The following is a work of fiction. The characters are fictitious, and no resemblance to any persons living or dead is to be implied. If you can't figure that out for yourself, you are just a crazy person and should seek help.

This story contains some explicit scenes of sex between males of different species. If that statement alone upsets you, then don't read any further. If you continue to read further and become offended, don't come crying to me. I'll just tell you to bugger off.


© 1994, 1997 Rogue (

I hardly ever work late. When I do it's only because I have to, and if I can find any way to avoid it, I will. At least, that's how I used to be. One long night last October changed my attitude toward working late forever.

The computer was acting up, as usual. With so much still to do I didn't have time to play the machine's little games, so I was very aggressively tearing into its memory. I was so distracted that I didn't hear anyone walk up behind me. There was just a voice. "Excuse me. I just need to lean over to get to that trash can."

Great. Another distraction. I sat back, fuming, to let the janitor grab the trash, and the next thing I knew I had a faceful of fur. Pushing back from my desk, I watched the owner of the fur straighten up and stare down at me.

It wasn't a man. It was a lion.

Or maybe something in between. A lion's head looked down at me from atop a manlike body. The hands that clutched the trash can were covered with tawny fur, and surrounding the feline head was a gigantic, luxuriant mane; that was what I'd gotten in the face, I realized. The towering body was dressed in a flannel shirt and a pair of green sweat pants, with wide Docksiders covering its feet. I was positive that I was hallucinating and just sat there gaping like a fool. The lion didn't seem to notice. He simply dumped the trash can into his cart and moved off, disappearing around the corner.

After a while I started to breathe again. Then I went home. When you start to see lions toting around trash cans, it is time to go.

I had trouble concentrating at work the following day, with the image from the night before haunting me. I was afraid to tell my coworkers. They already thought I was a little odd. And no doubt I am. They'd seen the drawings I often made when things were slow. Always animals, and usually bipedal animals. "Furries", as some of us like to call them. Often my drawings get more explicit than the average prude can tolerate, too. That's just how I am "wired", though. I like the idea of furries, lions in particular, and for a long time they've dominated my sexual fantasies. So yes, I'm an oddball, and at that point I was apparently an overworked one.

The image stayed with me, though. I even stayed late the next night just to see, but no lion-janitors appeared. I probably would have gone on thinking this to be just a case of wishful thinking if work had not kept me, by sheer serendipity, past 4:30 the following day. That's when I saw him again.

This time I was coming out of the men's room, not watching where I was going, and found myself up against a huge wall of green-and-blue flannel. "Oh! I'm sorry," said a resonant voice, and when I looked up I was almost nose to nose with the lion I'd seen before. This time it was no fantasy -- he was real. He was standing right in front of me, and I had nearly collided with him.

My mind spun. Maybe I should have fainted, but all I could do was mutter, "My fault," and step aside. He continued on his way, pushing along a wheeled pail and a mop, and stepped into the elevator. Before I could move, the doors had closed and he was gone.

I remember staggering to the water fountain and taking a long drink. This could not be real. There was no WAY it could have been real. But I had seen it, and if it was a mirage it was the most damned realistic one I'd ever seen. My deepest fantasy, an object of desire I had thought was forever out of my reach, had just pushed a mop and pail past me.

I saw the lighted bar above the elevator stop at "2", and then I jabbed the button to call it back. When the doors opened, sure enough, the floor was wet, freshly mopped and smelling lightly of ammonia. Jumping inside, I hit "2" and leaned back against the wall. I was half afraid that there would be nothing there when I arrived, which would have been proof to myself that I had been going insane, that all those years of dreaming of lion-men had taken their toll.

The elevator doors opened and there he was, right ahead of me. He was bent forward, busily mopping the floor, his back to me, and I could see the outline of his rear through the sweat pants he wore. I had to bite my lip, not just from the sheer beauty of that sight, but from the sight of the long, ropy tail that arced out behind him and swayed, its tuft waving to and fro behind him like the head of a cobra. It was another of my little quirks, a particular fondness for tails, and he held his gracefully poised, shifting it to counterbalance his body as he mopped. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. I didn't move, didn't even breathe.

Still, he must have sensed something, because he stood up suddenly and turned. Golden yellow eyes met mine. I swallowed hard and said, "Um...hi." I was shaking, and felt the tingle of desire deep inside.

"Hello," he said, the corners of his mouth turning up into something of a smile. "Can I help you?"

I just stood there looking at him, mesmerized by the sound of his voice. It was like thunder echoing through the hallway -- deep, powerful enough to make the light fixtures vibrate softly. He watched me gape at him for a moment, then chuckled and turned back to his mopping. "It's all right," he said. "I'm used to people staring."

I suddenly felt like a jerk, the way you feel when you find your- self staring at someone who has a bad deformity, just before you look away. What was I doing? Yes, this was a creature the likes of which I had lusted after for years -- but what was I going to do, run up and beg it to go to bed with me? Anything with an ounce of dignity would have told me to piss off. For a moment more I stood, shaking, mind racing, until I somehow found my voice and ran up behind him. "I'm sorry!" I stammered, fishing for the right thing to say. "I just...I mean, I saw you yesterday, and I, well, I'm a little surprised. I didn't think..." Shit, I was blowing it. Calm down. "I mean, I didn't mean to stare. That was rude of me, but I'm very interested." In you. I almost said it.

He stood up again and looked down at me -- DOWN at me, as I realized for the first time just how enormous he was. I'm tall, but he stood at least a full head higher, more than seven feet tall . The top of his mane just barely cleared the light fixtures. "Don't worry about it. I don't take any offense. We're always curious about things we've never seen before."

His voice surrounded me, making me want to float away on it. It boomed in my ears, and every time he uttered an "R" sound I could feel it in my ribcage. I was astonished that he spoke perfect English, unaccented, though with a very measured beat, as though he were carefully forming every syllable. "OK. Still sorry, though. Ah, listen, I wonder if you'd have a couple of minutes to sit and talk. I would really like to...ah, talk to you, and just get acquainted. I mean, I've never seen you here before."

"I only started a month ago," he said, nodding. The motion made his mane swish audibly. "This floor needs to be done so that I can wax it before I leave, but it won't take more than ten minutes. There is a break room for the maintenance workers on the first floor if you'd like to meet me there. It's right next to the elevator doors."

Thunder. My head swam. Every bone in my body vibrated as his voice resonated through me. "Sure. See you there."

The break room was little more than a closet with a desk and two chairs in it, along with a battered locker. I took a seat in one of the chairs and waited, fidgeting. Looking around the room, my eye fell on a wrinkled piece of paper that someone had obviously straightened out after it had been crumpled up. It had been taped to the wall over the desk, and as I leaned forward see it better, I realized with horror that it was a copy of a drawing I had made. I remembered that one: my favorite fantasy, the furry man with the lion's head, exactly like the huge creature I had met upstairs, standing unclothed and inviting against a wall. I had made a photocopy of the original but had been unhappy with the contrast and thrown it away. The janitor must have found it in the trash and decided to keep it, probably thinking it was a picture of him. A naked picture of him. I felt embarrassed, and was going to grab it from the wall when a shadow filled the doorway.

"I'm sorry to have taken so long," he said, stepping into the room and sitting down in the other chair, which creaked loudly beneath his weight, "but now I have some time to myself before the floor dries. I thought it a little more politic to talk down here, since I am still technically on duty. That's all right, isn't it?"

"Sure," I said, trying to look nonchalant. "Soooo...tell me about yourself."

He gave me that smile again, and relaxed back in the chair. "My name is Nekobe. I'm an exchange student from Kenya. I took a part-time job here to help earn a little extra money."

