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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 XIII

Their tour was organized, starting with an opening show at a small, five thousand-seat gig in Chicago. The tour was planned for six months, crossing the States. Once announced, the first six shows sold out immediately.

Mike and the band spent the three weeks after the ceremony rehearsing. They ran around the stage and generally acted ridiculous. Within days they had formed a groove and found that they played well together. Mike and Dave meshed swiftly, finding that they shared a happy-go-lucky approach to playing on stage. They collaborated on some longer solos for many songs.

The light show and pyrotechnics were created and rehearsed. Mike drove the sound man out of his mind getting the mixing right.

He was amazed to see all of the people that were necessary to run a concert tour. The road crew numbered fifteen, including the sound man. Mike and Dave each had a guitar tech who was responsible for keeping their guitars in tune during the show. Both Mike and Dave now had five guitars each, and planned to buy more.

They had recorded the backing vocals on the album themselves, overdubbing their voiced to achieve the force Mike wanted. For the tour they had to hire four extras to recreate the sound.

John stayed equally busy, playing handyman for the band and road crew. He also got a part, through the people who shot the band’s videos, to appear in another band’s when the tour brought them around to California. He was as eager as Mike to simply collapse at the end of each day.

On the night before their opening show, John mated with Karen.

Mike was sitting in the living room, sipping a beer and running through the cue sheets for tomorrow’s show. John was walking in with his own beer when the phone rang.

John picked it up and talked for a few seconds. Mike was unaware of what was being said.

After hearing John hang up Mike looked around to him. He was still standing by the phone, a glazed expression on his face.

"What’s wrong?" Mike asked, getting up and hurrying over to him.

John put his beer down. "That was Mr. Lorrah. I have to go over right away." he said, starting to pace.

"You mean...?"

"Karen’s ready. They’ve been trying to get a hold of me for two days."

"I knew we should have come home instead of staying at that hotel." Mike said, remembering how John had worn him out.

"Oh, I don’t regret that. God, I’m not ready for this." he said, pacing faster. "I’ve prayed all I can pray. I don’t know what to do. How do I act? What do we say? How will I look at her afterward? How can I make myself do that?"

Mike caught up with John’s marching and grabbed his shoulders. John looked at the wall, tapping a foot rapidly.

"John..."

"I guess I’d better go."

"John," Mike said sternly, grabbing his snout and turning his face to him, "Look at me. If I can throw away everything I was taught from the time I was a child, you can do this. Do you understand? You’ve got it easy. When you’ve done your duty to her and country you can come back to me. I have to stay here and change my whole perspective on life. If I can do that, you can do this."

John relaxed somewhat but was still tense. "I guess it’s time for the other shoe to drop, eh?"

"No, but it’s the closest you’ll ever come. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine."

"Thanks." John said, giving him a hug. "I hope I’ve had enough recharge time." he added with a downward glance. "I love you."

"I love you too. Now get going."

"See you soon." John said, heading for the door.

Mike watched him go, thinking of the impossibility of what he had just said. He had just told a furry, claw-handed, fang-mouthed, short-muzzled man that he loved him. It had just come out, as it had the times before, because he meant it.

They had made love six or seven times since the first, being too busy for more. Mike had enjoyed each time more than the one before. That feeling of all-encompassing love was growing stronger. Apparently God was answering his prayers, even though the outcome wasn’t what he had originally wanted. But then again, that’s how God usually worked. He does what is best for you, not what you think is best for you.

He no longer felt guilty or ashamed, but he still had to wonder at himself. It was all quickly becoming normal to him, aided by the fact that it was normal to everyone else.

He had even begun joining in on the typical macho bragging that inevitably entered any conversation with other guys. John was never at a loss for something to say, bragging of how incredible it was and leaving the details to the imagination. Mike figured that he did it more to encourage his human friend than to boost his own ego.

They guys never ceased to proposition Mike good-naturedly. John usually jumped between them, wrapping Mike up protectively and growling playfully.

Shaking his head, he sat back down and picked up the cue sheets. He went over them a few more times, matching the cues with what they would be doing on stage at the time. He had been warned of the importance of staying away from the flash pots and other explosives.

He called the guys to make sure that they were doing the same. They all assured him that they were. None of them wanted to screw up their opening show.

At eight-thirty, two and a half hours after he had left, John pulled into the driveway. Mike got up and met him at the door.

"Hi." he said, giving John a hug.

John had taken a shower. His usual light, musky scent was more subdued than it normally was at this time of the evening. "Hi." he said, returning the hug tightly.

They walked into the living room, John looking uncomfortable. Mike fought off a smile and went to get him a beer.

"Well, I think I’ve got those pyrotechnic cues straight. I hope the show hoes okay." Mike said to break the ice.

"Twice." John said, grabbing the beer Mike offered and gulping some.

"Twice what?"

"She made me do it twice." John answered, shivering a tad.

