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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 VI

He arose early in spite of the inebriation of the night before. He put on a short robe and stepped into the hall. Mike’s door was still closed and he heard the sound of his shower running. He went into the kitchen, putting on some coffee and glancing at the clock. It read eight-thirty.

"I’m rebounding." he thought aloud, watching coffee run into the pot. Keith had left a deeper scar than he had originally thought. The fact that he still missed his company annoyed him. Keith had been a good actor, because he had obviously never felt a damn thing for him. He glanced into the robe at his muscular torso. Keith had surely been after nothing more than his body. He almost couldn’t blame him. John had no trouble admitting that he had a fantastic body. The fur on his chest was three inches long, thinning and tapering to one inch on his stomach and growing back out as it reached his thighs. Regular trips to the barber kept it all neat and even.

The muscles underneath were hard and well defined. What lay below the cloth belt was equally desirable.

That still didn’t change the fact that Keith was a cold-hearted snake. He knew what John had been feeling for him and had made no effort to let him down lightly. "No sex, no Keith." had been the gist of his announcement. John had told him that he wasn’t interested in pre-engagement sex. Well, interested, but not willing. Keith had tried to seduce him, claiming that John didn’t love him. He had seen right through that. It was childish and more than a little transparent. Keith had stormed out and never returned. Two days later John found out about his exploits during his late "trips to the library." Tramp.

"Forget everything good that I ever said about Keith." he had told his father the next day. His dad had been his usual understanding self, chiding him for not dating another Christian to begin with. John had assured him that he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

He thought about Keith some more as the pot filled. He couldn’t remember a single good thing about him. All of the affection and meaningful words had been exposed for what they were; a ploy to get into his pants.

"I’m not rebounding." he said to himself as the memories cleared his doubts. He realized what Keith was, and left it at that. The fact that he had fallen so hard for him was his own fault. Mike, on the other hand, was many times over the man Keith was.

He grabbed two mugs from the cupboard and poured himself one. A bleary-eyed Mike came down the hall, wearing an identical robe. "Sleep well?" John asked.

"Right up until the point when I puked my guts out."

John smiled. "I heard. How’re you feeling?"

"I’ll be better after some of this coffee." Mike answered, accepting the mug from John. They went into the dining room and sat down. "Do you always look like that in the morning?"

John looked down at himself. His fur was a tangled mess. He claw-combed an arm half-heartedly. "Yeah, I guess so. I’ll be back to my well-groomed self after a good shower."

"How long does it take you to dry off?"

"Not long, I brought my fur dryer."

"Fur dryer. Right."

"Are you going to cut the fur on your face today?"

Mike rubbed his cheeks and neck, feeling the sparse stubble. "Yup."

"Why don’t you let it grow?"

"Because it makes me look ten years older."

"To us it would just make you look more normal. Isn’t that surgical shaver clumsy, anyway?"

"Yeah, but you don’t understand. It’s rough and sparse. Makes me look like a wino."

John laughed, then winced, putting a hand to his forehead.

"I suppose I could grow a mustache. No, on the other hand, they’re too much trouble and I probably wouldn’t look right with one."

"What’s a mustache?"

"I guess I should explain how the hair grows on a human face." He traced a line around his stubble, explaining beard growth while they drank their coffee. "See the stubble above my lip?"

"Yeah."

"If I let that grow, cutting if off at the corners of my mouth, I’d have a mustache."

"You mean just a patch of fur under your nose?"

"Yeah."

"Why?"

"Because it looks good on some people."

"Whatever you say. It sounds pretty weird to me."

"I saw that stuff in your bathroom. Don’t you trim the fur on your face?"

"Yeah."

"Well, there you go."

"Okay, touché’. But then again, we’re not interfering with nature, just straightening things up. It’s kind of funny how backwards you can be."

"How’s that?"

"You grow little patches of fur at all the wrong places, except your head and face, and then you cut that off."

"What do you mean by ‘all the wrong places?’"

In answer, John wiggled an arm out of his robe and lifted it over his head. His armpit was bare, the long fur thinning around it. "We don’t grow any down, uh, there, either." he said, nodding under the table.

"I’ll try to keep that in mind." Mike said, smiling and shaking his head. "Does the word ‘uncouth’ mean anything to you?"

"Sorry." John said, slightly embarrassed, "That’s just the zoologist in me. He notices things like that."

"Tell him that he’s a pervert."

"Is not! Am not! I’m just...thorough."

"Are too."

"Am not."

"Are too."

"I’m not going through this again. It’s not my fault that your fur is backwards."

"It’s not backwards, it’s just right."

"...and so curly!"

"John! What did you do, count the hairs in my sleep?"

"Four hundred and fifty..."

"You didn’t!"

"No!" John exclaimed, laughing.

Mike grabbed John’s mug and went into the kitchen for refills.

"They’re coming with my stuff today." John called in to him.

"Already? Where are they going to put everything?"

"Assuming they didn’t break all of it in my absence, I guess we’ll stash most of it into the spare rooms downstairs. Thanks." he added as Mike handed him his mug. "I hated not being able to be there when they packed it all. Do you think I should set the stereo up downstairs?"

"Yeah. Oh, by the way, I was watching MTV while you were getting your stuff last night. I saw half a dozen bands that I’ve never heard of. Also, bands that I know are on the countdown never showed. They weren’t just nobody bands, either. I’m talking about platinum sellers. I wonder how many bands I know that you don’t."

"Name one."

"Here’s a really big one; Def Leppard."

"Deaf Leopard? Never heard of them. What kind of band are they?"

"Hard rock. Their last two albums combined for about fourteen million copies."

"Damn."

"Yeah, and a couple of the bands I didn’t recognize looked pretty big, too."

"Like who?"

"I can’t remember."

"Hey!" John said suddenly, perking up. "If they don’t exist here, why don’t you record their stuff? It would make your writing an lot easier. At the very least, you wouldn’t have to worry about material."

"I hadn’t considered that. It wouldn’t exactly be right, would it? I don’t want to pass someone else’s stuff off as my own."

"Technically, you wouldn’t be because they don’t exist. Who’s stuff would you be plagiarizing?"

"Def Leppard’s."

"Who? I’ve never heard of them."

Mike sat back thoughtfully. "I don’t know. I’d still feel guilty."

"So change the songs a little. Add your own touch. You could rewrite them any way you wanted to. Some of them might not even be the same songs anymore. A sculptor has to start with a well-shaped piece of rock, right?"

"You do have a point." Mike conceded. "I’d have to write them from memory anyway. There’s no way I could get everything exactly right even if I wanted to."

"You could also add your own songs. Just write them in the same style."

"I’d have to change the lyrics substantially." Mike mumbled, rubbing his chin. "Maybe you’re right."

"I’m always right." John said, smiling. "And if you still feel guilty, which you shouldn’t, you can always explain it in the credits. I don’t think you should, though. Just take the credit. You have to have the talent to write them from memory in the first place."

The phone rang. A guard who was making toast in the kitchen picked it up. "Mike, it’s for you. Dr. Sullivan."

Mike got up and walked into the kitchen, taking the phone with a mumbled thanks. "Howdy."

"Good morning. How are you?"

"Mildly hung over, but I’ll live."

"You better drink lots of coffee, then. Steve, myself, Mr. Cole and Mr. Hise will be there in about an hour."

"Who?"

"Gordon Cole is your prospective manager and Aaron Hise is a lawyer."

