Come As You Are (tame edit)

So this is it. The story that, for some reason, somebody on the net was looking for 17 years after I’d written it. Maybe there’s something special about it, or maybe I’d just managed to find the one person out there who thought this seemed interesting. Whatever the reason, their interest sparked my curiosity. I wondered what these two characters had been getting up to and thought I should find out. For the most part, this story is just as I wrote it in 1996. I have moved it forward in time to the present day, and aged the characters slightly. Aside from those two things, and a few minor edits here and there, it’s pretty much just as I wrote it.

Did you see that (tame edit) up there in the title? That means there’s nothing in here that HBO wouldn’t air. Use that as your guide for whether or not you want to read this version. I’ve given you the option of which one to read, so don’t blame me if you miss the fun stuff.
 

Come as You Are

Copyright 1996 & 2014

 

“I’d like to buy a drink for the werewolf at the end of the bar.”

“Anything special,” asked the bartender, “or just another of what he’s having?”

“What’s he been drinking?” asked the woman in the Indian costume.

“Shirley Temples,” replied the bartender. “And he’s just about finished his second.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“No lie,” answered the barman. “He’s been in here about forty-five minutes and all he’s had are two Shirleys. Go figure.”

“Sure, send him another one.”

The bartender quickly mixed the drink, took her money and made his way towards the werewolf.

“Here you go,” said the barman, placing the drink before his furry patron.

“I didn’t order another drink,” the werewolf replied.

“Compliments of Hiawatha,” he said, pointing down the bar towards the woman in the tan leather outfit who was just getting off her stool and heading their way.

“Okay. I’ll thank her myself when she gets here.” He watched her approach him, taking in the sight. Her black hair was pulled back in a braid that fell past her shoulders. She wore a tan leather halter that, while small, wasn’t really revealing and accented her figure nicely. The matching skirt rode low on her hips, showing off her trim waist and smooth stomach. It swayed freely as she walked and hung just past her knees. The silvery buttons up the left side flashed with what light there was in the club. Sandy moccasins with a beaded eagle design on the toes finished off the getup. The overall effect was very nice.

While the bartender moved back up the bar to wait on other customers, the woman completed her walk down the bar and settled on an empty stool next to the werewolf.

“Thanks for the drink,” he said, raising his glass and taking a sip through the red plastic straw.

“You’re welcome,” she replied, adjusting her skirt and swinging her small beaded purse around so it rested in her lap. “I figured it was the standard way to approach someone, even on Halloween, but when the bartender told me you’d been drinking Shirley Temples I just had to come and talk to you. Especially after seeing you drink them with a little straw.”

“What’s the matter with Shirley Temples?” he asked defensively. “I happen to like them. And not using a straw would be a disaster. Muzzles and glasses,” he said, pointing to each one, “do not go together. Ever wonder why people give their dogs bowls to drink from? Additionally, have you ever tried to get 7-Up and grenadine out of fur? I assure you it’s a nightmare.”

“There’s nothing wrong with them,” she replied. “And certainly nothing wrong with not wanting to wear one, it’s just not what I expected someone in a getup like yours to be drinking. Cute tail, by the way.”

“Know much about the drinking habits of werewolves, do we?” he asked with toothy grin and a tail-wag.

“Not so much werewolves as guys. I figure most of the guys in here are either trying to get buzzed, get someone else buzzed, or both. You’ve got to be the only guy in here making an effort to stay sober.”

“Well,” the werewolf said as he looked around the bar, “there’s probably a few designated drivers around getting free Cokes and watching their friends act foolish, but you’re probably right for the most part.”

“So why not you? I mean, even werewolves have a drink every now and then, right?”

“Sure, but usually not in werewolf form. Some humans always feel like they’ve got something to prove and might think taking on a werewolf will show their friends what real men are made of. If some moron is going to start something, I’d prefer to have my wits about me.”

“I can see how that could be a problem,” she said, playing along. “Some guy puts on a caveman costume or Superman outfit, has a few drinks too many and believes he’s been transformed for the night.”

“Yeah, some people just don’t know how to handle transformation. It takes a bit of practice.”

“You seem to be doing pretty well. Neat trick, that tail wag. But wearing all that fur’s got to be a little stuffy in here. Wearing clothes over top of it all can’t help too much either.”

“It’s really not so bad. I get too warm I just pant for a little while and that cools me down.”

“Oh really?” she chuckled. “I haven’t noticed you panting recently.”

“Drinking fluids helps keep my body temperature down and I haven’t been moving around too much. You, on the other hand, should have no problem keeping cool. Although I can’t imagine that Hiawatha actually wore a leather halter top and wrap skirt.”

“Hiawatha?” she asked, puzzled.

“That’s what the bartender called you. It’s probably the only Indian name he knows.”

“It’s more of an Indian costume based on modern fashions. Or is it a modern costume based on Indian fashions? I don’t really know. I saw it at a costume shop, tried it on and decided to be an Indian this year. How about you? What made you decide to be a werewolf.”

“You could almost say I was born to be one. This getup’s been in my family for a while. It seemed a shame not to show it off.”

“There’s a costume contest here later on. Are you going to enter?”

“Nah, I don’t think it’d be fair to everybody else. Some of these people probably spent weeks on their costumes. Not to mention more money than they could win in any costume contest.”

“What are you talking about? You’ve easily got the best outfit in the place, and it must’ve taken forever to get that on.”

“The vest was kinda tricky to lace up. My fingers aren’t quite as nimble now as when I’m human.”

“I was talking about the fur suit you twit.”

“Oh. That actually goes on a lot quicker than you’d expect,” he replied with a wink.

“You’re just trying to be annoying, aren’t you?” she asked, looking perplexed. “You know, I don’t even know your name yet.”

“It’s Ross.”

“Is that your first or last name?”

“First. While we’re on the subject of names, what’s yours.”

“Chrys.”

“Is that ‘Chris’ with a ‘c-h,’ ‘Cris’ with a ‘c’ or ‘Kris’ with a ‘k?'”

“None of the above. It’s ‘Chrys’ with a ‘c-h-r-y.’ It’s short for Chrysanthemum. My parents grew up in the seventies and I guess they decided to use my name as an opportunity to relive their glory days.”

“How old were you before you thought about killing them?”

“About eight. Do you have any idea how many misspelled birthday cakes I got?”

“I can guess.”

“Hey, if you’re not going to enter the contest, and you’re not here for the drinks, you want to cut out of here?”

“What’d you have in mind? Trick-or-treating?” he smiled.

“Not exactly. Have you ever been to Free Perking?”

“The coffee shop over by Nelson Park?”

“That’s the one. Every Halloween they have ‘Trick-or-Treat Coffee.’ They’ve got eight different urns set up; seven with gourmet coffees and one with Sanka.”

“Instant decaf?! Even with only a one in eight chance of hitting the Sanka it still seems a little risky.”

“What’s the matter?” she teased. “Big strong werewolf’s not scared of a little coffee roulette? Or is he?”

“All right woman, you’re on!” he shot back as he hopped off his stool, tail bouncing as he hit the floor.

“That’s more like it,” she said, dropping off her stool and moving towards the exit. “It’s not too far away. Do you mind walking?”

“I walked over here and it’s how I planned on going home, so that’s no big deal.”

“Do you live close to here?” she asked as he held the door for her.

“Not really, but I move pretty quickly so it didn’t take too long.”

“Great. Oh, do you mind if we stop by my car? These moccasins are comfortable enough for sitting around, but not really made for walking.”

“No problem,” he said offering his paw.

As they strolled down the street hand in paw they occasionally stopped to look at the parade of costumes moving about them. Vampires, clowns, soldiers. Getting away from the crowds they even saw a drunken pirate in the distance staggering from lightpost to lightpost. All of mankind’s alter-egos and hidden personalities out for one night of revelry.

“This one right here,” Chrys said. “The green Jetta.”

Angling towards her car, they’d finally gotten close enough to the weaving pirate to hear him slurring out “yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum” over and over.

Chrys unlocked the side door as the pirate stumbled past, his tri-cornered hat at a rakish angle, still butchering old “pirate” songs.

“Thanks for letting me stop and get my-

“Gimme the purse Pocahontas! And don’t try anything stupid!”

Chrys and Ross both spun to see the pirate, now very un-drunk and with his dagger no longer in his belt. He had it pointed towards Chrys.

“Oh crap!” Chrys exclaimed.

Ross said nothing, but a low growl started building deep within him.

“Gimme the purse lady!” the pirate repeated as Ross’ growl grew even louder. “And tell Fido here to heel.”

As Chrys started to take her purse from her shoulder, Ross took a slight step towards the pirate, who responded by turning towards Ross.

“Stay put mutt!” the pirate commanded, brandishing his dagger.

“Look, can I just keep my license and-

“Now, lady!” he yelled as he swung the dagger back towards Chrys.

Seizing the pirate’s lack of attention, Ross lunged towards him.

Seeing nothing more than a gray blur out of the corner of his eye, the pirate waved his dagger and was surprised to feel it connect and produce a yelp from Ross. He was even more surprised when Ross clamped a paw about his knife hand and sank his claws into his wrist.

