The scent of innocence. There is nothing else like it. It perfumes the blood, flavors the meat, enlivens the hunt. So rare these days: true innocence. Even the ones who are physically intact, inexperienced, have been tainted by society's vulgarity. Soft skin disguises coarse thoughts, base desires. A pretty face is often a mask for a shallow mind.
He roams the streets in search of the elusive. Wandering back alleys and backrooms, the baths, bars and dance floors, all on a fruitless quest. Children hold no attraction for him and he suspects that even if he were to haunt the schoolyards and video arcades, the prey would be just as rancid.
He contemplates sleep. Perhaps a century's hibernation would allow enough time to pass to wash the stink from humankind. To sleep, to rest. When he was young, he abhorred the thought, now he sees it as a necessary respite, a period of cleansing to rid his system of accumulated poisons, to flush the toxins he has imbibed along with the blood. And the flesh.
Delicious flesh. There is a spot between the jaw and the collarbone, just over the jugular where the flesh is the sweetest and the blood floods your mouth, hot, fine, red wine to accompany a gourmet meal. All the better if it is the flesh of an innocent. His canines lengthen just thinking of such repasts. His pulse begins to throb.
Innocence. It tastes of freedom. Running at top speed, your prey fleeing before you, pack brothers to either side, wind in your fur, the scent of blood driving you on. Faster, faster. Muscles aching but still you run. Silent, swift. Deadly. Relentless. Until the prey falters and you leap for it and tear out its throat; fear pumps hot blood into your mouth and you swallow the last feeble heartbeats. A howl bursts from your chest and for that moment you feel alive, invincible. Free.
So long ago. So long since he last ran free. The wilderness has disappeared. He hunts the cityscape now. And grows lethargic. Once they feared him, now they seek him. Having lost the will to live, they offer themselves to him even if they are ignorant of his true nature, ignorant of their own suicidal intentions. They offer their bodies as if they have no value. Their souls they cannot give him for they are soulless. He longs for the true hunt. How long has it been since he's had to seduce his prey, mesmerize them with his forest-laden eyes? When was the last time one struggled before realizing he was going to die? They never pause, never hesitate, never think. Nothing is verboten, taboo, and so they have no sense of their own limitations, no concept of shame.
He despairs and dreams of verdant forests.
In each life he finds friends, a pack to run with, but not of his own kind. As a result, they never really know him, his comrades. There is always something that sets him apart. He provides without seeming to care, leads without standing in front but there is no mistaking what he is: the alpha male. And in each life, he searches, without hope, without success, for a mate.
He is the last of his littermates. Alone, burdened with memories he cannot share. Sometimes the madness descends and he finds himself in a fugue state, unable to distinguish between the past and present, pleading with phantoms, snapping at shadows. It is then that he sleeps, going into seclusion to emerge decades later, refreshed, revitalized, but never completely healed.
He is always alone, the ache unending, the thirst unquenchable, slaked only for a moment by blood. It is never enough. A thousand thousand deaths would not be enough.
He waits. And on moonlit nights he drives to the country and sheds his
human skin and runs. And remembers the joy he felt when he was young. And
alive. And free.
He has never been touched. No matter the number of men he's been with, none of them have ever touched him. He is no cynic. Each time he believes that they will be the one and each time they disappoint him and leave him hungry for more. Wondering what he saw in them. One yelled, "Stop acting like a silly virgin!" before leaving.
Is it silly to wish for love? For something more than ten minutes of pleasure? For a deeper connection than cock and ass? Maybe so. Apparently so. Still, he waits and hopes and does not give into despair. He is helped in that he has a sunny disposition and his work keeps him busy. And if his nature and his art sometimes fail to keep the sadness at bay, still he continues on, despite his disappointments.
He tells himself that he is still young, only twenty-two, just making his way in the world. There is time yet to find love, to fill the void that his art cannot.
He leans on countertops in bars and clubs hoping to find the one, sometimes berating himself for holding on to a foolish dream but it's his dream and it's part of who he is. If he did not hope, did not dream, he would not be himself. And to be false to himself would be tantamount to death. So he dreams.
Lately his dreams have been filled with visions of a forest. He wanders through it, raindrops falling from the canopy above, birds scattering in Escher patterns at his approach. Although he does not know where he is going, he feels there is some urgency to his journey. He has a purpose. He feels he is on a quest. For what, he does not know. But he hopes.
Awake, he chides himself for being an incurable romantic. A knight on a quest to find his true love. How archetypal. And yet each time he goes to sleep, he hopes to dream that dream, hopes that this night's dream will find him at the end of his journey. He would battle dragons, riddle with trolls, thwart witches, evade giants, anything if only his true love awaited him in some castle tower.
Awake he begins a series of drawings that he shows to no one. He
records his dreams, faithfully committing them to paper. And he waits.
The evening began with little promise. He went with them because they asked, surrendering to his friends' pleas, hoping to dispense with the formalities and make his excuses and go. They dance with each other, with random men who vie for their attention, like drunken dragonflies hyperaware of their abbreviated life spans. He even half-heartedly goes into the backroom to be serviced by some trick with death in his irises. It's the big joke, the final finger to God: men, giving their essence to each other, engendering no new life, the sin of Onan. Coming and going. Down into oblivion.
In the middle of having his dick sucked, he pulls away, unable to continue the farce. He looks around and sees a ghost dance: wraiths writhing about in ecstasy, in pain. A charnel house. Desperate for air, he stumbles outside, senses stunned by depravity and discontentment. Has it truly come to this? Is this all there is?
Pushing aside a couple of momentary lovers blocking his path, he heads for his car, his one last joy, intending to roar through the countryside before sloughing his mortal coil and racing the wind. As he digs in his jacket for his keys, he looks up and sees him.
Standing in a shaft of moonlight, so fair that his skin seems translucent, hair a pale shade of gold. A wisp of something more, something that sets him apart from the madding throng. Inhaling, Brian's nostrils quiver and his eyelids flutter, pupils dilate. It is unmistakable: the scent of innocence. A tongue, longer than normal, slithers from between his teeth, tasting the air.
The man, so youthful he still appears a boy, is unaware of Brian's intense scrutiny. He glances about the street and dismisses all, seems on the verge of leaving. Brian steps out of the shadows and the man pauses even though their eyes never meet. He looks around but Brian has already retreated into hiding, hazel eyes smoldering. He watches as the man walks away.
Gone but not lost. He has his scent. Staying back many blocks, the man never actually in sight, he follows him to a nondescript building, much like his own apartment building. Even though his quarry has already vanished behind a set of elevator doors, he can still smell him. His scent lingers. He knows this is the place.
He returns to the Jeep and drives home, replaying the moment he first
saw him, bathed in moonlight. So beautiful. So… pure.
Something strange happened on Liberty Avenue although he doesn't know what. He felt as if someone was watching him but he didn't see the person. Not hard to imagine as the street was crowded as usual at the end of the week. Friday arrives and all the freaks pour out of their holes. In the beginning, when he first started going there, the place seemed magical, now each bit of magic is revealed as a charlatan's legerdemain. But something was different tonight. Something, someone unseen, made his heart race. It was exciting, thinking someone was watching him, maybe even wanting him.
He climbs into bed. A trace of a smile remains.
His quarry is leaving a bar late at night. He left his friends at Woody's the moment he smelled him and tracked him to the establishment, frequented by twinks, and waited. Now he's leaving. But before Brian can follow, he sees another shadow detach itself from the darkness to trail behind him as well. Brian joins the hunting party, unheard, his footfalls silent even on pavement.
The young man passes through a deserted alley and his stalker strikes, moving with lightning speed to grab him, throw him against a wall. Brian can't see if he has a weapon but his blood is up and he doesn't care. Just as he feels the first incipient stirrings of the change, he hears a yell. Sees the young man running away and his attacker bent over. Must have gotten a knee to the groin. In a heartbeat, Brian is upon him, the change has taken him. The ends of his fingers are tipped with claws that pierce the flesh to hold the man in place. Muscles like corded iron lift him from the ground so that his feet hang inches above the pavement. Yellow-orange eyes blaze, sharp teeth flash in the night. The man screams but his cry is cut short with a twist of Brian's head.
He does not bother feeding on the man's putrid flesh but drops him, leaving his body to the city's scavengers. Wiping his mouth, he towers over his kill, dizzy from the change, from the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He longs to howl but suppresses the urge. He wants the young man whose life he may have saved. Smooth skin, blond hair… But the blood… The bloodlust is upon him and he can't, can't touch, not like this. Don't touch…
Shaking, he falls against a wall, his claws raking the brick, gouging it. He's so hard, so hot, so hungry… His cock throbs. Wants the boy. Mustn't. Mustn't hurt him. His claws retract and his canines shorten to a more appropriate length. Eyes darken. But his cock still presses against his fly.
Feeling ungentle, he vacates the kill site, lopes to Babylon and grabs a man from the dance floor. It doesn't matter which one, they all want him. Dragging him to the backroom, he fucks him senseless, leaves him dazed upon a platform, and returns home, his hunger but partially sated.
Naked in the moonlight, he jacks off, marking his territory with
silvery traces of cum.
