Chapter 3 of “Full Transfer”
by H. A. Kirsch
(I’m posting chapters of a novel I’m working on, in order to motivate myself. This might not make sense if you haven’t read “Attachments” and “The Sales Pitch”.)
Leo did not feel aroused.
He wore a leather bridle on his head, complete with a metal bit gag lodged in the back of his otherwise vulpine muzzle. The bridle had a plume jutting up off the top. His upper body was wrapped in a sort of jacket, a black and navy blue blanket. His hands were free to do whatever he wanted with them, provided it could be done with a pair of hooves. Similar hooves replaced his regular feet.
Regular feet, because Leo was a mostly regular red fox.
The outfit should have been sexual, but Leo couldn't summon those feelings up. Instead, he only thought about why he was dressed up as a horse, where he was going as a horse, who he was going with as a horse.
"You look pretty good," Dary said, appraising his 'creation'. The dog wore something much more ridiculous: a full dress riding outfit with a fancy metal helmet. "Is that comfortable? Your arms?"
Leo held his arms up with his elbows tucked to his sides, hooves dangling. It felt surprisingly easy. "Uh-huh," he mumbled.
"Here, look," Dary said, and helped Leo over to a full-length mirror. Helped him by a leash. No, by reins, attached to the bridle.
"Ah cahn dah eehuh," Leo groaned and shook his head. "Naah. Ahh.. ahh daahm, ahhm saaroosh," he whined, hoofing up at the militant Beauceron.
"Leo, you're coming to that party with me, and you're coming as a horse," Dary said, nudging his voice slightly into put-on territory. He did continue to pull on Leo's leash.
"Naah, naah, waah," the fox-pony groused, straining to pull away towards a chair in the living room. Leo's emergency pack sat on the cushion.
Dary rushed over to it and swiped up the fabric fanny pack on it, then draped the tote around Leo's shoulder.
"Saanh oooh," the fox bit-grumbled, and the two headed outside.
Outside was worse. Inside, Leo could only think about all the things that he could encounter on the way between condo and the big mansion party in town. Once he stepped foot outside, each one of them started to come true.
First: Mark. Leo's neighbor was a bipolar coyote who alternately tried to chat up Leo whenever he could and spent weeks only ever peeking out of his curtains. Mark was outside, carrying a baseball, wearing sweats. "Hey! Leo! Wow! Wow! Wow wow wow! What the hell is this?" He trotted over and sized up both Leo and Dary. "I bet that's like Italian or something!"
"French," Dary corrected, in a deep, resonant voice that was not at all French. His outfit was strewn with decorative jewelry chains and tassled epaulets and cake-frosting white leather gloves.
"Is ish.. unh," Leo tried to answer, but had to resort to smacking Dary.
"Daryl Springer. I go by Dary, though. You must be Mark."
"I bet Leo's told you all about me. Well, he didn't tell you that I joined a softball team. And I'm late!" Mark was gone as fast as he had appeared.
Leo stood and stared, hooves dangling not from pose but because he literally couldn't think to move them. Mark had just done the worst possible thing, which was encounter Leo in horsey condition, in the best possible way. The coyote was so absorbed in a new hobby (which swept in on the tides of mania) that he didn't seem to register just how Leo could be walking around on hooves instead of regular plantigrade hybrid feet.
"We could take my car, but that's no fun. I don't think the Gendamarie drive Miatas," Dary said, and turned away from his car. "Instead, we're going to walk. I plotted a little shortcut; it shouldn't take too long. Besides, you said those are comfortable enough."
Leo squinted and chuffed at Dary, but started moving. Indignant, because he had to be. Indignant, because everything Dary said was calculated to mock him. Indignant because he had indeed said that the hooves were comfortable enough to walk around town in. Leo had been quite serious about that, and the only saving grace was that they were impossibly comfortable.
They were his actual feet. Instead of sliding into a big cup faced with patent leather, they were anatomically identical to hooves. Walking took a bit more of a trot, and made his quadriceps burn, but it was good exercise.
The day was just cool enough that a good solid walk warmed him right up. They headed into the park and Leo paused. He let Dary take the lead and indicate just where he wanted to go. The dog strode off towards the center, where a long narrow pond was rimmed with a jogging trail and dotted with a few playgrounds.
