Lap Dance: Life’s Journey #4

Werebear’s Tale:  Life’s Journey

Part Four

Lap Dance

Rusty, Mitch, Norman and Walt had finally made it to the bar after a few wrong turns and failed attempts at finding the place with their smart phones.  Inside, they found Robert and settled at the table. 

“Where’s Vic?” Norman asked. 

Robert pointed with the beer bottle. “Out there, trying to get a piece of Bear ass from that Cub in white.” 

“Oh shit,” the four said in unison.  As they turned, they saw a tussle unfolding between a much smaller Bear and an older, much bigger Bear intent on meeting Matt’s challenge.

“Come here Cub!” Vic growled. 

Matt just smiled at him and continued to grind on some of the Bears he’d met earlier.  Matt was fast and countered the grabs and holds that Vic attempted.  He was not even looking at Vic as he did so.  Matt was lost in his second set of senses, it was intoxicating to him.  The colors and energy flow was like alcohol.  He was drunk on it, getting lost in the warmth, feeding on it.  He was starting to glow. 

In the few years since his change, he had listened to Vic’s advice and was now applying it.  He was dancing with his inner music.  Hips moving, like a belly dancer feeling his way around, sensing the energy in the room, reading the movements of Bears around him.  He was moving with a grace on par with Vic, still a little bumpy, but he was starting to master it. 

The scent was becoming thicker on the dance floor.  Vic had tunnel vision.  He was solely intent of getting a hold of Matt and staking claim to that little Bears tight ass.  He finally got a hold of Matt at the base of the stage. 

“Got yah,” he growled, slamming Matt against the stage with his body.  Vic was easily a foot taller than Matt and engulfed the smaller Bear.

“Told you twice old-Bear, you shouldn’t try to take what’s not yours,” with that Matt slid down, turned grabbing Vic by the waist and slammed him up and onto the stage.  Matt was on top of him, knees on his shoulders, grinding around, pinning Vic down.

“How the heck did Matt just throw and pin Papa that fast?”  Walt said mouth agape. 

“Did we not tell you in the car? You need to worry about the other Bears, not Matt,” Norman and Rusty retorted. 

Leaning down to the pinned Bear, “The show is about to begin, you want a ring side seat, or you want to be the circus master?” Matt grinned.

“You decide,” Vic relented seemingly in a daze and rose up on his elbows to look at Matt.  Matt’s eyes were bright; there was a light green luminescence around him, barely visible.  The music changed and someone turned the lights on the stage.  Hoots, hollers, catcalls; all forms of strip club obscenities erupted, as the area around the stage was crowded with Bears.

   Matt grabbed the pole and started to grind, dance and move, like water over a waterfall.  Undoubtedly it was the muscle control gained from his change, but a few knew that in a life far removed, he had danced to put food on the table.  The crowd grew; small shoving matches started below the stage as the scent reached a thickness that could almost be seen.

As Matt moved, he motioned for Vic to get up.  “On your knees,” growled the smaller Bear.  Vic complied and came over. 

Matt started to give him the Bear equivalent of an on stage lap dance, Vic kneeling down with Matt moving around him, grinding and rubbing on Vic’s ever expanding erection; tweaking his nipples, rubbing his chest and head.

Vic grabbed Matt’s shirt. “Tear it off,” Matt said in a low growl.  The crowd went nuts and Matt worked both the stage and Vic for all they were worth. 

It was obvious that Matt had put some ample beef on his small frame since he changed.  He was well muscled and compact.  The small belly that showed through the shirt was the extent of the fat on his body, the rest was hammered steel.

Water was thrown on stage, which made the show even better.  The crowd grew from all corners of the bar; they were the center of attention.  As Vic ripped and clawed and Matt grinded away on him, the older Bear had an orgasm in his pants.  The crowd went nuts again.  Matt looked down and grinned wide. 

“Took you long enough.  Had you right where I wanted you … Silly old Bear, remember Tricks are for kids!” Matt leaned down, kissed him deeply, turned and loped off the stage leaving Vic on the stage, soaking wet with a load in his pants. 

Luke and Matt spotted each other; Matt smiled wide and ambled over to his Bear.  They kissed long and Luke lifted him off the floor.  Matt wrapped his legs around him and the crowd went nuts again.  Luke ripped what was left of Matt’s jeans off, slammed him down hard on one of the tables, loud enough to bring the bar to silence, and proceeded to stake his claim to his little Bear’s ass. 

Vic made it back to the table a few minutes later.  Everyone just looked at him, Vic looked at them and turned his hands up and hunched his shoulders in that I don’t know what just happened, but I’m not complaining look.  The table erupted in laughter. 

“Papa got pinned, Papa got pinned,” Walt chanted.

“Yes I did,” Vic replied while looking back over to the couple making out in front of the crowd.  He thought to himself ‘I’ll never underestimate that Bear again.’

Luke finished with Matt, to the delight of all who watched.  He held his little Bear close and kissed him.  “How was that lover?” he whispered.

“It was great big Bear, can we do it again?” With a shit-eating grin Matt laughed and hugged his Bear.

The barkeep came out with a towel and Matt wrapped up. Matt rode back to the hotel on Luke’s lap, curled up wrapped in a towel, rubbing the collar as he sat.  Luke went to take the collar off.

“Leave it.” Matt said.  There it would remain for 15 years.

Go To the Principal’s Office

The next morning, downstairs, Matt and Mitch were having a conversation, “Ok I understand that we’re all in the Ursine family, but what do you make of our Phylum or Suborder?” Matt asked. 

“I’m trying to work that out, but without making tests that would cause some suspicion it’s just a guess.”  Mitch responded, holding back a little from the new Bear.  Mitch felt his fascination and thirst for knowledge was a positive trait, but Matt still resembled a Cub in mannerism.

“I think it’s a genetic marker that decides who is a Bear and who is not,” Matt said, obviously excited.

They sipped espresso and ate some sweets from the hotel buffet.  “I’m really looking for a comparison of how we come out the way we do.  Is it a recessed gene that’s awakened by the change?  Does everyone carry that gene?  I’m sorry, since my change I’ve started to consume as much material on genetics as I can.”  Matt said with a bit of fluster in his voice. 

“Don’t worry, we have forever to figure it out. “ Mitch replied, knowing that the Cub was onto something.  He marveled at the young ones ability to consume information, process it, and use it. 

“I’m also searching for our history, our lineage.  Do you have any idea where I can begin?”  Matt asked, brimming with excitement.

“No, I’m searching for the same thing.  My best guess would be to find the old ones; speak with the older Bears,” Mitch said as his phone beeped.

“Well, it looks like everyone is up and ready to go.  Give me a hug I’ll see you at the gathering,” Mitch whined, getting to his feet.

“Sure, looking forward to it,” Matt replied, hugging him tightly and inhaling his scent deeply.  Matt sat back down to make a few notes in his phone.  He thought to himself, ‘must find the old ones.’ 

It was time to leave and pack; Matt hurried back up to the room and started to pack their things.  Luke was still asleep, but opened one eye when he entered the room.  He was still in full Bear form with all four paws hanging off the bed.  The bed was king size, but it was consumed under the massive Polar Bear.

“Hey, time to get up Polar Hubby. Rise and shine!”  Matt said, tugging on Luke’s paw. When he didn’t move Matt walked over to the window and threw open the curtains.  The light instantly flooded the room inciting a grunt and an attempt to roll over from Luke.

