by: Drew Flick
"Hi, this is Greg. I'm not in right now, so leave a message after the beep and I'll get back to you real soon."
Alan was at the payphone across the street from Greg's condo building, watching his boyfriend of nearly four months walking around. There was no reason to be talking to the machine.
He squeezed his eyes shut as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Hi Greg, it's me again. Um, I guess something's come up again since you still aren't answering, so...can you call me when you get back? We need to talk. Thanks." As he was about to hang up, he heard the beep of Greg's cordless and clumsy rattling on the other end.
"Hello? Alan?" Greg gasped.
Alan paused. "Yeah. Hi."
"Hi. What's up?"
Greg's voice was more anxious than usual. C'mon, you can do this, Alan told himself. "I, um...I was going to ask you that...." He sniffed, trying to not become emotional.
There was a brief silence on the other end. "What do you-"
"You know what I mean, Greg," Alan said firmly but gently. "Where are you going this time? Is it to see your folks again, or has another friend come to town? Or is it something new?" He caught himself sounding bitchy, and toned it down.
Greg sighed. "Look, Alan, I can't tell you that...not right now. But I wish I could. All I can tell you is that it's extremely important to me, and I must leave right now."
Alan struggled to contain his emotions. He leaned against the shelter around the pay phone he was using and tapped on the narrow ledge beneath the phone. "It's not...you know, someone else...." He already knew the answer, but the words popped out before he could stop them.
"No," Greg snapped.
"Okay, I just..." He sighed quickly. "I didn't think it was...but this really worries me." He glanced up at the condo again, but didn't see Greg anywhere. He wondered if Greg had looked outside yet.
"I know it does, but we'll have to talk about it when I get back." Greg's voice softened. "I promise. You mean a lot to me Alan, but believe me, this really bothers me too. I just...it's too soon."
Greg sounded like he was being tolerant, almost patronizing, and Alan didn't like that. Greg was up to something, and although Alan wanted the complete truth, he nodded. "All right," he mumbled.
"Alan? I mean it - we'll talk when I get back, but I don't know how much I can tell you yet. It's barely been four months, and you know how long it took me to even go out with you. There's a good reason for that, you have to trust me."
Alan let out a long deep breath and chewed his bottom lip. His face felt flushed. "I do, Greg, really, I do. I trust you. But-"
"No. That has to be it for the next few days. Okay?"
He switched the receiver to his other quivering hand and faced away from the building. This wasn't going the way he'd expected, the way he'd dreaded.
Greg pressed on. "Please?"
The last several months flooded through Alan's mind: how he'd pursued Greg, how long it had taken Greg to agree to go out, how sincerely Greg had apologized the last two times he'd disappeared for nearly a week. Regardless of Greg's initial hesitance, their feelings had grown strong for each other, and Alan had been wrestling with his emotional heart all day. He realized he could do nothing but comply.
"Okay," he finally said.
"Thank you," Greg replied. "I have got to get out of here now, so I'll call you the minute I get back." He hesitated, then added, "I love you, Alan."
He'd said it first. Alan was shocked, but not surprised. All he could muster was a breathy, "I, uh...I...."
"I'll be back soon, all right?" Greg's voice was as supportive and strong as usual, but still anxious. "Don't worry about anything, Alan, just keep yourself busy. I know you'll miss me, and I'll miss you too. See you next week." With that, he hung up.
"Have a good trip," Alan blurted out, but the connection had already been broken. He sighed, dropping his shoulders and he hung up the receiver. He'd never heard Greg that agitated. Maybe Stephen was right, maybe Greg was trouble after all. He wanted so much to believe that Greg's secret disappearances could be explained with a credible and trustworthy story, but the talks with Stephen at work suggested something else was up.
He glanced around and rubbed his face. He'd just left the bakery where he worked, thinking he'd call Greg one more time after checking the condo. Just like the previous month and the month before that, Alan had made a quick call to his lover, but that call hadn't been returned. If Greg couldn't answer the phone, he'd call the bakery later in the morning. But that morning, for the third time in three months, there'd been no return call.
The first time it happened, Alan freaked. Greg came back a week later and explained that his mother was in the hospital, and he hadn't been able to call. Alan had been worried sick, but he believed the story and accepted the apologies over a nice dinner.
The second time, only a few weeks ago, Greg explained that an old friend had come through town. Alan had been concerned again, but started feeling suspicious - and a night out didn't smooth things over as quickly.