"Kenya, yes," I said, as though this was a perfectly reasonable thing. "I admit, I've never seen anyone like you before."

"Not many Americans have. I'm the only one of my kind in the exchange program with the University of Nairobi. As I said, I get a lot of stares, but it is to be expected."

"Maybe. It's amazing, though, to see you. You see, I really have a fascination with lions, and so when, I saw you..." I realized too late that I might have been insulting him, comparing him with a lion. Even though he looked like one, I didn't know if it was something I should bring up. My brain became muddled, and as I tried to get my foot out of my mouth I wound up swallowing my entire leg. "I mean, I've drawn..."

What made me say THAT? I bit the words back, but it was too late. His eyes opened wider and his ears swiveled, like two satellite dishes, toward me. "Did you draw that?" he asked, pointing to the picture.

My cheeks burned fiercely, the expression on my face no doubt answering for me. He laughed deeply, rattling my bones. "My good man, I was very flattered when I found it. Now that I find out the artist had never seen me, I am shocked at the coincidence, because it is a very fine likeness."

"Thank you," was all I could think to say. I knew that I was beet-red, and I began to hope that perhaps he would not understand what that meant. He seemed to, though. Or maybe it was the look in my eyes that said I just wanted to climb into a hole and die.

"It is a marvelous drawing, and you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Are you an artist?"

"Sometimes," I muttered. "When I'm not at work. I just like to draw, especially lions." There I went again.

His gaze turned from the picture to me, and he leaned forward suddenly and laid a massive hand on my shoulder. I almost jumped, and sat shivering. The touch was like lightning bolts, and I began to feel my arousal swelling. I wondered if perhaps he would be able to smell my desire, and the thought made my face even redder. I prayed he would not notice the change in contour of the front of my pants. Thankfully, he kept eye contact. "You, sir, are very talented. I would be proud if I was able to draw this well. Now..." He let go of my shoulder and turned to poke a finger at the drawing, which gave me the chance to shift my position to hide things. "If I may, the legs are a little short between the ankle and knee. It's the only thing in the drawing that I could honestly criticize."

I nearly laughed with relief at his reaction. Still embarrassed, though, I nodded as he pointed out how well I'd captured the flow of the subject's mane. "Thank you. I was working pretty much out of my head, trying to merge a human and a lion image. Please, I hope that isn't something that I shouldn't say. I don't know how else to express it."

He shook his head, his mane swishing along with it. "I understand. I suppose that, to you, I do look like a combination of a man and a lion. It doesn't hurt my feelings to be compared to one or the other."

Whew. It felt good to be off that hook as well. "So you're a student?" I said, to change the subject. "What are you studying?"

"I want to study linguistics. I've only started a month ago, so I have not been allowed to declare a major yet. But I am fascinated with languages, and I think that I could provide some very good insights into human speech."

For the first time, I noticed that his lips moved very little when he spoke. He seemed to form the sounds mostly with his tongue and throat, and I was suddenly impressed at how he had mastered the language with a mouth that was structured so differently from a man's. He certainly would make a good linguist, at that. "That's great! I just graduated this past year, myself. If you need any help with anything, I know my way around."

"That's very kind of you -- is it Mr. Nichols?"

That surprised me. He must have seen the nameplate outside my cubical. "No no, please, call me Shawn. I've never been Mr. Nichols."

"Very well, Shawn," he said, standing up and towering over me once again. "I'll certainly keep that in mind, and if you would like a model for your drawings I would be glad to sit for you. I'm afraid that I need to get back to that floor, though. I am paid hourly, you see."

"Oh! Right!" I backed out of the office and let him move past. For his immense size, he moved with all the grace of a cat. Not surprising. His shoes barely made a sound as he strode to the stairway door and disappeared behind it. For a long time I stood there, watching, feeling my heartbeat returning slowly to normal.

Nekobe. I kept saying the name over and over to myself, feeling the sheer power of his voice each time. He was beautiful -- I wanted so badly just to touch him, to feel his fur, to feel his arms around me.

That would never be, I thought bitterly. It seemed arrogant of me to think that such an awesome creature could ever have the same feelings for me that I had for him. Even so, I wanted to be close to him. I knew then that I would be spending a good deal more time at the office after hours.

As quickly as I could I finished the work that had kept me so late, but even with the shortcuts I took it was several hours before I could log out. I ran down to see if the big lion was still around. Sadly, though, he was nowhere in sight, and the door to the custodian's closet was closed and locked. Now I wished that I had been just a little more forward and asked him where he lived. The thought of having to go through the entire weekend pining for him made my heart sink.

I had my drawing pad, though, so at least I could let my fantasies fly with pen and ink. By Sunday night I had drawn him from every angle, clothed, nude, and more than once I drew him in intimate embraces with myself. These drawings I carefully hid away in a desk drawer at home. I had already had my fill of letting humiliating artwork be discovered.

Monday morning took its time, and the day dragged so slowly I wanted to scream. I couldn't concentrate, and no matter how many times I told myself that I was being foolish, my mind kept wandering. The day wore on into afternoon, and then finally everyone else began to leave. I sat at my desk, nervous, trying to occupy my time with a few odd jobs, and waited.

It was not long before I heard the elevator doors open, and the rackety sound of the janitor's cart as it was wheeled out. I was out of my chair in a flash and racing for the hallway, hair flying out behind me, running madly toward that sound. I saw the cart and a shadow on the wall, and rounding the corner I shouted "HI!" to the small, balding man who was emptying the wastebasket next to the copier.

I felt like I'd just run into a stone wall. The man turned around in surprise and blinked at me. "Hi!" he said. "Something I can do for you, Kid?"

If ever I wanted to die it was then, not so much from the awkwardness of the moment as from the bitter, crushing disappointment I felt. "Uh, no, no," I muttered. "I just didn't know anyone was here, was all."

The janitor, shaking his head, went back to emptying the wastebasket. "You just took thirty years off my life! I'm surprised I didn't keel over dead from fright."

"Sorry," I said as I slipped away.

I moped around work the next day, feeling like an idiot and wondering if the whole thing hadn't been an elaborate hallucination after all. I began to think that some cruel joke was being played on me. If so, it wasn't funny. Luckily, I was left mostly on my own throughout the day so that I could stare into the computer screen and lose myself in my work. Anyone who had tried to talk to me would have gotten his head bitten off anyway. At least I got a lot of work done, and was so absorbed that I didn't even notice the passage of time, or even the good-byes of my coworkers as they left for the day. I didn't look up from my screen at all, in fact, until I felt the deep voice rumble through my body. "Hello, Shawn. Working late again?"

The chair almost fell over as I jumped up. Nekobe's ears stood straight up and he took a step back. "Oh, I didn't mean to startle you. Didn't you hear me coming?"

I sat back down in the chair with a thump, running my fingers through my hair and panting. "No," I said. "You walk too quietly." I looked up at him and frowned a little bit, feeling somehow betrayed, as though it were his fault that I'd made such an ass of myself the night before. "Where were you last night?" I said with a hint of accusation in my voice.

He stared at me, his yellow eyes unreadable, alien, and then he blinked a few times. "I had an exam," he said softly. "Didn't the maintenance man cover for me? I was told he would."

I felt two inches tall. Next to Nekobe, though, that was not difficult. I started to smile, and then I burst out laughing, slumping across my desk, much to the big lion's confusion. After a moment I had regained enough composure to tell him the story, and he laughed, too. It was like standing in front of the speakers at a rock concert, the way that sound boomed through me, and I felt all the hurt and humiliation disintegrate.

