Young Lion's Gate - Part 1
Young Lion’s Gate - Part 1
By Dr. Bender
Graduation Day. It has that blockbuster movie sound to it, the sort of phrase you expect to be spoken by a gravel-voiced narrator over an epic theatre trailer full of explosions, alien invasions and sexy heroines wearing practically nothing at all. Well, at our Graduation Day, all the girls were clothed. Damn it.
The only thing worse than the distinct lack of naked girls was the narration of the Dean, a singularly short, weedy, Jewish gentleman in a red bow tie to go with his miter. His outward appearance wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been accompanied by a high pitched nasal whine to the upper levels of his pitch that grated the eardrums like sandpaper glued to cotton tips.
“Think he’s got a vibrator stuck up his butt?” Andy whispered to me, grinning like a cat in cream.
Andy and I were the best of friends, inseparable since we were at preschool together. We’d both copped a lot of shit for that; he’s black, I’m white. Despite the much-vaunted ‘advancement’ of civilization and understanding between races, there’s still an undercurrent of racism just below the surface of society. Oftentimes, Andy’s dark-coffee skin tone wasn’t white enough for some of my acquaintances, and I definitely wasn’t black enough for some of Andy’s. It’s a hard lesson to learn when you’re all of six years old.
Throughout primary, high and tertiary schooling, we’d been there for each other, through thick and thin. No matter what the world decided to throw at us, we faced it together. As far as I am concerned, Andy is my brother, we just had the misfortune to be born to different mothers.
Unlike me, Andy got into College on a basketball scholarship. He’s proud that his education didn’t cost his family a dime; he always did have a thing about becoming a self-made man even when we were kids. His family is large, his father owns an entire apartment block and has them all packed into the ground floor. Andy’s dad uses the kids for labor around the place while Andy’s mother, brothers, sisters, aunts and cousins go out to work. The way he uses them, I can understand why Andy doesn’t want to be beholden to the old bastard.
For the same reason, I think, he chose medical school. As a Medical Doctor, he’d never owe his father anything and he could escape from the zoo he never called home. My house had always been more of a home for him; he’d stayed with us often when we were kids. I’d never stayed in his house for more than five minutes. The first time I’d met his dad, the old bugger gave me a clip around the ear for not calling him ‘sir’.
Andy used to be built like you’d expect a basketball player to be built, tall and thin like a beanpole, but during the last few years he’d filled out during his final growth spurt. Now he had shoulders and neck like a bull, a barrel chest and limbs like tree trunks. He’d also taken to growing his jet black hair which was now down to his shoulders and almost perpetually tangled, but the girls went crazy for it anyway.
I chuckled under my breath, “Absolutely.”
Me? My name’s Jack. I’m your average suburban male, six foot, pale from lack of sunlight, dark brown hair, slightly stocky and slightly overweight from too much fast food. I majored in Art and Philosophy, bought and paid for by my father, a relatively successful lawyer back home. I’m an only child and my parents are more than comfortable, so I’ll admit to being a bit spoiled.
I wasn’t so good with the girls; in fact most of them thought I was creepy. I can’t blame them; my art’s sort of morbid. You see, ever since I was a little kid, I’ve suffered from night terrors. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s a recurring psychological problem in which the sufferers wake screaming from nightmares almost every night. While I was at college, I had to gag myself to keep from waking up the whole dorm. Then one night I bit through the gag and they kicked me out onto the street. Andy had been my roommate and, when he fought the decision, they just kicked him out too. We’d had to take part time jobs on campus and rent out an apartment but it really was a lot better than the dorm on the whole.
What do I dream about? Lots of weird stuff. The worst dream, though, the one that sends me shivering is the cat dream. That’s what I call it at least. In the dream, I’m lying on the ground somewhere, staring into the sky. I can’t move, not even a single muscle. Then they come, the cats. Big, predatory, hunting cats, like tigers or lions or maybe leopards. I can’t see them very well, considering that I can’t move my eyes, but I can feel them there. I can hear them purring. Then they start to eat me. When they’re done, I’m still laying there, a hollow shell. Then I start to rot. It’s about that time that I wake up screaming.
As you can imagine, my art is the way I deal with my nightmares. Apparently I have a sort of cult following among the Goth movement at the school but I hate make-up. It’s oily and I sweat like a pig. Don’t ask me what I’m going to do with a Degree in Arts. Maybe try to become an illustrator, though I can’t say there’s much of a market for horrific landscapes.
