The continuing adventures of DL, Myles, and their long-awaited reunion
Chapter Three - Be Quiet (And Drive)
The year is 1998. We're still in Forks, just so you don't need to get out a map or anything. We're just going back in time about ten years. I'm eight. Myles is eight. I still live in a big house, he still lives in a big house, and that fucking Twilight book is still to be written. Life is good.
Neither of us had a lot of friends back then. Myles was a coyle (very creative with the last names, aren't they?), a coyote half-fur. In this particular case, he was half-coyote, half-fox. His hair was brown back then, but his fur was still rust-red and stormcloud-grey, and he just couldn't grow out of the puppishly-oversized tail, which was almost as big as he was. Even for his lineage, though, he was a shrimpy little guy, a good two inches smaller than the next biggest kid in the class, who I believe was a little mink girl.
And then you had me, D.L. Bender. Usually, the humans had a good clamp on the 'middle range', bigger than the felines and rodents and mustelids, smaller than the canines and bovines and equines, but I had some sort of Irish / Swedish / Sasquatch thing going on, and I was the second-biggest kid in class (behind Yajirobe the Japanese moose. He'd have gotten picked on if he wasn't so big.) As is the way of things, me and Myles became fast friends, if only to watch each others backs. No-one dared mess with him if I was there. Even at eight, I had an overprotective streak. It wouldn't last.
We spent all of our spare time either in my basement playing with our second-hand Super Nintendo, or in his attic playing board games. Our back yards were arranged kitty-corner, so we could easily fence-hop from my house on Pine to his house on Yew whenever we wanted. Our parents insisted that we use the front doors, but at that age, we just couldn't understand it. This was faster, wasn't it? None of that peksy 'running around the block' business. Just a quick hop, and a hello!
That distant summer ten years ago was ending, and we were spending a lot of time in the woods just outside town (really, after Yew, there was one more block of houses, and then the Washington rainforest... a quarter mile was out of town!) We tried building a treehouse, but the wood was so wet that anything short of a nail gun wasn't going to keep anything up there. We very quickly settled on building a lean-to hut against a huge lightning-blasted tree-stump that was twice as tall, and twice as thick, as either of us was, stretched out. I was just strong enough to maneuver two narrow logs up against it, the other ends buried in the dirt, and then it was a simple matter of lashing branches to it. In the end, we had enough room inside to actually set up a camping tent, if either of us had owned a tent. We furnished it wish candy bars and comic books, and he brought his radio along. In the dark it was hard to interpret his strange pidgin-sign-language (which was little more than facial expressions and vague hand-waving), so we learned how to build small campfires, too.
It was our secret home away from home. We'd wanted to spend a sleepover there, but that would involve telling our parents about it, and the inevitable 'no' that we'd be given. We were eight, not stupid... we KNEW they'd never let us do it. Heck, they didn't even seem too happy we were friends or anything. We never knew why. We'd spend many long afternoons with his parents thinking we at my house, my parents thinking we were at his house, and the both of us curled up together, reading comics by flash-light and listening to the radio.
That was one thing we also didn't tell our parents, or anyone, mostly because we didn't think it was very strange. Even in the summer, those woods are cool and moist, and in the shade of a stump, in a small lean-to, it can get downright chilly. We'd sit back to back against the log, or lay down next to eachother to read comics and share light, or if we both felt like reading the same one, we'd spoon and whoever was in front would turn the paged, and whoever was in the back would control the flashlight. He didn't like being in the back that much, which I thought was because of the height difference (he could barely see over my shoulder) but also because he was a little ashamed about his OTHER size, which I would be unable to ignore.
Really, it never concerned me that much... it was just another thing about Myles that was goofy but strangely compelling. I never asked about it, and except for the occasional immature underwear joke, I never even mentioned it. I thought about it, now and then, but I was too young to really figure out what I was supposed to be thinking, one way or the other. Thinking back, I miss that sort of innocence. The only time I ever really SAW it was the last week in July, with school right around the corner. And then I never saw him again.
Sitting in the dirt with the crowds milling around me, the general press for the exits as the beer-soaked mob struggled to act sober, all of this came rushing back to me. Myles, still ruddy-red and foggy-grey was sauntering off of the stage, without even a glance back. I didn't know if he'd see me if he did turn around, but it was a moot point. In a moment, he was gone, and the stage went dark.
I stood up when an ursine teenager almost stepped on me, nearly spilling the curvacious and scantily-clad feline babe that was perched on his massive shoulders. He swore something at me, and the catgirl giggled, but I paid them no mind. My eyes were locked on the stage, or more specifically, the guardrail that separated the General Admissions area from the backstage area. Myles was back there. And I was going to be back there, too.
