This is the first part of a new ongoing series starring furry characters. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, furries are simply animals with human traits or, if you will, humans with animal traits. As for why I chose to use furries in this story, well, I'm not quite sure either, but I've written furry stories before, and I like them. Comments are most welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org
Set Me Free!
It was supposed to be routine. Nothing earth-shattering, just me, going to check up on an odd 911 call over in Forest Glade. Jeff contacted me over the radio, completely ignoring my protests.
"You're the only officer within miles from the place, Scott. I know you're on your way home and all, but can't you just take this one? Please? Just for me?"
"Oh all right," I laughed. "I never could say no to you."
"Yes you could, you naughty `coon! Damn near broke my little heart."
"Until two days later, when you were all `oh Jonathan!', and forgot about me completely." We both laughed. "All right, details?"
"Right." Suddenly, the chirpiness was gone. Jeff's great, one of the best policemen in the force, once he sets his mind to business. "Four... no, five minutes ago, some kid called 911, slightly hysterical, mumbling something about someone named Masters, who apparently suddenly collapsed. The switchboard operator says she thought the kid sounded high. An ambulance is on the way, but it'll still be about seventeen minutes getting there."
"Okay, I'll check it out. Call you back when things calm down, `kay?"
"Roger that. You hitting the clubs tonight? Getting Friday wild?"
"C'mon, Jeff, you know I don't hit your kind of clubs, why do you keep asking?"
"Just thought you'd changed your mind since last time."
"Last time was two hours ago, you horn-dog!" I got a chirpy giggle over the radio, but I cut it off by hitting the send button. "Right, I'm there. Lights are on downstairs, everything looks calm. Over and out."
I stepped out of the car, flicking on my flashlight as I walked up the gravelled path to the house. It was an older house, and it had a kind of run-down look to it, like it had grown too old to bother putting on its make-up in the morning. As I climbed the steps, I heard the sound of someone crying inside. Deep, heart-broken sobs. Clearly, this was serious. I tapped the door with the flashlight.
"Hello! Anybody home?"
"Wh-who's there?" a boy's voice answered. "Please, who is it? I... I need help!"
"Lieutenant Scott Anderson, Ohio State Police. There's an ambulance on its way, and I'm here to try and help in the meantime. Can you open the door?"
A couple of seconds slowly ticked by, then the locks rustled, and the door swung open. Unconsciously, I'd held my gaze low, expecting a child, so I found myself looking straight into an adult wolf's crotch. A naked, adult wolf's crotch. Taken aback, I quickly looked up, trying to catch his eyes, but he was looking down, his head bent low.
"What's the problem?" I asked, and he moved aside, letting me in. "Where's...?"
"In here. On the couch."
I watched the wolf as he led the way. He looked younger than I had thought at first, maybe sixteen or seventeen. Not overly tall, slenderly built. Grey-white fur, and as he turned around to beckon me, I saw that he had green eyes, unusual for a wolf. The living room was meticulously tidied, spotless to a fault. Expensively decorated, yet still with a timeless touch. Fifty years ago, this room had been tasteful; it still was, and in fifty years, it still would be. That didn't matter to its owner. The slightly plump fox, in his late forties, I guessed, was still sitting on the couch, his body rigid and his face slightly blue, his fur bristled up. Heart attack. I knelt next to him and felt his wrist, but there was no pulse.
"Is he all right?" There was a hollowness to the young wolf's voice. "I mean, he will be all right, won't he? Once the ambulance gets here?"
"Listen, son..." I climbed into the role of the soothing friend, one I had played plenty of times before. "What's your name?"
"Florian, he's dead." I watched his entire body sag, another sob racking it. "I'm sorry."
"I know," he whispered. "I knew he died, I held him when it happened. I just... couldn't..."
He started crying quietly, and I got up, taking him into my arms. In my line of work, you soon learn how to put up a mental screen between yourself and the people you're trying to help. It's the only way to keep your sanity; not letting it get to you. But this got to me. This young wolf, he was so utterly heart-broken, so sad and so vulnerable, that it was all I could do to keep myself from crying with him. Instead, I held him close to me as he cried, stroking his head, trying my best to take his pain away. In the distance, I could hear the ambulance approaching, and clearly Florian heard it, too. He gently pushed me away.
"You'd better go to meet them, Lieutenant Anderson. I'll put some clothes on."
"Okay. Please, call me Scott."
"Scott." For a brief second, his lips showed a shy smile, then he turned away, his tears still flowing. "I'll be right back down."