Then Nekobe leaned down and rested his massive hand on my shoulder again. "It is very comforting to know that someone was so eager to see me, though. It makes a stranger in a foreign land feel so much more at home."

My blood froze. It wasn't the touch of his hand, although that would have been enough in itself, but now I had to think of some reason to have been so anxious to see him. "Well, I, uh, enjoyed our conversation the other night. I was hoping we could talk some more." I started to lift my hand to touch his, but suddenly he straightened up, releasing my shoulder, and I hastily folded both hands in my lap. "What I mean is, there's so much I want to know about you. Where you come from, what your people are like. It's so new to me, and I'm very curious."

Nekobe smiled. "I am very flattered. I would be happy to tell you anything you wanted to know if you were able to walk with me as I made my rounds. That would interfere with your work, though, wouldn't it?"

Without a thought I reached over and flicked off the computer. "Work's over," I said eagerly. "You're sure you don't mind?"

"Of course not. Now where shall I begin?"

I followed him like a puppy for the rest of the night, helping him to dump the trash into the cart and holding the bucket for him while he washed the windows. Throughout that night, and the two that followed, he told me all about his people, how they had lived in the southern regions of Kenya and Uganda, somehow managing never to have contacted White Men despite having coexisted peacefully with the Masai for many years. His race had only been "found" in the last decade. "Found -- as though we had been lost," he said with a small chuckle. I wondered why I had never seen any news reports or learned about his species in college; but then, I rarely (if ever) watched the news, and I had paid even less attention to the various non-computer classes I had taken. I couldn't even remember many of them.

On Thursday night he told me more personal things. He himself had originally meant to attend the University of Nairobi, as his sister had done several years before. Then the exchange program with the university here had been announced. It was very competitive, with only five openings offered, but with the help of his sister's status as an alumnus he had managed to qualify.

He began then to talk very enthusiastically about the science of linguistics, and my mind wandered. It was uninteresting, technical- sounding stuff, so I let the words fly over my head, though I basked in the quiet roar of his voice. It didn't matter what he was saying; he could just keep saying it, and I would have stayed happy.

My trance was shattered by the feel of something soft and fluffy touching my leg. Looking down, I saw that his tail had swung my way and was weaving gently next to my shoe. The end curled up, and the tuft had managed to slip inside the cuff of my pants and was brushing ever so gently against my bare shin. I felt an instant surge of adrenaline, and realized that I was beginning to grow aroused. It was too much. I let out a loud gasp, and he turned and looked down. "Oh my!" he said, quickly flicking his tail away from me. "I'm sorry about that. Sometimes it seems to have a will of its own. Now as I was saying, it seems so incredible to me that humans can speak at all, with the structure of their throats and mouths. The use of the lips is ..."

He stopped and regarded me curiously when he saw me fidgeting frantically in my pocket. In truth, I was fighting to realign the painful erection that had sprung to life when his tail touched me, but I managed to yank out a handful of change. "Ah! There we go. Damn tight pockets. I was just going to head to the machine and get a Coke. Can I get you one?"

He smiled. "No, thank you," he said, and went back to his polishing.

I ducked out and ran as fast as I could to the men's room. My mind was overloaded, and by this time so was my libido. All he had done was touch me, an innocent touch, and it was too much for me. I locked myself into a stall and screwed my eyes tightly shut as I started to release the incredible sexual tension that had risen.

It did not take long, not at all. Much relieved, I cleaned up and waited for things to settle back to normal before I went out to rejoin him. "Now, you were saying?"

He turned toward me. "Where is your Coke?"

Uh-oh. "The machine was empty." I shrugged. "Oh, well."

He nodded, and then reached into his shirt pocket, withdrawing a gold pocketwatch. "Well, it is time to go home anyway. I think I may have been boring you as well. You mustn't let me start on linguistics; it is impossible to stop me." I said nothing, and followed him down to the closet on the first floor. Still recovering from my release, I just watched him, quietly admiring the way his huge frame moved beneath the clothes as he noted a few things on a clipboard and then took a heavy woolen coat from the locker. "Have you decided if you want me to model for you?"

My jaw dropped. I hadn't expected this. "You were serious?"

"Of course. I would be happy to sit for you."

The tension came back. "I...yes, yes I would! Ah, er, when, whenever would be good for you, I'm easy..."

"Hurr... This Saturday?"

"Fine. We can work out the details tomorrow.

He shook his head. "Not tomorrow. Another exam."

I couldn't think straight. "Well, er..." I wasn't sure if I should invite him to my place or go to his. "I don't drive, and the bus schedule is strange on weekends." A coin toss would have decided it, but my poor muddled brain kept trying to wrestle with the question. Finally, Nekobe came to my rescue.

"It would probably be easiest if you were to meet me here at, say, noon," he said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "and then we could take my car to my apartment." I relaxed, grateful that he had made the decision. Now all I had to do was figure out how I was going to sleep that night.

Nekobe was waiting for me in front of the building when the bus dropped me off. He shook my hand, his grip strong and warm, and together we walked to where he had parked his car. It was not at all what I had expected. Nekobe had only been able to afford a tiny Datsun, and try as I might, I couldn't help laughing as I watched him squeeze his gigantic frame into the driver's seat. Even with the seat pushed all the way back his knees were very nearly in his ears. His mane filled much of the interior, so much so that he had been forced to install extra mirrors on the side of the car so that he could see what was behind. I had only a few inches to spare without having my face buried in the silky fur. As if that would have been a bad thing!

We made small talk as we drove uptown. Clutching my art supplies tightly in nervous fingers, I wondered if this was really a good idea. I could never have passed up this chance, though. All I had to do was somehow keep my composure. I started to wonder if he would be willing to pose nude for me, but quickly put that thought out of my mind. Somehow I knew that he would be able to sense when I was aroused, probably by smell, and I did not want that to embarrass myself yet again.

His apartment building was one of the typical gray stone structures of that area of town. Amusingly, two sculpted lions stood on either side of the entrance, and he pointed them out with a smile before unlocking the door. Coming toward us as it swung open was a round, gray-haired little woman, who broke into a grin when she saw Nekobe and waved wildly. "Well, hello there, kitten!" she cried.

I was surprised when Nekobe strode forward and bent down to hug the woman, who ruffled both hands affectionately in his mane. I envied her that privilege! "Shawn," he said, turning back to me, "I want you to meet Miss Eva. She's the first American friend I made."

The woman barreled toward me and seized my hand in both of hers. "I'm Eva MacIntyre," she said, her voice booming almost like Nekobe's, "but folks just call me Miss Eva."

Nekobe nodded past her at me. "That's Shawn. He works in the same building I work in after class."

She turned and gave him a grin. "I know just who this young man is!"

I started. "You do?"

"Well, sure! Listen, Honey, I work in the college Alumni Office, and let me tell you, I know who and what and where is everyone out there who is just dying to send lots of money to his old Alma Mater."

I groaned inwardly. SHE was the one sending me all those letters. I decided to like her anyway, since she seemed pleasant enough in person. She turned suddenly and put her arms around Nekobe's waist, hugging it tightly. "You should've seen him, Honey! Here I was, carrying this big box up those stairs there, and I trip and fall and roll right down and twist my ankle all up. UP comes this big lion, picks up the box under one arm, picks ME up and sits me in the other arm, on account o' my ankle's all twisted up, and he just says, "Where can I take you?" and he takes me all the way up to my apartment. Now, Honey, is that a gentleman or is that a gentleman, I ask you that!"

Nekobe rumbled affectionately. "Miss Eva helped me get my apartment here. I don't think the manager wanted to rent to me."

