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FLIPSIDE
AUTHOR'S NOTE
PROLOGUE
CHAPTER I
CHAPTER II
CHAPTER III
CHAPTER IV
CHAPTER V
CHAPTER VI
CHAPTER VII
CHAPTER VIII
CHAPTER IX
CHAPTER X
CHAPTER XI
CHAPTER XII
CHAPTER XIII
CHAPTER XIV
EPILOGUE

CHAPTER IV

"I sure didn’t expect that." John said as they walked down the hall. "Wait until Cooper sees the tapes."

"Neither did I. I had no idea. I was shocked enough to find out that he was a thinking man. I have no real way of knowing, but I think this is going to make things difficult for him in the future. It’s a change I know I wouldn’t want to have to make."

"True, but sooner or later he’s going to have to; unless he wants to be castrated or spend the rest of his life as a monk. I strongly doubt he’d do either. There’s always professional counseling. If he was one of us, he’d definitely be in it."

"Probably, but he’s not one of us. We can’t treat him like a pervert in need of treatment. The situation is entirely different. We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess. We won’t really know until he’s been out and around for a while. I’ll try to come up with something tonight. Meanwhile, why don’t’ you get started on those specimens? I’ve got to go and make a report for Cooper."

"Sure, boss. I’ll see you tomorrow. I may even stay a little late if I get terribly interested."

"Don’t stay too late. You know they won’t pay you for it without the Big Guy’s permission, and you know how he is about paying overtime."

"No problem. I don’t have anything to do tonight."

"You’re not seeing What’s-His-Face anymore?"

"Keith? We broke up last month. He was balling his roommate back at the campus. I should have known better, I guess."

"Sorry to hear it. You talked about him a lot. I’ll see you tomorrow."

"Good night."

He woke a little after five, the night filled with fitful, restless sleep. He stood and stretched, yawning. Figuring that he had a couple of hours before Doug and John came in, he decided to do a little catch-up on his exercise.

He stretched out for a few minutes and began jogging in place, timing himself with the chronometer on his watch. He had been jogging for close to half an hour when he heard a knock on the door.

"Come in!" he yelled, smiling at himself.

"Howdy." John said in greeting as he came in, followed by a guard. The guard’s body armor was gone and he now carried a holstered pistol. Both of them sniffed repeatedly.

"Hi. You’re here early." Mike huffed.

"I wasn’t sleeping so good, so I came in early. I see you’re back to jogging."

"Maybe I’ll find another hole to fall into. Besides, captivity is no excuse to get fat." He paused long enough for his breathing to steady then dropped to the floor and started doing push-ups. John watched him for a few seconds before leaning out the door. He straightened, holding a cardboard box.

"I went and got you some clothes last night, courtesy of the U.S. Government. You have no idea how hard it is to find decent winter clothes in April. Anyway, I got you four pairs of jeans, four sweaters, some shirts, regular pants, underwear, and socks - you seem to wear them all the time. I already washed it all, so you can start wearing them now."

"Thanks, that was good of you." Mike said gratefully as he got up. He took the box and started rooting through it. "You even have decent taste."

"Thanks. I hope it all fits. I guessed on most of it."

"Well, let’s see. Thirty-one inch waist on the jeans and...you call this underwear?" Mike asked, holding up what appeared to be a blue patch of gauze with an elastic string attached.

"It’s a pocket, dummy." John said, unfolding a jock strap-like pouch.

"Let me guess; anything more would bother your fur."

"You got it. I take it your usual underwear is more...what, substantial?"

"Considerably. Things like this are illegal in some places."

"Illegal? It’s underwear!"

"Well, they make bathing suits like this, too. Most beaches won’t allow them."

"Oh, that’s odd."

"Okay," Mike said, continuing to root through the box, "Same waist on the shorts. You guessed right. What’s your waist, about thirty?"

"Twenty-nine."

"How did you ever get such a skinny waist with shoulders like that?"

"Hard work."

"I guess so. Large on the shirts and sweaters, that works too. Thanks again. I’d hate to stand around naked while this stuff I’m wearing was being washed." He sat down on the cot, stretching half-heartedly.

"What do you want for breakfast? I’m sure they have pancakes or waffles if you don’t want eggs."

"Actually, I’m not very hungry. I suppose some coffee would be nice, though. A pot would be better. When is Doug supposed to get in?"

"About seven-thirty. That gives us about an hour or so. Oh, in case you’re interested, I finished the analysis on your urine and stool last night."

"And?"

"They seemed normal enough. You haven’t been eating your vegetables."

"You haven’t been feeding me any. All they had last night was mashed potatoes."

"Maybe we’ll do better today."

Mike leaned back against the wall. "So, John, what do you do when you’re not studying monsters from hell?"

"Well," John answered, chuckling gruffly, "I read a lot. I play tennis, basketball, and racquetball. I like to bike, too. Other than that, just the usual stuff."

"What kind of music do you like?"

"Rock, mostly, but I’m a big fan of R & B and dance pop, too."

"Who’s your favorite NBA team?"

"Who else?" John asked with an expectant smile.

"It’s show time!" Mike yelled, dunking into the air in front of him. He pantomimed dribbling a basketball around the cell, faking another dunk.

John laughed at the sight. "For a monster, you’re not such a bad guy. Any Bulls fan is OK in my book." He leaned against the wall beside the sink. "You know, I’m starting to feel guilty." he said, fixing Mike with a serious gaze.

"Why’s that?"

"Well, up until now, I’ve spent all of my time being amazed by you. You’re a normal, every-day guy who’s had his world turned inside-out; and all I’ve been able to see is how interesting you are to study. I haven’t been thinking of you as a person. I know that I’m...part of your problem, but I want you to know that it bothers me to keep you caged up like this. It’s just not, well, wolfane."

"Wolfane? As in ‘humane?’"

"Hmmm. Yeah, I guess that’s what you’d call it."

"You’re right, of course. Well, to some extent, anyway. I’m a fairly open-minded person. I can understand your position." He have John a stern look as he continued. "I don’t expect it to last forever. When you have learned what you have to learn, I want out of here. I have to make some kind of life for myself. I haven’t really thought that far ahead, but it’s something I’m going to have to face. God, I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when I get out of here. No, scratch that. I can imagine. It’s obvious what the public reaction is going to be. AAAAHH! A monster! Quick, Harold, lock up the children!"