"Oh." Mike said, unsure of what to say. He considered for a few seconds and decided to play it safe. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"I don’t know. The whole thing is a blur."

Mike sat beside him, wrapping John’s arm up in his own.

"It was just like they said it would be," John began slowly, looking at the floor, "But no one ever said that she would..." He hesitated, taking a deep breath. "She...she had an orgasm."

"Are you sure?" Mike asked, successfully fighting off another smile. "Way to go, John!" he thought.

"It was pretty obvious." John said, shifting slightly. "She made enough noise. I’m glad no one else was home. At first I thought I was hurting her, but she made me keep going."

"Where did everyone go?"

"They all left when I got there. Mr. Lorrah said she was in her room and then hustled everyone out. That’s the way it usually goes. No one wants to be around for it. I can see why. Even without all the...moaning and stuff, everyone would be able to hear. When I opened her door I almost choked on the smell." He shook himself lightly. "And then I got hard. I couldn’t believe that!"

"That bad, Huh?"

"It got worse. When she...came...that was disgusting. You said it would be damp, but..."

Mike smiled. "She gushed."

John looked at him and Mike quickly wiped the smile away. "Is that what you call it?"

"Yeah." Mike answered, recalling his second serious girlfriend. She had been a gusher, too.

"It felt so..." John started, hunting for the right word, "...gory."

Mike laughed.

"Stop laughing." John said with a hurt look.

"I’m sorry. I’ve just never heard it described that way."

"It was like a living thing..."

"The contractions."

"Yeah, those." he said, obviously ready to change the subject. "Right after that she told me to do it again. After the second time, I was, you know, running out of her." He shivered again. "I guess I was recharged." he finished with a wry grin.

"Well, it couldn’t have been all bad. Like you said before, an orgasm is an orgasm."

"I don’t even remember those. I think I stressed myself right out of the experience."

"I guess all you can do now is wait."

"...And pray to God that it worked."

They did pray, and then went to bed. They were both now sleeping in Mike’s room, John having moved his things over. He snuggled up close, but was definitely in no mood for sex.

Mike was still awake long after John had fallen asleep. His stomach refused to stop doing flip-flops as he thought about tomorrow’s show. He occupied himself by scratching John’s pelt before finally falling into a fitful sleep. He awoke numerous times; and every time he stirred, John would remold himself against him. It was a comforting feeling.

They were in their dressing room, preparing for the show. They could hear the opening act, a band with a fairly big hit of their own, finishing up their act. Two more songs and it would be their turn.

Everyone except Mike was extremely nervous. He was terrified.

"You’ll do fine." Gordon said, helping Dave to get his fur looking right. "Just do it like you rehearsed it. You won’t feel like such fools with people in front of you. Don’t forget to play the crowd. Feel free to get up close. If it bothers you, put yourself behind a security man. They’ll be spread out in front of the stage."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Jim said, strapping the transmitter to the strap of his bass.

"Would you get that camera out of here?" Mike asked irritably, casing an angry glance at the cameraman in the doorway.

"Out! Out!" Gordon growled, shoving the door in the man’s face. "Save it for later."

"I think I’m going to throw up." Mike said. "Did you hear about all of the big shots there are out there? Half the audience must be critics. We’re headlining our first major gig! I am going to throw up."

"You’ll do fine." Gordon reiterated. "Think about the fans, not the critics. Besides, you’ve got great material, great presence, and you guys have really clicked. That’s why you’re headlining so soon."

Mike rolled his sleeves up to his elbows. He was wearing a pair of pants - Adidas, of course - and a black leather trench coat, leaving the front open. Everyone else but Eric was similarly dressed. Eric wore only pants and sat restlessly beside John, twirling a drumstick.

"God, I hope we don’t screw up," Tony said when he had finished his throat exercises with the voice coach he’d hired, "What if I forget a line?"

"How could you possibly forget a line after all of the rehearsing our boss here made us do." Dave said, taking one of his guitars from Ralph, his guitar tech.

"Well, if we flop, at least I’ve already made more money than I thought I would in a lifetime," Eric mused, still twirling, "See this?" he added, lifting a cheek, "That’s my accounting professor kissing my ass!"

That brought a round of chuckles and Gordon gave them all a high five. "You’ll thank me for all the rehearsing when you knock them dead."

"If I don’t puke all over the stage."

"Stop digesting your claws and maybe your stomach will calm down."

The opening act finished and after a couple of minutes they heard themselves being announced. The crowd erupted. It was loud, even in their dressing room. Mike wondered how sensitive werewolf ears could stand it.

One of their crew cracked the door and poked his head through. "You’re announced. Go get ‘em."

"You heard him, boys," Gordon said, giving each of them a clap on the shoulder, "This is your big moment. Make me proud."

All of the lights were out and the stage was pitch black. A sea of burning lighters cast an eerie glow over the crowd. To Mike, it looked like a scene out of hell.