I took a few steps, and staggered. The world spun, and I held one hand to my head. "Oh, right... I'm drunk and stoned." Flashbacks take a lot out of me, you know? I just took a few deep breaths, pretended like I was driving past a cop, straightened my back, and tried again. Keeping my feet under me this time, between my face and the dirt, I headed along the fence back to the railing.
The crowd was mostly gone, except for the REALLY drunk girls trying to make it backstage (a few of the more overtly sexy ones were succeeding), and the people who were cleaning up with the well-practiced blankness of the professional roadie.
I leaned against the railing and tried to peer around backstage, but it was dark and stacked high with boxes and crates. I tried to look like I belonged there, and I was just looking for someone I knew, when a vaguely porcine bouncer with a very bad complexion came over, trying to swagger and instead just looking like he hadn't gotten his sea legs just yet. "'t'ch'ou want?" He asked, missing quite a few important letters in his haste to be casual.
"Hi, yeah, just trying to talk to Myles for a minute."
The bouncer's face was carefully blank... except for the volcanic acne, of course.
"Myles... Myles Coyle. Lacuna Coyle." I was getting annoyed... it happens when I've been doing illegal things. "Lead singer? Uses the thing that makes his voice loud?"
"t'fuck outta here," the bouncer grumbled, turning to sway gently away like the tides.
I shook my head. Crap. That didn't go well. Ok, that was just Plan A. I had a lot more plans. I always did my best thinking when Myles was around. There was the other side of the stage... or hell. This was my area. I'd gone paintballing in these woods. It might be dark, and wet, and I might be exhausted and half-cut, but dammit, I was going to get back there. I didn't know how long the band was gonna stick around.
I scanned around, examining the fence in great detail, eventually finding what I was looking for. It was just loose sections of wood brad nailed to the pre-existing cattle fence (man, don't get me started on raising cows for meat in this day and age). It wasn't meant to be REALLY strong, just to keep partygoers in and gatecrashers out. It was high, and it was sturdy, but it was also hastily assembled by people who thought four bucks an hour was a sweet deal, and it didn't take long to find one that was hanging partly open. I worked my fingers into the gap, yanked it, and vanished through the hole. No-one noticed... I was leaving a concert that was over! Not even the stingiest bouncer would have cared.
And now I was out. And it was DARK! Like, seriously dark. I saw orange and green blotched that eventually faded into black trees in a black forest under a black sky, at night. Also, I saw tracers, which sort of broke the monotony, but didn't really help me out. I just stuck out my head and followed the fence, my feet squishing in the loose, damp loam.
Up ahead, I saw an orange light flare, and then fade out in the night. Cigarette, I thought to myself. Roadie hideaway. At last, we were getting somewhere. Once you got past the cordon of bouncers, this should be easy, I thought. I mean, if TV and movies has taught me anything, if you act like you own the place, no-one bothers you. I always meant to give it a try. Sure, I stood out like a Jamaican voodun at a KKK rally, but I wasn't about to take "This is fucking retarded" for an answer.
"Yo!" I called out to the floating cigarette. "Where the hell am I? I was taking flyers to the parking lot."
The ember wiggled in the light, and a flash light clicked on. In the backsplash I could just briefly make out canine features, tall and long. Basset, most likeley. "Who're you with?"
"Lacuna." Shortening names meant we were on close terms. "Figured I'd beat the crowds, came back around, and my shoes are soaked, man."
The flashlight hit me in the eyes, then seemed to describe an arc back along the fence. I then realized that the basset was a little freaked out, too, and the cigarette did not smell like traditional tobacco. "Back that way, about thirty feet. You got to move a board..."
I smiled and nodded. "Yeah, yeah, I remember the one. Thanks, man!"
I passed him by, sniffing the inferior weed he'd gotten, and counted out what I hoped was aboout thirty feet. I saw the crack in the wood when I got close, though, too hard to miss. There was the sound of bustle and tools behind the fence, and a streak of red light shining on the grass. I put my hand against the board, and shifted it, slipping backstage for the first time in my life.
I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't that exciting. Ten people in matching black concert tees, a few people garishly dressed enough to be musicians, and piled of crates and boxes and crap. It basically looked like a music store exploded. I tried to act like I knew where I was going, walking with my head up, eyes scanning. Look important, I thought to myself. Too important to stop.
There was a collection of vans farther to my right, at the end of a dirt strip that swung wide around the farmhouse. I guess the band got the best parking. Most of the vans were open and idling, being packed with the vital gear. My face got warm, and I realized just exactly what it was I was back here doing.
It had been ten years. What if Myles didn't want to see me? I mean, hell, it had been a decade, and he hadn't called. Ok, he couldn't speak... he could have written. He could have sent an e-mail. Looked up my Facespace page? Everyone had one these days. He could drive. He could hop a Greyhound. He could have some SOMETHING.