Matt got a chuff and grunt from Luke’s massive form, “Bullshit, you are no more hung-over than I am!  Get your furry ass out of the bed and into the shower, NOW!” with that Matt thumped his Bear in the nuts. 

That got him up; there were more chuffs and growls, but mostly growls.  “Whatever, in the shower,” Matt said while he hauled him off the end of the bed by his hind paw.

A knock came from the door, and Vic announced himself outside.  “Come on in,” Matt said. 

“Hello Luke,” Vic remarked as he entered.  Luke changed back, hugged his brother and padded off to the shower. 

“I wanted to ask you about last night,” Vic said, turning to face Matt.

“Last night is the past, all is forgiven, no hurt feelings.  I’m glad that we got to play a little, you’re pretty fast,” Matt rattled while tossing things in a duffle bag. 

“I’m more curious as to how you are so fast and how you moved like that?” Vic questioned. 

“Hey, you’re senior Werebear don’t you have all the answers?” Matt retorted.

“No Matt, you weren’t even looking at me last night.  How did you get away so easily?” Vic questioned, annoyed.

“Um … I don’t know. I just went with the flow; I can feel it when something moves around me,”

“Like Rusty?” Vic asked taking a seat on the edge of the bed.

“Not quite, I have no determination of what it is just that it’s moving.  When I center myself and relax is when it explodes in my senses,” Matt said while trying to pack, bending over in front of Vic, wiggling his rump a little

“Stop that,” Vic snapped, “What do you mean sense things?”

“I can feel you, okay! What do you want me to say?  Huh? That I can feel every freaking living thing around me from dogs to the humans.  You want me to tell you that it’s maddening.  You want me to tell you that it seems to be getting more acute?  You want me to tell you that the only peace I get is when I’m around Luke?  HUH, what do you want me to say?”  Matt’s nostrils flared as he spoke.

“I think we need to talk to the Elders a bit more.  You seem to be changing, even after you changed.  I know that sounds crazy, but it seems that way,” Vic let the last part roll out. 

“You go right ahead and do that.  Go right ahead and do that,” Matt was almost snotty to Vic, his frustration evident in his voice. 

Vic got up, walked over to Matt, hugged him tightly and walked out of the room without saying a word. 

Not long after this conversation the groups of Bears had packed and checked out of the resort.  Matt and Luke were going to stay the night in the city and see a few more museums and art galleries.  Matt had seen a few thrift stores on the way to the bar the night before and wanted to check them out as well. 

They were both relieved after their night out; it cemented their bond and allowed Matt to grow.  He kept the collar Luke gave him and wore it with pride.  The single metal ring actually had a recessed pocket that it slid into, so the collar looked like a very fashionable choker necklace.  On further inspection Matt realized it had the names of their children engraved on the gold and silver plates with an inscription on the inside, Forever and Always your Bear —Luke.

They were both still very, very apprehensive about the gathering.  Even though this week went fine the Bears still had to act semi-controlled because of the humans in the area.  They both wondered how they would act around just Werebears.

Vic walked aimlessly, lost in thought.  He found himself on a top balcony of the hotel watching the procession of Bears loading up and leaving the resort.  He stood there watching until he saw Luke and Matt leave, and then he made a call.

“Boris, it’s Vic.  Matt has started to change.  Yes … it’s begun. No … no, I didn’t tell him.  We’ll have all the time during the week; I think it’s best for us to do it together. Okay, I’m headed out I’ll see you soon,” Vic huffed as he closed his outdated flip phone and made his way to his bike.  Matt was changing; it was part of the process.  Vic was deeply worried about what keeping the truth from Matt would mean.  How would it change the bright, compassionate, loving Bear that he is?

When Bears Cry

The proud parents of their human child, Matt and Luke were beaming as they listened to the holiday concert.  Seated to their right were their sires, Rusty and Norman, and to their left was Vic.  It was the height of the holiday season and all the bears were stuffed from a lavish dinner, lulled into a full belly, nap time mood by the music and warm surroundings.  That is, all of them except for Matt; this pocket bear was radiant in his excitement. During the concert, each Bear would rub the other gently. The physical contact was a sign of great affection in the group, and an outward testament to their commitment to each other.  They all stood as the audience took part in the last holiday carol.  At the end deep, warm, snuggling hugs were issued in the group.  They all remained in their seats until everyone had gone and Susan found them.

“Hello Dads and Uncles how’d you like the show?” asked Susan, grinning from ear to ear.

“It was as if angels were heralding the coming of the babe,” replied Rusty, giving a short bow as he did so.

“Thanks! I’m glad you liked it, but let’s get home I hear the snow is falling hard, and the highway will probably be closed soon.”

All the Bears made some light talk and hugged Susan as they gathered coats and headed for the door.  Walking back to the vehicle the snow was falling hard, but the wind was almost non-existent.  This gave the drifts an almost angelic, web like quality as the snow fell from the sky.  Matt and Luke were leading the group, ahead by a good ten paces and the others were trailing behind.  Susan had Vic on one arm and Norman on the other.  She was telling them all about the college she picked out and how fussy her Dads were being about her living arrangements.

“Uncles, can you please get the papas to ease up a little on the arrangements?  They already found the apartment, but they want steel doors, alarm systems and cameras put in,” Susan pleaded as she hugged them even closer.

Vic chuckled, “I’ll see what we can do, but you know your Dads better than we do.  I’m sure they are only trying to watch out for you.”

“I know, I know … say, Uncle Vic, would you dance with me?” she asked looking up at him.  In an instant Vic spun her around and started to dance down the sidewalk with her.  It was an old dance, ballroom by today’s terms. It was elegant and gracefully done by the largest of the group; for Vic’s size, he was graceful and articulate, polite, mannered, and devilishly handsome.

Arriving at the car before the rest of the group, Matt popped the hatch of SUV and started hauling out his pack and two other large duffle bags. The duffels were stuffed full, but could easily be carried by the Bear. Before the others could arrive Matt hefted his pack, snapped the latches, grabbed the other duffels and hurried away across to the park that they were parked adjacent to.

“Where’s he going?” Rusty asked.

“He’s on a mission, the same one he has been on for a long time,” Luke responded, his chest popped out with pride and adoration.  Matt had never quite cut ties with his military background; he attempted to keep a low, non-descript profile, and help wherever he could.

“Explanations in the car please, it’s cold out here,” Susan quipped.  In truth, she was the only member of the group that was cold.  The Bears around her had partially shifted under their clothing, an added layer of fur always helped keep warm in the snow.

In the suburban they all chatted as the vehicle warmed and the windshield cleared.  Vic and Norman took the keys and settled in to drive the group home.  Luke and Rusty were in the second seat and Susan sat in the rear. The Bears chatted in amongst themselves, and Susan immersed herself in returning an avalanche of emails and text messages.

“Okay spill it! Where did Matt go?” Rusty nudged Luke as he asked.

“I’m not really sure.  This time of the year he scavenges every thrift store for three towns around for winter clothes and then gives them out.  He makes blankets with a core of insulator material and gives them out on snowy nights.  I think that’s where he is now.” Although Luke spoke with pride in his voice inside he was hurting, he wanted to be with Matt, but doing this kind of work was hard for him.  Luke still carried painful memories of his human family, which brought with them feelings and thoughts that were almost crippling.

“How will he get home?” Rusty asked as he looked out the clearing window at the snow as it fell heavy on the ground, covering Matt’s tracks.