Florian leaned into my shoulder as we watched the ambulance drive away. He had cried out as the body bag was zipped up, just one short wail, but it had spoken volumes of his pain. I led him back inside to get his statement, and we sat down at the kitchen table. It was clear that he didn't want to talk about it, but he understood that it had to be done.
"All right," I said, bringing out my notebook and pen. "What's your full name?"
"I live here. 26 Sycamore Lane. I don't know the zip code, though. Sorry."
"That's all right, never mind. What's the name of the deceased?" He winced at my choice of words, but kept his cools.
"Charles William Saunders."
"Your father?" He nodded. "Adoptive father?" Another nod. "Please tell me, in your own words, what happened."
"Well, we were sitting on the couch, watching some TV, when he suddenly just... cramped up." A single tear ran down his cheek, and I once more caught myself feeling so very sorry for him. "I tried to help him, but all I could do was to call for an ambulance. Then I held him in my arms as he died."
"Had he been straining himself during the day? Exercising, cleaning the house or anything?" Florian looked down, clearly troubled. "Listen, son, you can tell me, it's okay. Nothing will be held against you in any way, we just need to clarify what happened."
"Well..." He still fidgeted, but took a deep breath, then went on. "We had sex. Nothing unusual, though, we just made love."
"You had...?" I couldn't keep back my surprise. Florian noticed it, and started crying again. I walked around the table, comforting him as best I could. "Don't worry, Florian, nobody your father's age dies from sex. There must've been something wrong with his heart. It wasn't your fault. I'm sorry I was so shocked, it was just so unexpected. At least I know why you were naked."
"Yes," he whispered, smiling slightly. "We always love to cuddle on the couch afterwards. It was just... and now he's gone..."
"Florian, how long did you stay with Mr Saunders?"
"Since I was five. I grew up at an orphanage, then got placed with him as a foster child. When he adopted me... it was the happiest day of my life."
"I have to ask this, Florian. Did he abuse you?"
"No! Never! He never did anything to hurt me!" He stood up, bolts of fury shooting at me from his green eyes, now narrowed to slits. "Never once! And he didn't abuse me sexually, either, we only started having sex a few years ago."
"That's still considered child abuse, Florian, even if it was by your consent."
"What are you talking about?" He shook his head. "Are you gonna make it look like he was a criminal?"
"Florian, how old were you when you started having sex with him?"
"Yes! Stop putting down on him, he was a great father! I know I look younger than my age, but I'm twenty-one! Okay? Want to check my ID?"
"No, that's okay, I'm sorry. I believe you, Florian. It's just... I'd figured you were fifteen or sixteen, and I..."
"No, I shouldn't have yelled at you, Scott, I'm sorry." He looked down again. "He really did nothing wrong."
"All right, I do believe you."
"What'll happen to him? I mean, to his body?"
"He'll be taken to a medical examiner at the hospital, and they'll perform an autopsy to confirm the cause of death. They'll let you know when you can hold the funeral."
His voice trailed away. He really seemed young, but I instinctively felt that he wasn't lying, and that more doubts would hurt him badly. So I let him read through the statement, and we both signed it. I decided to leave it in the car, and hand it in next week. I felt tired, drained both physically and emotionally, and my mind was already on its way back home, to get some sleep. Florian got up when I did, and he seemed nervous. He was sweating all over.
"Are you all right?" Once again, I felt a wave of sympathy well up inside me. So he wasn't a kid, like I'd thought, but he was still a young man who had lost both his father and his lover in one, swift, merciless stroke of fate. I decided that he would need more support. "Florian, if you'd like, you can spend the weekend at my place. Not much will get done before Monday, and I guess staying here alone isn't such a kick, right?"
"Right." He smiled briefly. "Thanks, Scott, I really don't want to sleep in here. Without dad, it would just feel... wrong. I don't think I can live here anymore."
"All right. Go and pack what you need, then lock the place up. I'll just go out to the car and report in."
I gave Jeff a brief summary of what had happened, and he promised to pass it on to whoever got to be in charge of the investigation. I told him I'd come up to the office on Monday to drop off the signed statement.
"I don't think you'll have to do that, Scotty. I'm sure it can wait until you're back on duty Wednesday."
"Really? Well, have them call me if they need it sooner. Thanks, Jeff, I've really been looking forward to a long weekend."
"Four days hopping clubs," he quipped. "I envy you, man."
"I don't know why I bother to keep you as a friend," I muttered, getting his bubbling laughter in return. "Oh, by the way, the kid, Florian."
"What about him?"
"I'm letting him stay at my place during the weekend."
"Get your mind out of the gutter, you relentless sex-fiend! He's upset, and he needs a place to stay."