Then this morning when Greg hadn't called by noon, Alan realized it was happening again. He panicked and left three more messages, but by the end of his shift - and after a brief, unsettling conversation with Stephen - he'd decided he'd had enough. If Greg had a good reason to be disappearing for a week at a time once a month, he'd better cough it up. Otherwise, Alan didn't see the point in continuing. He'd talked himself into the right frame of mind on the drive over to Greg's condo, saw activity inside, and made the final call.
But now, things were different. Not only had Greg answered and promised to explain himself when he returned, he'd also confessed his love. His confident words and devotion had shattered all of the anger Alan had spent the day working up, but his sharp voice and disposition made Alan feel like an inconvenience, a pest.
He went to the parking lot across the street from the condo building and climbed into his car. He was confused and angry, and confused as to what he should be angry about.
He sighed, remembering Stephen's constant warning: "He's nothing but trouble, Alan. Stay away from him." Stephen had said that almost as much as he'd asked for Alan's phone number. He dropped his head against the headrest and glanced across the street.
He spotted Greg's towncar pulling out of the parking garage, and slowly sat up. This was it: Greg was leaving for wherever the hell he went off to.
Alan's mind raced. Should he follow him? Should he just go home and obediently wait? The towncar passed by, stopped at the end of the block, and turned right. Alan watched, fighting for a decision. Before he could think of one, he started up the car and followed Greg.
The early summer sun was still high, but the rush hour traffic made it difficult
to tail Greg. Alan drove up the highway out of town, staying out of sight the
best he could while still keeping Greg's car within view. He'd promised Greg
after the first time this happened that he wouldn't check up on him like his
ex's had, that he wasn't like Greg's ex's. But here he was, sneaking around
and doing exactly that. He fished for anything to justify his actions and ease
his guilt, but his mind only replayed Stephen's frequent visits to the bakery.
"What's a nice guy like you working in a place like this?"
Alan looked over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised. "Excuse me?" he said, abandoning the pastries in front of him.
A tall, smarmy man with dark hair and moustache chuckled. "I'm sorry, that's a bad line." He glanced away and straightened his tie.
Alan turned and placed a hand on his hip. "You're telling me. What line did you mean to use?" He smirked, and one of his coworkers giggled. The guy had a sexy smile that didn't match the rest of his thick dark features. Alan was intrigued.
The guy looked up, still smiling and still coming off as sexy. "Hi, my name's Stephen. Would you like to go out sometime?"
Alan licked his lips and hesitated. "Yeah, I guess that's better...more direct." He stepped up to the counter. "How can I help you today?" He regretted it the instant he said it.
Leaning in close, Stephen crooned, "Say yes."
Alan didn't, but that hadn't stopped Stephen from dropping by the bakery nearly every day to try again. Now and then he'd ask Alan's opinion on a new outfit, or ask if Alan would like to ride in his flashy car or view the city from his penthouse. Alan declined every time, but was beginning to waiver when he met Greg, since sappy attention was better than no attention. He'd been single for just over two years, and wasn't that picky anymore.
A few days after Alan and Greg first met for coffee and conversation, Stephen dropped in for his usual double latte.
"Morning, Stephen," Alan said as he approached the counter.
Stephen wasn't smiling. "I saw you two yesterday. That's why I wasn't in."
Alan didn't realize he was supposed to monitor Stephen's visits. "Um...what do you mean?"
"You know. You and Greg."
The disdain in Stephen's eyes made Alan feel like he'd been unfaithful somehow.
"Oh, yeah. You know him?" He shrugged. "He seems like a nice guy."
Stephen wrinkled his nose. "Yes I know him, and I don't think you should get serious with him. He's just trouble." He gave Alan the once-over. "You deserve someone better. Someone like me."
"What do you mean, 'trouble'?"
"You don't need to know." He leaned in close. "Trust me, you don't want to know." He straightened up and almost managed his usual sexy smile. "But I also know that whatever you're looking for with him, I can give you."
Alan sighed. "Look, you're nice and all, and attractive. And I don't doubt you can give me plenty. But I'm sorry. You're just not my kind of guy. I really don't think I'd be interested in anything more than just friends...or in this case, a friendly customer who flirts with me. Never said I didn't enjoy that."
Stephen frowned. "I really don't think he's your kind of guy either."
"I'll have to find that out for myself."
Stephen turned to leave. "I doubt you'll want to."