"He didn't, that old son of a fish!" (I had to laugh at the expression). "He told this nice lion that they weren't no apartments free, when I KNOW there was. Now, you listen to me, Honey, I went in there and I told him that I was gonna call the ACLU, the NAACP, the ASPCA, the XYZ and the PDQ and I'd have him run outta town. Now, you gotta understand, I was going to school in Alabama about the time you was a baby, and folks there didn't want me in their school, and that taught me how to fight. See, when I set my mind to something, there ain't nothing I let get in the way of what I want! So that old landlord, he suddenly found out that he DID have an empty apartment after all. And now I got me a nice gentleman for a new neighbor!"

Nekobe and I exchanged somewhat relieved glances when she finally said, "Well, I gotta get myself movin', got things to do! You boys come over and see me sometime. And YOU, don't you forget your dear old Alma Mater which you treasure so highly!" She laughed raucously and made her way up the stairs and out of our sight.

We walked down the stairs to the basement, and as he bent to unlock the door, Nekobe smiled at me and winked a yellow eye. "She is a darling woman. Futu tribe, by ancestry."

"She told you that?"

"No. I could tell."

"Oh. How?"

He pushed the door open. "The Futu are a very strong-willed people. And they are always, always talking!" With that he stepped inside, and I followed.

The apartment was a studio and sparsely furnished. In place of a bed was what looked like an old-fashioned stuffed mattress lying on the floor. It was nearly eight feet long, appropriate for the size of its owner. Several pillows embroidered with distinctly African designs were piled neatly at its end. I could see long, light mane-hairs on them. That made me shiver just a little. A long, slightly battered dresser stood next to a wardrobe, and both had numerous objects on them: African masks, woven cloth, carved wooden figurines, and photographs.

I was drawn to these immediately. One which particularly caught my attention showed two magnificent males of Nekobe's species standing side by side, each wearing only a long, decorated loincloth. One was much shorter, standing only as high as the other's shoulder, and both were positively beautiful. I tried not to drool.

Nekobe saw me staring and walked up behind me. "That is a photo of me with my father. It was taken the day that I was accepted at the university, while we were celebrating."

I gazed at the two handsome creatures. "Your father is much shorter than you are," I said, just to make conversation.

"No no. He is the taller one."

My eyes bugged out, and I turned around to look up at the big lion, and then my gaze slipped higher to the face of the imaginary giant I pictured next to him. He laughed at my expression. "Yes, he is quite tall, but not the tallest of my people." He reached past me to touch the frame of the picture. "I miss him often. He and I are very close, and now that he is getting old, I feel guilty to not be there for him."

I nodded, not sure what to say. My gaze traveled to the next picture, that of a stunning lioness dressed, to my eyes incongruously, in graduation robes and mortar board. "Your sister?" I said, and he nodded. He went on to explain the other knickknacks he had sitting there, but I was having trouble keeping my mind on them, especially when he suddenly said, "Well, shall we start?"

"Start what? Oh! Sure! Let's start." I took a seat in one of the two sturdy chairs that surrounded the dining table and pulled my pad and pencils from my backpack. When I got comfortable and looked up, he was starting to unbutton his shirt. The whimper came before I could stop it.

He paused and looked up. "Do you want me nude?"

What a question. Oh, WHAT a question! The obvious answer was clawing at my throat, trying to get out, but I couldn't let it. If that lion had taken off his clothes, I would have dissolved into a puddle of lust, and then there would have been no explaining myself. I pictured him growling and throwing me bodily out of his apartment. I wouldn't have been able to stand that.

"No," I said softly. "Let's try it with your clothes on for now." Damn.

He shrugged. "As you wish," he said, re-buttoning his shirt. "How's this?" He leaned back against the wall and folded his arms, a very "Gentleman's Quarterly" pose. I told him it was fine, and started to outline the sketch, my hand shaking. It wasn't easy. My nerves were firing, and I could feel the blush stinging my face. Once again I hoped that he would not recognize what that meant.

After a while I had sketched a passable likeness. It was amazing, actually, that I'd been able to draw him so well while I was so on edge. I showed it to him, and he praised its quality. "Although," he said, "there is still something odd with the shape of the legs. Why don't we try one without the clothes interfering, so you can see for yourself?"

I was trapped. There wasn't a single excuse that I could think of, though I tried desperately to come up with one as I watched him remove his shirt. Then he reached behind himself and untied a drawstring over his tail. His sweat pants sagged, and he slid them down and stepped out of them. Thank God for the sketchpad, which nicely covered my lap so that my instant erection stayed hidden. Whatever I had dreamed in the past, whatever I had tried to capture by drawing, it was all surpassed by the image of the naked lion that now stood before me. The fur lay flat against his skin, forming a smooth, silken covering whose contours glistened in the light. My eyes devoured him, and then locked on the whiteness of his groin. I saw that he had a sheath, and I could see the outline of a glans within. It looked more human than leonine. This was going to be impossible. My hands were shaking like an old man's. I could barely hold the pencil. There was no way I could draw what I was seeing, with my nerves so out of control.

"This should give you a better idea." Thump. "I'll stand a bit to the side and let you see how the muscles..." Thump-slap! "...connect at the knee. My feet are also built a little differently than you've drawn." Thump.

Distracted, I looked down to find the cause of the thumping noises, and was surprised to see his tail waving about like an angry snake. It writhed this way and that, bumping against the wall behind him, swatting the ground, even curling once or twice around his legs. Suddenly I understood what it meant: Nekobe was nervous, too! His face was impassive, his eyes looking almost the way the lions do at the zoo when they are bored, but his tail was broadcasting his agitation just as surely as the blush on my face was broadcasting my own. I started to wonder if beneath that self-assured exterior he was asking himself the same sorts of questions that kept running through my own mind. Was he thinking, "Does Shawn realize what my tail-movements mean?"

I laughed inside, comforted by the revelation that I was not the only one who was nervous. My hands stopped shaking; I was still painfully hard inside my shorts, and I could tell that I was still flushed, but at least I would be able to draw him.

It got easier once I began to outline him. Maybe the artist in me was able to quell my lustful side, at least for a while. I carefully sketched the lines of his legs -- and handsome lines they were! -- and tried to express a little of his tail's wild gyrations. I worked inward, carefully filling in the contours of his chest and belly, and then his groin...

I was staring again. His sheath had changed, the dark red curve of his glans now partly visible at the tip. I was certain it hadn't been showing before. I didn't dare to imagine what it meant. It couldn't have been what I thought it was. That would be asking too much.

Nekobe's tail was flying about faster and faster, lashing at the wall. "Finished?" he rumbled. His voice startled me, and I nodded. He turned and padded toward the wardrobe, giving me a lovely view of his tail swinging back and forth over his rump. Fishing a bathrobe out, he slid it on and belted it in front. I noticed that his tail slowed down almost immediately. He turned back to me, his eyes as calm and studious as ever. "Can I see?"

I showed him the picture. His eyes widened and his ears swiveled forward. "It's perfect!" he said, making no comment on the unfinished groin area. "You are so much better than you give yourself credit for."

I smiled. "Thanks," I said, keeping the pad level on my lap. As he leaned over me, I caught a whiff of his scent. It was a pleasant, musty odor, like an old book. I found that it excited me even more, the scent, and being this close to him. That made me start shaking again. "Ah, Nekobe, could I have a drink?"

"Certainly." He started toward the kitchenette, but then stopped. "Oh. Oh, my. Shawn, I'm afraid I have no cups or glasses. In my culture we don't use them."

Of course not. A lion could not drink the way a human could. "That's all right. However you drink yours is how I'll take mine."

