Crystal Blue Eyes
“That had to sting a little,” Wayne said, holding Susan by the back of the head. Wayne had shot Matt in the left thigh, just above his knee. Matt writhed around in fake pain.
“Daddy!” Susan screamed. Two other men picked Matt up and proceeded to beat him.
Go ahead everyone, show yourselves. I need to see everyone before the show starts, Matt thought to himself, completely aware of everything around him.
They were beating Matt, while Wayne gloated, “I finally got you. Billy-badass and all, I shot you. I’m going to kill you. You ruined my life; I have nothing because of you. Take his mask off and show him to me, he has to be as old as I am.”
Matt smiled under his balaclava; this is going to be fun. He would wait until they yanked his mask off. His leg had already healed and the blood stopped; the body armor had done its job and the blood that seeped through was largely just a contusion, nothing more.
They drug Matt closer and lifted him up; Wayne reached up and pulled his balaclava off. Matt lifted his head, opened his eyes and smiled. Wayne stammered, “You …you. You look …”
Matt didn’t let him get the chance to breathe another word; with smooth grace, he broke free, unsheathed a blade and sunk it into Wayne’s throat, turned and sliced the throats of the men that had been holding him. At the same time, roars were heard all around as Bears came out of the forest, descending on the clearing. Shots rang out as the unprepared men tried to defend their already forfeited lives.
Grabbing Susan he held her down and out of danger. All around the sounds of men being eaten were heard; Susan tried to look but Matt kept her eyes covered and her head in his chest.
“It’s over, you’re safe these brave creatures won’t harm you,” Matt spoke evenly.
When the sounds had subsided he let her look. There was blood, but the bodies had been dragged off. Several of the Bears came lumbering back into the camp. Susan froze.
“Little one, they’ll not harm you,” Matt knew they were Boris, Robert, Rick, and the Elder-Bear from earlier.
Susan was terrified, and clung to her father. They all came forward and sniffed Susan and nudged the two, rubbing on them; one of the Bears came to Susan and nudged her hand.
“What does he want?” she asked.
“He wants you to follow him,” Matt responded, she looked scared.
Matt spoke softly, “Susan, this Bear won’t harm you. He will protect you, please walk with him. The twins are waiting.” Susan looked at her father saying nothing, and walked away slowly.
She left with Rick. Partially down the hill, Rick led her to the twins who were safe under a tree. Then he ambled off, changed to human form, dressed and came back up the hill to retrieve her. Rick and Susan waited at the bottom of the hill for hours, but her father never came down. However, a group of burly men accompanied by a Police Officer did; about the same time, Luke arrived with Vic, led by Todd.
The couple was reunited and introductions were made. Boris pulled Luke aside, “Luke, Matt won’t be coming back with you. He asked me to give this to you, along with a message.” Luke was stoic as he looked down at the collar he had given Matt.
Boris spoke for Matt, “Bear, I must tie up the last loose end of a life that should have ended 30 years ago. It would seem that a grudge has been held and I must end it. I’ll meet you at Boris’s gathering in April. Keep the kids with you or in the company of brothers. If I don’t return, consider me dead and move on.”
Luke walked out to the edge of the campsite and screamed and howled Matt’s name. The sounds of his lover in pain reached Matt’s ears as he crested the southern mountaintop. It pained him, but this loose end had to be dealt with. The other Bears eventually calmed Luke down and took him home; Boris spoke to him at length about his suspicions about Matt, what was going to happen to him, and that he should be ready to accept Matt when he returned. No matter what he was.
The Journey south would take several weeks by foot, the first couple of nights were fairly pleasant being in the woods. It had been a while since the young Bear had gotten the chance to be by himself. Since his change, all of the off-season time had been spent in training. He had picked up various skills and Matt was thankful, but he didn’t realize how badly he had needed a break. Matt replayed the events of the abduction and the rescue of the kids numerous times in his mind. Every option he chose just didn’t make sense. Boris had given him Intel that a Bear was behind the abduction, and it needed to be solved by whatever means necessary. There were details about the letter that linked a few threads in Matt’s past, but it was sketchy to say the least. He had asked Boris if any Bears were members of any Foreign Legion or military force. The reply was evasive; prudent and polite, but evasive. After a full day of worry and analysis, Matt let his mind slip a little and enjoy the time in the woods.
Over the last few years he had come to realize that Bears are normally solitary creatures only clinging to one or few partners. However, in recent centuries they had started forming small pocket communities or dens so resources could be pooled and protection could be given to those who needed it, but as with any group, there were always bad apples. Shortly after Matt’s change had asked him to become a protector of sorts and ensure the wellbeing of all his kin. The Elder had asked him to use his skills for the protection and safety of all Bears; because of his similar experience and exposure in the military, he agreed without hesitation. In that moment, something clicked inside him. Matt pledged his skill to Boris and to whatever task needed to be accomplished. This time of solitude seemed to be just what he needed.
He was kneeling down at a steam to drink when a scent hit him; it was familiar, but his gut tightened and his instincts warned him to keep his guard up. He finished drinking, crossed the stream and picked up the pace. He could feel something; it was as though the presence was getting closer. It wasn’t a negative feeling, but something told him to be ready. As the day progressed whatever it was seemed to be getting closer, it was closing the distance no matter how fast Matt tried to move. It just kept getting closer; the scent he’d caught earlier was getting stronger. It was somehow familiar, like a relative or family member. It lingered on the edge of his perception, just out of reach. Deciding that caution was his best option, Matt took to the trees; he found a clearing with a ring of trees and scaled one until he was about 60 feet up with a clear view of the ground below him. He had left his pack below with his sleeping bag open beside it, whatever was tracking him would be drawn to that scent and he would be able to catch it unaware. Waiting, he brought the rifle up and looked through the scope. He noticed movement on the far side of the clearing but couldn’t make out what it was. There it was again, just to the left of his gear. Movement again, to the left of the tree. He could not track the movement; it was too fast for him. Matt swiveled on his feet using his toes to balance on the limb, trying to get a fix on whatever was beneath him.
All at once the tree shook violently underneath him, as an impact at its base tipped Matt from his perch and tossed him to the ground. He landed hard on his side, wincing as a fallen branch embedded itself in his flesh. Howling with pain, Matt rolled over and up onto his feet placing his back against the tree. His vision began to blur as his drew his knives, colors danced through his field of sight. He shifted to his half Bear form, forcing his body to push the branch out and heal itself. In front of him appeared a large Polar bear, but as soon as he made eye contact it disappeared again. It seems to slip in and out of his sight, coming closer and then backing away again. Whatever this Bear was, it seemed as though it was testing him. It was a Bear, but it was unlike any he had come across before. Suddenly it appeared in front of him again and swatted Matt to the ground. As he tumbled, he threw a blade at the Bear. Unfazed, the Bear disappeared as the blade soared through the air where it had previously been missing it completely. Rolling to his feet Matt drew his sidearm and attempted to draw a shot on the Bear. It reappeared in front of him and once again slapped him to the ground.
Rolling with the hit this time, Matt came up and fired. The rounds missed, but he managed to push the larger Bear away. As the anger rose within him, the world was washed in color; this time Matt didn’t try to shut it off. In the color he could see the Bear, he could see it clearly.
“Gotcha,” Matt fired at the Bear, but once again hit nothing. It seemed to have moved out of his line of fire just as he had squeezed the trigger.