The guys took their places on stage, unnoticed by the crowd except for the first few rows. A steady, rhythmic chant of "Wereman! Wereman!" washed over the stage.

Spotlights lit up the rest of the band and the crowd erupted anew. Mike was standing behind Eric, waiting for his cue, and the crowd couldn’t see him yet. The noise was thunderous, so he put in the tiny wax ear plugs one of the crew had made for him.

He peeked out over the audience while the guys got them clapping to the opening song’s rhythm. It was a see of howling monsters. He almost passed out as a wave of sudden dizziness overcame him.

"Are you all right?" Eric yelled down to him.

"Yeah, I’m fine." Mike yelled back, steadying himself. He glanced at John, who was standing off to one side. John smiled and gave him a thumbs-up.

Fog rolled out from the generators in front of him. The wall of smoke reached his mic and blue and red spotlights cast a glow over it. That was Mike’s cue.

He took a deep breath and walked slowly out through the fog, stopping behind his mic. The crowd roared louder as he appeared, a deafening chorus of gruff, wolven voices. Arms stretched out from the first few rows. Posters of him waved in the air.

A teenage wolf in the front row flashed him. He gaped for a moment before laughing and turning away. He momentarily wished that he had been hung like that as a teen. Dave caught the whole thing and yelled a snide remark.

He gazed over the crowd as they clapped. Cameras, fixed and mobile, pointed at him. An unbelievable feeling washed over him. "This could become addictive." he thought to himself. He smiled, drinking in the sound. "This is what you’ve waited for, Mike. Let’s get this show on the road."

The opening song, taken from Pyromania and altered slightly, had been an obvious choice.

"I SAID WELCOME TO MY SHOWWWWW!!!"

The night after their second show, they played on Arsenio; and were the only guests for the night.

"I have only one guest for tonight’s show, but I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I’m holding my own copy of our guest’s debut album." he said, holding up a Wereman CD.

The audience erupted and he waved them down. "Why? Because this album is so bad, we couldn’t find a copy in the record stores today. So, won’t you please give it up for...Wereman!"

After playing the opening song, they all joined Arsenio along the front of the raised interview area, Arsenio sitting beside Mike.

"Man, they weren’t kidding, you really do smell good."

Mike blushed, feeling extremely nervous.

"They weren’t kidding about that blush either, eh guys?" he asked, glancing down the line at the rest of the band.

"Sometimes we think his face is going to spontaneously combust." Eric joked.

"This album did. Y’all went platinum in a heartbeat. Have you read any reviews of your opening big show?"

"Oh yeah." Jim answered.

Arsenio turned toward the audience, pulling a newspaper from behind him. "Check out this first line; ‘Last night’s Wereman concert was by far the strangest I have ever seen.’"

"I can imagine." Mike said. "I probably looked ridiculous."

"No, it doesn’t say that. From what it says, you all looked a lot better than anyone expected. That was your first live appearance before a crowd of a couple thousand, right?"

"Yeah, I thought I was going to feint." Tony said.

Arsenio turned to Mike. "I want to point this out. You wrote a bunch of songs just for the show, right? Almost another album’s worth."

"Yeah, I didn’t want to do the whole album, which would have been kind of lame; but I didn’t want to do covers, either. I’d hate for us to look like a bunch of pretenders on stage, seeing that we got there so easily compared to other bands. From what I gather, it all went over pretty well."

"What about you guys?" Arsenio asked, looking down the line. "What’s it like working with everyone’s favorite monster?"

"You probably won’t believe this, but it’s really not any different than playing with anyone else. After you get to know him, Mike’s just a normal, if slightly annoying, kind of guy."

Everyone chuckled. "What do you mean ‘annoying’?" Mike asked.

"Yes, tell us." Arsenio prompted.

"Well..."

"I’m not annoying."

"Well, if you’d stop trying to eat us every time we turned around..."

The tour was a raging success, helping the otherwise-slow concert season. Each show was bigger than the one before. After three months they played their first stadium in front of almost fifty-three thousand people. Mike couldn’t believe it. No one played stadiums on a first tour. He had to admit, though, that he had considerable draw power.

After the second show they signed on a major sponsor. Stages became more elaborate, the general theme being the full moon, along with lights and pyrotechnics. The tour was extended to include another three stateside dates, and they made a week-long trip to play two nights in Japan.

The final show, in San Francisco, was aired live on MTV.

Everyone was becoming extremely wealthy. Mike planned on buying John the Ferrari he wanted when his birthday came around.

The Lorrah’s told John that it was all right to go on the tour. John had been afraid that he would have to stay behind. The prospective father usually spent the pregnancy in close contact. They said it would be okay, though, because John would be back before she was due.

John had been ecstatic when he found out that a "repeat performance" wouldn’t be necessary. She had conceived that first evening.