Luke chuckled softly, “Um …  Matt will more than likely beat us home. That Bear knows all the paths and can move around this city easier than most.”

“Hmmm, I want to follow him and see what he’s doing” Rusty said and shifted in his seat.

“Okay, you have fun with that.  Remember, there is cider in the warmer and toffee for nibbles, make sure to hurry home!” Luke said and leaned back to hug Susan.

Rusty leaned forward and whispered something in Norman’s ear, they looked at each other for a few seconds and shared a smile; Rusty leapt from the vehicle and started off in the direction he had seen Matt leave in.  He hurried hoping to beat the snowfall that had just about covered the tracks.  After a few blocks he spotted a homeless person wrapped in a silvery lined blanket.  Following a trail of blankets, he looked up at the street signs.  They were headed toward a veteran’s hospital located on the outskirts of downtown.  The area was prone to some level of violence and many of the homeless people living on these streets were veterans.  These men and women served in various wars, in all services, and in all conditions.  However, for whatever reason they had all found their way here, to the hospital and treatment center.  Adjacent to the hospital was a shelter and soup kitchen, which was where Rusty finally caught sight of Matt; in a side alley a block away from the soup kitchen.  Matt was leaning down over someone; something deep inside told Rusty to stay back and watch.

Matt reached down and cradled a limp form to his chest, and started rocking back and forth.  First Rusty felt a tug in him, a deep sorrow that he had never quite experienced.  Then he felt a burst of emotional heat.  He saw other homeless people come to Matt, each reaching out to touch him.  They each laid a hand on him and then on each other, forming a living chain.  Then something amazing started to happen; soft wisps of light formed around the group, moving to Matt and then towards the form he was holding.

Rusty instinctively stepped forward to stop Matt; he must not do this, not publicly like this.  These people were not kin they were humans.  As he eased nearer the others watched him closely.  The homeless people in the alley rose and moved, looking at Rusty as he made a slow advance on Matt.  As he got closer he saw Matt, who was almost fully into his half Bear form, tears streaming down his muzzle as he was licked the face and neck of the elderly man he was holding.

Rusty made it to his side as he released the man and laid him down.  The man was breathing and conscious, but Rusty could tell he was dying.  Matt took his hands and licked the knuckles that were skinned and bruised, the cuts closed as he did.  The man looked up at the half-bear/half-man, smiled and spoke softly.  “Let me go home, I miss my family.  Just let me go home.”

“No. Not like this … not like this.  Who did this?  Who … why?” Matt muttered through his tears and clenched teeth. The wisps of light grew stronger and began to circle around the two.

“Let me go, I just want to go home to them. I’m tired of living,” the man whispered again as he reached up and caressed the muzzle of the Bear.

Matt gave a soft chuff and one by one the people took their hands away until it was only him and the man lying in his arms.  Slowly the light faded from around them, centering on Matt’s single paw, rested on the man’s chest.  As Matt looked into his eyes he turned his paw over and the light floated up away from them, disappearing as the man took his last breath and left this world. Everyone in the alley knew what had happened.  They all started a low hum, which built into a drone of sadness punctuated by a low roar from the little Bear kneeling on the ground.  Then, as the hum faded, the people that had gathered around slowly meandered away.  Matt shifted back to his human form and looked up at Rusty; there was a burning in his eyes, something had snapped inside him. The heat Rusty had felt earlier blistered in the air, building like water gathering behind a dam before it burst.

“Mind telling me what the fuck just happened?” Rusty demanded.

“A veteran died at the hands of some street punks, and I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t save him. He was injured too much … my skills not developed. I failed him,’ Matt looked away from Rusty and down at the body of the human.

“What do you mean help? What are you talking about?” Rusty’s confused voice steadily raised in octaves, he could not grasp what he had seen before him.  “Why were you in half form?  Why did they not run away from you?  Matt, what the hell is going on?”  Rusty’s voice was starting to rise into a yell. Drawn in by Rusty’s voice the people in the ally started to gather around them again, pushing closer and a woman stepped forward from the crowd.

“Stop yer yelling, Chief helped us through this winter; can’t ya see someone just died? You need to show some respect!” The small woman scolded as she looked up at the Rusty, her eyes bright and devoid of fear, determined to stop Rusty from making his racket. 

“Stay out of this. He does not need to be here, he doesn’t need to do this.  Come on, we need to leave,” Rusty reached down to grab Matt’s shoulder and two people moved between them, blocking Matt from his reach.

“We said he goes where he wants to go, and how he wants.  You’re the intruder here not Chief,” said the woman as others came forward and formed a human blockade between the two of them. 

Matt looked up over his shoulder then reached down and scooped up the lifeless body walking out of the alley toward the rear of the Hospital. He didn’t say a word to Rusty, not really caring what he thought or what he did at this point; a friend had died, a comrade.  The person he was holding had served alongside Matt many years ago.  He had saved Matt’s life, pulled him from the wreckage of a vehicle after an IED hit it. Here. Matt had found him a few days before, homeless and alone, he had brought him to the hospital hoping he would find the help he needed. But, instead this was his payment for the service he had done for his country.  To be beaten to death by some punks looking to videotape a, Hobo Fight’; it sickened him to his core.  He arrived at a small door at the rear of the hospital.  He laid the lifeless body down on the stone bench, crossing the man’s hands across his chest, and straightening his dirty worn clothing.  Standing, Matt came to attention and rendered a slow final salute to his fallen friend.  Then, nodding his last goodbye he walked over to the door and keyed the intercom.

Rusty had found Matt, but stood back just close enough to hear.

“Hello, can I help you?” a crackly voice came over the intercom box.

“Joe, it’s Matt.  Let me in, a warrior has fallen and needs to be at rest … can you help?”  Matt asked resting his forehead against the cold brick wall.

“On the way,”

A few seconds later the door opened and the two conversed quietly; a hug was exchanged between the two and then Matt walked away toward the park in front of the hospital.  Snow was falling again, and the humans were retreating for cover. However, the Bears were not hampered by the snowfall or the cold.  By the time Rusty caught up to Matt he was sitting on a park bench, under one of the park lights, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, rubbing a set of dog tags.

Rusty sat down beside Matt, choosing to speak first.  “I don’t know why you are doing this for these people, but you need to stop.  They are not kin, and you run the risk of exposing yourself and us,” he paused, waiting for Matt’s reply. After a gap of silence, “Are you listening to me?”  Rusty said getting annoyed with Matt’s almost stoic, detached, and seemingly cold nature.

“Why did you change me?” Matt asked coldly, gritting his teeth, his eyes closed tight.  His body tensed gently under his cloths. The world around him erupted in color through his closed eyes.

“The Great Bear told me too.”

“Did he ever say why?” Matt questioned, his head still down, his fingers still rubbing the dog tags; feeling the energy of the man that had just died, smelling the scent left on them, determining which scent was his lost friend and which was his prey.

“He said you would help and protect our kind. He said that we would need your skills,” Rusty spoke softly as he moved closer and leaned down in an attempt to meet Matt’s eyes.  For a brief second he thought Matt was crying, noticing a single drop of blood at the creased corners of his eyes.

“Well fuck me! Bears only, huh? Is that what you really think?” Matt chided, shaking his head from side to side like he was trying to get the words out of his ears. 