Suddenly, the Bear appeared in front of Matt and slammed him into the ground pinning his arms. Trying to kick the Bear away was useless; the massive creature just laid on him, pinning him to the ground. He was defenseless.
“You are too slow for a Guardian,” growled the Bear inches from his face.
“What do you mean?” Matt growled back, trying in vain to wiggle free.
“You haven’t been trained well enough; you’re useless as a Guardian. How do you expect to protect the Kermode with those skills?” scoffed the Bear, getting up and walking backward as he did so.
“What do you mean?” Matt scrambled to his feet, keeping his sidearm aimed on the Bear.
“Do you not know what you are little one?” questioned the Bear, sitting on its rump, in a stately and regal manner.
“I’m a Bear,” said Matt, as he shifted back to his human form, still holding the weapon on the massive Bear.
“You are much more little one, much more,”
“What do you mean?” Matt said as he looked around; fear was creeping in, and he was beginning to back away. Whatever this Bear was its skill far surpassed his.
“You, young one, are a Guardian. Have your Elders told you nothing? Have they not prepared you?”
“No? They never mentioned the word Guardian. But, I have been pushed to learn various disciplines over the years. Why?” asked the little Bear, now scared and backing further away.
“Well now, young lad, take a seat; let us speak of our history and let me tell you what you are to become,” spoke the massive Bear. Matt complied, and put his side arm away; not that it would have done much of anything to the massive Bear anyway.
As they sat and talked it became clear that this Bear had not meant to harm Matt, but he did mean to test him. It was also apparent to the small Bear that this massive creature could have killed him at any time without exerting even a fraction of his true power.
“What do they call you little Cub?” the Polar Bear asked.
“Matt … they call me Matt. And you?” replied the small Bear with a lump in his throat. He was nervous around this Bear, as if he was in the presence of an older relative.
“They called me Dante’ once, but that was a long time ago,” he said, lowering his massive head as if remembering something terrible.
“Well Dante’, it’s nice to meet you,” Matt said as he got to his feet and approached the Bear, extending his hand for a handshake.
“Little Cub, that gesture is for humans, not Bears. Come here and let me smell you,” Dante spoke in an alluring tone that put Matt at ease.
Matt approached; hesitating as he looked up into the eyes of the massive Bear then leaned in and hugged him around the middle. The Polar Bear put his head down and sniffed deeply. Gently he wrapped his paws around the smaller Bear and gently lifted him off the ground as he rolled backward onto his back so that Matt was snuggled into the Polar Bear’s fur. Both Bears sniffed each other for a long time, gently rubbing and stroking each other.
“In my time little one, warriors wore nothing into battle; I would like very much to feel your skin and to see you as your Bear,” Dante spoke, his tone a whisper against Matt’s skin. Matt nodded and pushed himself off of the Bear.
“Why don’t I build a fire and we can enjoy each other’s company? I have many questions for you,” Matt said looking down at the massive Bear, who was still lying on his back. The Bear chuffed and whined an approval. Matt went about opening his pack and making preparations; as he worked, Dante’ watched him intently as though still evaluating the small Bear. When he was done with the fire pit with wood gathered for the night, and water heating for tea or food Matt turned to face the Bear. The sun had just dipped below the horizon and night was overtaking the clearing wrapping the two into a dark, cozy embrace.
“Shall I undress now? I hope I’ll be to your liking, ancient one,” Matt spoke in reverence to the older Bear.
“Young one, I’m impressed by your perception. Please, let me see you in your Bear form. Come lay with me, and let me show you what you truly are.” Matt looked over at the Bear and started to undress with the light of the fire behind him; as the last of the body armor and weapons fell to the ground Matt stood naked in front of the ancient. A chuff came from the large Bear inviting Matt to join him, where he was engulfed in large paws and Polar Bear fur. As Matt shifted forms the larger Bear stroked him gently. The night was magical; the ancient Bear enjoyed the young Bear and the young Bear enjoyed the ancient. Many hours later Matt was left exhausted, sated, and at ease; he slept soundly through the night.
Morning came and Matt awoke to the soft sounds of a Polar Bear snoring; the light of the sun had just begun edging out of the night sky’s darkness. As he started to move, the larger Bear tightened his grip and hugged him closer. He reached up with a free paw and scratched the side of the Dante’s muzzle, waking him gently.
“Little one, you need to learn to sleep like a Bear. Okay … off with you,” Dante’ grumbled, releasing the smaller Bear. Matt rose to his feet, shifted back to a human and went to the fire to stir some life back into the embers. With the fire coming back to life, he rummaged around in his pack and found a few tea bags and packages of instant coffee, these would have to do. They would need something for breakfast too; there wasn’t enough food in his pack for more than one meal. He set out to create a meal in two metal cups, a mess kit and a few sheet of aluminum foil. In short order he prepared a cup of coffee and tea with grits and bacon bits, looking back over his shoulder he noticed that he was being watched intently.
“Ready to eat?” the small Bear asked.
“Eat … eat … human food? It’s been ages since I’ve had human food. Well, if you count the human I ate as food, then it actually hasn’t been so long,” Dante said with a smile and wink at Matt, who was standing in a daze trying to work out if he was serious or pulling his leg.
“Joking young one …. I’m joking. Come … come. I’m honored that you could prepare a meal from the contents of that satchel you wore,” Dante spoke as he sat up on his rump.
“Are you going to change forms?” Matt asked.
“No young one; I lost that ability many, many years ago,” replied Dante’.
“No worries, I’ll help you.” Matt sat the cups down and spooned the hot food into the Bear’s muzzle.
“Whatever that is, it’s good, but not as delicious as raw meat,”
“Well, I haven’t gone hunting yet, and your approach spooked me so I didn’t gather anything along the way. I’m sorr-” a paw was placed gently on Matt’s lips, interrupting him.
“Hush, young one. You’re such a giving Bear. We will hunt along the way to your destination. It’s time to tell me what you’re doing traveling like this,” said the ancient Polar Bear.
Matt gathered his gear and they both started the trek south. As the day progressed, both Bears chattered endlessly. Along the way Matt told Dante’ everything. He described the Bears in his keep, his change into a Bear, and the weird things that were happening to him. In the back of Matt’s mind he was working out how old this Bear was. Dante listened intently as they walked and watched with marked curiosity when Matt pulled out and engaged his GPS to confirm their direction. Toward the end of the day, the two stopped at a stream that was brimming with fish that were swimming up river to spawn. Matt went about setting up camp and the Polar Bear did as Bears do, he started to hunt for fish. After a short time Matt had finished setting up the campsite and he strolled over to the river to watch the magnificent Bear fish. Dante had already caught two average sized fish and was going after more when Matt plopped himself on a rock to watch.
“Don’t worry about me, I’m fine watching,” Matt said as he started to clean the fish. The large Bear looked back, snorted at him and went back to his hunting. Before long six large fish were cleaned and ready for cooking in the fire; the brains, liver, and smaller parts Matt kept for the large Bear. He knew these parts were higher in fats and the Bear would need to replace some of the stores it had expended tracking him. As Dante’ lumbered over to the bank Matt reached up to hug the massive wet Bear and then held up the smaller fish parts for him to eat. With tender care the big Bear lapped up the high fat parts and then seemed to look deeply into Matt’s eyes; deep into his soul, all the way to the core of his being.