I could have done something, too. I did, a few times. No trace on Facespace. Lots of Coyles in Washington, but none seemed to be him. He knew I probably still lived in Forks, even if I didn't know where he'd vanished to.
This was stupid. It had been ten years. He might not even remember me. He was in a successful band. He was popular, he was talented, and he was still very... uhm... attractive. And what was I? I was a human. I was still too big for my age, and pretty socially awkward to boot. And what was I gonna say? "Hey, Myles! Remember that time ten years ago when I almost got you sent to juvenile hall?"
I spotted Myles by one of the white Econoline vans, loading sound equipment. He couldn't have been more than five-six, so at least he'd grown somewhat more than we'd predicted, but he was still pretty petite, especially compared to the guitarist, who was probably my height if he ever straightened up all the way. He was hunched over like an ampersand, lugging guitar cases back and forth. My face reddened, and I started to back up. If I left now, no-one would notice, and I could go home and mope with my dignity intact.
There were squads of teenaged girls armed with pens and notepads scampering around, getting written and visual confirmation that they had, in fact, met musicians. Camera phones were going off everywhere, and I looked back in time to see Myles pose and smile with his arms around two gorgeous puppygirls. Gorgeous by my standards, I mean... I'm still not entirely sure how that translates to how they see eachother. They wore matching pink tubetops that really weren't up to the job of keeping their breasts covered, and Myles seemed to be having the time of his life, tongue lolling out slightly, head down and braided hair covering his eyes. The puppygirls were leaning in tight against him, and I could tell they were trying to sneak glances at his pants without looking like they were doing it.
Their cameraphones went off, and before the flash could highlight things I didn't want to see, I ducked around some Marshall stacks and grit my teeth. What the fuck had I been doing, spending ten years of my life feeling bad for what had happened? I could have been a completely different person. He obviously had, that much was obvious! The Myles I knew was too bashful even to look up when he was asked a question at school, or made to do an equation on the chalk board. He sometimes hid behind me when we went to the store to buy sour keys. He was the most introverted person I knew, and that was including the wheelchair kid.
The gap in the fence was right where I left it. I started to peel it back when the basset I'd met earlier decided to come back through. His eyes were amusingly bloodshot, and he yelped and almost fell backwards through the hole when he saw me standing so close, and I realized I was glowering. I tried to make my face friendly. "Hey, sorry," I mumbled apologetically, standing back to let him by.
I turned to take one more look at the backstage area, and my heart leapt into my throat and tried to choke me. Just coming around the Marshalls was Myles, moving skittishly. He froze, too, eyes locked on mine (I could just make them out through the tangle of his hair). he ran his hand up his face and back from his forehead, pushing the errant dreds out of the way, and the surprise on his face was obvious. I could tell he recognized me. My eyes were wide and fearful (so he told me later), and my jaw tried to work, to come up with some sort of excuse or apology, but failed.
The rest of my brain shut down when he closed the distance between us in three huge strides which culminated in a short leap. His arms wrapped around my neck, his legs wrapped around my hips, and I staggered when the full inertia of his body was transferred to mine. My arms went out wide, but I managed to keep my balance, because though Myles had grown up, I would be very much surprised if he weighed any more than half what I did. His neck snuggled up to mine, and he squeezed me in a bearhug that I really didn't expect. I heard hooting and whooping, and looked over to see those same puppygirls snapping pictures with their phones, while the other two members of Lacuna Coyle were chuckling and whispering to eachother.
"Uh... hi," I finally managed, not sure where to put my hands, and pretty well taken aback by the whole situation.
He straightened his neck and leaned back a little bit to look me in the eye (but did not, I should note, attempt to dislodge himself or climb down from my torso). He was smiling hugely, something foxes did EXTREMELY well, and he was chuckling silently, chest bobbing, but he said nothing. I should point out that it was only after the initial shock wore off that I remembered one of Myles' more remarkable physical traits, and I became aware of the strange pressure that had been brought to bear against my midsection.
I blushed furiously, and leaned forward slightly in the customary 'please get off of me' fashion. His eyebrows rose and almost met in the middle, but he disengaged himself, dropping lightly to the earth. My jaw tried to work again, but still no dice. I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to say. TV shows usually didn't have situations this ambiguously annoying. Well, maybe they did and they got cancelled. I can't see this as being too terribly entertaining. Silent as we both were, though, I couldn't help but keep the smile off of my face.
"I... saw your name on the band poster." Good, DL. Good start. Let's try a complete sentence, ok? I was kicking myself. "I thought it might have been you, because of, you know... your last name and all that."
He chuckled again, silently, something I know I used to love seeing. It's really creepy, seeing someone laugh with absolutely no sound. Creepy and adorable. His comically oversized tail whooshed back and forth like a giant Swiffer duster. he half-turned and gestured to the rest of the band, clearly inviting me over. I raised my hands and started to protest, saying that I had to get going, and I was happy to see him, but he just rolled his eyes, grabbed one of my outstretched wrists, and started dragging me.