“Listen, what I saw back there was, well … weird even by our standards.  You cannot do that anymore, you are taking too many risks. We need to get you home,” Rusty’s face and demeanor quickly shifted to aggravation at his Cub rather than understanding of what was going on.

“I’m not going anywhere, I still have business to take care of tonight,” Matt whispered as he grabbed the dog tags tight, pressing them into the palms of his hands while bringing them up to his forehead.  Rusty watched this thinking it was an odd prayer he was whispering in a different language, but he waited until the Moon Bear was done. 

“No.  You need to go home and think about things, you can’t just help everyone!  You’re Bear; you should take care of our kind.  That’s what you are here for, remember?” Rusty yelled at Matt, who had turned to look at him.

“Fuck you, and the pompous horse that brought you here. We are Human and we are Bear. We are both, or have you forgotten that?” spat Matt as he sat up, his back against the railing of the bench.

“Settle down Cub, you need to back up and see I am just trying to help. Trying to make sure you don’t do anything stupid,” Rusty growled as he too sat up and turned to stare into Matt’s eyes.  It was then that Rusty felt it; a deep, deep darkness was buried within this little Bear.  The darkness was hidden under the surface, just beginning to edge up.  Matt’s face grew taut as the emotions washed over him. 

“Stupid …  stupid …? So, helping someone is stupid?”  Matt spun partially to his left to face Rusty, leaning in as he did so.  “Healing where you can, giving shelter and protection to people that cannot do it for themselves is stupid?  Get the fuck away from me, before I kick your ass across this park,” Matt growled back.  He was already partially shifted internally, his voice had changed, his musculature already taut under his clothing. 

Rusty stared at him for second and then engaged him.  “Who do you think you are?  You little whelp … cub … birth-ling? … I am Kermode, a leader and guide.  Who the hell do you think you are?” bellowed Rusty, now angrier than ever; his own Bear starting to take over. 

Matt stood slowly never breaking eye contact, turning completely to face his sire, nose to nose, they looked in each other’s eyes.  Matt reverted back to his human form to speak. “I was Matt Owens, but that person is gone, he was replaced by something that I am struggling to understand, to comprehend.  Rusty, helping these people feels right. It’s good work, and a positive contribution to the world.  When I look at you I see a Bear that is hiding within himself and what he is, not relishing in the gifts he was given.  Rusty, you are like so many of the Bears I’ve met.  You are scared of losing what you have when you should be worried about the world around you crumbling, and you have skills that could help. I actually pity you, and wonder every day why you changed me. I guess … I guess I’m starting to hate you for it.  Now, Spirit Bear, you need to leave me alone and let me take care of my business tonight.  Now leave. The bus stop is behind you, $2.75 will get you to bottom of the hill by the house then it’s just a short walk home. Goodnight Rusty.” He turned his back to Rusty and walked away unable to look him in the face any longer.

‘Wait a fucking minute,” Rusty growled, jumping to his feet.  Enraged he reached for Matt; he would teach the cub a lesson.  However, before Rusty could even register the movement, Matt reached back, grabbed him, and flung him over and down on his back, knocking the wind out of the Kermode.  Matt kneeled beside him and shifted again.  His teeth glistening in the soft light from the streetlights, his black and silver fur flowing smoothly over his face.  His body shifting under his clothing, claws extending from his partially covered hands.  Matt was small and he could shift without shredding his clothing; another advantage of being the smallest of the bears. 

Leaning down beside the semi-conscience bear, Matt growled threateningly in his ear, “Like I said, you need to go home.  You can’t stop me … you never really could.” Matt finished and rose to his feet, walking off into the falling snow.

Rusty carefully picked himself up after his breath returned and his vision cleared.  He brushed himself off and walked to the bus stop.  Just like Matt said, he found his way home.  When he arrived he told the Bears what had happened and that Matt was taking care of some business.  Luke and Susan seemed totally unconcerned.

“He’ll be back, besides, I can still feel him and he’s close. Matt hasn’t left or gone away,” Luke responded as he sat threading popcorn for the tree.  This year the tree was decorated with small pictures, stuffed animals, and popcorn; every year the tree changed themes, this year’s theme was ‘Memories’.  The three bears and Susan kept on with their preparations and the holiday; both Luke and Susan knew Matt was okay and would be back whenever he finished.

Several days passed without Matt returning home.  On the third day, Norman was channel surfing and stopped on a local newscast. It reported that four known gang members had been killed, after having taken part in the beating and death of a Gulf War veteran in a video posted to the Internet. “I think Matt will be home soon. It seems his work is done,” Norman said relieved. He was starting to worry about the little Bear; he had so much heaped on him lately it was a miracle that the little Bear hadn’t already snapped.

“I think so …” Rusty let his words trail off as he went to the kitchen for more coffee.

The shelter had a very small dining area; the tables had benches that were set up and when sitting if someone leaned back they would touch the person behind them.  Matt was sitting quietly, picking at the plate of fruits and juice sitting in front of him. He was lost in thought, absorbed in what he had just done.  Trying to find his way.

A vaguely familiar scent wafted to Matt’s nose as he sat up, alert.  At the same time someone leaned back against him. Matt’s strength was matched in the push, so he relaxed; this was not the place for a fight.  “So, you going to brood over the loss of your friend or honor him in your actions?”

“Who are you, and why are you here?”

“I am here to help you get back on track; actually I’m tired of seeing you like this.”

“Whatever. I am just lost.  I don’t know what direction to go.”

“Who said you had to go anywhere?”

“My Sire and Elder keep pushing me to do things and go places. I just want to be left alone.  What I feel is so dark. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“You will be fine, they are your guides.  No one said you would agree with them all the time, and besides why should you?”

“So, I should just let it all go? Go back to being a lap-dog?  Because I can see where this is going.”

“No, you need to pick the path for yourself, don’t let anyone do it for you.  Your path is NOT set.  Don’t you get that?”

“Why am I here?  Why?”

“That’s your question to answer, but you need to stop all this damn self doubt and angst.  You are better than this. Stop all this mopey shit and get on with living.  The Great Bear did not change you so you could doubt who you are.  Damn, suck-it-up-buttercup.  People need you, both Bear and human.”

Before Matt could turn around, the pressure behind him vanished along with whoever or whatever was speaking with him.  Matt stood looking around, threw his trash away and left the shelter to go home.

Outside the snow was still falling, but a figure sat on the park bench watching Matt get on the bus.  “I’m sure to get swatted for this one.” The figure mumbled to himself.

On Christmas Eve Rusty woke to the sounds of wood being split.  The rhythm of the work told him it was Matt.  In his short life, he had only known one other Bear that could split wood with that rhythm and accuracy.  He rolled over and snuggled up to Norman drifting back to sleep.  Matt was home, and that’s all that mattered. He still saw Matt in his dreams and kept a question in his mind. Is this what happens when Bears Cry?

  

Loose Ends

One of the best parts of being a Werebear is having time to learn and enjoy things at a much slower pace.  In the time before Matt and Luke would fade away, they spent time learning and playing.  Well, honestly, Matt spends time learning; Luke spent time enjoying himself.  They contrasted each other even in leisure activities.  Fading away was just a fact of life for a Werebear; people start to talk when the same person has lived in the same place for forty plus years and not aged. 