Screaming, the pirate crumbled to his knees, losing both his dagger and his hat. Chrys stared in shock as Ross bared his fangs and leaned in close to the pirate’s face.

“Listen up Captain Kidd,” Ross snarled, inches from the pirate’s eyes. “And listen good. The only reason I’m not tearing your throat out right now is that up until two minutes ago I was having a great evening. You’ve pretty well fucked that up, but I have no intention of making it even worse by getting your blood all over me. Consider your life to be your Halloween treat this year. I’m going to let you go, and you’re going to disappear. Got it?”

Stunned, and very happy to be alive, the thief nodded his head.

Ross released the pirate’s hand, and no sooner had the buccaneer hit the ground than he was up and running as though his life depended on it. Which it did.

The threat finally gone, Ross looked at his right forearm to see how bad the thief had cut him. It wasn’t a deep cut, but it was bleeding pretty steadily. It wouldn’t require stitches, but Ross would need to bind it to stop the bleeding.

“Shit,” he muttered as he picked up the pirate’s knife and dropped it in a trashcan. Turning back towards the car he saw Chrys with a dazed look on her face.

“I’ve seen people get into roles before, but that was unreal. After that guy cut you, I could’ve sworn you were about ready to take a bite out of him.”

“Actually, I would’ve just ripped out his throat,” Ross said, waving his red-tinged claws for effect. “Besides, would you want to bite somebody that smelly?”

“C’mon Ross, drop the werewolf act for a minute and let me look at your wrist.”

“It’s okay. I just need to bandage it up.”

“And you can do that with one hand?” she questioned. “I doubt that. Come here and let me check out that cut.”

“I said it’s okay Chrys,” Ross pleaded. “Now can we just drop it?”

“No,” she responded, grabbing his right hand.

“This isn’t really that deep,” she said as she looked at his wrist. “But I need to peel your costume back and get some of this hair out of the way.”

Chrys grabbed the blood-matted hair on either side of the wound and pulled to expose the cut. From the howl he let out, she almost thought Ross had been stabbed again.

“Dammit!” he growled. “That fucking hurt!”

“Well I’m sorry!” Chrys snapped back. “Some of the hair must be stuck in the cut,” she explained while peering at the cut to get a closer look. She let out a small gasp and slowly lifted her gaze to meet Ross’ eyes. He was staring down his muzzle at her.

“Ummm, Ross?”

“Yeah?” he replied nervously.

“You don’t appear to be wearing a costume.”

“I’m not. Aside from the clothes, anyway.”

“W-wait a sec,” she stammered. “You mean you’re a genuine werewolf?”

“Yeah, but it’s not like I lied to you,” he defended, taking back his arm and putting pressure on the cut. “I mean, I never said I wasn’t..”

“Hold on. Let me make sure I’m 100% clear on this. You are a real werewolf. Aside from the clothes you have on, you’re not wearing a costume. The claws, fangs, tail, muzzle, ears–the whole package is real. How’m I doing so far?”

“Batting a thousand. But look–

“Wait,” she interrupted. “I’ve just got one more question. What on earth were you doing in that bar drinking Shirley Temples? You’re a werewolf for Christ’s sake!”

Now it was Ross’ turn to stammer.

“Th-that’s your question? I thought you were going to ask if I was going to eat you or something. I mean, that’s what most humans think of werewolves, right?”

“Maybe most, but not all. Besides,” she smiled, “I couldn’t possibly take you seriously as a predator, not after watching you sip Shirley Temples through a straw.”

“Thanks a lot,” he huffed. “What about how I handled Mr. Pirate?”

“He was inept,” Chrys said, causing Ross to fume even more. “But speaking of him, let me get that wrist taken care of. I think I’ve got an old t-shirt in the back seat.”

While Chrys rummaged through the back of her Jetta, Ross sat down on the sidewalk by the open door.

“I don’t get it,” Ross started.

“What’s that?” Chrys replied, turning around to sit on the edge of the seat, t-shirt in hand.

“This whole situation. Tonight is not tuning out at all like I expected.”

“Maybe you should tell me what you were expecting to happen. First, let me get started on your wrist. This shirt should work, but it’s a bit much. I don’t have anything to cut it with, though”

“Just hold it up by the shoulders,” Ross grinned.

Chrys held the shirt out in front of her as Ross raised his good hand above his head. She almost had it torn from her grasp as he connected with his fingers splayed and claws fully extended.

“Je-sus!” she exclaimed, looking at a still-grinning Ross through the strips of cloth that were barely attached to the collar. “Just how bad did you mess up that pirate-guy anyway?”

“Not too badly. He’s going to lose some blood and he’ll definitely need stitches, but he’s not in any danger of permanent harm.”

“You say that just a little too casually,” she said while binding his wrist.

“I don’t mean to sound ruthless, but what should I have done? Smack him around? I guarantee it’ll be a while before he pulls a knife on anybody else. And I seriously doubt he’ll try anything on Halloween ever again.”

“Hey, given the fact that you are a werewolf and could’ve killed the guy with very little effort,” she said, wrapping another strip of former t-shirt around his arm and tying it off, “I think you handled the situation admirably. There! All done.”

Ross flexed his arm and rotated his wrist. “Thanks. You wouldn’t happen to be a doctor or nurse or something would you?”

“Would you believe a former Girl Scout? My parents wanted me to learn all the ‘important’ stuff you don’t learn in school and thought scouting was the way to go.”

“Don’t knock it. This is pretty good work.”

“Thanks. I guess it wasn’t such a waste of time after all. Speaking of time, it’s not really all that late.”

Amazed, Ross said, “You still want to go play coffee roulette? With me? Even after Mr. Pirate and me being a werewolf?”

“Ross, I think we’ve established that I’m safe around you, and we do have a conversation to finish, so why wouldn’t I hang out with you? Besides how often do you go out among all us humans the way you are now?”

“Would you believe this is the first time?” he asked.

“Sure. But I can also guess why you picked tonight to do it. It’s Halloween. The one night a werewolf can walk down the street and not get into trouble. Not too much anyway. This is the only chance you’ll really get to do this until next year. So why let some stupid guy in a pirate suit ruin your night? Your night, Ross. Your one chance to be who you are, to show the world your secret self and be accepted.”

“Yeah, but it’s to be accepted as one of them. I could walk up to anybody right now and say, ‘I’m a real live werewolf.’ Would anybody take me seriously? No. It’s Halloween. Tonight nobody is what they really are, except me. Which still makes me the odd man, or odd wolf, out.”

Chrys looked up at the sky and let out a loud cry of frustration. “Arrrrrghhhhh!” As she looked back down at Ross she grabbed the fur on both sides of his face and pulled him close until their noses were inches apart.

“Will you listen to me? I know what you are. I can and have accepted you as a real live werewolf. I haven’t even known you an hour and I happen to like you a lot already. And I would like to go get coffee with you. Get it?” she asked. As she let him go she kissed him on the tip of his nose.

Ross’ eyes bugged out with shock, then he looked down at the sidewalk and muttered, “Nobody’s ever kissed me when I was like this before.”

“Keep acting like a dork and nobody ever will again, at least not tonight.”

Ross looked up and met her mischievous smile. “Coffee, was it?”

“Yes it was,” she said, standing up and extending her hands to him. “But do you mind if we drive? I don’t know if there are any more guys like that pirate out tonight, but I’d prefer to cut down on the risk of meeting another one. Is that okay?”

“Sure,” he replied as he took her hands and allowed her to help him to his feet.

As Chrys walked around the car to get in on the driver’s side, Ross settled into the passenger seat, pulling his tail to the side to avoid sitting on it. Chrys got in, started the car, and dropped the parking brake. Right on Ross’ tail.

Suppressing a yelp, Ross grabbed the brake lever and yanked it back up.

“What?” Chrys asked, turning to look at Ross. “Haven’t you ever ridden in a car before?” Then she saw him checking out his tail and quickly figured out what had happened.

“Oh God, I’m sorry Ross. I just didn’t…Hell, I’m not accustomed to my passengers having tails. Are you okay?” she apologized.

“Might be a little bruised, but nothing major to worry about.” Sensing her unease, he took her hand in his paw. “Chrys, let’s face it, you’re handling this pretty well, probably better than I am, but it’s obvious we’ve both got a little adjusting to do. Why don’t we just head over to Free Perking and see how things work out?”

“Okay,” she replied. “Watch your tail.”

Chrys dropped the brake and moved out into the sparse traffic. The crowds on the sidewalks were starting to thin out. Most people either having found a bar or club to go to, and those who’d started their celebrations early had already made their way home. They drove in silence for a while, then Chrys picked up the thread of their earlier conversation

“So what exactly were you expecting from tonight?”

“Honestly? I’m not really sure. I thought, ‘Hey, it’s Halloween. Why not shift into werewolf form and go out, pretending to be in costume like everybody else.’ I guess I wanted to walk around free, being who I really am. I could finally walk through the city in the open instead of sneaking around. I could experience everything through wolf-senses instead of just dull, human ones. I didn’t expect to meet anybody. Or fight pirates.”

“So are you sorry you did meet somebody?”

“No! No, really I’m not. I just didn’t expect to wind up telling somebody I was a real werewolf, much less have them seem so unfazed by the whole thing. You’re not even the slightest bit weirded out by this?” He asked.