Leo knew where Dary was going, but he couldn't speak up. He could desperately muffle and drool around the bit gag while trying to contort his lips enough to sound out the right syllables. Or, he could let things unfold. He could feel fate pushing them along, towards one particular bench at the head of the lake.
"I think we should stop here," Dary said, voice full of authority yet with the slight downturn of paternal patronizing. He showed Leo to the bench, then sat down alongside the pony fox. "A little rest is in order."
Leo ignored Dary's attempts to play along. Instead, he focused on the mother and her son playing at the playground. After a few moments, the young leopard took note and bounded over.
"Wow! A horse with foxy parts!"
"I think you mean a fox with horse parts," Dary said, leaning over with his hands on his thighs. Playful dog pose, Leo though.
"That's silly," the boy's unseeing mother said, tucking a book into her satchel before turning to follow after. She got about ten feet when she saw Leo for real. "Oh."
"We're going to a costume party," Dary explained. "I'm a French Gendamarie officer, and this is my trusty horse."
"Gendamarie are military police. They're all pretty on horseback, basically, and-"
"Are you a fox?" The kid's mother said, as the fuzzy cub went over and looked at Leo's hoof up close. "Really?"
"Uh-huh, rearrhy," Leo said, nodding and hoofing at the air. He felt confused but elated; where he knew he'd feel terror, he only felt a sense of breezy levity.
"That's weird. Come on, you shouldn't bound up to strangers like that," the leopard said, and scooped up her bewildered cub.
"Bye-bye, horsey!" the little cat said as his mother pulled him away by one arm.
Dary gave Leo and honest smile, although the helmet's visor gave him a sneer no matter how he shifted his dark lips around. "As much as I'd like to have planned _that_..." the dog laughed, and leaned one arm onto the back of the park bench. He reached over and undid the big gag buckle, then took it out. "You don't have to wear that anymore if you don't want. I don't want you drooling all over yourself."
Leo simply sat, mostly motionless. Partly because a real horse can only move in so many ways. Partly because a terrible piece of memory and history was all but a foot and a half from Dary's nose.
"Huh," the dog said, noticing the bench's commemoration plate. "Melitta Cutler. That's your your last name." Dary looked at Leo with a simple glance of acknowledgement. Leo returned it with wide, thousand-yard stares.
Leo saw it again. Everything bounced, the train seats moved upwards, bent upwards, folded. Glass exploded inwards.
"Oh," Dary said, chest compressing with dull, startled reflex.
Leo's mother was holding someone, a crabby old woman that had been bothering them since they had gotten on the train. Melitta threw her towards the back, just as she had done with Leo only a second before.
"So this is..." Dary pointed, over to the pond that shimmered in the autumn evening.
As the metal seemed to flow upwards, the front of the train exploded inwards like an accordion squeezed by its player. Leo's mother was there, and then she was gone, swallowed up by the buckling metal of the train.
Dary got up and went to read the historical marker at the edge of the water. Leo squirmed in his seat, tried to lean back, but it hurt with his arms forward. Putting them at his sides felt silly; they weren't his regular hands, they were hooves. He had to keep them up like a horse.
"So this was a housing complex? That burned down in the fire?"
Leo pointed along the pond with a hoof. "That's where the train went off. Ours pushed theirs, and then the apartments were over there. I don't think anyone was hurt, they all got out before the fire took it down." The fox lowered his eyes.
The fire took it down.
The fire took _him_ down.
"Jesus, I didn't realize," Dary hissed under his breath, posture dropped from the usual upright dog stance to a sulky slouch.
Leo inhaled, then exhaled the memory away. "It's okay. It's a different place now. Things change. You can't go backwards." He meant it, but they were only words. "We should probably get going. I don't want to show up when it's too packed."
"Good idea," Dary said, and shakily stood up.
They reached the mansion just as the sun slipped below the horizon. It was the site of a big halloween party, a somewhat upper crust event that served as a charity fundraiser for area businesses. Dary was apparently picked to go from his company, and was intent on bringing Leo along as a guest. He'd talked about it for several months, ever since Leo had first expressed his pony side in the bedroom.
One minute, they were outside on the pillared porch. The next, they were furrowing through a moderate crowd. There were some barely-costumed partygoers in night finery, and then a few startlingly good costumes.
Dary dragged Leo along, but the fox managed to wriggle out of the dog's grasp and someone else distracted Dary. The dog ushered himself off to make small talk, while Leo followed his sudden interest.