Now, at that point I fully admit I could have escaped. I was twice his size, there was no way he was making me do anything I didn't want to do, but I was in a very suggestible state (thank you, alcohol and weed!) and even though I resisted a bit, I was still dragged over to the rest of Lacuna Coyle, the squirrel drummer and the leonine guitarist. I wasn't placing the latter's species 100%, but he seemed like a lion/something hybrid. He was lanky and sleek, so maybe some sort of half-starved bobcat? Man, I still don't know. He glowered menacingly, even when he smiled and waved at me.
Myles let go of my wrist, and gestured to me, and then to the band again, obviously an introduction. The squirrel waved at me with a huge grin on his face, and a strangely knowledgeable glint in his eye. "Hey, I guess you're a friend of Myles's," he said in that rodent-like bird-chirp that I always had problems understanding. It was like an accent, but I felt really bad asking them to repeat themselves. Still, I was doing pretty good so far. "I'm Ricky."
The lion-like fellow extended a lean, muscular arm. "James," he said simply with a deep, throaty rumble. I outweighed him by a good fifty, sixty pounds, too, but I could tell he was strong. And had claws. And teeth. And the look in his eyes seemed to say 'I could rip our your throat right now'. I liked him immediately.
"D.L.," I said, smiling nervously, shaking James's offered hand. His grip was powerful, but wasn't anything I couldn't handle. "I... yeah, used to know Myles, years and years ago." I looked askance at him, a little uncomfortable with the entire situation, but he just kept grinning. It was maddening. "He... I can't believe how you sing, man. You couldn't even talk back then."
"He still can't," Ricky said with a chuckle.
My eyes widened. "What... seriously?" Myles was nodding, though, seemingly unconcerned with the whole wierd situation. I had a million things to ask him, but not with his band standing right there! "You can sing... but you can't talk?"
He nodded, then patted Ricky on the shoulder, and gestured to himself, and me, and then waved in the general direction of the farmhouse. Ricky just nodded. "No problem," the drummer said, "we can pack up. You guys go hang out."
Myles backhanded me gently in the chest, and started to walk off towards the vans. I stared helplessly after him, and the huge bushy tail, and then at his bandmates. "I... nice to meet you," I said, completely lost, and followed after Myles. He walked between two vans and out into the pool of light that their headlights created, and the noise dropped considerably when we got past the idling engines.
Myles was casting a big shadow on the distant farmhouse, with his tail wrapped around his midsection. I was wondering how warm he could be, since he was still shirtless in the cool autumn night air, but he was fur-covered to start with. He half-turned when I walked up behind him, heavy boots crunching in the muddy gravel. We stared at eachother for a long moment, and I was the first to break the connection, running my hand through my hair.
I stared at the ground for a little bit, not having any idea what to say. He was still grinning, though, that maddening grin that gave nothing away. What was he thinking? Why was he grinning? Why did he drag me out here past the vans?
In the end, the stress just got the better of me, and my jaw found the will to move. "I'm sorry," I said simply, spreading my hands helplessly.
He blinked in surprise, then waved dismissively with one hand. Then he held both hands in front of him, and made a steering-wheel motion, looking at me quizzically.
"Uh... yeah, I'm parked over here by the, uh, main entrance," I said, hesitantly. He moved closer, and placed one fuzzy finger over my mouth, effectively silencing me, then gestured for me to lead the way.
Chapter Four - Wake Me Up When September Ends
It was maybe ten minutes later, and we were just pulling back onto the highway. The Bender Beamer had a very well lit aquamarine dashboard, and Myles was lit up like a character from The Abyss. We were... wow. I was just about to say we'd been silent so far, but that seems like a rude thing to say, since he's ALWAYS silent. Except when singing, I guess. That was the first thing we got into. Once we pulled onto the highway, I'd figured out the best way to communicate, at the moment.
"Ok, I got my thoughts organized. Sort of." He nodded. "So, I'll just start babbling, you nod yes or no, let me know where I'm screwing up, ok?" He nodded again, smiling at me sympathetically.
"Alright. You still can't talk, but you found out that you can sing. Right?" A nod. He started to fiddle with the satellite radio, one of my few expensive purchases, with the volume down, just station-surfing.
"Alright. So it's probably some sort of psychological condition that you haven't been able to fix." A small, sad sigh, and a nod. "Sorry, I didn't really know how to phrase that." He started scrolling through the rock and metal stations, carefully avoiding my gaze.
"It's wierd," I said, letting my mouth just sort of unhook from my brain, and wander free, like a cloud. I was still stoned, by the way. "Ten years off, and you still recognized me. I thought we all looked the same to you guys."
