Caged (unabridged version)

(c)1998 by Gre7g Luterman

This story may not (in part or whole) be redistributed or
sold without the written permission from the author.

The characters and events described in this story are fictional, any resemblance between the characters and any person; living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The mention of or reference to any companies or products in these pages is not a challenge to the trademarks or copyrights concerned.

Comments, inquiries, requests, and suggestions are encouraged and should be forwarded to:

I have taken a few liberties from reality and traditional SF to bring you this. Before you get all angry and send me hate mail, please read the explanation that I have hyperlinked at the bottom.

For my dear friend: "Kitten"

Prissy dunked the brush in the soapy water and returned to her scrubbing. Her back ached, her hands burned, and her knees stung. She closed her eyes to blot out the seemingly endless expanse of tile flooring and scrubbed harde r. Jobs were hard to get and she knew she should be glad she had one in a nice house. Sometimes she even got to listen to the radio while she cleaned. She liked that a lot. Lots of girls had it worse, a lot worse.

"Watch what you're doing." a hard voice reprimanded.

"I'm sorry, ma'am." she quietly replied.

Pris really wanted to use a little bleach to clean the dirty grout, but Mrs. Amanda Witherspoon nearly had a fit the one time that Prissy had suggested it. It would not do to have her house smelling of chemicals. Oh, no, she had confidence that Pri s could scrub the dirt away. All it took was a little elbow grease.

"Mr. Witherspoon will be home in less than an hour." Amanda reminded her.

"I'll be done before then." Prissy's quiet voice answered. "My bus is at 5:30 anyhow and..."

"See that you're gone before he arrives." the older woman interrupted. "It would not do to have him find you here." She liked to say that things would not do.

"No, ma'am."

Prissy locked the door and walked slowly to the bus stop. There were so many beautiful houses in this neighborhood. As she walked, she fantasized about living in one of them.

It was early afternoon and Pris was laying on top of the covers of a large, soft bed. Warm sunlight and cool breezes from the open windows woke her from her nap. She smiled and stretched so very slowly. There was no need to hurry in this fantasy.

She climbed from the high bed and walked across the clean, tile floor to an expansive bathroom. A bubble bath had already been drawn and the air had that wonderful, heavy feel.

Pris eased herself slowly into the hot water and soaked. She used as much shampoo as she wished - there was plenty more. When her bath was done, she dried off with a fluffy white towel that was so large and so thick that it could have easily been mistaken for blanket.

She took her time with the brush that laid on her vanity. She slipped on a silk robe and let it hang open. She picked out a pair of elegant earrings and a black, velvet dress for dinner. Perhaps she would read a book, or maybe watch a little television. H er old master had laughed so hard when we sat in front of the TV. She wondered just what it was like.

"You look stunning, Prissy." her date said as he pulled her chair back away from the table. He poured her a glass of wine and she savored the wonderful smells drifting from the kitchen. She knew she could eat as much or as little as she liked. If she woke up hungry, she could always have leftovers.

The bus arrived with a snort of diesel. The driver snarled at her as she swiped her cash-card and she worked her way to the back. Despite her weariness, she reached over her head and gripped the rails that ran along the roof. She curled her tail and was c areful not to touch any of the human passengers as the bus bounced along. It was bad enough that they had to share a bus with one of her kind, actually touching one would certainly not do.

Prissy found an open seat beside a teenaged rat-pelt. He was wearing filthy overalls and looked as tired as Pris felt. He looked up at her for a moment with sad, pink eyes. He twitched his whiskers and scooted over to make some room. In that moment when t heir eyes met, Prissy felt his desperation. She understood the feeling all too well.

In the 1980's, scientists had engineered "designer" drugs that were just different enough from street drugs that they were not technically illegal. Prissy couldn't see why it had surprised anyone when twenty years later geneticists engineered "desi gner" people that were just enough different from human beings that they were not technically human. The boy next to her was neither rat nor man, and although the recently amended constitution gave him some rights, that certainly wasn't the case a few yea rs ago. Back then beings like he and Prissy were just as much slaves as the blacks were before the twentieth century.

Things were better now that Prissy was free to work for whom she chose. She earned a few dollars for her work, she kept her own apartment, and it wasn't legal for employers to beat her like masters were allowed. Things were better, but it wo uld still be many generations before her kind was truly equal, if that ever happened.

It seemed ironic, her sitting there on a bus beside a rat-pelt. Her cat ancestors probably ate his ancestors, but she couldn't imagine them ever being this tired. No cat ever had to scrub tile floors all day. The gods only knew what shit job his em ployer had him do. She didn't doubt that it was worse than cleaning. There were no discrimination laws yet to protect pelts, so they had to be willing to work twice as hard as any human just to earn minimum wage.

In a moment of weakness, she laid her head on the boy's shoulder. He did nothing for a long moment, then he reached up and touched her soft, furry cheek with his slender fingers. "You're stronger than they are." he whispered.

The bus came to a stop and she felt just how badly he was trembling. His instinctual fear of her was almost overwhelming. "I'm sorry." she said, straightening back up.

The bus dropped Pris at the entrance to the zoo. Although not really expensive, a season pass was the one luxury that Pris allowed herself. She knew that she could economize a little more. She could get a roommate or two, but she desperately wanted to be independent. She wanted to distance her life now from that as a slave. She didn't want to live with anyone. She didn't want anything that reminded her of the days when she slept four to a bed.

Pris walked slowly along the path and stared at the beautiful animals. They seemed so pure, their lives so simple.

She took a seat on her favorite bench and stared at Apollo. He was so beautiful. Just seeing him made her heart ache. "Did you have a nice day?" she whispered.

The black panther yawned wide and leapt from his perch to the concrete below. Pris' heart skipped a beat as the graceful creature took flight. With two short steps Apollo sat himself before his water dish and began to lap. His black pelt was flawless, his muscles strong and well defined. His brilliant green eyes never left Pris. A lot of the zoo's animals got flabby from their simple, caged lives, but not Apollo. He was just as dashing as the day he arrived.

"You're lucky you're in there." she whispered to the giant cat. "Human beings are cruel and thoughtless people. You're lucky to have bars keeping them away."