One of the partygoers was dressed as anubis. He was a towering black jackal with gold highlights in his ears, the gold eye of ra around his eye, a blue and gold mantle around his neck. His eyes had an unearthly deep gold sparkle to them, and he was clad in an appropriate skirt and sandals. He carried a tall hooked staff.
The costume was utterly fantastic. The gold was actually _in_ the fur somehow. Leo couldn't stop looking. It was real. Then he realized there was something alarming about the actual jackal. He couldn't put his finger on it, and suddenly needed to find Dary.
The dog was engaged in car talk with a few men dressed as pirates. Leo recognized one of them from ultra-luxury car ads on television. Leo's knowledge of cars extended to the fact that sometimes it was fun to be a passenger, but he didn't even have a driver's license. Up until five years earlier, he didn't have the forelimbs to drive with.
Leo turned his attention to finding refreshments. That proved difficult, because the party was packed, but more importantly that Leo was gathering attention. His costume was not outlandish or movie-quality, but almost everyone who looked at him did a double-drop to his hoofed feet. With his 'saddle blanket' wrap and a pair of skimpy shorts, nothing detracted from the ruddy fur that ran down his legs and turned to black at his knees, and then fettered out right into shiny black hooves.
"Wow! Look at that!" one person said, a stout marten in pompous and powdered Edwardian finery. His wife, equally stout and mustelid, had an enormous frilled collar that she carried with perfect grace.
"Quite a fine little stallion," the wife said, pretending to smoke from a cigarette on a long holder.
The husband grunted and put on a burbling British accent to match. "Not quite, not quite, really more of a pony. Quite small for a _stallion_," he said.
Leo felt mortified for about ten seconds, but as time passed, he realized the attention was praise. It was halloween; of course dressing up like a horse was acceptable. Someone dressed as a banana came up next to the martens, followed by a human in very authentic - and appropriately sickly - vampire dress.
"Perhaps he is a very smart pony, as he has no rider, but is not disposed to naughtiness," the fine lady said.
Leo cleared his throat and snorted, then pawwed a hoof at the floor.
"How old is this fine pony?" the husband asked. Banana and Vampire stood grinning, drinks in hand. The banana had some frou-frou cocktail, while the vampire had a full-deal bloody mary.
"Yes, perhaps he is quite smart enough to tell us," the husband ad-libbed.
The group fell silent as Leo stomped his hoof on the floor twenty-four times.
"Very good!" someone said, from behind Leo. The fox went to buck his head around, because the voice was deep and rich and appraising and could only belong to Dary. He couldn't quite move, because the dog had snuck up and clutched onto the leather reins that dangled from his bridle.
Leo's cock swelled instantly at the controlling grab and surprise presence of his boyfriend. His compression boxer briefs and snug shorts saved him from embarrassment.
"He's definitely a naughty horse. Got the bit out of his mouth; hopefully he wasn't chewing on any fences." With that, Dary's white-leathered hand came around and fitted the bit back into Leo's mouth, silencing him.
The small group laughed, the slightly intoxicated laugh that was always friendly, never really insulting. Then, there was a pop and the room went immensely bright.
Leo lurched against the reins, startled for real, playing horse only because he was hoofed and bridled. The flash came from a camera; a photographer with an impressive SLR was standing nearby, hunkered a bit. "Great pose, thanks!" he said, and then scurried off.
Dary pulled Leo off to the side. "I actually have to go do some business. Looks like I've gotten a sales lead talking about cars - one of the guys here is building a new auto storage warehouse and I think we can get in on the building security system contract."
"Ehshaiingh," Leo said, keeping his voice deadpan from behind the bit.
"You can come along if you like. Just don't exercise any bad stall habits," the dog chuckled.
Leo shook his head, then pointed to his mouth, and knocked his head back. "Neeh a dringh."
"Do you want me to give you a hand?"
Leo shook his head again. "Ah cahn dawh eh." He mimed putting his hand-hooves together to hold a cup.
Dary laughed again. "Well, okay. If you can't, just come find me." He patted Leo on the shoulder, then turned off.
Leo grunted and went to try to find refreshments, particularly somewhere out of the way. The party was enormous, because the mansion hosting it was enormous. There were three different dance halls, two of which actually had dancing going on: one was Top 40, while the other was ballroom and jazz.