Their daughter had graduated from College and started working in Toronto; she’d met a wonderful young man and they’d had a set of twins.  They were both girls of course and she named them after Norse goddesses.  Their son was happy in Texas, he had met a wonderful young woman and they were traveling the world working for the Peace Corps.  They were both very proud of their children, often bragging about them to other Bears and comparing notes.  It was funny how the network of furry family watched out over each other’s children; it was one great perk of being a member of the Werebear family.

Luke’s wanderlust had taken hold after their nest was empty.  He would meet up with fellow Bear bikers and take long rides to well traveled Werebear watering holes. Matt had one built for him for their 20th anniversary; while it looked badass, it had many creature comforts that he enjoyed and a GPS locator so Matt could check on him.  Matt had accompanied his Bear a few times, but was somewhat out of place amongst the biker-Bear crowd.  Matt, being a virtual pocket Bear, was often the odd Bear out and did not like the way he stood out from the rest.  Not that anyone would have said anything to him.  His reputation and name was known among the Bears, especially since Matt had stood paw to paw with Vic.  That had earned Matt some incredible street cred.

In the off-seasons from work Matt would learn new skills.  Boris and Vic introduced him to blacksmiths, gunsmiths, survivalists, weapons experts, martial arts masters, mechanics, trauma doctors, and hackers. He was a sponge; his thirst for knowledge seemed to be sated only by mastering of something new.  It was like he was wired to learn and be ready for anything.  He was always prepared, always with a backup plan.  He always had gear tucked away in odd places, just in case.

This season, he had come to a quiet bluff in New Mexico to learn tracking and spirit walking from his Native American Werebears cousins. They taught him to track without using his enhanced senses and then how to track with them. Knowing both sides of the equation allowed Matt to spot false trails with ease. He felt complete and right.

These Bear cousins had led his spiritual journey; they aided him with making a very deep connection with his Bear and the world around him.  He had connected with the Bear within and learned control.  He learned that his gifts were part of that deep connection.  He learned that he could control his change much better than most.  This allowed him to use all of the Bear’s strength in his human form.  He learned that, like Rusty, he was connected to the energy found in all living things and with practice he could learn to use that.  In the last session it became clear that he was destined for another purpose and he should prepare himself for it. 

Matt’s vacation time had drawn to a close as he made his way back to the train station.  He rode in bed of an old pickup and bumped along the dirt back roads all the way to the reservation train station.  When the truck stopped he hopped out, there was a small gathering at the station.  Bear brothers were waiting for him; the Elder presented him with a few small gifts and thanked him for spending time on the reservation.  Hugs were given to his cousins and he boarded the train. He sat back, sighed and turned on his cell waiting.

The barrage of text messages and emails poured in.  As he sifted them he noticed 10 voicemails from their son-in-law, Todd.  Listening, Matt’s heart sunk.

“Matt, this is Todd … um … Susan and the kids are missing.  Please call me back. Bye,” the voicemail ended.  Matt sat for a few seconds collecting himself before making the call.

“Todd, what’s happening?”  Matt asked. 

“They’re gone. We were camping at the lake.  I went to draw some fresh water and they were gone … please come … please,” Todd said his voice trembling 

“I’m on the way,” Matt hung and sat quietly for a few seconds.

He dialed Luke, “Answer the damn phone Luke … crap voicemail … Honey it’s Matt, 911 in Toronto, Susan and the kids are missing, and I’m headed there now.  Make your way there when you can,” he hung up quickly. 

It was Tuesday and depending on where the wild Bear was it would be a few days before he checked in.  He tapped the locate Luke icon on his phone and a few seconds later a blinking icon appeared in Louisiana. ‘Making the I-10 run again, damn he’s going to be a rowdy Bear when he gets home.’

He looked at his phone again, there was a voice mail from a number that he recognized but didn’t remember. He listened, “Hello, Matt, this is your old buddy, Wayne. If you’re wondering where your precious kids are, well I have them. You and I have unfinished business. I’m in the mountains, come and get me.” the message ended abruptly. 

Matt flashed back to over twenty years ago a few things fit, but why this extreme? He sat and did the math.  Wayne was Luke’s age twenty years ago; he’s either pushing sixty-five, a Werebear, or something else. Boris had mentioned other shape shifters similar to them before, but what the hell was going on. He sent some rapid text messages and then made a few calls; all he got was voicemail.

“Unfinished business?” Matt said aloud.  ‘What the hell is this about,’ he wondered. 

There is a reality of Werebear life.  There is an inescapable truth; we don’t have very many enemies.  We just outlive them.  However; what if an enemy happened to be another Werebear? 

Boris called back and Matt filled him in. He gave him all the details of the contact and his interaction with Wayne before he and Luke came north; this contact was before Matt had retired from the military.  It was before they left Virginia, it was way before Matt had searched for the Bears.  At the end of the conversation Boris agreed to meet him in Atikokan. 

The train rocked along.  Matt would get off at the next stop and catch a plane home; from there he would head to Atikokan. What is happening?  Matt’s mind raced and ambled to different outcomes, playing out every possible scenario. He jolted with a start when the conductor touched his shoulder. 

“This is your stop,”   

“Thank you sir,” Matt nodded. He leapt from his seat, grabbed his gear and jumped from the train. He didn’t bother using the steps.  His mannerisms had shifted he was set in fight mode and he knew it.  Hailing a cab, the driver looked almost scared when he looked through the rearview mirror. 

“Where to?”

“Airport and don’t spare the horses,” Matt said. The driver turned, pushed the button for the meter and pulled out into traffic.  Next stop the airport.

The Storm

Matt had to mail his duffle home. His Ursine cousins had made several traditional stone daggers and arrowheads as departing gifts; he was sure that the gifts wouldn’t have made it through airport security and even if they had, it would have caused more attention that he needed. Clearing security proved to be a little difficult; Matt had not showered and wasn’t wearing clean clothing.  He was searched twice, hauled into an interview office and interviewed by police security. It ended with them asking him to be strip-searched. Of course, the Bear complied; to the security guards’ surprise Matt’s body was smooth and hairless compared to his long hair. He was allowed to clear and go to his gate, walking by a mirror on the way down the concourse, Matt looked down right angry and in need of a bath.  He wasn’t carrying anything with him so he decided to clean up since he still had two hours before his flight left.

Stopping at the newsstand, he picked up some toiletry items and undergarments.  Then he stopped over at Brooks Brothers to buy some new clothes.

“May I help you?” asked a very snotty looking woman, as she peered over her glasses.

“Yes, I need black slacks and a black button down shirt, and that leather jacket on that display, socks, shoes, and a belt.  Before you ask, I’ll write down my sizes.  I don’t care how I look or how I smell, just get me the items I need and I won’t grace your presence further. Understand?” Matt said glaring at her with his crystal blue eyes. 

“Yes sir, okay,” the female stuttered and moved around the store.

Matt paid with cash, left the change, and walked out the store.  He headed across the way, checked in at the members lounge and headed to the showers.  Inside, he started to clean himself.  A good scrub and shower can settle the mind and order the body.  As he showered, he shifted to his half form and cleaned his fur.  He noticed that his fur was starting to change; it was still black, but had much more gray than he would have expected.  He hadn’t changed forms in a few months, but it wasn’t this gray last time. Matt changed back, shaved his face, washed his hair, trimmed his nails and scrubbed his body.  When he emerged from the shower room, it was like a completely different person walked out.  A rough looking homeless person had gone in, a sharp dressed businessman walked out. This way, he would blend in and not cause alarm.  Grabbing a quick bite at the café, he went to the gate, boarded, and settled into his first class seat.

