At long last, lonely teenaged human DL reunites with the nearly-famous Myles. There is much rejoicing, and the promise of future naughtiness.
Chapter 5 - The Kids Aren't All Right
By the time we got back into town, I was feeling a lot more at home in my own skin. I've always been really good at shrugging off the effects of booze on those rare occasions that I over-indulge, and to date I've never gotten into any sort of accident. I'm not saying that people should try to emulate me or anything... drugs are bad and speed kills, kids. Remember that.
The words faded from the window after scarcely more than a few seconds, but I knew I'd never forget the way they looked, or the way those words drove themselves home. I realized that, for all these years, I'd been getting the order of events during that fateful week wrong.
Maybe I'd been doing it to further flagellate myself. I was good at soaking up blame and guilt, it just came naturally to me, and it didn't seem right that the blame for what happened should fall anywhere but on me. The lights of Forks were appearing in the distance, and I was finally making one big connection, a decade too late: they didn't move because we ran away, we ran away because they were moving.
"But...," I started to say, my mouth feeling thick and cottony, and not entirely from the vitamin THC that I was still processing, "why did you guys end up moving away? Your dad's job?"
Myles was still staring out the window. For a few breaths, I thought he hadn't heard me. The air coming out of the dashboard vents was creating ripples in his bouffant tail like wind rustling a field of wheat. I opened my mouth to repeat myself when he nodded affirmative, but then shook his head.
"Yes and no? So... he didn't HAVE to move for work, but he decided to anyway. The week before school started. After we'd already done all our shopping and gotten our locker assignments."
Another pause, and then another nod.
I didn't need to ask the next question. The side of Myles' face was twitching, one eye half-closing whenever his lip curled up in a sneer. I knew most of his facial expressions, I could read him the way I read comic books, but this was something I never saw when we were younger. Age had given both of us a lot more depth than we'd expected. I was pretty sure that he was trying to keep a handle on some long-suppressed anger.
God knew I was doing the same.
The first real streetlight passed by overhead, and I sighed, a deep shuddering exhalation. "Look, man... it's in the past. We... you and me, and your family and my family... there was a lot going on. We can't change that."
He nodded, his nose making little pale streaks on the glass of the passenger-side window. I didn't know what he was thinking. He'd gone from supremely confident back at the Bushfur spot, owning the stage and dragging me around the back, to being bashful and, even for a mute, silent. I figured he was just regretting our whole reunion.
"I've just got one last question right now, though," I said as mile markers started getting replaced by actual street signs. He looked at me, eyes wide and carefully inscrutable. I paused, partly to collect my thoughts, and partly for dramatic effect.
"Where exactly am I driving us?"
He blinked once, and then laughed heartily, and utterly silently. I couldn't help but smile whenever he did that, and he knew it. When he regained his composure, he reached into the shadowed recesses under his lap-filling tail and pulled something out of his pocket. He handed me a little cardboard rectangle, and I slowed the car down while I took it and tried to read it in the poorly-lit car.
"TripleTree Inns? Oh, hell, that's just a couple blocks this way," I said with relief. "It... hey, I guess it was built after you left! It's where the old Lamplighter used to be. It burned down, oh, five years ago, and TripleTree showed up when Twilight came out."
He brightened up, his tail somehow finding enough room to actually wag, the tip flicking the gearshift, and I groaned melodramatically, slapping my hand to my forehead. "Oh, don't tell me you LIKE those books," I said.
He nodded, eyes wide and innocent. I had to laugh, though. "You would," I said, not unkindly. "You always liked those sorts of things more than I did." I was suddenly overcome with concern that he'd be upset with me, and I wanted to try and say some good things about Twilight, but that would have been the old, placating me. Myles would just have to get used to the new me. Or, as was more likely, not.
I pulled off of 6th Ave into the TripleTree parking lot, and sure enough there were already a couple white vans there. I figured they were people who helped set up and then left early to stock up on sleep, since there was no sign of life anywhere. Three tiers of motel units were dark, and the vans were all locked up tight. I pulled into a visitor parking spot by the far end of the building, and put the car in park, but I didn't shut off the ignition. I was suddenly afraid of being alone with Myles, in total silence. The idling engine provided some sort of distraction. I know, it doesn't make much sense, but I was a little paranoid. Part of me was also afraid he'd hear my heart thumping; I knew I could feel it in my toes.
I shut off the headlights, and the well-landscaped motel lawn vanished. Faintly, I could hear music coming out of the speakers, but the volume was still turned down so low I couldn't make out the song. A quick glance at the satellite radio doodad told me it was Metallica's newest excuse to stay in the limelight.
We continued to not say anything. I know you're all tired of me saying stuff like that when it's clear that Myles can't say anything anyways, but I just mean 'general communication'. He's better with facial expressions and hand gestures than most public speakers are with time to prepare and a dictionary. His hands were clasped awkwardly amidst the furry heap of his tail, and he seemed to be carefully examining the hand-crafted precision of the interior of my old, used car. I was hardly more outgoing, but I was doing important work. The raindrops on the windshield won't count themselves.
"You know, one of us is going to have to say something. If these windows start steaming up, people are going to get the wrong idea." I honestly couldn't believe I said that last part outloud, I swear.
His shoulders slumped, and he looked up at me sheepishly. Him, of all people, looking sheepish. This was his idea!
A thought struck me. "I suppose you're out of here in the morning, right? You got other tour dates." He nodded, eyes downcast. "Where are you living right now?"
He gestured to the motel, and I shook my hands. "No, I mean, where are you living, like, your home? Seattle? Tacoma?"
His eyes were briefly agonized, and his response startled me. He yanked on the handle, and simply slipped out of the car. His tail followed a second or two after, and then the door slammed shut. I was alone, hands on the wheel, staring blankly at the condensation already starting to build up on the windows, my face turning red. I made a formless little noise in my throat, and started going through my options.
My stomach roiling, I slowly opened my own door and stepped out, looking around. Myles hadn't gone far. He was walking across the open parking lot, heading for the little herd of white vans we'd passed on the way in. Most of them were plastered with bumper stickers for various bands and pro-fur slogans, but were otherwise identical. He clearly knew which was which, and picked out one that had only three adornments on the back.
"Myles?" I called worriedly, but he rolled back the big sliding door on the side of one of them, and vanished inside. I swallowed nervously. I didn't think what I'd said was that wrong or offensive, but he hadn't even looked back once. I started across myself, still hesitant, wondering if he was going to come out with a baseball bat or something. After all these years, part of me expected that.
I drew closer, the pavement black and slick under the infrequent arc sodium lamps. The rolling side door still hung open, and I could hear rummaging from inside. "If you're getting a baseball bat, can you at least let me know?" His tail swished briefly through the opening one or two times, and in spite of everything. I had to smile. He never could control that thing.
And then, quite to my surprise, he poked his head out and made a 'come-hither' jaw-wiggle. My brows furrowed, and I did indeed go hither, peeking around the edge of the door as he drew back inside.