"Oh, okay. I’ll be fine. I’m starting to wake up."

"Can you get John for me?"

"Hold on." He called John in and went back to his coffee.

"Hi Doug."

"Hi. Don’t tell me you’re hung over, too."

"Not really, I got plenty of sleep."

"Good. Well, anything worth reporting regarding our furless friend?"

John filled him in on last night and this morning, omitting the more personal details.

"A patch of fur under his nose?"

"That’s what I said, but he got even when I told him that we trim our snouts."

Doug hurrumphed. "He would find something. Okay, if that’s all you have, I guess that I’ll see you in an hour or so."

"Okay, see you then." He hung up and grabbed his mug, downing the rest of his coffee. He headed back to his bedroom. "If I want to look presentable in an hour I better hit the shower."

"I suppose I should get dressed. What should I wear?" Mike asked as he followed him.

"Put on a light shirt and don’t wear the winter pants."

"I have light shirts? They all look light to me."

"Try the, um, red one. Make sure the pants match."

"Yes, mother."

"Mother?" John asked, casting a glance over his shoulder. "Oh, that’s right."

"Sorry. Yes, father."

Mike started putting his clothes away as he hunted through the box for his red shirt. He put it on the bed with a black pair of shorts and white underwear. He had just finished unpacking when a knock sounded on the door jamb.

It was John, and he was soaking wet. A towel was wrapped around his waist. Mike laughed. His long fur was plastered down, making him look skinnier. It also made his powerful build more obvious. "You look like a drowned rat."

He was holding a pair of black sandals, which he held up. "Stop laughing or I’ll jump on you and get you all wet. I wanted to give these to you before I forget. I have an extra pair. Now you won’t have to wear those stuffy sneakers all of the time."

Mike walked over and took the sandals. They had a soft plastic sole and leather straps. "They’re a little big on me, so they should fit."

"Thanks. When can I go shopping so I can stop borrowing your clothes?"

"Good question. You’ll have to ask Doug or Steve when they get here. Now I have to get back to the bathroom before I dry like this."

He left and Mike started dressing. The shorts, which they called just plain pants, were baggy and ended just above his knees. He wondered what they would consider shorts. Short shorts were probably reserved for lingerie, or whatever passed for it here.

It took him three tries to get the shirt on right. It had so many open areas that it was difficult to find which ones to stick his appendages through.

The back was completely open. The sides were solid, curving around to a wavy, seven-inch wide opening from neck to bottom. A seam ran around the waist to hold everything together. It was held up by two thin strips running from shoulder to shoulder along the front and back of his neck. The sleeves just covered his shoulders. It, like the pants, hung loosely.

It took another minute to figure out the sandals, since he had never worn them before. The straps had to be crossed over the ankles, Roman-style, and buckled. The loosest notch felt comfortable.

As he left his room, he heard the hair - no, fur dryer - stop. As he passed the bathroom door, he heard John cry out in dismay. "Are you all right?" he called, knocking on the door.

"No!" John called back.

Thinking something was wrong, Mike opened the door. John was standing naked in front of the mirror. His back was bent at an impossible angle, his face close to his groin and almost upside-down. He was staring at a faded white spot about two-thirds of the way up the inside of his right thigh. Mike averted his gaze.

"My spot is fading!" John cried. He saw Mike staring into the shower stall and grabbed a towel, covering himself self-consciously.

"God, John, I thought you were hurt or something." Mike said, unable to resist a smile as he looked back at John.

"My spot’s fading, and you just stand there laughing at me."

"I’m sorry." Mike said, smiling more. "I didn’t know it was so important to you. What’s so bad about a spot fading?"

"Well, look at it!" John whined, holding out his leg and keeping his privates covered.

Mike looked. It was oblong, about six inches in length, and ended just below where his groin would be had it not been covered. Dark brown hairs had begun invading the white. "I take it this is significant."

John sighed, grabbing a pair of underwear and slipping them on. Mike felt that he took a little longer than necessary doing it. He couldn’t help a quick glance at John’s large, hairless scrotum. He was almost jealous of the size of it. He quickly looked away.

Thus covered, John went back to examining the spot, running a claw through it. "It’s not that bad, I guess. It’s just that..." he sighed again, shaking his upside-down head. "Well, everyone always thought it was cute. Now it’s fading."

"Everyone?"

John turned his head to him without straightening. Mike smiled at the sight. John stood erect before speaking. "I’m not a slut, but I’m not a virgin either."

Still smiling, Mike shook his head and left, heading to the kitchen. He grabbed a pen and pad from beside the phone and sat down at the dining room table. He started making a list of equipment he needed, writing the approximate price for each item.

John came in a few minutes later, dressed casually for a werewolf. He had on a white shirt that matched the cut of Mike’s and blue shorts. He looked over Mike’s shoulder at the list and made a sound similar to a whistle. "You don’t work cheap, do you?"

"It’s the same stuff I had before." Mike answered as John’s furry head moved closer to his. "It took me a while to save up for it all. But hey, I’m not going to make good music playing on junk. Was that a whistle?"

"It was a good whistle." John said defensively, moving into the chair beside him and shuffling close.

"This is a good whistle." Mike countered, whistling a few notes.

"You sound like a bird!" John said with a laugh.

"That’s the point! What are you supposed to sound like, a vacuum cleaner?"

"I resent that!"

"Mine’s better than yours."

"No it’s not."

"Is too."

"Is not."

"Is too."

"Will you stop!"

"If your tongue didn’t weigh five pounds you could probably manage a decent whistle."

"I resent that, too! My tongue is just fine the way it is." John said in mock indignation, clapping Mike on the back of his head.

Mike just laughed. "I win."

"No you don’t."

"Yes I do."

"No you don’t!"

"Yes I do."

"Damn it!"

Mike laughed and continued his list. When he finished, he turned to John, who had been staring at him while he wrote. "You don’t think I’m imposing, do you?" he asked, waving a hand in John’s face.

"It seems reasonable to me. They can always make you pay them back when you start making money." John answered, turning an ear toward the front of the house. "There’s a car pulling up."

"I didn’t hear it."

"I thought your hearing was as good as ours."

"I was wearing those bizarre headphones for the hearing test, remember? The ones we had to break to get to fit? My ears can’t gather outside sounds like yours can. Being able to turn yours around like you do is a big help."

"I hadn’t thought of that." John mused as they reached the landing at the front door. "I’ll have to tell Doug."

The door opened and Doug, Steve, and two other werewolves walked in. John and Mike gave them room as they came up the short stairway.

"Good morning John, Mike." Steve said, gesturing to the two strangers. "This is Gordon Cole and Aaron Hise."

Mike shook their hands, smiling and making an effort to appear harmless. In spite of his efforts, both seemed intimidated.

Gordon was slim and about five-foot-five. His fur was shorter than John’s and a uniform dark gray in color. Aaron was about the same height and slightly chubby. His fur was again shorter than John’s and mostly dark brown.

Mike tried to break the ice. "We’ve got some coffee if you guys would like some."

"Thanks, I would." Gordon said nervously, staring at him and sniffing.

"No thank you." Aaron answered, mirroring Gordon’s actions.

"Well," Mike began, heading into the kitchen, "Shall we get down to business? Cream or sugar?"

"Black, please."

"Let’s have a seat in the living room, shall we?" Steve prompted, steering everyone in.