After landing he took a cab home.  On the ride he again ordered his thoughts and tried to remember every detail of the house. He had been the last one to leave and lock up since the group of biker Bears claimed Luke a few days after the seasons ended.  Getting out of the cab, he noticed the back door had been pried open, but left semi-closed. ‘No wonder no one saw it,’ Matt thought as he walked in, he noticed a few things. One, the house had been ransacked.  As far as he could tell nothing of great value was taken, the safe was not opened and no one had found the false wall or floor in the basement. Two, current pictures of the kids, everyone’s travel plans, and all the pocket cash that was in the desk was missing. 

“They came looking for Luke and I, found the travel plans and went after the kids,” Matt said aloud.

This just didn’t make sense. Matt’s phone rang, “Hello, this is Matt. Yes Todd, I just arrived. I’ll be gathering some gear and then I’ll be on the road in an hour.  Yes … I’ll find her … see you soon.” Matt hung up and shuttered as an unfamiliar feeling came over him.  It was as if all his rage suddenly washed over him at once. He felt himself begin to transform into his Bear; it took everything he had to contain himself.  ‘What the heck was that’, he thought, panting and sweating all over

After, Matt checked over his SUV and then went to gather his gear. Looking back at the house, Matt’s mind washed in memories of Susan and her growing up. He saw her on her first date, at her High School Prom, and then when Todd came to meet the dads.  Matt let a long sigh escape his lips and shifted mental gears. He had to shut off his fear and worry so he could focus; whatever happened earlier was in response to rage or anger. As he walked into the house and down to the basement he felt like this was a turning point for him, like things were moving around him, drawing him toward an inevitable conclusion. 

In the basement, Matt pulled out cases from under a blanket.  These cases contained his gear.  First was his body armor; it was handmade out of titanium and Kevlar lath. It would protect his vital parts from a knife or bullet. Weaponry was next. Opening a concealed wall in the basement that held an array of weapons, he chose two custom-made, silenced and compensated side arms. Each held 15 rounds and could stop just about anything.  For his rifle he selected two, a 7MM Remington with night view scope for the long work, and a trusted silenced M4 for close up nastiness. An assortment of knives and bladed weapons completed his load out. 

Closing up the gear bag Matt flashed back to his interactions with Wayne.  Nothing matched, nothing seemed to fit. When they had parted ways their friendship was on shaky ground, but not shaky enough to earn physical strife or the harm of loved ones. This seemed off.  It seemed like a trap, and he was being drawn right into it.

Matt grabbed his bug-out bag that contained a water purifier, advanced trauma kit, and assorted food.  He could go longer than humans without food or first aid, but the kids would be a different situation.  He opened the safe and grabbed both cash and passport documents.  On the way out, Matt turned and grabbed his GPS Navigation system and handheld police scanner.  Matt was known for being over prepared, but it seemed right given what was happening.  As he locked the house and got into his SUV, he was again struck with the sense that this was a trap.  ”The first step to avoiding a trap is knowing it exists,” he said aloud to no one. 

He reached down and grabbed his phone; he tapped the locate Luke icon and found him in South Texas.  He tried his phone again and got his voicemail.  “DAMN!” Matt yelled, and slammed his fist into the roof of the vehicle producing a sizable dent.  Again the anger took hold of him; as he looked down his hands started to change, his talons were emerging and his teeth began to form.  Struggling to attain his center again, his vision blurred.  The world around him washed in intense color, and swirls of darkness.  The darkness felt like a living thing, it moved around him, flowed through the vehicle and tugged at his body.  Matt struggled to bring himself to center, to tuck the anger down and gain control. 

“Damn …” he said as he sat panting, sweating and waiting for his vision to clear.  After a short time he put the vehicle into gear and headed out.

A world away, a Bear awoke from slumber and walked out of a long forgotten cave.  The Bear put his nose to the air and watched the clouds. As if drawn by a gravitational pull, it started to walk away from its cave. A Guardian would be born soon, the mantle of responsibility would be passed, and this old Bear would finally take its place among the stars. It walked toward its willing death.

Ten hours later, Matt pulled into the Atikokan Provincial Police Station parking lot.  He parked and took in the area; it was a rural Police station in a town similar in size to Chase, but more remote. The police carried light arms with pepper spray and the common vehicles were trucks and SUVs. He tuned the scanner and listened, it was general traffic nothing out of the ordinary. A few traffic stops, a drunken homeless person, nothing too extreme or crazy. There was no mention of search parties or missing persons. He reached down and turned off the scanner.

“How odd …” Matt muttered.

He dialed Todd, “Todd? Yes, where are you?  Ok great … I’m about forty five minutes away; would you meet me at the police station?  Good. I want to get moving as fast as possible … yes, I’ll find her. Bye.” 

He rolled the windows down and opened the sunroof in the SUV. Closing his eyes he relaxed and took in area, scents, and sounds. He was in tracking mode. As he sat quietly the scents wafted in; people, cars, small animals, fresh bread baking, and Bear-musk touched his senses. What the heck! Finding new Bears was not uncommon; the family and den lines ran across the globe, this was no different. Finding a brother Bear while traveling was not uncommon and was one of the best parts of being a Werebear. Finding a Bear and sniffing each other so-to-speak was something primal and core to being a Bear. Getting out of the vehicle, Matt secured it and made his way through the parking lot, he was following the scent of the Bear it ended at a police cruiser. As he leaned in the cruisers window, he noticed the scent was stronger on the driver’s side. 

Ah, I have a brother on the force. This could be a good thing; this could be why everything was being kept quiet. His and Luke’s names were known amongst the Bear community, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to think Todd had dropped his name. Still, it was curious. 

Matt circled back around the parking lot and caught sight of Todd talking on his cell phone.  As he approached, Matt sidestepped behind a vehicle and came up beside the very distracted man. “Todd.” Matt spoke firmly.

“Oh crap, you scared me,” Todd replied visibly shaken. 

“I need you to give me information about the disappearance, with times. Do it now.  Write on this map,” Matt rattled the instructions, never breaking eye contact with the human.

“Yeah, sure …” Todd replied, took the map and leaned over the hood of a parked car. 

As he spoke aloud Matt listened intently. He was memorizing all the details, racking and stacking them into order so he could examine them later.

“Please find them, please!” Todd begged, looking up at Matt as he finished. 

“I will. Now go into the station, tell the officers in charge that you spoke with me. Tell him that I’ve gone to drop my gear at the hotel and will be back in a few minutes. DO IT NOW!”  Matt commanded looking directly at Tom, never blinking.

“Sure …” Todd replied, looking puzzled, and walked toward the station. 

On the way out, Matt noticed Todd’s car; it was the Land Rover Luke and Matt had given them as a wedding gift.  Matt opened the door and went through the luggage Todd had brought with him. Nothing was Susan’s or the twins … strange. 

Making it back to his SUV, Matt turned the ignition, opened the map to orient himself and left in a hurry. On the way to the campsite, he punched the data Todd gave him into his Navigation System; he loaded a topographical map of the area and layered in river, stream and home locations. He called up the weather report for the past week and the forecast for the next; he was gathering data, looking for anything of interest.

Parking, he noticed the police tape. No one was around. They’d picked the furthest most point on the lake, away from prying eyes or was it planned? Matt made a survey of the campsite. As he sniffed and scanned, he noticed trails leading in and out of the camp. Common animals to the area and human … wait, there you go … under a bush a deep boot print and one of the twins’ socks. Matt reached down and picked up the tiny baby sock, his vision started to blur again.