The surprise continued when I saw at the back of the van seemed to be a foam mattress of some sort, and a stack of pillows and blankets. A duffelbag hung from an overhead hook, and a small suitcase was bungee-corded to the wall below it. The rest of the interior was taken up with various boxes and crates of equipment. Myles was sprawled on the mattress, his back against the rear doors, tail obscuring one of the two rear windows.
I blinked. "You live in the van?"
He nodded, but there was a glare there that was unmistakable. Make fun of me, I fucking dare you. THAT look dated back to the first time we ever met, I'd known it as long as I'd known him, and in all that time, I'd never taken him up on the offer. Maybe he thought I was overdue.
I climbed into the van, occupying the only free piece of real estate between the edge of the door and a milk crate full of cables. The van lurched wildly, and I realized that what was lots of room for Myles was pretty cramped for me. I got on one knee just to give my head some clearance, and looked around. The overhead dome light was feeble, but I could make everything out.
"Cool. At least the rent's cheap."
He looked at his bags, and then cocked his head to the side, eyeing me curiously. "I'm not making fun of you. Seriously. Do you know where I live?" A head-shake; negative. "I live in the back of the Fas Gas."
It was his turn to look confused, and then he held out his hands like he was cupping a cube, and then moved one hand away to indicate the back of the cube. "Yeah, in the storage area."
He was carefully blank for a moment, and then burst out laughing. I could hear the wind rushing through his lips, but there was no real sound. He had to put one hand on his stomach, the other gripping a holy-shit handle and holding him upright. His tongue was flailing the way his tail probably would have, if it had room. "Hey, that's not fair! I didn't laugh at you!"
He just kept laughing, and try as I might, a smile eventually forced it's way onto my face. In the end, he was compelled to let go of the handle and he tipped over, tail brushing the roof, tiny crackles of static visible in the wan illumination. I reached out and bopped him on the back of the head teasingly. "Sure, you laugh. I've got a microwave and beer. I envy no man."
His head popped up at the word beer, and he made the universal drinky-drinky motion. "Well, not in the car. It's like 3am, man, I'm not drinking NOW. I'm still woozy from the show."
Myles held up his hand, pantomiming showing someone a small card, and that one was easy to figure out. "No, I don't have a fake ID, I'm just friends with older guys. Come on, there's no WAY you can't get booze on tour, there's gotta be a hundred guys over twenty-one."
Another negatory headshake. "What, seriously? No-one that old, or they won't give you any?" He held up two fingers, indicating the second option. "That sucks, man. What's the point of being a musician on tour if you can't inflict liver damage?"
He twirled one hand and flopped over on the mattress, blankets heaving around him. "Yeah, I guess," I agreed, not really sure what I was agreeing to... it was just something I always said whenever we exhausted a topic. I leaned awkwardly against a stack of boxes, shifting the weight on my knee. This wasn't a terribly comfortable place for me to be, in several different ways.
There was a wash of light through the little square windows at the back of the van, streaming left to right, and a crunch of gravel. "I think the rest of your guys are showing up," I said, inching backwards out of the van. "I should... probably let you go. You need your rest, you got a show tomorrow."
My foot was just touching down on the pavement when small but surprisingly strong half-coyote hands gripped my leather jacket and yanked me off balance. My hand flew out, and I grabbed a random crate to keep from tumbling over while my foot slipped on the slick pebbled concrete. My breath left me with a whump, and I was left with both of my legs sticking out of the van, one arm pinned beneath me, and two fuzzy hands gripping my collar. I stared up at Myles, who was grinning mischeviously.
"Ow?" I said, confused and a little sore. He just winked, and before I could push myself back up there was a whistle from the parking lot.
"Yo, Myles!" someone called. "You in there? You left before we... who's legs are those?"
With a strange, smug smile on his face, he finally let go, and I hastily righted myself. My feet found the parking lot, and I straightened my coat out, eyes casting about wildly. Inside, Myles was still smiling, and outside Ricky the drummer was rapidly approaching. He saw me, then he peeked in the back windows of the van and must have seen Myles' outline. He whistled again. "Should I come back later?"
My eyes widened, and I raised my hands. "No, he was just... we were talking." I looked inside and, sure enough, Myles had fallen over again and was laughing uproariously (but silently, I know) into a pillow. I blushed, and sighed. "Nevermind. Myles, you're a douche." He lifted his head, and just winked again. I rolled my eyes, and jerked my thumb towards the parking lot.
He joined me a moment later, Ricky still leering at the pair of us. "Seriously, I can go drive around the block a few times..."
Myles chuckled and patted the squirrel's wrist. Then he looked up at me, and gestured for me to follow. I shook my head wonderingly, but complied anyways, wondering what was going on in his little head. "Uh... back in a minute," I said uncertainly to Ricky, my feet falling in step behind Myles'.
"Take your time!" he called.
The little coyle walked towards the motel, fishing in his pocket for something. His tail obscured whatever it was, but a moment later he turned and flattened a piece of paper against the wall and started to scrawl on the back with a pencil. I couldn't see what he was writing, but I just waited patiently while more vans began to file into the parking lot. I expected a lot more whooping and hollering from a gaggle of touring musicians, but nearly everyone who emerged seemed mostly intent on going to bed with as little fuss as possible.
As he wrote, I was suddenly overcome with another bout of curiosity. As a male, there is a part of my mind that is always thinking about the best way to design a zombie- and raptor-proof tree-house. There is a part of my mind that is always thinking about bacon, and the acquisition of more bacon. There is a part of my mind that is always thinking about boobs, and the acquisition of more boobs. Though probably not specific only to me (I'd seen the looks on the fangirls' faces backstage), there was also a part of my mind that, when I thought about Myles, focused on a specific part of Myles.
I glanced down, and from my angle against the motel wall, his form was outlined rather well by the office lights at the far end of the building. He was still very slim, and you could almost make out the musculature of his stomach in spite of the ruddy-greyish fur. His tail fairly glowed in the backlighting, and looked like a cloud had been attacked to the butt of his jeans. There was a brief internal struggle, and then I let my eyes wander slightly lower and to the front, and standing with his left leg back, leaning his head closer to the paper, pencil still scribbling, his extraordinarily-gifted package was clearly visible.
True, it was a little like an inkblot, the contrast between light and dark far too great to make out details, but I'd have to be blind not to notice how the doubled oblong bulges of his sac were crammed into his snug pants, and I wondered how that could possibly be comfortable for him. Tight jeans hurt ME, and I was barely above average for a human! Straining in stark relief against his right thigh was a long, thick bulge that looked about as big around as Myles' bicep. True, his arms were slender, but it's still a pretty shocking comparison! It curved upwards slightly, moving from the inside of his thigh to more towards the front, ending abruptly a few inches above his kneecap. The mathematician inside me tried to gauge that distance in inches, and gave up trying to convert sheathed size to soft, to large, to... to other things...
I was startled out of my strange, blushing reverie by a trilling bird-whistle, and my head snapped up to see Myles staring at me, openly amused. His posture hadn't changed, he'd simply turned his head and caught me mid-ogle. One eyebrow arched, and I could peripherally see his right leg turning, trying to make itself more visible. My blush seemed to explode, and I looked away, trying to count the stars and failing miserably.