Of course, John felt that a celebration was in order and they had both been exhausted afterward. It was their first time together that could be considered torrid, and even John had been overwhelmed by the experience. Mike had shed his inhibitions completely.

The tour, though successful, was tiring. Mike had quickly become adept at falling asleep at a moment’s notice. Cat naps were as common as sound checks. When it was finally over, they all returned to Chicago.

After unpacking Mike took the Motley Crue songs he had written in his spare time and tucked them away, determined not to work very hard for at least a few weeks. His plan was to work at a leisurely pace, doing isolated shows and playing occasional gigs.

The popularity of Love And Affection was sure to ride for at least a year and a half in total. That would hive him plenty of time to do a few more overseas shows before they hit the studio again.

Working through Gordon, he began house hunting; and was looking at some land outside of Aspen. He sat down and talked it over with John, who liked the idea. Neither of them realized how matrimonial their discussion seemed.

John spent a lot of time with Karen, a die hard Wereman fan. It only took him a couple of days to overcome his discomfort with being around her. Mike met her soon after their return. She was extremely pregnant. It was odd, though, to see a pregnant young girl with absolutely no breasts. They were told that she was carrying triplets, identical girls and a fraternal boy.

"John, you stud!" Mike said, giving his back a healthy slap. "And even after the hotel trip!" John just smiled, looking embarrassed.

The big day came a month after the U.S. leg of the tour ended. A frantic Mr. Lorrah called at seven, interrupting a little foreplay they were enjoying on the couch.

They ran out to the van, the guards scrambling after them.

Mike sat in the waiting room, watching John and the Lorrahs pace like caged, well, wolves. Mike wasn’t surprised to learn that men, other than the doctors and nurses, weren’t allowed in the delivery room.

Mike had already met the Lorrahs on a few occasions. Being the newborns’ grandparents, they would become like family to John. Mike liked them, both of them seeming to be good people. Neither had shown any sign of suspicion toward Mike, and seemed to really like him.

Misters’ Lorrah?" a nurse asked from the door, trying to ignore Mike’s presence.

"Yes?" they both answered quickly, ears jumping.

"She’s waiting." he said gently, leading them out the door. "The delivery went fine."

Mike shot John a questioning look.

John explained. "They’re going into the delivery room. They’ll have Karen covered up by now and the kids cleaned. The Lorrahs will stay with her and the kids until she, uh, you know."

"Oh." Mike said, standing. He imagined what the scene in there must be as he read a brochure on childbirth. Karen would be on the bed, covered to hide the inevitable bleeding. A strong but pleasant deodorant would cover the smell of her blood. She would probably be holding one or more of the babies. Her parents would be by her side; sad to lose her, but happy for three new lives.

"It must be hell for them." he thought.

Two hours later the Lorrahs came out. Their eyes were red and puffy. Karen’s natural father carried two small bundles, one in each arm. His husband carried the other.

John rushed over to meet them, followed by Mike.

Mike was unprepared for what happened. John was handed one of the girls. Mr. Lorrah, to Mike’s amazement, smiled and offered the boy to him. Did he know something Mike didn’t?"

He took the little bundle carefully. John Jr., as his name was to be, was by far the cutest thing Mike had ever laid eyes on.

He was half asleep, his eyes opening and closing lazily from behind a small, pudgy snout. Tiny canine ears poked from the sides of his head. His eyes were green and he was covered with a sparse coat of black and brown fur. The patterns, though not quite clear, seemed to mimic John’s.

He stroked the little chest gently. The fur was velvet soft. He looked at John, holding Junior close to him. "They’re so cute!" he said, taking a look at Janice and Dawne.

John was too choked up to say anything. His eyes were glazed when he looked up, trading one of the girls for Junior. Mike immediately handed the cute little girl to one of the grandfathers, knowing that holding this new life meant much, much more to them.

Three nurses were with them and soon pried the babies away. They told them that they could come and see them whenever the nursery had visiting hours, and could pick them up in a couple of days.

It was almost eleven before they got home. They turned on the eleven o’clock news, expecting to see something. The press had been at the hospital, kept at a distance by Mike’s escorts.

They weren’t disappointed. A photo of John appeared over the anchor’s shoulder. "In a related story, John Carter, boyfriend of rock star wereman Michael Riggs, became the happy father of three today. According to hospital sources, Karen Lorrah gave birth to two girls and a boy at eight-twelve, eastern time. All three were said to be in good health."

"Boyfriend?" Mike mused. "Funny how I never thought of it that way."

"...Mr. Carter could not be reached for comment."

"Amazing, that. I’m surprised someone hasn’t cashed in a phone company contact and gotten our number." Mike said. "Paul must be merciless."

John turned the TV off, walking toward the bedrooms.

"About this ‘boyfriend’ thing..." Mike said playfully.

"Hold on." John said, disappearing into his old bedroom. He came back a few seconds later, carrying something about the size of a cigar box. He sat down beside Mike, facing him and hooking a leg around his butt. "There’s something I’ve never thought to ask." he said, looking nervous.