He backhanded me in the arm again, but I could see him chuckling. (I described the silent chuckle, right? Ok, cool. Just checking.) "Hey, I couldn't resist," I said with a chuckle. A light drizzle began to fall, and the windshield became a speckled field of stars. I slowed down, slightly. "I've been wondering, ever since... ever since you first hit the stage, and I saw your tail, and I knew it was you. I mean, the hair was sort of new, and you're a lot taller, and the bass was... well, you know." I glanced over, and was a little surprised to see him wink, and play with his tail, which was filling his lap, and obscuring his pants. "Anyways, I saw the tail, and I knew it was you. And then I heard your voice, and... well, I had my doubts, but then you did the 'See you later!' thing with your head, and... it was you."
He stared at me. "Right, I was getting to a question. Ok, I saw it was you. You were on the Bushfur lineup, so you're from this neck of the woods, and, well..." I didn't think I could say it. I stared out through the spattered windshield, feeling dust bunnies gather in my throat. It was right there on the tip of my tongue. For no reason whatsoever, I started to think about shrimp.
He reached out, and put his hand on my knee, digging one heavy nail into my skin. I yelped, and jumped in my seat, looking over to im in shock. He just smiled, and moved his muzzle in a vaguely spiralling fashion, and I remembered how he used to do that when I was being spacey, back in the day. I smiled back, feeling warm and fuzzy inside, wondering how I could have felt awkward around him.
"Why didn't you look me up?"
His eyes widened, and he leaned back. He sighed, and mimed writing with his hands, and then making whooshing gestures. "You mailed me? I figured you knew my address, but I didn't get any mail. 912, right? Not 921 or something? Dad never..."
It struck me, and I sighed, hanging my head. "I never got any mail. They took you away, and they told me not to think about it, and... and no mail ever got to me. I still got mail from my grandparents, so I didn't think about it... fucking Christ, Dad."
I clenched my jaw, my fists tightening on the wheel. A tiny voice inside said that my father had just been doing it to protect me, to protect his only son from... well, from someone he didn't need protecting from, but grownups never knew that. I seethed quietly through my teeth for a moment, part of the windshield growing swimmy when my eye started to water.
"Sorry," I said again, uselessly. He patted me on the arm. He then mimed typing. "E-mail?" I asked, to a negative response. "Uhm... FaceSpace?" A nod of affirmation. "Yeah, I'm on there, but I just go by D.L. now. I tried looking you up every few months, Myles Coyle, but no luck." He shook his head. "Oh, you just look for people, don't sign up? I, uh... I don't think that worked."
We were incommunicative again for a little while, both apparently thinking the same thoughts. So close...
"... and yet so far," I finished out loud, and he chuckled again, folding his hands in the huge fluffy pillow that his tail made in his lap. He looked nervous, which I supposed made perfect sense. I had been trying to escape earlier, and he'd dragged me into the conversation, and then the car ride, and now he was stuck with me. Nobody wants to be stuck with me.
I felt a small smile on my lips. "Remember the time we tried to run the extension cords all the way to the treehouse, so we could play Street Fighter?" Myles grinned hugely in reply, and I knew we both remembered it well. My dad had a 100 foot extension cord in the basement, Myles got one from his own basement, and we stole one that was under a neighbor's back porch. It was just long enough for us to plug one end of it into the highway-side tourism kiosk outlet, and stretch the other end through the woods to our little fort. Of course, it was destined not to last, and a park ranger and a police officer showed up a few hours later.
"I can't believe you tried to act like you didn't know how you got there," I said with a laugh, remembering Myles's failed and shocked pantomime. The cops returned the extension cords, and we got grounded for a week. "Good times."
His shoulders shook with silent laughter, and he twined his fingers together in the bushy undergrowth of his tail. "My parents blamed all that stuff on you, you know, so I figured your parents blamed all of it on me. When they... when they found us that last time, I figured they just got fed up with it, and you guys moved."
His eyes widened, and his jaw actually dropped a little, which on a fox is a hell of an expression, and I burst out laughing, trying and failing to stifle it. "Sorry, your face was... was just priceless there," I said with a giggle, calming myself down, trying not to let on the ache that I was feeling inside.
He smiled briefly, then looked down. I knew he was remembering what had happened, too.
The last week in July, 1998. School was closing fast, and both of us had already been school supply shopping. I tried to spend as much time as possible with Myles, relishing the freedom of summer, the boundless potential of the sunny days and local wilderness, but more and more he seemed distracted, and his parents (especially his dad, a grizzled and vaguely threatening coyote) didn't let him out that much. Neither of them seemed very pleased to see me when I came over to play, either, and shooed me out the door the first chance they got.
