“Maybe we should have sex,” Adam said, breaking the silence. He stared blankly at the ceiling while lying next to me, the faint glow of the hall night light slicing into the room. “Fuck me, Art. Call me your little princess.”
“Tempting,” I said, looking over at him. Though he was trying to lighten the mood, the concern he wore in his expression didn’t change.
“What do you think they’re doing in there? It’s been two hours.”
“Your guess is as good as mine.” I sat up and fluffed the pillow behind me before lying back down again. “Has Austin always been like that? I mean, you said he was a little fucked in the head when you first met, but like that?”
“Not quite this bad. There’s a sweet side to him, but I haven’t seen that person in a while. He’s always moody, and no one likes to be around him. I don’t even think he likes to be around himself.”
“This is really upsetting. The guy’s suffering.”
“I’m not good with this stuff. I didn’t even know what was wrong with him for the longest time. It’s not like I can just break up with him and leave, either. I’m literally stuck in a position I can’t get out of without some awful, lifelong consequence.”
“Suppose the kuu didn’t exist. Could you really leave him like this?”
Adam didn’t respond.
“I’m not saying you should stay in an abusive relationship, but if there’s a chance we can help him, it might be worth sticking around. Especially since you’re not dealing with this alone anymore.” I rolled out of bed and stumbled over Adam’s pants.
“Where are you going?”
“This is about to drive me crazy. I’m going to see what they’re doing.”
“I’m coming with.” Adam threw off the covers and followed close.
We crept toward the other bedroom, but the floorboards announced our presence. I pressed my ear to the door, but didn’t hear anything. I opened it a crack to see Simon sitting up against the headboard, sound asleep, his tongue hanging off to the side. Austin’s head was in Simon’s lap while the rest of his body was in the fetal position, his huge, clawed feet hanging over the mattress.
Adam pushed the door all the way open before backing away. I followed, turning off the light and shutting the door carefully behind me.
“I didn’t expect that,” I said, walking back into the bedroom, relieved Simon had successfully defused what could have been a terrible situation. I climbed back into the bed. “We should get some sleep. It’s almost twelve.”
Adam stood pensively in the middle of the room.
“I never thought to do that. He’s so big that I probably wouldn’t have been able to, anyway.” He pulled down the covers and shuffled next to me. “I’ve never seen him so calm. Did you see his smile?”
“Simon told me werewolves should have a pack. He said we do better when we’re in families, just like wolves. Austin’s been isolating himself for a while, and you’re the only one he’s been around.”
“Well gee, that makes me feel better.”
“That’s not what I meant. You’re a half-turn. He hasn’t been around other werewolves since the military, right?”
Adam nodded. “He said he didn’t want any more friends. I just thought he liked being alone.”
“Think about. He lost people closest to him with no warning. One day, he had a family and the next, he was completely alone. I think he’s still dealing with the trauma of losing what he had.”
“You sound like you’re speaking from experience.”
I shook my head. “I couldn’t imagine going through what he did, but I did lose my family, and I know what it’s like to be alone in the aftermath. Some people prefer to never feel that pain again, so they stay alone until it’s too much to handle. Human or werewolf, we’re social creatures. If we’re alone for too long, all the monsters in our heads get louder. I’d imagine it’s probably worse for him.”
Adam nodded, his watery eyes shimmering in the dim glow. “I was nice to see him smile.”
“Maybe tomorrow he’ll be easier to talk to. You should try to reach him.”
“Maybe,” Adam said before turning away. “I guess Simon’s pretty amazing.”
The scent of bacon wafting into my nostrils woke me up, but my eyes didn’t open until I felt another presence in the room. Austin was leaning against the wall with his arms folded, leering at both of us. He was wearing his torn army fatigue pants, which he never seemed to take off.
“What are you doing?” I whispered.
“Waiting,” he grunted. “I’m horny.”
“You’ve got a hand. You can either use it or wait longer. Adam’s asleep.”
He unzipped his pants, letting his heavy cock land with a thud between his thighs. Werewolf dicks were always a mystery. They’d either stay neatly behind a patch of fur on the rare occasions they weren’t using them, or they’d hang limp and exposed before getting hard. “You do it.”