"What’s that? What’s in the box?"

John sighed with relief. He had been right; Mike had never seen an engagement band box before. "Well," he started, licking his lips uneasily, "I was wondering, way back when, how you go about asking someone to marry you where you come from."

Mike was stunned. It was clear what John was getting at and his answer came out ahead of his thoughts. "You hold out the ring to her and say something like ‘will you marry me?’"

After he had spoken his mind caught up with him. John was going to ask him to marry. His heart jumped and he suddenly felt the same way he had felt on stage that first night. The same way he had felt when he proposed to Deb.

John held out the box and pulled it open. Inside were two matching bands, each about two inches wide. They were black with a simple pattern sewn in with silver thread. A diamond, looking to be about a half-carat, was embedded in the center of each one. It was held in place with a gold setting. Small clasps held the setting tight against the material. "Mike," he said, his voice shaking, "Will you marry me?"

Mike swallowed, reaching out to touch one of the bands. The material felt like silk, and they both had a very expensive look. He glanced up at John, who was watching him nervously.

The past year and a half flashed before his eyes. So much had happened, so much had changed. He had come here a man, and he felt that he still was one.

A glint on his left ring finger caught his eye. He pulled the hand away from the box and looked at his engagement ring. He had never thought to take it off, causing numerous questions from the press over the months.

He removed his other hand from John’s, gripped the ring, and slipped it off. His finger felt strange as he set the ring on the coffee table.

He looked back at John, who was still anxiously waiting.

"God, this is weird." he thought before speaking up. "Yes."

John and Mike walked out to meet Doug, who was getting out of his car. It was a cold morning and Mike wore a sweater. John was wearing unusually long sleeves, a fashion trend Mike had started and was making huge amounts of money from.

Doug handed Mike a folder. "Your copies of all the paperwork from the Bureau. Seems no one ever thought to give them to you. I guess that’s why we need non-bureaucrats like myself. I still can’t believe that Paul’s quitting to head your security. It’s a far cry from carrying you through the woods."

"We pay better." Mike said.

"We? Feeling royal already? And you said the money wouldn’t go to your head."

They both pushed their sleeves up. Doug gasped, a smile gradually replacing the surprise on his face. "You two? I should have known!"

"Yup, he asked me last night." Mike said.

"This is going to be a media circus, you know." Doug said.

"We’ll live. Screw the media."

"Have you set a date yet?"

"No, we haven’t gotten to that. There is one thing that we need to ask, though."

"Sure."

"Well, John’s dads are going to be there, of course, but I don’t have one. John’s dad is going to give him away, as usual, and it would be inappropriate for his stepdad to do me. You’re the closest thing I have to a father anymore. Would you be willing to, you know, give me away?"

"I’d love to!" Doug exclaimed, shaking his hand. "I’d be honored."

"Great. We really appreciate it."

Doug sighed, looking at John. "You know, when I first assigned you to him, I never thought you’d pull a coup like this."

"I’m just that good, I guess."

"You fell in love. That’s cheating. I guess this only leaves one more thing." he said, shaking John’s hand.

"What’s that?"

"You’re fired."

They flew to Indianapolis so Mike could finally meet John’s parents face-to-face. Up until now, they had only spoken over the phone. They had been understandably surprised when John had broke the news to them. John had hinted at times of how serious they were, but they had never considered that John would actually marry him.

"Dad, Stepdad, this is Mike. Mike, this is Joe and Joshua, my parents."

My pleasure." Mike said apprehensively, shaking each hand in turn. A funny thought occurred to him and he turned to John, putting an overdone look of amazement on his face. "Joe and Joshua? You’re Jesus Christ!" he exclaimed, throwing his arms around John. "I’ve always wanted to meet you like this! Why didn’t you tell me?"

John looked confused for a moment and hesitantly returned the embrace. It had been a long time since anyone had teased him about that. He remembered their bible studies and laughed, his parents joining in when they remembered the joke.

"We debated naming him that." Joshua quipped.

"Let me go. Jesus was blonde." John said, pushing him affectionately away.

"Are the guards going to be staying?" Joe, John’s natural father, asked.

"They’ll be around, but they won’t be staying here at the house." John assured them.

"Let’s get inside, then."

John’s parents turned out to be the funniest people Mike had ever met. Their sense of humor was boundless, and Mike and John laughed most of their way through dinner. They had a habit of teasing each other and poking fun constantly. Mike envied John for having parents like that to grow up with. It went a long way in explaining where John had developed his own good cheer and endless humor. After a few minutes, he was having trouble believing that either could ever lose their temper.

"Get caught trying pot sometime." John said.

"You deserved it." Joe said matter-of-factly.

"I couldn’t sit for a week." John said, raising a cheek and rubbing his butt. "I can still feel it sometimes."

"Did you try to do pot again?" Joe asked.