“Sorry, Ross, but I’ve read tons of science-fiction and fantasy and all kinds of other stuff, so I’m finding the whole thing more interesting than weird. If I was somebody else, sure I might be trying to think of ways to get away, but since I’m me, all I can come up with are questions to ask you.”

“All right,” Ross said. “Let’s hear some.”

“First, how exactly did you become a werewolf?” she asked, that being the most nagging of her questions. “Were you bitten by a werewolf, or is that all just an old wives’ tale?”

“It’s okay,” Ross smiled. “Remember back in the club when I said this getup had been in my family for a while? Well, it has. Both my parents were werewolves. I don’t know how many generations we go back, but I think it’s quite a few. My parents were the only other werewolves I’ve ever known.”

“Ummm, I can’t help but notice that you’re referring to them in the past tense,” she said hesitantly.

“Yeah. They were killed when I was thirteen.”

“God, that’s awful. How did it, I mean, you know?”

“Hunters,” he spat. “We’d gone out to the state forest to get away from the city during the full moon. We did it every month. Leave the house early in the afternoon, park the car on the edge of the forest, go up into the mountains and wait for the moon to rise. I’d only been going through the changes for about six months, and my parents were teaching me how to handle this new side of myself. It was one of the best times of my life.”

“You said you were thirteen. Does that mean that everything was triggered by your going through puberty?”

“Yup, but it wasn’t like that Michael J. Fox movie. My parents had been telling me about it since I was a kid. Sometimes, I even went to the forest with them before I started my changes, just to watch them. They were an incredible sight. Unbelievably beautiful. I couldn’t wait until it was time for me to change.”

“You didn’t go with them all the time?”

“No. During the full moon our systems really go into high gear. All you want to do is get out in the woods and run, hunt and even play around a little. Until I started changing there was no way I could keep up with them. But once I did–wow, was it great!”

“What was it like? The first time you changed?” she asked, eager to hear more.

“Honestly? I was scared. I’d seen my parents change plenty of times, but seeing it and having it happen to you are two entirely different things. We drove out to our usual spot. An old fire road that even the park rangers didn’t use anymore. After parking the car we hiked about a mile up the road to a small clearing. This being my first time, my parents were going to remain human until I changed to help me through it. I took off my clothes and put them in a plastic bag like they always did and sat down to wait. My parents reassured me that everything was going to be okay and that I had nothing to worry about, but I was still scared.”

“How did they know that your first change was going to be that particular month?”

“They said they could smell it on me. I’d seen all the stuff they could do, so I had no reason to doubt them,” he answered. “I don’t know exactly what about the full moon triggers the change–the time it’s been in the sky, the amount of moonlight that strikes you, or even if just seeing the full moon is enough–but I could feel it when it started. It was like a charge of static electricity rolling over my whole body, setting every nerve on fire. It didn’t hurt, but it felt so…so different, that I cried out. My mother kept talking to me, telling me not to resist anything I felt, and kept touching me to let me know she was there. I could feel the fur growing all over my body, my bones changing shape, my senses growing more aware. My mother moved away to take her clothes off and my father, nude but still human, knelt down beside me and ruffled the new fur on my back.”

“I was almost completely changed at that point, almost totally transformed into a wolf.”

“You weren’t changing into how you are now? Your werewolf form?”

“Not the first time. When the change is automatic, and you haven’t learned how to control any of it, you change into a wolf.”

“The tingling sensation of change went away, but was replaced by a feeling of being more alive than ever before. I looked up at my father and saw him smiling down at me. I let out a happy bark and started romping around the clearing, wagging my tail and getting a feel for my new form. I bounced back towards my father, and instead of seeing a nude human, I saw two huge wolves. My mother had transformed while I was changing and my father while I was playing about.”

“I’d seen them in their wolf forms before, but never through these eyes. I stopped my playing and froze, amazed that these were my parents in their true forms, and that I had joined them at last. My mother walked slowly over towards me and licked my muzzle, her way of welcoming me into the family. My father stood beside me and lightly nipped me on the ear, letting me know that even though we were the same now, he was still the boss.

“My mother went bounding off into the woods and I needed no encouragement to follow her. She was running slow enough to let me keep up, but she wasn’t making it easy on me. My father shot past me and bowled me over. I tried to get back at him by biting his tail, but he was gone by the time I’d regained my feet.”

“I caught up with them at the top of a hill, they were waiting for me and looking out over the forest. They were sitting side by side and nuzzling each other. I’d never felt happier. These were my parents as they truly were, and now I was finally a full member of the family. I ran over to sit in front of them, panting with joy. As they both smiled down at me, I raised my head and let out my very first howl. It was a liberating experience! They both joined in and we listened to our voices raised together, then heard them echo back off a mountainside.”

“We stayed in the woods almost until dawn. Back down in the clearing, I watched my parents change back, and then they talked me through it. How to take control of my body and make it shift back into human form.”

“Once I was human again, I looked down at my body, no longer covered with fur. My claws were gone, my senses seemed dull–I felt so weak! I looked up at my parents and started to cry.”

“They understood completely and took me in their arms. ‘Don’t worry,’ they explained, ‘you’ll be able to change back next month, and in the meantime we’ll teach you more of what you’ll need to know. How to change into a werewolf. How to hunt as a wolf. We’re going to teach you everything.'”

“Six months later they were gone and I had to figure everything out for myself,” he sighed.

“Who took care of you after they were gone?” Chrys asked.

“An uncle of mine. But he wasn’t a werewolf. He was my dad’s half brother.”

Sensing the question that was about to come, Ross continued. “He and my dad had the same mother and he was born before my father. My uncle’s father passed away shortly after he was born. A couple years after that, his mother met my grandfather, the werewolf.”

“So your grandfather was a werewolf, but your grandmother was human?” Chrys asked, trying to puzzle out the family tree.

“She was human initially, but before she and my grandfather were married, she learned what he was, and he wouldn’t marry her unless she became a werewolf. She’d seen him change a couple times and saw how magnificent he was in any of his forms, that she easily agreed to his demand.”

“How did she, you know, become…”

“The bite.” Ross said. “I know it sounds cliche, but that’s how it happens. It’s not entirely like you see in the movies though. For the person bitten to become a werewolf, they have to want it. Could you imagine if it was like in the movies? Defend yourself and…POW! You’ve just made somebody else into a werewolf.”

“Provided they survive your defending yourself, of course,” Chrys grinned.

“Hey, look here human,” Ross grumbled. “Just because your race has made up all these silly myths about us doesn’t mean there’s any truth to them. If any of us ever did kill humans, it was self-defense. We don’t go around killing and calling it a fucking sport like you do.”

“Ease up, Ross. I didn’t mean anything by that. I can understand your hatred towards hunters, and maybe even a lot of mankind, because of what happened to your parents, but you can’t tell me you feel like that about all of us.” She paused turning to face him. “Because if you did, you wouldn’t be here in this car right now, would you?”

Ross met her gaze, then looked down into his lap. “Sorry, Chrys,” he muttered. “I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s just that I get a little ticked off sometimes. Humans and all their stories and myths and movies…it just wears a little thin. After my parents got killed, I was raised by my uncle, who couldn’t stand what I was. All his attention was negative, if I got any at all, and that led to my developing a pretty severe attitude. Thanks to that, I’ve never had a lot of friends and been pretty much on my own ever since I was thirteen.”

“You’ve never told any of this to anyone before have you?”

“Who could I tell,” he asked, looking out the window. “Who’d possibly believe it? I had enough problems with my uncle as it was. Just imagine the phone calls if I’d tried telling anybody at school who I was. ‘Mr. Kearney, this is Ms. Hamilton from your nephew’s school. We’ve been having problems again with his disrupting classes by telling everybody he’s a werewolf. Could you possibly come in for a conference next week?’ No thanks. I had a hard enough time growing up with him as it was.”

“I can see how that might’ve created some problems. If this is the first time you’ve told any of this to another person, I get the feeling it might take some time.”

“It might. Just keep circling the park like we’ve been doing,” he said while turning away from the window. “A few more times around should be enough to finish the story.”

Chrys grinned. “You caught me,” she admitted. “I wasn’t trying to force anything out of you. You just seemed–I don’t know–relieved to be telling someone. Besides, I haven’t been able to find a decent parking spot and I didn’t think you’d want to tell your story in a crowded coffee shop.”

Ross shifted in his seat to face her. “I don’t mind. And it is nice to finally tell someone. Especially someone willing to believe me.”

“Thanks,” she smiled.

“So my uncle, yeah? He really resented my grandfather and what his mother, my grandmother, had become. He relented a little after my father was born, hoping that another human might’ve been born into the family. When my father hit puberty and started his changes, my uncle snapped and left home. I was only marginally aware of him until I had to go and live with him. The first time I snuck out during a full moon he knew what I was and went to court in an attempt to get me put into a state home, claiming he wouldn’t be a good parent.”

“Did he say what you were in court?” Chrys asked, incredulous.

“No,” Ross laughed. “They didn’t buy any of his excuses anyway, and he certainly would’ve been laughed out of court if he’d brought that up.”

