ALIVE

 by Anna-Karin Larsson AKA Ahdeya

 Part 2: Time

 

Jon held Fire in a steady grip, his fingers applying a searing pain right at a nerve in the neck. Dusk was held back by Nightshade, but struggled to get free.

"You two! Stop it! Now!"

But Jon’s words didn’t seem to get through at all, since the two still hissed and growled at each other. Fire snapped in the air at Dusk as he struggled to get free. But Jon had studied the discs of their anatomy carefully and knew of the nerve that passed close to the surface in the neck. He hadn’t yet revealed all the information he'd discovered yet, but he would. Only this cat fight had come before he was ready. And the reason for it crouched up on a table in the far side of the study, eyes huge and scared. Brighteye shook in her whole body. The past minutes had been terrifying for her. She definitely liked Dusk soooo much. He was such a wonderful friend, but this day it had gone beyond that. And when Fire had more or less stumbled on the two up on the roof, he’d been absolutely furious.

 

Jon had felt it coming for weeks now. Just a few days after Nightshade had agreed to stick a little closer to Silk, they’d been found out sleeping alone over in one of the old closets where old costumes and various props had once been stored. After Brighteye had whispered to Jon that Silk’s scent was all over Nightshade it had been more or less established that the two were inseparable, which had triggered Fire and Dusk’s ambitions to woo Brighteye. And in the long run, it was Fire who lost out. And he was also the first one to give up now. As Jon let him go, he stared at Dusk and then at Brighteye before turning and running out of the room. They heard the stage door slam in the distance and they knew he would be gone for hours. Brighteye snuck down from the table and into Dusk’s arms. They looked at the other three before slinking out of the room, back to the loft where they could be alone.

"Oh my." mumbled Jon and dried his forehead.

"Could say that," mumbled Nightshade and exchanged a look with Silk and then Jon.

"Will he be all right?" asked Silk as she stopped by them.

"Probably. Let him steam off for a while. If he’s not back by nightfall, would you go look for him, Nightshade?"

The dark cat man nodded as he left the room, Silk trailing behind him. They all felt worried about Fire’s reaction. It had been anticipated, but the rough dirty fight that the two had displayed showed off an aggression that was bordering on feral.

 

***

 

Fire strolled down the street with his hands in the pockets of his long black jeans and hooded monk jacket. Out in the entertainment district people from the entire planet side spaceport found some ways of spending money and entertainment of all kinds. From adult live stage shows to cinemas. Now and then, Fire managed to find enough valuable junk to go to the pawnbroker to get some money. He loved to see movies form Earth, the human’s home planet. He’d sometimes been fortunate enough that the Omnimax theatre had a few bad seats left, and he could go in free. Jon’s friends knew of the cat’s interest in film, art, music and literature. This day however, he just wanted to stroll the streets. In a way, he almost hoped for someone to jump at him, challenge him. The almost 190 centimeters tall red-furred catman wanted a quarrel, but he didn’t intend on starting it.

"Never expose yourself" was Jon’s golden rule. Fire muttered about it and kicked at a tin can, sending it bouncing down the street.

"Hey handsome! Looking for something to do?"

He looked up from the ground. His eyes landed on a woman in the doorway leading into a huge red and white house. The whole place looked a bit out of place, but it’s stucco facade and white painted door looked both inviting and friendly.

"Oh, Hi Lucy," he said and nodded at the woman "No, I’m just pissed..."

The voluptuous lady in her late forties ran a escort service, with a little more then just companions on the menu. Now and then she tried her best to seduce Jon as well, since she, as she put it, "liked a man she could both feel and see!"

"Aw... My poor little pussycat. Come on in, I bet the girls could cheer you up."

"Not tonight, Lucy..."

Lucy walked own the steps and up to his side. Her grey eyes smiled at him and she reached up a soft warm hand with red nails. She scratched the hair behind his ears.

"Are you sure? I know they love to fuss about you!"

"Not after that bath with lavender shampoo!" laughed Fire and a deep purr came up from his chest.

"Ohh, didn’t you like it?"

"Ahem. Like and like, let me put it this way: I slept alone for a week. My siblings couldn’t stand it."

In the doorway behind Lucy, three dark-haired girls looked out at them. They weren’t real triplets, but had the same height and similar looks. When they saw that it was Fire, they howled and ran out to him. He was almost knocked to the street as they clung to him, pulling him indoors against his will.

"Ahh!!! Take it easy!" he laughed. The trio pulled him through the beautiful house. It was all decorated as if it was the Earth mid 1700’s. But they pulled him into their private quarters and into the huge kitchen. In there five other girls had their dinner and got equally excited over him.