"You wouldn’t let me out of the house for a month to try."

"Mike," Joe began, turning his attention to him, "I understand that you used to be a programmer."

"Dad’s a systems analyst." John added.

"Really? Yeah, I was."

"What was your area of expertise?"

"Robotics software."

"No kidding?"

Mike and Joe fell into an in-depth conversation about computers, leaving Joshua and John completely in the blue.

After a couple of minutes Joshua propped his face up on one hand and gave John a long-suffering look. "Do you want to marry me and leave these two to themselves?"

"You’re a little old for me, but sure." John said with a wink. "The hard part will be getting that band off of his arm."

"...But the really hard part...what?" Mike asked, catching the other conversation.

"Oh, nothing." Joshua said. "Close your eyes."

Mike looked suspicious. "Why?"

"Never mind. What do you say we go into the living room for a while."

They talked for the rest of the evening, getting to know each other. Both of John’s parents seemed to be at ease with him. He was nervous, though. He really wanted them to like him. He was, after all, from another planet and engaged to their son.

His fears seemed to be groundless. When it came time for bed, they led them to the spare bedroom.

"Dinner was great, in case I forgot to mention it." Mike said as he sat on the edge of the bed.

"Nobody cooks like your dad." John added, taking his suitcase from Joe.

"We just threw it together."

"I’m glad you went to the trouble."

"Watch it." Joshua warned. "You’re still not too big to spank."

"I’ll help hold him down." Mike offered.

"If this bed isn’t big enough we can make up the sofa for one of you."

"This’ll be fine, thanks." John said, walking his parents out of the room.

"You stud!" Josh, the more openly dirty-minded of the two, whispered with a wink.

"Stepdad!"

"So, tell us what it’s like. We’ll never find out from the press." Joe asked.

"I’ll tell you one thing." John said, putting his snout between his parents’ heads. "You can lick him all over!"

"And on that note, we’ll see you in the morning." Joe said, putting an arm around Josh. "We’ll have to make plans to see the kids sometime this weekend."

"We will. Good night."

"Good night. Good night, Mike."

"Good night."

John was sitting on the bed when Mike came back from brushing his teeth. "What would you think if I dyed myself black?"

"What would I think?" Mike asked, undoing his robe.

"Yeah. Do you think it’d make me more, you know, attractive?"

Mike let the robe fall open and sat beside him. He no longer minded being casually nude around John. As a matter of fact, he was starting to enjoy seeing him nude. There was no more hiding under sheets or behind towels. He had lost the human desire to look immediately away. "I don’t know. You said before that you were going to do it before you met me, didn’t you?"

"Uh-Huh. I was wondering what you’d think."

"Is this what you’ve been contemplating in front of the mirror for the last few days?"

"Kind of."

"Why do you want to?"

"Brown and black is so boorishly common. Being blonde or brunette makes you more distinctive."

"If that’s what you want, go ahead and do it."

"I was more concerned with what you thought."

"It doesn’t really matter to me. Do what you want."

"You’re going to have to live with it, remember, groom-to-be? You really don’t care at all?" he asked, unsure of whether to be relieved or disappointed.

Mike sighed and flopped onto his back. John leaned down beside him, propped himself up on an elbow, and started rubbing his belly.

"Mmmmm. How do I put this?" He hesitated and enjoyed the belly rub for a few moments. "I understand that being all black makes you more attractive to other wolves, so I see why you want to dye yourself. Everyone likes to be looked at. I think you would look great all black. But on the other hand, I think you look great the way God made you."

"But I’m so plain."

Mike sat up and reluctantly stopped the belly rub. "Stand up and take off your shirt."

"What for?"

"Come on." Mike said, pulling him from the bed.

John obeyed and worked off his shirt. "Now what, the pants?"

"I’ll take them off when I want them off." Mike said playfully before circling behind him. "Look at this fur. Your mane is mostly black. It comes down over your shoulders, curves in under your shoulder blades, forms a nice vee along your spine, and tapers down to your butt." He traced a finger along each edge of John’s black fur as he talked, causing him to shiver slightly.

He walked back around to the front, continuing to trace. "You’ve got a wide vee that starts on your forehead, widens, and runs down to the nape of your neck. You can barely see that. Your mane is the same in front as in back. It tapers in under your chest and forms a vee into your pants."

He moved his hands to John’s snout. "You’ve got more black on the sides of your snout that blends smoothly into the sides of your face before fading out. I’ve seen enough brown and black wolves to know that there’s more to it than just being brown and black. You have nice patterns."

John looked himself over and smiled. "I never thought of it that way."

"Maybe it’s just something that other wolves don’t notice enough to comment on."

"You really like it like this?"

"Yeah."

"Will you do me a favor, then?" he asked, moving within Mike’s open robe.

"What’s that?"

"Trace me some more?"

Mike was still worried when they were leaving Sunday evening. They seemed to like him, but he couldn’t shake his apprehension.