For the millionth time since she saw Apollo, she wished she had no human DNA. She wished she could climb inside his cage and never come out.

Apollo paced back and forth a few times across the tiny cage before stretching slowly and climbing back up to his perch.

A human woman walked by dragging a toddler by the hand. "Kitty!" the boy shrieked as he threw a handful of popcorn at Pris.

"Don't feed the animals." his mother said and continued to drag him away.

Pris brushed the popcorn from her work clothes and returned a loving gaze to the cat. "I wish you could talk." she whispered. "I want to know what it was like to live in jungle."

Pris smiled and pretended that Apollo was telling her about his life in South America. She sat with her knees tightly together and her soft, orange tail wrapped around her thighs.

She looked down and stroked her tail, imagining that she was touching him. "I thought about you all day as I worked." she confided in another whisper. "I imagined you were laying on Mrs. Witherspoon's dining room table and sharpening your claws on her wal lpaper." Pris giggled quietly and the insides of her soft, orange ears blushed red.

"That would not do at all, but she would be so scared that she wouldn't say a word. She would just sit there and shake. Perhaps she'd try to drink her tea as if you weren't there and count the minutes until you would leave, just like she does to me . She hates me, Apollo. She hates that I have to come in her house to clean it." Pris sniffed and stared for a while in silence.

"She's so afraid that I'll steal from her or that I'll get fur on her table or that I'll mate with Mr. Witherspoon or something..." She bit her lower lip and tried not to cry. "You know I'd never do that, right?"


Pris ignored the dog-pelt, not realizing that he was talking to her.

"Ma'am?" he repeated, finally getting her attention. "The zoo's closing in a few minutes."

Pris nodded sadly and looked away from the dog's soft brown eyes. She had seen him many times before, pushing his broom at closing time. He was wearing zoo issue coveralls and a photo ID badge, identifying him as Hank (not that Pris could read it).

"I'll be back tomorrow." she said to Apollo. Tomorrow was Friday and the zoo stayed open later. She always looked forward to Fridays.


"Nothing." she said with a shy smile. She was embarrassed that she had said anything to the panther while the dog was standing there. She probably looked crazy.

Pris laid in bed with the covers all rolled up in a ball. She squeezed them to her chest and imagined she was burying her face in his fur.

"I love you." she whispered.

Friday was a beautiful summer's day. The sun was shining and a warm breeze blew in through the open windows while Pris cleaned.

Friday was dusting day, and that always put her in a good mood. Dusting was fun and easy. To top it all off, Mrs. W. had said Pris could play the radio if she didn't turn it up too loud.

Prissy was listening to the oldies station and singing quietly along to a peppy story of unrequited love. "If you don't want me set me free... Exactly who'm I supposed to be?... Don't know which clothes even fit me..."

She fanned her whiskers wide in a large feline smile and imagined jumping from tree to tree with her beloved Apollo. Her tail flagged happily back and forth as she dusted the table and chairs. "If I go there will be trouble... But if I stay it will be dou ble... So you've gotta' let me know... Should I stay or should I go?"

Then disaster struck. Pris turned around to start dusting the pictures on the wall and her tail knocked a lovely flower arrangement onto the tile floor. The glass vase exploded into a million tiny pieces and Prissy's heart sank.

"Omigods." she gasped.

"What was that sound?" a voice screeched from upstairs.

Prissy switched off the radio and hurried to collect up the larger pieces of broken glass.

"I'm terribly sorry, ma'am." she apologized when Amanda rushed down the stairs. "It was an accident and I just barely touched it."

She could tell by the look on Mrs. Witherspoon's eyes that there would be no forgiveness today.

"You clumsy little tramp!" she screamed in Pris' face.

"I'm terribly sorry, ma'am. I'll clean it right up. It was an accident..."

"It's bad enough that I have to let a filthy animal into my house, but now you've begun breaking my things?"

"It was an accident, ma'am. I didn't mean to break it..."

"Don't you talk back to me, pelt! That arrangement cost me $40. Who's going to pay for that?"

Prissy had to work all day just to earn $40. The money meant nothing to a rich woman like Amanda, but to a poor pelt like Pris, it meant the difference between eating and going hungry.

Pris lowered her head and tried to keep from crying. "I could pay you back. You could take a few dollars out my paycheck each week until..." It terrified her to speak those words. Every pelt had heard the horror stories of getting indebted to humans. They earned so little that they were forced to work as slaves once more. Even a small debt to a human could take years for a pelt to clear.

"Oh no, no, no." Amanda said, her eyes as fierce as ever. She grabbed Pris painfully by the wrist and dragged her to the foyer where the woman snatched a checkbook from her purse.

Pris stood with head bowed and waited for the inevitable. Her throat ached and she began to sob.

"Give me your key." Amanda demanded with palm outstretched.

Pris fished it out of her pocket and Mrs. W. snatched it away. She handed Pris a check and opened the front door.

"But this is only..."

"I'm not paying you to break my things. Now, get out of my house this instant, you filthy beast, and never return."

"But I have to pay my rent today..." Pris protested.

Amanda grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her out onto the porch. She slammed the door shut, missing Pris' tail by scant inches.

Prissy walked slowly to the bus stop, struggling to see through her tears the whole way.

It had really hurt to be called 'filthy'. She took pride in her appearance. She showered every evening and brushed out her fur for an hour every morning. Other pelts wouldn't care if Prissy shed a little hair in the warm summer months, but she wanted to m ake a good impression on Mrs. Witherspoon. She had tried so very hard to do everything right.

Calling her a 'tramp' was unfair as well. Lots of her kind had stooped to prostitution to pay their bills, but not her. She had started working for Amanda immediately after her emancipation.

Pris had seen plenty of varlets, and they were not a pretty sight. Typically, human males who sought out pelts were not interested in the feeling of soft fur against their bodies. They wanted someone to hurt. The few varlets she had spoken to said that ev ery john expected them to scream at least once.

Now what was she going to do? Was that destined to be her future?

