Steel Body Fitness, on Niven and Sixteenth, had been recommended to Rosco, not only for having the finest weight sets in the gay neighborhood, but also for having the finest selection of eye candy in all of Riviera. For two years after joining, he'd been on the spectator side of the gym, a figurative division that was as forceful as though it'd been literal. The black wolf told himself that he hadn't moved from White Plains just to see the life of the big city, but to be a part of it, so despite the disdain that the regulars showed to the spectators, he kept going, until he realized with some surprise that he'd become a regular.
The raccoon who was walking up to him that morning was clearly on the spectator side. He hadn't quite worked off his body fat, but he wore a tank top to show off what meager progress he had made. Rosco ignored his tentative approach until the raccoon cleared his throat. Even then, he finished his set, put down the dumbbells, and gave the raccoon a look that he hoped would communicate the reluctance to give up any of his precious time.
"Uh, hey," the raccoon said. "I'm Jordy. What's that, a hundred-fifty? Nice."
"Mm," Rosco said. Behind him, his workout partner Josh huffed through a set of his own.
"So..." Jordy hesitated, then plunged ahead. "I know you used to lead a workout group. I was wondering if you had, y'know, any tips on form and workout stuff. I mean, I feel like I hit a plateau, and anything you could help with..."
"Where's your plateau?" Rosco said.
"What are you lifting?" He reached for his dumbbells again.
"Um, two. Two-twenty five, the one time, but..."
Rosco hefted the dumbbell, savoring the strain on his biceps. "Not interested."
The raccoon blinked. "Um, what?"
"I'm not...interested," Rosco said, between curls.
The raccoon looked angry for just a moment. Then his short black ears folded back. "Sorry," he mumbled, and wandered back to one of the benches. Rosco watched him sit, then focused on finishing his set.
"Good riddance," Josh muttered beside him. "You should never have started that group."
"I didn't know any better," Rosco said. He put the weights down.
Josh walked around and picked up one of them. "You done?" When Rosco nodded, he grabbed the other, too. "Leave the helping people to the pros," he said.
Rosco clasped his paws together, resting his forearms on his knees. He stared down at his claws. "I used to be a pro."
"Huh?" Josh sat next to him, testing the dumbbells. "Oh, your sociology degree. Yeah. Glad you had the sense to give up on that. I was talking about superheroes, anyway. Hey, did you see on 'Maury' they had a girl who swears that Blink Coyote is gay?"
"The teleporting one?"
Josh nodded. "Yeah."
"You watch 'Maury'?"
Josh looked studiously down at his feet. "Uh, just this one. Cause they were talking about gay superheroes." He strained to do his set of curls, during which Rosco just sat. When the fox had finished, he set down the barbells, panting, and looked at the black wolf. "What's the matter? Thinkin' about the coyote?"
Rosco shook his head. "Nah, just...thinkin'."
Josh patted him on the shoulder. "You'll meet someone. Just don't try in here."
"It's not that," Rosco said. "Never mind."
The fox started on a set with the opposite arm. "Look," he panted between curls. "I told you once, told you a million times. People here aren't worth a damn. Better off just lookin' out for yourself. Sosh degree..." He grunted, forced his arm up, and lowered the dumbbell to the floor, his arm shaking slightly. "Waste of time and money."
"S'pose I should apply to law school, huh?" One of the reasons Rosco had never gone out on a fourth date with Josh, besides the unremarkable sex, was the fox's cynicism. Six months ago it had seemed a little excessive, not something to stand in the way of friendship, but not something he wanted in a partner. Since then, he'd felt it leaching in through his fur, until it took a remark like that to make him remember that feeling.
"You could do worse. You got the dedication. Law school's only hard for people who want it to be easy. Look at you, look what you did in two years. Law school's only three, and it's not as hard as this."
"For you." Rosco selected another pair of dumbbells from the rack and braced himself to do squats.
"I'm telling you," Josh said. "It'd give you something to do."
"I've got something to do," Rosco said. "Squats. See?"
Josh grinned. "Fine," he said, just as a large shape walked past them. Rosco smelled lupine musk underneath a cologne he didn't recognize. There was something unique and a little strange about it. Together, he and Josh watched the large grey wolf pad to the furthest weight bench and start methodically putting weights on a barbell.
The black wolf tried to count the plates. "Cripes. What's that, like four hundred?"
"Could be." Josh gulped some water. "I think he's an Olympian. Probably disqualified for steroids. I mean, look at him."
"Yeah." Rosco rubbed his chin thoughtfully, brushing his whiskers. "Think he needs a spotter?"
Josh threw him a look. "Who could spot that? Anyway, I asked already."
"Last week, when you were home visiting your folks. Before that I hadn't seen him since oh-four. Used to come in a couple times a week, then I guess he got bored with the selection or something."
"That wouldn't take long," Rosco muttered, eyes fixed on the wolf's arms and chest. He wore a loose black tank top and black shorts with yellow stripes down the hips, which allowed a nice view of his pecs and shoulders. He did a set of ten and then lowered the barbell, panting. "So what'd he say?"
Josh snorted. "You don't see me talking to him this week, do you? He's a speciesist or something."
"Maybe he just wants someone who can bench three and a quarter."
The fox rolled his eyes. "Go. It'll be fun watching you get shot down."
The black wolf grinned and blew a kiss down at the bench. "Thanks." He grabbed his towel and strolled over to the corner.
The grey wolf overwhelmed the weight bench, the barbells like plastic toys in his paws. Rosco saw the plates more clearly now: at least four hundred, maybe five. He'd never been great at doing math in his head. The strain showed in the wolf's expression, a theatrical grimace with eyes squeezed shut as he hefted the barbell again. His nose twitched as Rosco watched. "Just a sec," he grunted. Slowly, he lowered the weight to the floor.
"What's that, five?" Rosco asked, using the higher end of his estimate to try to flatter the wolf.
"Five and a quarter," the wolf said. He looked up, startling Rosco with the clarity of his eyes, an otherworldly sapphire blue. "What do you bench?"