He had never been much for parties, if only because until recently it was difficult to go to a party as a disabled person who needed constant assistance. The halloween party was cute and the costumes gave him a sense of liberty, but Leo was still wearing pony parts instead of real hands and feet. He was still completely different than everyone else, even if they didn't realize it.
The mansion was not an actual residence, but a historical building that could be rented out. There were signs helpfully indicating bathrooms, coat rooms, and even how to get to the gardens outside. Leo followed one of those signs and found a parlor tucked away with relaxing chill-out music and numerous couches.
The parlor had a few people in it, and a refreshment stand with hors d'oeuvres and punch. Leo leaned over and sniffed at it. It wasn't alcoholic. Getting a drink proved to be a challenge, but Leo relished the distraction.
In order to drink punch, he needed to: get a cup; hold the cup; pour punch into the cup; lift the cup to his face; drink the punch. A normal human or hybrid would have attacked that the easy way, using regular hands.
The first order of business was to get the bit gag back out of his mouth. That wouldn't work for drinking, unless he wanted to slop punch everywhere. He held two hooves up to the side of his head and pinched at the strap. Within ten seconds, he was frustrated to the point of whimpering, but then he remembered: no whimpering, horses don't whimper. He sputtered and shook his head, and then tried again. After a few more pulls, he managed to unseat the buckled-over leather strap, and then pull it away from the prong that kept it fixed. The bit dropped out and dangled at the side of his neck.
Next, he needed to get a cup full of punch. He could just barely get a grip on the ladle, and was dipping it into the punch when someone startled him and he dropped it back onto the tablecloth.
"If you would like a little help, I will gladly assist, but perhaps you want to prove your ability with your hooves," the voice said, British in a vague sort of way, densely smug and patronizingly friendly.
Beyond the actual startle of someone sneaking up, Leo's blood ran cold as he recognized the voice. He turned, only to see the tall black Anubis who had been roaming the party. "Huh?"
"Are you perhaps thinking as a horse, or simply confused as to who I am?" The black jackal stared down at Leo with golden, iridescent eyes that didn't seem to have a pupil.
"I don't believe this. Dr. Soren?"
"Yes, exactly. Do you have trouble recognizing jackals?"
"You're... I... well that's a good costume," Leo sputter-chuckled.
The black jackal took the ladle and filled Leo's cup. "Unless you want to further embarrass yourself, I suggest that you change your hands. Unless you didn't bring them with you?" He motioned to Leo's fanny pack.
The fox shook his head. "No, uh, I didn't. I figured I'd just be coming out here, and then going home."
"Ahh yes, with that fine canine you have with you. If I'm not mistaken, that uniform he is wearing is quite French. Mounted police of some type?"
"Gendarmarie?" Leo said, sounding out the syllables as he had only heard the word a few times, and all from Dary. "Yeah. Something like that." He carefully picked up the punch cup by compressing it between his two hooves. He managed to drink the entire thing down without grunting, slobbering, or otherwise making a mess. He was about to verbalize his celebration when the cup skidded out of his grip and sprang away. It arced up and Dr. Soren caught it.
"I am quite surprised that you actually patronized Animalogic's fine business. Those hooves must have been quite the investment."
Leo shrugged. "So is everything else."
"Yes, but if I am not mistaken, you had some financial assistance with your normal replacements by way of... oh, I can't quite remember, whomever runs the train system, and then of course the hospital," Dr. Soren said, depositing the cup in the trash.
"Can we, uh, can we go outside or something? I'm not really a party person. I did my little go around thing and Dary's off talking about car parts with people who drive Jaguars or whatever, and I really just need some fresh air."
"Outside? Why, there happens to be a garden right here..." Dr. Soren said as he stepped over towards the room's patio door and opened it up. "Normally you have to pay to go on a tour of the gardens. I'm sorry, you have to make a donation. I don't want to offend the owners."
The din of the party disappeared completely once outside, and even the sounds of outer city traffic were dim against the woods. The garden was not simply something attractive, but was an actual attraction in its own right. It consisted of a dense evergreen maze, a flower garden (which was now mostly burnt over by sedum), a rock garden, and a water garden that provided a constant burble. In the center was a gazebo with benches on the outside for more exposed retiring.
"Wow. You know, I feel better already. I had no idea this was back here."