“Oh you son-of-a-bitch. You have messed with the wrong Bear.  Not big enough to come after Luke or me head-on, you came after our kids,” Matt growled again.  The anger washed over him in a tidal wave, the blackness swept up around him and engulfed him. The world erupted in waves of energy and light. Darkness swirled about Matt, slapping at his body.  He reacted, trying to defend against the assault, but it was no use. The darkness quickly took him to the ground, holding him down. He could feel his life draining from him and being replaced with cold and dark. Through all this, he heard Vic’s voice, “Werebear emotions are stronger than human. They’ll manifest in your actions unless you control them. Anger, hatred, and sorrow are the hardest to control. Always keep that in mind.” Vic was right, he could feel himself starting to shift forms and roar.  He looked to the sky, the stars shone bright and flashes of light started to beat back the darkness. He could see a flicker of a white Bear on the edge of his vision, the source of the flashes of light. The darkness ebbed and the anger subsided. The young Bear sat on the ground on all fours panting, holding his emotion in check. Slowly his vision cleared and he stood up, looking around. 

Matt made his way back to his SUV and started to get undressed; he stripped down naked and started the mental process of shutting down all his emotions. Emotions were a liability in this situation, given the developments over the last few days he could not afford to have this happen in the presence of their daughter or anyone else. Once he had calmed he began dressing again pulling on a body suit was first.  It would allow him to move silently, stay warm and dry, and blend in. His body armor was next, followed by boots and gloves; a simple balaclava and hat were last. This gear was familiar to Matt, as he slid the weapons rigs and holsters into place he felt a familiar calm come over him. It was like he was back in the military and everything seemed right. 

He loaded his weapons, secured his pack, and started to leave. In the distance the sounds of a vehicle barreling up the path toward him halted his departure; as he looked down the path he could hear it was a police cruiser. He put the weapons back into the vehicle quickly and stood waiting, hands at his sides dancing over the two blades tucked into his rig.  Matt felt the familiar tense feeling before a firefight broke out, the eerie few seconds where time seemed to stand still and then speed up at blinding speed toward inevitable action. Breathing deeply, he centered himself and waited. 

  As the police cruiser approached he noticed only one occupant, a police officer jumped out.  The scent hit his nose a few seconds later; a very, very large, burly Bear stood before him.  He was taking off his gear and stripping as he approached. 

“Boris called, told me to stop you and to have you wait for him, told me that you’d need to be persuaded,” the larger Bear growled and went through a full transformation. 

“Elder-Bear, I wish you no harm. You’ll not be able to stop me, please, stop your advance, or I’ll defend myself.” Matt spoke in an even, detached, stoic tone; he was already in fight mode.

This Bear was truly an Elder. Huge, massive, as big a Bear as Matt had ever seen. “I’ll stop you from leaving, Boris said you were tough, but I’m the biggest Bear in these woods,” the Elder-Bear chuffed and lunged. 

The outcome had already been written in Matt’s mind.  As the Bear lunged, Matt dropped to his back, grabbed the front paws of the Elder and kicked him in the gut with both feet.  The larger Bear’s momentum took him over Matt and into a nearby bush. Coughing and spitting the Elder got to his feet.

“Elder … please stop your attack. You cannot win this battle,” pleaded Matt kneeling on one knee, head down, begging the Bear to stop.

The Elder snorted blowing snot from his muzzle, roared and charged again.  Matt let the Elder advance and close the distance between them. As the two entered close combat, Matt backed away avoiding the massive paws as they swiped at him. He managed to get beside the massive creature and grab a paw as the Elder swiped again. He locked the joint and kicked into the shoulder socket; the crunch of bone and snap of tendon rang through the air. The Elder howled and snapped at Matt.

When the Bear snapped Matt delivered a punch to the side of the massive Kodiak’s muzzle, it would be equivalent to having someone break a human’s nose. Almost instantly, the Bear’s eyes started to flicker and its vision blurred. Matt jumped back after the blow and waited for the Elder’s next move. The Elder snorted and coughed as he stood on his hind feet. He was easily 10 foot tall standing erect.

“Please … please stop. You cannot win. Please stop, please, please stop. Bear, I wish you no harm, please, “Matt begged, almost in tears his hands upturned.

The Elder coughed, blood pouring out of his muzzle.  He locked eyes with Matt, roared and lunged forward for an attack. Matt closed his eyes and moved; he could sense the Bear without seeing it. He seized the Bear’s remaining paw and pulled him off balance, as he rocked forward Matt kicked the Elder in the hip socket. With the same pop and snap as before the Elder was immobile and howling in pain. He grabbed hold of the Elder around the waist and held him up so he did not crash to the ground.

Holding onto the Bear, he kneeled down laying him gently on the ground. Rolling him on his side into the recovery position, he grabbed his parka for a head cushion. Inside, Matt was dying; he’d tried to reason with this magnificent Bear, but it was no use, this regal creature was set on stopping him and there was no other choice. 

“Elder-Bear, I honor your strength and your commitment to a friend.  I’m sorry that I had to deliver pain to such a mighty and majestic Bear. Please accept my apologies, I’m going to give you an injection of Morphine; this will ease the pain and allow you to sleep through the healing. I need you to deliver a message to the Bears that will follow after me.  Tell them, ‘I’ll protect our secret at all costs, but my family will be saved. I walk the path of death, and I wish no one else to follow.’  As proof, take this and give it to them,” Matt spoke softly to the Bear, holding its massive head in his lap.

He reached up and unsnapped the collar that Luke had placed there some 15 years ago and laid it on the paw of the Bear. Rubbed his ears gently, he smiled and injected the Morphine.  The Bear eyes flickered a few times, and then closed. The mighty Bear was asleep. 

“Sleep great one, I wished you no harm. I would love to meet you again and make up for this,” 

He gently laid the Bears head down and grabbed all his gear, loaded up and loped out of the camp. He left behind everything, set on a course to save their children and end whatever mess was about to unfold.  Making good time, he stopped a thousand or so meters from the campsite and took out the baby’s sock.

Leave No Enemy Behind

Boris raced down the Canadian Highway. Robert and Rick were in the back, both making phone calls.  “Ok, we found Luke he was en-route already. He cannot raise Matt either,” Rick said. 

Robert followed “This Wayne guy isn’t a Bear, but it appears that someone close to him is. Rusty and Mitch went to Matt and Luke’s house and confirmed that there were pictures and cash taken. They also found a small arsenal; we can conclude that these are Matt’s. It also appears that most of the weapons were made as gifts. We found some marked with our names on them as well as other Bears, there were items missing. They also found a hidden floor vault with an assortment of bladed weaponry,” Robert finished and silence filled the vehicle. 

Boris asked, “So who’s Matt, really?  We have a few hours left to drive, start digging.”  They both went back to making phone calls and tapping on laptops. Boris thought: ‘You don’t make enemies like this easily. They didn’t go after them directly. That was either wise or foolish, but judging by the skill set Matt had before the change and the skills he’s gaining after… it’s not a far stretch…’

Boris’s cell rang, “Yes, hello? Yes … we’re en-route, E.T.A about 2 hours. Good, everyone is on the way. No, I have no idea why, but we have an idea of whom. Looks like a Bear is out for them and thought it would be easier to go after their Cubs. Yes … see you then.”   