"Uh, three. And a quarter," he added, mentally assuring himself that if he had to, he could live up to those words.
"Not bad." The wolf wore black fingerless gloves, too. He adjusted the straps. "Been coming here long?"
"Two years." Rosco fidgeted. There was something unsettling about the wolf's tone, a lack of excitement at what should be an engaging flirtation. If he weren't aware of Josh's eyes on him, he would've taken the implicit hint and retreated to his workout. "You've been away a while. Josh says."
"Just back in town," the wolf said. "I travel a lot."
"Well," Rosco said in a rush, "there's a couple places over on the Calico Mall that just opened in the last six months...some nice restaurants and clubs. You oughta catch up on them. If you're just back, I mean."
Those deep blue eyes regarded him again. Black lips curved up very slightly. "I wouldn't know which ones are good and which ones aren't."
"Oh," Rosco said, "I'd be happy to show you." When the wolf didn't react, he said, "Or, uh, I could write down some names."
The smile became more pronounced. "Why don't you show me? Say, Friday night, sevenish, outside here."
"Sure!" Rosco broke into a grin himself. "What kind of food do you like?"
"I'm not picky. Somewhere where we don't need a reservation." He bent back to his barbell.
"Cool. Yeah. Okay. Um, I'm Rosco." He stuck out a paw, then pulled it back, because the other wolf had already started to lift the weight again.
"Drew," the grey wolf said, bringing the barbell to his chest. "I'll see you Friday. Oh, and tell your friend the fox I'm not a speciesist. He just needs to get a better pickup line than 'is it hot in here, or is it just you?'"
By Friday, Josh was sick of being teased about the line, and about Rosco's success, even though they didn't see Drew in the gym again all week. Maybe he was going in the evenings, Rosco thought, and had made the date for the end of his workout. On Friday at seven, though, the wolf walked up from outside, in a casual sportcoat and slacks that disguised his height. Only when he got closer did Rosco see that Drew was at least half a foot taller than his six-one. He still moved with confidence and graceful ease, winding his way between the trees on the sidewalk like a slalom.
The sportcoat looked expensive, in that 'carefully tailored to look casual' kind of way. Rosco felt underdressed in his polo shirt and jeans, but Drew didn't comment, just stuck out his massive grey paw and said, "Where to?"
They took his motorbike, a Dunston 450 with turbo and room on the back for Rosco to perch. Because Drew rode without a helmet, Rosco declined even when the grey wolf offered. "If you don't need one, I trust you," he said recklessly.
"I won't let you get hurt," Drew said, and Rosco, though he knew he was doing a stupid thing, believed him. On the back of the bike, wind flattening his fur as they tore through the streets of Riviera, he felt as though he were flying in a dream. Got to get me one of these one day, he noted to himself. Much better than riding his mountain bike everywhere.
The dinner at Venici went well, the dancing at Paradise Alley even better. Drew asked a lot of questions about Rosco's college education, why a sociology major was working in an art supply store, and why he felt so determined to lift. Rosco talked about improving himself and wanting to help improve others, how discouraged he'd gotten in the city, and his hobby of painting watercolors. "The job is just to get the discount on paints," he said, "because my paintings aren't good enough to sell yet. What about you?"
Drew showed him a sleek black pager. "EMT," he said. "I know all about helping people."
Rosco felt a small twinge inside him. "Y'ever get the same person again and again?"
The other wolf tilted his muzzle. "Not sure what you mean."
"Oh. I mean, like...someone who was hurt driving drunk, and you got 'em to the hospital and told 'em not to drive drunk again, only three weeks later there they are in another accident, reeking of Red Label..." He trailed off. "Stuff like that. People just don't want to get better."
"Sometimes." Drew nodded. "Sometimes people need help and just don't know how to ask."
Rosco fidgeted, not sure how to reply to that. "So, you off duty tonight?"
"On call. Apologies in advance if I get beeped. I'll drop you at home first if that happens."
"I can take the bus," Rosco waved in the direction of the tree-lined boulevard that was the main artery of the Calico Mall.
He didn't have to. At one-thirty, Drew drove him back to the gym and said casually that maybe the following Friday they should try the new Indian place they'd walked past. After a spicy meal and more dancing the next week, they sat in a 24-hour coffee shop until four a.m., and when they got back to the deserted gym parking lot, Drew wrapped his arms around Rosco and touched his muzzle to the black wolf's. Rosco pressed back against the warm, hard body and parted his muzzle, allowing a little more depth to the kiss. Their tongues touched, as they stood under the shadow of the trees, and then Drew broke the kiss and stepped back into the moonlight.
The two smiled at each other. Rosco knew, in that moment, that the promise of more on the third date had been made and agreed to on both sides. "How about the steakhouse next week?" he said.
"It's a date," Drew said, raising a paw as he got back on his bike.
Josh had almost stopped talking to Rosco, but at the news that he was going on a third date with Big Boy, the white fox's vicarious excitement overcame his resentment. "Promise you'll tell," he insisted. "We have an implicit contract in our friendship to reveal any and all salacious stories to each other."
"You haven't told me any stories in months."
"I haven't had any," the fox protested.
"What about that giraffe?" Rosco said.
Josh shrugged. "He could suck me off from across the room. Big deal. This is an Olympian we're talking about."
"I dunno," Rosco said, more to tease than anything else.
"If you don't," Josh said warningly, waving a paw around at the rest of the gym, "I'll tell all the rest of these guys about your date, and you'll be pestered every time you come in."
"You do that anyway."
"Yeah, but I use complete sentences and polysyllabic words."
"Too many words, you ask me."
"Okay, fine, you can paint me a picture if you want. I'll accept any form of artistic rendering, verbal or graphic. The more graphic the better." The fox grinned widely.
"We'll see," Rosco said, but of course he knew he wouldn't be able to resist. He could talk art with the store staff, but they (amazingly) were all straight, and besides that, they preferred talking about visits to the museum and the latest modernist movement to talking about their social lives. Josh was the friend who would appreciate date stories, and what was a good date without someone to tell the story to? Rosco'd already told Josh about Drew's voracious appetite and fastidious table manners, about his conversational habit of pausing as though he were checking everything he said before saying it, about his interest in painting and in social theory, about his motorcycle and his almost boundless energy.