He looked a little uncertain, and then took two wooden bowls from the cupboard. They were richly carved with African designs on the sides, and I guessed that he must have brought these from home. He filled each with water from the tap, and offered one to me. "I feel very awkward. My eating and drinking habits are very different from yours. Some people are very disturbed by it. It's why I don't eat out, and why I've never had anyone over for dinner." He sat down beside me, his chair groaning in protest. "I want to ask you please to tell me if you aren't comfortable. It is far better for me to know that than to let you sit there and be repulsed by me."

I snorted,. "Never!" as I accepted the bowl. "Look, I understand. Go right ahead. If you manage to gross me out, I promise I'll tell you."

Nekobe smiled, then lifted his bowl to his muzzle with both hands and began to lap the water from it. I watched, intrigued, as his tongue dipped repeatedly into the water, each time making a quiet little plop, and then I sipped from my own bowl. I could smell his scent again, with him sitting so close, and inhaled deeply. It was heavenly.

Then I felt a familiar touch on my leg. Without looking down I knew that it was his tailtuft, but I pretended at first not to notice it. It flicked at my ankle, then began to rub delicately up and down my shin. The touch was so careful, so loving, that I could no longer believe that it was accidental. I found myself whispering, "That feels nice."

The tail quickly jerked away from my leg. I looked over to see his ears folding down against his head. "I'm so sorry! That tail again, it --"

Without thinking I reached forward and put my hand on his arm. "No, really," I said shakily. "I like it. It's OK."

We both looked down at my hand, and then we looked into each other's eyes. I trembled. His tail lashed. Both of us looked as though we wanted to say something, but there simply were no words. Long minutes went by, and finally he laid his other hand on mine, pressing it softly to his arm. "Is it wrong?" he rumbled quietly.

I swallowed, staring into his eyes. I couldn't talk at first; there was a lump in my throat. I swallowed again, and hesitantly reached up and touched the side of his muzzle with my other hand. His eyes closed, and a deep, resonant purr echoed in his chest. "I don't think so," I managed to say.

We were silent for some time. Neither of us moved, too worried at this point still of frightening each other away. Finally, he raised his hand to my face and began to trace a gentle finger along my cheek, and up across my brow. His leathery fingerpad was warm, its touch so delicate that I barely felt it. Who would have expected such tenderness from so huge a creature? Encouraged by his caress, I slid my fingers up into his mane, burying them in its softness. It was like grabbing a cloud.

Nekobe let his hand drop, and began to unfasten the buttons of my shirt. His tail was almost a blur as it flailed behind him. "You only need to tell me if you want me to stop," he said softly. I nodded, though I wouldn't have told him to stop for anything, even if I had been able to speak. He finished with my buttons and then slid his hands inside, pressing them flat against my chest and exploring, stroking them carefully down my belly and around to my sides, then up again. He let out a loud rumble, and with half-lidded eyes he met my gaze once more. "You are a very beautiful creature, Shawn."

I felt tears misting my eyes. He had said that so earnestly. Did he really feel that way? Could he possibly have seen me the way I saw him? I was in no position to ponder the questions, though. His hands slipped around to my back, further, and then I was in his arms, and he was pulling me forward to rest his chin on my shoulder. Half of my face vanished into his mane, which was slowly moistened by the tears from that eye as they began to fall. His whole body thrummed against mine and he held me, just held me. Minutes passed, and then an hour. Neither of us moved. It was enough, for now, just to hold one another. I began to wonder if he knew just how much I had dreamed about him, and if he, too, had possibly dreamed about me. And at the inconceivable fate that had drawn these two vastly different beings together into this loving embrace.

At last he released me. My back ached at having sat in the same position for so long, though I would never have complained, and I realized that it had gotten dark outside. "Well," I said, my voice sounding dry and hoarse. "I suppose I should be going."

"You don't have to," he whispered.

I sat quietly a moment, and then nodded. "I'd like to stay."

Nekobe stood up and reached over to turn the overhead light off. The room was plunged into darkness, save for the dim light from outside which framed his body as he slid the bathrobe off of his shoulders. I slowly unfastened my jeans and stepped out of them as I stood up, then turned to face him. We stared at one another through the gloom for several seconds, and then with my body quivering and his tail dancing, we stepped forward and held each other close. I rested my cheek on his chest, feeling the strong beat of his heart beneath his ragged purr. He nuzzled softly at my hair, breathing warm breath through it. The pads of his fingers wandered across my back, sending shivers along my spine, and I slid my own hands down to clasp the base of his tail. This brought a tremble and a soft growling sound from him. I could feel the moist warmth of his erection growing against my belly; it pointed downward, I noticed, just as a lion's does, just as my own does.

Without a word he eased me away from him, and then nudged me toward his bed. I obeyed, and dropping to my knees I crawled onto the mattress. It was large enough to hold us both, although barely. When I rolled onto my back I saw him kneeling beside me, peering down at me, his mane silhouetted by the glow from the window. His hands explored me again, seemingly as curious about my body as I was about his. Fingers glided over every inch of me, and then clasped warmly around my erection. I moaned, squirming as the grip tightened, and another hand lightly examined my scrotum, lifting it and feeling its texture. His voice rumbled in the darkness. "I don't know what would please you. I know so little about humans."

I moaned again as his hand, fur and chamois at the same time, began to stroke. For someone who did not know what pleased a human, he was learning fast. "That feels so nice," I said breathlessly, and he continued, stroking slowly as I squirmed. After a while he released me and moved into the shadows. Dimly I saw his outline glide down to my feet, and then he was kneeling between my legs. The next thing I knew his breath was flowing across my groin. A sudden, frightful image arose in my mind that made me gasp and panic. "Erk! No teeth!"

He gave a questioning little grunt. "Why would I want to bite you?" he said, confused. I suddenly realized that his kind had probably never been exposed to that sort of pleasure. Having seen his teeth, I could see why. I smiled, thinking that he was going to like what I had planned, and told him not to mind me.

His head lowered again, and he nudged at my groin with his muzzle. I bit my lip, and then whimpered when I felt a smooth, wet tongue coiling about my manhood. It was not a barbed and raspy cat's tongue at all. It was a pleasant surprise, the velvet-soft touch, and I arched my back, body tensing and fidgeting as he lapped at me, first along the shaft of my penis, and then down to my testicles. The exquisite bath lasted for only a few short minutes, and then he crawled forward, lying down beside me. In the darkness I could just see his face hovering over mine, and then that wonderful tongue dipped and slid across my throat, then along my jawline. At the same time his hand closed once again around me and started to pump. "You seemed to like this..." he purred into my ear, and nuzzled softly at my face. I couldn't argue with that, and threw my head back, exposing my throat to the caress of his tongue. His hand squeezed tighter, moved a bit faster, as his tongue patiently washed my face and neck. I felt my body tense, pressure rising, and as though he could read my mind he flicked the tuft of his tail between my thighs, allowing it to brush lazily against my scrotum. That was more than I could take, and I exploded all over my chest and belly, my whole body locking up with the force of it. I heard him purring contentedly as my climax peaked and ebbed, and then he sat up to lick the salty stuff from my torso. "Mmmm... interesting," he said, rolling the taste through his mouth like a wine connoisseur.

I had to laugh, and ran my fingers through his rich mane. "You know," I said after a moment, "I have to tell you something. That one night at work, after your tail touched my ankle, and I ran off to get a Coke..."

"I know," he said, stretching out on his back beside me.

I felt myself blush again. "You know?"

"I know. I could smell it." He thrust his nose into my ear and exhaled strongly, making me squirm. "But I didn't dare to hope that it was because of me."

I was overjoyed to hear him say that. "And was it really accidental, when your tail touched me?"

