before joining him. I never made love to a feline before. I thought about it a couple of times, but those were just fantasies. And things were about to get real as soon as I embraced the fluffy belly laid in front of me. "Stay there," I kept him down with utmost authority. "I'll come to you. Just stay on your back. It's perfect that way." I dropped on my fours, then descended upon him slowly and surely. First, I pushed my face into the fluffy fur of his neck. Padi nibbled at my ear like the ticklish bastard he was. I allowed his tongue to roll along my earlobe as I lowered the rest of my body upon him. My chest touched his paws first. Padi kept them against his chest, but found that hugging me was much more pleasant. His heated pads kept me warm while my bare abs felt the warm fur of his belly. I didn't put my whole weight on top of him, just enough to feel him as I've never felt before. I never knew how ticklish fur felt on my bare skin until I embraced him like this. I never anticipated how my own cock would stir and harden when it met the leopard's hardened meat. My erection forced Padi flat against his lower belly, and our balls touched, making us both shudder and shake from the rush of strangely intoxicating feelings. "Shh," I smothered his rebellious growl with careful rubs around his ears and quick, feline-like nuzzles. "It will feel good. I promise. You know I'll never hurt you, Padi. You're everything to me. The only companion I got in a world full of strangers." I closed my eyes and allowed the soft hum of my voice to speak instead. Padi got accustomed to my weight. He certainly enjoyed being treated like a feline. I rubbed along his head, sniffing the grass-leaden scents trapped within his fur while my body gently rubbed against his. The longer fur of his belly tickled my chest, my abs, my sides. His bare cock made my shaft moist and hard, and his warm fuzzy balls rolled under mine slowly, gently, sublimely. I slid closer towards the base of his tail to poke around his tailhole, and found his entrance wet and needy from the previous session. I pressed my tip against his muscles, then squeezed my eyes shut as the thrill of mating heated my blood. My hairs stood on end. Sweat poured out from every pore in my body. My cock hardened like steel, eager to feel more of that warm needy shelter. The heaviness in my crotch became harder to bear with each heartbeat, and I wasn't even inside him yet. I remained above my lovely feline, frozen by feelings I did not understand, with Padi's squirming muscles kissing my overly sensitive tip. I felt a string of lubrication rush out to kiss his entrance. Damn. If I lingered too much, I would definitely spill and never know the warm comfort of a feline that trusted and desired me with every part of its body. I buckled my knees and pushed myself inside. A crackling groan burst from my throat, threatening to choke the breath out of me. "Aaaagh....ahhh.....ackkhhh..." I never believed a single thrust would feel so good. My skin retreated to lay my head bare before the heated assault of Padi's muscles. His tailhole clenched from all sides, urging me inside, begging me to let go of the great burden seething within the depths of my crotch. In my eager rush, I slid inside him more than I intended. Our balls met once again, tense and eager to spill their load. "Ghhh...too hot...mfffff....too tight," I moaned within Padi's fluffy neck. The leopard tried to latch his jaws around my own mandible. He was enjoying this a lot more than I did. Every muscle in his body tensed with effort. I felt his trembling paws spread their toes along my back, the tips of his claws kissing my naked skin. His tail slapped and rubbed around my thighs, swinging from side to side with the eager spasms of his insides. Padi was doing all the work for me, and I was sure that within a dozen throbs, I would burst inside him harder than a hurricane. "M-more..." I bit into clumps of fur, then slowly pulled myself out. "Mrrrrhhh...."    I slid like silk out of his tunnel, keeping just the tip inside to feel the strong contractions of his outer rim. The massage drove me mad with lust, and before I lost myself, I thrust inside my Padi yet again. The leopard shook with the weight of my passion, sending me into another groaning fit. His claws dug into my skin enough to draw blood, but the pain was just a tingle of pleasure among the heated tide surging through me. I forgot how it was to live. I ignored my most basic desire. The feel of somebody else hugging me in loving embrace made me feel complete after being broken in so many pieces. I slid my whole length inside Padi, feeling the hot kiss of his needy insides before I retreated out for a break. I could never resist much out there. The comfort of his body became a needed addiction, and I was most eager to sink my rock hard length inside him and let him spray his hot precum onto the base of my shaft. After a couple more thrusts, Padi started trembling