"Oh, I don’t know," John said with a reassuring smile, such that he was capable of, "It didn’t take me too long to get used to you. How else could I have given you a physical? I’m sure Doug feels the same way. Oh, and the guards, too."

"As for the hetero part, I don’t know. I’m sure that Doug is going to want to discuss that today. I have a feeling that your contact with the general public is going to be somewhat limited until your, uh, good intentions can be assured."

Mike grimaced. "Look, John, I can tell you one thing right now. I’ll spend the rest of my life jerking off before I would even remotely consider raping somebody. As for being homosexual, I’m going to need more than time on that one. It’s just not consistent with my beliefs." He sighed heavily. A brief picture of him kissing a werewolf flashed across his mind and he mentally shoved it aside. He thought John was an okay guy, but not that okay. And a werewolf?

"Beliefs? Do you mean religion?"

"I’ve been a committed Christian for about ten years."

"Hey, that’s great." John said, struck by the thought of a wereman being a Christian. "So am I. I’ve only been in the books for about three years, though."

"All that counts is that you are now and that, hopefully, you intend to stay that way."

"I guess that’s why you asked for a bible last night, Huh?"

"Mainly, but there are a few verses I want to look into."

"Which ones?"

"Well, where I come from, the bible specifically states that homosexuality is wrong. I want to see if yours is any different."

"Hold on. Why don’t we put that on hold until Doug gets here. He’ll probably have the bible and we can go over this then. I don’t want to get too far into this with him not here. He’d be pissed if we left him out. I will tell you one thing, though. I think that you’ll find the exact opposite of what you’re looking for. Now that I think about it, you might not be too happy."

"That’s what I want to find out." Mike said. Jesus Christ, a faggot werewolf? I don’t want to think about it. Time to change the subject.

"How about a shower? Me, I mean."

"Two days in a row?" John asked.

Mike rolled his eyes. "Here we go again..."

"OK OK, the wereman takes a shower every day." added quickly, chuckling. "And before you ask, every other day." He turned to Eklund. "You want to call your buddy over?"

"Yeah, hold on." Eklund said, walking to the door and calling Ford over.

Mike grabbed his stuff and they headed down to the latrine. John waited out by the lockers while he washed. The guards had to watch him and he ignored them as best he could. When he turned to dry off, he wasn’t surprised to catch them staring at his ass. It bothered him more this time, now that he knew it wasn’t just scientific curiosity.

He put the underwear on after drying off, looking down at himself and smiling. "I feel like I should be posing in some cheap magazine." he said to John as he took his towel to the sink.

"You look like you should be posing in some magazine, although you probably wouldn’t like the cheap ones."

In spite of their vulgar look, they were actually pretty comfortable. He brushed his teeth, combed his hair, and sat a few feet down from John; who shuffled closer. He pulled on a pair of his new jeans, zipping the legs down. He glanced at John, who was watching his stomach muscles. "You know, I really don’t understand what you all see in me."

John blushed that strange blush again, chuckling shyly. "I’m sorry. What do you mean?"

"I don’t understand how something so different could be considered attractive. You have fur, I don’t. My face is different from yours; it must look flat to you. My teeth are blunt. From what Doug said yesterday, I more or less resemble a skinny primate."

"Yeah, but remember what I said yesterday. It’s most of those qualities that make you attractive. As you can quite imagine, everyone likes a good body. I’m sure that you’re aware of what hound dogs men are. The first thing we see is a good body, and you have a very good body. Your lack of fur only makes that all the more obvious. As for your face, it is demonic in a way. But you’re not ugly, just different. I guess you could say that you have one of those ‘So tough I dare you to like it’ kind of faces. You even look cute sometimes. And your eyes! I’ve never seen blue eyes before, let alone ones so bright as yours."

It was Mike’s turn to blush. Everyone had always liked his eyes, and it embarrassed him, even if it did get him dates. He pulled on his sweater.

"Not to mention the incredible way you blush." John remarked with a laugh.

That only made him blush harder. He pulled on his socks, following with the sneakers. He tried to control the feat flowing into his face. He had always hated how easy it was for him to blush.

Time again to change the subject, he thought. "So, how about that coffee?" he asked as he finished tying his sneakers.

"Let’s go."

They sat in his cell, drinking black coffee and talking about nothing in particular. John brought in an ashtray and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. "Mind if I have a smoke? I’ve quit, but coffee always makes me light a couple."

"Not if you let me bum one or two. I usually have a couple with my coffee, too."

John handed him one and held out the lighter. Mike lit it and took a long drag. After John lit his, they both looked at each other and laughed.

"I won’t say it if you won’t."

"I wouldn’t think of mentioning how funny it looks to see a wereman smoke. Oops! I blew it."

Mike studied John’s face, not having thought to really look closely before. The fur was dark brown and patterned with black on his snout and forehead. His eyes were green and human-shaped, the only difference being the larger irises. The fur thickened into bushy eyebrows above his eyes.

His snout was medium-length and -width with a few thick, short, white whiskers at the front. His lips were black and thin with a slight, barely noticeable bulge on each side where they covered his fangs. His nose, set atop the end of his snout and blending in smoothly, was black with subtly flared nostrils.

The fur on his forehead was short, lengthening in the back and under his ears. It was neatly combed, following the shape of his head and blending neatly into his neck and shoulders. Under his chin it was slightly thinner and lengthened gradually to match his neck.

His ears, at the moment facing eagerly forward, looked like a wolf’s and he actually looked kind of cute, in a canine sort of way.

Mike mentally slapped himself back to reality when he realized that John was returning his stare. He looked down self-consciously and took another drag.

"How do I look?" John asked with a fang-filled smile, scratching the left side of his snout with a claw.

Mike smiled. "Like a werewolf who decided to change his ways and become a nice guy. I guess it was the opposing thumbs that did it."

"Nice guy?" John gasped. "Oh no, anything but that! Would it help if I growled more often?"

"Nope. I’m afraid you’re stuck with it."

John dropped his face into his hands. "My life is ruined."

"Think of me. You’ll feel better."