That man really shook him, coming out of nowhere and grabbing him. Justin falls to his knees over the toilet and retches. He might have been bashed or raped. He can still smell the man's fetid breath, still feel his hands on his arms. Sometimes he hates this city. Hates what it does to people. Turning them into monsters. Into fuckin' zombies and not the slow-moving ones, these zombies are fast. One moment you're walking alone and the next you're being pushed up against a building.
Hands shaking, he washes his face in the sink, then decides that he needs more. Turning on the shower, water as hot as he can stand it, he steps under it to wash away the stink of the streets. As the water roars around him, the urge to shout grips him and he does. He shouts out his anger, his frustration, and his fear.
The water, the walls of the shower, and the city drown the sound.
Justin is here because he loves art and he loves his friend, Damien, and Damien has six canvases in the show.
Brian is here because Justin is here. Watching him from a discreet distance, his keen hearing picks up his name. Justin.
"Hey, Justin!" calls Damien and hugs him hard. "Glad you came."
"Like I would have missed it. Your stuff looks great."
"You should have some pieces in the show."
"When I'm ready."
Damien looks at him hard. "You are." He kisses Justin on the cheek. "I gotta go schmooze. Later, babe."
"See ya." Left on his own, he wanders the gallery collecting impressions. Stops in front of a painting of a guy on a bed with a sandwich next to him.
"Let me guess. It's called My Hero," says a voice behind him.
Justin turns, laughing, and his dreams surface from the mossy ponds of the man's eyes to drown him. He sways, reaches out to steady himself, fingers just inches away from the canvas.
Brian catches his hand and encircles his waist. They stand like this for some few moments, hazel eyes locked onto blue. Bodies tight against one another. Justin's stomach flutters and Brian's lids drop lazily over his eyes just as his lips part. Neither says anything and then Justin speaks.
"Thanks," he says, disengaging himself almost hesitantly. The feel of Brian's hand lingers.
"Are you all right?" Brian asks just to hear the young man's voice again.
"Yeah. I think so. I just... felt dizzy for a moment." He too is enamored of Brian's voice.
"Have you eaten?"
Justin thinks. Laughs thinly. "Not since lunch."
"I know this great Thai place about two blocks from here," Brian suggests.
Breathing slightly elevated, Justin peers into Brian's eyes. In them he sees the forest from his dream and he feels just the slightest apprehension. "How do I know I'm safe with you?" he asks, a quiver of a smile about his lips.
"You're not," replies Brian and he smiles, showing the points of his teeth.
Shivering, Justin nods. "I'm Justin."
During their walk, they find themselves unable to stop looking at one another. Out of the corner of his eye, Justin sees Brian studying him intently. For his part, he steals glances. At his slender form. His long fingers. His piercing eyes. The auburn glints in his hair. Having felt the power of his grip, he knows the lean form belies the true strength he possesses. And, yet, despite the iron grip, it was like being held by a velvet vice, Brian's touch had been that gentle.
At the restaurant, Brian is greeted warmly by the maitre d' who seats them a the room's best table, away from prying eyes.
"You come here a lot," Justin comments.
"I like spicy foods," says Brian.
"You'll have to recommend something," Justin tells him. "I've never had Thai food before."
"We'll start you off easy then," he says and orders spring rolls, steamed mussels, and a honey roasted duck salad for starters, then shrimp Pad Thai for Justin and spicy soft shell crabs for himself. "You can have a taste," he promises the young man when Justin says he's never had soft-shelled crabs.
Sipping his drink while they wait for their appetizers to arrive, Justin confesses, "I never do this."
"Have dinner with people I've just met."
"Dangerous proposition," teases Brian.
"I know," Justin says, his tone turned serious.
He pauses before answering. "Some guy grabbed me in an alley the other day. Really shook me up. I don't know what he wanted but I kneed him in the crotch and ran like hell. I just hope I don't run into him again."
You won't, thinks Brian. The cops found the body, according to the papers, and their initial report seemed to suggest that he was mauled by some kind of animal as his face was ripped to shreds. "You probably scared the shit out of him, fighting back. Guys like that, they're trolling for victims. People like you, you're too tough for them." Justin smiles and Brian thinks he could get used to him doing that.
"I don't think any of my friends would consider me to be tough," he laughs.
"Maybe they don't really know you."
Justin stares at Brian over the rim of his drink. "Sometimes," he says softly, "I don't think anyone knows me at all."
"How much do any of us know about one another? The secrets we keep."
"Even from ourselves," says Justin and Brian agrees wordlessly.
Dinner passes, filled with pleasant conversation and long, lingering looks. Brian pays the check over Justin's protests and they walk outside to stand a few feet away from the entrance, lost in their need to remain connected. Justin shuffles his feet and bites his lip before saying, "That was nice."
"Wanna do it tomorrow?"
"Dinner. At my place," he adds.
Justin grins. "You cook?"
"A little," he says with a shrug.
Brian protests, "I'm not that bad of a cook."
"I mean, dinner at your place," Justin explains.
"I promise not to eat you," teases Brian.
"Wouldn’t get any good eating out of me. I'm tough, remember?"
"Stringy," says Brian, joining in the fun.
"Skin like shoe leather."
Brian shakes his head, then reaches out and touches Justin's face. "Like silk," he says just above a whisper.
Two of Justin's fingers alight on Brian's hand for a moment, then flutter away with any words he'd been meaning to say.
"So, is it a date?" asks Brian, taking his hand away.
"It's a date," he replies, his smile darting out before fleeing again. Brian makes him feel lightheaded.
"Give me your address and I'll come pick you up."
"No, I'll meet you at your place."
Brian removes a business card from his wallet and scribbles his home address on the back. During dinner they talked about their respective careers and how uncanny it was that they were both in advertising: Brian an account exec with Vanguard and Justin a graphic artist for a rival agency. "Here you go," he says and hands Justin the card.
The young man tucks it away for safe keeping. "What time?"
Indeed. Moving closer, Brian asks, "Would you mind if I kissed you?"
The answer comes like a will o' wisp in the night. "No."
Brian leans forward and kisses him on the cheek and Justin inhales his scent: heady, potent, male. Unbeknownst to him, Brian does the same although he could pick Justin out in a crowd a mile away by his scent, his nose is that sensitive. They smile at each other, unable to say goodbye. Then Brian ducks his head and says, "I should go."
"I'll see you tomorrow."
"I'll be there."
Before he leaves, Brian asks, "You sure I can't drop you off somewhere?"
Shaking his head, Justin says, "I'm fine. I don't live far. And," he admits, "the walk will do me good."
Accepting his answer, Brian gestures with his chin. "Later."
Justin watches him walk away, his stride almost like a canter. A lope, he decides and smiles at the thought of Brian running like a fox or a wolf on all fours. More likely that he'd slice through the woods on two legs, two long, gorgeous legs. His smile widens and he turns and heads for home. As he does, his cellphone rings. "Hey."
"What happened to you?"
"I went to dinner."
"You should have waited. We could have made it a late one."
"I met this guy."
Justin grins. "It's not like that."
"Where did you eat? The backseat of his car?"
"I told you, it's not like that. He took me to this Thai restaurant and we had a really great time."
"Talking. Laughing. It was amazing. We got along so well."
"You blow him in the bathroom?"
"No," he says indignant.
"He blow you?"
"There were no blow jobs involved!" He looks around in case someone else is nearby listening in on his conversation. "He was such a gentleman. He even asked me if he could kiss me right before he left and he kissed me on the cheek."
"Geek?" asked Damien.
"Wish. He's…" and Justin searches for words, "the hottest guy I've ever seen."
"I'm telling you, he's gorgeous. Tall; chestnut hair; beautiful, raspberry lips; long, slender fingers; long, amazingly long legs; and the most incredible hazel eyes you've ever seen. They're like… moss or something."
"Moss, how romantic," Damien says dryly.
"Asshole, you know what I mean."
"I wasn't there staring into his deep, mossy eyes."
Justin laughs despite himself. "I felt… so comfortable with him. Like I had known him all my life." Laughs again. "And, at the same time, my stomach was doing flip-flops."
"I really wanted him to like me."
"Justin, babe, you're pretty hot yourself."
"Yeah, but he's… something special."
"So are you."
"Guess. He wants to have dinner tomorrow night."
"Ooo, I'll want all the details. Assuming you make it back home at all."
"I'm telling you—"
"Yeah, yeah, he's not like that. Well, I hope you are. Jump his bones, for Christ's sake. How long has it been since you've gotten laid?"
"None of your business." He shakes his head. Damien will never change.
"Anyway, it's long overdue."
"Hey, the show was phenomenal and your pieces were the best ones there."
"All praise will be accepted."
"You deserve it."
"You should have had something in the show,” Damien insists again.
And Justin insists once more that, "I'm not ready."
"You are ready."
"Someday's for pussies."
"Raow," says Justin and listens to Damien giggle.
"All right, I gotta go, babe."
"Talk to you later." He shuts his cell and laughs. The wind ruffles his
God, is he the one? He sits cross-legged and naked on the floor by an open window, curtains billowing around him. Staring at the moon. The light throws his body into stark relief, each muscle seems carved in stone, a statue by Michelangelo.