Mike came out with Gordon’s coffee. Gordon, Aaron, and Doug sat on the couch. John was in the love seat and Steve seated himself in the lounge chair. Mike handed Gordon his coffee and sat beside John.

Everyone seemed itchy and the silence dragged on for a few seconds as the two new recruits stared at him. Gordon seemed to have forgotten his coffee.

"We’re never going to get anywhere if these guys don’t lighten up," Mike thought to himself. John saved them from any further discomfort, albeit at Mike’s expense.

"He wants to do porno."

Everyone started and John laughed.

"Do not!" Mike said hurriedly, elbowing John in the ribs.

That seemed to relax them and Mike gave John a grateful glance. Gordon remembered his coffee and took a small sip before speaking.

"Well, I guess we can start by, uh, telling you a little about Aaron and myself. I’m a certified agent and manager. Currently, I represent two models and one pop band. I work for Major Talents Unlimited. I get paid on commission, so I don’t make money unless you do. My cut is usually fifteen percent. Working on commission helps to keep me honest and forces me to work hard." He took another sip of coffee before continuing. "Aaron here is a contract lawyer from a consulting firm. He’ll be writing and legalizing the actual contracts for us; that is, if you’re interested. He doesn’t work for me or the agency, so you can be assured that he is impartial. The contract for us will be fair to both and any contracts we do on your behalf will also be dome impartially."

"It sounds good so far."

"Have you though at all about what you want to do? Except porno, of course." Gordon asked with a smile.

Mike smiled back. "Not a whole lot. Up until now, I haven’t been taking this whole idea too seriously. Now, that’s not entirely true." he hastened to add, "I just haven’t had any idea of where to start."

"Let me make a few suggestions, if I may." Gordon said, warming to the subject. He pulled a slip of paper from his briefcase. "I can see us making a lot of money and making you more famous than you ever thought possible. Just about anything you do is going to sell, believe me. There’s always going to be a certain amount of notoriety associated with you, but notoriety alone doesn’t make much money. What I suggest is that we start out slowly. A little modeling for a magazine or clothing manufacturer would be a good place to start. Commercials can’t be too far away. I know a company or two that would jump at the chance. We could even combine the two and have you do posters to advertise clothing. It would be even better to get you in as a representative for a line of clothes, like Michael Jordon and Nike. We could have you model shirts, pants, and that sort of thing. What do you think?"

"Sounds like fun. There would be one condition, though."

"Yes?" Aaron asked, producing his own note pad.

"I have to have the final say in who I do or do not advertise for. I imagine that you don’t usually work that way, but there are things I simply refuse to associate myself with in that regard."

"Such as?"

"First let me say that I have no idea if any of these would even be interested. But, given, the offer, I won’t have any part of some people."

"I’m not going to push a product when I use the same thing from their competition. For instance; I use Castrol motor oil, so I wouldn’t do a commercial for Mobil. I know I’m not going to be advertising oil, but you get my point. I won’t do Ford. I hate Fords. I won’t do cigarettes, beer, booze, trucks - I hate trucks - or stupid stuff like toothpaste, cooking oil, and that sort of thing. Am I blowing it?"

"No." Gordon said quickly. It was obvious that he wanted Mike to sigh very badly. "Most people in your position have similar feelings. We always try to work around them, and we still have a lot to work with. Is it true that you owned an Eagle Talon? I’ve worked with Chrysler before. Do you think you would like to eventually do a commercial for Eagle? I’m sure they would be interested."

"I’d do one for them tomorrow. I loved my Talon."

"Great, I’ll call them first thing. The Talon’s a sports car, and I thought of a good idea already. I think it’s got merit. I was really hoping you would be willing to do that."

"I’d have to sell them on the idea, of course. My idea is to have a guy walk up to the car and get in. As the view switches to the cockpit, we’d fade you in. You would drive the car around while we filmed a few shots of you slamming gears, yanking the wheel, and generally having a blast and looking wild. As the car stops, we’d fade you out when the driver climbs from the car. Then we’d have an off-camera voice say something catchy."

"I’d actually get to drive?"

"Yes. It would be important to see the scenery moving outside the car. Actually, to amend what I said earlier, it would be more effective to have you climb out of the car, lean against it, and then fade you back to a wolf. Yes! That would be perfect!"

"Assuming that they would want to do it." Mike said doubtfully.

"Oh, I’m sure they will. It’s a perfect idea. You’re image fits it to a tee."

"How much do you think they would be willing to pay?"

Gordon looked at Aaron.

"Well, for a commercial, I’d say about sixty grand," Aaron began, "But they don’t like to work that way. They usually want to go for a multi-commercial deal which, by the way, would be better for you. That would mean money in the six figure territory. In you case, they’d be willing to pay big."

"Six figures!" Mike said, whistling. Four sets of ears jumped.

"That was a whistle." John said with a smile.

"It sounded like a bird."

John elbowed Mike, who elbowed him back and whispered. "Vacuum."

"Vacuum?" Aaron asked.

Mike hadn’t expected them to hear. He decided to be careful about that from now on.

"He thinks our whistles sound like vacuums." John said.

"Oh."

"Do you really think they’d be willing to fork out that much money?" Mike asked Gordon, getting the conversation back on track. "It’s not like they need to. Those cars are selling like hotcakes as it is, and I’m hardly an established quantity."

"That’s exactly why they will want to." Gordon answered. "They’ll want to advertise more to keep their market share. Signing you would give them truly one-of-a-kind advertising. Your commercials would bring people into dealers like a free body trim."

"Body trim?" Mike asked, laughing loudly. He imagined a werewolf sitting in a barber’s chair while the barber trimmed fur from his chest. He continued laughing as the image played out.

"What’s so funny?" Gordon asked, smiling at Mike’s outburst.

"Oh, nothing." Mike replied as he calmed himself. "It’s just another one of those things."

"What?" Doug asked. "Tell us."

"I just imagined one of you sitting in a chair getting trimmed." Mike admitted, laughing some more. "Sorry, I can’t help it."

"What about your music?" John asked him when he stopped laughing.

"Oh, that’s right!" Gordon exclaimed. "A rock band fronted by a wereman! Sorry," he added quickly, "I meant a rock band fronted by a guy who looks like a wereman. No, I mean..."

"Don’t fret it." Mike said, waving him off. "I’m getting used to it."

"Do you have anything written yet?"

"I haven’t had the time. I do have a lot of songs in my head, though. All I have to do is get some instruments and stuff and get them down on paper." he replied with a meaningful glance at John.

"Did you make a list?" Steve asked.

"It’s on the dining room table."

Steve got up and fetched it. "That’s a lot of money."

"So’s these possibilities Gordon is throwing at me. Oh, by the way, did you ever get that stuff for me?"

"I left them in the car." Steve answered, motioning for one of his men to get them.

"What did you get?"

"A driver’s license, social security card, birth certificate, immunization and medical records, a Visa, a savings account and a checking account. You’ll have to sign off on most of it."

"What’s my Visa limit?"

"Twenty-five hundred."

"Not bad. I guess it pays to have friends in high places. Thanks."

"This could be great!" Gordon exclaimed, looking around the room. "Can you imagine the public reaction when we pop a commercial on them totally unannounced? No one’s seen you since that press conference."

"I’m going to be seen again before we have time to film any commercial."

"What do you mean?" Steve asked warily.