"Please!! I just have to brush your fur! Just once, please?" chirped the red-haired Janice and her blonde sister Caren nodded. Lucy soon entered as well and shooed the girls off to do whatever chores they had. The triplets looked at him with longing eyes. Fire winked back at them and they disappeared with exited chatters and chirps.

 

Lucy sat across from the table and held his hands. They’d been talking for almost two hours now.

"You really liked her, didn’t you?"

Fire sighed, "Yes. But if Dusk makes her happy, I won’t be in their way. All that is good for her, is all I want for her."

"You’re wise for your age, Fire" said Lucy and squeezed his hands. Fire looked up from the table and met her eyes with a smile.

"I’ll make it, somehow. Jon needs a companion once the others have their life sorted. I think he’s got a lot to teach me."

"You have the mind of a teacher. Sondra and Helen couldn’t read when they came to me, now, they do nothing but spend their time with a book under their noses!"

"Really? I’m not here often enough."

"No. You’re not... Look," Lucy turned serious, "If you ever need a place to stay, someone to talk to, someone who’ll listen, I’m here and the girls are too....We all adore and love you so much."

Fire smiled at her and bent forward, placing a kiss on her forehead and gave her a smile.

"Sometimes, you’re like the mother I never had..."

"Never had?"

He could see confusion in her fcae.

"Long story. Tell you some day."

Lucy shook her head and looked worried, "Some day I hope you’ll open up enough to tell me about who you really are. Not just what Jon has told me, but ...."

Fire let go of her hands and pulled up the hood. "Someday, dear Lucy. Some day."

 

Lucy watched him walk down the street. That was one worried young man. So bright, so caring and so lonely. She’d heard more than once how the girls plotted to seduce him, just to try him out, as they said. After that she’d strictly forbidden them to have anything to do with him when it came to intimacy of that kind. She heard the phones ring and the time was getting close to opening hours for their clients. Soon, the gallantly dressed businessmen and other visitors would wisk the girls away for a night, and Lucy would be left to take care of her business.

 

***

 

Jon sat reading the latest disc he’d managed to crack. It contained information about the parents and the genetics used for the hybrids. He watched a photo of a bright almost white catwoman. She had kind warm eyes and despite her serious looks, she seemed very friendly. The other photo showed off a dark grey male with alert eyes. The male was an older version of Nightshade while Brighteye’s facial features resembled the bright-furred woman. The information about the other three was simply a lot of genetic charts and medical references. He read on, now and then looking up a word in a battered old paper dictionary. When he reached the information that briefly described the hybrids, he found out that these five had been engineered for some specific purpose. Their lungs had a by far superior ability when it came to lung volume. Their systems were adapted to withstand extreme temperatures, air that had less oxygen levels and many more highly specialized elements played in. Their immune systems were highly efficient. He was about to read something that seemed to take up a whole section itself when he heard footsteps. The red-haired figure that appeared made him smile, sadly but warm.

"Fire. Back from your walk?"

"Yeah,"said Fire and sat down in the battered old sofa next to the desk. Jon’s chair was turned towards him and he looked at him, patiently waiting.

"I think that I needed to calm down a bit. I’ll be fine..."

Jon nodded and took off his small rounded glasses. "Now, I suppose you understand that Dusk and Bright are occupying the loft..."

Fire looked up at him with a sober look on his face, "I know. I’ll take the old room in the basement. It’s a bit shaggy right now, but..."

Jon shook his head, "Until that is cleaned, you can bunk wherever you want to. But if you want the basement to be even remotely sufficient as a living quarter, you’ll have to work on it!"

"Chase away the rats you mean? No problem, I could use a snack," grinned Fire.

Jon waved at him with a hand and pinched his own nose, "There’s some mustard in the fridge... Help yourself."

 

***

 

"6..5..4..3..2..1!! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!"

Party poppers cracked, champagne bottles boomed open and the whole crowd shouted from the top of their lungs. The New Year's Eve party was absolutely fantastic. Their closest friends had gathered, bringing food and drinks along with them. This evening had also been the perfect place to announce that Nightshade and Dusk had their mates firmly by their side, two wonderful occasions to celebrate!

 

"Here ya go!" laughed Dirk , handing Fire a glass of champagne.

"Thanks! Cheers to you, Dirk! I hope your stamp shop will be just as successful this year!"

The wrinkled and bent Dirk cackled with laughter and sipped the drink, "Trust me, it will!"

The two touched glasses and then mingled off .