Pris took the bus to the zoo and hurried down the paths to her usual spot. Apollo paced back and forth across his small cage with unusual irritation. Three steps to the left, three steps to the right, three steps to the left.. . his brilliant green eyes never left Pris. She imagined he could see everything.

"I don't know what I'll do." she whispered. She put her face in her hands and wrapped her tail tightly around herself.

Pris cried and Apollo paced.


It was the dog-pelt that had asked her to leave yesterday. She wasn't used to being called 'ma'am' and he had to repeat himself again today.

"Ma'am. The zoo's closing in a few minutes."

Pris looked around and saw that she and Hank were alone. The stars were out and the zoo's paths were deserted.

"Please? Can I please stay a few more minutes?"

Hank smiled. "The panther will still be here tomorrow. Why don't you visit with him then?"

There was something understanding about his face. Perhaps he knew her loneliness and her desire to be less human. Surely he felt that too.

Pris looked up at Apollo. He was still pacing back and forth, restless.

"Something's bothering Apollo." she explained. "Can I please just stay with him a little longer?"

Hank smiled and looked around. "I suppose a few more minutes wouldn't hurt, but then you'll have to go." He smiled again. "If anyone asks you, I didn't tell you that the zoo is closing, okay?"

Pris thanked him.

Apollo continued to pace.

The dog-pelt returned half an hour later to find that Pris had still not moved.

"Ma'am, you really have to go home now. The zoo is closed."

"Something's bothering Apollo." she explained. "Can't you see it? He's never paced this long."

"I'll have one of the vets look at him. It's probably just something he smells. You still need to go. The zoo is closed."

"Could I please sit with him?" she asked.

"You've been sitting with him all evening."

"No, not out here... can I sit with him... in there?"

"Are you crazy?" Hank shouted and then immediately lowered his voice. "Look, lady, he may look big and cuddly, but he's still a wild animal. Only the vets go in the cages with the animals."

"Please?" she whimpered. "I know that he'd respond to me. We're friends. I visit him every evening."

Hank knew this to be true, but it didn't change a thing. "Are you nuts? He'd tear you apart and I'd lose my job for letting you in."

Pris just stared at Apollo as he paced. "He wouldn't. And even if he did, no one would care. No one cares what happens to pelts."

Hank sighed deeply and sat down on the bench beside her. "Don't call yourself that." he whispered. "Don't let anyone call you a pelt and don't call anyone else one either. You're a person, just like any of them. Things are getting better, it just takes ti me."

Pris shrugged and continued to stare. "Let me stay with him tonight." she whispered. "I lost everything today. I think he knows it. Please let me stay with him."

The dog-pelt sat back and stared at the panther as well. There was no convincing her to leave. He could have security escort her out of the zoo, but all the guards were human. Despite what he had said about things getting better, he didn't trust most huma ns to act civilized. Not yet, at least. There were no assurances that she wouldn't get a good beating, or worse, for making the guards fetch her.

"Do you know what you're asking?"

"Yes." she answered. "You could say I stole the key from you. No one would doubt it. Everyone thinks of us as thieves anyhow."

"That's not true." he said, but he knew it was.

He sat and stared a while longer. It was dark in the zoo and all the humans had left except for the guards at the exits. Soon they too would leave.

"Okay." he said.

Pris turned and stared at him in shock. She never guessed he would have agreed.

"If that's what you really want, I'll let you in and I'll be back for you around sun up."


Hank nodded. "I clean up at night and keep an eye on things. It's my job to call the vets if there's an emergency." He smiled. "No one will be here, but us."

Prissy threw her arms around the dog and squeezed him close. "Thank you so very, very much. You have no idea how much this means to me."

He smiled and pushed her gently away. He offered her his hand to shake.

She stared at him in confusion.

"What, you've never seen a dog shake before?" He smiled at his joke and she felt herself smile as well. No one shook hands with a pelt, not even other pelts.

"Prissy." she said, taking his hand.

"Hank Stephens." he replied.

"You have two names?"

Hank smiled and walked her around the exhibit, to the back side. "If Apollo doesn't eat you, I'll tell you about it in the morning." he said with yet another smile.

Hank unlocked the cage's door and opened it for her like a gentleman. "Are you sure that this is what you want?"

"Yes." she answered without a moment's hesitation.

"Very well, then." he said and locked her inside.

Prissy walked to the sliding gate that separated the front and back sections of the cage. Her heart began to pound louder and louder as Hank pulled on the chain that worked the gate. It slid slowly open and she stepped inside. She heard the gate close beh ind her, but she didn't turn around.

There in front of her was Apollo, still pacing back and forth at the front of the cage. For the first time since she had seen him, there were no bars between them.

"I'll see you in the morning." Hank called quietly.

Apollo stopped his pacing and turned to face Pris.

Pris gripped the bars behind her and drew a deep breath. Without even realizing it, her body tried to squeeze back between the bars, but the gaps were too narrow. He was just as stunning now as he had been before she entered the cage, but now she saw what Hank had been trying to tell her. The cat was a predator, and a large one at that. She began to shiver with fear. The air inside the cage was cooler and more humid than that outside. It had a close, intimate feel, like that of a cave or a den. The air wa s thick with his smell. There was no escaping it.

I'm trapped. I'm trapped. I'm trapped. she started thinking. Her heart was pounding fast and she began to hyperventilate. Maybe if I screamed, Hank would rush back and let me out. This was a stupid idea. Why did I do this? Pris' mind began t o race with panic.

Apollo stared for a moment and leapt, landing right in front of Pris.

Pris squealed and squeezed her eyes shut. She waited for him to attack her, but the attack didn't come.

Ever so slowly, she opened her eyes and focused on the giant, black cat before her. The light was dim, the panther black on black. There was a low rumbling in Apollo's throat and she couldn't be sure if it was a purr or a growl.

"Nice, kitty, kitty..." she whispered and then closed her eyes, silently cursing herself. That was the first time she had ever talked to him like he was an animal. She vowed never to do it again. She swallowed with a dry throat.

"Hank said I could share your cage tonight, but I guess I didn't ask if it was all right with you." she whispered.

Apollo reared up on his hind legs and put his front paws on either side of Prissy's shoulders.