“You remind me of my Luther,” said the large Bear as his bottom lip quivered. Sensing Dante’ had tumbled onto a very painful memory Matt sat all the stuff down, and wrapped his arms up around the Bear. Dante’ sat on his rump with a thud. Matt could feel the big Bear shudder as he sobbed; the waves of heat and emotion were flowing off the Bear as though a dam had suddenly broken. They stayed this way for a while until the large Bear pulled back from Matt.
“Young one, forgive me. You remind me so much of Luther, that I was lost in his memory and his death,” the big Bear spoke quietly in remembrance.
“I’m no one special, not like Luther must have been,” Matt said as the big Bear looked him in the eyes again and put both paws on his shoulders.
“Young one, you don’t look like him. You are him,” Dante spoke, and then let sink in.
“What?” Matt looked up at him, confused.
“Matt, you are the re-born spirit of Luther.”
Who I Am?
The two Bears sat wrapped in each other for a short time then both looked in each other’s eyes, let go of each other, and made their way back to the camp. The fire was burning nicely and the smaller Bear had fashioned a ground cover for them, large enough to accommodate the larger Bear.
“Hold on old one; you can plop yourself by the fire and dry off. I love the smell of Bear just as much as the next Cub, but wet fur sticks to everything,” Matt said with a smile and a wink. Dante’ chuffed and gave Matt a soft chuckle as he sat by the fire and started to scratch his matted fur so it would dry. Looking over at the big Bear, Matt saw that he shared some resemblance to Luke; both were massive Polar Bears with the same long nose, flat ears, and wide paws, a semi gray streak down the back. Magnificent.
“Raw or cooked?” he asked the larger Bear.
As the he dug out some of the coals from the fire, laid the fish on top and covered them up Dante’ watched at him, puzzled, like he was still working some things out. While they waited for the fish to finish Matt reached over and started to scratch and rub the big Bears fur, helping to dry him; this produced a long loan moan from the larger Bear.
“Why don’t you get out of that odd clothing you wear, and let me scratch you as well?” the large Bear teased with a wide grin.
“Sure,” Matt replied as he came around to let the large Bear look at him. That’s when he saw the red dot dancing across Dante’s chest; without hesitation he stepped in front of the laser and looked back toward the forest. Matt felt the impact, but nothing more as his vision blurred and went black. He could hear the larger Bear roar and bellow, could hear more shots being fired and then more bellowing. Then, the faint cry of humans as the old guardian killed them. Matt’s Werebear body was trying to heal; he was trying to force his body to change, but he was hurt too badly. Matt gurgled and coughed as he tried to move, but his limbs wouldn’t answer his call. As his vision came blearily back, the Polar Bear was over top of him sniffing deeply.
“You will not die today, little Guardian,” the large Bear whispered as he hovered over top of Matt. Dante’ called upon all his life force and called upon the old Gods; he would sacrifice himself to save this one if he had too. He would give all his knowledge and skill as well as give his life. His long existence had come to a conclusion; in a selfless act, with an ability held by the Guardians and ancient ones he would give up his life to save another.
The wind blew hard, pushing in dark clouds as the Large Bear howled and barked summoning himself for his final act in this lifetime; he had walked this earth for many centuries. He had lived countless lifetimes, he had loved many. At his end he would save the re-born spirit of his lost love, his everything, his mate; the Bear was now at peace. Sitting back on his rump he turned a paw up and bit his wrist tearing the flesh and veins. Blood washed over the smaller Bear, sizzling and smoking in the cool air. Underneath the old Bear Matt’s body started to heal, the gaping holes that the bullet produced closed, his shattered spine reformed, bones mended, and vessels became as new. However, Matt’s heart had stopped. Gathering his life force, a bluish glow formed between Dante’s paws. He tilted his head back and roared to the sky, bellowed to the gods that this was his time he was ready to take his place among the stars. Dante’ reached forward and slammed his life into the small Bear. Matt jerked as his eyes snapped open and his lungs filled with air. Screaming, he added his voice to the Bear’s final roar. Then, there was only silence. Dante’s eyes fluttered as he collapsed beside the small Bear. The ancient one laid a paw on the smaller Bears chest, exhaled, and closed his eyes for the last time.
With his last breath, Dante’ had given Matt the sum of his knowledge and his abilities. Dulled by the older Bear’s age they were now renewed in this Cub, this new Guardian. Matt stayed on the ground as the visions came, washing over him in waves. He looked back over Dante’s life, like it was a movie playing in his mind. He felt his emotions, his sadness and now anger. He saw the darkness and knew what it was. Matt saw what he was, what he had become, and the responsibility that was placed squarely on his small shoulders. He was a different being now, a different Bear. Sitting up, he admired his new world; new colors, shapes, and energy flows were now visible to him. He could see and feel everything; it wasn’t intrusive or painful anymore. Standing, the little Bear had spread his wings. The butterfly had emerged; a new life had begun for him.
Miles away, sitting in his chair and enjoying a book by the fire an ancient Bear stiffened. A great sadness erupted within him. Rising to his feet he walked outside and transformed into his full Bear form. Looking up into the sky, he knew a brother had passed and the next Guardian had been born; he stood on his hind feet and bellowed to the Gods, he bellowed his loss at the passing. Afterwards the ancient Bear returned to his human form, wiped his watering sad eyes and returned to his seat.
Matt had no idea how much time had passed. The moon was high in the sky, the fire had gone out completely, and Dante’s body was cold to the touch. He looked around and smelled the air; calm had settled over the forested area, like nature itself knew to give the Bears distance. Matt went to the river and walked into the icy water submerging himself, he could feel the cold but somehow it felt distant. As he looked down in the water, he could see scars on his chest and across his body, no doubt transferred from Dante. When he walked out of the water, the blood was gone and with it the Cub Matt had been. What stood in the moonlight looking down at the lifeless body of the ancient, was a now a Bear. He could tell he had changed; something had fallen into place inside him. He felt connected to the world and to the limitless energy that was now all around him. As his eyes surveyed Dante’s body, the feeling of loss took hold of the young guardian.
Gathering wood from the forest, he erected a funeral pyre. There on the pyre he placed the body of a great Bear. As Matt reached down to light dried wood, a gentle breeze washed over him; bringing with it a scent, old and wise. The fire took off quickly as the guardian stepped back. He looked over to his left and saw the Great Bear had come to pay homage and to his right stood another Bear, Matt knew this one, but somehow the memory escaped him. As the fire grew and finally engulfed the last of Dante’, Matt turned; hefted his pack and weapons and walked silently away. It was time to close this loose end by whatever means were necessary.
The time after the mountain was tough for everyone who had been involved. It was decided that Susan, Todd, and the kids would stay in Toronto with Rick standing watch; in the meantime Luke was frantic. He called Boris everyday asking if Matt had been seen or if anyone had come in contact with him. Each time no was the only answer he received.
Boris knew a few things. First, Matt would only be seen if he wanted it that way, he had developed a stealth that was only common to a few Bears. Two, Matt had cut all ties and left no remembrance of his life in order to keep his mind clear. And three, even if Matt succeeded, it would be a struggle for him to come back and not stay a Bear or give into the animal that he was becoming. This Elder knew exactly what Matt was, he had felt the passing of another ancient like himself, and this could be the only explanation.
After a month or so, the Bears standing watch were alerted by a newscast of a natural gas fire; in the newscast a reporter was holding one of the breastplates from Matt’s body armor that had been found in the fire. It was burned but for the few Bears that knew Matt, it was all they needed to mark his location. Everyone feared the worst. Luke was distraught with the news. Robert had made a trip to the site of the accident, posing as a government safety agent; he found no Bear markings or bodies that would reveal the existence of Werebears.
