Can You Kill The One You Love?, Life’s Journey #7

Can You Kill the One You Love?

Matt stumbled as he walked back into town, holding his clothes in his hands. His mind was awash in strange shapes and visions. As he walked down back streets and corridors, behind buildings and down dark alleys, the street people gave him deference; they cleared a path for him and didn’t stop his progress. 

“What happened to him?” asked one of the street people.

“He met Legba, journeyed through the guff and returned. Do you see the markings on his body?”

The voices faded as Matt kept walking; he was tracking Luke, he needed to find him.  Needed to hold him. The truth he had learned was not the truth that he wanted, but it brought closure and had opened up more questions. He just needed to hold his Bear. As he passed a storefront, he caught sight of his reflection. He was still painted, shirtless; blood was dried at the corners of his eyes, his ears, and across his chest. He looked like the walking dead and it suited him.

As Matt walked he found his way back into the festival of Men and Bears. Even with the packed streets, Bears gave him a wide breadth. They backed away from him, noses twitching and eyes wide. The Bears cleared the humans as well; they knew by instinct that this was a Bear, but that he needed to be left alone. What Matt had not noticed was that he was almost glowing. He had touched the guff again and this time a part came back with him. His blue eyes were aglow behind the blood-streaked face. In reality he was on the edge of transforming; he was right on the line of heightened energy and senses, just before the change. In this state, he easily found his prey.  Matt was intent on reaching Luke, but what he was wrestling with was the truth of the encounter and the truth about Luke. Mates they may be now, but in a different life and in a different place they were sworn enemies. His parents had prepared him well, but it wasn’t to be a Guardian, it was to fight Luke and win. The one being he loved above all others was the one he was bred to kill. It was messing with his mind and blurring his senses. He was lost somewhere between the visions and reality. It was always hard to separate the two when coming back and now he would have to make a choice. He knew Luke was changing; he was becoming the evil thing the visions made him out to be. He was slipping further into the darkness and Matt had to stop it. The visions showed only one possible outcome in the future. His Bear would not become that being; Matt would sacrifice himself first.

Sniffing the air, he tracked the Bear to the Voodoo Lounge. It had not changed much in 80 years. He was about to enter, but a large Bear blocked his path only to be thrown into the street with a single hand. Matt entered the lounge and sniffed the air again. His mind was clearing, his vision returning. He had calmed down on the walk, but was still painted up. It fit with the festival so many of the guests to this area didn’t pay him any mind. He noticed Luke standing in a corner making out with a Cub; he stopped and watched for a second, a little caught off guard. Then he made his way over in his direction. 

“Hey, we need to talk,” Matt said as he reached up and brushed his hand down Luke’s arm.

“You can wait till I’m done with this piece of meat,” Luke responded through grunts and slams as he held the Cub firmly in place with one semi-clawed hand and swatted his rump with the other. 

“We really need to talk, please…” 

Luke grunted as he finished with the Cub and pretty much threw him away, buttoning up his pants. “What the hell do you want?”

“We need to talk, away from here. Things have changed and I need to fill you in.  Please can we leave?” Matt almost begged. On the other side of the lounge, Vic had found a few friends from way back and was chatting when he saw it happen. Vic heard the words, “To hell with you.” as he saw Luke punch Matt so hard it threw him across the room and slammed him into the concrete wall, hard enough to dent the brick. Vic moved, but Luke was already on Matt, wailing on him.

“I’m done with following you around,” yelled Luke as he slammed his fists into Matt’s head and body. The little Bear was taking it, not fighting back. All that could be heard was Matt begging him to stop and listen.

The other Bears in the club knew what was about to happen and out of instinct or just common sense, cleared out the few remaining humans and blocked the door. What was about to unfold was ursine business and had no place mixing in the human world. 

Before Vic could make it across the room, Matt exploded. In a roar that came from some other place, Luke was thrown back and across the floor. Matt got up as static discharged from his body. As he walked his body shifted through a partial transformation. Everyone stopped. Matt was a guardian and with it came a coloration and fur pattern that was neither Bear, nor like any normal animal walking the earth. Matt’s silver fur bristled, his eyes glowed.  Around him was a faint outline of something else, Vic saw it, but only because he had the ability of ‘sight, beyond sight’. The aura that hung around Matt was another Polar Bear. He knew that Bear. Vic muttered, “By the Gods, it’s Dante’.”

“Hell with you, I’m done following you. I want to live life, not wait for you,” spat Luke.  Then the larger Bear transformed into his Polar Bear, his clothes shredding and falling away.  Luke was massive, Vic had only seen him in full form once and it would seem that Luke had grown.  Luke charged and swatted Matt across the face. He went down hard and transformed back into his human form. 

“Luke…..please… stop… You need to listen to me,” Matt said, rising to his knees. 

Luke charged and threw Matt back into the wall again. He bounced off the wall and to the floor. He caught both of Luke’s paws as he was about to pounce on him.  “Luke please stop, this isn’t you…Please,” Matt begged again as the Polar Bear pulled free and then snapped with an open maul. Matt turned away as Luke closed his powerful jaws around his shoulder, bit down hard, and then shook him like a doll. Then he threw Matt across the room again, this time Matt didn’t move when he came to rest in a lump on the floor, a pool of blood started to form and the room was still, very still.

Vic took a few steps in front of Luke and looked him in the eyes. “You need to stop; do you want to kill the one you love so much?” Vic asked the panting Polar Bear as he started to process what had just happened. Polar Bears were the first tribe; they were the most powerful of all the Bears, the biggest, and the strongest. What had just happened was a display of strength, blind rage, emotion, and Cub maturity. Vic knew that Matt held back, and that he had tried to reason with his Bear. 

As Luke really processed what had happened, he transformed back to human form.  He was starting to tear up and Vic was still standing in front of him. “Matt… I… Matt!” he screamed as he pushed past Vic and scrambled to where Matt had come to rest.  However, Matt was not there. Instead, a blood trail led to the back door of the club and then into the alley. There were a few footprints, then paw prints followed by his shredded clothes and then nothing. The trail came to a dead end alley, and then it was gone. Matt had vanished; he left no track, no trace. The few Bears that witnessed the scuffle tried to track Matt, but he had simply vanished. 

After Vic collected Luke and took him back to the hotel he formed a search party, and they searched the city, but found nothing. This was Matt’s home; this was his stomping ground.  If he didn’t want to be found, then no one and nothing was going to find him. Vic worried that a line had been crossed and wondered how Dante came to be Matt’s totem.  As he reviewed the events in his mind, he made note of the paintings on Matt’s body and the way he was acting.  Vic returned to the club and underneath the Jukebox beside where Matt had come to rest, was a small charm that had both Matt’s scent on it and his blood. It was warm in his hands. Slowly Vic was putting the pieces together and getting more and more frantic as time passed. He questioned other Bears and street people, but turned up nothing. After speaking with Luke, he went to the cemetery, and to his family home. More questions and no Matt … A strange group of people were hanging around the dilapidated home. They seemed to look through him, like they knew what he was.

A day had passed and Vic was getting really upset with Luke. The Polar Bear had not left the hotel room since the incident and was slipping into an almost catatonic state. It was like his senses were on overload, and only some type of defense mechanism was working. 

“Luke, come with me and see if you can find him. You two are connected in a way apart from most Bears. I have seen you two find each other in a crowd and react when the other is hurt from half a world away. Please, will you come out and help look for him?” Vic begged. 

Luke was sitting by the window, still holding his shredded clothes from the festival. The Polar Bear looked up at him and nodded. As Luke dressed, Vic marveled at his body; he was massive even as a human, tall, very muscled, a small belly, and a light pelt of fur. He noticed right away that he and Matt bore a similar mark on their upper right chest. His pelt fur matched a striped pattern of the First Tribe Polars, but he did not say anything to him about it. Vic made note of the markings, and made a mental note to talk to Luke about it later. Luke reached in his duffle pulling out some clothes, dressed and was on his way with Vic. He had not muttered more than a few words since getting back to the hotel, it was how he coped.