"Where are you guys going to go?" Josh asked. "Near his place?"
"Hope so," Rosco said. "I sure don't want to take him back to my shithole apartment after dinner."
"Where does he live, anyway?"
Rosco shook his head. "I don't know. He just said "the western 'burbs" and changed the subject. It's okay, I didn't really tell him where I live, either. Figure on the third date we'll go to his place and I'll let him take me back to mine."
"Western." Josh rubbed his whiskers. "Like Colonial Heights? There's some good restaurants out that way. The firm went to one last year for our second quarter dinner."
Rosco lowered his voice. "I kinda blew my budget on the last two weeks. Any of them good and cheap?"
"For the amount he eats? You could go to Fields and just have a big salad."
"I'm not sure he's a salad kind of guy." They happened to be watching Drew work out that morning, the only day of the week he visited Steel Body. Both of them looked over at the wolf, now doing squats.
Josh said, with not a little envy, "He lifts that five and a quarter like it was nothing."
"Yeah." Rosco's experience with the wolf made him feel as though he should be able to offer some extra insight, but none came to mind, so he just enjoyed the sense of being an insider as he watched Drew heft the barbell over and over.
"He doesn't do regular sets, either," Josh mused.
"What?" Rosco turned to the fox.
Josh shrugged. "I mean, there's all kinds of workouts, but he always just does that five and a quarter. Ten, ten, ten, all his exercises."
Rosco looked back at the wolf. "Maybe he doesn't need to ramp any more."
"You always need to ramp," Josh said. "I'm telling you, he's an Olympian who was dee-queud. He doesn't want to bench as much as he can, for fear of compromising his disguise and instigating inquiries into his sordid past."
"You're just jealous," Rosco said.
"Hell, yes," Josh said. "I wish I had an ex-Olympian weightlifter boyfriend with a sordid past."
Rosco felt his muzzle and ears grow warm at the word 'boyfriend.' "We're just dating," he mumbled, at the same time appreciating that Josh was a good enough friend not to be jealous.
"Yeah, yeah." Josh picked up the barbell and stood. He bent over, lowering it to the ground. "Third date coming up. Don't tell me you haven't thought it."
He had, of course, in the nights alone in his bed while his paw worked furiously on his sheath, imagining Drew's body atop his, even thinking of the larger wolf when he passed a nice restaurant or a club on his rides around the city. He worried sometimes that the wolf wouldn't want to date someone who couldn't afford to go to the Calico Mall every week. Then he worried that the wolf went there with others, on non-Friday nights.
That worry never took, though. Something about the wolf's demeanor made Rosco sure that he wasn't dating anyone else. He hoped that he conveyed that about himself as well.
The following Friday, Drew met him at the gym and surprised him by saying, "You know, as much as I love the Calico Mall, it's a little expensive for an EMT. How about we just do Colonel Chicken takeout and have a picnic?"
"Sure," Rosco said. "That sounds awesome."
"Cool." Drew grinned. "I know a great park we'll have all to ourselves."
"Really?" Rosco tried to imagine a park in the bustling city of Riviera that would have a chance of being deserted. "I thought you'd just got back in town."
"Well, this is a bit outside of town," Drew said. "But it's only about fifteen minutes on my bike. If you can hold on."
Rosco stepped forward and put his paws on the larger wolf's sides, just above the hips. "Long as I have something to hold on to."
Drew leaned down and bumped noses. "We're set, then. Let's go."
Between them, they got four buckets of chicken; a stack of biscuits; a pint each of mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, and coleslaw; and a half-dozen chocolate chip cookies. Drew handed the immense bag to Rosco, who stuck his arm through the handles and got on the back of the bike. He held onto Drew's sides as the grey wolf kicked the starter. The bike roared to life, but Drew didn't take off right away.
"Do me a favor," he said. "Close your eyes?"
"For fifteen minutes?" Rosco said, thinking he was joking. "Where are you taking me?"
The grey muzzle didn't smile. "It's kind of a secret place."
"Oh." Now Rosco felt like an idiot for not taking him seriously. "Uh, sure."
It made sense, he thought, squeezing his eyes shut as they roared through the streets, that if there were a place Drew knew that they wouldn't be disturbed, he wouldn't want everyone to know how to get there. And he obviously trusted Rosco enough to keep his word that he hadn't insisted on a blindfold or anything, so Rosco didn't mind. His heart was racing fast enough in anticipation of the rest of the evening that he didn't need the rush of scenery going by. He could feel the wind against his ears, and flattened them against his head to keep the roaring to a minimum. It felt like Drew was going faster than usual. Maybe he wanted Rosco to close his eyes because he didn't want him to get nervous at how fast they were going.
The Dunstan was a great bike, though. He could barely feel the road as they tore through streets, around curves, the wind blocking out all other sound, except when Drew turned to ask him, "Doing okay?" His voice was barely audible.
He yelled back, "Yeah!" though he wasn't sure whether the other wolf could even hear him over the wind.
He knew when they turned onto the dirt road, though. Drew had slowed, so Rosco could hear the crunch of dirt under the tires as well as feel it in his butt. For two or three more minutes they drove slowly, the smell of trees and woodland filtering through the smell of wolf to Rosco's nose, and then they stopped.
"You can open your eyes," he heard Drew say, but he unflattened his ears first. He heard silence, which broke into the chirps of insects, the tired sunset songs of birds, and the rustling of small animals in the undergrowth. He opened his eyes to Drew's blue eyes, reflecting the bright orange spot of the sunset. Behind them, tinged with evening purple, the equally blue sky framed trees incandescent with golden light, to either side of a small lake. The smell of the park, the rich life of the lake and the steady woody aroma of the trees, reminded him of White Plains for a moment.
"You like it?" Drew said, eyebrows knitted together.
"I want to paint it," Rosco said, after a moment. "I grew up near someplace like this."
"Hattenville?" Drew said, with an edge of disbelief.