A mate. After all these years, all these… centuries. It frightens him sometimes to think of how long he's lived. Alone. Forming temporary alliances, engaging in short-term liaisons, nothing ever lasting, no one ever tempting him to offer them the gift of eternal life. The curse of obscene longevity. He thinks of the Greek myth, the one where a man was granted eternal life and he lives so long that, in the end, he becomes a grasshopper. There was nothing left of the man. He feels the same way sometimes. What is left of the wolf he once was? What is left of the life he once knew? The hunt is now corrupted; the pack is no more; the forest has disappeared; and the moon has lost her mystery.
He keens, the sound low in his throat, barely traveling out his open
window. Keens for his losses and calls to his sire, to his dam, to his
littermates and they come, silvery specters on silent paws, chasing the
wind. Closing his eyes, his spirit runs with them.
Brian meets him at the door and kisses him on the cheek as he did last night and Justin smiles and follows him into the loft proper.
"Oh my God, this place is…" He looks around, at a loss for words. "Advertising must be very good to you."
"That's cause I'm very good at advertising," Brian says, no boasting involved.
"Yeah," laughs Justin, "that's what my boss says."
He raises a brow. "You asked him about me?"
"I wanted to know what he thought of you."
"And? Did he approve?"
"He said you were an arrogant sonofabitch and one of the best advertisers he'd ever known."
Curious, Brian asks, "And what did you say?"
Shyly, Justin lowers his eyes. "That I thought you were pretty amazing."
Brian whispers conspiratorially, "I think you're pretty amazing too."
Justin glances around the space, hoping his heart will stop racing. "Mind if I take a tour?"
"Go ahead," he says, "I have to check on dinner."
"Smells good. What are we having?"
Impressed, he asks, "You made it yourself? From scratch?"
"Umm-hmm," he replies, "it's not that hard. I just followed the recipe."
"You're a fabulous advertiser and you cook. What else do you do?"
"Take your tour and I'll tell you over dinner," Brian suggests with a grin.
So Justin wanders through the apartment, running his hand over the back of the white leather sofa in the living room. "Italian?" he calls out to Brian.
He climbs the steps to the bedroom, marveling at the wood and glass partition that surrounds the space; the vast wooden platform bed with a slightly sloping headboard; and the two, tall, ebony chests that flank it.
After examining the bedroom, he makes his way into the bathroom with its stone floors and stone tiled walls, glass enclosed shower, and minimalist design. In fact, the entire apartment is minimalist in design and detail which makes it seem even larger than it is, unencumbered by detritus.
His tour of the bathroom complete, he returns to the main living space and stands at the windows by the dining table, pulls the curtain back, and looks out at the street below.
Brian joins him. "So?"
"It's beautiful," he says, turning to Brian. "This entire place is beautiful."
Not as beautiful as you, he thinks and smiles and Justin smiles too, his cheeks a little red.
"You must have guys tell you that all the time."
"No." He doesn’t invite many men up to his place, to his lair, his sanctuary. "Dinner's ready." Gestures to the table. "Have a seat."
"You need any help?"
So Justin helps him pour the deep red wine into crystal goblets and to plate their salads and serve the steaming hot lasagna. They work in the small kitchen as if they'd been doing it forever, stepping around one another with ease, passing utensils with the skill of a surgical team.
Seated at one end of the four-person table, they drink a toast.
"To new friends," says Brian.
"To new friends." Justin taps his glass against Brian's and samples the wine. "This is delicious."
"Old vintage." Smiles at his private joke.
Bypassing the salad for the moment, Justin tastes the lasagna and closes his eyes in something akin to ecstasy. After he swallows, he asks, "You got this from a recipe?"
"Um-hm. Given to me by this old Italian lady. In Italy," he adds. Many, many years ago. She's long dead. So many gone. This must be how the elderly feel, watching the world they know disappear as friend after friend, relative after relative passes on, taking with them a bit more of their memories, their shared experiences, until you're left alone, doubting everything.
"Did you live there?"
"Once. A long time ago."
"You must have been a child."
"Yes," he replies. In so many ways.
After dinner, they move to the livingroom to have coffee and snifters of sambuca with three coffee beans floating in each. "For luck," Brian explains. "Sip it slowly. It's made with anise. Good for digestion."
"That was the best meal I've had… since last night," Justin says with a laugh. "You're spoiling me."
"And is that a bad thing?"
"I've just—" he begins, then pauses for a moment. "I've never had anyone…" He smiles. "…woo me before." His cheeks are warm.
"That's hard to believe." Brian finishes off his drink, then lifts his coffee cup, takes a sip. Gazes at Justin. "You were meant to be wooed. You're a romantic. I can tell."
"Maybe," Justin replies, "but no one's ever cared before."
Brian sets down his coffee and leans towards Justin. "I care." He kisses him next to his mouth and then holds his face in his hands. Kisses him on his lips.
Justin can taste the anise on their breath. As they kiss, he wonders if they'll have sex. He wants to sleep with Brian, wants it badly but something, some sixth sense, tells him that they're not going to. When they finally part, he touches his lips in disbelief, as if he'd never kissed anyone before. And he hasn't, not if he has to compare the kisses in the past to Brian's kisses. There is no comparison.
"Let me drive you home," Brian suggests and Justin agrees.
Outside of Justin's building, they sit quietly in the car trying to keep from finding ways of prolonging the evening. Finally Justin asks, "You want to have dinner at my place tomorrow?"
"I'd like that."
Darting like a deer, Justin pecks Brian on the lips and gets out of the
car. Waves from the front door of his building and disappears inside.
The forest looms above him, tall trees blocking most of the sky,
shafts of light pierce the canopy like spears. He moves through the woods
using them as beacons, sensing that he is nearing the end of his journey.
If only he can escape the forest. His fear is palpable. He feels as if
something is watching him. Everything seems threatening, even the trees.
The woods pulse with life and he is not confident that the life forms are
friendly. In fact, he knows they are not. The woods and all who live there
He quickens his pace as much as he can, careful of tree roots and
hidden traps in the tangled overgrowth that carpets the ground. For hours
it seems, he travels through the forest, hoping to be free of it soon.
Finally it seems as if the trees are thinning. More light filters through
their crowns. He peers ahead, thinks he sees a break in the trees, wonders
if there is an opening and where it leads. He breaks into a gentle run,
still wary of the forest, still not convinced it's harmless. As he runs,
he hears a noise behind him. At first he thinks his footsteps are echoing
throughout the woods then he acknowledges the truth: something is chasing
him. The rhythm of his pursuer's gait changes from his. He springs forward
with a sudden burst of speed and the sound of pursuit dies away. Is he
safe? He doesn't know, doesn't dare stop, just keeps running, running—
He skids to a stop, very nearly falling down in the process. There, up
ahead, stands a huge grey wolf. With hazel eyes. He trembles but somehow
convinces his legs to move and backs away to stand against an oak. The
wolf watches him with its large, hazel eyes. Then barks once sharply and
turns. Streaks away towards the growing light.
Terrified, he remains pressed to the oak. But the light, the light
beckons him. On shaky legs, he leaves the safety of the tree and follows
the wolf's path. Into the light.
He is free of the forest.
He quickens his pace as much as he can, careful of tree roots and hidden traps in the tangled overgrowth that carpets the ground. For hours it seems, he travels through the forest, hoping to be free of it soon. Finally it seems as if the trees are thinning. More light filters through their crowns. He peers ahead, thinks he sees a break in the trees, wonders if there is an opening and where it leads. He breaks into a gentle run, still wary of the forest, still not convinced it's harmless. As he runs, he hears a noise behind him. At first he thinks his footsteps are echoing throughout the woods then he acknowledges the truth: something is chasing him. The rhythm of his pursuer's gait changes from his. He springs forward with a sudden burst of speed and the sound of pursuit dies away. Is he safe? He doesn't know, doesn't dare stop, just keeps running, running—
He skids to a stop, very nearly falling down in the process. There, up ahead, stands a huge grey wolf. With hazel eyes. He trembles but somehow convinces his legs to move and backs away to stand against an oak. The wolf watches him with its large, hazel eyes. Then barks once sharply and turns. Streaks away towards the growing light.
Terrified, he remains pressed to the oak. But the light, the light beckons him. On shaky legs, he leaves the safety of the tree and follows the wolf's path. Into the light.
He is free of the forest.
Lips pressed together, Justin watches as Brian takes his first step into the apartment. Hopes the place meets with his approval. It's nothing like the loft. There is a wide open space that serves as a living and dining room but it's about a third the size of Brian's main living area and it also has his computer in there as well. Although he makes a decent salary, he definitely can't afford imported, Italian furniture and fixtures. His tastes therefore runs more to thrift and discount furniture stores. He has a few nice pieces given to him by his parents such as the dining room table but they are oases in an otherwise arid land. Which isn't quite true. What the place lacks in pricey pieces, it compensates for with personality. There's no discernable style, no design scheme except that he buys what catches his eye, his artist's eye. Still, he likes it. He hopes Brian does too.
"This is nice," the man says, looking around. "Seems very comfortable."