"Really?" Dr. Soren said, letting Leo lead the way. The fox gravitated towards the gazebo, since it provided an obvious target amidst the late season sparsity of the garden at deep dusk. "If I recall you do not live too far away from here. This seems worthy of a landmark."
"I dunno," Leo said, only mentally figuring out why he didn't seem to know. It came down to, "I don't get out that much."
"What are you doing these days?" The jackal's voice lost it's boastful lecturing edge and sounded genuinely warm.
"I work for an accountant's office as the office manager. It's kind of like being the secretary, except you're also in charge of everything that isn't HR or actual accounting work. The whole building, all that stuff. I actually worked up that way from being just a personal assistant. It's kind of cool. But... not really."
"And, of course, that dog-"
"He's quite something. Not quite a doberman, is he?"
"Beauceron. It's what they made dobermans from."
"A proto-dog. Very interesting. Be honest with me, Leo: How alarmed are you right now? I am fully aware of how this situation might be uncomfortable, considering our professional relationship." The patronizing tone crept back into the dark jackal's voice.
Leo stopped at one of the benches and sat down. It was new, but patterned after an old metal park bench. It was identical to the one that held a memorial plate for his mother, at the park from earlier in the evening. Dr. Soren chose to stand, towering over Leo, leaning one hand down on the curled arm. The fox sighed, and put his hooves in his lap. "It's pretty uncomfortable. I guess. I mean, as it is, talking to anyone is kind of weird. Look at me. I'm a fox with hooves. That's fucking ridiculous."
"Ridiculous?" Dr. Soren cut in. "It's amazing. I say that even though I work with people who have far more serious problems. You can not only be who you always were, but you can be who you want to be. I am a bit biased, however."
Leo inhaled hard, and let out another sigh. "I think I'm having second thoughts about coming to this party like this. I wanted to because he wanted, and because I felt like maybe I needed to try really pushing my boundaries, but I think I pushed a different one than I thought?" Leo spoke slowly, eyes swinging up in arcs as he tried to piece together the profound thought.
Dr. Soren gave a slow nod and let go of the bench, then paced back and forth. "I could push your boundaries beyond what you can know. You seem to have neglected something about me. Are you avoiding it? Or is the atmosphere of a costume party the perfect place to use for blending in?"
"So, is that fur dye? I mean, did you just dye yourself?"
"I thought that Anubis was the perfect representation. Do you know why Anubis is black? For that matter, why he is a jackal? Jackals are often opportunistic predators and scavengers. They prey on the dead as much as on the living. Death and rot are black. That is perfect because it is quite the opposite of me. I don't ferry dead souls to the underworld; I help people become complete ones. So there's irony, and I did not answer your question."
Leo let all the words slide by, like he was reading them while standing idly amused at an exhibit museum. Only the final bit really caught him, and he eventually looked up. "Yeah, that's true. So what is it?"
"What are your hooves, Leo?"
The fox quirked his eyebrow up. He thought he knew what the doctor meant, and actually did, but somehow could not fit the entire concept in his mind at once. He left out key pieces. "I think I need to get out of here." He started feeling tense in his chest. "I... I just think I need to go. I'm sorry."
"Leo, I hope you find my contributions to your life to your liking. I hope they serve you well," Dr. Soren said. Just as Leo did not wholly contemplate what the doctor had meant with his allegory, Dr. Soren did not wholly explain what his contributions were, leaving the weight of it to fall from Leo himself.
Leo found his way out of the gardens and onto the side street next to the mansion. He went to pull out his cell phone to tell Dary where he went, but his hooves were useless at grasping for it in his satchel.
A cold thought floated up like one of the leaves that occasionally flittered by on the autumn breeze. Leo didn't need Dary for anything. He was going to go home by himself and the dog could take care of himself. Photographs? Being made to stamp out his age like a real horse? An encounter with the unsettling doctor who had put the 'finishing touches' on his restored vulpine body? Fuck it all.
Leo made it as far as the park and then stopped in his tracks. He tripped onto the grass and hurled forward, flailing forward onto hands and knees. He was almost too late with his forehooves and just caught himself onto them at the last second. His tail bushed around behind him as he spent a roaring ten seconds as an actual quadrupedal horse before he came to his senses and crawled to one of the park benches right at the memorial pond.
It was the one bearing his mother's plaque.