They were talking about basketball when Doug showed up at about seven-thirty, carrying a stack of books. "Good morning John, Mike. How long have you two been here?"

"About an hour." John said. "I wasn’t sleeping too well so I came in early. I picked him up some clothes last night with a company card. I’ll turn it in later."

"Oh, good. I hope I haven’t missed anything important." Doug asked, setting the books down on the table.

"No, not really. We’ve just been shooting the bull. We didn’t want to get into anything serious before you got here. Mostly we’ve been talking about basketball. We made a bet."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. Mike says that the Bulls will win the title without losing more than four games. I say it’ll be closer."

"What’s the bet?"

"Fifty bucks."

"Steep." Doug said, spreading the books out and turning to Mike. "I’ve got a King James Bible, a dictionary, an anatomy text, a wild kingdom book, and three wereman novels. I hope that will do."

"Yeah, thanks. I really appreciate it." He picked up the bible, which was still in its plastic wrapping. He tore it off and thumbed through the pages. "So, what’s on today’s agenda?"

"For right now, it’s more talk. There’s still a lot of things we need to go through." Doug answered. "Oh, I almost forgot."

He left the room and returned with a plastic garbage bag. He opened it and lifted out the contents, dropping them onto the table. It was Mike’s t-shirt. "Does this look familiar?"

"It’s my t-shirt." Mike said, picking it up. "My favorite t-shirt. I took it off when I first woke up."

"They found it on that trail you were picked up on, along with a lot of really strong ionization traces."

"It’s a shame he canceled his own comic strip." John said, pointing at the penguin on the front of the shirt.

"Yeah, I know." Mike said. "Can I keep it?"

"Not for the time being." Doug said, pointing to the tag hanging from it. "Right now it’s evidence."

"Evidence?"

"To prove that you really exist and to keep all the facts straight. You’ll have it back soon." He handed out the bag.

Mike dropped it in and Doug put it on the floor beside his chair.

"What should we talk about first?" John asked.

"Let me say this, to start things off. You’ve only been here a few days, but it looks like you’re not going to be cooped up here much longer. To be honest, you aren’t what we expected to be studying when we first saw you handing over Paul’s shoulder. None of this would be happening if you weren’t so, well, normal."

"...Hanging over Paul’s shoulder?"

"Someone had to carry you in here." John said with a smile.

"Who’s Paul?"

"He’s one of the guys that went hunting after you. They were expecting to find an escaped ape. He’s been watching you at night."

"Oh."

"There’s very little left for us to learn here. We can do the rest just as easily in a house as we can in a cell."

"Then let’s get started."

"All right, first thing’s first. Since Cooper has seen the videotapes and is pushing to get you out of here, there is one big issue that we have to work on right away."

"Sex." Mike guessed.

"Very good. Yes, that’s it."

"We touched on that a little earlier." John added. "I said that we’d better wait for you and the bible."

"Wise choice. Why the bible?"

"John mentioned that how soon I get out of here depends on my attitude about your sexual orientation. I mentioned that homosexuality is against my beliefs. John asked what I meant, and I told him that I’ve been a Christian for about ten years. One of the reasons I asked for a bible was to see what yours had to say about sexual conduct. Mine says that homosexuality is wrong."

Doug wrote that down.

"That’s when John pulled the plug and said that we should wait for you."

"Let’s have a look, then." Doug said, leaning forward. "Do you have any specific verses in mind?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact."

They huddled together around the bible, Mike slightly uncomfortable with how close they sat; one on either side. Mike and John each picked out relevant verses that came to mind.

"What cologne is that?" Mike asked John after a few moments.

"None, just me. I don’t stink, do I?" he asked fearfully.

"No." Mike assured him, not admitting that he thought John smelled good. They returned their attention to the bible.

Mike was shocked at what they found there. For all intents and purposes, it was a bible like any other. All the right books were there, even the ones named for women. The other differences were far more dramatic.

The mother of Jesus was indeed named Mary. She had died giving birth to him. Joseph had a husband named Joshua.

Jesus was described as being blonde - that meant silver, Mike found out - from head to toe. He was also said to have been celibate, to Mike’s relief.

The story of Sodom and Gomorra was drastically different. Sodom had not been destroyed. It was said to be a righteous city and served as a comparison to Gomorra. Gomorra had been destroyed because it was plagued with rampant heterosexual sin. It was Lot’s husband who looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Much turned out to be the same as far as sexual morality was concerned. Promiscuity and premarital sex were frowned upon just as strongly. Adultery was equally forbidden, and monogamy was emphasized. All in all, the standards were the same.

When they had tracked down everything Mike and John could come up with, they all sat back with a collective sigh.

"I haven’t delved into a bible like that in years." Doug said.

Mike raised his eyebrows, accustomed to his Christian circle of friends and acquaintances, and John caught it. "He’s not saved. I’ve been working on him."

Mike smiled and sighed again, starting in on the only fingernail he hadn’t completely eaten off. John tapped a fang and Doug scratched lightly on his snout, both echoing their earlier idiosyncrasies. Their study had taken almost an hour.

"Tell me what you’re feeling." Doug asked carefully, fully aware that Mike had just seen his religious beliefs challenged.

Mike hesitated, running his hands over his face. Everything had been just as he remembered unless it dealt with sex or family. "I’m not sure." he admitted. "I guess it all boils down to one point. Which bible do I follow; the one I came from, or the one I’m going to? Which one is right for me? I’m kind of stuck between worlds. Do I follow the Jesus of my home, or do I follow your Jesus? Do I have a choice? Can I accept it if I don’t have one? According to your bible, Jesus want me to fall in love with and marry a man. I just don’t have a simple answer for you. I’m sorry."

"Mike, let me ask you this." Doug began. "Do you consider yourself to be an open-minded person?"

"Yeah."

"Then do this for us; and please, feel free to take your time." He leaned forward, resting on his elbows and adjusting his glasses. "Put yourself in our place for a few minutes. Don’t think of a wolf. Think of one of your own kind, someone you think you would be attracted to if you were norm...homosexual. Now wait!" he added quickly when he saw Mike’s eyes widen. "You said you had an open mind. Don’t make a liar out of yourself."

"You told me the same thing not three hours ago." John added with a grin.