“He and I entered into what was essentially a five-year grudge-fest that didn’t end until I turned eighteen and was finally able to move out. Life with him basically sucked, and I was always wishing my parents were still around to help me learn all the stuff I was having to puzzle out on my own.”

“Your parents,” Chrys prompted, “did you want to talk about them?”

“Yeah, it’ll help explain a lot.”

Ross continued his tale.

“Six months after they took me through my first change I was starting to get the hang of my transformations. I could delay it a little during a full moon. And my parents had begun to explain how to only change halfway, to become a werewolf. Apparently it works a little differently for each one of us. There’s a midpoint between human and wolf that’s different for every werewolf. We each have to discover where ours is and learn to steer the transformation towards it. My parents were also teaching me how to change when the moon wasn’t full.”

“Like tonight?” Chris asked. “I was curious about that. There’s no full moon, but you don’t seem to be having any trouble holding your form.”

“It’s mostly a matter of willpower. The potential to change is always there. A full moon will force the change, but it can also be forced from within. Luckily my parents taught me about that before they were killed. Otherwise I might have thought I could only change during a full moon.”

As they began another loop around the park Ross got back to the story.

“We’d gone up to our usual spot that month, stashed our clothes and changed into wolf form. That night they were teaching me about hunting. How to track, what signs to look for showing that other animals were around–everything that a true wolf knows instinctively, I had to learn.”

“A few hours before dawn we spotted a campfire about a mile from the hilltop we were on. We moved through the forest, barely making more noise than the wind, and closed to within twenty yards of the campsite. My parents decided this would be a good opportunity to show me how to stalk. How to walk right up to anyone or anything without them even knowing I was there.”

“From where we were we could hear the pop of the wood in the fire, empty cans clanking on the ground, and the voices of the men around the fire. My parents told me to hide in a thicket and watch how they moved. They said humans could be very unpredictable and that I’d be safer back away from the campsite.”

“Ross, since you were all in wolf form, how could you speak?”

“Wolves don’t use much spoken language. Their vocabulary is almost entirely made up of body signals. Head tilts, tail wags, how you fold your ears, even your posture. There are different growls and barks, but only the silent signals are used while hunting.”

“So you can actually understand real wolves? And even talk to them?”

“I can understand them in any of my three forms,” Ross explained, “but I can only talk to them as a werewolf or a wolf. The human body just isn’t built right send all the signals.”

“Got it. You said they had you hide in a thicket?”

“Yeah. I was just supposed to sit there and watch how close they could get without being spotted. They did everything right. Approached from downwind. Didn’t make a sound. Kept out of the firelight. Stayed in the shadows. They had planned for every situation.”

Ross paused, finding the words difficult to get out. “But who would expect somebody to take a shotgun with them when they went to the bathroom?”

“All I can figure is that he was off to their side somewhere, not downwind, but not upwind either. They got some warning. I guess the guy slipped or snapped a twig or something. One moment they were quiet as ghosts, the next they were crashing through the underbrush.”

“My parents had barely started moving when two shotgun blasts thundered right at them. They’d put a little distance between them and the hunter, but it wasn’t enough. They both tumbled to the ground, got up, and started loping towards me.”

“The shotgun blasts were like a starter’s pistol to the other hunters. They were up and running, guns in their hands, before the sound had even faded. My parents were about ten feet from the thicket I was in when the hunters caught up with them.”

“Th-they,” Ross stammered, “they didn’t have a chance. The hunters,” he started, “they just…just…Chrys, can you stop the car?”

“Yeah, sure,” she said, swinging her Jetta into a parking place. They were almost halfway around the park from Free Perking, but getting a good spot was not on either of their minds at the moment.. Chrys barely had the car stopped before Ross was out the door and walking towards the park.

“Wait!” she called after him. Chrys punched the door lock and slammed the door, then ran towards Ross.

When she caught up with him he was leaning on the waist-high wall that surrounded the park, gripping it with both hands.

“Ross, please. If you don’t want to finish telling me about it, you don’t have to. But please don’t take off,” she pleaded.

“I’m okay Chrys,” he said, staring into the park and sounding miles away. “The memories just started rushing back, and I couldn’t breathe, and I–and–oh, fuck Chrys! They killed my parents! They just unloaded their shotguns into them. They were right in front of me and I couldn’t do anything. All I could do was watch them die.”

“The hunters prodded my parents with their shotguns to make sure they were dead. Then they walked back to their campsite, laughing. They were fucking laughing!” Ross said as he pushed off the wall and spun to face Chrys. “And I couldn’t even cry. I was so terrified that anything I did would bring them back. I just laid there and looked at my parents’ bodies.”

“Ross, I’m serious,” Chrys said, putting her hand on his arm. “You don’t have to do this.”

“I do Chrys. I need to tell somebody. I’ve been carrying this around for almost ten years,” he explained. He placed a paw over her hand and led her towards a bench a little ways down the park wall.

“I fell asleep that night looking at their bodies.”

“When I woke up the next morning I felt the sun on my back and briars poking into my skin,” Ross said as they sat on the bench. He still held on to her hand. “I’d changed back in my sleep.”

As Ross continued, Chrys placed her free hand on the back of his paw and started slowly stroking his fur.

“I didn’t hear any noise coming from the hunters’ campsite, so I crawled out of my hiding place. Scratched the hell out of my self. I crawled over to my parents and hugged their furry bodies.”

Chrys looked at Ross, surprised. “Furry? But I thought–

“I know what you’re going to say,” Ross interrupted. “‘Werewolves always change back into human form after their killed.’ Right?”

Chrys nodded.

“More Hollywood misinformation. My parents debunked all the movie myths about us when I was a kid. A werewolf’s ‘normal’ form is whichever one he or she chooses to wear. I’m no less a werewolf in skin than I am in either of my furry forms. Appearances don’t dictate ‘how much’ of a werewolf one is. You are one or you aren’t.”

“So,” Ross continued, “I’d crawled over to my parents and collapsed on their bodies. Finally I could cry.”

“I laid there naked and sobbing, so wrapped up in my grief that I almost didn’t hear the hunters approaching.”

“The first warning I got was one of them stumbling into a pile of empty beer cans. All that clattering and cursing startled me out of my misery. I looked towards the campsite and saw a couple of the bastards moving around. I didn’t know how they’d react to a naked thirteen year-old, but based on how they dealt with wolves, I really didn’t want to find out.”

“Before they got any closer I took off running. I wasn’t nearly as quiet as I can be when I’m a wolf, but they still didn’t hear me.”

“What did you do after you got away?” Chrys asked.

“I spent most of that day making my way back to where we’d left the car and our clothes. I got back to the car around nightfall, tired, hungry and sore. We had a little food with us in the car, like we always did. Changing really cranks up your metabolism, and after you change back you’re usually dying for something to eat. After I finished stuffing myself I got dressed and tried to figure out what to do next.”

“I was too young to have started learning how to drive, so I couldn’t drive back. And if anybody found the car there and my parents’ clothes wrapped up in plastic bags, who knows what conclusions would be jumped to. In the end I took their stuff out of the bags and flung it all over the clearing. I took the money and credit cards from their wallets so it would look like some weird robbery went down. I don’t know what I expected anybody to think, but I couldn’t very well tell them the truth.”

“How’d you end up getting back to the city?” Chrys asked.

“I slept in the car that night and in the morning I walked towards the city until I got to one of those ‘Park-N-Ride’ lots. Then I just waited until the next bus came through and rode it back into town.”

“At this point I’d missed two days of school and when I showed up the next day I got called in to the principal’s office. She wanted to know where I’d been and why my parents were unreachable to explain my absence. I told her that I was sick the first day and that my mom had told me she was going to call the school on her way to work. She started to tell me how my mother hadn’t called and that she hadn’t been to work for the past two days. My dad either. I said that I hadn’t seen my parents since they left for work a couple days ago and that I’d stayed home yesterday hoping they were going to show up.”

“At this point she got a little worried and called both my parents’ offices again. Of course, neither of them had shown up today either. After that she called the police to report them missing.”

“There was a bit of a stir in the papers and on the news for about a week, then a couple of hikers found the car and everything got really hyped up. I’d been staying with a friend for the first week so I wouldn’t miss much school, but after the car was found and people started thinking my parents might be gone for good, my uncle showed up and I moved in with him on the other side of town.”

“I guess he liked being in the spotlight and getting to show everybody what a swell guy he was by taking in his brother’s kid in this time of tragedy. After all the hoopla died down and he found out he was stuck with me, his tune changed really quick. He started letting me know how he felt about the ‘freak’ side of his family. His treatment, plus being thrown into a new school, made me almost as much of a pain in the ass as he was.”

“I doubt you were all that bad,” Chrys said. “You seem to have turned out okay.”

“I think it may have been my uncle’s attitude toward us ‘freaks’ that finally turned me around. The first year or so I lived with him, I really just endured my transformations rather than enjoyed them. Without my parents around, I didn’t think I’d ever learn to like being a werewolf. One day I decided that was stupid. I felt I should honor their memory by learning as much as I could about myself and finding out what being a werewolf really meant.”

Chrys stopped stroking Ross’ paw and lifted his arm, ducking under it and placing it around her shoulders. She wrapped her right arm behind Ross and started scratching the back of his neck. “When did you start changing into a werewolf instead of just a regular wolf?” she asked.