Leo knew where he was, and why he was there. He took them like facts onto sticky notes, and stuck them up onto the giant wall that was his mind. Then, he simply stared at a part of that wall that was completely blank. He was stuck. He didn't have his keys; he'd given them to Dary. If he had them, how would he put one in the door and turn it with his hooves? He'd have to knock on Mark's door and hope that the coyote hadn't sunk back down into one of his depressive fugues over the past few hours.
"Leo," a rich male voice said. Leo didn't startle; he just swam up to the surface of his mind. It was Dary.
Cold, wet, a nasty chill breeze. Drizzle. The dark blue and ash of a cold autumn night, moon basting the countryside. "I'm sorry. I just had to leave," Leo sighed. He looked around. There was a long sedan parked up on the other side of a berm, on the access road that wound along the very edge of the park. Its headlights sprayed a cone of light forward and a red haze behind, and a big-cat purr roiled out of its exhaust into a cloud of misty night steam. "I lost it. It was too much. The attention, and how I couldn't do anything, and then I ran into someone I knew and it was unsettling. I started getting this pit in my stomach and when I get faint like that, it's not good, because of my... because of my arms and legs, my my my my hooves, I can faint really fast. So I got moving and then I got stuck because I can't get into the house without you but I can't call you to tell you where I am and if I went back you might be out here looking for me."
Dary helped Leo up to his feet and pushed him towards the idling car. One of the occupants got out and opened the rear door. Inside was a plush cabin of butterscotch leather and glistening polished walnut and legroom for a giant. They helped Leo sit, then closed the door. It shut with a massive but curt clump sound. The soft hiss of the weather and road nearby wafted back in as Leo climbed in on the other side. Then, with a restrained rowl, the car started off.
"I don't know what I was thinking, just letting you go off all by yourself like that. That was so selfish. I'm sorry," Dary said, leaning over the rear console and petting at Leo's shoulders.
The fox looked down. He had Dary's extravagant uniform coat slung around his shoulders like a shawl, and his forehooves clutched the fabric together. He'd done it without even thinking. The world slowly focused further. He was in an immensely luxurious car with enough electronic gear to control a nuclear reactor, climate control for the footrest that slid up as the seats reclined back, and a ceiling that could glow with any color of the rainbow or, as Leo discovered when nudging at controls with his hooves, morph into the empty black of a sunroof.
Enough sound and vibration came through to demonstrate that yes, they were in a car, on the road, accelerating with the widescreen movie car sound that only twelve British cylinders could make. "This is a really nice car," Leo said, as his wave of tender emotion welled up and ebbed back to allow some quivering rational bliss. "I'm really sorry. Uh, whose car is this?"
"I landed my company a contract with a luxury car dealer and warehouser, and I ran into the contact at the party. His name's Jake. He's that bear up front.”
The driver was quite remote. "If you're going to be rescued, I think you should be rescued in a fancy car. No reason to suffer any more than you already have," the driver said, in a perfectly paced voiceover tone.
"It's a bit weird back here, though. You can't really... embrace your co-passenger," Dary said.
"There's plenty of room to become more intimate, though. Not that I would suggest that right now."
Leo tried to chuckle enough to be heard.
When they got home, Dary had the door just unlatched when Leo barged through it and headed straight for the bedroom. He didn't ask Dary to help switch his hooves back for his regular hands and feet, and he didn't have to. Dary fished through Leo's satchel until he found the key glove, then exchanged Leo's limbs one at a time.
"I think you should... just go," Leo sighed, as soon as he had his vulpine hybrid limbs back to himself. The pain shock of the exchange was nothing compared to the massive comfort that melted his tension.”
Dary stopped what he was doing, which was peeling off the RFID-laced spandex that allowed him control over Leo's prostheses. "Oh."
"I don't know what kind of mood I'm in. Maybe I'll fall asleep, or maybe, I don't know, I might get angry or something. And I don't want you to, to see that. So just go. Okay?" Leo asked, and put a furred hand on Dary's thigh. There was a wet splotch on the riding fabric, probably from bumping up against the rain-slicked car body outside. "Please?"
Dary nodded. "Okay. I will. I'll see you later," the dog said, standing up. He walked out into the living room, then stopped. "I'm sorry." Then he left and shut the door behind him.
Leo almost cried himself to sleep, but instead of breaking down in tears, the dramatic afterglow simply lulled him off.