I know they didn't like me. I didn't know if it was because I was a human, or because me and Myles always got into trouble when we were together, but I knew that they didn't want us hanging around. Myles seemed distraught the only times we'd seen eachother that week, and whenever I asked him what was up, he'd change the subject, and pull out comic books or his radio, or something, to fill up our attention. Anything except talking about it.
And then it was Friday. September began the very next day, and school was four days hence. Myles hadn't been home all day. I'd been to their house three or four times, but the cars were gone, and no-one answered the door. In the end, I'd spent the day in the fort, eating sour keys and drawing on stuff with burnt sticks (I was eight, fire was awesome). The sun started to set, and I headed home just in time to be late for dinner and angrily informed that I was given a nice, expensive watch specifically so I WOULDN'T spend all day in the boonies. Then it was watching Star Wars on TV, and then off to bed.
The tapping woke me up just before midnight. The red, glowing digital clock numbers confused me, and I wondered how I'd slept until lunch, and why it was so dark. A huge shadow loomed on the wall, and I cowered briefly, until I recognized the shape of the ears. I turned my head, and sure enough, silhouetted in my window was the unmistakable outline of Myles, one clawed finger tapping at the window expectantly.
I swung out of bed, wearing only a t-shirt and boxers, and opened the window, groggy with confusion. "Uh... hi?" I said, rubbing one eye.
Then I took in how he was dressed. Heavy coat, hiking boots standing on an overturned flowerpot so he could each my window, and a bulging backpack slung over one shoulder. My eyes widened. Even half-asleep, this was an easy one. "You're... running away?"
He nodded, and clambered into my room. I had to chuckle a bit when he got stuck halfway, high-centered on his overfilled jeans, but I pulled him through safely. I didn't need to ask him to be quiet... he'd never wake up my parents. I turned on my lamp, and he sat morosely on my bed, hugging his backpack in his lap and looking up at me beseechingly.
"Why are you running away?" I asked, sitting at my desk. It seemed a little wierd, both of us sitting on my bed when I was in my pyjamas. Back then, I knew a little bit of ASL, enough that he could make himself understood. I never needed to learn much, since I was always good at interpreting his mimes.
He patted his chest, then spread his arms a little bit, and patted his chest again. He made a 'flying off' gesture with the flat of his hand. "You're all running away? Er, I mean... you're moving away?"
He nodded sadly, and I was floored. "What? Your family's moving?! You went Back To School shopping this week! We got our locker assignments already! How can you be moving?"
He shook his head, unable to answer most of those very well without speech, and he seemed just as overwhelmed as I was. He mimed making himself look bigger, flexing his shoulders, and moving his mouth while talking into an imaginary phone. "You heard your dad talking on the phone about it? What he hasn't even told you?"
He nodded again, head down, muzzle resting on his backpack, his oversized tail laying limp and lifeless on my bed. I sighed, and moved over next to him. "So what are you going to do? You can't really run away, you know... I don't want you to leave, but I don't want you to get in trouble."
He grabbed my hand, and pulled it up to his chest, looking into my eyes pleadingly.
I started to protest, but I couldn't think of one solid reason. It was late, I was eight, and I still thought Dragonball Z was probably real, somewhere. I squeezed his hand, and nodded. He watched while I got my backpack from under my bed, crammed a bunch of clothes into it, found my pants, and snuck downstairs to get my shoes, as well as some food from the fridge. Maybe three minutes later, we were both climbing back out of my bedroom window. I left a note on my pillow explaining that we hadn't been kidnapped, I just had to keep Myles company.
Midnight found us stealing through down, hiding whenever headlights loomed in the distance. I was just following him, as I usually did. His tail sagged under the weight of the dew he picked up from the grasses and bushes, probably weighing about ten pounds now. I had to chuckle when he whipped around and he created a spray behind him.
I got nervous when we reached the edge of the woods, and I figured out where we were heading. It was dark... and I mean REALLY dark in the woods. It was utterly pitch black, and I knew that Myles had better night vision than me, but I was still a little freaked out. I felt a bit better when he gave me the flashlight he had in his pocket, but I was still nervous about leaving the field of the orange buzzing streetlights.
He stopped, and gave be a hug, resting his head alongside my neck. The height difference made that as high as he could reach. I hugged him back, wondering if I should make a joke about how the bulges in his pants were keeping us apart (our hips were nowhere close to touching) but it seemed wrong for the mood. He held my hand in his, and lead the way. I kept the flashlight aimed low so as not to ruin his night vision. I wasn't nearly as nervous with his fuzzy hand squeezing mine, and we somehow made it to the treefort. I was completely lost, but he led us straight there.
Inside, the meager flashlight was a lot more effective, filling everything with a bluish-white light. I was surprised to find that there was already two sleeping bags in there, as well as a grocery bag full of apples and granola bars. "Wow, you... you were here already?"