really hard. I felt his hind paws kicking around my sides and pushing into my lower belly. His flanks thrust wildly into my crotch, slapping our balls together with crackling delight. He was close. Much too close. I leaned my whole weight on a single hand and rushed towards his tiny member. I found him hard, lubricated, and extremely eager to cum. I clutched his tiny meat inside, applying great amounts of pressure and stimulation from the base of his soaked sheath to the spurting tip of his member. Padi couldn't last at all. He snarled fiercely, letting out a hissing moan before he grabbed my jaw with his huge canines, dug his claws into my back, and growled out his passion. Within the span of a heartbeat, his seed spurted out, slamming my crotch in quick, raging streams of heated bliss. The feel of his spurting cock was the best thing I felt aside from the sudden spasms clutching around my length. Padi's wild orgasm sent all his muscles into a seething frenzy. His passage collapsed around my cock, applying startling amounts of pressure around my bare head. Then, heat trickled inside my cock, and all the months of abstinence broke loose in a fiery stream of unbridled passion. The pleasure was so intense I saw stars before my eyes. I squeezed my eyes as hard as I could, tensed harder than the leopard below me, and let go of that hot, consuming pressure that raced through my shaft with a wild, muffled cry. Slick warmth raced through Padi's clamping tailhole, lubricating him even further. I tried to remain still inside him, but my instinct to inseminate beat my feeble mind. I rocked my hips back and forth, working in and out with squishy sounds, delighting in the hot haze that reigned over my body. Everything felt on fire. Everything felt perfect. I held on to Padi with everything I had. I grabbed around his neck just like he grabbed me, pumped my fingers around his member, and embraced his crotch with every thrust. Padi's warm breath rolled over my neck in waves. His trembling hind paws tried to latch around me, jerking wildly with the might of his passion. I pushed myself all the way in. Padi growled, I groaned, and both of us lost ourselves in the frenzy of instincts that took hold of us. I poured my love and my passion inside him with every lengthy burst, and Padi was most eager to receive my seed. After all, he continued spurting his own thanks to the large amounts of stimulation my member applied to his sensitive flesh. We remained there, tied by the primal strength of our instincts, groaning, growling, and grabbing at each other until we surpassed the peak of our passion. With the brunt of the pleasure reached its end, I could finally feel the price paid for soaring so high. My body felt horribly weak. My knees hurt, my legs trembled, my back stung with vivid pain, and my member still shuddered weakly inside Padi's slimy hole. The leopard recovered faster than me. He was licking at my chin and pawing at my sweaty chest like nothing happened. I blinked. The ground spun before my very eyes. I retrieved my seed coated hand back to enhance my wavering balance, but even so I still forced myself to fall on my side and spare Padi's body of all my weight. My member came out with a wet plop, dropping into the rather uncomfortable grass. "Haaah..." I groaned out loud, panting like a beast. "That was...wow. I really needed that. What about you?" Padi swished his tail and perked his head up to look upon his messy hindquarters. He pushed his head towards his raised hind leg, but hesitated. "Go on. Clean yourself," I encouraged him with a quick scratch around an ear. Padi went to work. His tongue straightened his fur and cleaned his member of all the seed, milky and aqueous alike. It took a dozen long strokes to clean his tailhole though, and even after he pulled back he was still leaking. I was tempted to help him, but if my own limp cock offered any good clue, it was that males hated being stimulated after such a copious ejaculation. Since I couldn't clean him, I allowed Padi to groom me instead and was pleasantly amazed by how careful he was with his tongue. Only the soft, barbless tip touched my cock. He kept the barbs for my balls, and the other resilient areas. I gave him a good ruffle once he finished, then got onto my feet. I must've spent a good hour or two already. Padi walked around me while I dressed. He must have sensed I was about to leave. That made my decision all the more painful. I set my eyes on the gate. If I looked at him, I would falter. If I touched him, he would feel betrayed by my departure. It was easier for both of us to make this quick and painless. So I ran towards the door. Five strides. That's all I managed before Padi tackled me to the ground. I shoved him off with all my might, but the bastard held strong. He wanted me to stay. Pleaded me with long licks over a face that failed to even smile. Why was it so hard to remain? I was a human being. Mistakes were part of our lives. What was