"No, no, White Plains," Rosco said. He waved at the lake. "Not as pretty as this, but lots of park land. If this were White Plains, there'd be a trail of beer cans leading back along the trail." He looked back behind the bike, but didn't see a marked trail there. "Is this Hattenville? Did you grow up here?"
"No." Drew looked relieved. "Hattenville's not too far from here. It's just a place I know."
"It's really pretty. You take lots of dates here?" Rosco smiled to let the other know he wasn't really jealous.
Drew nodded, smiling back. "The ones I like."
"So, third dates only?"
"And beyond." Drew grabbed him and pulled him close, and this time, they kissed for a long time, enjoying the full press of their bodies against each other. Rosco had both paws inside Drew's sport coat, firmly around the larger wolf's hips, while Drew's paws gripped his lower back through his t-shirt. He tightened his stomach against the ridge of the other wolf's groin and rubbed his own into Drew's leg.
They were both hard, Rosco's neck starting to hurt from being craned up, when his stomach rumbled. Drew must have been able to feel it through his erection, because he broke the kiss and grinned down. "Maybe we should break for dinner?"
"Mmm." Rosco felt his tail wagging, his smile wide. "Sure. Before it gets cold."
"Might be too late for that," Drew said, but the insulated containers had worked fairly well. They devoured the greasy, delectable chicken, sitting on the grassy shore of the lake next to each other, knees touching, arms brushing as they ate. They polished off most of the chicken and devoured the side dishes, and then lay back in the grass, side by side, licking their muzzles and paws.
"It's not Venici," Drew said, "but it's pretty good."
"It doesn't have to be Venici every night," Rosco said.
"Nah." Drew stretched, and finished the motion with an arm around Rosco's shoulder. Rosco leaned into the embrace, feeling his stomach twitch with butterflies rather than hunger now. "It's a nice night," Drew said. "And I've really enjoyed spending time with you."
"Me too." Rosco reached into the grey wolf's sport coat, in through his shirt, and traced his claws through the soft fur. Food had dulled the urgency of his passion, but not the desire. The feel of Drew's bare fur and the warm skin below it excited him, but in a warm, slow way rather than the rush of lust that had been brought on by their kiss.
The large wolf rumbled softly against him, bringing his own claws down to Rosco's belly, lifting the shirt so he could slide his claws slowly along the black-furred tummy. Rosco shivered at the light touch, leaning closer in and moving his paw further into the soft shirt. Feeling the thick cords of muscle around Drew's ribcage excited him further, both because he admired them and because they stood for the other wolf's toughness. It occurred to him that you probably couldn't get muscles like that working out one day a week. Resting his head against Drew's chest, he said, "Can I ask you something?"
The other wolf tensed. His paw froze on Rosco's belly. "Sure," he said, after a moment.
Rosco paused, reconsidering his question. Drew hadn't gotten this nervous about any of their questions before, and some of them had been pretty personal--ex-lovers, and such. Finally, he decided there was no way Drew could know what he'd been going to ask, so he went ahead and asked. "Are you a hopper?"
He felt the muscles under his paws relax. Drew rubbed his belly again, with a little too much force at first. "A what?"
"A gym-hopper. You know those guys who go to, like, six different gyms just to scope out the people there?"
The other wolf sounded amused. "I suppose you could say that. But I've only been going to Steel Body the last month. I'm more of a serial hopper, I guess."
Rosco undid one of the shirt buttons with what he hoped was casual ease. He ran his fingers along the lower edge of the wolf's ribcage. "You've got a great body, for only going once a week."
"I work out at home a lot," Drew said.
His abs were hard as rocks. No wonder, the position he was in, supporting Rosco with one arm and caressing his stomach with the other. "I'd love to have a home gym," Rosco said, "but right now I don't have room even if I could afford it."
"Oh," Drew said, "yeah, I just have some free weights. I mean, like a weight bench." His paw paused while he talked, then resumed its touch. There was something a little odd about the tone of his answer, as though he had been distracted.
"There's something nice about going out to the gym, though." Rosco let his mind wander with his paw, tracing firm ridges under soft grey fur while he thought. "I mean, it forces me to get out and deal with people."
"Didn't you study sociology?" Drew sounded amused, more firmly in the conversation now. His fingers pushed Rosco's shirt up further.
Rosco sighed. "Yeah. I wanted to..." The words "help people" trailed off before he could speak them. Here in this isolated place, with this big, solid wolf to nestle against, his stock phrases didn't feel sufficient. "I always felt different. I felt like I could see the things all my friends were doing wrong, but none of them would listen to me. At the time...y'know, this was White Plains, where flannel is high fashion...at the time, I just thought they were all stupid. So I took sosh so that people would listen to me when I told them what they were doing wrong, and I moved to the city to be around smarter people who didn't make those mistakes."
The lapping of the lake filled the silence that followed his remark. A breeze had come up as the sun sank below the trees, ruffling his ears. He rested his muzzle against Drew's chest, feeling lighter. When Drew didn't say anything, Rosco felt he had to conclude, "But, y'know, the people in the city aren't smarter. There's just more of them."
"Isn't it the ones who aren't smart who need the most help?"
Rosco squirmed in closer. "It's just so frustrating."
"At least," Drew said, "the people in the art store sound cool. And you have at least one friend in the gym."
"Josh is okay," Rosco admitted. "He keeps trying to get me to go to law school. The city's not a total waste. Just depressing sometimes."
"I know what you mean," Drew said. "I feel like an outsider too. It's hard to find people to really relate to. But that doesn't mean they don't need help."
Rosco started to say, "you found me," but that sounded too pretentious and mushy for the moment, so he contented himself with undoing another button, then flattening his paw warmly on the wolf's stomach fur. Drew squeezed him with a powerful arm, and went on. "I think I try to help people because I want them to like me."
Rosco reached around the wolf's stomach to squeeze him back. "That's probably not a great reason."
Drew sighed. "I know. But they still get helped, right? So does it matter? It's better than doing nothing."
"Did you have a lot of friends, growing up?" Rosco said. He vaguely remembered a large kid from his elementary school who had been called "Mammoth" and other, less kind names.