I was too groggy to register what was happening at first, but I snapped out of it as irritation set in.
“Austin,” I said, my voice throaty. “It’s seven in the morning. I just woke up, and I haven’t had coffee. You don’t want me anywhere near your dick right now.”
He stepped closer. “You smell like you need it.”
“I can get it from Simon,” I replied, baring my teeth. The instinctual aggression surprised both of us.
“God dammit, what are you doing?” Adam asked, his voice slurred as he rubbed his eyes.
“You’ve got a duty to perform, soldier.”
“I don’t feel like roleplaying right now,” Adam responded.
“I’m not playing,” he growled, stuffing his cock back into his pants before leaving the room.
Adam rubbed his forehead.
“Well, looks like he’s back to his shitty old self,” I muttered, letting out a yawn before throwing off the covers.
Adam stood and removed his tight underwear, and folded them neatly on my nightstand.
“What are you doing?”
“These are the only pair Austin hasn’t destroyed, and he doesn’t look like he wants to gently slide them off of me.”
“Simon does that with his teeth sometimes.”
Adam clicked his tongue. “Simon’s a sex God; I get it.” He scrutinized my face for a moment. “I think you’re a lying piece of shit. You’re just trying to make me jealous over nothing.”
I pointed to the door. “I believe you have duties to perform, soldier,” I said, struggling to keep a straight face. This was petty of me, but the way he ragged on Simon’s age irritated me. For human guys, it made sense to question their virility, but for werewolves? They aged like expensive wine. Even Derrek was great, and if I had known him better back at that pool, I’d have enjoyed myself a lot more. “Maybe when you’re done, he might be willing to talk a little.”
“Doubt it,” Adam muttered, sliding his feet apprehensively.
“Just humor me. Try to strike up a conversation and see where it leads.”
We both stepped out into the hall, and I went straight while he turned off toward their bedroom, taking a deep breath before stepping inside. Guilt soon set in. The look he gave made me wonder what the hell Austin did to make sex so terrible. After stumbling through the living room, I stopped when I got to the kitchen, watching on as Simon flipped pancakes while humming ‘California Gurls.’
“Made you coffee,” he said without looking back. He knew I wasn’t the most cheerful being on the planet this early, so he would graciously give me time to caffeinate myself before the relentless teasing. This morning, however, I was in a different mood.
“Good morning,” I said, wrapping my arms around him from behind.
His tail wagged, tickling my abdomen.
“Now I’m a bit worried.”
I let out a soft laugh as I buried my face in his back fur. “You didn’t take a shower yet.”
“I was gonna last night, but you know…” He gave the frying pan a toss, flipping another pancake. “You hungry?”
“That depends. Are you going to sing all of Katy Perry’s hits while I eat?” I let him go and backed away toward the coffee pot. “How did you calm him down?” After giving my mug a quick rinse in the sink, I filled it to the top.
Simon slid a spatula under the pancake and stacked it on top of the others before pulling the frying pan off the flame.
“In the mood for a little story?”
I nodded. “Sure, why not?”
“I wasn’t a werewolf for very long when the second world war started, and in those days, humans didn’t take too well to us—for good reason. I didn’t have that many werewolf friends either, but I got to know a lot of human veterans while on the streets. These were the badasses that ran into a hail of bullets, explosions, and almost four million Nazi landmines on the beaches of Normandy. They also had to deal with what few weaponized werewolves ol’ Hitler had. It’s a big reason why they don’t use us in the military anymore. The shit they saw… what they experienced that day, I couldn’t imagine. You hear stories and see the movies, but it’s like trying to take the perfect picture of a mountain. The photo don’t look nothing like the real thing when yer standing at the foot of it.
“The guys that were the unlucky ones couldn’t cope, and they had a lot in common with our grumpy friend in there. Austin didn’t go into battle, but he experienced shit that I don’t think I’d have been able to handle very well, either. When yer own country does those things to you, it’s more than just betrayal. You lose yer self-worth, yer security, yer trust. When I was about your age, maybe a little older, I wanted to help these guys, many I’d end up calling my best friends. I learned what shell shock was; we call it PTSD now. I asked if there was anything I could do, and nine times out of ten, the answer was the same: listen. They needed to talk to someone, even if they didn’t admit it at first.