Alan followed Greg's taillights off the freeway and continued into the mountains. By sunset, he hit a dirt road that scaled a secluded spot in the woods. Alan concentrated on his driving again, making sure he didn't go fast enough to stir up much dust. It proved more difficult than it should have been in the twilight, since there were no guardrails to protect him from driving off the narrow road into the trees.
It'd taken a while, but Greg had eventually agreed to start dating Alan. Stephen
dropped in less often but never ceased his pursuit. He maintained that Greg
was trouble and that he was a better choice, but Alan wouldn't give in. When
Greg disappeared the first time, Alan made the mistake of telling Stephen -
and the look on Stephen's face plainly said, "I told you so." The second time,
Alan didn't need to say anything, and Stephen flat-out gloated, continuing to
hint at dire problems until that afternoon.
"Hi," Stephen began, sitting down at the table where Alan was taking his break. He'd disposed of his sexy smile. "You know I've come to care about you, even though you don't want me to. But that's not important; what is important is that I can see he's hurting you - that he's doing it to you too."
Alan's eyes narrowed. "You are his ex, aren't you?"
"You don't need to let him do this to you, Alan," Stephen continued. He'd never answered that question, not once. "He's going somewhere and not telling you where, and that says something. But you're letting him. Whether you like it or not, that says something about you too."
"Stephen, look." Alan's break was nearly over, and he stood to tie on his apron. "Thank you for the concern. I really do appreciate it. But this has to stop - I'll be finding out what's going on-"
"You won't like it."
Alan scowled. "I'll decide what I like and what I don't!"
Stephen shook his head. "Fine. Ignore my warnings. Be that way." He stood and
smoothed out his suit. "But either you'll take my advice and get away from him,
or you'll regret it for the rest of your life. And that's all I'll ever
tell you again." He turned to leave, then added over his shoulder, "If you ever
change your mind, you can still call me. I won't hold it against you. I hope
you still have my card."
Alan came around the final curve as the sun began to set, and spotted Greg's car along with several others beneath a grove of pine trees. He parked at the end of the row and shut off his motor. The forest was much darker than he'd expected, and combined with the falling night, he had to strain to see anything. Stephen had always been impossible, and now Greg was just as bad. Alan was frustrated - he wanted answers.
He didn't move for several minutes. As he surveyed the area, he saw no signs of movement, and nothing to suggest that this might be a camping ground or some other mountain retreat. It was just a dirt road that dead-ended under the trees, nothing more. He rolled down his window and listened, but didn't hear anything unusual.
The air was crisp and warm, and he could hear crickets all around. An occasional call could be heard in the distance, possibly from an owl. Nothing seemed to be moving anywhere. It was too quiet. This wasn't sneaking off to a motel somewhere - this was downright weird.
He eased his door open and slipped out. The interior light almost blinded him, making him rush to shut the door without slamming it. He didn't care if he'd shut it completely or not, as long as the light wasn't glaring anymore, giving him away.
A scant glow from the horizon still seeped through the trees. He could make out a sizable group of cars, maybe a dozen or so. They were different makes and models, but all newer than his own. Very similar to Greg's in fact - none of them were off-road vehicles, just conventional passenger cars. No trucks, no SUVs, no 4x4s...Alan scratched his head.
Apparently, this wasn't an outdoors group. Greg wasn't the outdoors type himself; like Alan, he enjoyed nature but wasn't interested in major activities like camping. Alan wondered if this was just some sort of a retreat like a male-bonding group. He wasn't even sure if they still did those.
He looked around, able to see better from outside of the car. Dense forest surrounded the dirt lot and blanketed the remainder of the mountain's peak. He supposed this would be a good place to get away from it all for the weekend, and if it weren't only Thursday he'd consider that to be the reason Greg was here. But the silent dark woods around him were more eerie than relaxing. He suddenly felt very conspicuous just standing there.
With a quick glance back down the empty road, he walked behind the row towards Greg's car. On one side, there was only room for the two cars next to Greg's; Alan then noticed two empty spaces further back. As he looked around, he guessed that since Greg had, no doubt, been coming up here for some length of time - at least three months now, quite likely longer - he must have some sort of reserved parking spot. There were no markers to indicate this, however. Alan's brow wrinkled as he pondered this.
The forest was darker at this end of the grove, so he could barely make out a faint path ahead of the last two cars. He approached the path, but with the growing darkness, he couldn't see where it led. He felt as though he was being watched, as if several unseen eyes were monitoring his every move. Glancing back again, he decided to chance it and follow the path.