"Lived-in, you mean," laughs Justin.
"Homey. My place, sometimes it seems like it's only inhabited by ghosts."
Justin watches his face, sees that he's serious. "Your place is beautiful."
"So is this," says Brian. And then he bends his head and kisses Justin in greeting, something they'd neglected to do at the door. "Hi."
As he can't help himself, Brian brushes Justin's hair back from his face. He loves touching his skin, touching his silky hair. Smiles. "So what are we having for dinner?"
Justin makes excuses. "I'm not a good cook. In fact, I don't do a lot of cooking."
"Still haven't answered my question."
"I ordered Chinese from down the street."
"Yeah. You've been there?"
"I love it. Great food."
Justin seems to breathe easier. "Should be here in a few minutes. I'll set the table."
Putting down his coat, Brian says, "I'll help."
Justin's kitchen is even smaller than Brian's, a difficulty compounded by the fact that it's walled in whereas Brian's is an open galley. Directing Brian to the fridge to get the wine out, Justin starts taking glasses and plates out of the cabinet only to bump into Brian when his task is complete. He blushes. "Tight quarters."
"I'm not complaining." He takes the glasses from Justin and carries them into the other room.
Justin slumps against the countertop. What's happening? How can just hearing someone's voice take your breath away? Being around Brian must be what it feels like to climb Mount Everest where the air is so thin, so pure, it makes you dizzy. Composing himself, he takes the plates and flatware to the dining table where Brian has already poured two glasses of wine. After he sets the table, he accepts a glass. They clink their glasses in a silent toast and drink.
"This is good."
"I'm glad," says Justin. "I don't know anything about wine. I asked the guy at the wine shop to recommend something."
"Wish more people would do that. I've been to some dinner parties where the wine was worse than swill. Nothing ruins a good meal like bad wine. You'd be better off just having water."
A knock at the door interrupts Justin's reply, not that he had one to make. He waves away Brian's offer of money to contribute to the cost of the meal. Once the delivery guy is gone, he starts for the table and Brian stops him.
"How about we forget about plates and sitting at the table and just enjoy ourselves?" He carries the wine bottle to Justin's stained and pockmarked coffee table and sits on the floor. Waits.
With a grin, Justin brings him the bags and then vanishes into the kitchen to return with a pair of chopsticks and two cloth napkins.
"Have you ever been to China?" Justin asks as they were talking about all the places Brian's been.
"Um-hm. And Japan and Thailand and Singapore. Hong Kong. India. Australia."
"You've been everywhere," he says in amazement as Brian told him he'd traveled to most of the European countries, east and west, and to Africa and South America.
"Never been to the Arctic or Antarctica."
"Never went looking for Santa Claus?" teases Justin.
"Never believed in him."
"Not even when you were a kid?"
Brian thinks back to his childhood: learning to hunt from his mother and father, mock-fighting with his littermates, exploring a world in which every smell, every sound, every sight was new. They were wolves. What had the world of men meant to them? "No," he replies.
Justin leans back against the sofa. "Where are you from? Originally?"
"Every now and then I catch a hint of an accent. But I'm not sure what it is."
"Ah, that'd be the gift o' the Irish, me boy," he says in a soft brogue and hopes Justin is satisfied. Now is not the time to talk of his origins.
Justin seems content with that answer and they move on to other topics.
The evening draws to a close much sooner than they wanted. They clean up slowly; Justin, in particular, unsure of what he should do. Should he ask Brian to stay the night or should he wait to be asked? When they return to the livingroom and Brian reaches for his jacket, Justin knows that he'll be going. But why, that he doesn't know or understand. And he can't keep silent. "You don't have to go," he says.
"I think I should," Brian tells him.
"Why? I want you," he confesses, cheeks burning. "And I thought you wanted me."
"I can't." Brian moves towards the door but Justin blocks his way.
"Talk to me. Explain to me why you won't."
"Justin… It's not that simple."
"I'm not stupid."
"I didn't say—"
"I have to go."
He pauses, says without turning, "I care about you. A great deal."
Justin nears him, lays a hand upon his shoulder. Brian looks around. "Then what are you afraid of?"
His eyes darken. "Myself." And he leaves.
Justin's scent is everywhere in his home. He follows the traces like luminous footprints from room to room. Tears streaking his face. Madness but a hair's breadth away. Would it be enough? To have him for a few years and then abandon him? There are only a few years left to him in this guise, only a few more years he can stave off the inevitable questions about his lingering youth. Could he put his love aside and walk away? And then there's the other choice.
To offer Justin the gift of eternal damnation. To truly mate with him. Which would be worse, he does not know. To abandon love or to condemn it to life unending. He has seen the results. Mates left behind when death took one but not both. Watching the inevitable happen. The unbearable ache that rends you from within, eating away at your senses until you pray for madness, pray for death. His mother had torn open her veins with her own teeth and watched, uncaring, while her life bled away.
Wolves mate for life.
Could he mate with Justin knowing that one day one of them would die and the other would descend into a despair from which there was no escape?
"I care about you. A great deal." Words so inadequate to express how he feels that he blushes to think that he used them. Justin is his soulmate, the one he's been waiting for for centuries. How could he not be with him? Even if he has to leave him someday, to have had any time with him would be worth the eternal pain that would follow.
But what of Justin? When he leaves, then what? Would he turn to another or would he live the rest of his life mourning what might have been? Or would he too seek comfort from a razor or a pill?
Wolves mate for life.
He emerges from the woods to stand at the edge of a great plain.
There, on a hill in the distance, sits a castle. Not a Cinderella castle
but a fortress out of Ivanhoe or Robin Hood. Something built for defense.
To keep out invaders. That is his destination. He knows it the moment he
sees it. Never mind that there is nothing else on the plain but the
castle, even if the plain were littered with castles and fortresses, this
one would call to him.
He begins to walk towards it.
At the end of almost an hour's journey, he finds himself at the foot of
the hill. Or rather, what he had thought was a hill. It is not. The castle
is surrounded by a barrier. A barrier of thorns.
And entangled in the thorns are bones. Men's bones, some of the
skeletons still intact enough to suggest a human form. Others have been
rent apart by the growth of the hedge, their bones mingled together,
engaged in the most intimate of intercourse.
By instinct, he gazes up at the castle. There, to one side of the
fortress, stands a tower and he knows that it is not empty and he knows
that it is for the inhabitant of that tower that these men have perished.
And why he has come as well.
He begins to walk towards it.
At the end of almost an hour's journey, he finds himself at the foot of the hill. Or rather, what he had thought was a hill. It is not. The castle is surrounded by a barrier. A barrier of thorns.
And entangled in the thorns are bones. Men's bones, some of the skeletons still intact enough to suggest a human form. Others have been rent apart by the growth of the hedge, their bones mingled together, engaged in the most intimate of intercourse.
By instinct, he gazes up at the castle. There, to one side of the fortress, stands a tower and he knows that it is not empty and he knows that it is for the inhabitant of that tower that these men have perished.
And why he has come as well.
Damien hasn't been able to interest Justin in conversation and he doesn't seem thrilled by the limited coffeehouse menu either as he has yet to order. They stand at the counter, a line of impatient people hemming and hawing behind them, until Damien takes matters into his own hands and orders a latte for Justin, a mocha for himself, and two blueberry muffins. He pays, then escorts Justin over to a table with an order to "Stay" and retrieves their drinks when they're ready. Justin doesn't appear to notice the arrival of food or coffee. Exasperated, Damien says, "All right. What the fuck happened?"
"I don't know," he says, his blue eyes shining with misery. "We had a great time, I thought… I thought there was something there. I felt it. And I know he did too. He didn't want to leave. But he did. He walked out and I don't know if I'm ever going to hear from him again."
"Of course, you will. You're going to call him," Damien explains.
Justin shakes his head. "I can't."
"You can and you will. It's 2004, a boy can call another boy if he wants without anyone thinking he's a whore." Justin smiles wanly at the joke. "Just pick up the phone and call him and tell him you want him to fuck your brains out."
"That's not what I want."
"I mean," he says with a sigh, "I do, but that's not all that I want. I want him. In my life. From now on. For forever."
"Jesus, you’ve got it bad."
"He's the one, Damien. I love him."
"You hardly know him."
"I know enough. And I know myself well enough to know that what I feel… won't go away. I need him."
"So tell him that."
Justin picks at his muffin. "And have him slam the door in my face. I would die, Damien. I would…"
"If he loves you half as much as you love him, then he won't. Babe," he says, covering Justin's hand with his own, "he's probably home pining away for you. Wondering how to fix things. Maybe all he needs is a little push."
Justin's cell rings and he answers. "Hello?"
"Justin. It's me."
His lips part and he takes a deep breath. "I didn't think I'd ever hear from you again."
"I'm sorry about last night. I'm sorry I hurt you."
"It's okay. I'm a big boy, I can handle rejection."
Damien covers his face in dismay. This is not going well.
"I wasn't rejecting you. Justin… I lied to you."
He waits, hoping his heart won't break all at once.
"I don't care for you."
He can't breathe.
"I love you."
Justin sucks in a breath and closes his eyes in relief.
"I need to see you."