"Uh, sorry," I said hoarsely, wanting to punch myself in the throat. Way to go, DL. Way to make him feel welcome, and not like a freak at all.
He moved alongside me, looking up with an expression I knew as apologetic, which was confusing. "Uhm... is that your apologetic look?" He nodded. "Why? You didn't do anything wrong."
He shrugged, and leaned his back against the wall, imitating my pose. I noticed that his tail had wrapped around his midsection again, obscuring everything below his belt. I smiled a little everytime it twitched. "I didn't mean to stare," I continued softly, not really sure what to say. The last traces of chemical enhancement were wearing off, and I felt drained, overcooked. "I guess we're not kids anymore."
He nodded, eyes sad. We stood like that for a minute, backs against the fake wood siding of the motel, listening to the sound of vans pulling up and disgorging their exhausted cargo. Here and there we could hear the occasional "Good show!" or "Man, I'm tired!" or "Anyone got condoms?", and other such philosophical statements.
"So you're gone again in the morning?" He nodded.
"Coming back through here for a show anytime soon?" He shook his head negative. "Didn't think so."
I inhaled deeply, and let it out slowly, trying to think. The problem with trying to think when you're worn out and confused is not that you can't think, it's that you're simply unable to figure out WHAT you're supposed to be thinking about. It's like starting a race, and not knowing where the finish line is, or even what direction to go, and no-one's about to give you directions. Before you know it, everyone's crossed the finish line except you, so they give you a medal for participation and send you on your way.
"I guess I'll be on my way."
Looking back, knowing what he was thinking would have really saved us a lot of time, you know? He couldn't really share what he was thinking, and even if he had, he'd have been overthinking what he thought I was thinking at the time, and it probably wouldn't have come out right anyways. The both of us looking back wish we could have punched ourselves. Fortunately, it didn't come to that.
I stood away from the wall, stretching my back a little bit, feeling it pop. The night was cold, and bleak, and silent once again. Myles was less than an arm's reach away, and all I could feel were the ten years that lay between us. "Do you want my pho..." I started.
My words were cut off rather sharply when, for the second time that night, I was flying-tackled by a small half-fox. As before, I managed to keep my feet beneath me, but this time was a lot more difficult. Earlier, I just had to account for the extra mass I had acquired, but now my brain had to deal with the added stimulus of feeling warm, fuzzy lips pressed against mine, tiny pinpricks of claws digging into the back of my neck and head.
Time seemed to stop. There's a trick when people with long muzzles kissed people without muzzles at all, and although I was vaguely aware of the concept, I'd never had opportunity to actually try it out. I didn't think Myles had either, since our nostrils lined up rather awkwardly, and I could feel his long upper teeth mashing hard against my skull. None of that mattered in the slightest to me, since I was still trying to come to terms with the simple premise that Myles was, in fact, kissing me. Rather passionately.
Later on, Myles would tell me that there had been hooting from the parking lot again, but thinking back I really can't remember it at all.
One hand was holding onto the wall, and the other was flailing slowly, unsure where to go. Right when two tired neurons fired together and suggested that maybe I should rest it somewhere on him, the little coyle disengaged again. Most of my brain power switched over to pay attention to the sensation of him sliding down my body, certain parts in particular rubbing very firmly against mine.
My eyes were wide, and the cool night air against my suddenly damp lips snapped my attention back to what had just happened. He was smiling, a small, curious, tentative smile. Unlike me, though, his chest was heaving, and I could almost hear his heart beating, while mine had been shocked into catatonia.
His whole body twitched like he'd been stung by a bee, his eyes widening until he probably looked like how I thought I looked. He inhaled sharply, grabbed my hand, and then thrust the crumpled piece of paper into it. I opened my mouth to say something (even though I wasn't sure what) but there was a skitter of small feet, and the slam of a motel door, and I found myself alone on the narrow sidewalk.
I breathed in and out once, twice, three times. My heart restarted, which was reassuring. I quickly rewound the previous events, trying to figure out where I started hallucinating, but there didn't seem to be any tampering with the video evidence.
"Huh," I said simply to the empty night. I licked my lips, simultaneously trying to ignore what I found there while analyzing it. Another tiny segment of my brain was being positively horrified at what had just occurred, throwing around a lot of homophobic propaganda, but I ignored it.
The wind picked up a bit, and the paper in my hand fluttered. I glanced down at it, really seeing it for the first time. I moved out into the parking lot to get a little more light, unfolding it as I went. I recognized the same basic format as the Bushfur concert flyer that was sitting somewhere in my car, but there were some important differences.
Mr. Socks Fox
Tragic! At The Funeral
Paws Held High
Aldwell Farms, Lake Aldwell
I remembered where that was, something like sixty miles east of here, just outside Port Angeles, the closest thing to 'The City' we had going on in Forks. The words 'LAST NIGHT' had been frantically circled in pencil, but I couldn't see much else on the front. Somewhere deep in my brain a little spark of logic fired, and I flipped the flyer over.
I don't know what you're thinking right now, but I could always
guess with you. What happened all those years ago wasn't your
fault, it was mine. I wanted a friend more than anything, but I
didn't know that anything I felt was wrong. It wasn't until I was
gone that I realized it wasn't. I hope you come to the show.
PS: If I ended up kissing you, I hope you don't get upset. :3
Chapter 6 - In The Meantime
The next morning almost missed me completely, but thank my lucky stars the crushing agony in my skull woke me up in time to bid it goodbye. The clock near the futon read eleven-fifty-something (I decided towards the end that the final number really didn't matter all that much), and the molded plastic case seemed to be breathing in time with the thumping in my head. I made up my mind to blame the clock for my ills, and then buried my head in the pillows.
The events of the previous night, or perhaps the exceedingly early morning, wandered through my head. Even though I rarely indulged much in the way of chemical excess, on those rare occasions where I did my memory always survived largely intact, which is why I was so very, very surprised at what I remembered. Really, every single part of it. Virtually no point in the previous 24 hours wasn't at least a little bit surreal.
I licked my lips, and shifted uncomfortably under the blankets. I realized that I hadn't even changed out of my clothes, or even taken my boots off. I groaned, and immediately regretted it, since the acoustics in my tiny pillow-walled sanctuary were surprisingly good, and it felt like my teeth were trying to leave via my ear canals.
Slowly and painfully, I inched my way backwards, feeling my calves slip off of the edge of the dense futon mattress, knowing that eventually I'd have to stand up and assess the damage. I paused with my knees resting against the metal bar when I caught some other mental images trying to flag down my consciousness. My heart started pounding, but them I realized that I was just picking up scraps of the alcohol-addled dream I'd had.
My knees bumped into the carpet before the full significance of THAT hit home, and I felt my cheeks redden. The dream had been vague, as they always were. I had been living in some sort of a mall, sleeping in department stores when all the shoppers had gone home, and Myles had been living there with me, after we'd run away from home. Only this time in my dream, when he crawled into my sleeping bag, there had been a lot less clothing...
I stood up far too quickly, banging my shins on the metal futon frame and almost collapsing backwards under the weight of my hangover. I staggered, but stayed up. My gorge rose (I paused to ponder the utter bizarreness of that phrase), and I decided I needed to be somewhere else rather quick.