It proved to be very thin and hard to distinguish. Alan tried to avoid making any noise, but wasn't successful. He followed the path for a good distance, about a quarter of a mile he guessed, until it vanished completely. He squinted, trying to make out more of the path in the moonlight.
Then he heard something. Off to his right, somewhere deep in the trees, something moved. He held his breath, listening for the sound again. Nothing. Then he heard another sound, this time behind him and to his left.
His heart pounded and a chill shot down his spine to his gut. He searched desperately in front of him, but the path had ended - maybe he'd missed a fork, or this path just didn't lead anywhere. In the bushes far off to his right something moved again. There was no wind, so he couldn't blame that; he hoped it was just a harmless forest creature doing its thing.
Except that he couldn't hear any forest creatures. He figured he should be able to hear something out there...the forest had to be filled with animals that would be wandering around being wild animals, doing the things he'd seen on the occasional nature program. But there was nothing, just some crickets off in the distance. He noticed then that the crickets were barely audible, and must have been somewhere around the parking lot, but nowhere within the woods...at least not this part of the woods. And they weren't chirping constantly either - they'd stop now and then, then slowly start back up.
Alan leaned forward, his eyes wide. There must be a building, or a clearing, or anything where all those people would have gathered to do whatever the hell they're doing out here. The moon cut through the forest canopy, its bright fullness becoming more visible as it rose in the sky.
Several yards away, he saw some small, dilapidated cabins. He could only make out the silhouettes of three, but it looked like there were at least a couple more behind them amongst the dark trees.
He flinched as something crashed through the brush a good distance behind him, then spun around when he heard more movement nearby. Before he could react though, an unearthly howl rose through the trees. His eyes darted left and right as he tried to find the source of the strange howling, but it was still too dark.
Faint lights appeared from the direction of the parking lot. They were a car's lights - someone had just arrived. Alan gulped. Should he move off into the brush and hope nothing would find him, maybe see who'd arrived and where they went? Or should he make for the cabins and hide there? He sensed that running to this person for help would be a bad idea, but staying out here in the open was even worse.
He felt his hands shaking and reminded himself to breathe. Something was definitely not right here, and he wished he'd obeyed Greg and stayed back in town. He turned again, thinking he'd run to the cabins, but just as he turned he caught sight of something off in the trees, not very far away.
Two glowing orange dots - eyes. He was being watched. They blinked, and continued staring at him. He couldn't pull his eyes away, not until the dim light from the parking lot went out and the eyes vanished.
"Oh shit," he whispered, his voice quivering. "Shit."
He spun around to his left when he heard more movement, glanced back at where he'd seen the eyes watching him, and wanted to scream when the movement came closer. His mind reeled as he tried to focus on what to do.
A dark figure dashed between the trees ahead of him. His face flushed, and his stomach sank.
"What the fuck was that?" he whispered fearfully under his breath.
The figure passed between some trees again, this time closer, and he gasped when he saw a second figure follow.
That was it. He bolted towards the cabins. As he crashed through the brush, he could hear something behind him. He turned his head and saw four or five shapes in pursuit, still formless as they bounded through the shadows and between the trees. He whimpered, forcing his legs to move faster.
He hit the door of the first cabin and twisted the knob, but it was either stuck or locked. Looking back, he could now see the shapes more clearly - and they resembled people. He yanked several times on the door, but it wouldn't budge. The moonlight was brighter by the cabins, and he could clearly see four more buildings. He raced for the second one.
Just as he reached the door, he yanked on the knob and spun around. Three of the people were nearly upon him, and the door wouldn't open. The knob was turning, so he shoved against the door with his shoulder, never once taking his eyes off of his pursuers. He saw that they were hairy naked men, switching between running on two legs and running on all fours. Their expressions were fierce and beastly, their snarling mouths displayed sharp teeth that glistened in the moon's light.
He pounded on the door, felt it budge, and shoved harder. The lead creature dashed at him, and he cried out.
From somewhere behind him, another creature burst into view and leaped in front of him. It glared at him, then whirled around and roared at the lead creature.
"Get back!" it snarled.
Alan cringed against the cabin door.
"He's mine! He's not for you! Leave!"
The other creatures stopped, two of them bumping into each other.
"What do you mean, it's not for us?" the lead creature snapped back. "It's prey, it shouldn't be out here!"
The figure stooping in front of Alan turned its head. "Get in the cabin, now," it growled at him, jabbing a clawed finger at the building.
"Go!" it barked.
Alan fumbled for the doorknob, jerked on the door again, and rushed inside as it burst open.