"It was then." He snuffled again, then licked at my cheek. "Not today, though. Today, I suppose I was just feeling bold. I think I wanted to see what you would do."

"Oh, really?" I sat up now, and rolled over on top of him. He mewled questioningly. "Let me show you, then, what I would do." I took a few minutes to inhale his scent, and to explore his grand form with my fingers. His body was hard. It fascinated me to feel that firmness underneath such a silken covering of fur. Everything about him, from his body to his voice, spoke of incredible power wrapped in softness. Even his movements and mannerisms. My hand wandered lower. The notion hit me then that he might be built TOO much like a lion -- including the ring of sharp barbs around the shaft of his penis -- but I was relieved when my searching hand found and closed around his member, and felt only smooth, slick flesh. Slicker than I would have thought it would be; his penis seemed to be covered with a thin film of oil. It was narrow, too, my fingers easily fitting around it, but delightfully long. I let its wet length slide through my hand, searching for the tender spots, until I reached the flare of his glans and he let out a deep growl. Perfect. "Now you'll see the advantage of having such small teeth," I said slyly, pushing myself downwards along his body so that I was lying on his thighs

He started to ask, but his voice dissolved into a hissing groan as my mouth surrounded the head of his penis and drew it inside. I fed more of the length into my mouth, as much as I could, and then wrapped my hand around the remainder of the shaft. It was his turn to squirm, I thought, but he lay still. A constant rumble reverberated in his chest, though, letting me know that he was enjoying the attention. "Shawn..." he breathed, the tone more guttural than I'd heard him use before. The taste of his penis was surprising, a musky tang which began to mingle with salt as I let my head rise and fall, nursing at his glans, letting my fingers delicately stroke its length. He was growling now, louder and louder, and then made a sound like a truck shifting into a low gear. I glanced up at him, and as a shaft of moonlight fell upon him I saw that his lips were fully drawn back, his frightful teeth completely bared. A second later, I was nearly drowned with a brimming mouthful of salty cream. It burst forth faster than I could swallow. Unprepared for the sheer volume, I had to allow a good deal of it to fall from my lips and onto my hand. His growl rose in volume, seemed to catch in his throat, and then he relaxed with a long, loud sigh which was almost a roar. At the same time the wild torrent subsided.

I swallowed what was left in my mouth, and then fumbled for his bathrobe to clean up what had escaped. I felt indescribably happy! I had been intimate with males before, but none had ever moved me like this. No human lover could have meant to me what this splendid creature did.

Nekobe was growling again. I saw two orange embers smoldering in his eyes as they reflected the pale light. Smiling contentedly, I stretched out and nestled against his side, ready for sleep. Only a few moments later, though, he rolled his head toward me and gave my cheek a nudge with his muzzle. I had been drifting off, and woke with a start. "What?" His answer was a louder growl, and he nudged me again, harder. I sat up, confused, and he followed me. I could dimly see his face, half-lit by the moon, his eyes focused intensely on me. The tip of his tongue protruded from his lips, and bobbed with his panting. He looked different now, fearsome, feral...almost hungry. A chill shook me, and as I drew back he lunged at me. Somehow I managed to duck back, and scrambled away from him on all fours, but he seized my foot, lightning- quick, in his hand and dragged me back. I wanted to scream, but just like in a bad dream, no sound came out. Panic rose up in me as he wrapped a strong arm around my waist and pulled me tightly against his body, then he pushed me back down to all fours, his immense weight pressing down on my back. I began to think of how a lion kills an antelope as I felt first his hot breath, and then his teeth surround the back of my neck and clamp down. I couldn't move. I was helpless.

His growl changed once he had me subdued, dying in volume to a rumbly kitten-purr. I was petrified, shivering, unsure what was going to happen to me, but that gentle sound somehow eased my terror. He wasn't moving, and those jaws, which could have easily bitten my head off, where only grasping. My body relaxed, trust returning, and as I stopped shaking I felt a nudge against my anus, and then a powerful pressure, a stretching, a feeling of being abruptly filled. I think I might have cried out a little, though I don't remember it, but he froze immediately, his malehood buried unmoving within my body. A small mew escaped his throat. For seconds, or maybe hours, we sat coupled motionlessly, and finally my body stopped rebelling against the intrusion. Though it was hard to move my lips, I managed to squeak out the word, "Yes."

Nekobe purred and worked his jaws to get a better grip on my neck. His arms held me tighter as he began to rock his hips, pistoning his long, slender organ within me. My arms quivered from supporting his great weight, and soon gave out, letting my chest sink to the floor. He followed me down, still thrusting, his grip on my neck never letting up. I was completely at his mercy, helpless to stop him even if I had wanted to, unable even to twitch. His thrusts steadily grew more vigorous, until he made that snorting growl again, and surged forward. I felt a burst of warmth inside of me, a wonderful rush, his passion filling me completely. It nearly overwhelmed me, the pure emotion of the moment. I was his.

Slowly he withdrew his spent organ from me, and when he released me from his jaws he began to lick very tenderly at the indentations in the skin his teeth had made. "Are you all right?" he murmured as he eased his bulk off of my back. I said yes, and promptly slumped to the floor. A wet spot under me made me realize that I had climaxed during our mating; the sensations had been so intense that I hadn't even realized it. I understood finally what he had done, and if the new experience I had given him had been half as memorable as the one he had given me, he was a very happy lion.

"Good!" he said brightly, and dove forward, pushing his muzzle insistently between my legs and mushing his nose up against my scrotum. I yelped and grabbed his mane, trying to push him away. He stopped instantly when I begged him to, and when he lifted his head he looked hurt, his ears folded back and whiskers drooping. "What's wrong?" he rumbled plaintively. "Aren't you ready?"

"Ready? Again?" It dawned on me. "Nekobe, how many times can a male orgasm before he has to rest?"

He looked as though he didn't understand the question. "Eight or so," he said hesitantly. "What's wrong?"

I groaned and crawled forward to hug him. "Humans can go only once. Twice if they are really, really turned on, and it leaves them half dead."

His ears swiveled forward like two little satellite dishes. His eyes opened very wide in surprise. "Really?" he said incredulously. "You're serious?"

"Uh-huh." I couldn't say much more as I crawled back onto the mattress and collapsed on my side. He sat behind me, panting, occasionally muttering "only twice" in a disbelieving tone. After a short time, he settled down behind me, slipping one arm under me to pillow my head on his biceps. His other arm draped over me and pulled me up against his front. With his hips nestled up against my buttocks and his thighs pressed to the backs of mine, we fit together like two spoons in a drawer -- a tablespoon and a little teaspoon. It was the coziest, safest embrace I'd ever lain in...until I felt something warm nudging against my anus again. "Nekobe..."

"Is it all right?" he said with a hopeful tone in his voice. I was going to say no. In fact, I wanted to say no. My brain told my mouth to say no.

"Yes, it's all right." I was surprised as those words came out, and then I felt the pulsing shaft sliding into me. With my teeth gritted I lay there, strength completely spent, and let him take me a second time. I was numb, my limbs feeling heavy and tingling with pins and needles. All I could feel was the warm fur rubbing against my back and legs, and the rhythmic stroking of his penis, in and out, in and out, faster and faster, until with another snarl he filled me again. I felt him relax and rest, panting against the back of my head. His tail flopped across me and came to rest by my hand. I took it, giving it a gentle squeeze. His organ remained hard inside of me, pulsing quietly. And then it started to move again, in and out, faster and faster, and that is when I passed out.

Nekobe's arms were still wrapped around me when the sunlight woke me up. It was high in the sky, and I guessed that it had to be very late morning. Carefully I tried to slip out of the big lion's embrace, but his arms squeezed tighter. "Mine," he muttered sleepily. I persisted, and finally he relented and let me up. Surprised that I could walk at all, I made a beeline for the bathroom.