“I learned the signs and triggers, and what to do when I’d see ’em lose their shit. It probably wasn’t the best thing, but I’d sometimes help ’em get drugs to deal with it. It’s kinda how I fell down that path myself.” Simon paused and drew in a deep breath through his nose. “Then the nineteen sixties happened, and a whole new generation this country used up and forgot ended up in my circle of friends. That’s why I’m careful with him, Art. It’s always different from person to person, and when you put that kind of trauma in a werewolf, especially one as big as Austin, things get dicey. He’s the first for me. It’s always been humans.”
I stared at him, not really knowing what to say after that.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I whispered, taking another sip of coffee. “Why don’t you ever tell me more about your life?”
“Well, one, I can’t remember a lot of it, and two, I didn’t think you cared.”
“I do now that we’re living together,” I said, smiling at him. “Did you convince him to come with us?”
“Noooo-ooo,” Simon said, his ears falling flat against his head. “And don’t you dare bring it up, okay? We’ll go up there and explain things. I’m sure they’ll understand.”
“And if they don’t?”
“Then we should probably look for somewhere else to live.”
“I don’t think Derrek’s house is big enough for all of us.”
Simon shook his head. “He’s a last resort. Sure, he offered, but you could tell he wanted his house back to himself. I overstepped enough by dropping in on him like that.”
“Who the hell are you and what have you done with Simon?”
He grinned and sniffed the air before moving closer. “Wanna eat first, or fuck?”
“What do you think?”
Downtown was busy for a Sunday. People scrambled in and out of shops, and cars packed the parking spots along the street. Adam was contemplative, only giving one-word answers to questions, so I left him alone, but it was weird that Simon didn’t have much to say.
“I forgot to ask, but what fake name did you give the bureau for Austin?” I gave Adam a slight tap on the shoulder. “I don’t want to slip up in there.”
“Oh, you’re gonna love this,” he answered with a mischievous grin. “Bernie Blödmann”
Simon snorted, but didn’t say anything.
“You named him Bernie?” I said, the volume of my voice rising. “He’s going to kill you!”
“The last name’s the best. I was looking up the word ‘dumbass’ in a translator, and German was the most unassuming.”
“Dude. You gave that name to a government agency. Are you insane?”
“He never told me what name he wanted, so I gave him a suitable one.”
I shook my head, but was also trying to keep a straight face. “Did you guys talk at all this morning?”
“What do you think?” he responded with an eye roll. “He said ‘clean yourself up, soldier,’ rolled over, and that was the last coherent thing that came out of his mouth. Whenever I’d say anything, he’d grunt at me. Like usual.”
“What did you say to him?” Simon asked.
“Well, I was angry because he finished too fast and didn’t get me off—”
“That’s yer problem right there,” Simon interrupted. “Even if he sucks, why don’t you try strokin’ his ego a bit?”
Adam glared at Simon.
“Hey, just giving you a helpful tip here. I’ve done it all, and I’ve been with more werewolves, humans, and half-turns than I can count. Not all of ’em knew what the hell they were doing, but I learned how to get what I wanted while making them feel like they were the best lay I’d ever had.”
“How the heck do you do that?” Adam asked.
“Well, when it’s over, you tell him how amazing he was, then ask if he’d be up for tryin’ something new. This way, you can teach him what you want while buttering him up. That could lead to more conversation—and better sex. It’s a win-win.”
I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, the skin on my face so hot it could have boiled water.
“You okay, Art?” Simon asked.
“That was exactly what you said to me after our first night together.”
“Oooo,” Simon cringed, his ears folding against his head. “That wasn’t what you think. You were amazing.” He went to wrap his arm around my waist, but I shoved him away.
“Just shut up.”
Adam burst into laughter.
“Oh, like you’re any better,” I snapped.