"I’m not staying cooped up in here twenty-four hours a day. It’s a nice day and I intend to spend most of it in the yard. I need to exercise, too. If I’m going to be a model, I can’t let myself get out of shape."

"No harm in that." Doug said. "It ought to make tomorrow’s paper more interesting."

"Crazed wereman escapes, rampages through yard." John said dramatically.

"Yeah, right."

"So, Mike, what do you think?" Gordon asked. "We’ll see about the commercial and some other things, and go on from there. When word gets out that you’ll be starting a band, we’ll have to do interviews. I would like to hold off on that, though. Sound good?"

Mike sighed as he thought of what he was doing. The scope of it all was beyond anything he had ever imagined. But he had to make a living, and if this was his chance he might as well grab it. "Okay. God, this is weird. It’s all happening so fast. I guess we have some paperwork to do?"

"Great!" Gordon said as he stood.

They went into the dining room, sitting around the table. On his way in, a guard handed Mike a thick manila envelope.

He opened it on the table and removed a wad of documents. "I need a wallet."

"I’ll get you one later today." John offered.

"Thanks for the offer, John, but you’ve spent enough on me already." He glanced at Gordon before continuing, shuffling through the papers. "I want control of my life, too. I will not be led around by the nose, okay? I may be new at this, but I’m not naive."

"We can work all that out right now."

Steve turned to John. "Sounds like your stuff is here."

"Sure is." John agreed, standing. Mike looked and saw a small moving van pulling into the driveway. The driver waved at the guard, flashing an FBI badge.

The rest of them spent the next couple of hours hashing out a rough draft for the contract, talking over sandwiches at lunch time. Most of their effort was spent on details, since a standard contract had already been written. John spent the time with a guard, moving his stuff into the basement. He joined them just as they were finishing, at about two o’clock.

"Well, if you don’t mind, I’m going to get back to the office and draft this thing up." Aaron said, standing and stuffing the rough draft into his briefcase.

"You mean you’re going to make it incomprehensible." Mike said sarcastically.

"But always fair. You drive a mean bargain."

"I have to go, too." Gordon said. "I’m going to spend the rest of the day on the phone." He shook Mike’s hand enthusiastically, his earlier discomfort forgotten. "I’ll talk to you tomorrow."

"Good luck."

"Luck is not a factor." he replied happily as he followed Aaron out.

"You’re going to be a very wealthy monster if this works out." Doug said with a smile.

"If. There are entirely too many ‘ifs’ in my life. If they’re interested, if the public goes for it, if the posters sell, if I would only wake up."

"I’m sure it will all work out." John said, clapping him on the shoulder. "I told you already that you’re irresistible."

"If you say so. Need any help with your stuff?"

"Nope. We’ve got everything put away."

"In that case, I’m going outside. I guess I’m going to have to jog in this." he said, looking down at his clothes. "I’ll need my sneakers, though." he finished, heading back to his room.

"Jog where?" Steve called after him from the front door.

"Around the yard." he called back.

He put his sneakers on and headed for the back door. John was waiting for him, sporting an pair of his own. "Mind if I run with you?"

"If you can keep up." he answered with a smile as he stepped out.

"You worry about yourself. I’m a physical god."

They took their shirts off, draping them over the railing on the back porch. The day was sunny and no clouds were in sight. Mike guessed the temperature to be about seventy or so.

He started stretching, John doing likewise. He was a little stiffer than usual, but his body had recovered from the events of ten days ago. He glanced at John. The sun gleamed on his fur, highlighting the long hairs on his shoulders and upper back. Ten days! he thought as his mind caught up with him. It seems like a lifetime ago.

"What was that?" John asked.

"I just realized that I’ve been here ten days, now. It seems like forever."

"I can imagine."

"Hmm." Mike mumbled, poking experimentally at John’s chest and stomach, "Been working out, John?"

John looked down at himself, smiling as Mike lifted an arm and felt the triceps there. "Yeah, a lot. Not so much lately. You’ve been keeping me busy."

"Your fur’s softer than I thought it would be."

"Thanks."

"You’re not as cuddly as a bunny rabbit, but it’s softer than, say, a dog’s."

"It better be."

"What do you do to keep yourself looking like this?"

"The muscle or the fur?"

"Muscle."

John explained his routine as they continued stretching.

"So you don’t want any more bulk?"

"No, I’ve got myself right where I want to be. I’m just trying to keep what I have. How do you manage to stay so ripped?"

"You’re as ripped as I am. Your waist is painfully slim for as wide as your shoulders are."

"What do you do?"

"Bore myself silly with repetitions. I keep the muscle groups isolated and nautilus equipment seems to work best for me."

"Me too. I wonder if there’s any way to get you access to a gym?"

"I doubt it." Mike said. "Are you ready?"

"Ready to watch you collapse into a heap."

"No chance."

The lot was a good two acres, and they jogged the perimeter. John jogged on the inside, making room for Mike as they passed a guard every fifty yards or so.

"How many men do they usually have out here?" Mike huffed.

"Not this many, usually." John huffed back. "The guards from inside are out here too since you are."

They jogged for about thirty minutes. Mike concentrated on his rhythm, feeling his body respond to the exercise. His legs felt strong, pumping steadily without weakening. He breathed in deeply with each inhalation, savoring the feeling of power his body communicated.

With each circuit of the yard, he saw various lenses pointed their way. They looked on from any vantage point that offered an unobstructed view. He and John rounded the back left corner and started back toward the street.

"Last one back here is a rotten egg!" Mike yelled, taking off at a sprint.

"Hey!" John yelled, running after him.

Mike flew around the yard as fast as he could push himself. The guards flashed past as he ran. Soon he reached the back corner again. He walked in a small circle, his chest heaving. He had underestimated the length of a sprint around a two-acre lot, and was exhausted. He felt ready to pass out.

He smiled as John came running up a few seconds later. Mike had beat him by a good twenty. John was in the same shape he was, panting too hard to speak. His tongue lolled from the side of his mouth like a dog’s, only it wasn’t quite as long.

"Make...sure...you...don’t...bite...that...thing...off."

"Ha ha." John replied, using two breaths to form the words.

They walked toward the porch, catching their breaths. "That Meuller wasn’t kidding! You do run like the wind!"

"You didn’t do so bad yourself." Mike replied, sitting on the grass and stretching again.

"What are you gonna do now?"

"Oh, push-ups, I guess. After that, I’ll do some crunches. I’ll do both until I collapse."

"After that run?" John gasped.

"I’m going to catch my breath first. Think you can hang?"

"I’ll give it a try."

They rested for a few minutes, then started their push-ups. John gave out about four long reps before Mike.

"You wimp. With arms like that you should have outlasted me. You need more endurance." Mike said, flopping his around a bit.

"Give me a break."

They rested for another minute before beginning the crunches. Mike went first with John holding his feet down.

"How many are you going to do, roughly?"

"I don’t know. I never count." He started, closing his eyes after a few so he wouldn’t see John staring. He didn’t really blame him. It was his nature, after all. Eventually, he squeezed out one more painful rep and fell back, his stomach burning. He barely had the strength left to breath. "Did you count?"

"I lost count a long time ago." John said. "I got bored."

"Or ran out of fingers."

"They way you bite your claws all of the time, you’re lucky to have fingers. Now get up and hold my feet."

"I can’t get up."

John chuckled and pulled him up to his knees. Mike hunched over and grabbed the furry ankles as John lay down.