"Not really. I got teased a lot." Drew smoothed his fur, ruffled it, and smoothed it again. His fingers played with Rosco's pants, edging a claw along the fabric and the fur beneath.
"That sucks." Rosco took a breath, and let his paw slip further down the ridges of Drew's tummy, playing with the ridge of the wolf's hips, aware of the warmth of the nearby sheath, keeping his paw away from it. For now. His own sheath was pretty full, the anticipation of what was hopefully to come filling him with shivering that had nothing to do with the breeze. The light was fading faster now, and in the dim twilight, the sense that they were alone in the world crept up on Rosco. Wouldn't be so bad, he thought, just the two of us. "How did you find this place?"
"Saw it while flying over," Drew said. "In a copter. Figured out how to get here on the bike. The turn-off is kinda hard to see."
That wasn't the only thing that was hard, Rosco thought, as Drew's claws continued to tease just below the waist of his pants. "I can't see any turn-offs," he said, pushing his muzzle a little further against Drew's shirt to where it hung open, just brushing the ivory chest fur with his nose.
Drew rumbled contentedly, the sound almost like an earthquake under Rosco's cheek. His paw slid a little further down, finding the black wolf's hardness and exploring it lightly with just the tip of a claw. Rosco sighed happily to let him know the caress was okay, good even. He moved to unfasten the grey wolf's pants, not to brush the other's sheath in return, but so he could follow the line of his hip, the ridge of strong thigh muscles down the leg. He let Drew take the lead, shivering as the gentle fingers traced his outlines with claws, then pads.
"What do you like?" Drew murmured down to him.
Rosco grinned at the hesitant note. It felt good to know he wasn't alone in being nervous around new lovers. "This," he said.
"I mean," and now he heard the wolf relax, chuckle softly, "clothes off or on? Paw or..."
"Whatever you like," Rosco said. "Are people really picky?" But as he said that, he remembered Josh, who had to put a towel down on the bed before they even undressed, who interrupted to tell him how to adjust his grip, who practically gave him an eye doctor's "A or B?" until Rosco told him that either one was preferable to being asked over and over again.
"Some are." Drew chuckled again, his paw closing around Rosco's sheath and sliding up the long, firm shaft. "You'd be surprised." He slid his paw lightly up and down, and nuzzled Rosco's ears. "I like clothes off."
The black wolf grinned, and stuck his muzzle into Drew's shirt, rubbing his nose into the fur. "Fair enough." Rather than removing his own shirt, he slid his paw back up, undoing the rest of the buttons on Drew's and pushing the sleeves back over those massive biceps. The grey wolf watched him with amusement, letting go of his shaft only when he needed to let the shirt fall to the ground.
"Now you," he said, pushing Rosco down. He lifted the shirt over the black wolf's head, and then deftly unfastened and pulled his pants and boxers down over his ankles. Rosco watched Drew's eyes and smile widen as the smaller wolf's hard black shaft slid free to lie on his black belly fur. "Black all over?" Drew said.
Rosco indicated the white patch just under his chin. "Except for here, and, um..." Flicking his ears slightly, he turned onto his side to show off the white fur under his tail.
He heard Drew's chuckle, and for a moment wondered if the other wolf would just take him from behind. Thoughts flashed through his mind: how would it feel? Did he want it? They disappeared as Drew put a paw gently on his hip to return him to his back. "Very pretty," he said, and tossed Rosco's clothes into a pile.
When Rosco reached for Drew's pants, the larger wolf moved his paw aside. "Later," he said, and bent to nuzzle Rosco's sac. The black wolf lay back, looking up at the darkening sky in which new stars seemed to appear every time he looked, like the little jolts of desire that sparked with each touch on his sac and shaft. Like the stars, they accumulated inside him. He felt Drew's warm breath and then a firm, powerful tongue stroking him while paws held his legs down.
The motion of the tongue was like nothing he'd felt before, as strong and firm as a paw slick with lube. He hadn't thought he could come just from being licked, but each stroke of the tongue made him squirm and pant, his shaft tingling and pulsing. He arched his back, straining against those powerful paws on his legs, and amazingly (or perhaps not) he could not budge them, not an inch.
The restraint made it better, as his trapped muscles redirected their energy to his arousal. Resting back on his elbows was soon no longer possible under the attention of that tongue, whose licks traveled all the way up his spine and down to the tip of his tail. He felt the familiar gathering surge, gasped out a moaned warning, and then arched his back and thrust up, into the waiting muzzle of the grey wolf. Lips closed fast around his shaft, sucking as he came, while the paws held him fast to the ground.
He fell back with a gasp, panting as he stared up at the blanket of stars in the sky above him. They danced in his vision for a space, until two deep blue eyes obscured them. "Okay?" Drew's body loomed over him, barely touching, his presence strong and warm.
"Hell, yeah," Rosco panted. He ran his paws up the arms planted to the ground on either side of him. "That was fine." He grinned to show the understatement, tongue lolling out.
"Good." Drew smiled as Rosco's paws found their way down his sides to his pants, pushing the fabric down insistently. The grey wolf's sheath appeared, but Rosco didn't see it, only felt the tip brush his sac as it dropped between his legs. He squeezed his legs together, feeling the hard shape between them.
Drew got up to let Rosco push his pants down further, giving the black wolf his first view of the long, red member between his legs. Rosco made a show of appreciating it, sliding the pants down slowly, then looked up as he felt a lump in one of the pockets that was suspiciously pager-sized. "You're on call tonight?"
"Not really. I mean, always, but I'm supposed to be off." The grey wolf rubbed Rosco's ears, shaking his legs free of the pants. "Don't worry. If it goes off, I'll drop you off."
"Long as it doesn't go off in the next half hour." Rosco smiled, sitting up and brushing his paws down the sides of the other wolf, over the hips and around the firmly shaped thighs, to where Drew's knees rested on the ground on either side of his legs. The warm glow of his climax made his movements slow and easy, as he traced claws up the grey-furred thighs along the inside, slowly approaching the dangling white sac and the heavy red shaft above it. He teased the white fur with a claw, then slid up to the firm base and up further, where fur gave way to flesh.