"Mike, would you wait for me in the van? I need to talk to them alone for a minute."

"Sure." Mike answered, his nervousness increasing. He knew what John wanted to talk about. Deb had done much the same when he had met her parents. He shook their hands, thanked them for the weekend, and said good bye.

Once Mike had left, John turned uneasily to his parents, who also knew what he was about to ask. They intended to make him suffer for it.

"Well, what do you think?" John asked, shuffling his feet.

"I like his eyes." Joe said.

"I like his belly button." Josh added.

"Come on, dads! I’m serious."

"A rock and roll star." Josh said, shaking his furry head. He looked at Joe. "Your boy wants to marry a rock and roll star."

"My boy? It was your idea to keep him."

"He was a cute pup. Maybe we should have left him at the hospital."

"Her parents wouldn’t have let us." Joe said, leaning on Josh’s shoulder.

"Well, it’s too late now."

"Dads!"

"Do you think we’ve tortured him enough?"

"Yes!" John interrupted.

Joe put his arm around John’s shoulder, pulling him close. "Do you love him?"

"Yes, I really do. He’s a bizarre person to fall in love with, but I can’t help it. He’s irresistible."

"What about his, uh, problem?"

"Very, very cured. If you could have been in there Friday night..."

"Did you lick him all over?" Josh asked.

"Better. Maybe I’ll tell you about is sometime. We’ve been...intimate off and on since the night before our second trip to California."

"You didn’t wait? Afraid of losing another one?"

"It was just right at the time. He wanted me."

"Oh, I see. Grab it while it’s out there."

A flash of anger lit John’s eyes. "It wasn’t like that." he snapped. "Yes, I wanted him, but he wanted me too. Can you imagine how that felt? For the first time in his life he wanted a man, me, and he wanted me because he loves me. I’ve been in love with him for a long time; but because of his problem, I had to tread so lightly, so slowly. We knew, and we said, that we loved each other. Hearing him say that he loved me was the most wonderful moment of my life. No one has ever told me that and meant it. He meant it. When he said that he wanted me...I just can’t explain how that felt. He had to love me a lot to do that. I couldn’t say no."

He sighed before continuing. "I wanted to propose that night, but you know how easy it is to do that when you’re in each other’s arms. He would have realized that and probably said no. Not only that, but we were leaving the next morning for Hollywood. After that he had a seven month-plus tour coming. I didn’t want to be engaged for a year, and it was extremely important for Mike to regain his independence, financially and psychologically."

Joe nodded in satisfaction. "Okay, I’ll go with that. He loves you too?"

"Yeah."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I’m sure. I have no doubt."

"You won’t mind the media, the tabloids, the lack of privacy?"

"I told you about that last night. We won’t be living in California, so it won’t be quite so bad. People are getting used to him. Nowadays most see him as just another celebrity. It won’t be too much longer before he gets no more attention than any other big name. Granted, that will be a lot, but we can live through that."

"Do you think he’ll make a good stepfather?"

"Can’t you tell? I think he’ll be great."

"Okay. Son, I know what you want us to say. You want us to say that we think it’s okay for you to marry him."

"Yeah, I guess."

"We won’t."

John slumped.

"We won’t because it’s not our place to. If you love him, and he loves you, then there’s only one thing for you to do; marry him. What we think doesn’t apply. If it makes you feel any better, we like him and we think he’d make a good husband."

"You do?" John asked, brightening.

"Yes we do. What’s not to like? He looks like a beast, but underneath he’s a kitten. Go ahead and marry him."

"You’re not just saying that?"

"John, look at yourself. I’ve never seen you so happy. In the park yesterday you looked like a lovesick little boy. I just wanted to grab you, shake you like a rag doll, and slap you out of it. Unfortunately, I know it wouldn’t work. I was the same way when I fell for your stepdad. I still feel that way. Anyone who makes my boy that happy can have him. Marry him before he gets away. Technically, you’ve already done it."

"Thanks, dad." John said as he was pulled into a loose hug.

"Sure, now get going before he has a heart attack in that van. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks. Try not to kill your kids before we get there."

"I will." John said as he walked away. He was jogging by the time he reached the van and ran around to the open door.

Mike was sitting nervously, no longer able to watch the conversation between John and his parents. The look of anger on John’s face had scared him to death.

John jumped in, knocking him down onto the bench and burying him under a ton of fur. "They like you! They said you’d make a great husband!" he said, burying him further with a long kiss.

Mike dislodged his mouth. "They did?"

"Yup!" John answered, kissing him again.

"No peeking, guys." Paul said as he slammed the door shut.

Mike stood in the darkened bedroom, softly stroking the tiny, furry monster lying in the crib. He smiled over his shoulder when he heard John slip through the door.

He continued to pet Junior as John put his arms around him and rested his jaw on his shoulder. "He’s so cute." Mike whispered, fingering a tiny ear.