Nekobe had rolled to his back when I returned, and was sprawled out across the whole bed. I knelt down beside him and just stared at him. My eyes could not get enough of his beauty. I followed his thick and powerful legs up to his torso, and then to his shoulders, down his arms, and up again. When I reached his face, I saw that his eyes were partly open and focused on me. "Good morning," I whispered, smiling.

"Hurrr...morning," he grunted, smiling as well. One hand came to rest on my thigh, giving it a gentle squeeze. His eyes opened further. "Thank you."

I felt a warm glow inside. "Thank YOU. You don't know how I've dreamed about someone like you." That sounded like a cheesy line, but it was fitting. I meant it honestly.

Nekobe sat up, making the muscles of his tummy bulge nicely. For the first time I noticed a thin necklace almost hidden within his mane. "What's that?" I asked, pointing.

He looked down and lifted it up so I could see it better. It was a simple leather cord that he wore around his neck. Tied at its center was what looked like a braid of hair, the color of honey -- the exact color of Nekobe's mane, in fact. "Come, sit," he said, and I moved next to him. "This is a piece of my father's mane. It's what the humans in my home call "juju" -- magic. You see, when a male of my culture must leave someone that is very dear to him, he gives that person something that contains a little piece of his spirit. A male's spirit lives mostly in his mane, so by giving me a piece of it, my father has given me a piece of the most powerful part of his spirit. It is to show how much he loves me, you see. I never take it off, because as long as I wear it, I always have his spirit with me. You understand?"

I nodded. It was a beautiful sentiment, I thought. "Your father doesn't look old at all in the picture, though. He looks just as strong and young as you do."

There was a brief silence, during which Nekobe stared at the picture across the room. "He is old,' he said at length. "and very sick. It never shows in my people. I should have stayed with him, but he insisted that I not pass up the chance to go to America."

I could see where this was going, and didn't want a sad lion spoiling the memory of last night. "I could use a shower!" I said as I hopped to my feet. I padded to the bathroom and turned coyly to glance at him over my shoulder. "Are you coming?"

"No, no!" he laughed. "It is too tiny in there for me alone, let alone both of us. You go on."

Culture shock set in immediately after I turned off the water. There was not a single towel in the bathroom, only a soft-bristled brush with a wide head. How we take the simplest things for granted! He didn't understand at first why I wanted one of his flannel shirts, and I had to explain it to him. When I stepped back out, still a little moist, he was standing in the kitchenette and looking a bit forlorn. "I wanted to make you some breakfast," he said, "but I have nothing to cook with."

"But you said you don't eat out. How do you cook dinner?"

"I don't. I don't eat cooked food."

That shouldn't have surprised me. "Well, I'm sure I can find something." I pulled open one of the cabinets, which I found full of potatoes and bunches of onions hung from hooks, bags of dried beans...and about twenty cans of cat food."

His whiskers drooped down when I turned and gave him a look. "No, I don't eat it," he sighed. "I tried some, and it didn't appeal to me. But Miss Eva gave them to me the day I moved in, and I didn't have the heart to refuse them."

I burst out laughing, which made his tail flick around a bit, and then I opened the refrigerator. It was empty. I tried the freezer. It was filled to overflowing with white butcher packages, some of which had some red bloodstains seeping through them. "Aha..."

Nekobe's breakfast was soon in the oven -- thawing, not cooking. He didn't even know how the oven worked. I decided that a baked potato was enough of a breakfast for me, especially with a little chopped onion on top. That's when I found he had no knives, and no other utensils for that matter.

"Allow me," he said, reaching for the onion. He held up his other hand, and as I watched, five vicious-looking claws sprang from the tips of his fingers. My stomach flipped a few times as I remembered how delicately those same fingertips had explored my body just the night before. But the onion was minced in record time. At first, Nekobe refused to eat his breakfast while I was there, feeling certain that it would horrify me. Eventually I managed to convince him that I would not mind, and he reluctantly sat down with a shoulder roast. As I watched, he held it in both hands and sank his teeth deep into it, ripping away a huge chunk of meat and bolting it down, blood dripping from his chin. Admittedly, it was a little disquieting, but I did not let that show. As a side dish he had a potato, which he ate in two bites.

We retreated to the bed again after our meal. He sat down and leaned back against the wall; I sat in his lap, and for the rest of the afternoon we just talked. I finally told him about the fantasies I'd grown up with, which he found very intriguing. Perhaps, he said, I had seen pictures of his people in my early childhood, and though I couldn't remember them, they had affected me. It sounded plausible enough.

At one point Nekobe put both arms around my waist and rested his chin on the top of my head. "I would never have dreamed that I would feel attracted to a human. But..." and here he paused for several moments, as though trying to sort out his own feelings. "...when I look at you, Shawn, for some reason I don't see a human. I see another leonoid, like myself." There was another pause, and then, "and I think I'm falling in love with you."

The words were the climax of the dream, and my heart soared!

Too soon it began to grow dark outside, and I reluctantly climbed out of Nekobe's lap. I hadn't even bothered to get dressed. "It's getting late," I said. "And I probably should go. Tomorrow's a work day, and I'll need to sleep if I'm going to get anything done. Somehow I don't think I would sleep much if I stayed."

"I know you wouldn't," he said, and then he blinked and pursed his lips. "Tomorrow. Isn't that your Columbus Day?"

"What day?"

"Something called Columbus Day. They said I would be paid for the hours but didn't have to work."

I felt a surge of elation. "Yes! You're right! It's a holiday."

Nekobe stood up slowly. "Which means you don't have to work tomorrow."

"Which means I don't have to sleep.

"Which means you don't have to go home."

"Which means -- erk!" I was taken by surprise when he seized me and pushed me down onto my back on the bed. In a flash he was upon me, straddling my hips on his knees, his heavy sheath resting upon my belly. He smiled down at me, a toothy smile, and pressed a massive hand down on my chest, completely covering it with the span of his fingers. I watched wide-eyed as his claws slid out, their tips just barely denting my skin.

"Which means," he chuckled, "if we start now, perhaps we can get more than two out of you tonight."

To say that Nekobe and I were inseparable after that weekend would be an understatement. We went everywhere together. I regularly waited for him after work and helped him with his chores, and then we'd slip off together to his apartment for the night. We tried going to mine, but the bed was pitifully small and Nekobe was very uncomfortable. At least it had towels, though. We finally moved in together around Christmastime, choosing an apartment which was close to both my office and to campus, and whose floors didn't creak under the big lion's weight. We had separate bedrooms, but I don't remember spending a single night in mine. Miss Eva was sorry to lose her gentlemanly neighbor, but told us -- at great length -- how happy she was that he was getting out and making new friends.

Nekobe's first snowfall was an incredible experience for him. He'd never seen snow, of course, and watched it through the window with wide kitten-eyes. When we finally went outside he was overjoyed, and spent a long time batting at the flakes as they fell and scooping up big armloads of snow to dump onto me; but then his nose started to get cold, and not long after he was complaining about not being able to feel his toes. We went back in, and from that day on Nekobe and Winter did not get along. It gave me an excuse to keep him warm, at least.

With the New Year, Nekobe managed to get a good work-study job at half again the salary he'd made as a janitor. I was as pleased as he was, as it didn't involve many evenings, which left more time for us to be together, something that never seemed to grow old for us. He got to work with computers in that job, and with my expert tutoring he quickly developed a respectable skill. The computer fascinated him, and soon he announced that he wanted to buy one of his own, and started to save his money. I took him down to the computer store and tried to get him a bargain on a small IBM, but he was drawn instantly to a monstrous machine which dwarfed even the one I worked on. He would not be deterred, and put away every penny he could. I helped out by picking up the larger shares of some of the bills, and by summertime it looked like he would be able to buy the huge computer after all.