John followed Mike’s example, collapsing onto his back. "I’m going to hate you for this tomorrow."

"You’re going to have to do it again tomorrow. Besides, I don’t remember pointing a gun at your head."

"I do. You bashed a guard and grabbed it, threatening to kill me. All I could do was cower in fear. I’m telling the papers tonight."

Mike laughed. "Just don’t tell them that I ate him, okay?"

"No deals."

"I could always eat you."

"Don’t tease."

"Well, you just blew it, no pun intended; and I was going to give it to you tonight." Mike said with a chuckle. He surprised himself by joking like that with a homosexual, but he didn’t think of it as a big deal. He joked like that with his friends occasionally, and John was clear of their respective standings.

John turned to him, smiling. "Any chance I can redeem myself?"

"Well, you could buy me a new Ferrari, Disney Land, and wait on me hand and foot for the rest of the day."

"I’ll have to see about the Ferrari part." John said, walking to the back door. "I’ll be right back."

Mike stretched some more while he waited for John, finding that he had lost little of his elasticity. John came back out and threw a basketball at him. Mike was caught off guard and merely swatted it aside.

"Oh, this is going to be easy!" John said as Mike chased it down. Mike threw it back as they headed around front to the hoop.

Mike got the ball and stopped about twenty feet out from the hoop, dribbling it playfully. "Ready to get stomped?"

"Let’s see what you got, big guy."

Mike charged, feigned right and passed the ball behind his back. He bullied past John and went for a lay-up. The ball hit the rim and John caught it, running back with Mike chasing him.

"Nice move, homeboy, but you have to get the ball in the basket."

John made his basket and the game continued. The neighbors Mike had waived to the night before watched from the street, jockeying for space with a couple of news crews. Most of the guards gathered around also.

John was back-dribbling toward the basket when Mike grabbed him around the waist and picked him up.

"Foul! Help, I’m being fouled!" John yelled, kicking his legs. Mike carried him away from the basket and put him down.

"How did you manage to dribble the wrong way?" Mike asked.

"Cheater!" John yelled as he started dribbling again. Mike stole the ball from him and ran up for a basket.

"I win!"

"You cheated!"

"I don’t remember setting down any rules." Mike said smugly.

"No rules, eh?" John asked, running at him.

"It’s over!" Mike said, turning and holding the ball tightly. "I won!"

John grabbed his waist and lifted him over his shoulder.

"Put me down!"

"Give me the ball."

"No! I won!"

John began bouncing him on his shoulder.

"Oof! Oof! Stop!" Mike grunted. He dropped the ball. John dropped him and grabbed it, running up and making a basket.

"Tie!"

"I give up." Mike said with a laugh. He sniffed under an arm. "I think I’d better get a shower before I start affecting the weather."

"Is the shower included in the ‘wait on you hand and foot’ part?"

"No."

"Damn."

They both took a short shower. Mike was rooting in the kitchen cupboards when John came back from his room.

He had toweled off without blowing himself dry and hadn’t gone out of his way to look neat.

"Too worn out to groom?"

"No, I just didn’t feel like being bothered with it. I don’t plan on going anywhere tonight...and who are you to talk?" he added, pointing to Mike’s hair.

John had him there. He hadn’t even bothered to comb it, and it was getting long. He shrugged and turned his attention back to the cupboards. "What are you hungry for?"

"Anything that isn’t still alive."

"There’s some chicken in the freezer. We can defrost that in the microwave. How about some broccoli and...macaroni and cheese?"

"Sounds good." John said as he got the chicken from the freezer. "How do you want the chicken?"

"Marinated in white wine and broiled with green peppers, garlic, and chives."

"How do you want the chicken?"

"Fried, I guess." Mike acquiesced. "Can you fry? I’m pretty lousy at it."

"You can’t fry chicken? Damn, neither can I."

"Baked? Ah-hah! Barbecue sauce."

They got everything ready, waiting for the chicken to thaw.

"What’s the game tonight?" Mike asked as they put the chicken in the oven.

"Hold on." John said, getting the TV guide from the living room. "The Celtics from hell." he said as he returned. "It should be a good game, though."

"Hey, there’s brownie mix in here." Mike said, grabbing the box. "I hate it when that happens. I’m going to have to make it, now."

"I get to lock the bowl." John said quickly.

"No contest there." Mike joked, giving John a shove.

Mike made the batter. When it was mixed, he took a huge spoonful and put it in his mouth, moaning.

"Hey!"

Mike stuck his tongue out.

"Yuck!" John said, then smiled. "But then again, what a kiss that would make. Lay it on me."

Mike punched him and poured the batter into a pan. John grabbed the bowl before he could finish wiping it out.

"Give me that! I’m not done!"

"What fun is licking the bowl if you don’t leave anything in it?"

"You’re hopeless." Mike said as John’s face disappeared into the bowl. "God, I can’t watch."

John pulled his head up and stuck out his chocolate-covered tongue, waving it around in front of his snout. "Thure you done wan do dry dat kith?"

Mike shoved the bowl back up to his face, turning to put the noodles on. "Just what I need, a nympho wolf hounding me."

John walked to the sink and filled the bowl with water.

"You’re done with that already? You pig!"

"If it was you, we’d still be here this time tomorrow."

"Gives me more time to enjoy it. You have batter on your chin."

John licked it off.

"Well, it’s good for something, anyway."

"It’s good for a lot of things."

"Satyr."

"I can’t help it. I haven’t had a boyfriend in two months."

"You said you were good looking. Maybe you aren’t trying hard enough."

"Oh, I’m trying." John said, taking the spoon and stirring the noodles.

Mike gave him a sidelong glance as he dumped broccoli into the steamer. He had an idea of who John was talking about. John was about to say something more when a guard walked in.

"You have a visitor." he said, waving Mark into the kitchen.

"Hey Mark, what’s up?" John asked, continuing to stir.

"There’s a special news report on TV about the world you supposedly come from, Mike. They’re playing excerpts from your explanation in the cell."

"Great." John sighed. "Now the whole world is going to know about your heterosexuality. I was hoping that wouldn’t come out for a while."

"From what I hear, it was Mr. Cooper’s idea to do it. I had just finished cataloging the tapes when he asked for the one they’re showing. He said something about not covering anything up and took off."

"He’s really treading lightly with me, isn’t he?"

"I can understand that. You know how the press would bitch if they found out something important before he told them." John said.

"Guess what else. There are politicians who are insisting upon meeting you themselves. My guess is that they want to know if you’re a genetically engineered terrorist or not."

"I’m a computer programmer, not a terrorist. This computer is dead, Jim."

"Referring to a computer as ‘dead’ is not logical."

"Spock, you’re such a putz. Hey, that’s a thought. What do Spock’s ears look like?"

"They don’t have any fur and are about nine inches long. His fur’s light green."

"Oh, I’ve got to see some reruns." Mike said with a grin.

"So, what’s new with you two?" Mark asked from the fridge.

"I’m going to be a model." Mike answered.

"Really? For who?"

"Not sure yet." he answered, jumping as he burned a finger on the steamer. "Maybe Eagle, maybe sportswear, maybe posters, maybe, maybe, maybe."

"Stop being a pessimist." John said with a nudge. "They’ll pounce on it."

"I’ll buy." Mark said with a loud sniff. "Is that dinner cooking?"

"Yeah, McDonald’s is right down the road."

"You’re not going to make your best friend eat at McDonald’s with barbecued chicken cooking, are you?"