"Ok... don't need to be thinking about that," I told myself thickly, turning around slowly and heading towards the bathroom with the careful, lunatic precision of world-class jewel-thieves and young men everywhere who have been forced to do battle with their own mutinous bodies. Someone seemed to have spilled invisible molasses on the floor, but I didn't want to clean it up until after I'd had a shower.
I was already feeling more at home in my skin by the time I'd finished the eight-minute trek to the other side of my one-room apartment, and was pleasantly surprised when I got the door open on the first try. The light switch eluded me once or twice, but I triumphed in the end. The sudden burst of fluorescent overhead lighting forced me to close my eyes.
My brain, bored with the view of the inside surface of my eyelids, began to replay some of the choicer parts of my dream again. I suppose me and Myles had been on the run for the entire ten years, because it was not my old friend from back in the day, but a fully-grown Myles with unkempt dreds, still-oversized tail, and far more matured proportions...
I forced my eyes open, trying to shake the tracers from my vision. "Stop it!"
My clothes, surprisingly dirty from the mosh pits, formed a pile in the corner; I had some problems with my pants before I remembered that I was wearing steel-toed boots. When I got down to the bottom layer I started fiddling with the shower knobs, eventually finding a nice balance between scalding hot and third-degree burns.
I started to get a better grip on the situation as soon as I was safely within my protective spray of water. My muscles stopped waving picket signs, my pores degreased themselves, and I cured my cottonmouth simply by angling my head up. I dared not close my eyes again, though, so the stinging droplets were a little painful.
I sighed, and shook my head, laughing ruefully to myself. What the hell was I thinking? What the hell was I doing? Myles was back, and... well, that wasn't entirely true. He wasn't back to stay, he was simply passing through while on tour with his band. I reflexively fell back on my 'Well, he never looked ME up,' arguments, but I grit my teeth and shifted mental gears.
That was all bull. We'd both had the means and opportunities to look eachother up, but as it turned out we'd both been too afraid to try very hard. Now reluctance wasn't an option anymore; we'd been brought back together. I didn't believe in fate, so this was simply coincidental. Strangely, confusingly coincidental.
I licked my lips again, and peeked around the shower curtain. There by the door was my coat, and stuffed inside the coat pocket was a concert flyer with hastily- but neatly-scrawled words on the back. Something from my dream came back to me, hovering just past the edge of my vision, gathering strength before attacking me all at once. Myles, drawing on my chest with one claw, and I could feel the letters and understand what he was saying, but even in my dream I was focusing on something else of his, something lower, but growing...
I spun the knobs on the shower, and stepped out, dripping on the cheap lino and fumbling for a towel. This wasn't how things were supposed to go! We were just friends back then, anything that might have seemed awkward or indecent was just chalked up to youth and inexperience. I knew I liked girls, I didn't have any qualms or confusions about that, that was for sure! I know I didn't like guys. I'd never been attracted to anyone in school, or on TV, or movies, and hardly even any online, except...
Well, there was an easy explanation for that one: the resemblance to Myles had been a little uncanny, except for the tail.
I towelled off, glaring at my reflection. There was one short and simple answer, even if it raised more questions. I didn't like guys.
I just liked Myles.
I glanced down, and my eyes widened. Apparently I liked Myles a lot.
The day passed with agonizing slowness. I didn't feel like going outside, since going for nice, relaxing walks just gave me lots of time to think, and right now I was trying to do as little thinking and soul-searching introspection as possible, and that just left one possibility. I only had three Playstation games, but they had lots of replay value, so I found solace in the comforting repetitiveness of blowing up other cars with missiles and flamethrowers.
That only killed about four hours, though. By the time I'd wandered around to the front door of the Fas Gas to refill my snack supplies and build up energy for the concert tonight, it was almost five PM. I'd had to practically sprint back outside after making my purchases to avoid answering the self-asked question of 'And what ELSE do you need energy for?' I swear, my brain was out to give me brain damage.
The concert started at eight, I wanted to give myself ur an easy hour to get there, and I wanted to get there early, for absolutely no special reason whatsoever, so I had to somehow justify killing another hour, and then leave promptly at six. I liked nice, round numbers. It was easier to make and meet your goals if they were simple and didn't involve fractions.
From five until six, I somehow managed to go sixty complete minutes agonizing over what to wear without actually thinking about WHY I was thinking so hard about what to wear. An overwhelming amount of my wardrobe consisted of jeans and t-shirts, so picking should have been easy, but I was trying to find shirts that looked good on my frame. Again, for no special reason. Honest. I ended up settling on a shirt that just had some faded skulls on it, and black jeans. A real departure for me.
Also as per the night before, I stocked up my jacket (after airing it out) with a bottle of Jones Juice that, technically, did not contain the juice that it was said to contain. Some part of me didn't want to drink, so I could just be myself around Myles, while the other part of me really wanted to drink, for much the same reason. I figured I'd split the difference, and only drink a little. Once again, math comes to the rescue.
Ok, yes, I know what you're all thinking, I'm avoiding the issue at hand and I'm in denial and I'm staring the obvious in the face and refusing to see it. And you know what? Big whoop. I'm not going to make a whole bunch of excuses. I know NOW full well I was doing that THEN. At the time, though, everything in my head was swirling like a freshly flushed toilet, and I was too scared to go fishing around in there for answers. Wow, I even grossed myself out with that metaphor.
Six o'clock found me sinking some money into the gas tank of my car (seriously, would the prices STOP GOING UP?) and scooting out of town, a Jolt Cola in one hand, steering wheel in the other. I was impressed that my hands weren't shaking at all, since most of my internal organs were vibrating as though they were trying to rattle the car apart. The Jolt was keeping my nerves jangling, and I regretted buying it. It was habitual; whenever I felt down, I bought a Jolt, since the Fas Gas was the only place in town you could get one, and it always made me feel comfortable. Some sort of cola-related nostalgia, I guess.
I popped a recently-purchased Mudvayne into the stereo and cranked up the volume until I couldn't even hear my ears hurt. My head felt hollow, cavernous. My stomach hurt, my spine seemed to be trying to flee my body.
Ok, fine, I'll come right out and say it: I was nervous.
Aldwell was nearer the big city than Forks by a fair sight, so I knew parking wasn't going to go my way when I saw the first groups of walkers just past the "Turnoff 2 Miles" sign. If the parking along the gravel shoulder was already getting clogged this far out, I knew it was going to be an interesting evening. I scouted ahead for a little bit, and even though I knew I was still almost a mile out, I snagged a space that opened up in front of me rather than hope for one any closer. Besides, I reasoned, it would be a damn sight easier to head out later if I could just pull back onto the main road.
I left my car parked at a steep angle, the passenger side about a foot into the wide drainage ditch. I patted myself down, happy the big coat was keeping everything well concealed, and started out on foot, the last dying rays of sunlight turning the sky a rich purple which would shortly fade to that borderline blue-black that you only see when you leave the bright lights of major urban centers.