Mike sighed. "Go ahead."

"Okay." Doug continued. "Now, imagine this person. Imagine yourself married to him. Don’t think of sex. Just think of being with him, being in love with him. Think of feeling the same way with this man as you would with a, uh, woman. Imagine just sitting with him, say, watching TV. You’re cuddled together, talking about how your day went."

"Well, dear, it started off with me being shamelessly stared at while I showered. Then I was interrogated by monsters, after which..."

"Be serious."

Mike sighed and sat back, thinking about what Doug had said even though it made him ill to consider it. He couldn’t just do nothing, because both of them were watching him closely; and he had said that he had an open mind.

So he went along with it. He didn’t imagine someone he knew, though. He imagined John. Might as well, he thought. He knew John, but not very well. He figured that his appearance, along with not really knowing him well, would help distance himself from what Doug wanted him to think. He also figured that if he was going to allow this fantasy, however celibate, he may as well go all the way.

He had a dog while he was growing up, so imagining himself cuddling up to a furry body was far from repulsive. As a matter of fact, he had always liked curling up with the big German Shepherd. Why not just think of John as a dog who could talk? He talked to his dog, anyway. The only difference here is that this time the dog would talk back.

He allowed his mind to roam, setting the scene of John and himself sitting on a couch watching the news.

The whole episode was bringing back memories of his dog, and he remembered how he would frequently give him a kiss on the top of his head. Reggie had been his best friend, after all, even if he was a dog.

One thought led to another, his mind drifted, and he found himself kissing John.

He had already observed that these wolves, as they called themselves, had lips that were thin but perfectly capable of producing speech. That meant that they were also perfectly capable of kissing. Their tongues were as thick as a man’s but almost as long as a dog’s. He shuddered inwardly and pushed the thought from his mind.

The worst part, to his dismay and shame, was that he had actually drifted away enough to enjoy the scenario. Something inside of him, on a level that he couldn’t identify, was attracted to the feelings those thoughts had bred.

I must be remembering my dog, he thought, forcing himself back to the present. He looked from Doug to John, letting his gaze rest on Doug’s. He could think of nothing better to do, so he shrugged.

"Well?"

"Well," he began, "I guess I should start by telling you that I didn’t imagine another human. I imagined one of your kind. I don’t know why, but somehow that made is easier. Uh," he faltered, not sure how to express what he had felt, "I’m not really sure how I feel. And if I was, I probably wouldn’t be able to put it into words. Something, I don’t know, in the back of my mind, felt content. Even a little happy, I guess." He blushed slightly. "It was like, oh hell, something like an animal magnetism. And that was most likely just an extension of the pleasure of cuddling with my dog when I was a boy." He sighed in sudden exasperation. "God, I can’t believe I’m saying this!"

"Leave the psychoanalysis to me." Doug said, putting his pen down. "Mike, if it’s something deep inside of you, then it’s a part of you, right? No matter how deeply buried, it seems to be there. Your society suppressed it, our society built on it. Just because your people built upon one side the coin doesn’t mean that the flipside doesn’t exist."

"Tell us exactly what you imagined." John suggested.

"Basically, just of me and a wolf sitting on the couch, watching the news. We were sitting close, the wolf resting his head in the crook of my shoulder. We were talking quietly, but I didn’t imagine any specific words. Then we just..." He refused to admit the rest.

"...What?" Doug asked.

"Nothing." Mike answered evasively. "That was it."

"You were about to say something. Level with me. I saw you shake your head back there."

"All right, damn it! I imagined a kiss." His eyes darted to John for a split-second before he continued. "I didn’t try to imagine that, I just went a little spacey and it popped up. Maybe I was just caught up in the feelings from hugging my dog. Just don’t read anything more than that into it, okay? It doesn’t mean anything below the surface."

John had caught the glance, his eyes blinked and his mouth popped open slightly. Shit, he knows I thought of him; Mike swore to himself. It’s probably written all over my damned face!

He looked at Doug, who was watching him and thinking deeply. He couldn’t bring himself to look back at John.

"Why, do you think, did you kiss him?" Doug asked carefully.

"Look, I said I didn’t do it intentionally, all right? I don’t know why! I was reminded of my dog, and I gave him a little kiss now and then!"

"Mike, will you stop being angry and think?" Doug admonished. "Stop hating the fact that you did and ask yourself why you did. We will never get anywhere if you don’t stop being afraid of your own feelings. Help us out. Help yourself."

Mike glared at him, thinking about what he had just said. His anger, fueled by his embarrassment, began to fade. He took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, and released it with a whoosh. "I guess it was just something I would have done under the circumstances." he admitted cautiously. "It’s time like that when people are most likely to express affection - just, you know, sitting together."

Doug and John exchanged a quick glance, smiling. Mike caught it.

"What are you smiling about?" he asked, anger creeping back into his voice. "Wait a minute! You set me up, didn’t you? You wanted to see how far I would go!"

"Yes." Doug confessed. "I thought of this last night. If it’s any consolation, I think that, for now, you passed. You see, I had to know how you would react to a situation like that. You kissing him was more than I was hoping for."

Mike glowered at him.

"That’s one meeeaaaan look." John said. "Why are you so mad? You imagined it. This will probably go a long way toward getting you out of here. Don’t make us doubt you."

"I don’t like having my feelings manipulated."

"That’s why you’re mad?" Doug asked.

"Yes, damn it! The feelings I can deal with. I just think it’s a little unfair to trick me into feeling them."

"I can’t help it." Doug remarked with a smile. "I have a degree in psychology."

Mike hurrumphed.

More seriously, Doug continued. "We had to know what you are capable of feeling. We also had to do it in a way that assured your honesty. It’s not that we don’t trust you. You’ve shown yourself to be worthy of trust. I just wanted to make sure that you were being honest with yourself. I’m not trying to convert you to our way of life, I promise. That’s something you’ll have to work out on your own. I will say, however, that this realization is a good first step. The rest you’ll have to deal with at your own pace, with no more tricks from me. Anyway, I’m satisfied." He sat back and wrote on his note pad.

"I guess there’s worse ways to pry information from me." Mike said, calming down. "When it comes right down to it, I can’t blame you for my own imagination; even though you maneuvered me into it."