"That's our prey," one of the other beasts said, its voice angry and rough.
"Not tonight, not that one."
Alan crept to the small window as he caught his breath and peeked out through the corner. He couldn't see much between the dirty broken glass and the glare of the moonlight, but he was able to make out the figure that had saved his life approaching the figure that had been chasing him. He tried to listen through the busted windowpanes.
"I promise you, this is different," he heard his savior say, this time much softer. "I'll explain to you later. Let this one go. Please. There'll be more."
Alan saw the figure crouched low, almost laying down on the ground, and avoiding eye contact altogether with the other creature. The other creature said something, glared towards the cabin, spoke again, then turned and left. When the others followed and were out of sight, the creature that had saved him rushed into the cabin.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" it snarled as slammed the door shut.
Alan stuttered, but all he could manage were a few guttural grunts.
The creature was hunched over again, this time looking exhausted. It reached forward for an old mattress that had been dragged off of one of the cabin's beds, collapsed on the mattress, and rolled onto its side facing away from Alan.
"I said, what are you doing here?"
Alan tried to speak again. "I-I was looking for someone."
Alan gasped. "Wha...um, yeah. How did you-"
"You found him," it groaned, its voice much weaker. It turned its head and peered up at Alan. "Why did you follow me, Alan? I thought I told you to stay home. You said you wouldn't check up on me." It narrowed its eyes. "Do you realize what you've done?"
Alan gawked. "But...Greg? Greg? You...you're Greg?" His looked away, falling hard to his knees, his head swimming.
Greg nodded. "Yes, it's me."
Alan shook his head, his eyes wide with disbelief. "You're...not...."
"Yes I am. And I'm tired - I wasn't ready to get up yet."
"No!" Alan shouted, then more quietly, "no. This isn't right, it's not real." He ran his hands through his hair as he tried to look at his lover's body, naked and deformed. He had to look away several times before he could fix his gaze on Greg's legs.
The legs were just as hairy as they'd been, but they were leaner than before. The rest of Greg's body had hair on it too, where previously there hadn't been any. It wasn't thick, just a light covering like on his arms - which were leaner as well, as were his hands and feet. He'd only seen Greg's nude body a couple times, but didn't remember it looking anything like this. He wasn't sure if he wanted to scream or cry, but his face burned and his stomach wrenched in knots.
"What's this about? What's going on, Greg?" Alan croaked.
Greg laid his head back down and panted. "What do you think? At least I'm not cheating on you."
Alan blinked back tears. "But - is that what I was supposed to be thinking? That you were disappearing just because you were seeing someone else? Or that maybe you'd been seeing them since before we started dating?" He looked away. "What if I was thinking that? And what if I didn't want to?"
"But you were checking up on me, just like everyone else has."
"You never gave me reason not to," Alan snapped.
"Get me some water, please," Greg said. He sighed and rolled onto his stomach. "Now you know why I didn't want to go out with you."
Alan didn't move as he tried to process this entire impossible situation. After a moment, he wiped his eyes. "Where is it? Is there some in here?"
Greg nodded, pushing himself up to his hands and knees. "Mm-hm. In that bag over by you." He twisted, pulled himself all the way onto the mattress, and sat up with his back against the wall.
Alan looked around, spotting a black gym bag under a chair. He unzipped the top and felt around inside the bag until he found a water bottle under some jeans. Without getting up, he leaned across the floor and reached his arm out, holding the bottle.
Greg sighed. "You can come over here if you want to," he said gently, patting the mattress.
"I'd rather not," Alan said with a sniff. His voice was shaking almost as much as his hands were.
"I'd rather you did. It'll be safer anyway."
Alan crept across the floor on his knees and one hand and sat next to the mattress, never taking his eyes off of Greg. He handed the bottle over and looked down.
After taking a long drink, spilling some of the water on his chest, Greg set the bottle down and looked back at Alan. "You wanted to know what's going on with me, right?"
Alan paused, then gave a small nod. His breathing was shallow again, and his shoulders hurt from being so tensed up.
"Do you know what I am?"
After several attempts, Alan was able to focus on his partner's features. The face still resembled the one he knew, but the eyes were set deeper and the skin looked flushed. The mouth and nose were slightly extended, almost like a snout, and the nose was flatter and pressed against the upper lip. The ears were larger, more rounded than they should have been, and looked deeper than an average man's ear. More like an animal's, Alan thought.
"Umm...I...I don't know," Alan stammered.