"Yeah, you're such a sweetheart, Scotty. Things like this are what made us fall in love in the first place."
"I never did fall in love with you, Jeff. I wonder why you never understood that."
"Because it's more fun teasing you than making out with you could ever have been. Don't ever change, boy. Ever."
"Fat chance," I muttered. "Oh, here he is. See you next week, Jeff."
"You too. Have a nice holiday with your new protégé, Scotty. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"What, like leaving him alone?" We both laughed. "Over and out."
"What did they say?" Florian asked shyly. "Is it all right for me to stay with you?"
"Oh, it wasn't about that. That's really none of their business, it was my choice. I just relayed what happened, and let them know that you were staying with me if they needed to talk to you. Then I mouthed off a little with a friend of mine, who works the radio central at HQ."
"Ah. Can we go, please? If I stay here any longer, I'll just start crying again."
"Okay." I opened the passenger door, and he seated himself nervously, fastening his seatbelt. I got in behind the wheel, and drove off towards my apartment. During the drive, I watched him closely. "It's all right to cry, Florian. Actually, it might even help you feel better. When my parents died, everybody told me to stay strong, for their sake, and in the end I had to seek professional help."
"You mean a psychiatrist?" He looked up to catch my nod. "You don't look very old, how did they die?"
"They were on that train that crashed, five years ago if you remember."
"Yeah, I saw it on TV. There were a lot of people that died that day. How old are you, Scott?"
"Actually, not that much older than you. I'm twenty-six. The only reason I've already been promoted is that hardly anyone wants to be a countryside officer. More glamour and glory in the big cities."
"Heh. I guess so." He smiled again, and kept his head up, this time. "I really appreciate your letting me stay, but won't your family mind?"
"Wait until you see my family. I'm sure you'll be most welcome."
He gave me a puzzled look, but said nothing as I drove us through two sleepy little towns, finally reaching Treasure Chest. It's a small town, really nothing more than a railroad station, a couple of industrial companies where just about everybody works, and a tiny centre, with a couple of office buildings and some blocks of flats. I lived in one of these, in a fairly inexpensive three-roomer, just large enough to feel luxurious when you live alone. Or in my case, when you live alone with your pet dog. Ten was mostly a golden retriever, a happy-go-lucky dog, with not a care in her life except for trying to break the world record for most petted dog ever. As I put my keys in the lock, I could hear her bouncing around just inside the door, and when I finally got it open, she couldn't withhold a couple of happy yelps and woofs. Florian's muzzle split into a wide grin as Ten started greeting him, wagging her tail and trying to sniff through his bag. I introduced them, and she immediately sat down, offering him her paw, which he shook with a laugh.
"Nice to meet you, Ten. Is this your family, Scott?"
"Yep. That's it." I scratched behind Ten's ears, earning a lopsided grin, complete with a lolled-out tongue. "I think she likes you, but then again, she likes most people."
"She's so cute. So friendly."
"Okay," I said, standing up from where I'd been crouching. "Let's find you a place to sleep. It's getting late."
"You don't have to go out of your way, Scott. I brought my sleeping bag, I can sleep on the floor."
"No, you can't. Ten thinks anyone sitting or lying down on the floor wants to play, so you'd get no sleep at all."
"How about the couch, then? I don't wanna be a bother."
"Florian, calm down. You're not being a bother, I just want to help you. I've got a foldable spare bed, I'll just put it up in my workroom." He suddenly looked down at his feet again, nervously rubbing his hands together. "Is something wrong?"
"Scott..." he began, but he stumbled over the words, and had to start over. "Scott, may I ask you something?"
"Can I sleep in your bedroom tonight? With you? Just for tonight, I promise. I just can't bear to be alone, not right now."
"Of course. Just don't get startled if Ten jumps up into the bed during the night. She does that, sometimes."
"Oh, I didn't mean in your bed," he said, blushing. "If we could just put up the spare bed in there..."
"Not enough room, I'm afraid. My bedroom is a small one, but the bed is large. It can take two."
"Thanks, Scott. Man, I really feel like I'm imposing on you..."
"Please don't. I just want to help. Like I said, I lost my parents when I was your age, and I know what you must be feeling right now."
"Still, thank you so much. Scott, if you don't mind, I'd like to go to sleep right now. I'm all exhausted."
"I can understand that. I'll just change the sheets, then I'll stay up for a while. I can never sleep right after coming home from work." I pointed down the hall. "Why don't you get ready for night, maybe take a shower if you feel like it."