"That’s better." Doug said, still writing.

"Next subject?" John asked.

Doug finished writing and looked up. "The next subject is: What does Mike want to do when he gets out of here?"

"Uh-oh, I hadn’t had the chance to give that any thought. I’m a computer programmer by trade, but I hardly think that anyone would hire me. Truth is, I could probably program circles around most people my age. The only other thing I’m really any good at is music."

John leaned forward intently. "In what way?"

"I play guitar and a little piano. I also write. I like almost all kinds of music, but most of what I write is rock and roll. I’ve got a couple of songs doing time on someone’s first album. It just came out a couple of months ago."

"Who’s?"

"Ever hear of a band called Antares?"

"I just bought it a week ago! I can’t believe it! Which songs did you write?"

"Shallow Talk and Why Won’t I leave? I’ve written better since."

"No way! Shallow Talk is my favorite song on there! I’ll be right back!" He jumped up from the table and practically ran from the cell.

He jogged down to the phone at the end of the hall, Mark calling after him. If what Mike had said was true, his semi-serious theory of a parallel Earth would be all but proven.

He grabbed the phone and dialed the number of his landlord, who lived in the apartment below his. Mark came up, asking what his hurry was. John waived him off.

The phone rang twice and was answered. "Hello."

It was his landlord’s husband. "Hi, Mr. Spierchek, this is John from upstairs. This is important. Is your husband around?"

"He’s fixing someone’s kitchen sink at the moment. Do you want me to get him?"

"Do you have the room keys handy?"

"Yes, why?"

"I need you to do me a favor, please. Can you go up to my apartment and look at something for me?"

"I guess so. Do you want me to call back from up there?"

"No, I can’t give you the number here. I’ll call you back at mine."

"Okay, give me a minute to get up there."

"Thanks." John said, hanging up.

"What’s the deal?" Mark asked.

"Did you hear what he said in there?"

"Yeah, I was watching on the monitor. I don’t have the album."

"I do. I want to see if Mike is listed on it." John said, tapping his foot impatiently. He picked the phone up and called his apartment. His phone was answered on the third ring.

"Hello...John?"

"Yeah, it’s me. Okay, in my CD rack, the first one on the left, you’ll find a CD by a band called Antares. Please get it for me."

"This is important?"

"I know it sounds trivial, but there’s something important here at work that I need to check. That CD is the answer. Please trust me."

"All right. Hold on."

John tapped his fangs with a claw, hoping Mike’s name would be on the CD.

"Okay, got it."

"Good. Now look for two songs. One is called Shallow Talk and the other is Why Won’t I Leave?"

"Yeah, they’re on here."

"Who wrote them?"

"Says M. Riggs on both."

"I knew it! Okay, is M. Riggs or Michael Riggs mentioned anywhere else on it?"

"Hold on a minute, the ‘thanks’ column is a mile long."

"I’ll wait."

John waited, his mind racing. He couldn’t believe that it matched up. He’d transfer the information upstairs and have a check done on the M. Riggs mentioned on those songs. He wondered what would come up.

"There’s one thing that might be what you want, but I’m not sure."

"What is it?"

"It’s in the ‘thanks’ column. It says ‘thanks for bailing us out, Mike.’"

"That’s him! It’s got to be!" John exclaimed before he could stop himself. "Thanks a lot, Mr. Spierchek. You’ve been a big help."

"Sure."

"Bye." he said, slamming the phone down. He walked quickly back to the cell, Mark stopping off at the desk to reload a tape. Mike and Doug were waiting for him.

"Mike," he said as he sat down, "Did they mention you anywhere else on the album beside the credit for writing those songs?"

"Yeah, they thanked me in the usual ‘thanks’ column. It says some- thing about bailing them out because they didn’t have enough songs written when they hit the studio. I never met them, though."

"I don’t believe it!" John exclaimed, turning to Doug. "I had my landlord’s husband go up to my apartment and look at the CD. Those two songs are credited to him and the remark in the ‘thanks’ column was just what he said it was. We’ve got to send this upstairs and see what they can find on this guy."

"Son of a gun." Doug said. "This is outstanding. When we checked with the company you said you worked for, they had someone completely different at your position. He’s forty-six and has a son. The name didn’t even match. Now it does. I wonder what they’ll turn up?"

"I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out." John added.

"John, why don’t you call upstairs and have them get on this right away. No, better yet, I’ll call Cooper and have him make sure it gets done." He got up and headed for the door. "I’ll be back in a few minutes."

"Shallow Talk is a great song. Were you writing from experience?"

"Yeah. I got dumped big time by some tramp just before I met my fiancé’. The song pretty much says it all about her. John warned me."

"I know how you feel. Who’s John?"

"A friend of mine. You know, they kinda messed with it." Mike continued. "My version is more textured. It’s a shame they don’t plan to release it as a single. I could have made a pretty penny from that. I assume that on your CD it’s about a guy."

"Yeah." John said, leaning back and looking at Mike with admiration. "And to think, I know the guy who wrote my favorite song. I just want to bang my head against something whenever I hear it."

"It is one of my heavier songs, and not as refined."

"I hope they can find out about it soon."

"It should be interesting."

Doug returned, a smile on his face. "Cooper says that we should know by late today or tomorrow. Are your songs successful?"

"They’re on the album, but they won’t be singles. All of this still doesn’t change the fact that I’m not going to have a job. I can’t go on living off of the FBI forever, and I’m not going to star in any horror movies, if you know what I mean."

"That would probably be the worse thing you could do." Doug agreed. "I imagine you could make money doing commercials, posters, and the like."

"Commercials and posters?"

"I already told you that you’re kind of sexy." John remarked.

"You did?" Doug asked him.

"He asked."

"No sense in lying about it, I guess."

"Not you, too?" Mike asked, exasperated.

"I might not be young and virile like John here, but I’m not dead."

Mike looked unconvinced.

"You may not be generally aware of it," Doug continued, "But you have a...presence. Being near you is like standing near a, I don’t know, stallion." Mike briefly interrupted him with a snort. "I mean it. You practically radiate strength and maleness. It’s hard to explain, and a little intimidating sometimes. Being on the tall side adds to the effect. If you weren’t such a normal, nice young man I’d be afraid to be near you. Do you remember the day you woke up?"