Pris squeaked quietly and closed her eyes again. Her heart was beating so fast and loud that she thought she might faint. "Apollo..." she whispered even quieter than before, "I love you. Can I stay with you tonight?" She reached out a trembling hand and t ouched his chest. He was so warm to the touch. She ran her fingers across his soft fur and marveled at his muscles. "Please, Apollo?"

The giant cat moved his muzzle closer. She had to pull her hand away so he wouldn't feel how badly she was shaking.

He sniffed her fur and begin to lick her ears. She giggled and tentatively wrapped her arms around him. When he didn't resist, she pulled him closer. His tongue was rough, but through her pelt it felt nice, warm, and soft.

The cat sat back down and began to lick her chest.

"Ewww. Don't lick that." she whispered and pushed his large head away from her work clothes. "I've got cleaning stuff all over me. It can't be good for you."

He tried to lick her again and she pushed his head to the side once more.

"This could be a problem." Pris blushed in the darkness and looked around for Hank, but he was no where in sight. "I guess there's no reason I can't go natural tonight, right?" she asked the panther. He continued to try to bathe her. "I mean, since it's j ust us cats, who's to care?"

Nudity was a confusing issue for Prissy's kind. Typically, their pelts provided enough warmth in all but the coldest and wettest of weather, but walking around in their fur made a lot of humans uncomfortable. Back when Pris was a slave, her owner had let her stay unclothed unless he had company, but now she was expected to wear them all the time.

Pris giggled and slid off the light uniform she wore. She had no need for underclothes. Especially in the summer, pelts wore just enough clothing to appease the humans around them.

Her orange fur shone in the dim light and for a change she felt lovely. Apollo licked her thin stomach and her trim hips.

Like all pelts, Pris looked mostly human. Her skin was covered with tabby fur and her feet looked more like paws, but she stood erect, just like a woman. Her hands had ten fingers and opposable thumbs. Her nails were short claws, but they were not too muc h more dangerous than human fingernails. Her head was almost entirely feline. Her ears could swivel or lay down against her head when she was scared, but her mouth could produce very natural English.

Apollo licked her small, human breasts and the back of her neck. He sniffed at her scent and she tried to push him away, but he would not be deterred. "Oh, gods, this is so embarrassing." she whispered, and crouched back against the bars to cover herself. She felt like an animal, and couldn't decide if that was a good or bad thing.

She looked around again for Hank, but he was off on his rounds. "Oh, all right." she sighed.

Pris got down on all fours and lifted her tail. He sniffed her for a very long moment and then gave her a friendly lick between her legs. Pris giggled and covered back up.

He rubbed his muzzle against her back and marked her with his scent. She began to tingle with excitement. Pris could feel her heart soaring. Being here with him, actually touching him was better than she could have ever hoped.

Pris stood and took a few steps to get a feel for his home. She could smell meat that had been left for him earlier. It was strong and raw. It made her stomach rumble a bit.

Pris bent and touched two of Apollo's toys, a deeply scarred bowling ball and a ten gallon bucket that he chewed on. He stepped beside her and muzzled her flank. Chills ran up her spine.

She touched the tree positioned in the middle of his cage. She loved watching him lay up on its big branches. The wood was rough and splintered from his claws. Her fingers felt small in comparison to the gashes. "Can I?" she asked him. He stared at her.

Pris dug her small claws into the trunk and tried to pull herself up. It was a lot harder than it looked. Apollo licked her ankle and she tried again.

"How do you make this look so easy?" she asked.

Apollo stood and put his muzzle directly under her tail. She scrambled up and before she knew it, she was in his perch.

She hadn't realized how high up Apollo's favorite branch had been. The concrete floor sloped down to the front of the cage leaving a long, hard fall if she slipped.

A cool breeze blew by, giving her a breath of fresh air. It was hard to think down at the base of the tree, down where the panther's scent was so strong.

Apollo climbed up behind her and took a seat on a nearby branch. The tree shook under his weight and Pris squeezed her eyes closed again. She dug her short claws into the tree and waited for it to stop moving.

An exotic bird cried out and Pris opened her eyes. The moon had come out and she stared out over the park. For a moment, she felt content - at peace.

"What was it like in the jungle?" she whispered to him. "What was it like to go wherever you wanted and do whatever you liked?"

Apollo stared at her and then washed his shoulder. She turned back to the bars and stared out at the world.

After a bit, the panther stood and stepped over to her branch. Pris clung on for dear life until he made himself comfortable. "I guess you get used to this..." she said.

Apollo began to wash her flanks and then her back. He seemed very content to have some company for a change. She relaxed a bit and enjoyed the feeling of his tongue against her body.

He cleaned between her legs once more and she swallowed hard. Her eyes scanned the grounds for Hank, but they were still alone.

His licks (kisses, she called them in her mind) felt so very good and they seemed to make him happy. She closed her eyes and rested her muzzle against the branch.

Pris woke to movement in the tree. Apollo was climbing down. She remembered where she was and dug her claws in hard.

Climbing down was a terrifying experience. She jumped from a low branch and didn't land as hard as she had feared. The black panther crouched by his water dish for a drink. She followed him on two legs and then crouched beside him on four. Pelts can walk on all fours more easily than humans can, but it is still unnatural.

Feeling playful, she crowded him with her smaller body and lapped at his water with her long tongue. He began to purr louder and proceeded to lick her ears while she drank. She cuddled against him and purred as well. He was so large and so powerful compar ed to her. He weighed only as much as a human, but he was the true predator.

Humans were great predators because they could out-think their prey and fashion weapons. Apollo was all muscle, teeth, and claws. He could kill her by accident, just by playing around, and she knew it.

"I love you." she whispered again. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close. She licked his face and rubbed her body against his.

Apollo rolled over and she scratched his muscular stomach. She explored his body with her hands and he stretched and rolled about to make the most of the attention.

"Your paws are so large..." she gasped, caressing them in her hands. She gave one of them a gentle squeeze, exposing a few of his long, sharp claws. "Wow." She didn't want to think about what those claws could do to her.

She went back to caressing his muscular chest. She worked her hands down, purring to herself.