He perched on the purple sleeping bag I recognized from his basement, and nodded sadly. The full import of what we were doing struck home, and my stomach plunged. We had both just... run away from home. He'd put a lot more thought into it than me. I dropped my bag by the wall of treebranches, and sat on the blue sleeping bag I'd never seen before, wondering if he'd stolen it.
It was a strange silence. I picked up a comic book and read a page, but put it down. The words didn't seem to be making any sense. I shivered slightly. He pulled out a granola bar, and gave half to me. We ate it without making eye contact.
"They'll check here first," I said, and he nodded. He tapped the watch on his wrist, and gestured towards the highway. In the distance, I could hear a truck rumbling by. "We're leaving early? Well, that works, I guess." Our parents didn't know EXACTLY where the fort was, but it wouldn't take them long to find it.
He messed with the buttons on his watch, and I knew he was setting the alarm. He hung the strap on a branch, and sighed. I reached over and patted his knee (careful to keep my hand well clear of the leg that had the bulge running down one thigh). "It'll be all right, man," I said, not really sure if it was. How far could we reasonably get? I had a little bit of money, and we had food... we could probably hide out for a week, but I didn't think we'd be making a start on our own, at this age. But I couldn't say no to Myles, and I didn't want him to move away, either.
I stifled a yawn, and he gestured to the sleeping bags. I nodded. "I guess we better get some sleep, if we're taking off early," I said, removing my hiking boots. The air was considerably cooler in the woods than it was back in down, and I thought I saw him shiver once, too. I stuck my feet into the sleeping bag and wriggled the rest of the way in, and saw him do the same. I had to chuckle when his tail started to go in, and the sleeping bag suddenly seemed a lot more full. "You need to get another one for your tail," I said with a wink, and he winked back.
I kept the flashlight on for another minute, laying in the bag, using my backpack for a pillow, staring at Myles. I took a deep breath, and sighed. "I'll stick with you man," I said softly, and he nodded back at me, reaching one hand out to pat my shoulder. We smiled to eachother, and I turned the flashlight out.
In the darkness, he was effectively mute. We listened to eachother breathe for a little while. Out in the forest, the wind soughing through the trees was a symphony around us. Water dripped somewhere, branches creaked, and for a few minutes an owl would not shut up. I'd never been camping without a tent before, or without a grownup, so everytime my eyes closed, they'd fly open again with each new sound. I could hear Myles soft snoring, and I envied his strength. Nothing ever scared him... well, except social situations. I shivered again, and rolled around, trying to get comfortable.
I yelped when I felt something touch my shoulder, but I calmed down (a little) when I realized it was Myles's hand. "Sorry... am I keeping you awake?" I said softly, my voice seeming to boom after so much silence. I heard his head rub against his backpack, but I didn't know if he was nodding or shaking his head. "One squeeze for yes, two for no." He squeezed twice.
"You can't sleep either?" One squeeze, then two. "Yes AND no? You're not helping. Are you ok?" Two squeezes. I sighed. "Me, too."
His hand left my shoulder, and I heard quite a bit of rustling. I fumbled for the flashlight, but couldn't find it. "Hold on, I'll get the flashlight, I don't want you to hurt yourself," I said, but his hand squeezed my shoulder twice. "Well, then what are you doing?"
I got my answer a moment later when two fuzzy feet entered my sleeping bag. I was startled, but not really against the idea, since it was cold, and I was a little freaked out by the darkness. I scooted back as far as I could, holding out my arm to keep the sleeping bag open as his legs slid in. I blushed in the darkness when I felt the overstuffed front of his jeans slide along my torso, and then down my leg. His tail took up every last bit of space that was in the sleeping bag, but in a minute his toes were rubbing up against my ankles, and his head was resting against my neck.
I held my arms out awkwardly for a minute, then slowly wrapped it around his body. "Is that better?" I asked, softly, and his head nodded yes. "Hey, I can hear you now," I said with a chuckle, and I felt his lips pull into a smile.
For a while, we lay there. It didn't seem wrong in any way to me, even though I knew that guys weren't supposed to hug, and DEFINITELY weren't supposed to share a sleeping bag. Everyone in the schoolyard knew The Rules For Boys. I'd heard the rumors about Myles, too, and didn't believe them (and even if they were true, I didn't care). In the sleeping bag, though, there wasn't anywhere for us to go, and I became acutely aware of just how big he was down there.
I didn't know much about anthro anatomy, but I knew that, on average, they were bigger than humans in most respects, major AND minor. A busty fur was bustier than a busty human, and various fur fellas, like elk and canines, had obvious bulges in their pants, but Myles had a bulge that was unmistakably far above average. Most of the time he wore baggy trousers and sweatpants to try to conceal it, and I found out that he had special underwear to help out, too, but even with all of that, it was impossible to not notice it.