Drew closed his eyes and shivered very nicely as Rosco wrapped a black paw around his length, leaning back on his other arm. The warmth between the two of them, trapped between their fur, insulated them nicely from the evening chill. Rosco closed his eyes, lifting his nose to drink in the scent of trees, the water, Drew's musk growing stronger to match his own. The crushed grass below his paw reminded him of the meadows near his home, where he would lie back alone until his mother's calls for dinner reached his ears.
He paused his paw's motion and opened his eyes. Drew smiled down at him, tentatively. "I'm a little...funny in what I like." He brought one paw up to ruffle the fur on Rosco's chest, then smoothed it back down.
Uh-oh, Rosco thought. Here comes the kicker. He perked his ears. "Funny like "ha-ha," or funny like "I could get arrested for this."?" As he made the joke, he looked around again at the isolated surroundings, the motorcycle resting against a nearby tree, and the joke seemed a lot less funny. He swiveled his ears, but caught no sound louder than the rustling of leaves or mice, no traffic or noise. It was probably safe to assume that if he couldn't hear anyone, nobody could hear him.
"Just funny like quirky," Drew said. He stood, lowering a paw to help Rosco up. For a moment they stood, eyes meeting, and then Drew licked Rosco's nose quickly. He turned around and pulled the black wolf's arms around him. "I like it from behind," he said over his shoulder.
Rosco could feel Drew's heartbeat, a jackhammer in the barrel chest. It comforted him to know how nervous the other was to be sharing this with him. "Okay," he said. "That's not so quirky."
Drew sank slowly to his knees. "How about if you kneel on the backs of my legs?"
The black wolf followed him down. "That's a little strange." He grinned. "You like to be ridden?"
"Sort of." Drew held his legs together, making it easy for Rosco to climb up on them. He reached down and around, finding the grey wolf's shaft still very hard.
"Ooh," he said. "You do like this."
Drew chuckled, with a nervous or excited tremor in the laugh. "Told you," he said, holding onto Rosco's other paw.
"Something tells me," Rosco murmured as he kept stroking, "that this won't take very long."
"No," Drew breathed, "probably not."
"I kind of like this too," Rosco said softly, his paw moving nice and slow to start. "I get to be nice and close to all these beautiful muscles...soft fur...this lovely scent you have...so unusual."
"Un...usual?" Drew panted. His body shifted, tensing and then relaxing.
Rosco inhaled. "Yeah. Everybody in White Plains kinda has the same scent at the bottom, you know? Sort of a mix of the fertilizer and poultry on the farms, and the loam and phosphorus in the soil, and the white oak and chestnut forest. You've got, mmm, some nice spices there to your musk." His paw worked faster, his own body starting to get into the rhythm, rubbing his bare chest and stomach up against the grey wolf's broad back. He could feel the quick breaths in the other wolf's body, as the fluffy tail curled up between Rosco's legs. He trapped it there, enjoying the shivers as it tried to wag.
The night seemed to close around them, the breeze growing stronger. Drew moaned his name back softly; Rosco heard it for an instant before the wind snatched it away. The hardness under his pads quivered, hot and slick as he stroked it. He could feel the sensations it sent through the large wolf under his knees with each pump of his paw, could feel the groans and staccato pants, and lost himself in the climb toward release.
He saw stars in front of him as Drew gasped and clutched more tightly at his paw, gripping it almost painfully. Then the grip did become painful, but no matter how much he wrenched his paw, he could not free it. He pulled himself more tightly to the other's rippling back, muzzle lodged between Drew's shoulder and neck. He could smell, could feel the growing arousal as his paw rode up and down the long shaft. It was no surprise to him when he felt the howl building in Drew's chest, when the body encircled in his arms shuddered and Drew's head snapped back onto Rosco's shoulder, because he could almost feel the climax coming himself.
Rosco felt the convulsions in the wolf's erect member, strong ripples under his pads, stronger than any climax he'd ever felt. The grey wolf let loose with a long, low howl, vibrating through his chest and Rosco's body. It made the black wolf's fur prickle in sympathy, brought a reflexive response to his throat. Before he could fully voice it, Drew's howl broke off into panting moans. The legs he was resting on swung forward, taking Rosco's support out from under him. The black wolf's legs dropped as well, questing for the ground and, impossibly, not finding it. Drew held him by the paw as he started to fall.
"Hey," he yelped. Drew moaned, shook again, and the ground came up to meet their paws.
Standing there on the cool grass, panting from the exertion, Rosco could almost believe he'd imagined that they were floating in the air. His paw was still clenched tightly around the warm hardness of Drew's erection, and they were both panting in the night air. It seemed as though nothing more unusual had happened than a nice paw job in a remote lake somewhere.
"What just happened?" he said, staying pressed close to Drew because it was more scary to move away, his hind paws still remembering the impossible nothingness under them. Also, the grey wolf hadn't let go of Rosco's paw yet, and though the grip was no longer painful, he still wasn't able to loosen it.
Drew sighed. He turned to face the smaller wolf, hanging his head. "Sorry," he said. He nuzzled between Rosco's ears, until Rosco pulled his head back to stare up.
"You're...we were flying." He peered up at the shapely muzzle, then down at the sculpted, naked physique. Light dawned. "WonderWolf?"
Now the eyes opened, impossibly blue in the dark of night. "I hoped you wouldn't notice until we were back on the ground."
"We were flying," Rosco repeated. "How high?" He could only remember staring at the stars above him, the night blackness all around.
"Just thirty feet or so. You wouldn't have been hurt. I wouldn't have let go of you." He squeezed Rosco's paw and then, as if just realizing he was still holding it, let go.
Rosco stepped back, looking at the grey and ivory body, and started to grin. "WonderWolf," he said, and slowly, his paw released the long, red shaft. "I just pawed off a Malakorian."
That just seemed to make Drew--WonderWolf--more uncomfortable. He looked at the ground and fidgeted. "Actually, uh, that's just the comics. They don't really know where I'm from."