"Yeah," Mike said, chuckling at the utter silliness of it all, "I’m going to get you back for that." Them afraid of me? I don’t have claws and fangs to rake and tear with, Mike thought silently. God, this is weird.

"For what?"

"The steak."

"Oh, that."

"Would you be surprised to find out that, before I got to know you, you scared the hell out of me, too? Remember, I was hunted down in the woods like an animal, shot, and dumped in a cold cell. I thought you were going to eat me."

"Eat you!" Doug gasped, remembering the tapes he had watched. "Why would you be afraid of us?"

"Look at my hands." Mike said, holding them up. "What would these...claws do to you? Not much. You poked around inside my mouth. What good would my teeth be against your fangs? Think about the animal kingdom and then look at me. We humans all grew up with an inborn fear of anything with fangs, fur, and claws. We spent God knows how long fighting off wild animals with clubs and rocks. Those kinds of fears don’t evolve themselves away overnight. Don’t you have lions, tigers, bears, and such in here?" he asked, tapping the animal book. "You look more like them than I do. All of those werewolf books and movies didn’t help, either."

"I see your point." John said.

"Also, I didn’t know that that guy in Deb’s house was a normal person. I was too scared in those woods to make much sense out of what was happening. Good Lord, guys, I was running for my life! I’ve never been so scared."

"We’re so different, yet so alike. Amazing." Doug mused.

"So, what am I going to be advertising? Silverware?"

They both laughed. "Wouldn’t that be ironic?" John asked, glancing at his watch. "I thought so. It’s lunch time. Are you guys as hungry as I am?"

"Probably more." Mike said.

"What’s everyone hungry for?"

"Alaskan king crab legs and lobster tail with melted butter." Mike suggested.

"I wish." John sighed.

"Okay, I’ll settle for anything except liver, Brussels sprouts, or SOS. I’d like two-percent milk if they have it."

"Got it." John said, turning to Doug. "Let’s go before he gets hungry enough to munch on an arm or two."

"Woof woof."

Mike leaned back as they left, trying to picture himself doing a commercial. What would he be pushing, the gorilla exhibit at the local zoo? Bananas? Eagle Talons?

"Hey, that wouldn’t be too bad."

He talked Mark into turning the camera off so he could preserve his dignity while sitting on the toilet. When he was done, he picked up the animal kingdom book and turned to the table of contents. He looked up the chapter on gorillas and found it quickly.

"Well, I’ll be damned."

The first page showed two apes, one male and one female, standing side-by-side. The male was holding on to a branch above his head with one long arm. Both had very sparse fur, like a hairy human.. They almost lacked pubic hair, making the picture seem vulgar. The male was a light shade of tan, the female a little lighter. A darker one could be seen in the background, out of focus.

Everything else seemed normal for an ape. The proportions and features were as they should be. Basically, they looked as if they had mange. He peered closely and saw no stubble, so he probably wasn’t being fooled by impostors.

Why should they be different? Apes didn’t have anything to do with the evolution of werewolves. This makes absolutely no sense.

"God, this is weird."

He flipped back to the table of contents, looking for wolves. They weren’t there. He remembered what Doug had said and looked up "lupe." Sure enough, it showed a picture of a typical wolf, standing within a small clump of trees.

"Gray Lupe." the caption read.

He closed the book, setting it aside. He grabbed the anatomy text, flipping slowly through from the first page. He studied the various diagrams with interest. From what he was seeing, they were just like him under the skin. The skull and spinal column were the only noticeable differences.

Morbid curiosity made him pause at the reproductive section. It showed the usual cutaways. He was about to continue on when something in the male diagram caught his eye.

His college biology class came back to him as he looked at it. Their seminal vesicles and Cowper’s glands, along with their prostate gland, were huge. It was a wonder they fit. The scrotum looked a lot larger than it should be.

He recalled his physical and how they had stared at his semen sample. They had mentioned that there wasn’t much but it looked strong. The diagram would explain that. With that much fluid to go with the usual dose of sperm cells, their semen was bound to be thinner and more copious.

He realized how gross his thoughts were becoming and closed the book, setting it aside and picking up one of the novels.

It was titled Moon Kiss. The cover showed a werewolf, his snout shrunken and fangs gone, writhing in apparent agony. A full moon was shining over his left shoulder. He opened the cover to where a short excerpt usually appeared.

He was cornered. He pushed himself tightly against the wall at his back.

The thing was walking slowly toward him, a cruel smile spread across its face. A huge erection preceded its steps.

It reached him, pressing its smooth, furless body against his. Hot, fetid breath brushed his face.

Moving with blinding speed, it forced him down onto his hands and knees. Holding him down with its weight, it moved behind him.

He screamed as he felt his pants being ripped

away. He struggled, calling for help. It countered his every move, keeping its weight on his back and laughing evilly.

It entered him without warning, thrusting roughly. He gasped and tried to crawl away, breaking claws against the concrete floor. Then the fists came. They smashed into his ribs, cutting off his screams. He heard his bones breaking.

The thrusting, pounding, and maniacal laughter continued long after he had blacked out...

"Yuck! That’s disgusting!" Mike said, throwing the book back onto the pile.

"What’s disgusting?" John asked, walking in with a tray. He set it down in front of Mike. On it was a plate filled with two pork chops, mashed potatoes, and green beans.

"Thanks." he said, glancing back at the book. "I was just looking at one of these novels. Gross. Is this what people are going to think I am?"

"Hold on." John replied, going back out for his own tray. He came back in and sat across from Mike.

"Doug said he would have to skip. Cooper wanted to talk to him over lunch. As for your question, I’m afraid so. Well, at least at first. I think people will come around once they get to know you. To be honest, you’re pretty easy to get along with."

"I hope so." Mike said, cutting one of his pork chops. "Did they have two-percent?"

"Sure did."

"What are we doing for the rest of the day?"

"Doug and I are going to finish with your samples and get your medical data in order. We have to write a plain-English medical report for the politicians. That will take us all day, probably. I guess you’ll be on your own. It’ll give you a chance to get some reading done, anyway."