"Well..."

"Yes, you can eat." Mike said, taking his finger from his mouth. "How did you know it’s barbecued chicken?"

"We smell better than you, remember?"

"...And your snout gets longer every time you open your mouth." John added.

"Does not."

"After that’s eaten, we’ve got what brownie mix John left us for brownies."

"You’re the one who spooned up half the batter in one bite."

"I’m the guest of honor, remember? I’m allowed."

They talked idly as dinner finished cooking. As they ate, Mark filled John in on their work with Jud.

"How did he react when he was caught?" John asked.

"He was scared from all of the catchers surrounding him, but when Doug and I got there he calmed down. After that, it was just a matter of convincing him to stop eating that poor guy’s garbage."

"Who’s Jud?" Mike asked around a fingertip.

"Stop that!" John said, swatting his hand away. "You’re never going to grow claws if you don’t stop biting them like that."

"If they grow, they’ll just get brittle and break off. Mine aren’t nearly as hard as yours." Mike said, switching to another finger.

John growled at him and swatted again, missing. Mike laughed and held a fingernail in his teeth.

"Hopeless."

"Jud’s the ape we were working on when you showed up. We have a small wing at the zoological park." Mark said.

"What does the FBI want with an ape?"

"We’ll never tell." John said in a conniving tone. "Mainly because we don’t know. Doug knew what the ultimate result was to be, but we weren’t privy to that. We just did what we were told. We have a general idea, but we don’t know the exact details; not that we don’t have some good guesses, though."

"How did you end up with me?"

"We were available." John said with a shrug. "We both have degrees in zoology with minors in psychology, and they figured we were probably better equipped to study you than some FBI desk jockey. Of course, you were supposed to be a wereman, not a normal guy. Still, our qualifications fit."

"Does the FBI recruit a lot of zoologists?"

"Actually, we’re not in the FBI. We just work for them, like any other company. When our work with Jud is done, it’s job hunting." Mark replied.

"How did he end up in someone’s yard?"

"He got away. I can’t say how. Come to think of it, he’s who Paul and them thought they were looking for when they got that call about you. Personally, I thought it unlikely that he would have wandered that far south. He would have had to be headed there on purpose, and moving fast."

"Let me guess; that dude in the house."

"Yup. From what I hear, you scared him shitless. I’m sure the press has gotten their hands on him by now."

"Not half as much as he scared me. Werewolves instead of weremen."

"Oh yeah. That’s weird."

"It’s a lot weirder having to live it, believe me."

"What do, uh, werewolves do?"

"Basically, they run around when the moon is full and eat people."

"Sounds like fun." John said with an evil, fanged grin.

Mike smiled. "Maybe we can hook up for the next one."

"Just make sure that I’m out of town."

John turned to Mark. "Wimp."

"Hell, you’d be the first one we’d look for." Mike added.

"Yeah, and we’d do you reeaaal slow."

Mark looked at Mike. "You’ve been talking to him in his sleep, haven’t you?"

"I’ll never tell."

"He’s been doing more than talking. I woke up once."

Mark gaped as John swatted at Mike’s hand again. He stopped chewing and yelled. "John!"

"Do you want to know what he was doing? He had one leg wrapped around my waist..."

"Liar!"

John laughed, gave Mike’s arm a punch, and returned his attention to Mark. "It was great! Of course, I had to pretend that I was still asleep so he wouldn’t eat me."

"Satyr." Mike said, picking up his dishes. John and Mark followed with theirs.

"He does have a nice ass, doesn’t he?" Mark asked John as he recalled their first day with Mike.

Mike glared at them over his shoulder. "Wonderful. Now I’ve got two satyrs on my back."

"We don’t both have to be on your back."

Mike blanched. "You two are sick."

"You know what they say; two’s company, three’s, well, uh, even better. You’ll never know until you try."

Mike’s shoulders tensed, and John caught sight of it. He pressed his snout to Mark’s ear as Mike’s dishes hit the sink. "Watch out. He still gets mad if you go too far. I better change the subject."

"The first game should be starting about now. Why don’t we do the dishes later?" he said to Mike.

"Good idea." Mike agreed in a clipped tone. He walked into the living room while Mark and John put their dishes in the sink. When he was out of earshot, John said quietly to Mark, "We ought to tread lightly on that subject for now. He’ll joke about it to a point, but too much and he’ll clam up like a vault."

"Sorry. I went too far?"

"A little, but it’s not your fault. Don’t worry about it."

They grabbed a round of beer and joined Mike, who had the game playing. The tense moment was soon forgotten as the three of them got into the game. Doug and Steve came in just as it was ending.

"I’ve got to go." Mark said as they came in. "I’ve got a date."

"Who?" John asked.

"Bob Christman. Jealous?"

"A little. See ya later."

"Yup."

"Hi Mark." Doug said as he and Steve walked in. "Hi you two."

"What’s up?" Mike asked, turning the TV off with the remote. "Isn’t it kind of late?"

"We just stopped by to say hello and maybe talk a little."

"About what? Gordon is taking care of most everything now."

"I was thinking more along the lines of your personal life. Have you given any thought to your situation?"

Mike sighed. "Can’t you let that rest for a while? You act as if it’s the only thing that matters."

"Of course it isn’t. However, it is important; especially now that the general public knows everything about you."

"I don’t really have anything to say about that right now."

"He has a sense of humor about it, if that means anything." John added from the couch.

"That could be good or bad, under the circumstances."

"I don’t think I’m exactly sure what it is you want." Mike said, becoming annoyed.

"I want you to take this seriously. We have to be very careful about you. Your appearance is going to make it hard for the general public to accept you as it is. We need to know that you’re making progress."

"Progress!" Mike exclaimed, his anger flaring. "How can you say that? It’s been, what, ten or eleven days? I can’t believe the gall you have! I will not screw on demand!" He glanced at John before returning his glare to Doug. "And don’t look at me like that, because I know exactly what you mean by ‘progress!’"

His voice had reached a shout by now. "Have you ever stuck your tongue in a female’s vagina?"

"What!?"

"Have you?"

"You do that?"

"Answer the question."

"Heavens no!"

"Then don’t expect me to stick a dick in my mouth overnight!"

He stomped away in fury, hitting the wall on the way to his room. Stepping through the door, he slammed it as hard as he could, rattling the frame. Spinning around, he punched it with all of his might. It was a hollow interior door and collapsed where his fist struck.

He paced in a haze of anger, flexing his throbbing hand. The pain only added to his frustration, so he kicked the base of the bed savagely. The headboard slammed loudly into the wall.

He was so infuriated that his eyes began to water. He couldn’t believe what Doug had said. Progress!

He slowed his pacing, pausing long enough to slam his uninjured hand into the dresser, stooping to do so. This time the pain helped to calm him and he slowly counted to ten. He had never been so insulted and angered in his entire life. He had completely lost control. He glanced at the battered door and smiled sheepishly.

He recalled what he had asked Doug and his smile widened. Oral sex with a woman was probably a pretty disgusting concept for a race of homosexuals to consider.

He sat on the edge of the bed and convinced his breathing to slow.

"I should go talk to him." John said, getting up once his chest had stopped shaking.

"That might be a bad idea." Doug chided, grabbing his arm. As if to reinforce his point, another thud sounded from the bedroom.

"Maybe you’re right." John tentatively agreed, sitting back down.

Doug sighed loudly. "He’s right, you know. I am pushing. That was a totally rude thing to say. I guess things are going so smoothly that I keep forgetting that he’s only been here for a couple of weeks. Today he actually wasn’t on the front page of the papers. I should apologize."

"Not now, I hope." Steve said.

Doug smiled. "I’ll give him a few minutes to calm down. I’ve got kids to feed."

"Well, I don’t," John said as he stood, "And I need to talk to him." He walked away before they could stop him.

"You should wait!" Doug called after him.

John shook his head and kept walking. "Damn it, Doug, he’s just a man!"

Mike glanced at himself in the mirror above the dresser. He looked like hell. His face was still a little flushed and his eyes were red and puffy from the furious tears. There came a quiet knock at the door and he ignored it.

It opened a crack and John’s short snout, followed by the rest of his face, peeked in. He saw Mike sitting with his head in his hands and came in, closing the door quietly behind him. He noticed the splintered dent and his eyes widened.

"Not now, John." Mike said, looking up.

John was momentarily speechless. He couldn’t get over how beautiful Mike’s eyes looked when they were wet. "There’s something you have to know."

"Not now!"

"Yes, now!" John said, refusing to back down. "I’m going to talk and you are going to listen. I know you enough not to cower every time you raise your voice. I have something to say. I saw the way you looked at me out there; and after what Doug said, I know what you were thinking. You have to believe me. I wasn’t put here to seduce you. If I want you, and damn it, I’m telling you right now that I do; it’s because I want to want you. I am not a whore for the FBI. If you weren’t who you are I would beat your ass right here and now for even thinking it. But," he finished, lowering his voice, "I see what you’re going through. I just want to help you adjust at your own pace. I want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy, with whomever it may be with."

Mike toyed with the straps on his sandals, unable to meet John’s gaze. "Everything that meant happiness to me is gone."

"Then you’ll just have to find new happiness. It’s not as hard as it seems. You don’t seem like a quitter to me. I know you’ve lost everything. I can’t say that I know how you feel, but I can understand the depth of your pain. I do know that you can be happy here. All you have to do is not give up. Like I said, I can see enough to know that you’re not a quitter."

"How about crybaby?" Mike asked with a self-depreciating smile.

"You only need to cry once."

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

"What I mean is that I’ve seen you since day one and you’ve been taking all of this on your own. I’ve tried to put myself in your shoes and I know that I could never handle something like this on my own. You need someone, Mike; whether or not they have fur, fangs, or gonads on the outside. God meant for us to need each other. Let me help you."

John stepped over and sat close beside him when Mike didn’t respond. "Come on, a good hug never hurt anyone."

"You wouldn’t...think anything of it?"

"I’d think of it as giving a friend what he needs. Do I need to say that? Give it a try."

Mike shook his head slightly and John folded a leg around them. They both felt a bit uncomfortable as they awkwardly embraced.

John had been right. Mike needed someone, anyone, to hold. A fiancé, minister, or good friend were all just as good when you needed someone. He rested his head on John’s shoulder, feeling the long fur on his face. Tears again wet his eyes. "It’s all happening too fast, John. Too much. I just don’t know how to deal with all of this."

"I know, I know. We’ll work it out."

"God, I miss her."

John knew this was coming, and petted the back of his head softly. "It’s all right."

"It’s like she’s dead, you know? It’s like they’re all dead." He drew a shuddering breath before going on. "I mean, I know they’re not, but it feels that way. I’ve lost them all. I’ve lost her."

John stroked the velvet fur softly. "They’ll miss you, but they’ll bounce back." he said quietly.

Mike sniffed. "I lived with my aunt after my parents died. Do you even know what an aunt is?"

"Yeah."

"She was a mother, too. My cousin was thirty-five or so. She was just like a mother to me." Mike said, tears rolling down his cheeks and onto John’s pelt. "You have no idea what a mother is like. They have a bond with children no father could match. Their love for their children goes deeper than any man could know." He sniffed again and shifted his grip on John’s coat. "I wanted Deb to have that. I wanted to share it with her. Now she’s gone...I’m gone. What if she never finds someone? What if she never knows what it’s like?"

"She’ll know someday." John whispered, choosing his words with care. "They aren’t dead, remember? Try and be glad for her. She’s got her whole life to live. She was saved, right?"

"Yeah."

"Then she’ll have the strength she needs. They all will. Wish the best for them. Pray for them."

"I’m getting your fur wet."

"I don’t mind."

As Mike quietly cried, John thought of how good it felt to hold him. Mike felt warm and strong, even with his lack of fur and present state of mind. He smelled good, too. He found himself wanting to marry him right on the spot.

Mike let his frustrations drain onto John’s shoulder. As thoughts of her again invaded his mind, he knew that he was still crushed by his loss. She had been his life, and now he was going to have to spend the rest of it without her. Now he had to spend it with werewolves. He wished that he would wake up and find himself lying beside her, crying into his pillow over some bad dream.

Why me? he cried out in his mind. Why did you do this to me?

A few minutes later he pulled away, wiping his eyes and feeling embarrassed. He looked at John’s shoulder and smiled weakly.

"Feel better?"

"Yeah, thanks. I guess I did need that. Your shoulder’s a mess."

John glanced down at the wet patch of fur where his pelt was exposed. "What else are shoulders for?" he asked, picking up a towel from the foot of the bed and rubbing the spot. He tried to ignore the strong smell of Mike on it.

"Look," Mike began, "Now would be a good time for me to say a prayer. Would you excuse me for a few minutes?"

"Sure, but I’d be glad to join you if you want."

Mike blinked, momentarily struck by the thought of a werewolf praying. He hadn’t thought to visualize that yet. He shrugged and smiled. "Sure."

They prayed for a few minutes, asking for strength, guidance, and understanding. When they were done, Mike stood. "Are they still out there?"

"I haven’t heard them leave."

"I guess I should apologize."

"You better let Doug go first. He’s feeling pretty criminal."

They walked back to the living room. Doug and Steve were sitting quietly and sipping coffee. Mike stopped in front of the couch, John beside him, and took a deep breath.

"I’m calm." he said simply as he sat.

"Mike," Doug began immediately, "I owe you an apology. I was being narrow-minded and pushy. For ten years I’ve been teaching people exactly how to not do that. I keep forgetting how new all of this is to you; how strange it all must seem. I’m not making excuses, I should have known better. I’m sorry."

Mike gestured absently. "It’s all right. I just need time to adjust, that’s all. I shouldn’t have lost my temper."

"He put a hole in the bedroom door." John added with a chuckle.

"Either way, you may never see the...end result...anyway." Mike said.

"Why’s that? That is, I mean, if you want to talk about it now."

"Well, ever since I was born again, it’s been my belief that sex is sacred; a part of marriage. I never touched my fiancé’ until we were actually engaged. To me, sex isn’t just something you do for fun. Of course, both parties should enjoy themselves. But for me, sex is more than that. It shouldn’t just be a...taking of one another’s pleasure. Sex should be a physical extension or a physical expression of what you feel inside. It should be a culmination of the love you feel, not just of the lust you feel. The feeling should originate inside."

"Have you ever had sex with someone you didn’t love? That’s all it was - sex. It may have been very good, but there was no real feeling, no real passion."