"Oh." Rosco looked away, to the blackness of the forest. "Sorry."
"No, I'm sorry. I mean, uh, hang on." He walked over to his pants and pulled out the small device he'd said was a pager. "You're gonna have to sign a bunch of forms now, and..." He cocked an ear. "Oh, spit. I need to go."
There was something adorable about the mild epithet, Rosco thought, following him to the motorcycle. Drew pulled out a jumpsuit that Rosco recognized immediately: the tight black fabric with yellow sleeves and trim and the "Double-Double-U" logo in a circle in the center (how, Rosco thought, had he not made the connection between the uniform and Drew's gym clothes?). The large wolf stepped easily into it and pulled a domino mask out of his pocket, fastening it across his eyes. "Distress signal?" Rosco said.
"Actually, I, uh, it sounds like I shot down a plane." When Rosco stared at him, he said, "Just now. Clipped an engine. Got about thirty seconds to get to it." He kissed Rosco on the nose. "Stay here. Some folks from the League will be here soon. You might wanna get your clothes on." He bent at the knees and then flashed into the sky, leaving the words, "I had fun" behind him on the breeze.
The import of the words before that sank in as Rosco wandered back to his clothes. Shot down a plane. With his... The black wolf sat down, caught between giggling and terror. Imagine if he'd tried to suck off WonderWolf? He'd have a hole in his head right now. No wonder his paw wasn't sticky. He stared at it, trying to imagine firing off a round that could take down a plane. With a wolf-penis-shaped gun. The giggles won at that image. Of course, WonderWolf wouldn't have let that happen. He was so gentle, for someone with such powers. And now it all made sense: his secrecy, his careless ease with five hundred pound weights, his nervousness about being different. His dedication to helping people--well, his dedication, period.
The night was not too chilly, and Rosco was enjoying the breeze on his fur. He figured he'd hear the approach of the League people, and in the back of his mind he thought that WonderWolf might be back before they arrived. So he sprawled back on his elbows, naked, thinking again about Drew and how he felt, and how the knowledge of his identity changed things. Idly, he flexed his stomach, looked down at his sheath and remembered Drew licking there. He smiled. Heck, who wouldn't want to say he'd bedded WonderWolf? But was it the sort of thing he wanted to keep doing? It would involve him in all kinds of things that he had no experience with, not to mention sex being fairly dangerous all on its own.
On the other paw, of course, they'd been flying. He smiled at that memory. And the wolf had a soft streak that appealed to Rosco, a caring nature and an honest one. That was pretty rare.
"He's the cutest one in a while."
He caught the scents a moment later, coyote and wolf. When he turned, he saw a masked coyote in a black and yellow jumpsuit similar to WonderWolf's standing next to a small light grey female wolf in a business suit, holding a briefcase. Rosco dove for his pants. "We've already seen it," the wolf's light voice said as he scrambled into them.
"And taken our mental pictures."
"Hush, Blink," the wolf said. Rosco thought, at least that explains why I didn't hear them. The wolf walked toward him. "I'm Stormy Devoe, public relations, League of Canids. And this is..."
"Blink Coyote," Rosco said, standing to fasten his pants. He stared at the coyote's emblem, a stylized eye. The coyote gave him an exaggerated bow. The way he was eyeing Rosco...maybe he was really gay, after all.
"Yes." From the wolf's briefcase, she pulled a sheaf of papers. "Now. Having been made privy to the secret identity of WonderWolf, or at least having seen him without his mask on..."
"Or anything else," Blink chimed in.
"...we need you to sign this NDA, this confidentiality agreement, and this injunction. It prevents you from working with or in the presence of anyone identified by the League as a 'super-villain' for the next twenty years. Also there's this one last form."
Rosco stared at the paper. "All this is just to stop me revealing his identity?"
"Yes." Stormy produced a pen and handed the stack of paper to him. "Blink? A light?"
"Oh, sorry." Empty air filled the space where the coyote had been with a soft 'pop'. His afterimage had just faded from Rosco's vision when he popped back, holding a large lantern that cast a soft glow around it.
In the soft glow, Rosco shuffled through the stream of small print, catching the boldfaced headlines. Stormy produced another pen from her pocket and tapped five small sticky tabs protruding from the stack of paper. "Here's where you have to sign. Here, here, and here, and initial here, and then sign this."
"I want to see a lawyer about this," Rosco said, more because he felt he should say that than because he really suspected them of trying to put one over on him.
"I wish people would stop watching cop movies," Blink said.
Stormy's ears flicked. She gave him an almost apologetic smile. "Well, here's the thing," she said. "These forms are mostly formalities to protect us under the laws of this country, and to allow you to stand trial in the International Court if you violate any of the agreements. Actually, we are an independent private organization operating in this country with the permission of your government. Along with that permission goes a certain leeway with respect to the rights of the citizens."
"We can lock people up," Blink said. "Super-villains, henchmen, people like that, you know."
"The point is," Stormy said, "that someone who's in possession of secret identity information, but who's signed these papers, is not a threat to us." She tapped the sticky notes again, and looked up at Rosco.
"So what happened?" Josh asked him.
Rosco'd shown up late Monday morning, catching the white fox on his way out. He fell in next to Josh, shrugging. "I can't tell you." The newspaper in the kiosk they were passing read, WonderWolf Saves Plane From Mystery Accident, with a picture of Moxy Nightwing on the byline.
"Come on," Josh said. "It was your third date. Did you go all the way?"
"Well..." Rosco grinned. "Yeah."
"I can't tell you."
Josh punched him on the shoulder. "Why not? Did he make you sign an NDA?"
The fox's eyes widened. "You're kidding. He made you sign an NDA about sex?"
"It's more complicated than that. There was some other stuff."
"I'd hope so." They reached Josh's car. "So, are you going to see him again?"
"Not sure." Rosco leaned against the adjacent car.
Josh unlocked his. "You've already signed the NDA. Might as well, huh?"
That wasn't what Rosco'd meant, but he nodded. "Yeah, I guess."
The white fox paused with the door open. "So, this NDA. Was it, like, two pages?"
"More like fourteen."
Josh closed his eyes. "Oh, man. Did it have...subsections?"
Rosco grinned. "Big, wordy subsections."
"Ohhhhhh." The fox's tongue lolled out of his short white muzzle. "And disclaimers?"
"One big one. At least three inches."
"Oh, Fox." Josh put a paw to his chest. "You are one lucky wolf."
Rosco laughed. "Go home. I'll see ya tomorrow morning."
He walked to the gym, thinking about that last form they'd had him sign, and wondering whether he would see Drew again. Going through his usual workout, his eyes kept drifting to the corner where Drew usually sat, but the grey wolf didn't come in that morning.
Josh teased Rosco about the paperwork the next day, but let it go after that. He fell back on mocking the watchers. Friday morning, there was a weasel struggling with the dumbbells. "Bet he gives up after two more sessions," the fox said.
Normally, that was Rosco's cue to offer his estimate of the weasel's dedication. He found the remark, but it died on his lips. Drew--WonderWolf--hadn't come in all week, but something he had said nagged at Rosco's mind. He thought about how he'd written off all the people in the city as idiots. Rubbing his whiskers, he got up and walked over to the weasel.
"Hey," he said.
The weasel dropped the dumbbells, eyes wide. "Sorry," he said. "Did you need these? I can use something else, I'll use the smaller ones. I think these are too heavy anyway. Or maybe I'm doing it wrong. Anyway, I'll get out of your way. Sorry. Sorry."
"No, no." Rosco smiled, and sat on the bench. "I think you're starting a little heavy. It's more important to get the form right. Otherwise you're just wasting energy. Here, look." The dumbbell was light, for him, easy to show the right form for an arm curl. He ended up showing the weasel three more exercises and giving him some advice before walking back to Josh.
"Decided to become a charity worker?" the fox said acidly. "Don't waste your time. You know he won't stick with it."
Rosco shrugged. "Better than doing nothing at all," he said, and resumed his workout. Josh snorted, but his only comment was to tell Rosco to straighten his back more.
That evening, he biked back to the gym around seven, watching the sun sink in the sky, wondering in which direction the forest and lake lay. At ten after, he started pacing between the posts. Every gasoline rumble made him look up to see if it was Drew's Dunston. It never was.
What did he think, that WonderWolf just had every Friday evening free to spend with some no-name black wolf from the gym? The forms had made it very clear how dangerous it was for Rosco to associate with the hero, how important his identity was, how important it was to keep completely silent about, well, everything. And what could happen if he didn't.
He scuffled along the dirt outside the gym, dragging the claws of his hind feet. It had been neat, and it was something he'd always remember, but it was over. The part that made him sad was that he'd really liked Drew. The guy had a great body, sure, but Rosco liked the personality underneath, the determination to make something of himself and the gentleness that made him so careful about hurting others. He wondered now what might be in WonderWolf's past. As a kid, had he been careless? Were there accidents that haunted him, things nobody could explain but him? Rosco would have liked to have one last good-bye, one chance to tell him that he was a nice guy, a good person, doing vastly more good than he could ever have to make up for.
He whirled at the familiar voice, but the only other person in the lot was a skunk walking out of the gym, who glanced his way and then walked on. "Hello?" he said slowly, raising his nose to the air. Drew's unique scent was nowhere to be smelled.
"Just talk normally. I can hear you."
"Drew? Where are you?"
"I'm a little ways away. I can project my voice and focus my hearing. Very handy for secret conversations."
"I remember," Rosco said. "Super-hearing and super-howling."
Drew sighed. "Yes."
"Sorry." The black wolf scanned the parking lot, then the roof of the gym, trying to see where the other wolf might be hiding. "So, um, is this how we're going to talk from now on?"
"You didn't get scared off by the forms?"
"They're mostly for your protection. Anyone who associates with me could be a target. Most people can't take care of themselves against a villain."
"What about that last form?"
There was a pause. "Yeah. That's kinda for our protection."
"It's never come to that. Nobody who's signed that form has ever been...we've never had to exercise that option."
Rosco leaned against a lamppost. "It's still kind of freaky," he said.
"I understand if you don't want to see me. Even just talking to me like this puts you in more danger."
The black wolf shook his head and grinned. "Danger, schmanger. I'm not gonna let a few forms stand between me and...I just didn't know if you would want to see me."
"Well," the voice came softly over the wind, "if you're comfortable..."
"I just said I was." Rosco looked around again, and again saw nobody. "Seriously. Before I knew who you were, I liked the guy I knew. A lot."
He heard a sigh, breeze ruffling his fur as though WonderWolf had blown the sigh to him. Instinctively, he turned in the direction of the breeze and lifted his nose again, and this time he thought he caught just the faintest scent. "Really?" he heard.
"Yeah." He waved to a fox who was looking curiously at him, and tapped his ear as though he were on a cell phone. "Really."
From the street, a motorcycle turned into the gym parking lot, a Dunston 450 with a massive wolf aboard. Rosco stood straighter as it approached him, looking up into the deep blue eyes of Drew WonderWolf as the bike sputtered to a halt in front of him and sat idling. The large grey wolf smiled broadly. "You do have that cute white patch I wouldn't mind seeing more of."
"As long as you wear a Malakorite condom," Rosco said. He stepped into the range of the wolf's arms and lifted a paw to the soft black leather jacket, hanging open around the barrel-thick torso.
Drew laughed, and reached out to pull the black wolf close. "Maybe I'll put the team on developing one."
Rosco nuzzled the broad chest, and then lifted his muzzle to return the playful lick Drew gave him on his whiskers. "This place kinda sucks," he said. "Where should we go tonight?"
The blue eyes sparkled. "I know a neat little cafÃ© over in Chevarnier. Up for a trans-oceanic flight?"
"What," Rosco said, climbing on behind him, "we have to stay on this planet? Fine..."
Drew laughed again and kicked the bike to life. Rosco held on tight to the broad form as they sped through the gym parking lot, out to the street and into the bright, wide world.