He's out of his seat before he realizes he's even moved. It's only Damien's questioning eyes that keep him in the coffeehouse at all. "I'll be there as soon as I can."
Justin closes his phone and stuffs it in his pocket. "I gotta go."
"What's going on?"
"He wants to see me," he explains as he grabs his coffee and takes a sip. "I'll call you—"
"Call me later," Damien says over him. They laugh and he stands and hugs Justin hard and quick. "Go on."
Outside, he hails a cab and gives the man Brian's address. Wishes he'd brought his coffee as his mouth is dry. By the time they reach the loft's building, he's trembling. Brian loves him. He smiles as he pays the driver. Brian loves him. He takes the stairs two at a time. Brian loves him. The door to the loft is open and Brian is standing there waiting for him. Sweeps him into his arms and kisses him until they're both breathless.
"I love you," Brian whispers against his temple.
"I love you."
"I want to explain—"
Justin closes the door behind them. "Later." Kisses him hard, almost climbing up his body in his desire to be closer. "Later." Brian lifts him in his arms and half-drags, half-carries him to the sofa where he seats him on the back and they continue to kiss, mouths opening to allow tongues the freedom to roam. He feels Brian's hands slip under his shirt and he arches his back as the man's fingers begin to circle his nipples. They harden under the relentless rubbing and pinching and twisting. Justin moans into Brian's mouth. He's never had anyone do this to him and it feels so good. Tendrils of pleasure creep from his nipples down to his crotch, they entwine about his cock and tug. He has to come out of his jeans.
Standing, mouth still glued to Brian's, Brian's fingers still working his tits, he opens his pants and lets them drop to the floor. Kicks off his shoes. Pushes down his underwear. His cock springs free. Brian parts from him and pulls his shirt over his head, and eases him back onto the sofa, this time lying him supine upon the wide top. His legs hang over either side. Brian holds him in place with a hand on his shoulder and thigh and kisses him, laving his lips with his tongue, sucking Justin's tongue into his own mouth. Justin moves Brian's hand from his thigh to his groin. He is so hard he's already begun dripping. Clear drops of precum dot his belly. Brian massages his cock from tip to base, working his plump scrotum with the palm of his hand. Justin gasps and tries to speak, muttering between kisses until Brian understands his request.
Grabbing both of Justin's legs in his hands, he pulls him around. Justin slides down the back of the sofa, his head resting on a seat cushion, his ass up in the air, Brian's hands around his thighs, keeping him in place. Justin presses down on his cock, so that it points towards Brian. He closes his eyes just as Brian's lips close around the tip and he shouts. Groans while Brian sucks his dick. Grips the cushions below him as Brian takes hold of his cock and licks the shaft, tongue following the large vein that runs along the underside, following it down to his sac where it moves in a circle just at the spot where his balls join his cock. Justin bucks and fucks the air. How did he know? He shudders and clenches his buttocks as Brian makes the trip over and over again, Justin's cock throbbing. And then Brian turns to the head and licks around the edge, up the slope to the tip, digs inside the hole there until Justin thinks he's going to pass out. Brian's lips are tight around the shaft and his tongue works ceaselessly as he slides up and down the taunt muscle. Never, never has anyone made Justin feel so alive, every nerve ending in his body is firing, his entire being is vibrating with desire. It can't get any better than this. But it does.
His cock slips out of Brian's mouth, wet, hard, and slaps against his belly. But before he can complain, a cry emerges from his lips, shaking him to the core. Brian's tongue is flickering over his asshole the way a butterfly's wings brush over the petals of a flower and he can only shudder and give voice to his pleasure with inarticulate grunts. He has always loved getting rimmed but so few guys have indulged his desire. Tears stream from his eyes as Brian splits his cheeks to get to the heart of him and delves inside. His hole parts for the probing tongue and he wriggles in Brian's grip as it pushes in and curls upwards. "Yes!" he screams and precum trickles down his abdomen. Brian fucks him with his tongue, in and out, in and out, in and out and he gives up trying to keep it in, he just cries out with each foray into his ass, helpless to keep silent.
Tongue continually penetrating Justin's hole, Brian reaches down and makes a fist around his slippery dick. Fingers wet with precum, he jacks him off as he rims him, Justin quaking below him. Pushing his tongue inside one last time, he keeps it there and squeezes Justin's cockhead at the end of a stroke. The young artist inhales and his muscles tighten and he comes, Brian's hand still around his pulsing cock, coaxing the cum from his balls, Brian's tongue still in his ass, feeling it quiver and tighten.
When Brian releases him, he slides the rest of the way down onto the
sofa and lies there, stunned, senseless.
The bones of the dead taunt him. Their silent jeers follow him as
he surveys the hedge for a break in the barrier. If there had ever been
one, it has closed over. He has no weapons. He has come woefully prepared
for a rescue. But he cannot give up because he knows that whoever waits in
that tower is the answer to all of his questions. If he must, he'll use
his hands to rip the barrier to shreds. The thorns are thick, some of them
as big as his arm. If only he had a saw, an axe, a sword, something to
hack at them. But he has none of the tools.
As he walks and thinks it comes to him that he might use the bones of
the dead. Gruesome as it seems, they have no need of them. Finding a
skeleton that is close to the surface of the hedge and at eye level, he
reached between the thorns to tug at a thighbone which he remembers is the
strongest bone in the human body. Working it free of its porous grave, he
carries it to a relatively thin spot in the barrier and begins bashing
against the thorns. They do not give. He continues to thrash away at them
without success. Sweat stings his eyes but still he swings. There has to
be a way, he won't give up, he can't. He has to breach the barrier, has to
climb the tower, has to rescue the person who waits at the top.
Frustrated and angry, he throws down the bone and attacks the hedge
with his hands. Smaller thorns tear at his skin. He bleeds. His blood
smears the barrier. And the barrier awakens. The branches of the hedge
whip about, trying to impale him as he grabs the thighbone and fights for
his life. He cracks a thorn and it hangs limply. Taking up the thorn, he
rams it into the hedge. As he does, a last tendril flails about him,
piercing his side. He drops the thorn and presses his hand to his side.
Pain unlike any he has known before racks his body. A scream tears itself
from his throat leaving it raw. And yet he tries to scream again. He is
being immolated from within. But something else is happening. The barrier
All around him bones drop with a sickening thud or a jarring jangle as
the hedge shrivels away to dust until nothing is left of the barrier but
the thorn that is lodged in his body. Dizzy with pain, he retches and
wipes his mouth, sits hard upon the ground. There, up ahead, is the
entrance to the courtyard.
Body aching, head aching, he stands, sways, and walks towards the arch
in the wall.
As he walks and thinks it comes to him that he might use the bones of the dead. Gruesome as it seems, they have no need of them. Finding a skeleton that is close to the surface of the hedge and at eye level, he reached between the thorns to tug at a thighbone which he remembers is the strongest bone in the human body. Working it free of its porous grave, he carries it to a relatively thin spot in the barrier and begins bashing against the thorns. They do not give. He continues to thrash away at them without success. Sweat stings his eyes but still he swings. There has to be a way, he won't give up, he can't. He has to breach the barrier, has to climb the tower, has to rescue the person who waits at the top.
Frustrated and angry, he throws down the bone and attacks the hedge with his hands. Smaller thorns tear at his skin. He bleeds. His blood smears the barrier. And the barrier awakens. The branches of the hedge whip about, trying to impale him as he grabs the thighbone and fights for his life. He cracks a thorn and it hangs limply. Taking up the thorn, he rams it into the hedge. As he does, a last tendril flails about him, piercing his side. He drops the thorn and presses his hand to his side. Pain unlike any he has known before racks his body. A scream tears itself from his throat leaving it raw. And yet he tries to scream again. He is being immolated from within. But something else is happening. The barrier is dissolving.
All around him bones drop with a sickening thud or a jarring jangle as the hedge shrivels away to dust until nothing is left of the barrier but the thorn that is lodged in his body. Dizzy with pain, he retches and wipes his mouth, sits hard upon the ground. There, up ahead, is the entrance to the courtyard.
Body aching, head aching, he stands, sways, and walks towards the arch in the wall.
There are times with Justin when he feels that his heart will break,
he's so happy. To be happy again… For years he thought it would never
happen, yet here he is, smiling, laughing, being part of a pair. A mated
pair. There is no doubt in his mind that they are life mates. At least
Justin believes them to be. And they can be. If only he gives him the
gift. The Dark Gift. He borrows the phrase from Anne Rice because it is so
apt. The Dark Gift. One bite and Justin would be his forever. But would he
curse him for his immortality or thank him? He does not know and it
frightens him, his ignorance. It stays his hand when he would have Justin
for his own for an eternity. He would not have Justin change. His
innocence is what drew him to the young man in the first place. To see the
light in his eyes fade, to know that in his heart he would die if he
could, to watch him falter under the weight of immortality, he does not
want that. He knows the burden of years. But maybe it would be different
with the two of them. Maybe they would find a way to escape the malaise of
the soul that immortality engenders. Still, there is the possibility of
death. They are not invincible. And to leave one behind pining for the
other, is that not the cruelest act of all?