It was a flashback to the previous night, being the only pink fleshy creature in sight. Yesterday, I had no expectations and had just convinced myself that I was going to enjoy some good music. Tonight I was dealing with a lot of emotional crap, and the same mild discomfort at being a visible minority was making my legs wobble. I silently cursed Myles under my breath. Not a lot. Just a little.
I got through the gate without much hassle, except it was the same bouncer as the previous night, and he gave me the strangest look. I could tell that he was dying to ask why I was there a second night in a row, but there were no words, just a hand-stamp and a wave through the wooden arch. If he asked, I don't know how I'd have answered.
This field was bigger than the previous night, and it was still only clumped up with people, so I could see the stage without any problems. There'd be easily twice as many people by the time the bands started up, and this night was a couple degrees warmer. I wish I'd brought a lighter coat, I was going to be a sweating mess by the end of the night.
Uh... don't read anything into that.
I found a poorly lit spot about fifty feet back from the edge of the stage and tried to make myself look small until the press of the crowds would help make me just another anonymous pink blob. I made up a little counting game where I tried to tabulate the ratios of species, genus and family. Canidae, of course, was way ahead with close to fifteen percent, closely followed by ursidae, felidae and cervidae. This made up about half the audience. The rest were broken down into more than a dozen other groups, and pretty soon I got bored at trying to remember my Social Biology textbooks.
I kept glancing furtively at the stage anytime i saw a figure with a noticeable tail, but of course, none of them were Myles. He wasn't on for more than three hours, the odds were good he was backstage taking a nap. I briefly enjoyed a mental image of him curled up in a sleeping bag, and I tried to wash it away with a sip from my Jones bottle. I winced, wondering if I had subconsciously decided to make this substantially stronger than normal. The music hadn't started yet and I was already feeling tingly.
They were just starting to run the sound and light checks when I noticed that I was getting a little bit of attention. Some ways down the fence were a pair of large elk bucks, head and shoulders taller than I was, each with a pretty girl in one arm. One of them was obviously feline, calico from the looks of her, lithe and slightly sharp-looking, while the other seemed like a rather plump vixen. On any other day I'd have admired the latter, but whenever I glanced over, at least two of the group would be looking back at me, the females appraisingly, the bucks with open hostility.
"Well, we're off to a good start," I grumbled as the constantly shifting lights made it difficult to tell what they were doing. Like an itch you can't stop scratching, I kept glancing over and there would always be someone staring right back at me. The bucks started passing around something in a paper bag, and I edges slowly away until I was hidden by a small pack of wolves. I didn't need drunk, angry attention tonight, that was for sure! I was hoping more for drunk, happy attention. Drunk, happy, fluffy-tailed attention...
I shook my head. One side of my brain was firing volleys of love and lust, while the other returned fire with denial and feigned innocence. I was conscious only of the no-mans land of confusion.
The next few hours passed by in a high-speed fog of alcohol, dancing, and actual fog. I kept near the front, never straying very far from the stage just in case I saw anyone special, but as the night wore on I realized I was still getting glared from those two bucks, and a couple other individuals.
I was the only human for a half-mile in any direction, near as I could figure, but I managed to stuff my terror down underneath a puddle of bravery and vodka. By and large, most people there were friendly, and I even passed some time discussing heavy metal with an eagle and his doe-eyed girlfriend (who was, of course, a doe). The discussion got a little tricky, though, when I noticed during a particularly well-lit set that her tight jeans were doing very little to conceal a fairly spectacular bulge, and I realized that she was a shi. Shi kept winking at me after that, and I managed to sneak off when hir boyfriend asked hir something.
I was almost pathetically grateful when midnight rolled around, and the penultimate band finally left the stage. Nearly twenty four hours of being scrunched up into an emotional ball of repressed memories will do that to you, you know. The field grew dark, and the audience murmurs swelled and faded. My heart was pounding like a jackhammer at the realization that, in a moment, Myles, the entire reason I was here, would be taking the stage.
I sidled through the crowd, wanting to get closer to the stage, grip the security rail in my hands and not let go.
If I'd been a little more observant, I might have noticed that even though there was a general press towards the stage, there were a couple shapes who seemed to be moving more towards me than anywhere else. I'd like to thank my friend Colonel Smirnoff for not noticing. Wait, was he in the military?
(please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET3LggJEwI0 to hear the song)
The crowd murmur gradually faded when they realized that the general white noise coming from the huge speaker stacks seemed to have acquired a beat. Sixteen quick but low, highly-distorted and fuzzed little A chords, and then sixteen A chords an octave higher. The volume gradually rose with the lights, revealing James, bent like a question mark over his guitar, hardly moving except for the quick little flicks of his wrist. I didn't recognize this song, so I expected the lights to come up on Ricky in the back, but there was a little dark shadow of motion from stage left, and then an echoey, haunting voice filled the air.
To me you are the warmest season,
And you have always been the brightest sun...
Myles was walking slowly forward, head down, eyes closed, microphone clutched so close to his bare chest I was surprised it wasn't picking up his heartbeat. His bass was slung, the long neck swaying back and forth as his hesitant little steps took him closer to centre stage.
But these cliches will not be spoken,
I choke on my lead tongue...
The guitar suddenly shifted into a clear but twangy steel rock sound, and Ricky made his presence known with an unobtrusive cymbal crash, adding to the beat. Myles's voice responded in kind, growing louder and more forceful, but almost plaintive.
So self aware, it's a burden,
Forever crippled by these tendencies...
Please evict me from my shuddershell,
So I can speak...
As James began to grind with more and more power, the volume increasing so much I almost felt a faint breeze, I realized in the growing light that Myles was staring directly at me. He slipped the microphone into the stand and swung the oversized (on his frame, at least) bass into position. His bare chest heaved with sudden intake of breath, and as he had the previous night, began to wail.
This is so frustrating
I don't know what I'm saying
This loss for words seems to burrow deeper every day
I'm so misunderstood,
Cannot relay the good
That's stranded deep inside
'Cause next to you.... I'm at a loss for words
All around me, people turned to try and figure out who the lead singer was directing this at, but only a couple of them seemed to realize that it was directed at me, the fleshy pink human. I made it through to the security rail at last, staring back up at him, and hoping I didn't look like a complete tool. His voice carried by leaps and bounds, more rich and varied than any I'd ever heard before. The previous night I'd been fairly far from the stage, but now, I could hear his voice through the chill night air in spite of the speaker stacks.
Don't confuse this for confession
Or as a plea for sympathy
It's just a window to a soul bound
By all my insecurity!!
My heart pounded and ached, realizing he'd picked this song especially for me. I wondered if it was an original, or a cover of someone else's, but it seemed pretty tailor-fit. The band exploded into the second chorus again, and the crowd went wild. I was jostled on all sides, but my eyes remained locked on him, and his eyes remained locked on me. I suppose if maybe he'd been looking around a little bit, we might have avoided a lot of trouble, but who knows? Maybe it worked out for the best.
This is so frustrating
I don't know what I'm saying
This loss for words seems to burrow deeper every day
I'm so misunderstood,
Cannot relay the good
That's stranded deep inside
'Cause next to you.... I'm at a loss for words!