He was, by his very nature, a very thoughtful creature, and had a special present for me for my birthday. "Trust me?" he said as we climbed into bed for the night.

"Implicitly," I answered. "Why?"

He just smiled, and rolled me to my back. It was just a bit uncomfortable, as I had some scratches on my shoulders from the previous night when he'd gotten just a little too rough. He'd felt badly about it, but I assured him that it did not affect my trust in him. Maybe that's why he'd asked; he had to be sure. "Don't move," he said, and lowered his head down between my legs. His mane tickled the insides of my thighs as he nuzzled at my quickly hardening member, and then suddenly he opened his jaws wide and engulfed me. I shrieked, and no, I did NOT move as his tongue gathered up my testicles and drew them as well into his mouth. His lips sealed tightly around my entire set of equipment, his teeth held poised away from my flesh, his tongue squeezing my penis to the roof of his mouth. He began to suckle softly, his cheeks drawing in and then puffing out as his head moved slightly to and fro. It was an exquisite sensation! I twined my fingers in his mane, carried away with the feel of being so completely surrounded. It thrilled me, like the daredevil of old putting his head into the lion's mouth. I was doing the same, but with a twist.

The loving embrace lasted a torturously long time, his tonguetip tickling the back side of my scrotum, overstimulating me, and he would slow down his pace when he felt me getting close. I was close to begging for mercy when he relented on his own and began to suckle me in earnest, his lips tugging at me all around. I nearly had a seizure as I spurted wildly into his mouth; he swallowed it down, and only when the flood was exhausted and I had begun to soften did he release me.

It was incredible. I had to ask him where he had learned to do that. "Oh, I've been practicing," he said with a smile, and from under the bed he withdrew the handle of a baseball bat. It had been bitten clean through, about seven inches from the end. "Happy birthday, Love," he said, laying it down on my chest.

I threw the bat aside and tackled him. I might as well have tried to tackle a building. Not even budging, he grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me down to the bed, and in half a second had me pinned and in his power.

I'd gotten up to four before. That night Nekobe managed to squeeze five out of me.

My world ended for me late in August, just as the hottest days that Nekobe enjoyed so much were upon us. He phoned me at work, and just the sound of his breathing told me that something was terribly wrong. "Shawn," he whimpered, "Come home. I need you."

I didn't bother with the bus. I grabbed a taxi, handed the driver a twenty and told him to keep the change, and raced into the apartment. Nekobe was sitting on the sofa, his head in his hands. When I ran up to him he looked up, revealing two wet rivulets in the fur of his cheeks. "Father died last night."

I was stunned. "Love," I started, but there was nothing more I could say. I put my hands in his mane, and he put his face on my chest and started to sob, loud huffing grunts echoing out from his chest. There was nothing to do but hold him.

"I have to go."

I stroked his mane lovingly. "I know. "

He shuddered, the first time I had ever felt him do so, and his tail slapped against the sofa cushions. "No, you don't," he said, the pain making his voice crack. "A son has duties when his father dies. It's an ancient tradition. I can't ignore it. He would have expected it from me." His arms squeezed me tighter. "It is half a year. I'll have to be gone for six months."

I winced. "That's all right. I'll be fine until you get back."

He sobbed once more, and paused a moment. "I won't be coming back."

That struck me like a wrecking ball. If he hadn't had his arms around me I would have fallen over. "What?" I shouted. "Why? I don't understand!"

Nekobe pulled me down to the couch and sat me next to him. Some of the strength had returned into his eyes as he gazed at me. "Please, Shawn, just listen. Don't make me say this more than once. It's very hard for me." I nodded uncertainly, and he took a deep breath and continued. "The program has very few openings. They won't hold this one for me. If I am gone that length of time, I will lose my position, and that means I'll lose my student visa. I won't be able to come back."

"But can't they --"

"No." He stared into my eyes. "I talked to the dean. He said that there was nothing he could do, and that he was very sorry." His eyes closed, squeezing out two big tears that trickled down the course the others had made through his fur. "Shawn, I love you more than my own life. I want nothing more than to stay with you. But...this is something I have to do."

He opened his eyes again. I could see the agony in them, and it hurt to see the strength that I had always found there shattered by this pain. Even if his words couldn't, his eyes told me just how much he was suffering. "Please tell me you understand," he said, his once-powerful voice barely audible.

I fought back my tears. I didn't want him to see my cry. "I do. I love you, Nekobe."

I helped him pack up his things, and then we went to bed. I slept with my back nestled against his chest, his massive body curled around mine, fitting together perfectly. Neither of us was in the mood to make love. We just wanted to hold one another one last time, and hoped that the long night would last just a little longer.

We drove to the airport early the next morning. He had used his computer money to buy his tickets back to Kenya. Somehow that made me feel even worse. I was furious with whoever the hell was in charge of all this, whatever Fate it was that had brought this beautiful dream to reality and then snatched it away from me. It was too cruel. Damn his father for dying right now! I wanted to shout that over and over.

I walked with him to the gate in silence; the airplane was already boarding. There were stares all around from the crowds, but I paid no attention. I promised to come and visit him in Kenya, but he winced and shook his head. "You can't afford that," he said. "And I would only have to say goodbye to you all over again." I promised to write to him. He frowned, and told me that mail delivery often took many months where he lived. Somehow that figured. Fate still wasn't finished kicking me in the teeth.

The stewardess was polite enough not to gape. "Sir, you have to board now," she said, and Nekobe picked up his carry-on bag. He fumbled in the side pocket with his hand and pulled out a little African mask carved from wood.

"Miss Eva is in Alabama at her mother's for the next month. When she gets back, would you give this to her? Tell her goodbye for me, and tell her thanks."

I nodded, choking back more tears. He fished something else out and pressed it into my palm, and before I could look at it he drew me into a crushing hug. His nose touched my ear, and I felt one last tear wet my temple. "I love you, Shawn," he whispered. "I always will." With that, he turned and strode quickly down the jetway, soon disappearing from my view around the corner.

For a long time after the airplane had vanished into the distance I stood staring out the airport window. Then I remembered what he had given me, and looked.

It was a leather thong. Tied at its center was a thin braid of honey-colored hair. His.

I didn't care who saw me cry as I slipped it around my neck and walked out of the terminal.



That was one year ago. It's August again, coming up on the hot days that Nekobe had loved so much while he was here. The Datsun did not survive another winter, so I have gone back to riding the bus and walking. I tend to work late, though, almost every night, remembering the magic it once worked for me. Juju.

For weeks I was a wreck. Life was so empty I could hardly stand it. Nothing mattered to me. I never went out, except to keep one promise I had made. Early one day I slipped out of work to take Nekobe's gift to Miss Eva at her office.

She was stunned to hear the news. For a moment it looked like she was going to cry; then her old brow knit down and her eyes lit up with a fire like a lion's. It brought me back to that first day that I'd met her. "When I set my mind to something, there ain't nothing I let get in the way of what I want." That's what she'd said.

She told me that she would see me later, and then she stood and stalked down to the dean's office and slammed the door. When I saw her again the following week, she was all smiles.

Nekobe's flight arrives in two hours. I'll be waiting for him at the gate with the braided-fur pendant he'd given me around my neck. There's a brand-new computer waiting for him on the desk as a homecoming present. He starts classes again in ten days, with the beginning of the Fall term.

And in the meantime, he's all mine!

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