2016
09.05

Franklin

My ferret friend has been drawing a series of pictures of a weasel character of his who’s a WWI veteran with PTSD.  And I told him recently that I wanted to give that poor man a cup of coffee because of how heartbreaking the last one was (https://www.furaffinity.net/view/21009909/).  So the ferret friend drew me giving that poor man a cup of coffee (https://www.furaffinity.net/view/21057522).  And now as a token of gratitude and as thanks I wrote him a thing about me giving that man a cup of coffee based on that thing he drew and wrote.

This is apparently my thing to do now. And I asked if I could put it up here, because I’m very pleased with how it came out, and it’s very sweet in difference from basically anything else I write.
Also, it has a bunch of phrases that I really like that I had much fun writing.

This one should not need any CW’s or TW’s.  It’s a sweet story.

The street was cold in the late autumn. The leaves had all already fallen and turned mostly to a brown sludge, impossible to seek shelter or warmth in any longer, so he hid in an alley with no other occupants. Curled up with his head on his bag, arms around his shoulders to keep as much warmth as he could. For a moment he just laid there looking up at what stars could be seen through the light of the city, then he closed his eyes. Even through his uneasy sleep his ears would twitch at every sound around him and occasionally he would open his eyes to look around before falling back asleep.
Silent footsteps woke him up, cold and stiff. Someone approaching him calmly, keeping in view. A female panther creature with a strange hat adorned with feathers, ribbons and small bones. While not moving with threat Franklin sat up, pulling his bag in closer to him, just in case. He didn’t have much; he would hate for what little he had to be taken.
The other sat down on her heels a respectful distance from him looking him over. Her clothes were not fashionable but tidy and seemed warm and practical. They weren’t getting in the way of her movements at all.
“You look like someone in dire need of a cup of coffee,” she said. “Come with me. I know a place, and it’s not far.”
“I have nothing worth stealing.” The words came over his lips before he could stop them.
“If you had, you wouldn’t be the kind I would be offering a cup of coffee,” she smiled. Despite her teeth it was somewhat reassuring. “If you had, you’d be someone I’d consider more than capable of getting their own.”
“Then what do you want from me?”
“Nothing. I have enough to be warm and safe, and this is all I ask of life. It’s enough for me and I’ll just pass it on to others whenever I may do so. To whoever accepts such an offer.”
With that she got up again, smiling still.
“You are free to take it or not because such is the nature of freedom, dear weasel, but I will not repeat my offer and if you are not in want of it I will just take my leave.”
“Is it warm?” he asked, looking around. “The place you know that is not far?”
“It’s warm enough,” she nodded. “Warm enough to thaw the most frozen of bones. Will definitely be warm enough for one such as you.”
The night was so cold. The stars were too distant to offer comfort when there was frost in the air.
“I’ll come,” he said, getting up. “I haven’t had coffee in a long time.”
He wasn’t expecting any coffee but he felt prepared to take his chances. Holding the bag tightly to his chest he followed her further down the alley, then into another, and a third one. Behind a boarded up wall with a few boards missing, in behind a fence with intimidating but mossy warning signs.
Now and then the strange panther thing would glance at him, always with a smile, always with her head held high against the frost as their breaths turned into puffs of smoke.

A metal door, painted with grey, flaking paint. Rimmed with rust. Unmarked and ordinary. Any city had hundreds of such doors. The panther thing knocked back her hat and then knocked an intricate melody to the metal, taking a small step back. The door opened – just a crack – letting light and warmth wash out over them. A wolf peered out. His gaze fell on her, then on Franklin who hugged his bag tighter, then back at her.
“‘Tis I,’ said the cat. I return,” she said. “Bringing along a guest.”
The wolf glanced back to Franklin briefly, not looking impressed. “Why?”
“Because I found him hiding in an alley and he’s clearly in need of coffee.”
With a somewhat exasperated sigh the wolf opened the door further. “He’s on your head.”
“As always.” The panther thing nodded at Franklin. “Come. We’re home, for tonight.”
He followed her in, past the scarred and ragged wolf by the door, down a dark corridor into a room full of warm light and tempered laughter. It seemed to him like some sort of informal bar, mostly deserted. Many tables, just a few of them taken. People were playing cards, some were just talking amongst themselves over a drink. All of them looked up at Franklin’s entrance, then they looked to his company and returned to their games and drinks, to their tempered laughter and quiet conversations.
“Have a seat,” she said, pulling out a chair for him at an empty table. “I’ll go fetch you some coffee.”
He sat down, keeping his bag awkwardly in his lap, strongly aware of the glances the other inhabitants gave him as she disappeared. They were clearly keeping an eye on him, but they remained at their own tables. Then there was the heavenly smell of fresh coffee as she returned, sitting down beside him at the table with two chipped and stained stoneware mugs.
“Here you go.” She nudged a mug closer to him as she leaned back in her chair, looking out over the room. “I hope you like it.”
Franklin let go of his bag with one hand to take the mug. It smelled strong but incredibly good to him. He took a sip. It was warm of a kind that warmed from within. He wondered if it had been spiked.
“I don’t think they like me,” he said.
“They trust me well enough,” she replied over her own coffee, eyes partially closed in pleasure. “They wouldn’t inconvenience one of my guests. I keep myself useful.”
He went back to his coffee. Now when she was back the glances his way were more rare, but it was still clear they were keeping an eye on him. He said nothing, and his company did not push conversation. She seemed happy enough just to sit there, her ears turning back and forth to make up for her half-closed eyes. After a while time passed much more quickly; before he knew it she had refilled his mug two times and he felt warm and almost at ease. Nothing bad was happening to him and he was almost ready to believe nothing bad would happen for the rest of the night. Braving the night for what was left of it felt feasible all of a sudden. When he left for the bathroom he left the bag with her without much thought and when he returned it was still on his chair exactly as he had left it.
“Thank you for the coffee,” he said as he picked his bag back up. “I’m feeling much better now.”
She drained what was left in her mug, standing up by the table. Now he noticed there was something at her side. It looked a bit like a short, curved sword. He wondered how long she had had it without him noticing. He thought it was probably better not to ask.
“Going so soon?”
He looked around. No one was glancing at him now; most of the others had left hours before.
“I’m not sure I should overstay my welcome.”
She blinked her clear, blue eyes at him, pushing her hat back again. “You don’t want to stay the night in a warmer, softer place than out on the streets, dear weasel? I know a place, and it’s not far.”
Franklin glanced at the probably-a-sword, then back up to her face. She smiled almost reassuringly, despite her incisors pressing into her lower lip.
“I’m not sure I should…”
“You are free to leave, should you want to. However, I would take a soft place over a hard street, and point out that no harm has come to you at my side.”
She tossed back her mane, smiling as she slowly stalked past him.
“You won’t offer me twice?” he asked her, almost smiling back.
“I shall not.”
He followed her, again. The probably-a-sword swayed gently from her hip, swaying like a second tail, albeit stiffer. No paws touched the hilt as she led him up a creaking, rounded staircase made of wood and metal and a well-trodden, green mat.
A key on a string around her neck, slid into a lock to let them in.