“It was after that first year at my uncle’s,” he said as he dropped his head, responding to Chrys’ touch. “My parents had explained a lot of the stuff about being a werewolf to me, but most of it we’d never gotten around to doing.”

“Learning to change into werewolf form was really tricky. True wolf form comes automatically during a full moon. Steering the transformation towards werewolf took a lot of work. I had to picture what I’d look like in my head and guide the change to that goal. Once the change starts, it’s got to run it’s course, either to wolf or werewolf. If you don’t know what your werewolf form is, you end up fighting the change. Fight it too hard and it gets painful. It was almost a year before I finally got it right. Up until then the pain got too bad and I gave up, letting myself shift into wolf form.”

Chrys worked her fingers up the back of Ross’ head until she was scratching between his ears.

“Ohhhhhh, that feels good,” he sighed.

Chrys giggled as Ross’ tail started thumping the bench.

“Hey, it’s a reflex,” he explained. “I can’t help it.”

“A reflex?” Chrys laughed. “Does that mean if I scratch your belly, your leg will start twitching?” she asked, moving towards his stomach with the fingernails of her other hand.

Ross snatched his arm from around her shoulders and scooted a few feet down the bench. “Don’t you dare!” he cried.

Chrys was really laughing now and almost fell off the bench. Ross stood up, trying to look indignant.

“I really don’t see what’s so funny about that,” he said. “You wouldn’t laugh at somebody in a wheelchair would you?”

“No Ross,” Chrys said, straightening up and regaining her composure. “But a reflex is hardly a handicap. And besides, I think it’s adorable.”

“You find involuntary loss of muscle control adorable?” he questioned, confused.

“Not normally, but I’ll make an exception for you. Don’t you see it?” she asked. “Here you are, one of mankind’s most fearsome and enduring myths made real, and in some ways you’re as harmless as a puppy.”

“Cub,” he corrected.

“Huh?”

“A little wolf is a cub,” Ross explained. “A puppy is a little dog.”

“Oh, don’t quibble, Ross. I still think you’re adorable, reflexes and all. Do you forgive me for laughing?” she asked as she walked over and took his paws in her hands.

“Okay. But only if you scratch between my ears some more later on,” he grinned.

“Deal,” she said, dropping his paws to reach up and scratch behind both ears. As he closed his eyes and sighed, Chrys pulled his head down and kissed him on the cheek.

“You know,” Ross started, opening his eyes to meet her gaze, “that’s the second time you’ve kissed me tonight.”

“Mm-hmm. And it probably won’t be the last,” she smiled. Not waiting to give Ross a chance to react, Chrys released his ears and slipped an arm around his waist. “Now let’s go. We’re not parked too horribly far from Free Perking and I want to play some roulette,” she said, steering him down the sidewalk.

Ross draped and arm around her shoulders and they walked in silence, just enjoying being with each other. As they made their way to the coffee shop, Chrys hugged his furry body close and he drew little circles on her bare shoulder with a claw tip.

They stopped outside the door to Free Perking, under the sign that was an enlarged version of the Monopoly “Free Parking” space, but this one had a coffee cup in the middle instead of a little red car.

“Feeling lucky?” Chrys asked.

“Exceptionally,” he countered.

“Then let’s get started,” she said, drawing away from him to open the door to the coffee shop.

Ross started to move towards her, but stopped as she opened the door, releasing the sounds and scents that had been trapped within.

“Oh, wow,” he said, caught in the wave of noise and smell like a deer in a car’s headlights.

“Ross? Hey, are you okay?” Chrys asked. As she moved towards him, the door swung shut, damming the sensory flood.

“I had no idea,” Ross murmured, his eyes unglazing, his body returning control to him. “I’ve been to coffee shops hundreds of times and I’ve always loved the smell. I just had no idea they smelled that good.”

Chrys’ face lit up with comprehension. “Your senses!” she exclaimed. “They must be a dozen times sharper than normal right now. Are you going to be okay going in there?”

“Yeah,” Ross replied, shaking his head to clear the last of the fog. “I just wasn’t prepared for that. Now that I know what to expect I’ll be all right. You humans have no idea how good a coffee shop smells. You just think you do.” He gestured towards the door. “Shall we?”

Chrys reopened the door and they entered together.

“Hey, Chrys! You made it!” shouted the Asian cowgirl behind the bar.

“Hi, Kumi!” Chrys called back.

As they approached the counter Chrys addressed her friend again. “Kumi, this year’s is way too easy. Annie Oakley, right?”

“Guilty as charged,” Kumi replied. “I just wasn’t feeling very inspired this year,” she said, looking at the counter and mopping up a spill that didn’t exist.

“Kuumiiii,” Chrys prodded as she lowered her head to get in Kumi’s line of sight. “Fess up.”

“Okay. I waited too long to go to the costume shop and all they had left in my size was this stupid cowgirl getup,” she confessed, finally looking up from the counter. “I knew I should’ve gone earlier to get something decent, but I kept putting it off. Enough about me being a slack-ass, introduce me to your furry friend,” she added, grinning at Ross.

“Sorry. Kumi, this is Ross. Ross, this is Kumi. We were roommates our first two years of college and still spend way too much time hanging out together.”

“It’s true,” Kumi said as she reach out to shake Ross’ offered paw. “We finally realized we were never going to graduate on time if we kept living together, so we reluctantly went our separate ways. Of course, our paths still seem to cross rather frequently.”

“That may be,” said Chrys, “but you have to admit we both get a lot more work done on time now. Enough about that though, we’re here to play some roulette. What’s on tap?”

“Tonight the possibilities are pretty good. We’ve got Jamaica Blue Mountain, Kenya AA, Swiss Mocha, Kona Gold, Hazelnut, 100% Pure Colombian, Amaretto, and, of course, Death by Sanka.”

“How do we order?” asked Ross. “Obviously not by type.”

“Too true. You order by number, one through eight,” explained Kumi. “And before you ask about getting a good hit and ordering that again, I have to tell you that we scramble the numbers every ten minutes. Or whenever we feel like it. Asking people at neighboring tables what they just got earns you the penalty of having to pay $1.50 a cup for your next three cups. Which will all be staff picks.”

“That’s pretty harsh,” said Ross. “So if you cheat you could end up paying $4.50 for three cups of Sanka.”

“Yup. But as long as you’re not cheating, cups are only fifty cents each. It all works out.”

“First round is on me,” said Chrys. “We’ll take a four and a seven.”

“No problem,” said Kumi. “Grab a booth and I’ll bring ’em right out.”

As they made their way to a booth on the far side of the shop, Chrys swung by the “coffee condiments” table and grabbed a soda straw and a few creamers. Seeing the straw in her hand, Ross couldn’t help but grin.

“What?” Chrys asked. “I’m right aren’t I? If you weren’t willing to drink a cold drink without a straw, I doubted you’d want to tackle a hot cup of coffee without one.”

“You’re right,” Ross said, unable to stop smiling. “I think it’s, you know, sweet.”

“Oh,” said Chrys, trying to figure out why that made her blush. “Thanks.”

They’d just barely sat down when they saw Kumi walking towards them, a cup of coffee in each hand.

“Here you go guys. This is number four,” she said, setting down the cup in her left hand. “And this,” she continued, following suit with the right-hand cup, “is number seven. Good luck.”

“Okay,” said Chrys. “I picked the numbers, so you get to pick which cup you want.”

Ross agreed. “Fair enough.” He pulled both cups in front of him, then, after a glance at each, he plunked his straw down in the number four and slid the number seven across the table to Chrys.

“You’re sure you don’t want lucky number seven?” asked Chrys.

“Nope. I’m content with number four here.”

Chrys raised her cup and took an experimental sip.

“Blech!” she blurted. “Sanka. What’d you get?”

Ross tilted his head down and took his straw between his dark lips. After taking a long pull, he looked up and declared his satisfaction, flicking his tongue across the tip of his muzzle for effect. “Tasty. Mocha.”

“Don’t gloat too much, ’cause you’re buying the next round and then I get first pick.”

“Deal,” said Ross with a grin that Chrys couldn’t quite figure out the reason for.

“So what did you want to know about werewolves?” Ross asked after another big gulp of his coffee. “Back in your car you said you’d come up with some questions.”

Chrys looked up from her coffee which she was trying to dilute by dumping in three creamers and a few sugar packets. “You don’t mind discussing it here?”

“Nah. Besides, who’d think I was being serious? Ask away.”

“Okay. Ummm, if you don’t mind my bringing up your parents, I’ve got one that’s really been nagging me ,” she said hesitantly.

“It’s all right Chrys,” he said, taking her hand in his paw. “I think we already covered the tough spots concerning them.”

“Well, it’s this: the night those hunters…you know…how did they happen to have silver shells in their shotguns?”

Ross dropped her hand as he threw his head back and let out a loud chuffing laugh, bringing almost every conversation in the shop to a halt.

“Sorry,” he said to nobody in particular. The other patrons slowly resumed their conversations and he got an extra-long puzzled look from Kumi, whom he suspected was probably wondering what kind of nut her friend had picked up.

“Sorry,” he said again, this time to Chrys, “but that ‘silver bullet’ thing always cracks me up.”