He nodded, and trotted off to the bathroom, while I made the bed. It is a queen-sized bed, and like I'd told him, there was plenty of room for the two of us, even with Ten curling up at our feet. I hoped he wouldn't mind her. She kept poking me while I busied myself, trying to get me to play with her ball. I knew she was wondering about the strange wolf I'd brought with me, and her black eyes told me I still wasn't forgiven for being late coming home. It took me no time to finish my chore, and since I could hear the shower running, I decided to hang away Florian's clothes. He had only packed for a couple of days, so it was no sweat finding enough room in my wardrobe and drawers. His clothes looked a bit old, well-worn and not very fashionable, and I found myself wondering if he had left all his best wear back in the house. But why would he do that? Maybe he just hadn't been shopping in a while. Well, I shouldn't complain. I tried my best to change with fashion, but I always ended up wearing just about the same stuff, whenever I was out of uniform. I simply hated shopping for clothes; in my eyes, it was one of the most boring chores in existence. The water stopped running while I was in the kitchen, pouring myself a beer. Ten was bouncing around my feet, hoping for a sip, so I poured a couple of drops on a saucer and put it down. Too much would only give her gas. She always looked so funny, loving the taste but hating it when the bubbles tickled her tongue and nose. Thinking I'd be a good host, I opened a bottle for Florian, and went into the bedroom. I stopped dead in my tracks. He was standing at the foot of the bed, drying his hair with a towel, completely naked. I'd seen him naked before, while we were waiting for the ambulance, but this was different. The lights in the room lit him up so that I could miss out nothing, and moonlight seeped in through the window behind him, creating a blue-yellowish aura around his outlines. He really was good-looking, even I could see that. If Jeff had been there, I might have had to save poor Florian from getting molested. I noticed, this time, that his fur was a little darker on his back and buttocks, gradually brightening down his belly and face, and down his arms and legs. My eyes were involuntarily drawn to his crotch, where the short, dense, velvety fur was all but white. He put the towel down, and straightened his grey-white hair, brushing away a tuft of it that had fallen into his eyes. Then he looked up, grinning sheepishly when he saw me.
"Sorry, Scott, I didn't think... I'm so used to sleeping naked that I didn't even think about it. I'll put a pair of boxers on."
"No, it's all right," I said. "I normally sleep in the buff, too. Especially in the summer."
"Okay." He nodded, before it finally dawned upon him to cover himself with his towel. He blushed a little, grinning again. "Sorry if I embarrassed you."
"Not at all. It would take more than that to shock me. Say, I just got myself a beer. Want one?"
"Can I?" I nodded, handing him the opened bottle. "Wow, thanks. You're so nice to me."
We sat down on the bed and talked for a while, pausing now and then to shower some attention over poor, neglected Ten. Eventually, she got tired, and curled up at the foot of the bed. Florian opened up a little while we talked, still not saying much about his life, but he let his personality shine through. He seemed a bit immature, and not so little shy, but as we started to get to know each other, he became more talkative. After another beer, and almost an hour of conversation, I had to cut it short.
"Florian, it's been great talking to you, but I really have to take Ten out for her good-night walk. If looks could kill, she'd turn me into minced meat."
"I'll join you!"
"Dressed like that?"
"Heh. That might be fun." He blushed, and we both laughed. "Give me a minute to get dressed. Where's my clothes?"
"Left wardrobe and top drawer." He got up and started rummaging about, still completely casual about his nudity. I wasn't really embarrassed, but somehow I still felt a little uneasy. "I'll... I'll wait at the door."
A couple of minutes later, we were on our way. Ten had her special good-night route, that we seldom deviated from. Down the street to the thoroughfare, to bark at the night traffic, then left, past the gas station and into the park. Then up and down some invisible path that only dogs could see, until we emerged on the other side of the park. Finally, business taken care of, a brisk mile-stroll back home. This time, though, she didn't do her usual wild runs in the park, but stayed close to us. More than once, I saw her tense up when she heard something, pulling closer to Florian. As if she was protecting him. Better not get too attached, girl, I thought to myself. He's just a temporary guest. Florian, on the other hand, didn't even notice his new protector. He walked with his eyes half closed, taking deep breaths of the crisp night air. Occasionally, he'd ask me something about the town, and I'd answer, but we didn't talk much. Back home, he headed straight for bed, yawning widely. I felt my eyelids going heavy, too, and decided to leave the TV off. It wasn't as if there was much to watch, anyway. I went to brush my teeth and take a quick shower, and when I got back to the bedroom, wrapped in a towel, the lights were still on. Florian lay on his back underneath the quilt, staring at the ceiling, with his arms behind his neck.