Once outside the Polar Bear walked across the street and put his nose to the wind, waiting. After about 30 minutes of Luke standing with his eyes closed, sniffing the air his eyes snapped open. “Got him,” he spoke and took off across the park out toward an industrial area.  Vic was having a hard time keeping up with Luke; he hadn’t known the large Bear could move so quickly. Luke was starting to exhibit traits that he didn’t know about and it would seem that this big Polar was finally growing up all be it in spurts, but he was.

Requiem of a Dream

Matt watched the birds fly overhead and listened to the sounds of cars, people walking, kids playing, dogs barking, and a cacophony of other normal sounds. He had healed hours ago, but still held the tooth of his Bear; it had broken off in his shoulder as Luke threw him. He replayed the seconds of the outburst in his mind; over and over he played the mental tape. He saw the flash of anger in Luke’s eyes, and smelled the crimson on his breath. In truth, Luke matched Matt’s strength paw for paw, but he didn’t have the skill to use it. It was all Matt could do to keep from being trampled when the Polar Bear pounced on him. The sounds of feet splashing in water snapped Matt out of his daydream; he backed further into the dark corner and waited, transforming into his half form as he did so. 

Matt had found refuge in one of his old hiding spots, a storm drain access tunnel where he had played as a child. He found the solitude and the sound of the water comforting; the smell was something to contend with, but not that much of a challenge. As the sounds came closer, he could tell it was Luke and Vic.  As they neared, Matt focused on being invisible stopping his breathing and making his body still. He drifted into the shadows as he became part of them.

“He’s here I can smell him and feel him,” panted Luke, catching his breath. 

“I don’t see anyone,” Vic responded panting as well. 

“If he’s here, he’s listening. Talk to him, tell him what’s in your heart,” Vic pressed.

“Matt … I … I’m sorry for what I did. You are just better than me at this Bear stuff. I don’t do things as easy as you,” Luke mumbled. They both waited in silence.

“Honey Bear, please come back to me … I can’t do this without you. Please … come back,” Luke said, collapsing into the water and sobbing.

“Would you have killed me? Was that your intent?” Matt whispered, seemingly from everywhere at once. Both Bears looked around trying to get a bearing on the sounds.

“I don’t know, I was mad. Upset. I don’t do this Bear thing like you do; I’m not as good at it. When we’re apart things go bad, I get crazy. I need you. Please … come back!” sobbed the large Bear.

“Are you unable or unwilling to be a Bear?” asked Matt as he emerged from the shadows in front of them both. Matt unfolded from the shadows; he walked out of them, like they were covering him. As he walked toward them, Vic could tell he was pissed. 

“What do you mean?” asked Luke getting to his feet.

“Do you want to live life with me, or would you rather me end you here, before you do further damage to me or someone else?” Matt asked detached, his fur bristling and eyes glowing.

“Again, are you unable or unwilling?!” Matt screamed and charged at the pair. He seemed to disappear and reappear past Vic grabbing hold of Luke. He threw him across the tunnel and into the water, and then melded back into the shadows. Vic turned and tried to track Matt, but it was useless he was moving too fast. Vic didn’t want to believe what he was seeing.  He moved … he moved like the Ancient Guardians, like he was one of the first. He had heard of such skill, but it was thought to be lost long ago. 

“I … Matt please stay with me; I cannot do this without you. Please….” sobbed the big Bear as he picked himself up from the water and backed against the wall. 

“Was it your intent to kill me?” Matt asked again as he appeared in front of Luke, grabbed him again and threw him to the far side of the tunnel. Luke impacted the wall with a wet thud and slid down. 

“No…. I don’t know why I did that. The rage, the hate … I feel dark, cold … please help me be better. Please…” sobbed the Polar Bear.

Vic launched himself into an attack on Matt, which proved fruitless. Matt grabbed him from the air and threw him down the tunnel as easily as he would throw dirty laundry in a hamper. Looking back at Luke, Matt approached static discharged from his body as he walked. He glowed as he approached the Polar Bear. 

“Do you want to live, or do you want me to end you?  Choose!”  Matt said as he approached the sobbing Bear. 

“I’m nothing without you.  If you keep leaving, I can’t cope anymore. Just end me…..end me here…. at least I know you loved me,” Luke said as he sat back on his feet and closed his eyes. Matt’s scent wafted to him, and he smiled. In those few seconds of calm, Luke saw Matt when they first met on the dance floor of a country western bar in Texas. Matt’s soft blond hair, his smile, and small frame that seemed to carry more strength than the eye could behold. The way he walked, the way he protected him when they were out. The way he always took care of him… A tear fell from his eye, as he felt a rush of wind pass him, there was a dull thud as something hit him in the chest.  As he struggled to take a breath, a soft warm feeling spread through his entire body. Faintly in the distance, Vic screamed at Matt to stop, but it was too late. The Guardian had killed the one he loved…  Matt leaned his head back and bellowed and screamed. The world went dark…. Very Dark…

Destiny had been fulfilled! The demons and karma had been satisfied. 

…Blackness faded…

The Guardians furry ears twitched as the sounds of splashing water; drug him from where he had fallen asleep days before. His body still hurt, his life-force was drained, and all he wanted was to sleep, a quiet peaceful rest.

“There he is,” Luke all but screamed as he leapt to the top ledge where a single paw was barely visible at the edge. Matt had climbed up out of sight, but his left paw hung visible over the edge. Vic followed closely and as they took stock of the situation, both were more than shocked with what they saw. The ledge was covered with blood; it was like Matt had bled out.  Around Matt was a faint outline of a Polar Bear, watching over him. 

Luke went to step forward and Vic stopped him.  “Not yet, wait…  Dante’, I know it’s you. I know you sustained Matt until we could arrive. We will take care of him, I promise my old friend,” Vic said as the outline faded away. Luke and Vic reached him. As they rolled him over, Luke started to babble. 

“I’m so sorry, it wasn’t intentional. Please forgive me. Help me be better… please… Matt…  Matt…” sobbed the Polar Bear.

“You were forgiven before you did it,” Matt muttered, just barely over a whisper. Luke scooped up his small mate and jumped down with him. Matt pointed in a different direction than they came in and after pointing, he promptly passed out.

Vic and Luke walked in silence for a bit. “You need to get better at controlling yourself.  You know that, right?” Vic asked.

“I know… I know… It’s never a problem when Matt is around, only when he goes away on these damn missions and crap he gets sent on,” replied Luke.

“That’s no excuse for what you did. You need to face what you are, it’s been almost 80 years now and you have only changed a couple of times.  No one fits better together than you two and no one should be kept further apart than you two.” Vic said a little annoyed and tired of all the drama.

“I know…. I know… I need to get better…” Luke let his words trail off as they walked. They could see light at the end of the tunnel, and smell burning leaves mixed something else. Sage, amber, and tobacco wafted down the tunnel toward the Bears. As they approached the light, they saw people and stopped. 

“Matt, honey, you need to transform, there are humans outside,” Luke whispered in his ear.

Matt’s nose sniffed the air. “Friends” he muttered, pointed toward the light, and put his head back down. The two Bears walked into the light, holding the smaller Bear in half form, his silver fur blowing in the wind, streaked in blood, and smelling of death. They walked out onto the back of Matt’s’ family home. The gathering had remained there, waiting. They were the same people that Vic had seen when he was looking for Matt.

“I see ya found what was lost,” said a small Negro woman as she approached the trio.

“Um… Yes… Who..?” Vic stammered.

“Blond one, you are known to us; as are you white one. White one, you have the mark of the first ones. Your rage and selfishness alone caused this.  Pay attention to this warning.  That Bear yah hold could have killed yah, and choose not ta….ya need to think about it. You got a second chance to love him, don’t let that love fall away through the years.” She placed a tender hand on the side of Matt’s head and muzzle; the small Bear turned his head, and sniffed deeply, licked her hand, then rolled his head back into Luke’s chest and passed out again. 