 

Nightshade whispered something to Silk and she gaped, aiming a playful swipe at him and laughed. Nightshade wore nothing but a pair of outrageously tight leather pants - a gift from one of Jon’s friends - this evening, making the ladies stare at him. Silk had opted for a silvery sleeveless tunic and silk trousers, her hair adorned by a fake diamond pin. They looked absolutely fantastic. The other three felines had picked similar themes for their clothes as well, making themselves into exotic highlights. Lucy’s fake triplets hung like a bunch of brown grapes around Fire, resulting in him getting quite a few remarks about "how lucky" he was. But all Fire did was to flirt shamelessly with the three. He was having the time of his life. Jon was dancing up on the stage with Lucy as the old time ballads from Earth played. Nightshade pulled his mate up on the stage as well, joining in a superbly timed dance. Jon and Lucy soon left the stage, leaving the two to perform a dance they’d practiced. The others whistled and hooted as the two finished. Nightshade stole a kiss rivaling "Gone With The Wind"’s final scene and then the two bowed before laughingly waving and leaving the stage.

 

It was close to four in the morning when the last of the nearly two dozen guests left the old theatre, sneaking out the backdoor so as not to bring too much interest to the old building. Left in the auditorium and spread out on the stage were Jon, Dirk, Lucy and her girls along with the felines. They sat or lay sprawled out here and there. The remains of all the food was put on old plates and they had the last bottle of champagne to share. The triplet girls were sleeping around Fire; one with her arms around his waist, a second with her head in his lap and the third hugged one of his legs. He felt awfully content with his situation and actually, a little drunk!

"Hey, can anyone help me?" he said and tried to get rid of the girl with her arms around his waist. Dirk came over and gently woke up the girls. Lucy got up, preparing to leave as well. her girls flocked around her as they said goodbye. Fire got up, swaying a bit due to the champagne. "Hey how many glasses did I take?"

"Don’t ask, "said Dusk where he stood with his arms around Brighteye. "Night all. Think I’m ready to slam the mattress!"

The others said their goodnights as well, Jon was the last one to leave, switching off the lights. The coming days would be spent cleaning and sweeping the floors, picking up all the confetti and trash. Good thing they were secretly tapped into the electric grid, otherwise they’d not have been able to have any light in the building at all.

 

Fire sat in the old sofa in the study. His old black jeans and the black velvet vest had been his choice for the evening. The light wasn’t turned on and he stared out into the darkness. Jon came into the room on his way over to his bedroom. He didn’t see him first, not until the cat eyes flashed in the darkness.

"Fire?"

"Yeah..." growled the catman. He’d reached the stage where the drinks had made him feel pathetic, lost and sad.

"What are you doing in the dark?" said Jon and reached for the switch.

"Don’t. I like it dark. I feel dark..."

Jon could hear the growling words and made his way over in the dark. His impressive bulk was placed on to the old chair by the desk and Jon turned to Fire.

"Feel dark?"

"Yeah. Alone. Stupid. Dark...."

Jon nodded, feeling numbed by the drinks.

"I mean. Look. Night got Silk. Dusk got Bright. Me got... no one. " said Fire and slumped down where he sat. His eyes gleamed as he looked at Jon.

"Well...."

"Don’t bother, Jon. You’d never understand..."

"Maybe I would. You know, you’re not the only ones!"

"Well, DUH!!!!" growled Fire, "I know that! There’s hundreds of them out there, but WHERE? I mean, hellooooo! I don’t even know what I am. Your damn discs gimme no clues whatsoever!"

"Look, we’re both tired, OK? Can we look it up tomorrow?" asked Jon getting up.

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever..." grumped Fire and moved in the sofa so he lay on his side, one hand on the floor and his head on a pillow. The cat-hybrids could sleep in some of the strangest places. On some of the narrow ledges in the theatre, on the roof edge, on the backyard fence. Jon had seen them sleep where ever they wanted to. He left the dark room behind him and the snoring Fire to himself.

 

***

 

Nightshade didn’t dare to move. He didn’t dare to think.

"Kill me, Silk. Shoot me. Please, " he whispered, moaning as his head was pierced with a painful hangover headache. Silk sat beside him, equally half dead by a premium hangover.

"I can’t. Ain’t got the guts to..." she moaned and got up. Night tortured himself by getting up as well, stumbling out in the hallway. He almost tripped on the black leather trousers on the floor and kicked them aside with a grunt. Someone had already occupied the old shower and he banged on the door.

"Hey, this is a life or death crises!"

Dusk’s voice could be heard from inside, "You have to wait, Brighteye is half dead and I am as well!"

Nightshade moaned and trudged back to the loft. Silk had returned to the bed corner and lay on her side with half closed eyes and gritted her teeth.

"Hangover?"