His stomach was so very warm and the fur here was much thinner than on his chest. He lifted his head and gazed at her with his emerald eyes as if to pose a question. For a moment, she felt as if she could read his mind.

She caressed his inner thighs and nodded. "Yes, that is a good question." she whispered. "Just how far do I want to go here?"

She turned to face him and he washed a paw, slowly, deliberately. "It's not that I haven't dreamed about you and I... y'know... doing it... I have... I just never thought I would be put in this position."

"Gods." Pris moaned to herself. "Why is this so difficult?"

She caressed his inner thighs some more, still carefully avoiding what she so wanted to touch. He lifted his head again and stared at her with inquisitive eyes. "Regret sucks. If I don't do it, I will always wonder what I have missed."

She shook her head and he laid his back down. "But if I do, do it, then maybe I'm using you. Gods, I wish you could talk. Then you could tell me if you wanted me... if you feel the same way about me that I feel about you."

She steeled her courage. "If I touched you and you didn't want me to, certainly you'd growl or something, wouldn't you?" Apollo lifted his head once more and cocked it to the side.

Prissy swallowed hard and slowly moved her hand over, keeping a careful eye on his expression. He didn't really react to her touch, instead he laid his head back down.

"I guess that's a good sign." she whispered, still unconvinced.

She stroked her fingers gently down his length. He arched his back in response and she continued to caress him. He did not seem to mind at all.

Prissy crouched on all fours beside Apollo and began to lick him. His purring grew louder for a while and then he lifted his head again to sniff underneath her tail.

"What the hell am I doing?" she giggled. She looked around again, but the dog-pelt had been true to his word. There was no one else around. She lifted her tail and lowered her head.

She stood there for a long moment and her mind raced. If he wants me, then it is his choice. I'm not forcing him to do anything. she rationalized. Maybe he feels the same way I do.

Apollo stood and sniffed her. She began to worry. She had mated with her human master on several occasions. He usually made her stand like this so he didn't have to look at her face. It had felt good, but it also hurt, which in itself made no sense. Was t hat because of how he did it? Because he wanted to hurt her? Maybe it was because they weren't really the same species. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt if she did it with another cat-pelt, but Apollo was no cat-pelt. Perhaps it would hurt worse. Perhaps it would hurt a lot.

If Apollo mounted her, there certainly wouldn't be any way to stop him. He was much, much stronger than she. This is a really bad move, Prissy. She couldn't stop her master either, but that was part of being a slave.

She thought back to the first time she had been mated. He had dragged her out of bed in the middle of the night and forced her onto her back. She had been afraid and confused. She hadn't understood what she had done wrong. He got really angry when Pris st ruggled, and began to hit her. In the end, he pulled one of the older girls, a raccoon-pelt named Fancy, from bed and made her hold Pris still.

That was really the worst part of it. Fancy had been so nice to her, and treated her like a sister. She held her when she was frightened.

Fancy held her while she was frightened that night, and even though she whispered softly to her throughout, trying to calm Pris' tears, it was not the same. "Relax. Be brave. It's going to be all right..." Fancy's voice still haunted her dreams.

Suddenly Pris was shaken from her memories by Apollo climbing on top of her. She whimpered and tried to pull away, but it was futile. He held her with his sharp claws and strong arms, pulling her backwards, pulling himself into her.

The lovemaking that followed was wonderful. It didn't last very long, but it was strong and full of passion. He bit her scruff and dug his claws lightly into her sides. Despite her fear, she moaned and purred in response to his thrusts. She craned her hea d around an licked his muzzle, encouraging him on.

When it was over, he laid on his side and she laid beside him, with her arms wrapped around his chest. "Thank you." she whispered in his ear. She purred loudly and rubbed her wet fur against his own.

It was not long before he was aroused again and they were repeating their coupling.

"Prissy! Get up!"

Pris yawned and stretched. A big, black paw was wrapped around her naked waist, holding her close to Apollo's belly. She felt warm, happy, and loved.


Her eyes went wide. It was morning. The zoo was open.

"Hurry!" Hank hissed at her.

Pris carefully slid out from underneath the panther's paw. He woke and rolled on his back. He spread his legs, perhaps hoping for more attention.

Pris blushed badly beneath her fur and kissed Apollo on the nose. She prayed that Hank didn't guess what they had been doing. Prissy slid back on her uniform and slipped out through the gate and door as the dog-pelt opened them.

"I thought you'd be back before morning." she hissed at him as they hurried along the paths. Prissy felt like she was walking funny and was afraid that everyone could tell. A couple zoo patrons glanced at them as they passed, but no one said a thing.

"I'm sorry. My boss came in early and I had a hard time sneaking back to the cat house."

His calling Apollo's exhibit the 'cat house' made her feel strangely uncomfortable and guilty.

Hank unlocked an unlabelled door near the polar bears' cage with an old-fashioned key and let Prissy into a small efficiency apartment. She sat down on the edge of his bed and he sat down at the table. Both of them were trembling.

"That was really kind of you," Pris said, "letting me stay with Apollo." Please don't ask why I was undressed...

Hank just smiled and she thought she saw a hint of blush in his ears.

The dog stood and began to boil a kettle of water. "I guess he didn't eat you..." he said without looking back.

Pris blushed some more.

"So that means I owe you a story..."

"Oh right! About how you got two names." Hank nodded and Pris sat back, crossing her legs, Indian-style.

"The man who bought me as a pup named me." he explained. "He gave me his last name."

"What? Why would a human do that?"

Hank turned about and frowned. "Despite what you think, Prissy, not all humans are bad." She shrugged. "He bought me and raised me as his son."

"Yeah, right." she muttered. "He used you to clean his zoo. He told you other masters were far worse than he was and that you should be thankful."

Hank handed her a tea cup and she sipped at it curiously. She'd never had tea before. It was sweet, and hot, and minty. She loved it.

"That's not how it was..."

"Humans are horrible creatures. Apollo is lucky because he has no human in him. I wish I could be like that."

Hanks ears drooped at her hatred. "Then when the courts declared us free, he let me keep working here, doing the same thing as when I was a slave."