“You mean…?” Chrys began, letting the question hang in the air.

“‘Fraid so. It’s total hooey. I think some werewolf made it up ages ago and it got worked into all the myths about us. It was a great idea. How do you stop people from shooting at you? Get them to believe they need ‘special’ bullets and they’ll stop ‘wasting’ their normal rounds. Besides, who’s got silver bullets anyway? Like I said,” he continued after pausing for another sip of coffee, “it was a truly great idea.”

“That explains your parents, but what about your grandparents? Did you ever get to meet them?”

“Sadly, no. They died a few years before I was born.” Ross didn’t want Chrys to have to ask, so he just said it. “Car crash.”

Her only response was an incredulous stare.

“What did you think?” he asked. “That we’re immortal? I only wish. Granted, we can live a lot longer than most any human could dream of, but aside from the major genetic differences, we’re still subject to the same nasty tricks of fate.”

“I don’t know,” Chrys said after pausing the choke down the dregs of her Sanka. “It’s like you said. We’ve got all our myths and stories and movies, but without having any actual werewolves to dispute any of our ‘facts,’ we all just end up believing them.”

“If it’s any consolation, I’m getting a few of my myths about humans challenged tonight.”

“Like what?”

“Well, I never really discounted the whole race as being all bad–I knew there were a few good people here and there–but I didn’t think any of them could be as nice as you.”

“Oh, stop it,” she said, trying to conceal a blush with her hand. Seeing Ross smile at this, she cut him off before he could say anything else. “Aren’t you supposed to be buying the next round?”

Still grinning, Ross made his way up to the counter to order the next round.

Watching him move, Chrys couldn’t help but be amazed. He was so graceful, gliding between tables, his tail waving happily behind him, but not touching a single thing. Some of the other patrons stared just as openly, not trying to conceal their own senses of wonder. Chrys could tell some of them were having a hard time accepting a “costume” that good, but what else could it be? After all, werewolves were only make-believe, right?

As he waited to order, Chrys took the opportunity to really study him. The fur on his arms was several different shades of grey, and whenever he moved it created the illusion of storm clouds rolling over his body. His silver mane flowed down to the middle of his shoulder blades like a river of mercury. The sides of his muzzle were a pure white that faded to grey in the fuzzy tufts under his ears. The white fur covered his lower jaw, spilling down his neck and chest. This white patch was visible through the laces on the front of his vest and seemed to go down to his waist. Chrys couldn’t help but wonder how far down that snowy fur went.

As if he could hear her thoughts, Ross turned to smile at her over his shoulder. Chrys instantly flushed a bright crimson. Seeing this, Ross cocked his head to the side as though to ask, “What was that for?” His broadening grin seemed to answer his own question with, “It must have been for me.”

While Ross was placing his order and waiting to be served, Chrys took an outside look at the whole evening. She’d gone out tonight just to enjoy Halloween, grab a few drinks and have some fun. Had she planned on meeting somebody? She wasn’t averse to the idea, but it hadn’t been a goal for the night. She’d basically resigned herself to seeing what fate had to offer her. And, oh, what it had offered. Ross was easily the most interesting person she had met in quite some time. Granted, he was a werewolf, and that was pretty hard to top for interesting. But he was also possibly the most attractive person she’d ever met. If someone had told her this morning that she’d be considering taking home a guy who was covered from head to toe (and tail!) in fur, she’d have told them they were nuts. But here she was doing just that. His fur was like silk, and the way he felt when she’d touched him–wow! She also couldn’t deny that Ross had responded to her touch, especially when she’d scratched between his ears.

But what was he making of this whole situation?

“How’d you guys make out?”

Ross tore his gaze away from Chrys and turned to face Kumi. “Pardon?”

“On your first round?” she asked.

“Oh! Oh, I got the mocha and Chrys struck Sanka,” he said.

“Too bad. Which numbers are you going to try this time?”

“Hmmm. Let’s try a number three and a number five. Are they good choices?”

“You know I can’t tell you that,” Kumi said. “But since only one number out of eight can be Sanka, picking two different numbers guarantees only one of you could possibly bomb.”

“True,” replied Ross. “I guess I’ll stick with three and five then.”

“Coming right up.”

As Kumi moved off to get the coffees, Ross looked back over at Chrys, who was now checking out the costumes of the other people in the shop. He couldn’t help but look at her, and not just because of her scant costume. She was truly an amazing woman. In the space of one evening she’d gone from being secure in her perceptions of what was myth and what was real, to having coffee with a bona-fide werewolf. How many other humans could make that leap? Probably not many. He capacity to accept as real what anybody else would count out as pure fantasy was phenomenal.

And her touch! It was almost magical. The way she’d scratched between his ears. Pure bliss. He could easily endure that for hours. But what were the odds of that? She had kissed him. Twice. Nahhhh. No human would be willing to…or would she?

Ross could’ve easily had a dozen or more delightful thoughts, but at that moment Kumi came back with the coffees.

She placed them on the counter and identified them by number. Ross fished in his pocket for a dollar, paid for the coffees, and thanked Kumi.

After picking up the two cups and pausing to sniff each one, Ross swung by the condiment table to pick up more creamers. As he approached the booth, Chrys looked up and they greeted each other with smiles.

Ross placed the cups on the table, then sat down, swishing his tail to the side to avoid sitting on it. “Hi.”

“Hi yourself,” replied Chrys, still smiling. “What numbers did you pick?”

“I got a number three and a number five,” he said, pointing to each cup to identify which was which. “Take your pick.”

“Well,” she mused, “number seven was a dud, but maybe a three and a seven will make a ten. I’ll go with number three.”

“You sure about that?” Ross asked as he grabbed the cup she was sliding towards her.

“Yes, I’m sure. Don’t try to psyche me out either. I picked number three and that’s what I’m going to have.”

“Okay,” said Ross, releasing the cup.

Certain she’d picked a good cup, Chrys took a healthy gulp.

“Gahhhh!” she gasped. “Torpedoed again! Go ahead and taste yours so you can gloat some more.”

“Jamaica Blue Mountain,” he answered before his straw even made it to his muzzle. Ross took a hearty pull and let out a satisfied, “Ahhhhh!”

“Hold up. You answered before you ever tasted it.” Chrys paused to think. “Kumi!” she hollered.

“Yeah Chrys?” came the reply from behind the counter.

“You cheated. You told Ross what flavors he got,” she accused.

Several of the patrons and staff let out a communal, “Oooooh.”

“I did not,” said Kumi defensively.

“Then how’d I get stuck with two cups of Sanka in a row?” Chrys wanted to know.

At this, most of the people who’d been listening in to the exchange chuckled and turned back to their tables, chalking the complaint up to bad gambling etiquette.

“Call it bad luck,” Kumi said as she went back to her work.

“I still say I got robbed,” muttered Chrys, dumping the creamers Ross had brought her into her cup.

“Chrys?”

“Yeah Ross?”

“What’s your real hair color?” he asked.

“How’d you know…”

“That it was black hair color and not natural?” he finished for her. “I could smell it,” he said, tapping his nose.

“You could…” she started. Then it hit her. “You cheated! You smelled the coffee before you came back to the table. Of all the–”

“Wait up, Chrys. Did I, or did I not, try to take that number three cup away from you?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Chrys grumbled. “But I still say it’s cheating. Even though you were trying to help, you weren’t supposed to know what was in that cup.”

“Aren’t you the one who wanted to play coffee roulette with a werewolf? Heightened senses come with the rest of the package.”

“Yeah, but still…” Chrys was trying to stay grumpy, but the whole situation was pretty amusing.

They drank in silence for a few minutes, sharing Ross’ cup since it was agreed nobody should have to be subjected to two cups of Sanka in a row, bad luck or not. As they passed the cup back and forth they favored each other with smiles and glances that were almost…shy?

Chrys looked up from one sip to see Ross panting. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Too much coffee,” he replied. “I need to cool down.”

“Let’s go,” suggested Chrys. “I’m sure it’s a lot cooler outside.

After saying their good-byes to Kumi and wishing her a happy Halloween, they stepped out into the almost chilly evening.

“Is this better?” Chrys asked as they started walking back towards her car.

“Lots,” said Ross. “Do you mind if I take off my vest? That’ll help a lot too.”

Not at all, she thought. “No, go ahead.”

Ross started fumbling with the knot at the top of his vest’s lace, but was unable to work a clawtip into the square knot and get it undone. “Knew I should’ve tied a bow,” he muttered.

“Here, let me,” offered Chrys.

Chrys quickly got the knot loose and pulled the lace out through the eyelets, sliding her hand down his chest as she did so.

“Thanks,” said Ross as she handed him the lace and he stuffed it in his pocket.

Ross stretched his arms behind him, allowing the vest to slide down to his wrists. Chrys was barely able to hold in a sigh at this display. As he stretched, his chest muscles rippled under his fur. The white patch that started up on his face did indeed disappear below the waist of his pants, and it faded beautifully into his grey fur as it approached the sides of his body. His white breechcloth almost seemed like an extension of his bellyfur the way is moved whenever his taut stomach muscles flexed. Any doubts she may have had about the direction she wanted this night to go were instantly dissolved by this display.