"Yeah...." she moaned and looked up at him. When they were among themselves, they didn’t care much about clothes, and this morning, they’d certainly stay confined to their own rooms. A breeze from outside made Night shudder. Silk’d opened the ceiling window a bit, letting the cold winter air inside. In a way it seemed to soothe their headaches a bit, and he snuck in behind her, wrapping her up in his embrace.

"Know what?" she mumbled.

"No idea... Tell me."

"We could try and cure this hangover..."

Nightshade looked over her shoulder and raised a curious eyebrow. Silk grinned at him and purred as she rubbed nose to nose with him.

"Is that a cure?"

"Not that, silly. Dusk and Brighteye won’t be done for a good while...." she mused and turned around in his arms. Nightshade’s features were split by a wide grin.

"Now that’s an alternative medcine I’d be willing to try out..." he mumbled as he started to cover her face with kisses.

 

On the floor below, in the study, Fire was coming back to life. He rolled onto his back, or so he thought. Then he crashed into the floor and smacked his head in the floorboards, sending explosions of color across his eyes to match the pain behind them. A line of incomprehensible language escaped his lips and he held his head.

"Good morning, or shall I say good afternoon?"

He looked up and growled. "What time is it?"

"About half past one " mused Jon where he sat by one of the six arched windows of the study. Fire got up, still rubbing his head.
"Hangover?" asked Jon, looking concerned. "I didn't think any of you drank that much, certainly not enough for you all to be this sick."

"All of us are sick?" asked Fire, trying to ignore the pounding in his head.

Jon nodded, "You aren't fully human. It may be that your systems are more susceptible to alcoholic poisoning."

Fire looked up sharply and immediately regretted the action. "Humans celebrate their holidays with poison?"

Jon laughed, "Yes, we have for thousands of years."

"Humans are crazy," muttered the catman, aiming for the door. As he sniffed at his own arm, he made a disgusted noise. The fur smelled awful...

 

"Come on, Nightshade! It’s not your private shower!"

"Hey, we’re in it now. Wait your turn, Fire!" was the reply from inside. Fire grunted something about longtailed barbarians and returned downstairs again.

"Jon? Can ...?"

Jon nodded. "We have two showers, so why do you three insist on using only the one upstairs?"

"Well, it’s yours and..."

Jon looked baffled, "Mine? Oh no! It’s free to use, my dear boy!"

Fire grinned and then disappeared back into the hallway outside and then dove down to the basement. The staircase was chilly since the heating was not used down there. He looked out through the windows and saw the thin sheet of snow. Not enough to build a snowman... He soon dug out a pair of fairly clean pants, an old t-shirt and his old battered monk-hooded sweater.

 

***

 

Jon cleared his throat. The cat people in front of him looked awfully curious.

"This is some of the information I’ve been able to compile. I’ve rewritten it a bit. And I have managed to extract two pictures of what seems to be Nightshade and Brighteye’s parents."

The two named looked eager where they sat curled up with their mates. As he turned the old computer screen around, they saw their parents for the first time.

"The female here, was labeled with the name Jellylorum. It’s because of the "dance" performance they participate in: apparently that was the name of the role that she played. And this male, was labeled "Rumpus", his name was from this performance as well. But those were their names when you two were born. I don’t know if they’re still alive."

Nightshade rose from his seat on the thick old Persian carpet, joined by his sister. They looked at the screens for a long time before, without as much as a notion to do it, hugging each other.

"It seems, this Doctor Ferran, who obviously is more or less crazy in my opinion, discovered that your parents had an improved immune system he wanted to make sure would breed true." John grimaced at the thought of breeding people. "I wish I could tell you more about them, but that's all I've been able to piece together so far."

Jon looked at the two siblings where they stared at the screen. The two smiled at each

other, rubbing cheek to cheek before parting to return to their mates. The three left looked a bit stunned.

"You three however..." Jon trailed off as he looked at them and then back at the screen, "Are a totally different matter all together."

He looked at Fire, who had drunk the most the night before and was suffering the worst. Dusk and Silk leaned heavily against each other but kept their attention on their teacher.

"The genetically engineered hybrids that the lot of you are, is a whole section of breaking the law. In a way, you five are all illegally born."

And the five flinched at the term.

"So we’re not suppose to exist?" asked Silk.

"In a way, yes. How they’ve managed to keep this obviously huge operation hidden, will forever be a mystery to me."

Nightshade looked thoughtful, "But if you say our," he hesitated before saying it, "parents were part of an performance, wouldn’t it be possible to trace them?"

Jon nodded, thinking of it. "It’s possible..."

Part 3: Restoring

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