Keeping Matt’s wishes, everyone was to attend the annual gathering and he would meet them there. As time drew closer for the gathering Luke dreaded going, fearing the heartbreak it might hold. Everyone understood; Norman and Rusty picked him up and accompanied him, but he was distant and distracted along the way. He barely ate and was just a sad Bear. At the gathering, Luke was on edge; he would sit outside and sniff the air for hours, waiting for his lover to come home. On the third day, Luke had been dragged down to the pond and out of the lodge. Several of the Bears retold the story of how Matt had found them. How he fought like a Bear in human form and they talked of his spirit and his honor. Luke was amused, but still he was distracted. He moved away from the gathering to a spot where he could sit alone, sniffing the air.
Then it came, a faint trace of musk, a familiar scent. He bellowed Matt’s name, the scent was faint but it was there. Matt was somewhere in the woods. The other Bears came to Luke who was rapidly transforming into his full Bear form. Luke put his powerful nose to the wind trying to get a direction, something, anything. He frantically paced back and forth.
About the same time Boris, Rick and Robert caught the scent as well; Boris yelled and pointed. On the far side of the clearing, just on the edge of the trees barely visible next to the foliage stood a now completely silver Bear, waiting as if not sure of what to do. Slowly, Matt came out of the woods and ran toward the group.
“Is that Matt?” asked Vic.
“Yes, he’s changed again,” spoke Boris, relieved but also curious.
Luke bounded towards his Bear and once again all was right with the world. They rolled and hugged for some time, then came back to the group. Matt had gone through his second change; he was now a completely silver Bear with a black mask around his eyes, down his chest, and onto his forepaws. His eyes were bright blue like the sky on a clear day. His claws were shorter and totally black, compared to his fur. After a bit of greeting and hugs from all around, Matt made his way up to the Elders.
He changed back to his human form and stood before Boris, Buck, Robert and Vic. His human body was scarred deeply from his neck to his feet, he had no fat on his body and his musculature was taut and hard. There was a tense few moments as Matt watched them. He stared at them with those drilling blue eyes. Robert took a step back, ready for a fight.
“Elders, thank you for watching over my family and for taking care of my beloved. The loose end has been tied and I’m glad to be among brothers again. Thank you,” Matt spoke in marked reverence. He bowed to them, turned and walked back to Luke. When he turned they could see scars marking his body, Matt now carried the mark of a Guardian.
“What now?” Vic asked.
“Burgers and beers,” cheered Boris, who smiled and went back to attending the grill.
The Annual Gathering concluded without incident, Boris, Luke and Matt spoke at length about his second transformation and how soon it would be time to move on. All agreed that they needed to do some things first and everything would be ok.
Gift Wrapping with Bear Paws
Human holidays eventually fade from the lives of were-creatures and just become another moment in passing time. That is, unless you’ve found a group to be a part of or someone to love. The very young Bear couple went through the change, and yet chose to keep their lives. They had a daughter to raise and obligations that couldn’t be dropped. So they carried on. As their daughter graduated and left the nest, the two Bears accepted many others into their small home and were host to many gatherings. The couple’s home was small, but their hearts were large. Matt was super quiet in these settings. He was reserved, but attentive at the same time. On the other side of the coin was Luke, at times it would seem he was the life of the party. This year they had three dens of Bears with them for the holidays. The RV was full, and bedrolls had been laid out in just about every available space. This was all fine; the guests were a close circle of friends that Matt and Luke held very dear.
Matt had taken over the front of the home for gift wrapping and kicked everyone from the living room, ensuring no one would see him wrap. This was his special time, his tribute.
“Hey, these gifts are works of art. By the Gods, who made these?” Walt asked as he walked in from the kitchen to look at the decorated tree.
“Matt did. Wrapping the gifts is his tribute every year,” Luke responded as he hung the last of the Coke ornaments on the tree; Coke and anything related to the Coke Polar Bears was the theme this year.
“Um … okay … tribute? I’m confused,” Walt stuttered as he looked around at the gifts scattered around the room. They were hanging from the ceiling on mobiles, floating in mid-air by some magical force or nestled under the tree. Each was perfectly arranged to compliment the one next to it.
Shaking his head, Luke held up his hands to quiet the larger Bear, “Okay, grab a cup of coffee and meet me on the back deck then I’ll explain. Just leave Matt alone for a while; he’ll come around in his own time.”
“Wait, he’s sobbing and I just watched him shift to half form. I think-” Walt was cut short with Luke holding up a paw to him.
“Just grab your coffee and meet me outside,” Luke insisted and winked. He knew Matt was okay; he had watched this same scene play out for years. Each year the creativity of the little Bear was expanded to top the previous. This year seemed to somehow be special. The gifts had a color theme to them. Dark gold, warm brown, silver balls, a black shiny element, and then the ribbons were all spectacular. The ribbons were made from every material imaginable; some were wood, fabric, paper, and even brushed metal.
“Okay,” Walt stuttered and made his way outside.
Once outside, the two Bears settled in for Luke’s story to be told. On the way out, they gathered the other Bears in the house who had also noticed the state Matt was in. They were all a little more than worried about the little Bear, but they all heeded Luke’s wish and just left him alone. Once outside the story started.
“Well Bears, have a seat and listen to a tale of remembrance and the public omission to all of you about a big mistake I made when Matt and I were first together,” Luke started.
“You see, Matt is the last of seven children. He had several cousins and extended family, but for the most part his family has passed away. When we changed we made the decision to keep our lives going and bring them to a natural end. This has caused Matt more heartache than most. He misses his family and it hurts even more because he knew that three of his family were Kin and could have been saved by the change. He still struggles with that but, I digress-” Luke was interrupted.
“Wait, we knew that you two kept going, but Matt’s family was Kin? How is that possible?” Stew asked. Stew and Burt were young bears, even in relation to Matt and Luke, and had quickly become a pretty steady feature in their home. They were smaller Bears like Matt, but with hearts of pure golden sunshine.
“Soon after Matt’s first change, his sister passed away. Attending the funeral was very hard for him; that’s when he was close enough to his siblings and made the connection. His family was Bear. Soon after he returned, his brother committed suicide, his second sister became a total recluse and the oldest sister shunned him for not helping the family more. This devastated him because the one thing he held onto, and still does, is wrapping the holiday gifts,” Luke paused to take a drink.
“So, he’s missing his human family?” Burt asked as he snuggled into Stew on the patio floor cushions. Even though it was snowing around them Matt had constructed a covered fire pit that let the bears lounge around enjoying the cold, but still keep their paws warm by the fire. It was snowing after all and soon the roads would be closed. The only way to get around would be in half-form.
“Yes and no. Let me go back to the beginning of this story and then we’ll move forward. Way back before Matt even left home, before he graduated High School, this is where it starts. You see, Matt’s parents were more than human parents. They were spiritual guides and teachers, they were coaches and scientists. They both prepared Matt for what he was to become. Being older parents, their health started to fail when Matt was in his junior year of High School. Both of them went from active, attentive, nurturing people, to being cared for around the clock. Matt stepped up and helped, but he was struggling with his own life and the Bear that was coming out within him…” Luke paused to drink. The questions started to fly.
“You mean he was Bear before he was changed?” Stew asked.
“I would say yes, he was. He was more closely connected to his inner self than most would have been; his parents raised him that way. He would spar with his father, and meditate with his mother; he learned early on that life was a circle and everything is connected. He was never the greatest fighter and had often been beaten up on by his older brothers, but he always held back. He knew early on that he could kill if needed, but that was never the option to take first … ahh … I’m getting way ahead of myself though, let’s get back on track.” Luke’s voice raised a bit as he repositioned himself.
“His parents fell ill and for whatever reason, his siblings were too involved in their own lives to help. So it fell to Matt to take care of the estate, pay bills, buy groceries, while still trying to have a life and grow up. It all came to a head when he was in his senior year of High School at Christmas; for many years wrapping the gifts was something that Matt’s mother took pride in. Matt would spend hours helping her wrap gifts. Nothing was ever super expensive, but the act of wrapping became their way of transferring love and affection. Each gift took on a magical context and each almost life of its own,” Luke paused, looking around at each guest.
“I think I’m starting to see now. He puts effort into it so he can remember and pay homage to his family,” Burt said hugging Stew even closer.
“Yes, but there’s much more. The last year of their lives, his mother and father were both too ill to even shop for the holidays; so Matt took on the challenge of finding a special gift for each member of the family, wrapping it, and then delivering it. That year, he was the one who set up the tree and decorated the house. His siblings were almost never present; they would come by, but as Matt tells it, only to tell him something was wrong, or that he had forgotten to do something. Anyway, the holiday came and Matt had shopped, wrapped, decorated, cooked, and presented the whole holiday for his parents. When the family arrived, he greeted each of them at the door like his Father would have and had the Cider out for them on the stove like his Mother would. However, the cider was not quite right and the rest of the things were just not quite like his parents would have done. The remarks followed, but Matt just smiled. Inside it crushed him and became the first Pillar of his self doubt that he has struggled with his whole life,” Luke stopped and looked at the four Bears. They were just watching him, Walt with tears in his eyes, Mitch gripping his hand even tighter, waiting for the next part of the story.
“I don’t get it. Matt is most capable self-assured Bear I have ever known. There’s nothing he can’t do. I have seen him … I … I … I don’t get it,” blathered Stew.
“It’s okay we’re only partially to the end of this story. After the holiday gathering was over, all the food put away, lights turned off, doors locked, and his parents settled in beds; Matt took the time to walk through the estate. As he looked at everything he’d put in place; his mind started to rewind through the day. He revisited every comment, every partial smile, the looks of disgust when opening gifts, no words of joy at the wrapping. Matt found himself on the sparing mat, looking up at the full moon. Then he cried, cursed them all; he vowed to never again let any of them hurt him like this. The next day, his mother was rushed to the hospital where she would stay for a few months. She healed enough to attend his High School graduation, but fell ill and died days later leaving the estate to Matt and his father. Matt, like many other teens that lost family took it hard and acted out. Without his mother to calm him and his father unable to work with him, he was lost. His father, knowing that leaving was his only and best option had Matt fired from his job. He entered into the military and started traveling the world. He would always send postcards and call his father; no matter where he was he would call, write, or send something small back home. Every gift had a story and everything held meaning,” Luke threw more wood on the fire, the snow was falling harder, the drift had covered the walkway from the house, vehicles were just blobs of white, and the light of the day was fading into night quickly. From behind them Matt appeared with a hot pot of coffee and a small tray of cut sausages and cheeses.
“Are you telling my story again?” Matt asked, looking down into the eyes of his mate, his lover, his world.
“Yes, yes I am. These Bears deserve to know. They need to understand the quiet one, the one that moves without sound, the one that heals everyone, the one that cares more about others than himself. Yes … I’m telling them your story,” Luke said while looking up into Matt’s eyes after he sat the tray down.
“Then I’ll leave you to it, I’m going to walk to the market. I won’t be long,” Matt said as he rose pulling the hood of his jacket over his head and walked into the snow storm.
“I didn’t hear him approach, I didn’t even hear the door open from the house,” Burt muttered, while filling up coffee cups and passing the trays around.
“That’s how Matt moves, you’ll get used to it,” Walt added and patted the young Bear on the shoulder.
“Please continue,” Mitch begged, warming his hands by the fire. All the bears were snuggled in the little hut around the fire with snow falling all around them.
Luke took a deep breath, “Okay, lets fast forward a bit; Matt spent a full 20 years in the military. As he traveled, he continued to wrap gifts and send them home. His father would save them throughout the year and then give them to the family on the holidays. Each one was made with whatever Matt had handy, airline barf bags, local newspapers, bar coasters … the list goes on and on. When I met his sister early on in our relationship she told me of the gifts. Grass from the river Jordan, a piece of Marble from the Parthenon, earth from his father’s birthplace or a small basket from Africa. These little gifts held so much meaning that it’s hard to comprehend the depth of it sometimes.”
Luke paused and closed his eyes gathering himself, sighed, and continued the story. “Now we come to the big mistake I made with Matt. It was one of the few holidays where we had the whole family in one place at one time. Between shuttling the kids to one set of grandparents or another, and Matt traveling it was a big deal to have everyone in one spot. Knowing this, Matt went into super holiday mode; he decorated the house, everything was pulled out of storage, and he even put garland and lights everywhere; the tree was a work of art and the gifts were just like what you have seen inside. But … I screwed up. On Christmas day Matt had no gifts from me under the tree; you see Bears, I had gotten so wrapped up in business, work, and my own self absorbed life I had forgotten to wrap or even purchase anything with meaning. What I got for him was last minute, and a toss-off in relation to what he did for me that year. To make it even worse, he said nothing, and didn’t even let on to what had happened until much later that day, after everyone had left, the kids were asleep, and the animals tucked into kennels,” Luke stopped, sniffling, holding back his tears.
“You can stop; I think we get it,”
“No, let me finish then you can decide for yourself,” Luke replied as he coughed and cleared his throat.
“That night I found him in front of the fireplace, curled up with tears rolling down his face. He was holding a small white box with silver and blue ribbon; simple in comparison to everything else that day, but I could feel the heat coming off him. I sat by the fire and reached for him, but he withdrew deeper into a ball clutching the small box. I asked him what was wrong; then through tears he told me the whole story from the start, and I knew that I had hurt him deeply. You see Bears, by not caring enough to wrap a gift you don’t give it weight. This hurt Matt a lot. After we talked, I apologized and Matt told me I was forgiven before I did it, but he just needed to cry and get it out.”
“What was in the box?” asked Stew.
“I don’t know. All I know is that it was Matt’s last gift to his mother. She never opened it; he found it after she passed away and kept it as a reminder. He places it under the tree every year.” Luke finished and looked out on the Bears; there was calm among them. A deep understanding of what being a were-creature was, a full acceptance that every individual makes sacrifices for the ones they love. They all exchanged firm hugs and quick kisses, drank the last of the coffee and headed inside. The snow was easily a foot thick as they waded through.
When they all got inside, took off snow-covered cloths and piled into the living room, each was taken aback by what they found. They marveled at the gifts Matt had wrapped. They walked around and examined each one; each gift was a work of art. Ribbons, bows, multicolored paper, paper animals, and candy adorned them. Suddenly, Stew called to them.
“It’s here, there’s the box! By the gods, there’s the box!”
Nestled at the bottom of the tree behind all the larger boxes, almost invisible next to the shiny surfaces and colors of the other gifts, laid the small white box. It was almost yellow with age, the ribbon crushed down and hanging off the sides. As they all looked closer they could see written on the top right corner, ‘To Mom, I love you. Matt’. They all hugged each other, looked at one another and without saying a word, paired off and started to wrap gifts of their own. It would seem that a new tradition had now been formed among Bears, one that would hopefully carry on forever.
Mitch and Walt took over the kitchen, Stew and Burt went upstairs, and Luke went to wrap in the front room. He sat down in Matt’s chair at his worktable, looking down he could still see the wet spots from the tears that had fallen from the little Bear as he worked as well as subtle claw marks on the edges of the desk, “I love you Matt, this year I’ll give you what I never could, a new family to love,”
Matt’s gift this year was a family portrait with a hand carved frame, made of metal from a steam locomotive. Luke had made it with his own hands. The picture held the most meaning. Matt, Luke, Susan, Steve, Vic, Rusty, Norman, Walk, Mitch, Burt and Stew were in a pile at the lake when the picture was snapped; this would carry the weight of love and wrap the little Bear in the warmth of family.
It had been some time since Luke and Matt were changed, almost forty five years in fact. They’d settled in Virginia, with Luke eventually running a Railroad as its president. Matt worked for the rail line as well, but he stayed clear of all the operational stuff and tried to stay under the radar. The small jobs he did for them suited him well; it was a life of good work, good food and quiet living.
It was no secret that Matt was very protective of his Bear and everyone at the railroad knew it. They could be seen on any given day having a quiet lunch at the picnic tables just out of the hustle of the terminal. Matt was often waiting for Luke along the track if he was on the train to make sure he was okay. He often brought lunch in for everyone, just so he could make sure his Bear didn’t need anything; it masked the guttural need to be close to him. Most thought it was strange but passed it off as great affection, which it was.
They’d made preparations over the past few years for their first move as Werebears. They’d made a trip to visit Boris about 30 years before and received the advice they needed. Boris brokered the sale of a small parcel of land, far but not too far from his Were-Lodge in British Columbia. Matt and Luke built a quaint two story Colonial Home with all the Werebear features. It was large enough to give Luke his Bear room and had small areas for Matt. Both were full Werebears, but Matt hadn’t change like normal bears and still liked small closed spaces. Luke being a rather large man in his human form was even larger as a Bear needed the space.
At night, a single blue light could be seen from the lodge which served at the ‘we’re here, come over for coffee’ sign for visitors. Many times that small cottage in the woods was a favorite spot to visit and relax. They would often speak of their first move and what had helped them through it, as well as play poker, gin, or 42.
This small home would be where the pair would escape for ten or so years and then restart their lives after they’d adjusted to new identities. They’d chosen to keep names that were similar to their original ones; Luke was to become Kyle and Matt was to become Jonathan.
They’d made plans to take a Canadian backpacking adventure where they would be lost and not return; in these types of adventures you have to sign waivers and post your travel plans. It would be 48 hours before a search team was sent out and a day before they would find the tattered clothing and campsite. They would use cadavers and a portable heater to fake their deaths; the tent was to catch on fire and burn the cadavers beyond recognition. Personal effects were to be left to provide sufficient evidence that it was the couple. This would provide the necessary evidence to complete the Certificates of Death. The wild animals would clean up the bits and pieces and their tracks wouldn’t be noticed leaving the campsite.
Afterward, they would make the trek as Bears, crossing the mountains and meeting their new family of Werebears on the other side. They would literally show up naked. For both of them it was symbolic of a complete break and walking away from the past.
Over the years many had come in contact with the pair and left quite changed. Vic met the pair when Matt changed, but had really begun to know them on vacation trips with Rusty and Norman; Rusty and Norman having sired both Matt and Luke. Vic was impressed with Matt’s immense strength even with his small size and Luke, for his graciousness and love for Matt. Matt and Vic formed a very close teacher and student relationship that always seemed to have a bit of sexual tension. Boris met the pair when they’d traveled for his advice; during that visit with Boris; Matt was very reluctant to change into his full Bear form, content to walk alongside with Luke instead. They never left sight of each other; they would wake from deep slumber if the other left the vicinity. Boris found this odd, but not troubling.
When they were changed, Matt had been first; his change was anything but normal; it was hard and very painful for him. He didn’t grow a pelt in human form and remained largely like he was before the change, a little beer belly, almost no body hair and long locks of ginger-blond hair. His eyes however became the clearest and brightest blue, and would stay that way after he changed to his full Bear. He was often mistaken for a Cub before the change.
Luke on the other hand, changed into a Polar Bear of massive size and proportion. When he changed, his hair and pelt turned stark white, almost luminescent, and large paws with large equipment filled out the package. He was on par with Norman in size and speed; much like Norman and Rusty, they also would pet each other and nuzzled for a long time before they even had Bear sex.
“It’s almost time, my Bear,” Matt spoke in an almost trembling tone.
“I know, I know,” Luke quipped.
They were both a little on edge; faking your own death was hard, but faking two when both were in a very public eye with children and grandchildren was another story.
Luke looked up from his bowl of soup, “Everyone is wishing us well on our vacation and telling me to be safe, to hurry back. It’s scary; I don’t really want to go.”
“Bear, I know. I don’t either, but it’s time to move on. Everything is ready; Boris called a little bit ago and so did Vic and Rusty to offer their support. Walt and Mitch are traveling through New York today and want to travel out with us.” Luke nodded, but didn’t reply.
He was starting to tear up, his mighty hands trembling at the table. “Please help me, be strong for me. This is going to kill me,” the big Bear of a man started to sob.
Matt reached up, cupped his chin and smiled. “Bear, I’ll be with you forever,” he said in a hushed tone, almost a chuff. Bear speak always soothed Luke.
They hugged and Luke got a grip on himself. Matt’s ears picked up someone walking to the tables so he quickly dried Luke’s eyes.
“Sir, everyone is here for the staff meeting,” one of the new office employees spoke.
“Thank you, I’ll be right in,” replied Luke.
“Are you going to be ok?” Matt asked. Luke chuffed at Matt in that ‘I’ll get over it, but I don’t like it, kind of expression.’ Sometimes Bear speak carried more information than human language ever could.
As Luke walked off, Matt cleaned up the table shoving all the stuff in his backpack and headed for home. On the way he stopped to top off the truck with fuel and pick up his favorite snack, Little Debbie Cakes and a Mountain Dew and then headed for home.
It was a short drive up the street and he caught himself in a daydream missing the place that had been home for most of his human life. The home they’d bought and later remodeled was close to the railroad and offered Matt closeness without panic.
Inside this was tearing Matt up; the pair had living children and now grandchildren. The two Bears bore witness to their son mature into a fine man with several kids. Their daughter had gone on to be a scientist and was working on an underwater living project. She’d had two daughters and they’d just had children of their own; leaving all of that behind was like daggers stabbing him through his chest.
When he got home, he sat in the truck and just cried a long loud cry.
As he was getting hold of himself, Walt and Mitch arrived. They hopped out of their rental car and quickly noticed the state Matt was in.
“Matt … what’s the matter?” Mitch moved in and hugged the smaller man close.
“Everything … nothing … this is our first move,” he sobbed again.
Walt reached the pair and engulfed Matt in a tight Bear hug. Their scent was calming. Their body heat warm. Matt felt himself relax and calmness returned to his body and mind.
“Ok, come on in. Enough of this emotional stuff,” Matt huffed, drying his eyes.
Once inside, coats were hung, coffee was warmed and they sat at the kitchen table. “Wow this is a small place,” remarked Mitch.
“Its home,” Matt said with marked sadness.
In contrast to most Werebear dens it was very, very small. Minimal furnishing; a large chair and couch for Luke ample enough to support his weight. It was obvious that Luke made due with the small space to accommodate Matt’s smaller frame. To compensate, Matt lavished attention on his Bear, so Luke wouldn’t have to get upset that he could not fit or reach something or find things that were tucked away.
Every inch of wall space was used up. Art, pictures, and treasures from a lifetime hung with care around the house. Walt and Mitch had only been to Matt and Luke’s den once, and it was really not the ideal place for gatherings. It was a hobbit home that two Bears lived in. As they looked around it was clear that they loved each other deeply and had forged strong bonds with Rusty, Norman, Vic and Boris.
At the table the conversation was more jovial. Mitch and Walt really wanted to get to know Matt and Luke, but they were a very solitary pair and kept largely to themselves at the gatherings.
“Who changed you?” Walt asked as he looked over the wall of pictures.
“Rusty changed me, and Norman changed Luke,” Matt spoke in a semi-trance.
“So, are all your preparations ready?” Walt asked, giving Matt another Bear hug around the shoulders.
“Yes, I have shipped out some small items to the new house, things we wanted to keep. All the paperwork is in order, the fridge is cleaned out, and utilities are paid for six months. Wills, Powers of Attorney, and trust documents have been updated. The insurance policies are all here and waiting for the kids to find them. The house is cleaned out. No Werebear DNA to find, no stone left unturned. The computers have been cleaned; all the paper files have been shredded and burned. No trace of our life going back fifty five years is left in the house, outside of what we wanted to leave. I feel so strange that this is the last night in our home…” Matt trailed off the last part of the sentence and his eyes started to cloud over again.
“It will be OK, you have a new family waiting on you and everything is ready,” Mitch blurted out in an attempt to keep Matt’s spirits up.
Walt chimed in. “The other Bears put the last of the supplies in your pantry and stocked the fridge, freezer and cellar for you. Boris picked up your truck and it’s in the garage. I would say you’re all ready to move into your new lives.” When Walt finished it was apparent that Matt had already known all this and it wasn’t the problem, it was the leaving part, not the preparation that was getting to him.
“I know what you need; you need another Bear hug,” Walt said as he winked at Mitch. They led the now completely sobbing and shaking Matt into the living room.
The two large Bears removed their clothes and pulled Matt’s off as well. He was a mess; weeks, months, and years of stress were pouring out of him in waves of tears, emotion and heat. He was almost glowing. The two hugged him close and shifted to full Bear form with Matt in the center. They knew that the scent would calm him and if he lost it they could handle him in this small space.
While listening to Matt sob and throw his emotional tantrum, Walt flashed back to the first time they got to really visit with this pair. It was at Boris’s annual gathering. This would have been the fourth or maybe fifth year after they changed. The new Werebears would enter in Bear form, and their sires would present them. Matt, who was always more comfortable in human form, decided he would walk astride his Bear to honor him. This caused more than a few eyes to lift. A very callous Bear at the entrance told Matt he had to change or he could not go in and be presented with Norman and Rusty greeted them. Matt was polite and tried to explain, but the Bear shoved him, saying that he had to change before they could enter.
What happened next still defies logic. Matt being nervous and on edge with new surrounds and new Bears, snapped. If it was the fear that Luke was in danger or a threat that had presented itself; no one ever really found out. In a smooth motion, he grabbed the Bear and tossed him head over heels into the center of the arena. He was still in human form. Others, seeing this jumped in without knowing what they were getting into. It was like an expansive vortex of wind and force as he did hand to hand battle with the Bears in their full forms; two or three of which were seriously injured. When Norman and Rusty made it to them, Matt was between Luke and the advancing Bears. He bellowed, “I’m one of you, I’m Were … why have you treated us this way?” Luke came to Matt and chuffed at him. Matt reached up and wrapped an arm under the big Polar Bear’s chin. They turned to walk away from the arena; then Matt hopped on top of Luke and they took off at Polar Bear speed into the woods, to safety and solitude.
Several hours later Boris tracked them. They were high in the wilderness, sitting quietly together. Matt had built a fire and they all talked at length. Later all three rejoined the gathering and were welcomed.
Mitch licked Walt’s muzzle. Matt had stilled, quieted. The heat coming from him had subsided. Mitch chuffed at Matt, ‘it will be ok.’
As they sat holding him, Mitch noticed the large wall in that room covered floor to ceiling in framed photos and art. It was Matt and Luke’s Wall of Life, a history of their life together. He noticed a sort of pattern in the pictures, but he made nothing of it.
They heard Luke drive up in his Model-T; it was hard to miss that sound. The car was older than several of the Bears combined. Walt shifted and left Mitch holding onto Matt, who was passed out. Mitch gently rolled back into the Bear corner of the room. Matt had created a corner where Luke could relax in full Bear form. Mitch was sitting pretty much upright, just holding Matt like a baby.
Walt changed back, pulled on his pants and shirt and headed to meet Luke.
“They’ll be here in about a week,” Boris said, blowing the steam from his coffee. Rusty nodded and put his head on Norman’s shoulder.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them. They’re a dynamic couple; quiet, but when we needed help, they were there fast,” Norman remarked.
“I know, I know. That’s not what has me concerned. It’s Matt. In the all the years since he changed, I don’t think he has ever came to terms what he’s become. I think it frightens him. That’s why he’s so shy in some settings and doesn’t change unless he has to. Not that Luke is a party Bear, but they’re low key for sure,” Boris said taking another sip.
“Then what makes him so damn strong in human form?” Norman asked a little anxious.
“I think you need to ask Rusty, the essence of a Kermode the white and orange Spirit Bear, is strong and has changed Matt for sure,” Boris spoke with trepidation in his voice.
“I don’t care what anyone thinks, Matt is one of the most caring Bears I know. When I’m close to him it’s like a soft wind is blowing over snow or cool water running down a stream. Luke is just a warm glow of sunshine. They make a good pair.” Rusty smiled and shook his rump a little to get Norman excited.
“I hope you are right,” Boris said taking a sip of his coffee.
Rick walked through the door, “Ok, their place is set up, heat is on, wood stacked, pantry full, boxes placed where Matt said, truck is fueled and in the garage. The lights are on, now when will they be here?” The report rolled off Rick’s tongue as fast as an auctioneer.
“A few days. Mitch and Walt are with them,” Rusty blurted; a little more than excited to see the pair again. Over the past twenty five or so years, it was Rusty and Norman that had gotten close to the pair over summer vacations and meetings at Boris’s. They’d come to love them; actually they fell in love with Matt first, he was the one who found them, Luke took a little time to warm up to.
“Luke is a great mechanical engineer, and Matt is just … well Matt,” Norman smiled.
“He’s just a wealth of abilities, all wrapped up in one small package,” Rusty rambled, just as excited.
“I tried to arm wrestle Matt once, he was in human form and beat me,” said Norman, rubbing his wrist remembering the playful encounter that turned painful.
“Do tell, do tell,” Rick remarked while sitting with a cup of coffee.
Rusty began the story, “We settled in a cabin on the outer most point in the Great Lakes for a long vacation. Matt likes the quiet places. He will sit and listen to the sounds of nature for hours. Luke likes to fish as a Polar Bear and Matt spends hours just watching over Luke. He will roughhouse and wrestle with Norman. He is incredibly fast for his small frame. He started to wrestle with him a little, Matt was ok with it and he gave just as hard as Norman did. They romped and played, but never too far from Luke or me. They would arm wrestle and just play; he never did change into a Bear though.