The graduation speeches from the faculty droned on, my ass getting number with each passing moment. I was starting to nod off when Andy jumped, grabbing my wrist before I could even blink.
“Shit,” he groused under his breath, “my phone…”
I looked around at the blank faces of my fellow students before whispering back. “You can’t answer it now, the Dean will crucify you. Why the fuck did you leave it on anyhow?”
He shrugged apologetically while surreptitiously fishing the cell phone out of his back pocket under his gown. Hiding it in the folds of the black robe, he flipped it open and checked the LCD screen. His whole body tensed when he read the message, nails digging slightly into my arm.
“Andy!” I hissed.
He let go suddenly, like my flesh had burnt him. He looked around over the heads of our fellow students, half standing for a moment to see over the crowd.
“Andy, what’s wrong?” I asked, worried now just from the look of the stoic set of his jaw.
Sitting back down just as suddenly as he stood, Andy looked at me with frightened eyes. “My Dad’s here for me.”
I blinked. “Huh? I didn’t think your family was coming.”
“I’ve got to go. Now.”
“No time to explain… it’s an emergency. If anyone asks about me, don’t tell them a thing, ok?”
“Jack, it’s important. Promise me.”
I lost my power of speech in that moment. All I could do was nod.
He smiled and nodded back. “I’ll see you soon.”
With that, he got up and ran away.
Andy’s sudden departure caused quite a stir, needlessly in my opinion. The Dean seemed to take it personally. But there wasn’t much he could do to Andy any more, once he had his degree in hand. What really disturbed me was that he hadn’t said a word, yet asked me to keep my mouth shut. I’d thought we shared everything but, obviously, I was wrong.
My own Mom and Dad were there to congratulate us both. They were a little disappointed at Andy’s departure, and even more worried when I said I didn’t know what was going on. They drove me back to our apartment and stayed the night with me to celebrate. We drank a lot of wine, particularly since we had to consume Andy’s share. In the morning, they left. Andy and I had another month on the lease since we’d planned to have a holiday before thinking about the rest of our lives, so I decided to wait for him there.
Three days later I was still waiting. I was very busy collecting brain stems in ‘Destroy All Humans 2’ for the Playstation 3 when there was a thump at our door. Not a knock, a meaty thump like someone had rammed the door with their shoulder. Jumping off the couch, I practically bounded to the door and threw it open, such was my anxiousness.
For a moment, I didn’t even recognize Andy as his body toppled inside, the support of the door suddenly taken away. He was wearing a dark grey trench coat that I didn’t recognize over a red button-up shirt I’d never seen before. His weight knocked me back, the only thing that saved both of us from a nasty fall was the wall opposite the door. Reacting faster than I ever had before in my life, I braced against it to help take his weight and put my shoulder into his chest.
“Andy? Oh, man, what the fuck…”
His face was blank, eyes rolling inside his skull as if he was having trouble focusing. “No doctors…”
“What the hell, dude? I…” I reached in side his coat with my right hand to push him back upright. His shirt squelched, the red color oozing through my fingers. “Oh, fuck… fuck, FUCK!”
He grabbed me by the collar, consciousness coming fully back into his eyes for a moment, “no doctors… promise… no ambulance…”
“Andy, I can’t…”
I’d never seen that look in his eyes before; desperate, pleading, angry and commanding. I guess I agreed out of shock. “Ok, ok, no doctors, no ambulance.”
His mission done, his will gave out and he fell into me again, barely conscious. I kicked the door closed with one foot and dragged him, fireman style, over my back and into the bedroom. His warm blood already covered me and started to soak through my clothes. Getting the coat off was a bitch, not only did I have to hold him up; it was plastered to his shirt with clotted blood. After that, I just dumped him onto the bed, retrieved some scissors from the kitchen, and cut away the sodden shirt and trousers.
He’d been bandaged once with rags, what looked like strips of various articles of torn clothing, so extensively that it looked like someone had attempted to mummify him. The blood had soaked the rags through, leaving them a sticky red mess. Starting to wonder just how much blood my friend had left inside him, I grabbed the first aid kit from the hallway and rushed back to my best friend’s side. “Andy? Andy, wake up. Has anyone disinfected this?”
“Does…” Andy tried to reply, “doesn’t matter…”
I snorted. “Which one of us is the doctor here?”