The room inside had a sofa, a coffee table, a humming single light bulb hanging naked from the ceiling. An open archway into a miniature kitchen; barely a stove, sink and a small counter ending in a fridge. An alcove held a small bed, enough for one with little margin. There was two wardrobes along a wall by the door out and beside them another door. She kicked off her shoes as they entered, the door clicking closed behind them, and disappeared off into the kitchen. As she returned she handed him a glass of undisclosed liquid, brushing him aside to get past him to one of the wardrobes.
“Let me make a nest,” she said, pulling out blankets and pillows to bring to the sofa, spreading them out.
Franklin had to admit that the sofa seemed much better a place to sleep than a street. He sniffed at the liquid in the glass, finding it clearly to be drinking cocoa on apparent fresh milk. He drank it as he watched the panther thing make the sofa ready. She pulled the sword out of her belt and put it on the low coffee table, sitting down on the edge of the sofa. Once again she looked him over, sizing him up.
“There are towels in the bathroom if you’d like to have yourself a nice shower, and a sink if you’d like to wash your clothes. Then there’s a bed in there behind the drapes. It will be soft and warm, and you will be safe to sleep for as long as you want.”
“I thought the sofa was for me,” he said, surprised.
“I wouldn’t let a guest sleep on my sofa if I didn’t have to.”
She smiled again. He took the empty glass into the kitchen, putting it in the sink.
“I’ll have a shower. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, dear weasel.”
The panther thing took off her hat and put it on the table. As he came into the bathroom he realised he still had his shoes on and that she had not pointed it out to him.

By the time he returned from the bathroom showered and wearing his slightly less dirty set of clothes the light in the ceiling had been turned off, but the stray light from the city outside the grimy windows was enough to let him see enough. His hostess was curled up on the sofa under a few blankets. The table was empty of sword now and he wondered where it was until his eyes adapted better to the dim light and saw that she was holding it in her arms, almost as if it was a dear companion. To her, perhaps it was. Franklin thought she seemed almost peaceful. As he walked past to make his way to the bed offered him he saw her open one of her eyes, just a slit to watch him. Then she smiled and seemingly went back to sleep, satisfied.
The bed was soft, and warm, and comfortable. It took him eagerly, as if the shape of his body was already familiar to it. With his bag beside him in his arms he fell asleep, holding it as if it was a companion, knowing that in the morning he would have clean clothes and his body wouldn’t ache with cold.

He woke up to the smell of coffee at noon, light streaming in through the windows. The strange panther thing was nowhere to be found but she had made him breakfast and set the coffee table. The blankets and pillows had been removed, probably put back in the wardrobe they came from. After having gotten into his clean clothes he had breakfast on the sofa. Coffee from a thermos poured into another chipped mug. Fresh bread sandwiches with butter and cheese, cucumber and tomato, all wrapped in plastic to keep them from going dry. Too many to eat, so he stuffed the rest into his bag.
No note: no greeting or farewell. He had a last mugful of coffee before he left the room, the door clicking locked behind him.
The door that had led to the stairway from the probably-a-bar was locked as he came down. No sounds came from the other side and despite him knocking the door was not opened to him. A short corridor behind the stairs led to another door opening at the press of a handle. As he left into the warm daylight the door clicked shut behind him.
A metal door, with no handle on the outside, painted with grey, flaking paint. Rimmed with rust. Unmarked and ordinary. Any city had hundreds of such doors. Nothing could say this door was special, but his bag was full of sandwiches and for once his body wasn’t aching with cold.

What the day would bring was not up to him, and such is the nature of freedom.

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