Said I'm at a loss for words!
Said I'm at a loss for words!
Said I'm at a loss for words!
The song broke down into rising and falling, cresting and retreating guitar licks, until crashing back to the low ebb of A chords, and then the chorus one final time. I won't re-type it all out again, just because you probably all know what he's saying by now. Picking up on where the song was going, I began to sing along, too, and I could see his lips twitch into a smile while he belted out the remainder of the tune, the song eventually fading out to the screams and cheering of the massive crowd.
The band waved and bowed, and I could see Myles's thin chest still heaving from the effort he put into that song. One finger tugged up at the side of his lip, quickly pointed to his eye, and then he pointed directly at me, which caused the crowd around me to become even more crazed and vocal. I translated his little pantomime pretty easy, and yelled back "I'm happy to see you, too!"
(to hear the next song, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJUr0uo8vaI )
I didn't recognize the next song, but James began to pluck out what almost felt like a country tune in a grunge style, while Myles played a low counterpoint. Ricky seemed to be moving in slow motion, caressing the cymbals and periodically tapping a snare.
I've been thinking about heading out
Where I've never been
I've been thinking bout finding out
How to find the end
I've been thinking about freaking out
If I can just find the time
And these ideas are leaking out
So put a plug in my mind
It was a melancholy tune, no doubt about it. I tried to figure out if this song was aimed at me, or if it was just the next song on the set list. Myles' eyes were closed again, and he was swaying back and forth in time to the music. Ricky was almost vibrating, and James looked like he always did: ready to kill whoever got to close to him. The next verse, though, snapped my attention right back to the singer.
Now I'm thinking about sneaking out
With nowhere to go
I'm considering dropping out
Stepping out of the flow
Off all these radar scopes
To a place far below
And I'm finally finding out
How to lighten my load
My blush the previous night paled in comparison to my current one when he swung the bass out wide and with the utter shamelessness of the true rock and roll frontman, groped the front of his almost indecently tight black pants. While it would be obvious to anyone in the crowd even a hundred feet away that there was substantially more flesh in there than normal, his tiny paw only served to make it even more dramatically clear. I was told later that he winked at me, but I think my vision was concentrated somewhere else. The song got quieter for the next part, his voice filling my mind.
I've been thinking about crawling out
I've been thinking about heading out
Turn my back and leave
I would hit an ocean or a coast and that would be
I would hit an ocean or a coast and that would be the end of me
The guitar squealed like an airplane flying directly over the stage, and all three members of Lacuna Coyle began to stomp and grind as the song changed gears from moody meandering to screaming thunder.
Thinking about heading out!
Thinking about heading out!
Thinking about heading out!
I managed to find the time amidst all of the jumping and screaming to remark that, any possible feelings I had for the singer aside, this band was fucking amazing.
The third song clearly brought the set back to the audience at large as they flew from Headin' Out directly into Around The Fur again, and I became just another tiny pink speck in an ocean of crazed moshing anthros. In spite of my best efforts, a shoulder check from a massive obese husky dislodged me and I became subject to the whims of concert-going Brownian motion. At least, until I felt a hand clamp down on my shoulder.
I spun around, giddy and more than a little tipsy, wondering if I was about to meet a well-wisher or maybe an old acquaintance. It took me a moment to recall the face of one of the big bucks that had been glaring at me earlier. My vision swam for a second, and I realized they were both standing there. I doubted if the top of my head even came up to their muzzles, and they didn't exactly look like they spent their days playing video games in the back of a gas station. One of them mumbled something, but it was hard to hear it over the devastating chorus behind us. The massive head moved closer, and over the beer-breath I could definitely make it out this time.
"What do you think you're doing here, skin?"
Now, for years, 'skin' had been a bit of a perjorative term from furs, and it was only recently that it had begun to be used in good humor, sometimes as a greeting between humans. Yo, skin, what's up, skin? That sort of thing. I could tell that this wasn't the sense it was being used in.
"Uhm," I said eloquently, wondering exactly what portion of my obvious activities he was referring to, "listening to music?"
The shaggy head cocked sideways and the grip on my shoulder increased to painful levels. "Nuh uh, skinfuck," he said, obviously pleased with his mastery of the language, "you aren't supposed to be here. Saw you lookin' at the singer, you fuckin' fag, you think he wants some gay fuckin' skin staring at his junk?"
I blushed, but there was anger muddying the waters of embarassment. "You were looking, too."
His eyes widened, and his nostrils flared as only an elk's nostrils can. I could see his friend's antlers rocking back and forth, and I wondered if they were as pointy as they looked. "Get th'fuck outta here!" he roared directly in my face. I was surprised to find myself wondering where there girlfriends were.
I took a step back, more from the force of the bellow than from any real desire to leave. "Get off my back, asshole," I said peevishly, turning back to the stage, forgetting that he was still holding onto my shoulder. Well, I didn't forget for long, at least. It was like being snagged by a passing pickup truck; I was still staggering on one foot, trying to get my balance back when his other hand came crashing down. I tried to rock my head back, mitigate the impact, but a fist that big was gonna hit somewhere no matter what. Everything from the left side of my jaw to my temple seemed to flash like a strobe light, and then I was laying on the ground, sneakers and hooves and claws pounding inches from my face.
The music was a lot quieter down here at, quite literally, ground level, and I could hear the hollering and catcalls of the crowd a lot easier. I looked up dazedly into several faces, most of which were carefully neutral, a couple sympathetic, and a couple looking like they wished they'd been the ones to knock my ass down. A small part of my brain wondered if Myles noticed I was gone.
Realizing I was probably in pretty serious danger, I struggled back to my feet as soon as I figured out where all of my extremeties were. The big buck and his silent companion were staring at me, obviously daring me to take a swing back. I tried to weigh my chances of just watching the rest of the show from a distance, or losing myself in the crowd, or actually fighting back. I'd been really, really good about not fighting all these years, and I didn't want to start that again.
I half-turned and started to move through the crowd at an angle, trying to get to the sides of the stage where the show's security hung out. I felt the ground thump twice and then two massive tree-like hands slammed into my back and I was sent crashing into the crowd, and then down to the ground once again. I didn't even need to look behind me to know who had done it that time. There were cries of pain and dismay from all around me, since I was still bigger than a lot of the people I'd bounced off of, and the crowd started to part a little bit. Someday, I wanted to write a paper on the spontaneous formation of 'fight circles' in large crowds. The song was in the middle of the eerie, quiet instrumentation break, and I got back to my feet clearly able to hear the audience around me.
"Who the fuck was that guy? He human?"
"I think he punched that big buck there."
"I think he groped that guy's girlfriend."
"I think he kicked me! OW, my leg!"
"Oh, man, that guy's gonna get fucked up big time."
"How did this open area happen so fast?"
The buck closed in, fists raised, his friend staying on the fringe of the little dirt arena. My own hands clenched, but I opened them again, casting my eyes up to Myles, wondering if he'd see me, if he'd judge me for fighting, if I could just turn and leave. His eyes were closed though, and he seemed to be hovering in midair, and then the song exploded.