Justin's skin and hair are silk. His runs his hands over and through them, fingers tingling. His scent intoxicates, a heady mixture of youthful desire. Brian can smell his sweat, traces of urine, even the precum that bubbles from his cock. Smells them just before he tastes them, along with saliva and tears as he licks his face, mauls his lips, and sucks his dick.
The sound of Justin's moaning makes him teeter close to the edge but he draws back, reins in his excitement, and concentrates on pleasuring him even more. Justin vibrates beneath him as they fuck. Brian stares into his eyes, communicating his need and Justin groans. "Come… come… come," he says but Brian buries his face in his neck and continues to pump. His hips move with the rhythm of his heart. He opens his mouth around Justin's throat and sucks his flesh. Yes, yes, yes. The vein in Justin's neck throbs and he adjusts his pacing to keep in time. Come, come, come, the vein calls. His tongue presses against the vein. Take me, it says. His canines lengthen. His eyes roll back in his head. The blood, the blood calls and he will answer. All he has to do is bite down.
"Hmm," Justin says in a voice hoarsened by sex, "are you biting me?" Laughs lustily. "Kinky." He tightens his grip on Brian and raises his hips to meet his thrusts.
Horrified, Brian pulls away but not before he comes, his body buckling against Justin's, caught in an orgasm so powerful that it drains him of all strength. Justin shouts and climaxes as well, thighs gripping his sides, holding him in place, keeping him hard inside his ass until he slumps onto the bed, spent as well. Brian hides his face in Justin's neck, tears trickling down his skin.
While Justin slumbers, he paces in front of the window under the moon’s careless eye. He almost bit Justin tonight, almost succumbed to the need that is ever present. He shivers, not from his nakedness, but from the realization that he almost committed an irrevocable act. Once bitten, Justin would begin to change internally until he too was a… what? Lycanthrope? Shapeshifter? Werewolf? Brian supposes, as he has over the years, that it no longer matters what labels are affixed. The fact remains he is a monster, an aberration. And he very nearly consigned Justin to that fate tonight. Without giving him a choice. But what choice had they been given? None.
Which one of them would have chosen this life? To be driven from the wild, from their home, to wander about the human world, always afraid, always a stranger. There are so few of his kind left now, none of his family remains. When the last of them is gone from the earth, who will miss them? And never, never once has he come close to understanding how it happened it in the first place and why. Why them? What purpose this curse? To forever live on the fringe of human society, never fully a part of their triumphs, their losses, always an impassive observer.
A few of them risked much and brought new members into the fold but at a cost. The humans, almost invariably, went mad, giving rise to the werewolf legends. Mistakes, born of desperation and loneliness and the desire to touch something, someone. He hides his face from the moon.
Yet another reason to let Justin go before temptation overwhelms him. But how to let go when he feels Justin inside him, coursing through his veins? The agony, the pain of separation… How? But if he does not, how to explain what he is?
He watches as his nails lengthen to claws.
He knows what he is.
He closes his hand and blood wells up where his claws pierce the skin.
Brian called and wanted him to come over. He was working on an important project for one of the firm’s biggest clients but agreed to drop by.
Now that he is here, he wishes he’d come earlier. Brian looks distraught, paces incessantly. Justin approaches him but Brian avoids his touch. “What? What’s wrong?’
”I…” Brian sniffles. “I can’t see you anymore.”
Justin laughs at first because he can’t believe for a moment that Brian is serious. After all, they love each other. More than that, he has never felt closer to anyone in his life. He feels bonded to Brian in a way that both frightens and comforts him. “Are you high?” He knows Brian smokes pot, who doesn’t? But he’s never seen him like this.
”Brian, what the hell is going on?”
”I need you to go.”
”I just fuckin’ got here and I’m not going anywhere until you explain what you’re talking about.”
”It’s over between us.”
”Not by me it isn’t.”
”Give me one good reason why.”
”I don’t have to. I’m asking you to go.”
Justin grabs Brian’s arm and shakes him even though Brian towers over him and outweighs him by twenty pounds or more. “What are you talking about?” His fear makes him tremble. Brian can’t be serious. What would he do?
”Believe me, it’s better this way.”
”Don’t hand me fuckin’ clichés and expect me to accept them! Talk to me, goddamnit. I’m not leaving here.”
”It would be easier if you did.”
”Fuck easy!” He backs away from Brian, suddenly unsure of himself, suddenly wanting to run from the loft but he can’t, he has to see this through. Because if they’re through, if it’s over for them, then there’ll be time enough to run, there’ll be nothing but time. He tries another tact, softens his voice and strokes Brian’s bare arm. “Brian, please, I don’t understand. What did I do?”
”It’s not you. It’s me.” Brian gives a half-hearted smile, aware that he has offered yet another cliché. “I can’t explain it any better.”
”I love you.”
”I thought you loved me.”
Brian hesitates, then says softly, “I do.”
”Then why? Why would you tell me to go?”
”Because you have to. For both of us.” A tear rolls down his cheek. “Please, Justin. Just go.”
”I won’t,” he says obstinately. “I won’t leave you like this.” He’s concerned for Brian, something’s wrong, something more than what he’s telling him even though that’s enough. If Brian is feeling one tenth of what he’s feeling, he’s in agony.
”We can’t be together,” Brian explains as tears continue to flow. “I was wrong to ever start this. I was wrong,” he whispers.
Justin’s hand falls away from his arm. “You really mean it, don’t you?”
The tears he’s held at bay so far, begin to fall. “What am I supposed to do?”
”Walk away from me. Forget about me.”
”Could you forget me?”
”I have to. It’s the only way.”
”Tell me what’s wrong and we can fix it, we don’t have to split up.”
”I want you to go now.” Brian walks past Justin and stands with his back to him. “Just go.”
Justin picks up a CD from Brian’s desk. He left it here last week. When he was happy, when life made sense. He pauses before drawing open the door. “I will never forgive you for this,” he says, and then the door slides close and he’s gone.
Brian grips his middle and shakes, sobbing silently. Finally, the pain is too much and he falls to his knees and weeps aloud.
Outside Brian’s building, Justin leans against a column and cries, forehead pressed against brick, scraping his skin but he doesn’t care.
He’ll never care about anything again.
His side throbbing, he stumbles through the abandoned courtyard and
into the castle half expecting to see sleeping courtiers and maids. But
it’s empty. Nothing stirs, not even the dust on the furniture. He makes
his way to the side of the fortress where the tower stands and begins the
long climb to the top, stopping several times to catch his breath.
Inexplicably, the stairway seems much higher than the tower had appeared
to be from outside. A paradox. At last he reaches the top. A door
confronts him. On the other side, his wishes fulfilled. Or so he thinks.
He holds out his hand to push the door open and hears a low growl. His
heart begins to pound. He knows it is no dog on the other side. Already he
can see the hazel eyes staring back at him even before he pushes open the
door. There, standing just across the threshold is the wolf from the
He truly believes he has lost his mind. Every day he goes to work, pretends to be a top-notch advertiser, meets his friends for dinner, returns home, and then cries himself to sleep. Every day for a week he’s done this and it’s begun to take on the semblance of a real life. But he knows that to be a lie. Everything about him is a lie. He lied to Justin, lied to himself, lies to his friends each time they ask why he and Justin broke up. Lies, all lies. Just as the skin he wears, the form he assumes masks the truth of his nature, so does routine.
Justin is never far from his thoughts.
Madness hovers near.
Although they haven’t spoken since the break-up, he feels him close by
always. Smells his scent in the air. Walking down Liberty Avenue he is
bombarded. Asleep in the loft, his skin prickles, remembering Justin’s
touch and he wonders how long it will be before he succumbs to the need
that is bubbling beneath the surface.
He has taken to following Brian. Discreetly at a distance. When Brian goes to Babylon, he goes too, hiding in corners, fending off would-be suitors. When Brian eats in the diner with his friends, he stares from across the street, ignoring his grumbling stomach and his troubling thoughts. If he could hate Brian, that would make things tolerable, but he doesn’t hate him. God save him, he loves him no less than he did before their split.
He feels crazy, stalking Brian like this but he can't help it. He loves him and he knows Brian loves him. If he had any doubts, he'd give up, lick his wounds, and regroup. But knowing that Brian's probably dying inside too, he can't retreat. Not yet. Even if he ends up riding to his own Little Big Horn. He can't give up on Brian. His heart won't allow him.
More than once he was tempted to call him just to hear his voice but he
didn't. He would respect Brian's wish not to see him anymore. And, he
admits to himself, it would have been too hard, not hearing him say he
loved him even though he knows he does. That hasn't changed. Brian isn't
happy, he can see it in the set of his shoulders each time he prepares to
go into the diner and face the crowd, see it in the listless way he dances
at Babylon, hear it in the heaviness of his steps as he returns home.
Alone. If only he would reach out to Justin, take him into his confidence,
share his troubles. But he won't. He decided to go it alone. Only he
isn't. Justin vows to be there if he ever needs him. And he waits, keeping
his secret vigil.
Tonight marks the worst state he's been in since Justin left. Since he told Justin to leave. Since Justin told him in parting that he would never forgive him for destroying their relationship. He came home tonight and immediately wanted to rake his skin off with a dull fork.