"Not scared of the dark, are you?" I joked, and he laughed.
"No, I just thought I'd leave the light on for you, so you wouldn't trip over something. Or someone."
"Don't worry about Ten, she knows well enough to stay out of my way at night. Besides, I'm a raccoon, I've got keen night vision." I turned out the light, then tossed my towel into the laundry basket. I laid down, pulling up the quilt with a sigh. I was really tired. "Good night, Florian."
"Good night. Scott?"
"Why's she named Ten? Odd name for a dog."
"Well, she's not really all-the-way golden retriever, but some kind of cross-breeding, with bits of lineage unknown. You know, X stands for unknown..."
"... and is the Roman number ten. I get it. Pretty far-fetched, isn't it?"
"Yeah, I know." I caught myself smiling. He's not slow, that's for sure. "I'm glad I don't have kids, I've always been poor at naming things."
"Why aren't you married? Good-looking guy like you could have anyone you want."
"Well, I don't know. I go out, and I have dates, but I've never met a girl I'd like to share my life with. Okay, there was this one girl, Sarah, but it came to nothing."
"She moved out of town while we were in third grade." He laughed. "Don't twist the knife, man! She promised me that we'd get married! Then again, she promised all her friends she'd marry them, including the girls. Hell, she even said she'd marry her riding horse!"
"That's hilarious!" He giggled, a surprisingly high-pitched sound, like that of crystal bells. "What a fast girl!"
"Yeah, I guess she was. Is. I don't know. I never got to marry her, though." We both laughed.
"Are you going out tomorrow, Scott?"
"I hadn't planned to, why?"
"I just... I just wanna make sure you don't stay in just because of me. I don't want to be in your way."
"Don't worry, Florian, you're not in the way."
"I can stay here by myself, that's fine by me. Or if you don't wanna leave me alone in your apartment, I can stay out until you get home." His voice was rising in pitch, and he seemed genuinely distressed. I turned on the bedside light. "Just promise me you won't let me intrude on you."
"I promise." I reached for a Kleenex, and wiped fresh tears off his cheeks. "You aren't intruding, Florian. You're not crowding in on me, I invited you."
"I'll start looking for a place to live on Monday."
"If you want to. Just know that you're welcome to stay here until everything with your dad gets cleared away."
"Thanks, Scott." His tears were flowing, now. I reached over to wipe his eyes again, but instead, he threw himself around my neck, hugging me tightly. "Thank you so much."
Not really knowing how to comfort him, I just lay there, holding him as he cried. Eventually, his sobbing abated, and he thanked me once more, then promptly fell asleep. I waited until he was taking slow, deep breaths, entering deep sleep, then I wormed my way out of his embrace, turned out the light and closed my eyes. Usually, emotions make it difficult for me to sleep, but I was really tired, and it wasn't long before I drowsed away.
I woke up twice during the night. The first time, Florian was whimpering in his sleep, his head darting from side to side. In the moonlight, I could see tears flowing from his tightly shut eyelids. Ten sat on the floor next to him, watching him with concern in her eyes. Not really knowing what to do, I reached out and laid my arm across his chest, pulling him closer to me.
"Calm down, Florian," I whispered into his ear. "It's gonna be all right, you'll see."
I kept whispering to him, trying to soothe, and eventually he clamed down, returning slowly to a deeper slumber. He snuggled up to me, wrapping an arm around my chest as he rested his head beneath my muzzle. He murred contentedly, and I decided to let him stay like that. He was just a young man, barely more than a boy, seeking comfort. What possible harm could there be? I never noticed falling asleep, but suddenly I woke up again, feeling the bed shift. Not really wanting to open my eyes, I lay there listening as Florian got up, keeping as quiet as he possibly could as he left the room, then made a dash for the bathroom. Half a minute later, the toilet flushed, and I heard his feet padding back down the hall. Outside the bedroom, he stopped, and the repeated noise of Ten's tail banging against the wall told me why he was kept up.
"Hi there, Ten," he said lowly. "Are you a good girl? Bet you're a good girl!" The thumping of the tail grew ever more intense, and I couldn't keep back a smile. "You're a lucky dog, aren't you? Your daddy's such a nice guy you just gotta love him." This took me a little by surprise, but I was too tired to really give it any thought. "Took me in just like that. I don't know what I would've done without him, Ten. You really are a lucky dog."
He kept on talking for a while, and I felt myself slipping away once more. I heard him as he got back into bed, and I felt him move closer to me, although not as close as last time. Within a minute we were both asleep.