"Aren’t they all?"

"Yeah, but he’s the cutest. He already has a look of mischief in his eyes."

"That he does. He’ll be trouble."

Mike looked at the girls, each in their own crib. "It’s going to be extremely hard for me not to spoil them; you know that, don’t you?"

"I’ll keep you in line. The steaks are done."

"Ready to keep Doug occupied?"

"He’s already at the table with his back to the kitchen."

Mike smiled and followed John to the kitchen. Gordon, his husband, Doug, Mark, and the band were all sitting at the table. Jim was in the kitchen, forking steaks onto a platter. He winked and handed Mike a plate.

Mike sneaked up behind Doug, reached around, and loudly slapped a raw t-bone onto his plate.

Those not familiar with the story fell silent, glancing from Doug to Mike and back again as Doug stared numbly at the raw meat.

Everyone relaxed when Doug, Mike, John, and Mark broke up simultaneously.

"I had forgotten all about that!" Doug exclaimed as he poked at the steak. "I guess you got me!"

Mark explained to everyone about the raw steak, going to great lengths describing Mike’s reaction and the reaction it caused.

"You threw him a raw steak?" Dave asked when he stopped laughing.

Doug shrugged. "How was I supposed to know? I thought he was going to bash the door down and kill me."

"Well at least you get to eat yours at the table." John said.

"Do I get french fries?"

Junior was lying happily in his lap, gulping furiously from yet another bottle of brownish werewolf formula, when John came crashing in the front door and up the stairs.

"You’re not supposed to be here! It’s bachelor party night! Do you want to put a hex on our whole marriage?"

"I forgot my tux! Can you believe that?" John cried as he jogged back to their room and nearly collided with Josh.

"Get out of here!" Josh yelled after him, taking Dawne’s empty bottle from her mouth.

"Why didn’t you just send Eric?" Mike called back to him, handing Junior to Joe, who admonished him for yelling.

John came jogging back with his tux. "He’s out getting things organized. Besides, he wants your body. That’s why he’s going to my party instead of yours. Uh-oh," he added when he saw the expression on the faces of Mike and his parents, "Please tell me you’re not getting cold feet."

"I’m outta here." Josh said, grabbing Joe’s butt with his free hand and guiding him toward the nursery.

John put his tux across the sofa arm and sat next to him. "You don’t think I’m going to cheat on you, do you?"

"No, I trust you; and I’m not getting cold feet. I’m just a little worried about something at the moment, that’s all."

"What is it? What have you been telling my parents. They sure ran off in a hurry."

"Nothing."

"Come on, you can tell me."

"It’s nothing, really. Your dads said not to worry. Get out before we get struck by lightning."

"Mike, we’re going to become man and husband tomorrow. Talk to me."

"I’m not sure how to put it."

"Just rattle it off."

Mike took a deep breath. "What happens when I get old?"

"Everyone gets old. We’ll grow old together."

"That’s not what I mean. How long before the newness wears off? How long before you lay in bed at night and wish you had another furry body to cuddle up to? How long before you start looking at normal men and...wanting them?"

"You’re being insecure again."

"No I’m not. Think of what you’re about to do. You’re going to marry me. Don’t brush this off."

"Mike, just because the ‘newness’ of making love with you may someday evolve doesn’t mean that you’ll be any less desirable. You’ll always be the sexiest man alive to me. Remember what you said so long ago? It’s not just looks that make someone sexy and desirable. It’s what’s inside. I’ll always be madly in love with you. Can’t you see that?"

"I know, I know, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t come to miss being with a normal man."

"What’s this ‘normal man’ stuff? All right, let’s play the game. Name something you think I’ll be missing out on and I’ll name what will make me not."

"Okay. Half the tongue."

"Twice the suction."

"No fur."

"More room to graze."

Mike chuckled, his mood lightening. "One fourth the, uh, you know..."

"Four times the strength. It almost makes me dizzy."

"Almost no drip. You know how important that is to you monsters."

"Same thing again. It’s more than worth the wait. I give you things a human can’t and you give me things a wolf can’t. That doesn’t mean I’ll miss them. What I have is better."

"Me running off on tour and sticking you with the kids."

"We already went though all that. We love each other too much to let that be a problem. You’re already starting to worry people with talk of slowing down once we’re married. You ran out of ‘normal man’ stuff, didn’t you?"

"I guess I did. I just don’t want to someday end up as less than you want."

John almost laughed. "Less? Mike, you are more than I could have ever hoped for. What can I do to make you believe me? I’ll do it."

"This is going to sound extremely cheesy, but I mean it. Will you promise to never break my heart? I know it sounds tacky, but I don’t know if I could survive that again."

"Oh Mike," John said, melting, "I’ve promised myself that a thousand times."

"Promise me."

John pulled him into a tight hug. "Return the favor?"

"I promise."

"I promise, too."