“Who was that?” asked Robert. 

“A very old friend …”

The old Bear started to run, gathering speed using the energy of nature to lift and move him. He had to reach the young Guardian. The darkness almost took the Cub; he could not allow this to happen again. Silently, the Bear called on the old Gods, the Great Bear, and all his remaining inner strength. He must reach this Cub.

On the mountain, Matt took the baby sock and held it to his nose. Inhaling deeply, his Werebear senses exploded and began identifying, cataloging, and memorizing the individual scents. He took the sock, sealed it in a bag, and stowed it then climbed up a tree and sat.  Centering himself, he smelled the air, waiting for the faintest trace to come in. Time passed as Matt sat physically and mentally still. The wind changed direction and the soft smell of baby skin wafted down from the mountain. He growled low and long, his Bear itching to come out. It took all he had to control the rage he felt.  Matt stood and looked up the mountain. It’s a trap and I’m walking right into it.  Dropping to the ground he unslung the M4, checked the magazine and breech and then proceeded up the mountain. 

“Um Boris? … Found something,” Robert said a little startled. 

“Go ahead,”

“I’m looking at Matt’s military service record.  It’s too clean.  There isn’t anything here; just times and dates, rank promotions, a few medical profiles and doctor visits, but nothing.  I mean NOTHING. All his assignments were spaced the same, all his supervisors were very high ranking within the organizations he worked.  It’s just weird, he’s a ghost.” Robert responded, concerned. 

Boris sat thinking, ‘Who are you Matt?’

A few hours later the Bears arrived at the campsite; the Elder-Bear had just about healed and was waking up. Everyone huddled close as the Bear told them what happened.

“He moved so fast, I couldn’t even lay a paw on him. He told me to give you this.”  The Elder-Bear finished and handed the collar to Boris. 

“What’s that?” asked Robert. 

“It’s the collar Luke gave to Matt, it’s a symbol of control and closeness between the two and it’s Matt’s most prized possession. Now I fear the worst; he’s cutting ties to have a clear purpose and resolve,” Boris said kneeling down to speak to the Elder-Bear quietly. 

“What did he say to you? Anything?” Boris looked deep into the eyes of the Bear. 

“He referred to me as Elder-Bear, he said that he would protect our secret at all costs and that he was walking the path, the path of death, and we weren’t to follow. Boris, he spoke to me like he knew me … like he knew us.  The way he regarded me, and took care of me after he beat me to a pulp. He spoke with reverence and remorse in his actions. Does he know how old we are?” the Elder-Bear trailed off. 

“I would suspect that his perception is far more acute than most, but yes, I think he does. Matt is a warm soul, a caring Bear. He does what he has to, but does not relish doing it,” Boris said and stood.

“Grab your gear, we leave in ten,” Boris ordered the other Bears and went to Matt’s vehicle. 

He noticed a note on the back seat, opening the door it read:

“Boris,

Thank you for coming.  The area is prime for a trap; they’ll draw me up the gully and into the opening at the summit of the mountain. They’ll have the high ground and the tactical advantage. I ask that you not follow, but I’m sure you won’t take my suggestion. Allow me to handle it, but top cover is needed. I suggest that you circle around from either side and use me as a center.  They’ll be looking for Luke or I; they wouldn’t suspect that I brought friends.  Here is my hat; it has my scent use it to follow me. – Thank you, Matt”

“Very wise young-one, very wise,” Boris spoke to himself.

Robert came over, “What’s that?”

“Matt’s scent. Here, take a whiff and get going; I want to split up Robert the east face, Rick the West, and I’m going right up middle after Matt.” They nodded and lopped off.

The Elder-Bear had gotten to his feet and started to dress. “Buck, what do you make of Matt? The way he moved, did it remind you of anything?”  Boris asked while wiping the blood from Buck’s face. 

“Sure did. Reminded me of the Guardians. But, I haven’t seen nor heard of them for centuries.” Buck said pulling his shirt on, obviously sore. 

“He has the coloration and his eyes don’t change when he transforms. He exhibits the signs and the thirst for knowledge that Guardians would need to become proficient before their second change.” Boris said, wiping the blood from Buck’s nose. 

“Does he know?”

“No, not yet. We were waiting for him to start developing, but it would seem that nature has taken a different course,” 

“I have missed you Buck, I’m glad you are ok,” Boris let that last part out as he kissed the big Bear gently and cupped his face. 

“I missed you too little one, I missed you too,” Buck said returning the warm gentle kiss.

Up in the mountain Matt stopped at the smell of a campfire.  He retreated a few hundred feet and took to the trees again.  As he climbed he could see a dot of fire and the smells were stronger. He unslung the Remington and looked through the scope.  Two prospector tents were about ten feet apart; several men were walking around but there was no sign of the kids. 

“Hmm … let me just watch for a bit,” Matt mumbled

He looked at his GPS; there was only about 300 yards or so to the summit.  That would be the open area, just past the campsite indicated on his GPS. There was a re-entrance formation on each side of the camp sight; this provided a nice hiding spot for a shooter. Then, the unmistakable smell of a soiled baby diaper hit Matt’s nose, he looked though the scope again.  From the left tent a male emerged with a diaper and threw it in the fire. Well there are the babies, but what about Susan? 

“Hmm … five males on the outside. I have a five round magazine,” Matt talked to himself aloud as he checked the breach and magazine. He connected the drop line to the front sight post and let it hang off the tree. “I’ll take out the five, drop down and go in on the rest.  The frangible rounds will kill humans and slow down a Werebear long enough to get Susan and the kids out.”

Matt was down the tree and moving toward the right side of the site before the last target fell. He made it to the little hiding place and found a very surprised young man; two silenced shots impacted the young man in the face and neck. Not stopping, Matt made a tight arch around the back of the tents to the second shooter. Again, two muffled shots ended his human life. Matt made his way back to the entrance of the encampment; holstering his side arms, he unslung the M4 and preceded to the tents, he stepped into one on the left. He saw the twins and a very nervous young man, Matt didn’t hesitate. Single round through the left eye, one through the neck. The twins were safe. He backed out and went to the other tent, empty except for a note:  “Missed me, Missed me, Come and Get me.” In Matt’s mind, suddenly the pieces fell into place like dominoes falling in a line. His heart sunk and his anger welled up again.  He struggled to maintain control.

Scooping up the twins he took them back to the tree where he’d shot the first five. He laid them at the base of the tree in their carriers. Good kids, they aren’t crying.  Matt took their blanket and rubbed it under his underarms and crotch; the strong scent would bring the other Bears to the twins first and not him. The kids would be safe. Matt kissed them both, unslung his weapon and loped off. 

Robert was the first to find the children, followed by Boris. “Take them to safety”, Boris ordered. Robert nodded scooped them up took them down. They were safe. 

Boris picked up the baby-blanket; Matt covered the blanket with his scent so we’d find the children first, not him. Smart young-one, very smart.  You’re a Guardian; you just don’t know it yet. Boris advanced slowly.  Reaching the campsite, he surveyed the bodies; they were all human, precise, clean, and efficient kills, all five killed by center mass chest shots. Boris doubted that they had even known what was happening. He also noticed that the shots were to the right of the heart, if they had been Werebear it wouldn’t have killed them, but it sure as hell would have hurt for a while.

Then the smell hit him. Blood. Werebear blood. Boris moved quickly and carefully, following the scent.

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