“We will see to your safe passage, he needs to rest like this until he is ready to be human again,” she said as she beckoned them out of the gathering and into a nearby van.  As they were about to leave, she grabbed Luke’s hand.  “You need to decide, are ya unable or unwilling to be his mate?”  With that she closed the door, and the driver started the long drive north.

Tattoos and Sign Language

The van bumped along for days, making a slow but steady progression north. Matt was out of it. His body was cold and he was still. He was breathing but still. He would wake briefly, eat and drink whatever Vic or Luke put in his mouth and then drifted back off. 

“What happened between you two that would cause this?” questioned Vic.

“I don’t know why I acted that way. I get so scared and nervous when he leaves, when you or Robert, or whoever show up and take him away. It’s not like when y’all go into town for food or shopping. When Matt leaves, he shuts off something. I feel cold, empty, lonely, and vulnerable. He has always protected me…” Luke trailed off.

“You’re three times his size, in all forms, are you seriously telling me you can’t protect him once in a while?” Vic said, annoyed as hell.

“I… I guess I’m not cut out to be a Bear like you two are. Thomas said that if I was feeling like this, it was because I was not meant to be a Bear. That sooner or later the Bear would take control and I would be lost somewhere and someone would come and put me down. That there was a code among Bears that only the strong are allowed to sire new Cubs.  I’m not as strong as you or Matt. I’m just not good at this stuff,” Luke was babbling faster and faster, starting to sob and hyperventilate.

“Whoa, who is Thomas?” Vic asked.

“I knew him when Matt was in the military. He showed up a few times at the house in Virginia before we moved on. Said he was a Bear and that he had been watching over us for a long time. Told me about what being a Polar Bear meant and it scared me. He said I needed to be stronger, but I wasn’t,” Luke broke down in sobs. From the center of the van, Matt reached a paw over and touched Luke reassuringly on his leg. Vic witnessed an almost instant change in Luke. He calmed instantly, his breathing became normal, his eyes fluttered as he got a hold of himself.  From Matt a soft green glow formed around him and expanded around Luke.  The larger Bear settled down, laid down next to Matt and fell asleep. They slept that way for a few hours. 

Vic was left astonished. Matt was passed out, and he still knew Luke needed him.  Who was Thomas?  What was Matt?  How far did Matt’s skills extend?  What else has the little Bear been hiding?  He was exhibiting skills of a healer, but those Bears had not been seen for millennia.  How did he meet Dante’?  How did the best of the Guardians become his totem?  All these questions rattled through his head, like a news ticker.  Vic hadn’t noticed that an outline of Dante had appeared around the pair.  As they slept together, they were healing each other. Vic watched the last of the cuts heal on Matt’s shoulder, and a smile formed across Luke’s face. Vic watched as Matt started to shift forms very slowly back to his human form.  Vic sat in awe as he progressed backward from his silver Bear to the white of a Polar, then to the black of his original moonbear and finally to human. It was as though he was three Bears in one body. Matt’s eyes fluttered open as he sat up and stretched. Luke was still fast asleep curled up in the fetal position close to the separating wall for the driver. 

Matt held a finger to his lips to signal Vic to stay quiet. He eased up and away from his sleeping lover, stretching as he moved. Vic was again in awe.  Matt had no fat left on his body.  He was again taut and muscled with markings all over his white hairless body. Scars crisscrossed his torso, legs, groin, and back; he also noticed that Matt had gotten some new tattoo work done at some point. The wings on his back coalesced down to Norse tribal markings down his rump, around his hips and to the inside of his thighs. Single lines and rune markings ran down the back of each leg and wrapped around all the way to his toes. His chest had a mark similar to Luke’s and several others that Vic couldn’t make out. Finishing his brief stretch, Matt sat back against the wall of the van and started to sign to Vic in silence. They had often engaged in sign language conversations in quiet settings.

“How long have I been out?”

“Four days.”

“Where are we going?”

“Home?”

“What’s the situation?”

“You tell me.”

“That’s why I asked.  Last thing I remember is getting bit and thrown across a room.”

“Don’t be coy. Tell me about Dante.”

“Not your concern.”

“Bullshit.”

“That’s not a topic of discussion between you and me.”

“And why the hell not?”

“All Cubs become Bears!”

“Fuck you.”

“Any time. You’re a great ride, just make sure the music is right; old Bear.”

“Matt, what the hell are you?”

“What you made me. You tell me!”

“Again, stop being coy,”

“I’m not. You trained me. I followed the path that you and the Elder set out. I have done everything that you have asked of me, without question, followed ever order, and internalized every suggestion.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“Then what do you mean?” 

“Humans know me, they know you, they were not afraid of you in Bear form. You bled out Matt, and you are alive. Tell me how.”

“Not your concern.”

“Damn it, why the hell won’t you talk to me?”

“Because in the next few days, you and I may end up on opposite sides of something.  You need to keep your head clear. Mine is.”

“What?”

“I’m done being Robert’s lackey.”

“What?”

“Did you know that he has me doing cleanup?  Setting the rouge Bears on the right path or ending them. Did you know he had me lead an Elder… an ancient to his death? Did you know they are much older than you think? I’m done. I could forgive you and the others for not telling me what was happening to me when I changed a second time, but not telling me the extent of what I am, and what the Guardians true purpose was after I changed, it’s damn hurtful…  I’m done with it, everyone and you for that matter. You can take this den and Elder leadership caste and shove it up your ass. 

“What are you going to do, challenge Boris and Robert to a Reckoning?”

“Yes.

“That’s suicide.  Robert and the other Elite Guard will tear you apart.”

“Doubtful, very doubtful.”

“You are pretty sure of yourself.  That clumsy oaf of a mate you have nearly killed you, what do you think you will be able to do against the force of Robert and Boris?”

“Leave that one to me. By the way, Victor Gla-Morgan Dorte’, that was your first name right?  Your human name.  That Bear is the only one that will EVER have my heart.  That Bear can do with it what he wants.”

“How did you…?”

“Not your concern. If you think the tensing in your legs and arms will give you enough strength to take me down, think again.  You may have trained me, but you were not my only teacher.  Let that sink in before you decide to attempt to shift and take me down.  What’s the matter Victor, did you not realize that I can read the energy flow in things.  Did you not catch that from our conversation 60 years ago?  Oh, and before I wake my mate.  You can stop trying to build up your shift.  You have never been that smooth with it.  I would rip your heart out before you were in half form.  Just sit there and ride back to our home, then leave; you need to be as far away from this as you can.”

Lines in Sand

The ride back was tense for all three Bears.  Luke woke up a few hours later and grabbed hold of Matt and did not let go the rest of the ride. Vic sat in silence, saying only a few words every now and then. He knew Matt was pissed, and rightly so, but what he couldn’t make out was the how and why. Why now? At the Elders meeting, that would be part of the annual gathering. When they arrived home, the driver said a farewell and didn’t stay. Before leaving he handed Matt a wooden box and spoke to him in a different language, in a dialect that Vic couldn’t make out. 

Turning away, Vic walked down the drive and toward the lodge.  Matt had drawn a line in the sand. Whatever he was about to do, it was going to be devastating.  As Vic walked he flashed back to all the times that he had spent time with Matt.  The small moonbear had been put through hell from the start.  His sires beat him to near death.  His home life was a feat and challenge that no sane Bear would have wanted.  Raising children, continuing on with life like nothing happened.  Slowly closing out a human life and walking away from his children.  Death would have been gracious compared to the hurt that must have caused him.  Then to realize that you weren’t a normal Bear, yet not human, and stuck somewhere in between. Vic knew it had been wrong not to tell Matt, but they weren’t sure what he was.  Then the couple moves on, and tries to settle in together and Matt keeps getting pulled away.  He could identify and empathize with Matt and his anger at the situation.  But, what was happening now…was just not like Matt. As Vic walked up to the lodge, Robert met him and instantly fired off questions. Vic held back what Matt was planning and just took his leave from the lodge.  Getting into his truck, Boris came out to meet him.