"That's weird." she said, trying to drink her tea as quickly as she could without being burned. "Why didn't you leave when they freed you? Why did you stay here?"

"Because I love my job, Pris. I get to look out for the animals and get them help when they're sick. Sweeping up after the zoo closes is fun work and I get to hang out here during the day. What more could a guy want?"

He sounded very lucky. It made her feel sad. Her life could never be that lucky.

"Sometimes, Pris, when a new animal is brought to the zoo, the others get angry and fight with the newcomer. Even though there is no difference between themselves and the new animal, they get angry that they have to share their world." He touched her chin softly with his hand. "It's the same with humans. You just have to give them time to accept us, to see that we're no different than they."

Prissy stood and crossed to the door, leaving her teacup on the table. "I should go."

"It was nice having company." he said. "Perhaps you'll come back for a visit?"

She couldn't help but smile. "Would you make me more tea if I did?"

"I would."

"I will." she said and closed the door behind her.

"713." the fat man growled from behind his newspaper.

Prissy swallowed hard. The landlord always sat in the same spot on the second of the month - right in front of the mailboxes in the same dirty tee-shirt. She never thought she would be one of the ones he was waiting for.

"Yes." she whispered. "That's my apartment."

"Today's the second. Where's my rent?"

Pris bit down on her lip. She knew it was going to be close this month with payday falling on the first, but she hadn't planned on Amanda docking her pay by a day and a half. She didn't even have to do the math to know she was short.

"I'm a little short." she whispered. "I lost my job yesterday, but I don't think I'll have any problem finding another. I'm very good at cleaning, sir. I'll have another job by this afternoon and I'll get you your money by tonight."

He didn't say a word. He didn't put down the paper. She didn't see his face

Prissy climbed in the shower and lathered her fur up well. As she washed, she thought about Apollo bathing her last night. She closed her eyes and remembered the sensations.

She remembered him being inside of her and didn't scrub those parts as hard. She was afraid that perhaps washing away his touches would make it not have happened. It did happen. It was wonderful.

Prissy put on a clean uniform and hurried out the door. She would go back to Mrs. Witherspoon's neighborhood and ring a few doorbells. Certainly one of her neighbors needed a good maid. If all else failed, she could apologize to Amanda again. Perhaps now that a day had passed, she wouldn't be as angry.

"Crap." she said and turned back around. She had forgotten to set out anything for dinner. Without a microwave, she would need to let her dinner thaw.

Prissy slipped her key in the lock, but instead of being rewarded with a green light and a click, the light glowed red and the mechanism remained silent. She pulled the key out and slid it back in. Same results.

"Oh no." She looked slowly up and saw the paper that had been taped to the door. Prissy didn't need to be able to read to know she had been evicted. She'd seen the signs on enough other doors.

Rumor had it that it took thirty days' notice to evict a human. Not for a pelt. She had five days to get rent money together before the landlord sold her stuff. She put her hands in her pockets and sighed a breath of relief. She still had her cash card an d final paycheck. All would be lost if she had left them inside.

She felt numb. She had to get the money by tonight or she'd be sleeping on the streets.

"Tough break, kid." her next door neighbor said as she walked past.

"Bandit..." Pris whispered. "What am I going to do?"

The fox-pelt just shrugged. "You could find a roommate. That might make it easier to pay the bills."

Prissy stared at the tall vixen in the white cotton blouse and denim skirt. She was so lovely with her fire-red fur and wide bushy tail. A mask of soft white fur surrounded her crystal-blue eyes, and delicate golden earrings glinted from each ear.

"You don't need a..."

Bandit just frowned and shook her head. "I don't think..."

"Please." Pris whispered. "I just lost my job. I've got almost enough for rent, but it may take me a few days to find a job. I just need a place to stay for a little while, just in case I can't find a job today. I wouldn't be a bother, I swear. I'd pay my fair share..."

Bandit continued to frown. "Listen, honey, I'd love to help, but I'm a working girl. I can't really do the roommate thing, y'know?"

Pris nodded and stared at her feet. She knew what bandit did for a living. The walls were too thin for her not to know.

Bandit sighed and hugged Pris to her chest without warning. "I'm sorry. I don't know what else I can tell you."

Pris nodded some more and wiped her eyes on her wrist.

"Look, I hate to see you like this. You say you have almost enough to make rent?" Pris nodded. "Well, if you want, you can come over tonight..."

Pris beamed a smile at Bandit and Bandit shook her head again.

"I have some clients coming over tonight," Bandit explained, "perhaps you could do a job or two so you'd have enough."

Pris closed her eyes and lowered her head. It was a horrible thought.

Bandit kissed Pris on the forehead and continued on her way. "Sorry, honey. Best I can do."

The rest of the day was horrid. She knocked on a few dozen doors. She had plenty slammed in her face. Lots of people pretended they weren't even home. Sometimes the maid, or some other pelt, would answer the door.

"Please go away." a young rabbit-pelt girl said. She hid her body behind the door and only showed her face and her long floppy ears. Pris knew it meant she was unclothed.

She walked from house to house and thought about Bandit's terrible offer. She was quickly running out of options.

Pris knocked on Amanda's door, but it slammed closed as quickly as it was opened. She didn't even get a chance to apologize.

"No luck job hunting, huh?" Bandit asked as she answered the door.

Pris hung her head in silence.

Bandit pulled her inside and Pris took her first look around her neighbor's apartment. It was horrible. The walls were bare, the shades drawn closed. The only furniture she had was a small lamp on the floor and a mattress. The smell was unnerving. She gul ped and looked away.

Bandit pulled Pris through a door and into her bedroom. The difference was night and day. This room was bright and airy. The bed was clean and made. She even had a couple posters on her walls.

Somehow Bandit had managed to drag the refrigerator into the bedroom as well. Pris just stared.

"I find it keeps the customers from making themselves at home." she explained with a grin.

They took seats on the bed and Bandit tried to put Pris at ease with her smile and manner. She waited a few minutes for the cat to relax, for her breathing to return to normal.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked.

Pris nodded silently.

"Okay, the job itself is pretty simple. The customers know what they want and they tend to help themselves. The business is figuring out what the customer would like and selling him more than he expected to buy."