Now he stalks shadows across the floor. Twitching. Every inch of him seething. His veins are rivers of fire. He would hop in the car and drive to the country and run but he knows that won't satisfy him. Not tonight.
Tonight nothing will do but flesh and bone. And blood.
He goes to the door and stops. Shaking. He is about to do murder, him, a civilized man. The thought makes him laugh and he does, hysterically, until the sound begins to frighten him and he stifles it. A howl escapes his lips and he croons to the unseen moon. So hard to fight it, to resist the call. He bangs on the door with his fist, hoping to dispel his need to feed. Lays his head against the cool metal. "No," he whispers. "Please." But his blood boils and he rakes his claws across the surface of the door, scarring it. "Justin," he cries softly. "Help me." But Justin isn't here. He sent him away.
Standing in the shadows across the street, Justin watches as Brian leaves his building. Although he seems to be in a hurry, he doesn't take his car, walks instead. Justin follows a safe distance back, he hopes, as the street has some foot traffic but not enough to hide him should Brian decide to turn around.
After a trek of no few blocks, Justin realizes they are in the warehouse district. Winded, he rests while Brian appears to be in the throes of indecision. Why is he here? Brian takes up a position near one of the warehouses and within minutes a man approaches him. They talk briefly, then money changes hands. Justin can't believe that Brian has just paid to have sex. They walk off together. Stomach churning, Justin pauses, then goes after them. He's committed himself to this venture thus far, there's no turning back now.
The guy guides Brian to an abandoned building and leads him inside. After a beat, Justin follows. He hears them as they go deeper into the bowels of the building. Finally their footsteps fall silent. Carefully he continues down a hallway, unsure of where they are, and hoping he can find a place to hide before they discover him. One makes some kind of noise and he spots them. Luckily for him, there are a number of old crates piled up all around the room they're in. He eases behind a stack and peeps through the spaces between the slates.
Brian is leaning against a wall, the guy on his knees sucking him off. Although it hurts him to watch, he doesn't look away. Not even when Brian begins running his hands through the guy's hair, something he always did when Justin gave him a blow job. He moans and his hands slip to the hustler's shoulders. He grips him. Hard. Justin can tell by the way the man flinches. But Brian doesn't relax his grip. Instead, it seems to Justin, that he increases the pressure. The guy really begins to fidget and reaches up to push Brian's hands away. And that's when he realizes something is wrong. When they both do.
The hustler pulls off of Brian's dick and screams. Brian's claws have gone through his skin, sliced through muscle. Blood pours down his shoulders. Brian raises him up, his fingers hooked under the man's bones. As the trick continues to scream, Brian opens his mouth. Even from where he is, Justin can see that his teeth have changed. Longer, wicked-looking. His tongue is long and red and it slips out and licks the man's face before Brian clamps down on his neck and rips his throat out. Blood geysers from the wound, striking Brian and the wall behind him.
Justin squeezes his eyes shut but he can't stop himself from hearing the gurgling sound of a man dying, the rending sound of Brian's teeth decimating his flesh. On trembling legs he eases from his hiding place and runs as softly as he can. Outside, he doesn't stop running until he's out of the warehouse district and then he stops and throws up. When his stomach is empty, he begins running again.
He doesn’t think he'll ever stop.
When he reaches his apartment, he runs inside and locks the door, turning the deadbolt and securing the chain as well, something he never does. He slides down to the floor, crying. "Brian," he moans. "Oh God."
What is he?
"It can't be. It can't be…" he says over and over again.
Werewolves don’t exist.
At first the wolf is so still he thinks perhaps it might be a
statue or under and enchanted sleep after all. But then, slowly, the wolf
advances. His heart races. Under normal circumstances he would be no match
for a wolf but weakened by his battle with the hedge and by the thorn in
his side, he knows the wolf will make quick work of him. A tear slides
down his cheek. To have come so far and fought so hard only for it to end
this way. So close to his goal and yet so far. Where is the sleeping
prince awaiting his kiss? Has the wolf already killed him? Or is the wolf
the final test?
The wolf continues to advance.
He has no weapon, having left the thighbone outside the fortress. There
are no swords hanging conveniently nearby, no mace, no battle axe. All
that he has are his hands.
And the thorn in his side.
After all, this is a fairy tale and every fairy tale has a moment of
magic that defies all reason. Magic, more than religion, demands an act of
Gripping the thorn in his fingers, he grits his teeth and pulls.
Pain. If he had known it would hurt so much, he doubts he would have
attempted this. White hot flashes of light blind him as he yells and
removes the thorn. Just as he does, the wolf leaps. He rams the thorn into
his chest, feels it sink into the wolf's flesh, parting it. The wolf yelps
in pain and falls.
Leaning against the doorframe, he tries to catch his breath. He feels
his side. Miraculously, the wound has healed. It's over. He closes his
eyes in relief. He's slain the monster. Now it's time to awaken his
prince. If he can find him.
A noise causes him to open his eyes. It is coming from the wolf. His
limbs scrabble on the floor before falling still. Forever. And then it
happens. The wolf begins to change until a man lies in its place.
A beautiful, chestnut haired man with hazel eyes and raspberry
The wolf continues to advance.
He has no weapon, having left the thighbone outside the fortress. There are no swords hanging conveniently nearby, no mace, no battle axe. All that he has are his hands.
And the thorn in his side.
After all, this is a fairy tale and every fairy tale has a moment of magic that defies all reason. Magic, more than religion, demands an act of faith.
Gripping the thorn in his fingers, he grits his teeth and pulls.
Pain. If he had known it would hurt so much, he doubts he would have attempted this. White hot flashes of light blind him as he yells and removes the thorn. Just as he does, the wolf leaps. He rams the thorn into his chest, feels it sink into the wolf's flesh, parting it. The wolf yelps in pain and falls.
Leaning against the doorframe, he tries to catch his breath. He feels his side. Miraculously, the wound has healed. It's over. He closes his eyes in relief. He's slain the monster. Now it's time to awaken his prince. If he can find him.
A noise causes him to open his eyes. It is coming from the wolf. His limbs scrabble on the floor before falling still. Forever. And then it happens. The wolf begins to change until a man lies in its place.
A beautiful, chestnut haired man with hazel eyes and raspberry lips.
"No!" he yells as he awakens. "No." Rubs his face. Begins to weep. No.
He came to himself, crouched over a rapidly cooling body, slobbering, clothes drenched in blood, shredded flesh caught in his claws and teeth.
Even now the memory makes him shudder.
He changed and made his way home, hoping no one would look too closely and realize that he wasn't a stray German Shepherd. He resumed his human form in the alley next to his building and rushed inside, ran up the stairs, and into the safety of his home.
Showering until the water ran cold didn't remove the stench from his skin. He can still smell death on his hands.
Death. That's who he is. Death.
And he can never touch him again. Never. Silken skin to be ripped by claws. He can't. Can't. Can't touch.
Curled in a ball on his bed, he weeps.
Then someone knocks on the door. Wiping his face, he sits on the edge of the bed and wonders if they'll leave.
They knock again. Then he hears, "Brian…"
Justin. He rises.
He crosses the floor and stands with his palm pressed to the door. The best thing he can do is to not answer, to let him escape again. Safe. As he starts to turn back, he hears Justin speak again.
"I saw you."
Three tiny words but upon them the world pivots.
The door opens and Justin sees him. If he expected some change, some difference in him that would make him love him any less, he's disappointed. Even his memories of the previous night cannot erase the love he has for Brian. He comes in and, although his love is intact, he can't help but jump when the door closes. He remembers what Brian did to that man. Doesn't think he'll ever forget. He takes a seat, perches on the edge.
"You're afraid of me now," Brian says resignedly.
"I saw you… rip a man's throat out. With your teeth. With…" Justin starts shaking and grips the arm of the chair to steady himself.
"Can you explain that?"
"Your teeth had changed. They were so long. So big." And he laughs. "What big teeth you have," he says and Brian supplies the next line.
"All the better to eat you with, my dear."
Justin looks away, then back at him. "What are you?"
"You have an idea, don't you?"
He shakes his head. "But it can't be."
"Eliminate all the other logical answers and what's left?"
"There's no such thing," Justin says. He's had this conversation with himself, always coming to the same conclusion: he can't absorb it, can't believe it.
"There is," Brian tells him. "And I am." Offers a weak smile. "One of the things that go bump in the night."
"Don't!" Justin demands. "Don't fucking joke about this! I saw you kill a man."
"I'm sorry. Baby, I'm sorry. I wish you hadn't."
Justin covers his eyes. "So do I." Then retracts his statement. "No, I'm not. At least now I have a choice. That's why you wanted to end it between us. Because of your…" He searches helplessly for the right word. "I don't even know what to call it."
"It is what I am."
"Which is what?"
He sits in an armchair, well away from Justin when all he really wants to do is touch him. His skin glows in the dying light. "I don't know when I was born. What year. We lived in the forests. My family." He pauses. "My pack."
Brian touches his own face as if to be certain of the face he wears despite his words. "We were wolves," he says. "We are wolves."
"You're a man," Justin insists.