“What’s wrong old Friend?” asked Boris, standing at the door of the vehicle with his back to the lodge and Robert.

“I need some air, need to clear my head,” Vic said, not looking at Boris.

“Yes, okay dear friend. I can feel that you’re in conflict, please take whatever time you need. Will you return for the gathering?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ll be here.  See you in seven days” Vic replied, as he started the vehicle and pulled out of the drive.

“Robert, what is the matter with Vic?” questioned Boris.

“He wouldn’t say.  All that he said was that Luke and Matt were home and they needed some time to themselves, alone, and not to disturb them.”

“Then so be it, watch for the signal on their home, don’t go over or send anyone, unless we’re invited,” Boris sighed as he walked back inside the lodge. 

In the week before the gathering, Matt and Luke spent just about every second together.  They made love, slow passionate connecting love.  The week of quiet was magical for both Bears.  The phone never rang, the email didn’t chirp, it was peaceful.  As Luke would sleep, Matt would slip outside and spend time in the meditation and sparring area, adjacent to the hot tub deck. Matt sat and centered himself, he had to search and remove all doubt in his mind about his next course of action. He evaluated every situation, and stripped away the emotions.  He came to realize that he pledged himself to Boris’s den out of respect and adoration. This feeling came from how Boris treated him when he was a new Bear; Boris had been kind and understanding. He had listened to all of Matt’s worries and helped when called.  Matt was having a hard time rationalizing the memories from Dante’ about these two and the Bears that they seemed to be today. Through all of Matt’s work he had seen nasty stuff, he had to put down rouge Bears and freed others. It was work he was getting tired of doing. As Matt searched and mediated he opened himself to nature, called it toward him. He listened intently for guidance and insight that would help him. At the end of the week after each day of meditation, none came. Matt was left to make a choice. He would challenge Robert in the arena during the gathering, and work his way up to Boris. He knew that in combat, in the midst of battle, clarity is often the only thing can truly be attained.

-Interlude-

Standing outside the den in full human form, a man who was a black Bear put his glasses on, a reminder of when he truly had been fully human. He was average and wouldn’t be picked out of a crowd of other bears.

“I’m off to the Gathering now. Are you sure you don’t want to come?”

A muffled response came from deep within the den, in a very sated tone.

“No, Cub, we’ll stay here and relax.” 

“Heh, that sure don’t look relaxed to me.”

The Bear nodded, as he had known the answer before he asked. Once his Papa Bears got down to making love, there was no turning back. He smiled in memory as he stretched his muscles, still a bit stiff from some of the positions he had already participated in.

“Cub, you could get your furry tail back in here, you know…”

“Now Papa, we talked. You guys deserve some alone time. I won’t be gone long though.”

“Have fun, and stay out of trouble.”

“You know me.”

Before he could saunter off too far, there was a sigh from the den. “Not so fast.  Don’t interfere with what needs to be done. No matter what happens, the air needs to be cleared.”

“You told me to have fun.”

“And you’re the naughtiest Cub around.  I suppose you think you can take on the whole Gathering to protect one Bear?”

“Maybe.”

“We’ve talked about interfering and respect.”

“Oh, I know. I’m not going to stop anything, even if I think it is wrong. But, if things get really ugly, someone needs to have Matt’s back.”

“Matt probably isn’t the one who needs the help …” 

“Oh this is a smokescreen, Cub. I see right through you, you’re planning to masquerade as Boris again.”

The bear sighed. They knew him way too well.

“It’s a good plan, and …”

“And then you disrespect Boris and Matt. Be yourself and let them be themselves.  Matt needs to work this all out, Boris needs to be woken up, and you stopping that will prevent healing.” 

“Think of it this way. If you go and mess around like that, you are being exactly what those Elders are and what’s hurting Matt so much. You’re taking away their choices without them even knowing it.”

“But what about the others that could get hurt?”

“Let everyone choose for themselves.”

“Oh, fine.  Maybe I just won’t go then.”

“Don’t sulk. Go and have fun, but as an equal participant, not as a manipulator.” 

“Or get your chubby ass back in here; I’ll make use of it.”

“Fun as in I can distract Boris for a while with some playing?”  asked the bear with a grin.

Deep laughter filled the den. “He’s always been a favorite of yours. Of course you can see if he wants to play with you.”

Happy again, knowing he was helping pace what was to happen so everyone had the chance to make decisions and learn, eager to enjoy the touch of the large Russian bear once more and trusting Matt to make the right choices, the man who was a black bear faded from view, as deep grunts and groans of satisfaction were emitted from the den.

Polar Bear Kisses

The gathering started with an opening Barbecue and late night icebreaker. Like most Bear events there were ample pairings and sexual activity. However, Matt kept his distance with no objection from Luke. The two had spoken about Dante’ and Matt let him know all the details and all the memories. They spoke about Thomas and what had actually happened to Matt all those years ago. Matt sat and retold the events that led to Danny’s death and the split of friendship between him and Thomas. He had never told Luke what he did for the military and for the country they had left behind.  During the conversation Luke had been shocked in horror and shaken to his core at the things that Matt had endured.  He marveled in the realization that he had done all this and came back sane.  Now, all these years later, it made sense why Matt had sought out the Bears and why he came back to Luke after he was changed. The two were even closer now.  Luke also knew that Matt had to follow a path, had to find his answers, and had to make sense of the memories. Luke would support his lover, his mate. He would stand by him through this trial. If Matt were to be killed, Luke would follow. 

“Are you turning on the beacon?” chuffed the Polar Bear in full form.

“Yes, I am. Soon a messenger will come and invite us over or ask what we want to participate in. I’ll issue the challenge through the messenger,” responded Matt, lying on Luke’s large belly lazily rubbing his chest and chin. 

“Everyone will know, the runners blab everything on the way back. It’s a regular gladiator-betting cage down there. You know I don’t like going near that arena,” Luke whined.

“I know big Bear. I know it holds hurt for both of us. This time it’s different. Just find Rusty and Norman and stay close to them. They won’t let any harm come to you. You have to promise me to stay clear of the fray. You have to promise that no matter how badly I’m hurt, you need to stay out of the arena. Promise?” begged Matt, climbing up and onto the massive Bears belly. The Polar Bear gripped his small lover hard and pulled him close, signaling his understanding. They made love again that night. Afterwards, Matt left Luke sleeping in the living room, lying on the floor cushions with the gentle cool summer breeze blowing through the house. 

At daybreak a gentle knock came to the door; one that Matt had been waiting for. It was Charlie one of Roberts’s Cubs. Charlie was a very young Bear, turned at seventeen and held captive for two years before Matt put down his captors and brought him to Robert. He was barely ten years into being a Bear. He was angry and fiercely loyal to Robert to the disgust of almost all others. He was snide and contrary. His manner was rude, his demeanor aggressive and he seemed to dance on his toes all the time as if looking for a fight, a person to fight, or a reason to fight. 

“Robert sends his regards. Will you participate in the entrance or any of the events this year? Not that you ever participate,” the cub asked snidely.

“Yes young one. Please inform Robert and tell him I challenge him to a Reckoning in the arena. Any weapon, any form. You may place this challenge for all to see. Do you understand young one?” Matt spoke in an almost regal manner intent on pushing the Cub’s buttons, it worked.

“My Robert is going to tear you apart; you’re done for. A reckoning fight is to the death and I want a ringside seat,” jeered the Cub as he made his exit.

Matt chuckled a bit at the Cub’s arrogance, but nonetheless, he would error on the side of caution and prudence. He rose to make his way to his den where he put on a fitted pair of pants, a long sleeve shirt and his boots.  All of the clothing was custom made so that the small Bear could shift to his half form without shredding them, one of the advantages to being such a small Bear. Pulling back his hair, he realized that he felt at peace with his current course and was eager to finally complete it. As he walked out of the den and upstairs he found Luke awake, waiting for him. He smiled and walked up to Luke taking the massive Bear’s head in his hands, scratching behind his ears. A soft moan escaped the Bear as he looked up almost pouting and licked Matt across the face. Chuckling the Little Bear gently tried to push Luke’s head away.

“Will you lift me?” Matt asked, nodding his head towards the weapons hanging above the mantle. The Polar Bear stood on his hind paws and hoisted him up to take down his father’s sword, staff, and long knife. Returning him gently to the ground both walked out of the home in silence and made their way to the gathering, the arena, and the end to this path.

Challenge of the Elders

Rusty and Norman had arrived early and had found themselves a nice spot to watch both the entrance and the arena below them. They were looking for their Papa Bear, Mitch, and Walt when Mitch found them. “Guys … what the hell is wrong with Matt?” he almost yelled, frustration and confusion heavy in his strained voice.

“What … what do you mean?” Rusty raised an eyebrow curiously.

“He’s challenged Robert to a Reckoning. Why would he challenge the Elders? Do you know anything about this?” Mitch blurted taking Rusty by his shoulders, obviously upset. 

“We haven’t spoken to him in months; we’ve been at the Arctic Den. What’s going on?” he asked, shocked.

“Nobody really knows. The challenge came via messenger about an hour or so ago. Everyone is freaking out and they’re coming this way. Whatever Matt’s planning, he wanted it public. He wanted everyone to see. Do you have any idea what’s going on, any at all?” the Bear pleaded his voice cracking. Mitch was concerned for the pair. The Moon and Polar Bears had never had an easy life as Werebears and had seemed to always have something to overcome. This just didn’t make sense. 

Below them a figure clad in black carrying a sword across his back, a long knife on his thigh and a staff in his left hand walked into the arena flanked on his right by a massive Polar Bear. 

“By the gods is that Matt and Luke?” Mitch quipped. Luke had kept a low profile and had a close circle of brothers that he ran with; no one saw him in full form often, but today he seemed larger than ever before. A gray strip ran from the base of his shoulders down his back.  He had a small mark at the corner of each eye. Marks that had been hardly noticeable when he first became a Bear now stood pronounced against his white fur. “Luke is First Tribe, by the gods … it can’t be,” Mitch shuddered wrapping his arms around himself. 

All the commotion that had been happening slowly came to a halt and the whole arena became quiet as the pair entered. As they reached the center Luke stopped and stood up behind Matt; a spectacle that alone would have been enough to strike fear into anyone. Luke was almost fourteen feet tall and a mass of pure muscle in his bear form. He leaned his head back and roared to the sky, bellowing so all could hear, then came to his feet and put his massive head down against Matt’s chest. Matt hugged his Bear. There were few words exchanged between them before the Polar Bear turned and walked out of the arena. Driven by instinct Norman pushed his way through the sea of Bears and made his way to Luke. As massive as Luke was, he was no fighter. Reaching the Polar Bear, Norman grabbed him and held on tight. Luke shifted back to his human form and broke down, sobbing into Norman’s shoulder. Today might be the day he lost his mate. 

Robert walked in on the opposite end of the arena, flanked by several of his loyal Bears.  They stopped a few paces apart. “Matt would you like to tell me why you feel the need to challenge me in such a rude and audacious manner, causing me to meet you in this fashion?” Robert chirped.

“Nope,” was Matt’s only response.

“Well as is my right, I can choose an avatar to fight in my place, do you agree?” he chirped again.

Matt surveyed the situation, ‘Robert is nervous, his voice is breaking. Has all his bravado been a show? Doubtful… behind him is Boris looking pissed off and highly agitated. Whatever went down, Robert is running damage control.’

“Choose as many as you like, they’ll all die. Either way, you and I WILL fight today Robert. Anyone you send to fight me, their blood is on your hands. You are sending them to a willing and untimely death,”

“You can’t be serious, why do you want to challenge me?”  Robert asked back peddling, taking a step back away from Matt. 

“Either fight me or send an avatar, either way I’m done talking to you,” Matt said, taking a few steps back and thrusting his staff into the semi-hard soil. 

The Cub from earlier looked towards his mentor, transformed into his half form and charged Matt. A gust of wind pushed out from Matt in all directions. In the span of two heartbeats the Cub hung dead in Matt’s hand, its neck broken and heart stopped. Holding the Cub by its neck, Matt tossed the body aside as simple as throwing away garbage. The Bears in front of him took a few steps back and the crowd that had gathered collectively gasped. The Cub had been killed so quickly that it was hard to imagine one of their kin could do something like this to one of their own. 

“Whether it is one or one hundred deaths, you and I WILL fight today; prepare yourself Robert Langston Emanden,” Matt growled, letting the name rattle Robert from his mental slumber. It was his first name, from before he was changed.  It was a direct dig at what he was looking for. In that brief few moments of mind fog, the Bears around Robert decided to attack.  One on one was fair, five Bears in half form against one Bear in human form wasn’t. The fight briefly shifted as Matt made short work of the Bears that had surrounded him. All were dispatched in similar manners as the first. Matt hadn’t drawn any of his weapons. He broke bones and ripped out the throats of his attackers. One by one they fell until it was just him and Robert in the arena. The smell of blood hung heavy in the air as the pair watched one another from across the field.

In the audience Norman had grabbed Luke and made his way back to Rusty, Mitch, and Walt. “Something is happening, Matt is … Matt is … something is wrong, stop them,” Rusty whimpered as he looked out into the area. The sky had darkened and the wind had begun picking up. Matt stood perfectly still, waiting. Robert was standing still watching him, not knowing what to do. Then, it started; in a heartbeat, Matt moved. It seemed as though he disappeared and reappeared in Robert’s face. In one smooth motion he grabbed Robert and threw him into the center of the arena. He turned approaching Robert as a predator would stalk prey. Robert collected himself and took a defensive, defiant stance. 

“Okay Bear of the Moon, you will not treat me as a Cub,” Robert roared and charged towards Matt.

Matt allowed the back and forth of the fight before slapping Robert across the face and to the ground. Again and again, Robert would attack and Matt would slap him away as if he was swatting away a Cub. Robert transformed during the exchange, but the outcome didn’t improve for him. Even in full form he was still being thrown and slapped around.

The clouds darkening further and lighting built within them as the wind turned cold, “You couldn’t have defeated him … how did you defeat him? Answer me!” Matt yelled. The emotional outburst was causing the clouds to draw closer and the wind to whip harder; as Matt’s emotional rage came to the surface the outline of his Totem became visible. It was Dante’ standing over him. “Tell me how?  Tell me why you drove away the protector of Cubs and Elders … TELL ME!” Matt bellowed again as he grabbed a hold of the fully transformed Bear and threw it across the arena again. 

“Stop Matt … Please stop Matt …” Rusty begged, in tears; he could feel the full impact of what was happening and being felt by his sire and Papa Bear. Luke bent over and vomited.  Whatever was happening, Matt was pulling energy and life force from everything around him.  Rusty could feel the darkness forming around Matt, the bright cub; the cool wind and water were turning into something dark, something evil. Matt was going to kill, if no one could stop him.

“I drove him away! I was jealous of his love for Boris. Please forgive me. I’m not the same Bear I was all that time ago,” Robert chuffed through the blood and snot flowing from his nose. 

“Forgiveness is not mine to give,” Matt said as he reached back and drew his father’s blade. Walking slowly toward Robert, he wanted blood, wanted to kill, and needed to feel the life-force drain from the Bear that was his prey. 

From behind them both a roar rang out through the air; it was Vic.

“Matt!” the Elder-Bear bellowed.

Matt turned slowly, and faced his mentor, friend, and Elder. Vic stepped into the arena carrying a sword. Matt quickly made it out as a blade of French design and craftsmanship. A Rapier that was indicative of Vic’s past. Matt’s blade on the other hand was a mutt and held little in the way of heritage, merely a functional blade. Straight and thin with no real hilt or pommel; it was a working class blade given to him by his father just before his death.

“Do you wish to fight in his place?” Matt asked. 

“Matt, stop this. Nothing can be gained by this fight,” Vic barked as he walked, stopping a few paces from Matt and Robert who was on the ground panting. 

“I’m not gaining anything but the truth. Tell me old friend, did you love Dante like you loved the other Cubs? Did you run with them through the forest? Did you hunt with them in the streams? Tell me, how many brothers you have turned your back on in your life?  If you want to stop me, you will have to kill me.”

“So be it.” Vic leapt forward into an attack and drew first blood. A single line of blood formed across Matt’s right cheek. The fight between Matt and Vic was evenly matched. Both Bears were skilled in combat and a variety of fighting styles. Both Bears stood paw-to-paw, blow for blow, cut for cut with neither giving nor taking the advantage. Blades, fists, elbows and feet, all combined into a spectacle of skills. It was apparent to all who watched that these two Bears had no equal in singular combat. They were titans, one young and one old. During the fight nature bent to Matt’s will, and Vic was the balance, pushing it back. Both Bears fought in human form, but it was Vic that transformed first, his enhanced strength momentarily taking Matt by surprise. With one smooth motion Vic snapped Matt’s blade and drove the broken blade through the little Bear’s gut, lifting him from the ground and tossing him to the far side of the arena. 

“No!” Luke screamed, his long wail filling the air.

A collective gasp and utter quiet descended.

“It isn’t over, something’s happening to Matt,” Rusty shuddered before he vomited again.

At the other side of the arena, Matt got up back up; against all logic he stood on his feet again. He lifted and looked at his right hand. A green glow formed in it and he placed his hand over the wound. With a roar of pain, the little Bear healed himself. As he did he shifted to his half form and drew the short blade with his left hand. He walked back toward Vic, who growled at him and stepped back in a defensive stance.

This exchange would be carried out on Matt’s terms. What Vic had not learned was that Matt’s fighting posture and mind were like a tape recorder; as soon as a pattern, angle, or thrust was repeated it was locked in and a counter attack was formed in his mind. As Matt relaxed into the exchange Vic was cut again and again. None of the wounds were debilitating, but he was starting to wear down the Elder. Matt was slowly, constantly pressing the attack never letting Vic catch his breath or heal himself. Matt kept the ursine equivalent of a smile the whole time. 

From the opposite entrance to the arena, Boris walked hand in hand with Robert. As they made their way toward the pair, Boris spoke. “Matt, Guardian, Bear of the Moon, I ask you to halt your fight and please listen.” The two Bears took a few steps away from each other and Matt took a knee bowing before his Elder; Vic stayed standing, panting heavily.

“Matt, I ask you to stop this attack and listen to the apologies of one of our own. I can see and feel that your Totem has not moved on and stays with you. I ask for his forgiveness and for his understanding. … After Dante’ left the den we changed as Bears. We walked a different path.  We pledged ourselves to helping our species and all others that we came into contact with. In time we stopped looking for him, he left no track to follow. Dante, Matt, please forgive our past and help us rebuild and guard the future. Dante was the best of us. He embodied all that being a Guardian meant to this world. We can see that our Cub-like jealousy forced him to make a choice between leaving and fighting. He chose to leave and not have conflict. All this time later, it seems that your own struggle brought him out of hibernation and back into this world. Dante, I’m proud to have known you, to have called you friend, to have called you my Guardian. Now the torch of responsibility and mantle of choice has been passed to the very smallest of the Bears. A young human who searched for us, walked away from one life to find another, and was drawn through conflict to the point of changing. Your sire and your mate should be proud of you Matt, as I am. As we all are. Dante’, Matt holds a striking resemblance to your mate I can see why you waited, and I can see why you chose him. Now Dante’, Guardian of the North, I ask for you to let Matt be his own Bear. Let him fulfill his destiny, his purpose, and make you proud in every action. Accept our apologies, as you accepted our love as brothers.” Both Robert and Boris kneeled and bowed before Matt. 

Matt stood up and looked at the kneeling Bears, looked to his left at Vic, who was still panting, and then looked up and around at the Bears surrounding the arena. His sharp eyes and senses fixed on Luke and Rusty. As he looked back at the Elder and Robert; Dante’s outline appeared around him. The outline walked away from Matt and turned around facing him. Just a faint image of the Bear could be seen as the Polar Bear pressed his nose to Matt’s forehead. To the three that were close, a few words were spoken, words of love and affection. “Wait for me, I won’t be long,” Matt spoke, and then the outline of the Bear faded and with it faded his presence and energy. 

“Elder, please rise,” Matt spoke. Both did so, and Vic took a few steps forward and turned to face Matt.

“Damage has been done, I have killed many today, and if anyone needs forgiveness it’s me.  As Dante gave it, I ask for it in return. I have pledged my life for the protection of this den, please allow me to continue,” Matt spoke, and again knelt in front of Boris, Robert, and Vic.

A long silence followed and then Boris spoke again, “Guardian, you are my protector; your actions today were in accordance with our customs of combat. I know of a healer that can repair this damage. Please find your mate, your Sire, your family and retire to the lodge, there is much to discuss.” With that everyone in the audience stood; most transformed into half form and roared to the sky. A Urisine salute to the passing of a Guardian and the public emergence of another. Matt enjoyed an acceptance that he had never had before in life. Complete understanding of what he was and who he was. Life was improving. 

On his way out of the arena a scent caught his nose. It was familiar, yet he couldn’t put a finger on its source. A memory or image danced on the edge of his mind. Turning, he looked behind him into the sea of Bears. Just briefly a figure caught his eye it was an average looking Bear of a man, wearing glasses of all things, furry all over, with a little belly. The Bear winked at him, and then vanished into the crowd. He tried to lock onto the Bear, but couldn’t. 

“Where are you going?” Luke asked as he grabbed a hold of Matt and held him tight.

“Nowhere special, but as long as we’re together everything will be fine,” Matt remarked as he was carried out of the arena and toward the lodge by Luke in half form. 

A Letter from David and Martin

Dear Readers,

Matt relented and agreed to put this letter in his work. It wasn’t easy to convince him, but after a little rough and tumble TLC the little Moon Bear relented. No, seriously, we wanted to give you a different view on Matt & Luke as a couple and their lives. Matt did a pretty good job of dancing around a lot of the hurt that they both went through and gave you a fairly balanced view on the critical points in their lives. 

          Okay, being a Werebear isn’t easy. Let’s just get that straight upfront. The sex is great, the health, the senses; all those are the positive things. Matt never told you the bad. Like when we get upset our Bear tends to take over and also, the scent. It often turns humans off; they say things like; ‘wet dog, or wildlife stink’. When we get into groups, it’s almost always an alpha-male dominance thing. Anyway, enough of that, back to the couple in question. 

          Martin here, I happened to be present when Matt was changed into a Werebear. I was the one hovering over him and watching as his own life force sustained him, even when his body was torn up. Unlike most he was changed with the consent of the creator. Rusty, the Kermode chose to be the one who changed him. It was pretty awesome to see one of our own be changed like that. I hung around for the month before he went home and kept checking on him.  He never caught on to who kept bringing the three of them food and provisions. Matt was a special soul back then. He was super sweet, considerate, and polite; almost to the point of being condescending, but after you spoke with or chatted with him you knew it was just how he was. That sweet Cub got torn up through the years, he changed and he became the creature that he despised. Now that we’re looking back at him we can see that this wasn’t a choice he made, but an evolution of the Bear in the role and situations he became a part of.