"I’ve glanced through some of it already. I might as well tell you about that semen sample you were so interested in. I think that you’ll find it a bit short on various fluids. According to this," he continued, giving the text a tap, "You have larger internal glands than I do. You know, seminal vesicles, Cowper’s glands, and that sort of thing."

"Really?"

"I don’t know how you find room for it all;" Mike said teasingly, "And since you thankfully never stuck a finger up my butt, you wouldn’t have known."

John almost choked on a bite of pork. "Yeah, I guess you’re right."

They spent the rest of lunch talking about basketball, concentrating on the Chicago Bulls.

"I’m just glad that they’re a better team than they used to be. Remember when Jordon scored something like sixty-three points against Boston and they still lost? How can you have a player score like that and still lose?"

"By not having Scotty kicking butt."

"Yeah, Pip’s my man. The dude is bad."

Doug and Steve got their lunch and sat in a discreet corner of the cafeteria.

"So, how’s the wereman business?"

"Booming. I can’t believe that it’s only been a few days. I’ve come to the conclusion, beyond any doubt, that he’s as normal a person as you or I. Well, except for his appearance."

"What about his, you know, problem."

Doug swallowed a bite of pork before continuing. "I can tell you one thing. He’s not going to become normal overnight. When you see the tape, you’ll see that it’s also a religious thing for him. That’s always hard to deal with. But, to be fair, I can’t just leave it at that. I conducted a little experiment this morning. I had him imagine himself living as you or I do. I told him to avoid thoughts of sex and intimacy and concentrate on an innocent little scene of married life. I even told him to imagine one of his own kind to make it easier for him."

"I’ll say right up front that it was obvious he wasn’t faking. You could practically see the thoughts on his face. His expressions are actually pretty easy to read. Anyway, he said he imagined himself cuddling up on the couch with a man. They were watching TV and talking quietly. Exactly what I was looking for."

"When John asked him to describe what he had imagined, Mike hesitated. When we got him to talk, two very, very important things came out." He took a sip of tea and stabbed a piece of pork.

"Well? Don’t keep me in suspense." Steve prompted around the beans in his mouth.

"First; he didn’t imagine another wereman, he imagined a wolf. And," he added, gesturing with his fork, "If I read a couple of quick expressions correctly, it was John he was thinking of."

"Really?"

"Yeah, but that’s not all. Even so, John might have just been convenient. Anyway," he said, making an effort to keep his voice down, "The second thing he admitted to was that he had kissed him. That was what he had been so afraid to admit."

Steve looked on intently, ignoring his food.

"He said, get this, that it was what he would have normally done under those circumstances."

Steve’s eyes widened even more. He remembered that he had taken a bite of food and swallowed. "How do you know it was John? Did he say so?"

"No. But when he admitted to kissing the man, he unconsciously glanced at John. John caught it and, well...gawked a little. Mike blushed like no wolf could and looked extremely mad at himself."

"Why so mad?"

"Because he says it’s unnatural for him, and we went through a whole bible session where he pointed out verses that are heterosexual where ours are homosexual."

They sat for a few minutes, thinking to themselves and finishing their lunch.

"Do you plan to come down and meet him?"

"I’m too busy dealing with all of this on my end, on top of everything else I have going. What does all of this mean, exactly?"

"What it means is that even though he’s a heterosexual, he is capable of having feelings for a man and acting on them. Like I said, he’s not going to accept those feelings overnight, but I think they are there. They can be built upon."

Steve considered for a few moments. "You want to release him, don’t you?"

"This was a major factor in keeping him here. We’ve broken the surface, at least. To tell you the truth, we don’t really have a reason for keeping him locked up here any longer. John and I will have the medical reports ready today. There’s nothing more to learn that we couldn’t learn in a house somewhere. Tomorrow morning, my report will include a recommendation to move him out. What you do with it is up to you. What do you think? I know you’ve been considering it."

"You’re absolutely sure that we can safely take him out into society?"

"Well, maybe not into society. He is all alone - more than any normal person could be - but he’s smart, level-headed, and he’s taking all of this very well. This has all been more of a shock to him than to us. He’s the one who’s had his world taken away from him. It may help his frame of mind to be in a house or something instead of that bare cell."

Steve sighed. "All right, we’ll move him out on Monday. That will give us time to stock a safehouse. You realize, of course, that we’re going to have to let the press in on this." he finished, blanching.

"Oh, God, I hadn’t thought of that. How are you going to handle it?"

"Valium."

Doug chuckled. "Are you going to let them know where we’ll be keeping him?"

"I don’t think we’re going to have a choice. They’ll find out within a day if they don’t just follow us there. I’ll have to assign guards for around-the-clock security." He sighed again before continuing. "I guess we’ll have a press conference Monday morning to let the vultures get a good look at him and ask a few questions. After that, we’ll take him to the house."

"Where will the house be?"

"We’ve got a safehouse in a nearby suburb. That should do. It’s on a big lot, so it will be easy to keep the curious away."

"Who do you think we should have staying with him? Other than the guards, of course."

"I have no idea."

"How about John?"

"John? Isn’t he your assistant?"

"Yes, but Mark would be a good replacement. He’s been with us the whole time, monitoring the equipment. I hired him along with John, so he can handle anything John can. Also, it appears that John and Mike are fast becoming good friends."

"Oh yeah?"

"Well, I already told you that it was John who popped into Mike’s little domestic fantasy. They seem to have a lot in common, too. They’re the same age, like the same music, and share a lot of the same interests."

"Also, that would put John is the perfect position to keep us appraised of Mike’s progress. John’s got a minor degree in psychology. Hell, if we’re lucky, they may even end up as more than just friends."

"Are you serious?"

"You saw the photos. What would you do if you were twenty-five?"

Steve opened his mouth to reply, then thought better and closed it. Instead, he smiled. "I now have a lot of work to do."

Doug stood with him, letting the subject drop. "I have to get to work on those medical reports." he said, flashing Steve a big, mocking smile. "Have a nice day."

"Go away. This is all your fault."

John brushed passed the guard in the doorway and entered Mike’s cell, having just taken their trays back. Mike was sitting Indian-style on his cot, propped against the wall at the cot’s head and staring into space.

"Earth to Mike."

It took a second for him to look up and he smiled self-consciously. "Sorry."

John sat backwards on a chair and leaned his arms on the back. "What’s on your mind?"