the biggest price to pay for lingering for a couple more hours? What was the comfort of my lonely bed compared to the warmth of Padi's fur, or the voices in my head compared to his hearty purr? I grabbed his head with both hands and touched his nose with mine, feeling his warm breath, smelling the wild scents that made him so unique. "I'll stay," I whispered, then kissed him right on the muzzle. Padi didn't understand the meaning of this at first. He kept licking me, and I licked back, and kissed, tasting the saliva off his slick black lips and rolling my face along his lengthy whiskers. He snarled when I did that. I took that opportunity to kiss one of his beautiful fangs before I got him onto his back. "I'll lie with you like we did before," I said as I prepared to unbutton my shirt. "We don't need these clothes. Not when we warm each other up." I embraced him again, bare, just as nature always intended. His paws were my pillows, his fur my blanket, and his privates were what kept my member tingling with the pleasant warmth of arousal. As I closed my eyes and basked in the suave smell of his fur, I slowly realized what I've been doing wrong all along. I chased girls I didn't want to meet to satisfy a relationship that had long since extinguished. I had no need for a woman in my life, or a wife, or a hot date. Not when I had an amazing feline at my side. I always treasured Padi. I just failed to realize how deep my love for him went until this night, when a proper mix of alcohol and loneliness allowed me to understand a crucial truth. We all chose our own paths. Some liked to lay with women, others with men, and others with felines, canines, and others. Why was the world so bent into changing our core and placing us on a path that led us astray? I chose who to love, who to embrace and share my body with. If anybody had a problem and wanted to obsess over it, that was their choice, because I already made mine. Within Padi's embrace, I felt complete. He loved me, just as I loved him. I laid my head on top of his neck and placed the warm pads of his paw over my ear to rest. And for the first time in months, I closed my eyes with hope in my soul and love in my heart. I wasn't planning to sleep all night, just rest for a little bit. One hour, two, three, it didn't matter to me, for I knew that the next time I opened my eyes, I would be a broken man no more. END COMMENTS Aaaand we're done. It was quite an adventure to realize a simple truth, wasn't it? Our guy got mugged, went through a horrible date, incurred some heartache from one of his few friends AND got marked by Padi before getting it on with the kitty. I really want to know your thoughts about this story. What you liked, what you disliked, what could've been improved and so on. It was a bit of a challenge writing in first person and depicting the guy's feelings after all the crap he's been through. I hope I did a decent job at that. He's part nutty, part depressed, part anxious, and a full time lover of felines even if those around him are a constant source of distress. There will also be sequels coming up in the future so the more feedback I get, the more awesome ideas I'll creature for the future installments. And as always, I hope you guys enjoyed this deliciously naughty adventure. If you did, please show your appreciation to the artist by doing the following: More so, If you want your own, personalized story, Click here to commission me and start your own adventure Fav if you read it Vote if you liked it Comment if you're feeling awesome Liked this work? Want more amazing stories like it? Then please consider Supporting me on Patreon for novel chapters, two to three 5.000 words or longer short stories with various themes and characters, and more exclusive content! Every bit helps, depending on your possibilities, and I'm extremely grateful to each and every one of you for being the driving force that pushes me to write these great stories for your enjoyment.

The Serpent and the Gryphon

_ **I am open for** _ [**_COMMISSIONS!_**](https://www.sofurry.com/view/717455)_ **If you want your own, personalized story,** _ [**_Click here _**](https://www.sofurry.com/view/717455) [**_Support me on Patreon_**](https://www.patreon.com/cheetahs)_...

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

That Little Corner of Heaven

_ **I am open for** _ [**_COMMISSIONS!_**](https://www.sofurry.com/view/717455)_ **If you want your own, personalized story,** _ [**_Click here _**](https://www.sofurry.com/view/717455) [**_Support me on Patreon_**](https://www.patreon.com/cheetahs)_...

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Costly Bargain

_ **I am open for** _ [**_COMMISSIONS!_**](https://www.sofurry.com/view/717455)_ **If you want your own, personalized story,** _ [**_Click here _**](https://www.sofurry.com/view/717455) [**_Support me on Patreon_**](https://www.patreon.com/cheetahs)_...

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,