          Wait, wait … David here, this is getting way too gloomy again. Okay, these two Bears should never have been apart from one another. They are like Yin and Yang. I, we have never seen two Bears so completely codependent on each other. I know what you’re thinking.  Matt is okay by himself; he went off and did lots of awesome stuff. Yeah, that may be true, but it was just a matter of time before he found his way back to Luke and vice-versa. Their story still isn’t quite complete and when you finish this book know that Matt is still out there, and so is Luke … and their Cubs … wait, I wasn’t supposed to give that away just yet. Keep reading. Just know that the two of them know what true love is and what it takes to maintain it. True love means knowing when your presence is more of a negative than a positive and then rather than pushing the situation to make it into something it’s not, making a change is often the best choice.

          Well, that was certainly a buzz kill. Yes, as you read the rest of this, know that a small group of Bears love these two. We have watched over Matt and Luke and continue to do so; we love them both and will always do what’s best for them. 

Yours truly,

David & Martin

Part Three

The Journeys End

Destiny

Matt was sleeping soundly next to Luke; the room was warm and well laid out for a long hibernation. A massive padded, over cushioned area was in the center of the room. A Bear accessible toilet was against one wall and containers of dried fruits and meats were along the other. A large trough of circulating fresh water was built into the same wall. It had been about seven months since they had gone into hibernation and it was the most peaceful rest Matt had enjoyed in some time. Matt dreamed of magical walks with the Great Bear spirit, long talks with his parents and different locations from around the globe.

The Elder had talked at length about what happens during hibernation, describing in detail what happens to the Bear and what happens to the human consciousness. The primal side takes over as human consciousness slips into a deep sleep. The primal Bear walks with the Gods and spirits and the Bear connects with its nature. The human consciousness is suppressed and all but forgotten.

A flashing light and a soft chirp of the approach sensors snapped Matt out his deep slumber. His eyes opened and focused on the control panel across the room. His mind was thick and groggy, but his Bear was hungry and mad at being awakened. Matt had come from a soft dream on a mountaintop eating berries to the inside of the hibernation chamber. The soft amber light illuminated the space without waking the Bears and Luke was oblivious and snoring loudly beside him. Matt still in his full Bear form, instantly picked up footsteps at the service entrance to their home. He could hear the inner lock being opened with a key and a single person step inside. He heard the sounds of the alarm code being entered and the chirp of the house coming out of active mode. 

Rising without a sound, the moon Bear padded to the entrance of their hibernation chamber pushed through the door and let it close silently behind him. He tracked the intruder as he walked down a wide hallway, into an open subterranean garage area. He reached out with his senses and could tell the intruder was a Bear like him. This made him feel a little better; however he was angered to be awoken in such a way. The person knew their way around because they were headed right for the basement door. 

Matt waited just out of the light, in a dark corner and shifted into his half Bear form. If the Bear really was someone he knew then they surely knew their way to the hibernation chamber and wouldn’t notice a Bear standing just out of sight. 

As the person made their way down he recognized that it was Rick, Boris and Robert’s Cub. Rick didn’t notice Matt as he stood completely still against the wall; ready to kill the intruder. This was a stealth that only a few Bears could master. Matt was just a novice at it, but it was still more than enough to avoid younger Cubs like this one. Rick walked right past him, not noticing the tensed claws, open muzzle that bore teeth like no North American Bear, and the crouched stance of a predator about to make a kill.

Matt let a low growl escape his muzzle.

Robert turned and jumped sideways not expecting anyone to be there. 

“Damn Matt, you scared the hell out of me,” Rick said putting his hand to his chest.

“Why?” Matt growled the question; it was all the human speech he could muster.

“Boris needs you; there is a problem that your special talents are suited for. He asked that I wake you carefully and bring you to the lodge at 12 o’clock,” Rick stammered as he spoke, backing away from Matt who had emerged from the darkness. Matt’s luminescent silver fur glinted in the soft lighting, his eyes almost glowing blue against his raised bristling fur, teeth showing white as he crept toward Rick.

Matt was bristling, and growling low. He wasn’t fully awake yet or in complete control of himself. The sudden pull away from hibernation had let his primal nature take more control than usual. An uninvited guest was in Matt and Luke’s den, this was not going to work. Matt’s clawed hands flexed as he took a few steps toward the now scared shitless Rick. 

“Matt, No!  Get a hold of yourself!” a quiet voice commanded. Vic.

Matt recognized the voice blinked a few times, and shook his head. A soft chuff came from Matt and he looked at Rick. His fur had relaxed, but Rick was still backing away. 

“Rick, go upstairs and stay quiet. I’ll stay with him until he fully wakes up. I warned Boris about waking Matt like this,” Vic said in a fatherly tone, shaking his head. 

Rick nodded and all but ran out of the basement. Vic passed him on the stairs, and put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s not you, it’s Matt. Hibernation is primal and it’s very hard the first time.” He smiled encouragingly at Rick and then shooed him up the stairs. 

He came down the stairs and stopped in front of Matt. Looking at him, Vic shook his head while Matt still stood in the shadows, growling and looking mad. “So, are you going to shower and wake up? We need to talk,” Vic asked, making the descent into the downstairs basement area, but keeping his distance ready in case Matt was to lose it.

Matt nodded still not speaking. He motioned for Vic to follow and they passed through a smaller doorway into Matt’s private Den. This space was smaller than the rest of the home, but it was uniquely this Bear’s space. Vic noticed it was decorated with weaponry from around the world. Many Norse pieces were here as well as objects from Africa and the Far East. Still not talking, Matt motioned Vic towards a high padded stool by a half open bar area. He sauntered to the semi-circle of large screens against the far wall and touched a few keys, waiting as they flickered to life. Still in his half Bear form he sat down in his chair, preparing to begin his work before he realized his claws were useless. Exhaling deeply he focused on his claws and watched as they reformed into his human hands. He pushed the chair to his right and stopped at a bank of switches; as he flipped through the bank, both the interior of the den and the house above them buzzed to life. When Matt had designed this house it had been with protection and security in mind. The home had all the Bear comfort features, large kitchen, communal dining area, big fireplaces, group showers, big couches and guest bedrooms. However, Matt was a frighteningly sharp tactician. He had designed the home with many advanced features which no one would notice unless they looked close. There were rolling shutters on all the windows, and exterior doors that were reinforced with Kevlar lath on the inside. Every piece of exterior and interior glass was one-inch bullet proof with microfilm epoxy on both sides. All of the doors had been reinforced with steel around their frames and in the center of the walls was 1-inch sheet steel and Kevlar lath; all the way to the second story and attic area. Matt had built a quaint two-story colonial that could withstand just about anything. It had taken them eighteen years to have it built, a considerable investment, but Matt felt sure that Luke would be safe no matter what was thrown at them.

The den lights came on and ambient lighting spread along the walls over the few pictures that displayed Matt’s extensive search for historical documentation of the Werebears. Scrolls, pictures, carved statues from around the world were placed with care. It was obvious that Matt was putting together a lineage, a family tree of sorts. He had already determined that it was a genetic marker that chose who would be a Bear and who was human. More specifically it displayed who was more likely to seek out ways of becoming a Bear. Sidelights over the chairs and soft overhead lights flickered to life and the space became warm and inviting. There was a humidor in the center coffee table and an ample couch, loveseat and a small play area in the room as well. The space had a warm amber and gold color pattern that Vic liked.  ‘This Cub has taste,’ Vic thought to himself. Behind Vic the bar came to life and the waterfall started. Matt had created a mini waterfall that started at the top of the bar and meandered around its surfaces and disappeared into the floor. ‘This Cub has a niche’ for the romantic.’

Above them the house lights came on and the exterior shutters rolled themselves up.  The heaters came to life and started to crackle and pop as the water heated and circulated. The pumps for the floor heaters started to hum in time with the main heaters. In the garage the lights came on and the space started to heat up as well. Exterior lights came on and the house started to wake up from bottom to top. On the exterior porches and walkways the ice melt system chirped to life and started their slow heating to break through the massive drifts that had descended on the house while the Bears were asleep. Pushing his chair back to the monitors, that were now on and displaying data that Vic couldn’t follow, Matt went to tapping on the keyboards. To his left a soft crackle of the high gain antenna receiver kicked to life after completing its self-check. It was set to a rotating set of police and law enforcement frequencies. Matt cocked an ear to the sounds, paused briefly, and then went back to his work.

As Vic sat he watched Matt in rapt curiosity and pride. Even in his hibernation funk he was still gathering intelligence, getting his bearings, and figuring out the situation before he walked into it. On the screens in front of him were security cameras. Matt flipped through the images and scanned his environment. He found Rick sitting on the edge of the couch; his nervousness was obvious, as the house around him came to life. Matt hit a few more keys and the fireplace beside the timid Bear ignited the already loaded wood with its natural gas starter. Rick jumped but smiled looking around and then moved closer to the expanding blaze. The house was still freezing from being shut down for seven months during the winter. It was a deep, old cold; one you would feel when entering a long forgotten cave.

Matt keyed up the data recorder and quickly scanned through images from the time that had passed while they were in hibernation, but nothing piqued his curiosity. Then he brought up his email and a custom news crawler and scanned through the headlines. ‘Nothing!’ Lastly, he brought up the house diagnostics and surveyed the house. The solar and wind turbine was producing power; the house batteries were 100% and holding fine. Backup generators were good to go. The oil, butane and diesel tanks were full. He noticed the fresh water was only at 94%, but the snow had not yet melted, so there was no collection. The house was still on commercial power, but there had been three power outages since their hibernation had begun. He glanced over towards a set of gauges noting that the water was now hot enough for the shower. He swiveled around to face Vic.

Still having trouble with speech Matt half growled, “Why?”

“Some things have come up that need your skills. You need to wake up and grab your gear, you’re wanted by the Elders,” Vic spoke, locking eyes with Matt. He smiled and nodded towards the bathroom, “You need a shower.”

Matt nodded, rose and walked toward Vic. He reached forward and hugged the larger Bear tightly. Then he led Vic to the far side of the den and slid back a concealed door that opened to an unexpected, expansive space. It was a large dressing room and contained an ample shower, a toilet, mirror, sink, closet, and Matt’s private armory. Vic had seen the armory upstairs and was impressed by his collection of vintage firearms from around the world, but the armory here was more to his liking. There were four screens on the wall to the right above a small control panel. The screens were cameras of the interior of the den and the downstairs. Vic glanced over at the weaponry secured behind a wall of glass panel and chuckled. Matt was very skilled for his young age and his taste in weapons and fighting style were very unique, he used everything to his advantage. It was frightening to see him in action. When he had taken Matt to other dens to train, he was always impressed with his almost instant grasp of concepts and fighting styles.

Matt touched a keypad on the wall and the shower burst to life. Eight shower heads cascaded water down toward the center. Matt turned to find the now naked blond Bear standing in front of him, a very wide smile on his face. He reached for his hand and tugged him into the shower. Vic knew that Cubs were very randy when they came out of hibernation, but respected that this was not the time. Matt was not in complete control and Vic wasn’t going to force himself on him like that. They had developed a deep respect for each other over the years, and Vic was not going to mess that up, nor let Matt do the same. 

He turned Matt around to face the wall and let the warm water wash away the sleep, so his awareness would return. Vic reached over and touched a button marked “soap” on the wall and the center shower heads above them started to produce soapy water laced with a lavender and honey scent. He grabbed Matt and put him in the center of the water and scrubbed the soap into the smaller Bears long, silvery course fur. He shifted to his half form as well and used his claws to work Matt’s back, sides, neck and head. This went on for a while with soft moans escaping Matt’s muzzle as his head rolling back and forth.

“Thank you,” Matt mumbled.

“Good, you’re waking up,” Vic smiled as he spoke.

“Did I scare Rick as bad as I think?”

“Let’s say that he will give you a very wide breadth now.” Vic chuckled and continued to rub the little Bear soothingly.

“I told Boris to let me come, but he sent the Cub to give him some responsibility. I’m sure he’s waiting upstairs; he’ll be the one who brings you back not me. I’m just here so no one gets killed.”

“What is this about?”

“The short of it is four members of the southern den have gotten themselves kidnapped by a drug cartel as they were traveling back from the southern gathering and their captors are demanding a sizable ransom for them,” Vic spoke while stepping away from Matt so he could move with his own power. 

“It’s a trap, the southern den are some of the best fighters I have ever sparred with, they wouldn’t just let themselves be kidnapped,” Matt said reaching for a large toothbrush and paste.

“It was televised and they’ve had a live video feed on them from the start. They couldn’t change so they went with it,” Vic said, stepping back and into the soapy water and scrubbing his fur.

“Damn fine shower here,” Vic winked at Matt.

“Thanks, but something is off. Why pick me?” Matt questioned continuing to brush his Bear teeth.

“Are you seriously asking that question?  You’re a Guardian Matt, you can move like no other Bear in human form. Damn, stop playing coy with me! It pisses me off when you talk like that!” Vic’s voice raised as his frustration with Matt became evident.

Matt just looked at him nodded, and continued to brush the large rows of Bear teeth.  Spitting out the paste he tilted his head to the shower and spat out the water. 

“Now I can kiss you, come here!” Matt said with a little smile on his muzzle. The two Bears enjoyed some quick attention and then they turned off the shower. 

‘Towels?” asked Vic looking around.

“Hit the green button,” Matt said pointing to the wall. Vic reached over and engaged a full wall of hot air dryers. As they came to life, the shower area was awash in a warm wind tunnel.

“What the hell, it’s a full service Bear wash!” Vic chuckled. Matt just smiled. As the Bears emerged they were dry and very soft. 

“Okay, let me get dressed. Am I packing for an adventure, or will I have time to come back here and grab gear?”

“You’ll have time to come back, but be ready. Boris vouching for you doesn’t convince the Elder from the Southern Den. He’s skeptical of such a small Bear,” Vic spoke staring at Matt.

Matt glanced at Vic and nodded. He shifted back to his human form and Vic stood in awe, always amazed that such a long haired, fuzzy Bear had no body hair in his human form; he could pass as just any normal human. His hair was long, but had no facial or body hair to speak of. He was starkly white, except for the crisscross of scars across his entire body. 

Matt noticed Vic’s eyes locked on his body, and turned quickly away behind the opening to the closet. He was both embarrassed and a little hurt by Vic’s stares. 

“Matt, I …” Vic stammered.

“I’ll be along soon, please let me get ready. I’ll see you at the lodge. Please …,” Matt’s words trailed off in his attempt to hide the quiver in his voice. 

“Ok, I’ll tell Rick you will be along shortly,” Vic said, pulling on his few clothes and heading out the way he had come. 

Behind him Matt looked in the mirror and pulled his hair back, tears rolling down his cheeks. 

At the top of the stairs, Vic silently cursed himself for forgetting about Matt’s body and the sacrifices that being a Guardian took. He walked through the kitchen and into the den to find Rick still sitting by the fireplace. 

“Matt will be up shortly. Do not, I repeat, do not apologize for your entrance. You did exactly as you were instructed. Waking a Guardian like that or any Bear for that matter, suddenly out of hibernation is very dangerous. With Matt it’s more so,” Vic spoke while looking down at the seated Bear.

  

Rick nodded and Vic turned to leave. As he did so, he passed the couples Wall of Life.  He noticed a pattern, but passed it off as Matt’s need for order in all things. He noticed a few pictures of himself on the wall as well as others. He quickly made his way out of the home and back to the lodge. The air was crisp, and the sun high in the sky. He decided to take the long way around to give Matt some space.

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