"They'll be here soon." Bandit said, glancing at her watch. She slipped off her clothes and jewelry. Pris stared at the vixen's body. It was strong and lean. Her white belly fur looked soft, but not sleek like Prissy's. There were a few places where it jetted out at odd angles from the scars it concealed. She turned around and Pris spotted a fresh cigarette burn on the vixen's back.

Pris followed Bandit back out to her 'office'. It was still a horrible place.

The vixen sat down on the bare mattress and leaned her back against the wall. "Strip." she said.

Pris slipped off her uniform and dropped it in a lump near the door. She sat down on the mattress and noticed the rectangle of crude 2x4s that it sat inside. There were large hooks screwed into the corners of the frame and a few leather straps on the floo r in case a client wanted Bandit restrained. It gave Pris shudders.

Bandit instructed Pris to lay down and rest her head on Bandit's lap. She had Pris move this way and that to make her look 'more appealing' to the customers.

"We want you to look sexy, but not experienced. Hint at what you have to offer, but don't let them know it's for sale."

Pris wrapped her arms around Bandit's waist and pretended to sleep.

"No no. Keep your left leg straight and bend the right. Curl your tail back, not forward." Pris felt so exposed. "Don't hide what your trying to sell."

Pris trembled and Bandit stroked her soft shoulder.

Eventually, the door opened and Pris heard the vixen shush her visitors. "I'm really sorry, guys." she explained. "My best friend just got evicted. I don't think I'm going to be able to play tonight. I'll make it up to you, I promise."

Pris listened as the quiet negotiation continued. "I can't do that..." Bandit said. "Prissy's my best friend. She doesn't even do that sort of thing..."

The cat began to shiver at Bandit's words. If Prissy had been Bandit's best friend, like she was pretending, would she really have sold her off to the humans to earn some extra money? It all seemed so wrong that they could want her, that they could want to use her just because she was down on her luck.

Bandit caressed Pris' shoulder with long, slow touches. "Well, I don't know. I guess I could ask her." she said. "Prissy, dear. Wake up. We have company."

Prissy tried to cover up her nakedness as Bandit had instructed. "My friends just stopped by and were hoping we could have some fun." Bandit explained. "I mentioned that you were low on cash and they thought that perhaps they could help..."

It seemed so phony, but the men didn't appear to care. They had already forgotten their bitterness at the unexpected cost and were excited about what would happen next.

Pretty soon Pris was laying on her back with her head on Bandit's stomach. Bandit caressed Pris' chest with her hands while one of the humans undressed.

Pris couldn't look at either of the men. She closed her eyes and imagined Apollo. She thought back to last night and how she waited to see if he wanted her. She remembered her fear, her anticipation. She remembered how wonderful he felt inside her.

"Please be gentle, Apollo." she whispered as she spread her legs.

The men just chuckled and Bandit slid her hands to Prissy's wrists. She squeezed the cat with her knees and pulled her wrists tightly towards the corners of the bed. "Earl likes a little struggle." she explained. "Be brave."

Suddenly Prissy was back at her master's house. Bandit was Fancy, holding a thirteen year old cat-pelt down for her master to violate.

"No!" Prissy screamed and tore her hands away from the fox-pelt behind her. "Don't touch me! Don't touch me!"

The other human tried to stop her as she bolted for the door, but she scratched viscously at his face with her claws. He cried out and let her go.

Prissy threw the door open and ran until she was out of breath. She ducked into an alley and thanked the gods that she had had the presence of mind to grab her clothes.

She couldn't go back. She had no place to stay there and if the men didn't kill her, certainly Bandit would. How could she have messed that up so completely? She actually scratched that man's face. He would probably take it out on Bandit, even though it w asn't her fault. Would Prissy's panic get Bandit killed? Surely it would lose her those customers.

Pris walked around in a circle after she got dressed. She had no place to go. No place to turn.

She wandered aimlessly for about an hour before knocking at an unlabeled door.

Hank answered, his waist wrapped in a towel. "Prissy?"

Hank let the sobbing cat in and she collapsed on his bed. He caressed her shoulders as she recounted the night's events.

Pris put her arms around his waist and pulled him close. He let her, but soon seemed uncomfortable. "I have to get ready for work, Prissy." She nodded and curled up into a ball.

"If you want, you can stick around here and get some rest."

Prissy nodded and he stared at her face. There was a long, uncomfortable silence. "You want to see him again." he sighed.

She nodded, but could not meet his eyes.

"You're asking a lot of me, you know?"

She did.

The silence was painful.

"All right, but this is the last time."

Prissy stood and wrapped her arms around his chest. She tilted her head to the side and pressed her lips against his own. She had never kissed anyone before, but she didn't know any other way to show her thanks. He closed his eyes and kissed her gently in return.

Prissy slumped against the bars after the gate closed. Apollo sat next to her nuzzled her softly.

"I'm so miserable." she whispered to her love. "I can't fix anything and everything I do just seems to make things worse."

She curled up onto her side and whimpered. She thought about waking up in his paws. "Will you hold me, please?" she whispered.

Apollo began to lick her head and neck. He licked her uniform and her legs. She just let him. She was too weary to do anything but cry.

Apollo spent much of the evening pacing around Prissy's crying form. He sniffed her, he licked her, he made a deep hupf sound when he laid down beside her.

As the night went on, his advances became more and more insistent. He tried to push his muzzle up under her uniform and she pushed him away. "I don't want that." she whispered. She tried to wrap her arms around his neck, but he twisted away to sniff her s cent once more.

He sniffed and licked her. She tried to push him away, but he resisted. She tried to pull her uniform back down to cover herself and he grabbed it in his mouth. The thin material tore easily and launched another long cry.

Prissy only had one other uniform and it was locked up in her apartment. How would she ever get a job now with a torn uniform? Everything was lost.

Apollo sniffed her again and began to lick her. She pushed his muzzle roughly aside with her leg and he began to growl. There was no mistaking that sound.

He stepped closer and fixed her with his green eyes. Her heart began to race.

He sniffed her again and began to lick her, but his eyes did not move. He continued to growl.