"Yes you do." Greg gazed into Alan's eyes and smiled. Two short fangs popped out over his bottom lip. He set a narrow hairy hand on Alan's knee. "I'm a werewolf."
The look in Greg's eyes told him that this was still his lover, that there was still something human under the monster's features. He tried to tear his gaze away, but couldn't. He realized he didn't want to. "Umm...okay. You're a...a werewolf. I thought they weren't real."
"Doesn't look like it, does it?" Greg's eyes sparkled, now a soft blue instead of the hazel that Alan was used to seeing.
Alan shook his head. "No," he said with a weak smile. "I guess not." He looked down as his smile faded. "Are you going to eat me?"
Alan licked his lips and raised his head. "Are the others?"
Greg shrugged. "They might. You're not supposed to be here - you're fair game." He squeezed Alan's knee. "But I doubt it. I'll be speaking with the Alpha later, so I don't think he'll let anyone hurt you."
Alan was glad he wouldn't be a meal just yet, but still felt uneasy. "The 'Alpha'?"
"Head wolf. The alpha male." He sang, "The leader of the pack."
Alan frowned and rolled his eyes in frustration. "That's not funny."
"Hey, I'm not taking this lightly either, Alan. You shouldn't be up here. You're in real danger, and I don't like that. Besides, I wasn't ready to tell you about this yet."
Alan sighed. "I'm sorry, I'm just...this is hard." Their eyes met again. "So...how did this happen? Why are you ... like this?"
"How did I become a werewolf, you mean?"
Alan nodded as Greg took another quick drink and shrugged.
"The usual way. Another werewolf bit me a while back."
"So...." Alan motioned around the cabin, "what's with all this?"
"When I was bitten, I became part of a pack. They've been coming up here each month for I don't know how long...we shed the city-life for a few days, and become animals for a while. This is convenient, out of the way, and we're never disturbed."
Alan glanced up at the window and caught his breath as a shadow passed by. "How many others are there?"
"Fourteen." Greg huffed quickly. "Well, members of this pack, anyway," he grumbled. "Now and then a stray wanders through, but the smart ones move on."
Alan tried his best to let his mind absorb all of this. He noticed Greg's features had become more defined, and he appeared less exhausted. "Do you...you know, turn completely into a wolf?"
Greg shook his head. "This is it. It's kinda like a woman's period I guess - my hormones or whatever cause this physical change once a month, and the change takes a lot out of me." He looked down at his arms as he flexed his muscles. "I can tell when the change is complete though, I feel much stronger."
They both jumped when they heard a loud yip outside of the cabin, then a cross between a shriek and a howl.
"What was that?" Alan asked, impulsively huddling closer to Greg.
"I don't know," Greg replied, patting Alan's shoulder. "But it sounded like-"
The door burst open revealing a large figure in the doorway, silhouetted by the cold blazing moonlight.
"Uh-huh, right where I thought you'd be," the figure said in a gruff and annoyed voice. "Get up!"
Both men had already started scrambling to their feet, and Alan peeked out from behind Greg.
"What the hell do you want?" Greg said, his teeth bared.
"I told you he was nothing but trouble, Alan," the figure said. As it stepped forward out of the bright light, Alan could see it was another werewolf.
"What?" Alan asked. "Stephen...?" His eyes narrowed as he tried to distinguish the beast's features. One person he knew being a monster was impossible; two would be nothing but a nightmare. But that was definitely Stephen's voice.
"No shit," Stephen replied. "I tried to warn you, but you wouldn't listen to me."
"He doesn't have to listen to you," Greg snapped. "I asked you a question - what do you want?"
"To see you dead, you sonofabitch." He stepped closer, motioning to Alan. "C'mere Alan. Get away from him while you can."
Greg stepped fully in front of Alan. "He's not going anywhere."
Alan peeked over Greg's shoulder, still squinting. "But...Stephen? What is this about? What's going on?" He stepped out from behind his lover. "Why did you try to warn me about him, when you're...one of them too?"
Stephen smirked. "How do you think he got that way? Boy, you're a bright one tonight, aren't you?"
Alan looked away. "You mean..." He looked up at Greg. "Is this true? Is he the one who bit you?"
Greg continued glaring at Stephen, and slowly nodded. "Right before he was rejected from the pack," he snarled through sharp clenched teeth.
None of this made any sense at all, and it was quickly becoming too much of a soap opera on top of the unreality. Alan couldn't take it anymore.