“How many guys have you been with?” Adam asked, walking a little closer. “You wanna have a fuck-off? I’ll invite every werewolf in town and they can have a turn and take a vote.”
“God, you’re such a disgusting slut.”
Adam’s smirk turned to a sharp-toothed grin. “And that’s why I’m better.”
The robotic navigation voice on my phone alerted me that I had arrived at my destination. All three of us looked around.
“Where the hell is it?” Adam asked.
I looked at my phone. “Here, I guess.”
In front of us stood a single-floored, red brick building with blacked-out windows. It was like all the others, except plain with a rusty drop box out front.
“Even I’ll admit this is kinda janky,” Simon said as he strolled up to the entrance. “Probably don’t get much tax revenue here.” He opened the door and waved us through.
I stepped inside, with Adam and Simon following. The interior was just as plain as the outside, with 70’s-style terrazzo floors and harsh fluorescent lighting. An antique-looking marquee pointed the way to a few key areas of the building, but all I was concerned with was the arrow pointing to the mayor’s office.
“I guess we go this way,” I said, leading the other two down a quiet hall. “Where the hell is everyone? Hell even the city hall in Derrek’s town had a guard and metal detector at least.”
“I’m not complaining. There won’t be a line,” Simon said.
We stopped at a heavy oak door with a blank bronze name plate screwed into it. “New mayor?” I asked, giving the door a firm tug to open it.
The warm glow of floor lamps lit the way into a windowless office containing only a larger-than-normal desk, and an imposing office chair turned away toward a television in the corner. A large furry hand picked up a remote control on the desk, muting the tv which had been tuned to cable news.
“Welcome to Norwich,” a deep voice said.
“Yer shittin’ me. A werewolf mayor?” Simon said, bounding toward the desk. “How the hell’d you manage that?”
The chair turned, revealing an unusual-looking werewolf. He was a dark brown color with a neatly-trimmed ashy mane and well-manicured claws, but the weirdest thing about him was what he was wearing. It was a black suit tailored to fit his larger inhuman frame, giving him more of a mob boss’ appearance than a public servant. He stood, but was only a few inches shorter than Simon. His tail had a slight upward curl as it hung from a hole in the black slacks he wore. “Where’s the fourth?”
I opened my mouth to speak, but the clank of the door slamming open cut me off. A muscled-bound, blonde half-turn trudged into the office, swimming in a pair of torn army fatigues barely held up by a belt several sizes too large. In contrast, the black tank top he wore was a couple of sizes too small. As thick as he was, he stood only a few inches shorter than me.
“Looks like Bernie made it,” Simon said with a snicker. “Little Bernie Blödmann.”
“The fuck?” Austin snapped.
“You’re…here,” Adam said, sounding just as stunned as I looked. What was he doing? There was no way Austin would be able to hold that form, especially under this kind of pressure.
“I thought Mr. Blödmann was a werewolf.”
“Bl—Blödmann.” Austin growled, his face turning an alarming shade of red as he ground his teeth, staring Adam down. “Does it look like I’m a werewolf?”
The mayor studied Austin while cocking a brow. “Must have been a…clerical error.”
“Why are we here?” I asked, pulling the older werewolf’s suspicions off of Austin, at least for now. “Does everyone get such a personal welcome?”
He pointed to the hard, wooden chairs around the office before sitting back down, crossing one leg over his knee. Despite his intimidating demeanor, the bare werewolf feet sticking out of his fancy slacks made his try-hard, professional appearance kind of fall flat.
Each of us took a seat, except for Austin.
“Just blow, you old windbag, so I can leave. I got shit to do,” Austin said, growing antsier by the second. I wasn’t sure whether it was the mayor that made him nervous or the fact that a werewolf holding that form was hell on the body, at least according to Simon.
“Hmm,” he said, pausing on purpose for a full, uncomfortable minute, a menacing grin exposing his exceptionally white canines. “It’s not a coincidence you’ve ended up in this town. I’m sure you’ve heard about the disturbing federal laws that were passed a couple weeks ago.”
The four of us looked at one another. With everything that had been going on, the last thing I thought about was keeping tabs on the news.