It looked like a honeydew had been stuffed down into his underwear, big enough and low enough that he couldn't QUITE bring his legs completely together, and stuffed down one pantleg almost two thirds of the distance to his knee was a long, round bulge about as thick as his wrist. Snuggled up in the bag, I could feel all of this resting against my thigh. I didn't think anything less of him because of his physical attributes (and in fact, I was too young to know it, but it was one of the reasons I liked him!) but it was still causing a bit of nervousness and confusion. His arm wrapped around my lower body, and he snuggled up closer to me.
I shifted my leg a little self-consciously, and I felt his chest rumble a bit with a silent chuckle. "Sorry," I said with a smile, "there's just not a lot of room in the sleeping bag."
He nodded again, and I closed my eyes. "Let's just try to get some sleep, buddy," I said softly. He squeezed me once, and I could feel his cool nose against my ear for a moment. I remember finally fading off to sleep, warm and comfortable and unafraid at last, wondering why it felt like the bulge in his pants was actually growing bigger...
That was the first thought I had when I woke up, too. We had shifted around some in our sleep, and now I was using his fluffy tail as a pillow, as he seemed to have turned around and was facing the other way. I shook my head a bit, blowing a bit of fluff out of my mouth, and smiled to myself, one eye groggily half-open. Dreary light was filtering in through the branches that made up our fort's walls. I could feel the tickle of his tail against my lower belly, and knew my shirt must have ridden up a little bit. I glanced down, and my chin bumped into the top of his head. He was using my arm as his pillow, pinned by his head and holding my hand in his against his chest. My other arm was draped over him, and his other hand was holding my palm again... against...
My eyes widened, and I realized that he was squeezing my hand against his bulging jeans. I wasn't that good at gauging sizes, but it sure felt bigger than it had, last night! I gave it a tentative squeeze, and determined I was currently feeling the long, heavy bulge that ran down his left pantleg. He shifted and mumbled slightly in his sleep, his hands squeezing mine. Curious, I slid my hand slowly down, and gasped when I felt that the bulge was indeed PAST his knee now, and seemed a lot firmer than it normally did! The realization that he had a hard-on hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd experienced a few, but his was WAY more dramatic than mine had been.
My hand slid back up, when I was unable to reach any lower, and he shifted again in my arms. His head tilted up and his whole body stretched and vibrated for a moment. His muzzle bonked against my cheek twice, and I knew he was awake.
"Good morning," I said softly. I glanced down, and saw him smile, eyes still closed. He squeezed the hand he was holding against his chest, and then squeezed the hand that was against his nethers much more firmly. I blushed beet red. "Sorry," I said, but he shook his head and just pressed my hand harder against him.
We lay like that for a long minute, and I felt the strangest tingling in my own underwear, when I looked up, and I Saw the watch. The numbers were hard to read, since the watch face had a bit of dew on it, but I craned my neck and was just able to make them out. "Hmmm... eight-forty. When was your alarm supposed to go off?"
His whole body stiffened like the bulge in his pantleg, and he leaned up, letting go of my hand to snatch at the watch. His eyes bugged, and he looked at me in fear. "Was it supposed to go off earlier?" I said nervously, feeling my stomach flop around again.
Reluctantly, he removed my hand from his jeans and began to clamber out of the sleeping bag. I caught an eyeful of his body in the early morning light, smiling slightly when I noticed he couldn't bend his left leg due to the size of the bulge that, true enough, went well past his knee. The round bulge behind hiz zipper seemed larger, too! I was suddenly jealous of Myles, but it was a friendly rivalry sort of jealous. I climbed out too, and was just starting to pull my boots on...
... when I heard the yelling in the distance. I didn't recognize the voice, but the words were clear. "I found it! I found them!" The yelling suddenly increased tenfold, and there was a lot of crashing and footsteps in the underbrush. Our eyes locked, both turgid with fear, and we had just enough time to hug, once before the wall of our treefort was flung aside by a Search and Rescue worker, and a moment later Myles's dad was there, tearing us apart a lot more fircibly than was necessary.
Back in the car, pulling into Forks, Myles still lit blue by the dashboard, I sniffled, remembering the rest of that day. "I was grounded until school started," I said. "Man, I didn't think your dad was ever going to stop yelling at me, and when we got home, I didn't think my dad would, either. They didn't let me out of the house. Dad... dad nailed my window shut. I didn't get to come see you until after school on Tuesday, and your house... was empty. All the furniture was gone. You were gone."
I took a shuddering breath, and sighed. My eye watered again, and I blinked it away. I looked over, and saw Myles staring through the rain-streaked passenger window. His fists were clenched, resting on his bouffant tail. His mouth opened, and he exhaled, a cloud of mist forming on the glass. He reached up with one finger, and carefully drew
i missed you