"Let me out of here," he said, pushing away from Greg. Before he could get past Stephen, a large and powerful arm yanked him back.
"You're not leaving that easily," Stephen said, hugging Alan close. "You're the other reason I'm here. You're going to be my mate."
"Let him go!" Greg yelled.
Alan squirmed, trying to break free, but Stephen's hold was too strong. Outside, he could see several of the others gathering. Whether it was to watch or to feed, he was afraid to guess.
Greg stepped forward. "I said, let him go!"
"Nope, don't think so," Stephen said as he raised his other arm and pointed a pistol at Greg's head. "Guess what this is, Alan?"
Alan stopped struggling when he saw the gun, and couldn't tear his eyes away. "A gun...."
"With a silver bullet. And what will kill a werewolf?"
"Don't do this, it's not worth it," Greg growled.
Stephen shook Alan. "Well?"
"A silver bullet."
"Bingo!" He leered at Greg and added, "And it doesn't matter if the werewolf begs for its life before you shoot it, either."
"I'm not begging, shithead," Greg snapped, taking another step forward. "Killing me and kidnapping him won't get you into the pack."
"Really? You don't think so?" Stephen looked down at Alan, sniffed his hair, and licked his head. He chuckled. "I do. I think I'll get rid of you because I can, and because the Beta was going to be moving soon. That'd bump you up to Beta, but since I'll be taking your place, I'll be Beta. Becoming Alpha will be that much easier, and I'll finally get the respect I deserve. I'll even have a mate to boot."
"What?" Alan cried. "I'll never be your mate!"
Stephen nuzzled Alan, who jerked away. "Yes you will. You think you can just leave now, knowing what you know? Forget the Alpha, nobody will let you go free. I'm all that's keeping you alive right now."
Greg glared at the beast, keeping an eye on the pistol. "You're insane, Stephen."
"Uh-uh-uh, no names up here, remember?" He waved the gun at Greg again. "Get back boy, I don't like you being this close to me." After a thought, he added, "Never did."
"You are insane," Alan said, squirming again. He glanced out the door as he did, and saw one of the creatures lying on the ground, motionless. Two more were watching the cabin, crouched by the body, while the rest were watching as they paced back and forth. The only one who wasn't pacing was the one who'd almost attacked him earlier, apparently the Alpha himself. Their eyes met for a brief moment, and Alan struggled more.
"Let me go, let me out of here!" He jerked back and forth trying to break free.
"Hey!" Stephen boomed, squeezing Alan and grabbing a hold of his hair in one swift movement. "Knock it off! Be still before you make me do something I'll regret!"
"Stop it!" Greg yelled. "What are you doing? You'll hurt him!"
"I'll eat him if I want to!" Stephen roared back.
Greg growled deep within his throat and arched his back. "You're no wolf. You wouldn't get a scrap of him anyway, not after the Alpha and the others were through with him."
Alan's jaw dropped. He gaped at Greg, but this time he couldn't see the human beneath the beast, only an animal ready to strike.
"That's what the Alpha thinks." He aimed the gun at Greg, who straightened up and stepped back. "You think I'm stupid enough to only make one silver bullet? If I'm going to all that trouble, I'll make it worth my money."
Alan looked back at Stephen, saw his finger pulling the trigger, and grabbed the clawed hand that clutched his hair. He jumped around, yanking himself back and forth.
Stephen fired, but his armed jerked up and he missed. He glared down at Alan, his beastly face twisted in fury. "Goddamn you!" he shouted, jabbing the gun in Alan's face.
"No!" Greg cried. He pounced forward and sunk his teeth into the arm holding the gun, scratching and clawing at Stephen's face and neck.
Stephen howled in pain, dropping both the gun and Alan. He twisted around and attacked Greg, his lips peeled back as he bit at Greg's neck.
Alan landed hard on the floor, rolling onto his face. He gasped as he caught his breath, but instead caught a mouthful of dust from the cabin floor. He rolled onto his back, coughing violently.
The beasts tore at each other. Fangs and claws flew, reaching for vulnerable flesh. Greg shoved at Stephen, smashing him into the wall by the door. Just as Stephen growled through a grimace of sharp teeth, Greg pounded a right-hook across the monster's jaw. Stephen flew out the door, rolling to a stop a few feet away. Greg vaulted through the air and landed on top of Stephen, claws and fangs bared.
Alan tried to stop hacking as he watched the two creatures brawl. He hacked most of the dust from his throat, staggered to his feet and grabbed the pistol. He rushed outside, his head feeling light and his throat raw. The other werewolves backed up when they saw him with the gun.