“We’ve been kinda busy,” Simon responded, pointing to the mayor’s oversized blazer. “Aren’t you hot in all that shit?”
The older werewolf exposed the rest of his jagged teeth. “Absolutely.”
It didn’t take much deduction to figure out what was going on as Simon’s ears fell to the sides and his tail slowly slid between his legs. I’d been around werewolves enough lately to know the body language of embarrassment and arousal, and Simon displayed both. Hell, even I was a little turned on after that.
Simon and the others were overly submissive to this stranger, and it didn’t make much sense to me. Austin and Simon had no respect for authority, and Adam was always ready to bend over for any werewolf that showed even the slightest bit of dominance—but not this time. He sat straight up, frozen.
The brown werewolf narrowed his eyes. “I’m disappointed. Responsible citizens keep up with important current events.” He tapped a clawed finger on his knee. “To put this simply, each state has until the end of next year to get every werewolf off the streets.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I asked. “Everyone gets a place to live, and maybe they’ll relax the ordinances against half-turns.”
The mayor snarled, causing the others to flinch, but all I felt was annoyed by this obvious intimidation tactic. “This is not awesome. The law doesn’t go into detail, and it’s left to states to interpret, which means getting werewolves off the street likely won’t mean putting them in cute little houses with white picket fences. This law all but wipes out werewolf-friendly state policies some of us have busted our asses to get for decades.”
The four of us remained quiet as he continued to look us over. His eyes pierced through me as though he were looking for something hidden. He turned to Simon.
“Now, let’s get personal. How old are you? The state’s gotten sloppy with their records.”
“Don’t really know.”
The mayor tilted his head upward. “Forgetting vital information about ourselves is for savages, not cultured beings like us.” He sniffed the air. “You stink like the wilds, and we don’t trust the wild. Do you understand?”
The cryptic response made Simon’s eyes go wide. This dipshit goaded police officers in the city without batting an eye, but in front of this werewolf, he looked like a frightened puppy.
“And you?” He stood and took a step over toward Adam, who shot up out of his chair. “How old are you?”
The mayor frowned. “This is interesting,” he whispered, seductively slipping a finger under Adam’s chin before sliding a claw under his collar. “Who gave you the kuu?”
Adam stiffened even more.
The mayor put up a hand as if to stop the younger half-turn from answering. He strode meticulously toward Austin, the claws on his toes tapping a dull rhythm against the wooden floor. “This is quite the riddle. There are two half-turns in my office wearing kuu’s, and one who isn’t.” He leaned in closer, his teeth inches from Austin’s face.
Austin swallowed hard.
“And your age, son?”
“Twenty-four,” he said, puffing out his chest as he always did when he felt threatened, but his forced confidence shattered in seconds after he gave that answer.
I had expected the mayor to grin at the revelation, but instead he remained stoic. “How awful to be twenty-four and still an unbonded half-turn. One would say that’s almost…unheard of. Impossible, even.”
I watched on as Austin’s poorly thought-out lie fell to the floor in tatters.
“I don’t like this attitude,” I said, once again trying to pull the older werewolf’s attention. The way things were going, Austin was moments away from another breakdown. “You’re the mayor of a shitty little town no one visits, not the dictator of China. You can stow some of the act.”
He stepped over to me, and his furrowed expression unexpectedly softened. I wasn’t sure whether to be more concerned or relieved. “You’re quite the interesting half-turn. How old are you?”
“Twenty-two,” I answered, folding my arms. “And you can talk to us like adults. Just because I didn’t catch a news report doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”
The mayor rubbed the neat patch of fur under his chin. “I find twenty-two just as unbelievable as twenty-four, but you’re actually telling the truth. How do you not have fur yet, or a tail?”
“I’ve only been a half-turn for a couple of months.”
The reaction he gave was immediate and unexpected. Instead of moving forward to rile me like the others, he took a step back and opened his mouth. The mayor cleared his throat and nervously loosened the tie around his neck.