Speak...Speak! That's so sad you're back
I don't wanna get pissed off, but anyway
Come on - came so far
I'm here to say, don't talk back to me
He faked with his right, his left snaking in low and driving deep into my gut. All the air left my lungs, and it was a miracle I even stayed standing. I brought my hands up, ready to defend myself, at least try to block a few punches, but I was too stunned from the suckerpunch to even get my hands up to half mast. That right flew in then, better late then never, and I felt a crunch near my eye.
You're a liar
I don't care about
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!
His third blow was barely a glancing strike, but it didn't need to be anything else. My whole skull throbbed, I wanted to barf, and I still couldn't breathe... those glancing knuckles flattened me nonetheless.
The crowd whooped, and I don't think they cared it was a gigantic drunk buck pounding on the only human in the valley. This was a concert, there was a fight, the sun will rise tomorrow. These things just sort of happened. Apparently realizing that the good stuff was over, the crowd seemed to close in again. The song ended, and it took nearly the entire minute of distorted reverb to get back up to my feet. My left eye seemed to be picking up a lot of interference, and my right seemed to be blurred by tears. The buck was still standing there, while everyone else was watching the band take a bow.
I looked at Myles once, but he was staring out above me to the audience at large. I lifted one hand to my mouth, feeling something strange there; I glanced down and saw blood. Only one thing to do.
I looked up at the smiling buck, trying not to look like too pathetic of a loser, and then turned and headed for the back of the crowd.
Myles would tell me later that he saw me looking at my hand, and he could see the blood and the bruises on my face. His bandmates would tell me that he pointed directly at me, his mouth opened, but of course no sound came out. When I turned to leave, he looked around in a panic, and then seemed to have an idea. He flashed a quick series of numbers to the rest of the band, and they nodded.
"This next song," Ricky said in his high, chipper voice, "goes out to someone very special."
As I walked away, too ashamed and upset to even turn around, the bass started up again. It was a low, scratchy, reverberating thrumm, and I could tell he was picking with his claws. It rose for a few seconds in a steady vibrato before falling again, and I'd gone nearly fifty feet before figuring out which song it was.
(to hear the song, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDiC83Usn2s )
I stopped, and turned around, mouth open in shock and saw him step up to the mike.
I wish I would've met you...
Now it's a little late.
What you could've taught me,
I could've saved some face.
They think that your early ending
Was all wrong...
For the most part they're right
But look how they all got strong.
That's why I say hey man, nice shot
What a good shot man.
Did I ever tell you guys how me and Myles met?
Chapter 7 - Ain't No Rest For The Wicked
I guess it would have been 1997. School was just starting up for the both of us. I'd seen that little fox kid around town; that gigantic tail wasn't something you could miss! He always wore these silly baggy shorts that looked like they might have fit me, and his mom or dad was always dragging him around in a big hurry, like they were afraid someone might see him. I usually got dragged around like that, but that was just because my dad was the sort of person who thought shopping should take as little time as possible.
Anyways, we ended up in the same class. I didn't think he'd be in my class, I was positive he was a year younger than me because of his puny size. But nope, truth be told he was actually a tiny bit older than me. I admit to being curious about him, so when it came time for all of the students to go up one by one in front of the class and tell a little bit about themselves, I anxiously awaited his turn.
I was one of the first kids, being a B name. The C's came around quickly, but instead of going to the front of the class, he walked up to the teacher and gave her a little note. She read it, and seemed to remember something. She walked up to the front of the class with him, and spoke herself.
"Class, this is Myles. He has a speech disorder, so he can't tell you about himself, but he says if you write him questions, he'll answer them as quickly as he can."
The tiny fox-coyote (as I would soon find out) smiled bashfully and sat back down amidst some puzzled, but intrigued, murmuring. I figured he'd be popular... the strange kids always were.
I was wrong.
It was only recess the next day when Myles got his first taste of public school (one of the other students asked where he came from, and his written response had been 'home school'). I had bolted for the steel-pipe rocket ship, since I loved to crawl into the little metal ball at the very end of it, and dangle nearly eight feet in the air. They had the best deathtrap kids playground equipment back then. It was from my lofty vantage point that I saw Myles's run-in with some bigger kids. Really, all the kids were bigger kids than Myles, but these were the stereotypical 'bigger kids'.
"You didn't ask me to stop!" one equine kid was braying as he kept shoving the little half-coyote down. "All you have to do is ASK ME to stop!"
Myles got back to his feet, turning remarkably swift in spite of the huge wind-drag his tail must produce, and started to jog away, but he was penned in by two other kids, one human and one canine. "Come on, kid, you can say SOMEthing! Say anything!"
The human kid lunged forward with one long leg and Myles sprawled headlong in the gravel again. I don't know how I got out of the rocket ship so fast, since dropping that distance would have terrified me, but I hit the gravel around the same time.
It should be stated for the record that I grew up on action movies and crime television, and I had developed a rather strong sense of right and wrong. What I hadn't developed was the good sense to apply it properly in everyday situations. Myles was just getting back up to his feet and getting within shoving range of the canine (who I believe was some sort of basset) when I arrived to help.
My shoulder took the basset in the stomach, and even though he was a grade older than me I was still probably a couple pounds heavier, and had the power of righteous fury on my side. He howled hoarsely in pain, both of us crashing to the ground. He tried to take a swipe at me, but I was already back on my feet and dealing with the threat of the other two.
The other human, maybe one of only a dozen in the whole school, looked at me like I'd just declared I knew how to fly. "What are you doing?" he asked, while the equine kid lunged forward, hands out, trying to shove me as he'd shoved Myles. I was ready for that move (most kids only had one go-to technique). I swatted his arms aside and just brought my knee up into his gut. He doubled over and just collapsed into a heap at my feet.
I focused on the third kid, but he was already running away. Back then I was pretty fast on my feet and I started to follow him when I felt two tiny hands on my wrist, holding my back. I yanked on my arm and prepared to retaliate when I realized it was Myles who was restraining me, eyes wide with fear, shaking his head.
"What?" I asked, genuinely confused. "He tripped you! I'm gonna..."
But against that stare, I couldn't stay angry. I could tell he was pleading with me to just let the kid go. The other two were already standing back up, but teachers were approaching and I knew I was in deep trouble. One tiny hand reached up and gripped my other fist, lowering it, and he shook his head again.
"Well," I said, "If that's what you want..."
After that day, no-one touched Myles if I was there, but I wasn't always there. I'd be sick and Myles would end up with a bruised eye. I'd go to the dentist in the middle of the day and come back to see him with dried blood on his lip. I'd get sucked into a game of high-jump on the swings and he'd be dodging rocks behind the gym. I begged him, actually begged, to let me pulverize whoever did it, but he wouldn't let me. He abhorred violence, at least outside of comic books.
I suppose he probably saved me from a lot of detention time (I got three days for pounding those two kids that first time) but even on weekends and stuff, he wouldn't let me protect him. I'd be prepared to stand my ground, but he'd try to get me to run away, and he always succeeded. I couldn't say no to him. I'd always ask him about it when we were alone, and he'd shrug and either change the subject, or write out something nonsensical about violence not solving anything, THEN change the subject. It was infuriating.