She closed her eyes and tried to enjoy the sensation of his touch. All she could think about was Bandit and Fancy and her old master and the johns. It was awful and she wanted it to stop, but she felt so helpless. She pressed her face against the bars and cried.

Eventually Apollo got tired of licking her without reaction, so he began to whine and nip at her flanks in hopes of making her stand. She was too tired to push him away, too weak. Her throat was raw from crying so long.

She tried to stand, but couldn't find the strength. She tried to crawl away, but Apollo was far too fast. She only made it to the other end of the cage before he caught her.

"No... please..." she cried, but he had already grabbed her with his claws and was pulling himself onto her. "Stop it!" she yelled and slapped at him. He grabbed her tighter and sunk his claws into her sides. She closed her mouth and breathed through her teeth. Two fat tears of pain rolled down her soft cheeks. He bit down hard on her scruff and began to mate her.

She let herself sink to the floor, too tired to hold up his weight. Life had lost the little joy it once held. That which was pure and good was now just a matter of using one another.

Bandit used her to get more money from the johns, she had used Hank to get time with Apollo, and Apollo had used her... was using her... She sobbed out loud and let him have her. She tried not to think about what was happening. He pushed her forward again and again, sliding her face across the smooth cement, and into his dinner platter.

What's the point of living in such a horrible world? she asked herself. Apollo's cage was not the only thing she was trapped inside.

When the panther finished, he flopped down beside her and yawned wide.

Pris cried for a while longer and tried to sit up. She tasted blood. The smell turned her stomach.

"Apollo?" she whimpered. "Will you please help me with something important?"

He lifted his large head and stared at her contentedly.

Pris took a large piece of meat and rubbed it across her throat, letting the blood soak into her fur. The meat smelled strong and her head began to spin. Ever so slowly, she crawled over and on top of the panther.

He cocked his head curiously and licked her face. He wiggled against her. He tasted the blood and licked her some more.

Prissy grabbed his muzzle with her hands and pulled his jaws open. His teeth were sharp and bit into her fingers. He tried to resist, so she moved quickly. In one fluid motion, she dropped down on him and put her blood-soaked throat in his jaws.

She could feel him bite down and her world faded to black.

Pris opened her eyes a bit. The world was fuzzy and bright, and she could not focus. It was like being inside of a cloud. "Where am I?" she tried to say, but managed only a gasp.

Suddenly, Hank was there beside her, caressing her face and crying.

"You had me real scared." he whispered. "You're going to be all right."

Pris tried to sit up and Hank helped her. She was laying in his bed. He looked like he hadn't slept in a while.


"When I came back for you in the morning, I found you passed out and bloody." he said. "I rushed in and pulled you out of the panther cage."

"Why?" she managed, getting first control of her voice.

Hank didn't reply. He looked away. "Drink this, please." he whispered, handing her a small, lukewarm cup of sugar water. "Dehydration is a very serious thing." he said. He couldn't look at her.

"Dehydration. Probably from all the stress." He talked to his hands. "Sometimes when new animals are brought here, they won't eat or drink. All the stress makes them sick. It happens sometimes."

It seemed strange. Hank was talking about her like she was an animal, and despite how much she had wanted that lately, it no longer felt right.

"Could... could I have some tea?" she whispered.

Hank smiled and glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "Later. It'll keep you awake and you need your rest."

Prissy drifted in and out of sleep, thinking about the past and the future. Sometimes it seemed hopeless, and other times not so bad. She still had almost a month's rent. It would be more than enough to mend or replace her uni form and carry her until she found a new job.

"How's your friend?" a quiet voice asked at the door.

Prissy opened her eyes just a bit and saw a grey bearded human talking to Hank.

"She's going to be all right. Just going through a rough bit."

Hank looked back at her, so she closed her eyes and pretended to sleep. "But I'd really like to keep an eye on her tonight. Would you mind if I took the night off?"

"Sure thing, kiddo." the old man said. "I'll ask Hernandez to take your shift."

"Thanks, pop."

"She's kind of cute."

"Dad!" Hank hissed. "It's not like that. Now scat, before you wake her up."

"I'm going... I'm going..."

Prissy woke to the sounds of quiet howling. She rolled on her side and looked in through the open bathroom door. Hank was singing tunelessly in the shower.

He shut off the water and shook himself dry.

"The king called up his jet fighters... He said you better earn your pay..." Hank hummed to himself. He stood in front of the sink and brushed his teeth, humming the whole time.

His short fur was fluffed and damp from the shower. It was a pleasant mix of colors, blacks and cremes. His tail wagged happily and his head bobbed to the sides as he brushed. He had a cute butt that made Pris giggle.

He spit into the sink and grabbed a dry towel. "Rocking the Casbah... Rocking the Casbah..."


Hank quickly wrapped the towel around his waist and came to her side. "Oh, you're up! Are you feeling better?"

Prissy nodded and smiled wide.

"Oh good." he said. "I got you a newspaper."


"Dogs are expected to get the newspaper. Didn't you know that?" Hank barked a laugh. "Just kidding. You said that you lost your job, so while you were sleeping I circled a bunch of classifieds that I thought you might try."

Prissy smiled wide. "Really?"

Hank grinned and blushed. "Your uniform is kind of wrecked." he said, motioning to a small heap on the carpet. "I put your money on the dresser."

"You undressed me?" Her cheeks felt hot. She pulled the light covers around her neck.

Hank looked every which way but at the cat in his bed. "Well, Apollo roughed you up real good." he explained. "I had to make sure you were okay. It looks like he scratched your sides and bit your hands and neck, but I didn't have to give you any stitches. I gave you a tetanus shot and some antibiotics, just in case."

"Why are you being so nice to me?" she asked.

He shrugged and continued to look away.

Prissy peeled back the covers and scooted over, making some room. "Will you hold me? Please, Hank?"

Hank looked conflicted, but Pris held out her hand until he climbed in bed. He wrapped his arms around her and closed his eyes.

Prissy yanked hard on the towel around Hank's waist and dropped it on the floor beside the bed. "There. Now we're even."

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To The Temple

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