After shrugging his right had free of his vest, Ross laid the vest in the crook of his right elbow and started scratching his chest.

Chrys giggled at the sight of Ross grooming himself as they walked down the sidewalk.

“What’s so funny?” he asked. “Wearing that vest got my fur all matted down. I’m just trying to fluff it back up.”

“Why’s that?” she teased. “Got somebody you want to look good for?”

“Actually, I do,” Ross answered.

Yes! “Well then hold still and let me get your back.”

Ross stopped walking and put his arms out to his sides. “Go for it.”

I intend to. Chrys started ruffling his back with her fingernails, moving up and down. She was careful not to miss a spot from the base of his neck down to his waist, enjoying the feel of his muscles and fur under her hands. She was rewarded with a deep moan from Ross that bordered on a growl. “You like?” she asked, knowing what the answer would be.

“Very much,” he sighed.

She got his fur pretty well fluffed out and indicated she was done by dropping her hands to his waist and giving him a squeeze.

As he turned around to face her, Chrys kept her hands on his waist and was greeted with a similar embrace.

“Thanks again,” he said.

“Anytime,” she replied, pulling him to her and turning their casual hold into a full fledged hug.

Ross stepped closer to her and slid his left arm around her waist. His right rose to rest across her shoulders. As Chrys buried her face in the soft fur of his chest, Ross started caressing the small of her back.

“Mmmm,” Chrys purred as she ran her fingers through the thick fur on his back. “You feel incredible.”

“Chrys,” Ross said softly.

“Mmmyeah?” she answered into his chest.

“May I kiss you?”

Her hands could feel the muscles in his back flexing as his tail flicked nervously from side to side. She looked up to meet his gaze and he seemed almost frightened. That I’d say no? Not a chance. “Please.”

Ross lowered his muzzle towards her face and realized he wasn’t quite sure how this was going to work. Fortunately Chrys had ideas on how to handle this.

She brought her hands up to softly hold the sides of his face and pulled him down to her lips. Starting at the tip of his muzzle she kissed her way down his dark lips to the left side of his face, then started over and worked her way down the right side. Chrys was enjoying the sensation of his furry face brushing against her smooth cheeks, but she wanted more. She parted her lips slightly and went back down his left side, closing her lips over his as she went along.

Ross was reveling in the feeling of her kisses, and decided he did have a few ways to reciprocate her affections. Releasing his hold on her body, he cradled Chrys’ head in his paws, his thumbs just in front of her ears. Not having lips as flexible as a human’s, he started licking her lips with his tongue. He darted the tip of his tongue out beyond the end of his muzzle and slid it’s nubbly surface across her lips. Chrys purred under his wolf’s kisses.

They stood on the sidewalk, glowing in each other’s kisses, both feeling the moment would never end. It probably would have gone on a bit longer had Ross’ nose not brushed Chrys’ cheek.

“Whoa!” exclaimed Chrys, pulling back from his kiss. “Cold.”

“Sorry,” Ross said, looking bashful and feeling very glad that werewolves couldn’t blush visibly. His face did flush with warmth though, and Chrys felt it through her hands.

“Anybody who can kiss like that has nothing to apologize for. Or be embarrassed about,” she comforted. “Cold nose or not.” She pulled Ross into another hug, letting him know that all was indeed well.

“Now c’mon,” she said, breaking their embrace after a minute or so, “I need to get you home.”

“Oh,” Ross said dejectedly. “I thought…”

“My home, silly. You’re not getting away after just a kiss. No matter how good it was.”

Ross didn’t say anything, and kept himself from grinning too broadly, but his tail gave him away.

Chrys chuckled at the sight. “I think I’d better hurry up and get you home before your tail uses up all your energy.”

Not likely, Ross thought.

Chrys took him by the paw and they strolled back to her car. Once they arrived she opened his door then walked around to the driver’s side. Chrys got to her door to find Ross had already unlocked and opened it for her.

“Thanks,” she said.

“No problem.”

They drove back to Chrys’ apartment in silence, both of them floating on the swirls of emotions and expectations that surrounded them. There were a few times that each thought the other was about to speak, but they settled for knowing glances, hand pats and caresses. After about a twenty-minute drive, almost more than either of them could take, they were there.

Chrys pulled into the lot beside her building and they got out of the car. Still, neither of them was willing to speak as if that all the wonderful feelings between them could somehow be dispelled by any sound they might make. Moving into the building, through the security door, and up to Chrys’ second floor apartment, their bodies seemed to rebel against their masters’ unwillingness to communicate.

Walking up the narrow stairs, they brushed against each other. Brushes turned into caresses and caresses into embraces. Outside the door to Chrys’ apartment, the embraces turned passionate and they melted into a long, loving kiss. Unable to stand the silence any longer, Chrys was the first to speak.

“We’d…better…get…inside,” she said, gasping the words out between kisses. Ross reluctantly released her, allowing her to fumble the door open. After they were inside, Chrys barely paused to lock the door before she was back in Ross’ arms.

She started kissing him more fiercely than before. She slid her tongue between his lips and rubbed it across his teeth. Unable to keep her hands off his body, she started rubbing the fur on his chest and kneading his muscles. This double attention caused Ross to gasp and Chrys seized the opportunity, sliding her tongue into his mouth. The sensation of his bumpy tongue on her was maddening. She moaned into this throat.

Finally breaking his silence, Ross answered with his own pleasure-sound, his hot breath coursing over Chrys’ face. “Ohhhrrrr.”

Regretfully, Chrys broke the kiss and came up for air. “I hate to stop that,” she said, “but I’ve got to go to the…you know.”

“Go ahead,” Ross said.

“I’ll just be a sec,” Chrys called over her shoulder, moving down the hall. “Go ahead and make yourself comfortable,” She added, pointing towards the living room.

Ross watched her disappear through the bathroom door then moved into what could have been any recent college graduate’s living room–big, tattered, hand-me-down chair, stereo, TV, futon, packed bookshelves, movie posters, and a small desk with the obligatory laptop. He didn’t bother turning any lights on. The streetlamps outside shone through the gaps in the mini-blinds, and with his vision that was more than enough light. Ross dropped his vest on the arm of the chair and settled onto the futon. Rolling his head back on his shoulders, he shut his eyes and let out a heavy sigh. After a couple quiet minutes he heard the telltale flush of somebody finishing up, followed by Chrys’ light footsteps coming back down the hall.

He felt her settle next to him on the futon and opened his eyes to meet her smile.

“Miss me?” she asked.

“Terribly. How can we possibly make up for all that lost time?” he teased.

“I’ve got a few ideas. Why don’t you like back and I’ll show you some of them.”

“Sounds fair,” Ross said. He leaned back to lie lengthwise on the couch and promptly bonked his head on the arm. “Ouch.”

“Poor fella. why don’t you slide down a little and…no, still won’t be enough room. Chrys paused to think for a second. “I know. Help me flip this thing out.”

They both hopped off the couch and quickly had it opened up to a much more accommodating six by eight feet.

“Much better,” said Chrys, admiring their fast work. She looked over at Ross, still standing next to her.” Aren’t you supposed to be lying down?”

“Of course,” he said as he stretched out diagonally on the futon.

“Perfect,” commented Chrys as she kicked off her moccasins and climbed on next to him, kneeling beside his waist. “Now where were we?”

“About to make up for some lost time, if I remember correctly.”

“That’s right,” Chrys said. “I just wanted to make sure that bump on the head didn’t damage anything. Perhaps I’d better check to be sure.”

With that, Chrys scooted a little farther up and bent down over Ross. Starting at his forehead she slid her fingertips through Ross’ hair towards the back of his head. His hair was even softer than she’d imagined. Smoother than silk, if such a thing were possible. Not so much checking for bumps as enjoying the feel of him beneath her hands, Chrys began massaging Ross’ scalp. Nothing could’ve been bruised too badly, for instead of yelping in pain, Ross arched his neck and let out another of his delightful moans.

“All seems well up here,” Chrys said, “but I’d better be sure everything else is okay.”

Chrys slid back down next to his waist and began rubbing his chest. Melting under her touch, Ross closed his eyes and sighed. Enjoying his reactions, and wanting more of them, she spent plenty of time kneading his muscles and stroking his fur. As her hands slid through his fur she encountered two bumps on his chest. Intrigued by her find, Chrys pushed the fur aside to reveal two dark nubs of flesh. “You got nipples,” she chuckled. While his reaction to her playing with them was very human, their appearance wasn’t. They were small, without aureolae and their sooty color stood out in sharp contrast to his fur. She didn’t want him too excited yet, so she decided to save a more thorough check of them for later and brushed his fur back over them, putting them back into hiding.

Not wanting him to get too accustomed to any one sensation, she worked her way down to his stomach. His abdomen was so firm and his bellyfur so soft, it was like massaging down-covered cobblestones. She had to stay a while.

She almost thought Ross had fallen asleep until she caressed the fur on his sides against the grain and he let out a little giggle. “You’re ticklish?” Chrys asked, amazed.

“Don’t even,” he said, not opening his eyes.

“Not now,” she promised. “But I will keep it in mind.”

Having reached the end of his exposed fur, Chrys gave his hips a squeeze. “Raise up please,” she said, hooking her fingers inside the waist of his pants.