But Brian shakes his head. "No. I guess the truth is that we're neither anymore." He stands and walks towards the last of the afternoon sun, his features obscured by the light pouring into the window.
"Where were you born?"
They speak in hushed voices as if the truth can only be whispered.
"Ireland. So long ago." Weary, he returns to his chair and sits. "I can't begin to tell you how long it's been. How long I've been alive."
"How did this happen?"
"I don't know. No one knows. A wizard, the gods, aliens, I don't know," he laughs, on the edge of hysteria. "All I know is that one day we were wolves and the next we were men. With a man's faculties but a wolf's cunning, a wolf's senses, abilities. Desires. Hungers." He lowers his eyes. "We learned to live like men, learned the language, learned how to live among humans without arousing suspicion, and for centuries we've endured."
"How many others are there?"
"I don't know anymore. My parents are dead, so are my brothers. We were never very many and now there are so few that we roam the world without ever meeting."
"Why did you kill that man?"
Eyes shiny, Brian tries to explain. "Sometimes a madness comes upon us, a hunger so great that it consumes us. Most of the time we can control it. But sometimes, sometimes we surrender to the hunger."
"And you kill."
He hesitates. How much to tell him?
"Brian. Tell me the truth."
"No. Sometimes a bite isn't fatal."
"What happens to the person?"
His lip trembles. "They become… werewolves."
Suddenly Justin's eyes widen and he moves without thought. "You almost bit me."
"And you knew." He backs away from Brian, fear in his eyes.
"Justin, please. I love you. I would never—"
"You're a monster!"
A tear drops from Brian's jaw.
"And you were right. We should stay away from each other. I never want to see you again."
Brian shakes as the door slams close. He walks to the mirror that hangs next to his desk and stares at himself in the glass. Monster. His face changes, jaw lengthens, elongates, fills with long, sharp teeth. Monster. His fingers shorten, become paws tipped with claws that rend and tear. Monster. He slashes the mirror, claws cutting through glass as if it were butter. Shards of glass fall to the floor at his feet.
Mirror, Mirror, on the wall
Countless decades behind him and the years stretch ahead of him like an endless highway. It is a journey he no longer wishes to take. He is tired and wants to rest. Forever. There's no point in returning. The world will always be the same. He will be always be the same. An animal. No matter the mask, nothing can disguise the beast within.
He showed his true face to Justin and Justin fled in fear and loathing.
His mate rejected him.
The pain makes him gasp and he bends over with his arms around his middle and rides it out. And remembers.
Justin shyly showing him his portfolio of sketches, including a
portrait of Brian.
He and Justin making love on the floor as the sun rose, bathing them in
Justin calling him a monster.
He and Justin making love on the floor as the sun rose, bathing them in light.
Justin calling him a monster.
He sobs and lengthens his claws.
Brushing Justin's hair back from his forehead as he slept.
Running through the rain into a restaurant and then kissing in the
restroom, wet clothes and hair forgotten.
The hustler's eyes as he realized he was going to die.
Running through the rain into a restaurant and then kissing in the restroom, wet clothes and hair forgotten.
The hustler's eyes as he realized he was going to die.
He goes into the bathroom and enters the shower. Better to do it here and spare the rest of the apartment. He holds out his arm and places a claw in the hollow of his elbow right over the vein. Up and down, not across. That's the mistake most suicides make. They go across instead of up and down.
He closes his eyes. Goodbye, my love. Presses down. Blood wells up from the spot. He swallows. All he has to do is cut right down his arm.
He hears a noise. Banging. Thinks, at first, that it's just his heart beating but then he realizes that it's the door. Too late. Too late.
The banging intensifies and he starts to close the shower door.
"Brian! Brian, open up! Brian, it's me! It's Justin! Open up!"
"No," he whispers. It's too late.
"Brian! Brian, for God's sake, let me in! Brian!"
And the desperation in Justin's voice reaches him and stays his hand. He steps out of the shower and walks a somnambulist's path to the door. Opens it. Justin rushes into his arms, heedless of the line of blood that mars Brian's skin.
"I'm sorry," he says, holding Brian tight. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. I didn't know."
Brian eases him away. "Didn't know what?"
"Wolves mate for life, don't they?" He looks at the blood on Brian's forearm.
"I'm a monster. I deserve to die."
"You're not a monster." He kisses his fingers. "Not a monster. I'm sorry. I love you. I love you, don't leave me. Don't leave me here all alone." He presses to Brian's chest again. "I want you to do it. I want you to bite me."
"No. You don't know what you're asking."
"Justin… You'll have to give up everything you've ever known. Your family, your friends, even your name. Everything, stripped from you. And then there's the madness, the change… you don't know what it'll do to you. I've seen it. I've seen it drive men insane."
"If it does, then you'll help me." They both know what he means: Brian will kill Justin. "But at least I would have had you for a while. At least I could stay with you and you wouldn't have to…" He sobs and rubs his face against Brian's hand.
Brian cups his cheek; it is streaked with his blood. "I promise," he says. "I'll never leave you."
"Then you'll do it?"
Silently, Brian nods and kisses Justin sweetly upon the lips.
"Will I grow older?" Justin asks as they undress.
"No," Brian answers. "It's why we keep moving, keep changing identities. So that no one suspects us."
"Then I'll always be…"
"A twink," Brian says with a twist of his lips.
Justin drops off his trousers and briefs and Brian can't help himself, he reaches for him, palms his creamy flank.
"You're so beautiful." Justin raises his face. "So brave." They kiss.
"Together," Justin says. "Always."
"Are you sure?" he asks and Justin nods.
"Will it hurt?"
"Yes. There is no change without pain." A mantra he chants to himself when he would give into the madness, to the hunger.
"You mean, even afterwards… When you do it, does it hurt too?"
A silvery tear appears and falls. "Always." He wipes it away. "It's part of our curse. The pain, the madness, the hunger… the loneliness."
"Not alone. Not anymore." When they are nude, he stays Brian with his hand. "Show me. Show me all of it. What you really are."
Taking shallow breaths, he prepares himself for the change. For the pain, not only the physical ache but the pain of remembering what he once was. How at peace they had been. All gone now.
Justin is transfixed by the spectacle that unfolds before him. He watches Brian's features shift like oil upon water. Pain racks Brian's body as it unhinges and remakes its frame, its form. Instead of one smooth transition, Brian goes through more than one transformation. One reminds him of the creature he saw in the warehouse, more man than wolf but with a wolf's teeth and claws. Another with a wolf's snout but with skin still smooth. The third reminds him of the werewolf from the movies, hairy and hunched over, powerful muscles, saliva dripping from between sharp fangs. And then the werewolf seems to split open and in its place stands a wolf. Grey pelt with a tan undercoat; great, hazel eyes. It comes to him and sits at his feet.
Justin drops to his knees and risks a touch. Not knowing if he's committing a grave error, he scratches the wolf's ears. It goes down upon all four legs and lays its huge head in his lap. "Brian," he whispers and leans over its body, running his hands through its fur. It feels so good against his bare skin. Then he gasps. Feels the wolf's tongue lapping at his cock. He sits, legs spread open, head thrown back, as his lover licks him to stiffness. Brian releases his dick and straddles him, lies down upon him. Justin wraps his legs about the wolf's body, luxuriating in the feel of the thick fur, as Brian begins licking his face, his great, red tongue washing over his cheeks, his neck.
He can feel the wolf's cock, hard in its sheath. As he touches it, Brian begins to transform. He takes on his human form, a man's penis between his thighs, which he uses to thrust against Justin's cock. "Take me," Justin begs. Brian raises up and looks Justin in the eye. The younger man nods and Brian enters him, pushing past the tight ring of muscle. "Yes!" Justin cries and he moans as Brian's cock slides in and out of him. With Justin writhing beneath him, he opens his mouth, teeth lengthening, and latches onto Justin's neck. He breaks the skin and blood floods his mouth. Justin screams, the pain so intense the room darkens and he can't see for a moment. He struggles against Brian, fighting him and then the pain lessens and his body is wracked by pleasure, from Brian's dick pistoning inside him to the man's tongue lapping at the wound he has created.
He gives a cry of complaint as Brian pulls out of him but it's only to turn him over, to mount him from behind. They kneel on their hands and knees and work against one another, Brian's mouth on his neck, kissing him, licking his blood-stained skin. Already the wound is closing. He feels Brian's cock harden impossibly. Brian growls and jabs him, stabbing him over and over as he erupts. Through his blood and Brian's cum, they form an unbreakable bond.
If there is a Horizontal Line that runs from the MAP off your body straight through the Land shooting up right through my heart Will this Horizontal Line when asked know how to find Where you end where I begin… 1
Justin raises his head and howls and climaxes, his claws digging in the
They run through the woods, two wolves, one grey, the other golden-haired. Playing tag like pups, gently nipping at tails. Coming together, they mock-fight, catching one another by the ruff and tugging.
The rain begins. A drizzle at first which becomes a steady shower. They stand still and the water washes away their fur, washes away their teeth, their claws, until they stand naked in the woods, two men, two lovers.
"Your Cloud," by Tori Amos, Sword and Stone Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP),