The party was defined as a "Primal, Pet Play and Furry" event. John read the description with his eyebrows rising. It didn't sound exactly like his scene, but it was as close as he was going to get.
He wasn't sure what was going to happen, not even sure he knew what he wanted. And that, paradoxically, was what he wanted: to let go of deliberation, to forget everything but whatever came to his animal self.
Even as he packed his things, John's heart hammered in his chest. He shouldn't do this. He leashed his baser urges for a reason.
He zipped his bag and shouldered it. Terrible idea or not, he was going; hopefully his id would only come out as a happy sexual encounter and not anything with a body count or a blast radius.
The woman at the door let him in. Inside the room was padded with mattresses from wall to wall, with benches at some corners. A couple of cages held men and women, most of whom looked pretty happy to be there.
John took off his clothes, got on his knees, and stopped thinking.
Suggestion is a powerful thing: he could feel his sense of smell getting stronger, more dominant. The people in the room smelled variously of hygiene products, perfumes or colognes, and sweat and sex. John turned in search of the latter.
Someone was just ahead of him: female, about his age, sporting the bright red armband that marked her as prey. She darted a look at him and scampered away. John gave chase automatically.
He caught her easily. She whimpered as he turned her on her back, though, and he flinched. The lights felt too bright, suddenly, and her face resolved itself into an expression of fear.
She didn't give the club's safeword or safe sign, and maybe that genuine fear was the reason she was here tonight. John didn't know, and not knowing made him feel sick. He withdrew abruptly.
She yelled something after him. He couldn't parse the words and had a feeling it was better that way.
He slunk off to a corner, crouched there and watched the room. Some part of him still craved the chase, wanted to hunt and bite down and mount, but that part was being attacked by the rest of him. Soon he'd be back to being his usual self, naked and self-conscious in a padded room full of people in funny costumes.
Watching the pets calmed him down some, even as he couldn't imagine himself offering himself up this way. A human doggy ahead of him was performing tricks, only some of them X-rated. Must be a relief, to be able to surrender so easily, not to need the struggle.
Then he caught sight of the man sitting in the opposite corner, and froze.
His mind was still split: some part of him noted that Harold looked good even here, with his three-piece suit drastically unlike the leather, fur and bare skin that dominated the place. Some other part shook with barely suppressed rage. This was his evening, his territory. What was Harold doing here?
The rational part of John's brain teamed right up with that part. If Harold came here with some pampered pet - and John could just imagine that, someone who looked up at Harold with uncomplicated adoration, who obeyed without thought or question - John could not guarantee the safety of either of them. John himself would be a major risk to them if he didn't get himself under control. This should not have been a time or place for control, goddamnit.
And then Harold had the gall to look John in the eye, absolutely lacking in fear or surprise.
John sauntered over to him on hands and knees. Direct eye contact with a predator was a sign of aggression. If Harold didn't know what John was, what John came here to be, maybe it's time John showed him.
Harold was bare-handed: he held no whip, no leash, no chains. Nobody else came particularly close to him. "Having a nice evening?" John asked him, with a bite he felt in his teeth.
"It could be better," Harold said, equanimously. "I hope I'm not disrupting yours?"
The temptation to knock him down rose like bile in John's throat. Harold was no physical match for him. John could easily pin him down, and then--
Harold turned his empty hands up. "I'll be honest: I hoped I'd meet you here. This seemed like an opportunity to see if we're even better matched than I thought."
Oh, the words stung. Harold was no prey, wearing no armband, dressed all wrong for it and giving entirely the wrong air besides. Harold didn't want to be chased. "How do you like being proven wrong?"
Harold's gaze was even. "Am I?"
John barked an ugly laughter. "Do I look tame to you, Harold?"
"You do not." Harold kept looking him in the eye. It was maddening. "But perhaps you could choose to be... befriended."
The words I don't have friends were right on the tip of John's tongue. They melted away before he could speak.
Harold reached out a hand and said simply, "Would you come to me, John?"
He wouldn't. He couldn't. And yet he was drawn, inexorably, to Harold's stretched out hand. "I'm not going to do tricks for you," John said harshly.
"I would never ask you to do anything you didn't want to," Harold said. "Not in here."
Funny how this turned out to be a struggle after all, with a far stronger enemy than random prey. "What would you even do with me?"
Harold's eyes glittered. "Keep you."
John's hands bunched in the padding beneath him, and yet he was moving, he was going to Harold. Perhaps John could pretend to be a pet for a little while. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad, for Harold.
Harold's hand sunk into the hair on John's nape. John closed his eyes. Everything else was fading away except Harold, his hold and the faint scent of his cologne. He rested his head against Harold's hip.
"My dear," Harold said, low and immensely satisfied. He shook John gently, and John opened his eyes. Harold deftly moved him until John looked at someone else: young and shy, on hands and knees, marked in red, screaming prey.
"Go," Harold said, and gave John a careful shove. John sprinted, alive with the joy of the chase, feeling Harold warm like the fires of home behind him.