Mike sighed. "I’m just trying to get a grasp on what’s happening. I keep expecting to wake up, you know? Who could imagine something like this? Was my life just too perfect the way it was? With the exception of my parents’ dying, my whole life has been nothing but roses." He huffed quietly before continuing. "I thought it was because I deserved it. I thought it was my reward for leading the kind of life God wanted me to. ‘Here’s a guy who tries. Here’s a guy who has helped bring no less than four more souls to me. Let’s give him something in return.’ Was I arrogant? Was I getting too comfortable? Was I losing that hunger for righteousness? If God wanted to kick-start my faith, there are a lot of ways he could have done it. Why this?"

"I can’t answer for God, but let me try and help. Do you consider yourself a typical Christian?"

"Is there such a thing?"

"The reason I ask is because even good Christians want to blame God for things that go wrong."

"John, you said you are a Christian too, right?"

"Yeah."

"Then you feel that you live your life for God, that he guides your life. He doesn’t make choices for you, but he guides you."

"Yeah."

"So, look at me! Really look at me! Is this guidance? The various scientists will call this whole thing a freak of nature. They’ll assume, with reservations, that other universes exist close to ours. They’ll assume that a rare scientifically explainable phenomenon sucked me from mine into yours. Where does God come into that?"

"Mike, if this is leading to where I think it is, please don’t use this as a reason to start hating God; or giving up on him."

"Oh no," Mike said with an emphatic shake of his head, "I’m not losing my faith. I just want to know what I did to deserve this. Of all the things that could have happened..."

John watched him as Mike shook his head again and fell silent. His three-point-eight average in psychology wasn’t doing him much good at the moment. What about the Bible? What could it possibly have to say about this? It’s not as if you could open it up and read "...and as a lesson, God sent so-and-so to the world of weremen. It was there that he discovered a new-found strength in God, and he did it like this..." Mike seemed like the kind of guy who would resent pity, but John was having trouble not feeling it. This whole thing went far beyond simply dealing with a heterosexual. Mike was completely lost, completely out of his element.

"Of all the people it could have happened to..." Mike began, falling silent again. A few seconds later he fastened those eyes on John with a look of sadness that made his heart melt. "I want my life back."

John took a deep breath. "Mike, you’re assuming that this is all some sort of punishment, aren’t you?"

"Does this look like a gift to you? Put yourself in my shoes."

"Are you the type of Christian that believes that God would do something like this as punishment? I’m not. You should know better than to think that God works that way in this New Testament day and age."

"I know." Mike said with a long sigh. "So is it Satan, then? Didn’t God sit by while Satan covered Job with boils? That poor man was tormented to test his faith. I’m not saying that I compare with Job, but you see my point, don’t you? My faith is not in need of testing, I know that for a fact. I have lived my life for Christ and I am not going stale on him. Didn’t the advent of Christ do away with the sort of thing Job went through? Why am I here?"

"You are not another Job." John said, punctuating each syllable with the tap of a claw on the chair. "Have you stopped to consider that maybe there is a reason for you being here?" He held up a hand to quiet Mike before continuing. "I know that’s an easy thing for me to say. I’m on the simple side of all of this. I know things look bad to you now, but does this have to be a bad thing?"

Mike sat silently and mulled that over. John’s heart went out to him. He looked so...vulnerable. He couldn’t imagine what must be going through the were...human head right now. How would he deal with something like this? He’d seen Mike praying a lot on the tapes they’ve been making. He suspected that once he had ended up crying. It was amazing how someone with such a monstrous face could look so helpless. It was obvious that God wasn’t in any hurry to answer those prayers, too. Now that he had brought it up, it wasn’t hard to imagine him as another Job. But they both knew that God didn’t work that way.

Why is he starting to look so cute? he asked himself as Mike returned those incredible eyes to him.

"Am I really going to have to be homosexual?"

That took John off-guard and he hesitated. Should he, especially right now, bring up the fact that he really had no choice? Was he being close-minded and selfish because he had an inherent desire to make him a homosexual? It was only right, and he wanted Mike to live right. But right and wrong were obviously subjective, and the fact that Mike was so unusually sexy might be clouding his judgment. Did Mike have a choice?

As for being sexually active, he didn’t. There would be no sex with females for him. What if Mike would rather choose abstinence? That would definitely be his choice to make. John had to admit that he’d rather not see that happen. From what he had seen of him, Mike sure had a lot to offer a man; and not just sexually. Please God, he said silently, I may be a little selfish, but do me a favor.

"Would you be willing to spend the rest of your life alone?"

Mike thought for a few seconds. "I don’t know."

"Everyone needs to be loved. I’d hate to think that you’d be willing to live out your days a lonely man."

Mike shrugged.

"You were engaged, right? Do you consider yourself a worthy man to become a husband?"

"I guess so."

"Well, then, don’t you think that someone could see that in you; someone just as worthy?"

"It’s not the same."

"Why not? Love is love."

"You’re not giving me choices, you’re giving me reasons for one choice."

John sighed and dropped his gaze to the floor. "What do you want me to do, come right out and say that you have no choice?" He looked back up. "I don’t know if that’s true. You are a very special case. You may have choices that I don’t realize, or refuse to let myself consider. I have to be honest and say that my intentions may be a bit selfish."

"Why?"

"Because to me, being a homosexual is right. That’s the way I live, the way everyone lives, the way God teaches us to live. I’m trying not to think of you as someone who needs to be cured of something, but I can’t help wanting what I believe is right. I also don’t want you to choose to spend the rest of your life depriving yourself of having someone to love. I know you well enough to know that you would be miserable. I almost want to say that I hope you accept our way of life just because of the obvious pleasure you could give and take from it. I’m talking generalities here, not necessarily me."

"Not interested?"

"Would you want to hear my answer if it was ‘yes’?"

"Can’t hurt to hear it."

"All right, I am interested."

"Why? Don’t I look like a monster to you?"

"Yes and no. If you look past the fact that you look like a wereman, and take you at face value, you look attractive. You only look evil when you’re mad. As for your body..." he finished with a meaningful glance at Mike’s chest.

Mike self-consciously pulled the sweater’s opening tighter. "When’s Doug supposed to show?"