A few days later, Luke was fishing and Matt was cleaning the fish as fast as they were caught. I think we ate fish three meals a day for a week. Anyway, Polar Bears can stay underwater for quite some time. Matt took a break when he could not find Luke and started to pace back and forth looking for him. He was calling his name and getting more worked up as the seconds passed; he changed to his Bear form. Guys let me tell you, his coloration is frightening; he’s a silver Andean MoonBear. The streaks on his face, chest, and forepaws are frightening, his fur is coarse and his claws are a bit longer than most and his pads are just odd shaped. Anyway, Luke had swum upriver a bit and changed back, he came lopping back along the bank and threw a fish at Matt. It missed of course, but when they saw each other, Matt ran to him and they rolled around for a bit. He was cooing like a newborn Cub to Luke. It was very sweet. Matt actually stayed in Bear form the rest of the weekend. He was agile as a Bear, just as a human would be. He was silent when he walked. He just followed Luke around. He did go hunting and brought down an elk. It was fun to see him dragging the elk back in Bear form.”
“Oh, and his eyes … his eyes stay blue in full Bear form,” Norman blurted.
The others just sat listening; a little slack jawed, but listening.
The phone rang and Boris went up to get it. “Hello Walt … yes … yes … all done? Good. How are they? Well just hug them; it’s hard the first time. Ok, see you all in a few days. Hug them for us; we’re all waiting. Goodbye!” Boris hung up and came back to the table.
“Matt is having a very hard time with their first move. He cried it out and collapsed. Mitch is rocking him like a baby,” Boris stopped and just looked around the room sensing an explanation was needed.
“You see brothers, not everyone has an easy time letting go of a life they’ve built. It will get easier for them, but right now they need our support. They have children and grandchildren that they’re leaving behind. They’ll want to see them, to spy on them. We must watch them carefully and help them adjust.” When Boris finished, all were in a daze of understanding. No one said another word they just hugged each other and went about their chores.
Polar Bear Teeth
“Hey Luke,” Walt met him at the door with an outstretched hand.
Luke looked up at the house, “Where’s Matt? I came home, something is wrong, I felt it,” Luke took a step toward the door.
“He’s fine, he’s resting on Mitch,” Walt said, half blocking his entry.
“Either get out of the way, or I’ll rip you in half,” snarled Luke in an uncharacteristic tone that was so deep and earthy that it shook the door. Walt could see Luke’s Ursine teeth.
“Whoa big fella … he cried himself out … he’s fine, just resting … calm down please,” Walt pleaded in a very low tone.
Luke shook his head a little. “I’m sorry, I’m just on edge. I had to escape work. I told them I was just excited. They shoved me out the door,” Luke blurted in short bursts.
Walt could see he was on the verge of tears as well. He opened his arms and grabbed the big Bear, who started to cry softly into his shoulder. This lasted a few minutes before Luke got a hold of himself and went inside.
Once inside, Walt closed the door between the kitchen and living room. “I can see that you’re both having some issues with the move.” Walt spoke in an even tone.
“Yes, this is just so damn hard,” Luke said, just above a whisper.
“Matt told me that all preparations have been made and that you both are packed and ready to go,” stated Walt.
Luke just looked at the table, tracing the pattern on the table with his finger. “Yes, it’s all ready,” Luke was lost in thought and only half answering.
A little rustle was heard from the next room. The door slid open and Matt walked through, locked eyes with Luke and grabbed hold of him.
“Ok … now that you’re here I’ll be fine,” Matt’s mood seemed better. Back through the door Mitch padded over in Bear form, and stopped.
“You are not going to fit though,” Matt said over his shoulder. Mitch changed back, dressed and came to the table.
As they sat over coffee, “If you’re all done, why not go ahead and leave with us now? We can drive in shifts and get you to B.C. in no time,” said Walt in an upbeat as possible tone.
“We’ll leave in the morning as planned, I would like to make love to my Bear one last time in the first house that was truly ours,” Matt said in a very loving tone.
“So, you guys can either take our bed upstairs or the Inn up the street, but the living room is ours for the night,” Luke quipped while looking right at Matt.
All broke out in laughter and it was decided that Matt and Luke would have the house to themselves for the night.
The sun broke through the open window as Luke lay snoring on his back. The big Polar Bear, in full Bear form was sprawled across the entire length of the room. Matt was laying on Luke’s belly, propped in between his legs nestled into the soft belly fur, his favorite spot to rest.
They’d made love that night; strong, passionate love. The bites that Luke had given him were healing; just a few lines could still be seen.
Both were scared of the future and saddened at the hurt that their leaving would cause, but they’d worked hard to minimize the pain and trouble for everyone.
Luke had put a death clause in at the Railroad. This would name his successor as president and outline decision-making in the interim. The insurance policies would cover the children and give each a good amount of cash and small assets. Matt had moved all the assets around, cleaning out storage rooms and drawing down the house to a manageable level. Who knew that two Bears could collect so much stuff?
A yawn and a chuff came from Luke. “Hey lover,” Matt said and went to scale the mighty Luke and hold his massive head in his hands.
“I love you, but it’s time we need to get moving. Mitch and Walt have been outside drinking coffee for about an hour,” he said and continued to nibble and kiss Luke’s muzzle and rub his ears.
A small chuff and whine came from Luke. The Bear equivalent of ‘Ok, ok I give. Go let them in’. As he proceeded to scratch his belly as he changed back to his human form.
Matt opened the door and stepped out in the cold. “Come on in guys … it’s time.”
The accident worked as intended; the two Bears walked their way into a new life and left the old one behind.
All their plans had worked without a hitch. The Railroad survived. The Kids came to divvy up the household items. Insurance policies paid out in record time, trusts were transferred quickly with no hassles, no roadblocks, not a word, or stroke of negative from any agency the kids dealt with.
There were about 200 people at their memorial service; including Rusty, Norman, and Vic. They paid their respects to Matt and Luke’s children, shook hands and spoke highly of them.
Later that week in the old house, Steve and Susan were sitting in the living room. “It was odd the way dad built this house. Luke had his romp area and Dad his small spaces,” remarked Susan.
“Something is off,” Steve almost screamed. “Dad just doesn’t go out to camp and have a fire start in the tent. Everything is to … set-up. Susan, this is too easy.” He was pacing back and forth in the living room.
“What do you mean?”
“Everything. Everything Susan, it was neat and tidy. As good as dad was, this is too neat and tidy. Even this house has been cleaned and organized from top to bottom; there are no files here, no paper trail, nothing. Crap, even the pictures on the wall have been organized.” He was frantic.
Susan chimed in, “Hey look at this. Are these the same guys from today?”
“Yea, those three were very big men, like Luke,” responded Steve.
“Look at the picture, that was me in 9th grade on a camping trip with them,” Susan said. “We were in the mountains, it was a nice time; they were very protective of me.”
“Look at this; this is when they all came to my wedding. That was 25 years ago. None of them have aged,” Steve remarked.
“Here’s another, and another,” Susan said just about in tears.
Matt and Luke committed a great sin among the Werebears. Matt left the smallest of trails so they could be found. Just a glimmer of hope, a message in code and pictures; in directional markings, distances, and times; placed lovingly on their Wall of Life. If their children could decipher the code, it would be time for much explanation.
Secretly they wished they would……….They missed their Cubs, so, so, so much!