Ross lifted his hips from the futon and Chrys gave his pants a tug, but they didn’t budge. “Sorry,” he said, reaching under his back. “Tail button.” After a couple seconds of futzing around Ross declared his success. “There.”

Now freed, his pants slid down easily. Chrys let out a delighted gasp at what she saw. His patch of white fur did go below his waist. It flowed down the insides of his thighs, stopping a few inches above the inside of his knees. It was bordered by the same fade to grey as it was on his chest. His goodies were still concealed by his breechcloth, but she could guess that they would be covered with the same snowy fur. working his pants off all the way, she also noticed that his grey fur faded into black near the tops of his calves. This black fur went all the way to the tips of his toes, leading Chrys to make an obvious comparison. “Boots,” she said, dropping his pants to the floor.

“Whuzzat?” Ross asked dreamily.

“Nothing,” said Chrys. “Uh-oh.”

“What’s wrong?” he asked, opening his eyes and propping himself up on one elbow.

“Lie back down,” she said. “If you thought your vest had matted down your fur, you don’t want to see what those pants did to your legs. This is going to take some time.”

Ross lowered himself back down and sighed, resigned to his happy fate.

Chrys spread his legs farther apart and kneeled between them, careful to stay on either side of his tail. Eager to get to work, she started on his right thigh, massaging and stroking. After she got an area smoothed out, she lingered a little longer, trying to find out where he was the most sensitive. She’d groomed most of his legs before moving to the insides of his thighs. The merest touch on the downy fur caused his whole body to stiffen. She knew she’d found her spot. Jackpot! she thought. She’d been pretty easy on Ross so far. Her caresses and rubbing had been eliciting happy moans and sighs, but she hadn’t really gone after him yet. Now it was time. She dove in with the fingernails of both hands and drew them across both his snowy thigh patches at once.

His whole body snapped taut. His back arched so high that only his shoulder blades were left on the futon. “Rrrrrrrohhhhhh!” he groaned. The noise continued until Chrys’ hands left his thighs. It was still another second before his body thumped back down.

“Ohmygod!” exclaimed Chrys. She crawled over top of him, straddling his waist, and placed her hands on either side of his face. “Ross! Are you okay?”

“That…” he gasped, his eyes fluttering open. “That was about the most intense thing I think I’ve ever felt.”

“Are you all right though?” she asked again. “That almost looked like it hurt.”

Ross shrugged his shoulders and wriggled around a little, stopping with a slight “whuf” and a frown.

“Well?”

“I think I may have pulled a muscle in my back.”

“You poor thing,” she said, apologizing with a kiss. “Roll over on your stomach and I’ll see if I can undo the damage. I had no idea you’d be that sensitive.”

“Neither did I,” he said, complying with her instructions as she pushed herself up on all fours. Ross settled on his stomach and folded his hands under his chin. “I’ve changed into this form hundreds of times, but I’ve never knew about that spot until now.”

Chrys lowered herself onto Ross and settled just in front of the base of his tail. Having her legs on either side of him made her skirt too tight, so she undid the buttons up to mid-thigh and hiked it up a little ways past her knees. Finally comfortable, she bent down to start on Ross’ back. “Are your legs that sensitive when you’re in human form?” Chrys asked, working his shoulders.

“Not really. But a werewolf’s body is rather different from a human one, so we’re dealing with a whole new situation here. This is the first time I’ve done anything like this with this body.”

“Anything?” she asked, stopping for a second. “I can’t buy that,” she said, resuming her massage. “If I was given a whole new body to play with, especially at–how old were you? 14?–I’d have to find out everything it could do. I mean everything. C’mon, you can’t tell me you never got curious. Not ever?”

“Well…Chrys this is embarrassing. You’re asking if I ever, y’know, played with myself when I was in werewolf form. That’s kind of personal, don’t you think?”

“Ross,” Chrys chuckled, “I’ve got you stripped down almost to your fur, you’ve told me things tonight you’d kept secret you’re whole life, and you’re going to balk on this? No way. I have you under my powers so you’d better answer.”

“What pow–” Ross mocked, his words instantly lost in laughing barks as Chrys attacked his sides. He tried to roll her off his back, but she clamped her knees to him and wouldn’t budge. Ross planted his hands under his shoulders and pushed himself up, bowing his back. This attempt to throw Chrys off-balance backfired, as his new position gave her more area to invade. Which she readily did, her fingertips marching into more sensitive territory.

“Stop! Stop!” he cried. But Chrys refused to let up.

“Okay!” he yelped. “Yes! Yes! Just please stop.”

With his surrender declared, Chrys grinned smugly and stopped her tickling. Ross promptly collapsed. As he fell back down he pressed his elbows to his sides and crossed his forearms in front of him, trying to provide himself with any defense he could in case she started in again. He even hunched his shoulders and pressed his chin into the hollow that formed between his right shoulder and collarbone, lest she go after his neck. “Evil,” he moaned. “Pure evil.”

Chrys grinned and lay down on his back, cupping her hands over his shoulders and hugging him tightly. “Oh, that wasn’t so bad,” she teased.

“Not so bad?” he whimpered as he glared at her out of his right eye.

“Perhaps you should’ve just answered the question?” she asked, placing a kiss on his cheek.

“I certainly know better now,” he admitted, loosening up a little.

“Ross, it’s really no big deal. Okay, so it’s not something people discuss at work, but everybody does it. And everybody knows everybody else does it. You should feel lucky. Most people go through life stuck in the same body, and here you are with three to choose from. I can just imagine what you can do in full wolf form,” she said with a wink.

“God,” he groaned, trying to bury his face under his chest, “you’re incorrigible.”

“Yeah,” she grinned, ruffling his silver mane, “but that’s just one of the things about me you’ll come to love. Now stop being silly and let me get back to work on that muscle you pulled.” With one last kiss, Chrys pushed herself up to her former position.

Feeling, hoping, that he was safe from further tickling, Ross pulled his arms out from under him. He made a pillow out of his forearms and rested his left cheek on them. Even though he felt safe, he still wanted to keep an eye on Chrys.

Ross had been a pretty good sport about the tickling so Chrys decided to give him a treat by starting her backrub over. Placing her hands on either side of his neck, she began kneading and prodding her way lower. The fur on his back was longer than his chest fur, and slightly thicker. Chrys was expecting all her rubbing to make little knots in his fur, but was pleased to discover that it all smoothed out wonderfully. She’d just begun to work her thumbs under his shoulder blades when Ross let out a little hiss.

“Found it,” he said. “Right side.”

“Okay,” said Chrys. Having located the pulled muscle, she gently started working it with both hands. She pulled, rubbed and rolled the muscle, coaxing it to loosen up. After a few minutes of delicate attention Ross let out a happy sigh.

“Better?” Chrys asked.

“Much,” he replied.

Chrys was glad that she’d relieved any discomfort she’d caused Ross. With that taken care of, it was time to start getting serious.

 

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Aaaaand this is where the edit happens. I’m sure you can tell where things were headed, but if you’re reading this version, you don’t want all the details. Suffice it to say that Ross and Chrys get very, very well-acquainted with each other. I’ll let you rejoin them after all that business is over and done with.

====================

 

Chrys folded the towel, mess to the inside, and dropped it to the floor. Her clean-up done, she turned back to him and took him by the shoulders. “I don’t know about you,” she said, “but I’m dying for something to drink.”

“Good idea,” he agreed.

“C’mon,” she said, pulling him to follow her.

They walked to the kitchen and Chrys opened the refrigerator. “Hmmm. Water, orange juice, Coke…any of that sound good?”

“Water’s fine,” he answered.

“Okay.” Chrys pulled the jug out and placed it on the counter. As she opened a cupboard to get a couple glasses, she paused. “No straws,” she said. “Is that okay?”

“Fine. Just give me a glass with a wide rim.”

Chrys took down a tall glass for herself and a tumbler for Ross. After filling both glasses she left the jug open and handed Ross his water.

“Thanks,” he said, raising his glass. He poked his muzzle into the rim and started lapping up his drink. He had the glass half-empty before he noticed Chrys trying not to laugh. “Careful,” he cautioned. “Remember, I can turn into a wolf.”

“That’s okay,” Chrys said, finally cracking up, “I’ve got bowls too.”

Ross was dumbstruck. He couldn’t believe she’d actually said that. Her laughter showed no sight of abating, and he finally joined in. It was funny.

They stopped laughing shortly and had a couple more glasses of water. After they were done, Chrys put their glasses in the sink and returned the jug to the fridge. When she turned back from the closing door, Ross drew her into a hug.

Holding a silent embrace, they caressed each other for several minutes.

“Ross.”

“Yeah?”

“You tired?”

“Exhausted.”

“Me too. Want to go to bed?”

“Sure,” he replied.

Chrys took his paw and led him to her bedroom. Already half-asleep, she pulled down the covers and crawled into bed. Ross slid in next to her and covered them up. Chrys snuggled up next to him and nestled her face in his chest. He slipped his arms around her, holding her close.

“Ross?” she asked dreamily.

“Hmmm?”

“Will you still be furry in the morning?” she wanted to know.

“Wait and see.”

They were both asleep in minutes.