And now, ten years later, he was on a stage, singing a song he knew made me want to hit something.
That's why I say hey man, nice shot
What a good shot man.
I was walking back towards the stage now. The song wasn't pounding yet, so the crowds were fairly still, and I could spot two pairs of antlers just short of the security rail. My fists clenched again, and this time when I looked at Myles they didn't relax. He had some sort of gleam in his eye that I had never quite seen before, but he was looking at me while James stomped on a pedal and the song leaped into high gear.
I reached up and tapped the aggressive buck on the shoulder. His girlfriend turned first, looking at me in surprise. I wondered how messed up I looked, taking three shots to the face like that, but I was hoping it would work to my advantage. I was starting to wonder if he'd even felt my hand when his head swung around, eyes wide.
"The fuck are you doing here?" he asked, turning and raising one ham-like fist.
This time, though, I didn't just stand there with my hands at my side. My face was on fire, my stomach was killing me, and I was pretty sure I'd pulled a muscle in my ribs, but I had also spent several rage-repressed years learning martial arts as a method to control my emotions. I hoped my sensei would forgive this one. My foot stomped his, hard, and even though he had nearly solid feet and ankles I knew that my steel-shank work boots would make themselves felt. He cried out in pain, arms flying out wide, and I stepped in, driving a rising elbow into his exposed flank and armpit.
Maps of pressure points and nerve clusters flashed through my mind, and I knew that they were my only hope of fighting someone twice MY size. His friend bellowed something, realizing that the fight was apparently still going. The big buck that I had just connected with flailed, knocking over a few innocent concert goers but staying on his feet. He hunched over a little, protecting his obviously badly hurt side, eyes bulging with rage. He just roared at me that time, charging me with both fists out.
I swung one leg out behind me, stepping sideways and driving my fist hard into the side of his face just below his eye, but one of his arms still clipped me in the kidneys. I winced, seething through my teeth, but I refused to go down after such a poor performance. The audience formed another dirt circle, but the song kept going.
He swung around, eye already swelling shut on that one side and lowering his antlers, but I had been hoping all along he'd do that. For a big guy, I was a lot more nimble than I looked, and he brought his muzzle down right when I was bringing one steel-toed boot up, and I could hear the crunch over the speaker stacks. Looking like a marionette that had it's strings cut, the buck just sagged sideways, unconscious.
A great whoop went up from the crowd as the chorus faded. I stood there, breathing hard, my side a bouquet of burning red pain, wondering where the buck's friend was. My question got answered pretty incontrovertibly when I saw him get hauled backwards over the security rail by three large anthros in black concert shirts, and another half dozen headed my way.
I tried to straighten up (and almost made it), and looked up at Myles, expecting him to be furious, or ashamed, or something. I didn't expect him to be smiling at me and flashing me a thumbs up with his tongue hanging out, his classic symbol of 'That was awesome!' I flashed a thumb right back at him just before security bore me to the ground.
Now that the smoke's gone
And the air is all clear
Those who were right there
Got a new kind of fear
You'd fight and you were right
But they were just to strong
They'd stick it in your face
And let you smell what they consider wrong.
I was hauled back to my feet roughly, thick arms gripping my shoulders with practiced easy, my feet dangling above the ground. "Hey, guys, come on, you don't need to pick me up, I can WALK to the exits..."
We reached the security rail, and I was passed like a fragile egg to two OTHER security thugs, re-secured, and then began the long trek along the front of the stage to the unlit portions where I knew I would be soundly thumped and kicked out with all the grace of a three-AM drunkard. I kept my head down, still too ashamed to see what Myles thought of me NOW.
That's why I say hey man nice, nice shot
What a good shot man.
We were almost at the far end of the stage, passing under one of the main speaker stacks when something bounced off of my head. My head whipped around, and I realized it had first bounced off the head of the big moose on my right. Literally. He was a big moose. Antlers and everything. Myles was standing on the stage, preparing to throw another water bottle. He pointed to me, and then to the stage itself.
That's why I say hey man nice, nice shot
The guards looked at eachother, looked at me, then back at Myles, and he pointed again, head cocked impatiently. Apparently deciding that the musicians could decide how to handle their own shows, my escorts turned and heaved me up onto the black plywood stage.
What a good shot man.
I stood up just as Myles finished that line. He gripped my hand, and hoisted it into the air. We both faced the audience, and for the first time in my life I got a standing ovation. I was dripping blood, bruised, wheezing, and fairly sure I would pee funny for a while, but I was also on a main stage with my best friend, taking a victory bow for beating the fuck out of a five-hundred pound drunk bully.
Oh, nice shot man!
I felt a little foolish standing on the stage while the band finished out the last three minutes of the song. Hell, I wasn't even good at public speaking, and now I had seven or eight thousand furs staring at me, a pounded-into-hamburger skin. For all they knew, I just happened to be a friend of the lead singer.
At least, that's what they'd have figured until the song ended. I was standing by the speaker stacks, trying to look unobtrusive, briefly wondering what sort of amperage those things were running when I saw Myles gesture for me to come forward again. I figured I was just taking another strange victory bow as James played out the end of the song, whammy bar working furiously, Ricky flourishing the drums almost delicately.
I raised my hand again to wave goodbye to the audience that had been more than polite in tolerating my presence, and there was a definite 'Woo!' in response. The 'Woo' escalated into an avalanche of cheering and screaming when the last of the guitar faded and I found myself supporting about a hundred and ten pounds of excited half-coyote. I staggered, ribs screaming in protest, but they were drowned out by the sudden rush of endorphins as, for the third time in our lives, we kissed. This time, though, there was a substantially larger audience.
Ricky and James were clapping (how could I hear them over the crowd? I have no idea!), and Myles managed to shift his hands around to get a better grip without moving his face away from mine even an inch. My eyes bugged out, taking in the extreme proximity of his face, rolling to the side to scan the audience, wondering how many of them were grossed out. Surprisingly, everyone seemed to be about as ecstatic at the kiss as they had been for Around The Fur.
His chest heaved against mine, and I realized he was breathing in through his nose rather than break the kiss. I also realized my hands were still out wide for balance.
There was a quick, intense argument in my mind, agonizing indecision warring against memories, friendship and love. Indecision hardly had a chance.
I wrapped my arms around him, surprised again at how slender he was, and how it was like hugging a big stuffed toy from the carnival. His tail wrapped around my midsection. I closed my eyes, not caring what the audience thought, and almost lost my footing from the sudden surge of tactile sensation. Tiny claws dug into my back and shoulders, fuzzy whiskers snagged in my stubble, the warm lips of his long, lean muzzle pressed against mine. There was a great deal of firm flesh nestled up against my bruised kidneys, and I realized what part of his anatomy was trying to gain footing there. One of his hands moved, gripped mine, lowered it, and I blushed furiously as he settled his rump against my arm. I guess it wasn't fair of him to just HANG off of me...
The crowd went even wilder, but I couldn't even hear them anymore. Agonized indecision was dead and sprouting flowers, and next to those flowers lay Myles and myself, soaking up the sunshine, and I realized that, maybe for the first time, I was in love.