Greg and Stephen both leapt to their feet and squared off. They circled for a moment, then dove at each other.
"You want to play rough, huh?" Stephen snarled. "I can play rough." He smashed his fists into Greg's stomach, then his face, then slashed his claws across Greg's chest. As Greg stumbled back, Stephen sprung on him and knocked him to the ground.
"Hey!" Alan shouted. Both wolves looked up. "Get off my boyfriend!" He fired the gun at Stephen.
The werewolf flew backward off Greg and landed on his side. He looked up at Alan, his face both fierce and confused.
"If I have to put up with this shit," Alan added, "it'll be with him, not you!" He fired a second time, hitting Stephen in the chest.
The beast howled as he grasped at the air. Alan fired again.
Nobody moved for several moments. A daze came over Alan, and he dropped the gun and fell to his knees again. Stephen lay dead against a tree, his monstrous eyes full of shock and fear.
Alan crawled to his lover and bent over him. "You okay?" he asked. "God, you're bleeding?" He placed a hand on Greg's furry chest.
Greg patted Alan's hand. "I'm fine, it's nothing that won't heal quick. But he probably broke some bones...that's one part of the legends I wish was true. We don't heal right away like they do in the movies."
Alan sat back, their hands still touching. "I suppose in a couple days, I could run you to the emergency room."
"I'd appreciate that."
Their eyes locked, and Alan again saw the human that he'd grown to care for so much. Before he realized it, he said, "I love you."
Greg smiled and gave Alan's hand a gentle squeeze.
After a surreal moment, Alan shrugged. "I guess I can try to get used to this wolf thing. It's still weird, but maybe...."
Greg chuckled. "Yeah, I hope so." He rolled his head aside towards the others. "Help me up." With his lover's help, Greg stood and limped over to the other body that had been lying on the ground.
"Who's that one? Is he okay?" Alan asked quietly.
"Beta," one of the other creatures answered.
Alan turned, and saw the Alpha standing beside them. His face was stern, and Alan looked away in deference.
"At least, he was Beta. Your wolf is Beta now." He placed a hand on Greg's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "He's always shown himself to be a fine Beta...and perhaps someday he'll be a good Alpha." He turned back to Alan, lifting the man's chin up with a clawed finger.
"You can't stay here. And you can't come back. This is for us, and nobody else." He glanced at Greg. "We'll take care of your mate as well. You'll see him again in a few days. You can tend to him all you want then - up here, he's our concern."
Alan looked away and nodded. "I understand."
The Alpha gave a slight smile. "And you may look at me, if you wish. It's okay. You spared us some trouble tonight."
Alan looked up at the Alpha, and could see why he was the alpha male. His face, though monstrous and frightening, was also wise and powerful. "Thank you...for not eating me." He heard a couple creatures chuckle, while others growled and walked away.
The Alpha gave Alan's shoulders a gentle pat, then guided him away from the group. "You'll make a good mate. If not, you may still be a meal...either way, you may very well be joining us up here someday."
Alan's stomach lurched. He looked back at the Alpha, and the same stern expression told him that the Alpha was serious. He nodded. "I'll do my best." With a quick glance to Greg, he added, "I don't want to fail him anyway."
Greg smiled. "See you in a few days."
Alan nodded, and turned to head back to the car.
"And, uh..." the Alpha added, "...if there's anyone you care about, don't send them up here when the moon's full...." He paused, then turned and led the rest of the pack into the forest.
Alan looked back and watched two of the creatures helping Greg into the woods, while others collected the two dead bodies. As he found his way back under the bright moonlight, the night's events began to settle into his mind. None of it seemed real, yet he knew it had all just happened. As he drove back to town, the incident on that mountain seemed to remain there, hidden in the darkness of the deep forest. It felt less and less real, the more civilization Alan saw. Before he realized it he was home, aching and sore as he climbed into bed. He felt exhausted enough to sleep, even with the strange events replaying as a misty memory in his mind. Part of him couldn't wait to see Greg again - for now, he was somebody's mate. Not just lover, not just boyfriend or spouse, but mate.
But another part of him hoped he'd wake up the next morning, all of this having been just a bizarre nightmare. The Alpha's words echoed in his mind, squelching that possibility.
He shut his eyes and forced his mind to clear so he could get his rest. He'd told Greg he loved him; tomorrow he had to decide how much he meant it.
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