“Back to business,” he said, sitting back down in his chair. The rest of us, including Austin this time, took our seats. “The elder council is overlooking the construction of werewolf-only towns across the country, but that doesn’t solve the underlying issue. Norwich is an experiment, and because of this, every policy maker in the country is watching what happens here.”
“So that’s why we’re here.” Simon’s familiar cocky grin returned as his tone shifted toward the usual defiant. “You wanna make sure we’re on our best behavior.”
“You could say that,” the mayor replied, pointing to his nose. “And while we’re on the subject of behavior, it’s against the law here to sell alcohol to werewolves. You reek of it.”
Simon’s confident expression quickly shifted to a wide-eyed look of panic. “What?”
“No alcohol. No drugs. No exceptions.”
“Are humans still allowed to drink?” I asked. “Because that would be quite the shitty double-standard.”
“The council gave specific orders before I took this position. We can’t risk it, not with all the eyes on us.”
I went to say something else, but Simon put up his hand and sighed. “Alright. No booze or drugs. Anything else?”
The older werewolf turned to me for a moment, giving one last look before shaking his head. “Nothing more for now. Just keep out of trouble, and stay away from the woods,” he said, shuffling the papers on his desk.
Simon nodded without question, motioning to the door.
“Oh, and two more things,” the mayor said in a deeper voice, stopping us cold. “Don’t ever try to deceive me again. And you,” he pointed to me, “I want to see you here tomorrow. Alone. You intrigue me.”
“Why?” I asked.
The werewolf turned his chair toward the television, unmuting it before shooing us away.
“That will be all for today.”
As I opened my mouth to ask again, Simon grabbed my shirt and shoved me out the door with the rest filing behind.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I asked, jerking away.
“What’s wrong with me?” he said, picking up the pace while shoving me forward. “Yer in there talkin’ to an elder like yer the fuckin’ leader or something.”
“Elder?” My stomach dropped. “I thought he was just—”
Simon rested his hand on my shoulder. “You’ve got a mouth, and I’ll admit, that’s a big reason I like you. But a wise-ass attitude ain’t gonna do you much good if you ain’t got the strength to back it up.”
As much as I wanted to argue, I decided to let it go. The color returned to Austin’s face as he sped ahead of us.
“Enough about Art being stupid. I’ve got a funny story; wanna hear it?” Austin asked, looking back at Adam.
“Uh, okay,” Adam responded with an unsure, upward inflection.
“Back when I was in the marines, they sent me out of the country for a little while. You wanna know what country they sent me to, ADAM?”
Austin’s teeth grew sharper, and his fur thickened as he shifted back into his werewolf form.
“Germany!” he barked out, leaning close to Adam’s face. “That better not be the fucking name you gave to the bureau!”
Simon snorted again.
“What’s wrong with the name? You’re blond and you look kind of German.”
“Aw come on. Adam was tellin’ us earlier how amazing you fuck,” Simon interjected. “Just thought I’d let you know.”
Austin’s hackles lowered as he regained some of his composure. “That better not be sarcasm.”
“Course not. Sex and food are the two things I don’t bullshit about.”
After a minute or so of what seemed like deliberation, Austin gave a half-cocked grin. “Damn right I’m good.”
“Yeah, you are just… so good,” Adam cut in, his tone unconvincing as he unnaturally hurried the conversation along. If Austin wasn’t so dense, he would have picked up on it. “I was thinking, maybe we could try something different tonight.” He gave an occasional glance to Simon, who discreetly nodded in approval.
“What’s wrong with what I normally do?”
“Nothing, but I think we could switch it up. Maybe… go slower?”
Austin glared at Adam for a little while, but his irritation quickly faded. “Maybe. What else do you want me to do?”
Holy hell. It actually worked. I didn’t know whether to be super annoyed or impressed.
“Well, you could try using your tongue more.”
“What do you want me to do with my tongue?”
“When we get home, I’ll show you. Deal?”
“Hmm,” he said with a grunt before slipping an arm around Adam’s waist in what at first seemed like a sweet gesture. “Deal.”
“Ow!” Adam shouted.
“That’s right. Don’t think I’m letting you off the hook for that name, you little shit.”