He hesitated and took a deep breath before continuing. Everyone was rapt. Without realizing it, he was becoming more and more impassioned as he talked. "That way, it’s just two people performing a biological function;" he continued, "Or in your case, well, I don’t know what you call it. But with someone you love, you, I don’t know, feel each other. You kiss and touch and everything you do is immersed in the - Lord, this is gonna sound tacky - aura of the love you have. There’s no selfishness, no hesitation. You do everything for them and you feel them, love them, and know without a word that they love you too. That’s why I save myself for love. I’m not going to sleep with anyone I don’t love first. That’s why you may never know."

He sat back, mildly embarrassed. He had surprised himself with his vehemence.

"I do!" John said, fanning himself with a hand.

"Wow." Doug added, shifting in his seat.

"Can you write that down?" Steve asked with a smile.

Mike blushed furiously. They all sat in silence as it faded.

"You don’t think you could love one of us, given time?" Doug finally asked.

"I just don’t know. That’s why I said that you may never know."

"Well, you just take your time." Steve said, getting up. "And now, I’m going home."

"So am I." Doug agreed.

"I think I’m in love." John whispered into Doug’s ear as he walked past.

"Well, bye then." Mike said as he watched them walk to the door. He looked over at John. "I hope I didn’t scare them off."

"Let’s put it this way," John said, putting an arm around his shoulder and steering him toward the kitchen, "Their husbands are probably in for a long night."

"God, I don’t want the blame for that. You guys are easily impressed, aren’t you?" he asked with a grin.

"One hundred percent testosterone, and anything will set it off."

The phone rang, and they raced for it. Mike won. "Mike’s Wereman Emporium."

John rolled his eyes.

"Hello, Mike?" It was Gordon.

"Yeah, is this Gordon?"

"Yeah, and I’ve got fantastic news! I talked to Chrysler. They want to do the commercial. They’re talking about getting the paperwork done and the shooting started in, get this, five days! They can have you in front of a camera in three weeks!"

"Damn."

"...And the money! Chrysler is talking about an open-ended contract for one or more commercials at sixty grand a pop plus royalties! Adidas is talking one-twenty for a catalog shoot! All I had to do was convince them that I was looking at other interested parties who were willing to spend the money for one-of-a-kind advertising."

"Wow! So, what do you want me to do?"

"I’ll be over tomorrow afternoon to work it all out with you. I just wanted to call and let you know. I’ll be spending the morning getting all of this organized on my end."

"Okay, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then."

"About three sound good?"

"Fine."

"All right, then. Goodbye."

"Later." He hung up and turned to John.

"Mike’s Wereman Emporium? Are you totally deranged?"

"Maybe. Don’t sleep on your stomach. That was Gordon. The Talon commercial is a go at sixty grand a pop. Adidas wants me to model a line of winter clothes for the big one-twenty; before taxes, of course."

"Good Lord!"

"I suppose I should be ecstatic." Mike said evenly.

"You’re not?"

"Oh, I don’t know. All of this without any idea of whether I have a single shred of talent."

"Well, how hard can it be to put on a shirt and stand there?"

"I’m sure it’s not that simple."

"Hmm. Maybe you could get them to work me in." John said with a laugh as he unwrapped the brownies and grabbed a couple.

"Sure, why not? It definitely pays better than zoology."

"Get real. I am not model material." he said, handing Mike a brownie.

"You said you were handsome and you’ve got the body. Do you think I thought of myself as model material two weeks ago?"

"Now, but you’re different."

"I’m not that different."

"Come on," John said, rapping on Mike’s head with his knuckles, "Reality is calling! Gordon probably has visions of sugar plums dancing in his head right now. That money you were just quoted is a tentative number to see if you work out. After that, it’s millions. I can just see you on a full-length poster; smooth, hard, unobstructed, unhindered, uncovered muscles bulging out everywhere, big blue eyes shining with that cute look-but-don’t-touch look of yours..."

"What look-but-don’t-touch look?"

"Well, actually, I haven’t seen it yet. But I bet it’s great!"

"Oh, please."

"Come on, let’s see it."

"No. Why?"

"You have to practice, right?" John asked, leaning back on the counter and taking a bite. "So, let’s see it."

"Oh, come on." Mike said, suddenly bashful.

"Don’t be shy. Hey! I like that bashful look. Do that one again."

"No!"

"If you’re going to be a model, you have to practice."

"I have three weeks; and besides, it’s embarrassing."

"Take it seriously and you won’t be embarrassed. Now, the look-but-don’t-touch look."

"I thought that would be the one you’re the least interested in."

"Be serious! This is your job, remember?"

"And here I am, eating a brownie. Okay, but I’ve never made that look before. Think of something else."

"Okay. Look vulnerable."

"This is ridiculous."

"Do it or I’ll tell Gordon that you’re not taking your career seriously."

"That’s blackmail."

John just shrugged.

"All right, damn it, vulnerable."

They spent the next two hours in the living room. Mike took the love seat and John sat across from him on the couch. Mike felt like a fool, while John was obviously enjoying himself. They went over dozens of poses and expressions.

"If I look like a monster, how is anyone ever gonna buy a ‘pouting’ look?"

John was sitting with his arms crossed, trying valiantly to keep his face neutral. "It’s cute. I like it. Your expressions are easy enough to read."

"Yeah, but is anybody going to believe that I could pout?"

"Of course. You’ve seen the news. They’ve been playing excerpts from that press conference and your interviews constantly. Steve made another announcement today. Every time you go outside, they get more. Our basketball game, if you want to call it that," he added with a smile, "Did a lot for establishing your basic normality."

"If you say so." Mike said, chewing a nail.

"Stop that! And I say so. Now, look at me like you’re about to jump my bones."

"You’ve been saving that one, haven’t you?"

"Come on."

"I can’t just make that up."

"Sure you can. Just think of something horny. Imagine me naked."

"You didn’t say you wanted me to throw up."

John picked up a cushion and threw it at him. He knocked it away and laughed. "Okay, if you insist."

He sighed and tried to put on a dirty look without laughing. It worked the third time.

"Great! I like that one a lot!"

"You would."

"Anyone would, that’s the point."

"That’s enough. I’m tired. I didn’t sleep too well last night."

John looked at his watch. "Good Lord, it’s almost one o’clock!"

"Good night." Mike said, jumping up from the love seat and heading down the hall.

"Good night." John said, following him and cutting into his own room.

One of the night shift guards poked his head into the bathroom as Mike was brushing his teeth. Mike remembered his time downtown and almost laughed again.

"You going to bed now?"

"Mm-hmm."

"See you tomorrow evening, then. Oh, and I liked your rehearsal."

"Thanks." he said around the toothpaste.

After the guard had left, he looked at himself in the mirror. "You’re going to be a pin-up vamp for werewolves. God, this is weird."

He walked out and turned on the bedside lamp. He jumped as the light fell on John, who was wearing nothing but bikini briefs and lying on his side.

"This is my let’s-spend-the-night-together look. Do you like it?"

Mike had to laugh. "Get out of my bed."

"But it smells so good. Wait! You haven’t seen my watching-you-slowly-undress look yet."

"Get!"

John rolled onto his back, threw his arms wide, and hung his head over the edge of the mattress, resting it on the floor. "How about my take-me-I’m-yours-and-I’ll-do-anything look?"

"Out!" Mike said, laughing at the spectacle, "Or I’ll sleep in the living room."

"All right." John said, getting to his feet. "Spoil sport."

"Maybe some day you’ll get lucky."

"One can hope."