He winced. “Cleaned it out with… some wine…”
“Fuck. Dude, I’m going to have to disinfect it before I can bandage.” Rummaging through the first aid kit, I grabbed some of the pure disinfectant, raced back to the laundry to grab a clean bucket and fill it with water, brought it back and mixed in a small amount of the disinfectant. One thing I’d learnt from Andy, pure disinfectant applied to a wound can send someone into shock, coma or possibly death. Not something you want to risk. Soaking a cloth in it, I sighed, “Andy, this is going to hurt.”
He nodded, pointing at the first aid kit. “Bit… bite down…”
I grabbed the short wooden stick Andy had added to the kit and shoved it between his teeth. Then I started to undo the bandages.
Andy’s body was a patchwork of wounds. Whoever had coined the phrase ‘patchwork of scars’ hadn’t seen the full horror of the wounds or they wouldn’t have trivialized the pain of the subject. More accurately, Andy’s skin was the patchwork, criss-crossed with deep furrows so that it did indeed resemble an uneven quilt with burst stitches. That thought reminded me of the needle and thread in the first aid kit.
“Shit, man, you need stitches… Andy, I-I don’t know how to do that…”
“Don’t worry… easy… even spacing… close up like a zipper… if bleeding, leave an end open to drain…”
Nodding, I soaked a clean rag in the disinfectant mixture then started cleaning the cuts. Andy growled at first, a deep, monstrous, sound that chilled my bones, as he sank his teeth deep into the bit. Across his chest and abdomen, the cuts were surprisingly straight and clean. Only a few seeped blood; most of them had stopped bleeding despite their apparent depth. Near his neck, however, there were different wounds, more jagged gashes, one of which must have missed his jugular by only a few millimeters.
“Shit, Andy, you’re a mess.”
Andy grunted around the bit. “You should see… the other guy.”
“Fuck, Andy. I mean… fuck.” If the other guy was worse than Andy, it meant only one thing to me. The other guy was dead. “Was it him or you?”
Andy nodded curtly.
As kids, we’d talked a lot about violence. We were young men after all; we played Zulu in the backyard. I’d be the British; Andy would be the Zulu warriors. We loved that movie when we were kids and, with just the two of us, we’d re-write it to suit ourselves. Sometimes I’d win, sometimes I’d lose but most often we’d finish saluting each other as brave warriors, both of us bloody yet unbowed.
One day after a particularly harrowing game, Andy and I had made a promise. If the game was ever for real and we faced a choice of either one of us or someone else, we wouldn’t hesitate. We’d keep each other alive. Him or you, you pick him every time. I’d never believed that either of us would ever have cause to invoke that promise.
My crash course in stitching wounds was made easier by the fact that most of the wounds were straight and fairly clean, but harder for the fact that some crossed over others. When I got to the cross points, Andy just batted my hand away and shook his head. The jagged wounds at the neck were unbelievably hard, particularly since they were close to an artery. Like the cross scars, I had to give up, but at least he wasn’t bleeding as badly when I was done.
“Are there any on your back?” I asked.
“Jesus, Andy. Who the fuck did all this? Roll over.”
Grunting, he rolled onto his side, taking the bloody sheet below with him.
“Holy shit!” Peeling away the sheet, the marks on his back were different again. There weren’t as many, thank God, and they weren’t as long, but they were deeper.
“Don’t… bother… stitches. Just clean and… start bandage…” Andy gasped.
Ten of the wounds in particular caught my eye, two groups of five punctures, about an inch long and who knows how deep, following the line of his ribs on each side of the upper torso. Splaying my hand out, the cuts roughly matched the tips of my fingers… if my hand had been bigger, they would have matched perfectly.
“Get… on with it...”
Grunting, I complied. When it was done we both collapsed in a heap, Andy on the bed in pain; me on the floor in exhaustion. Forcing myself to stand up, I peeled off my bloody shirt and track pants, sauntered into the bathroom to step under the shower and wash of my friend’s vital fluids, got re-dressed in some clean clothes and went searching for any blood splatter that may have landed in the hallway. There wasn’t any. I even peeked out onto the landing to make sure there wasn’t a trail outside. Nothing there either.
That Andy had the foresight to pick clothing that would not only conceal the blood, but soaked it up so that it didn’t drip astounded me. Usually when you’re wounded and in pain the last thing you think about is avoiding making a fuss. At that point, I wasn’t sure what I was more worried about, that someone had wanted to rip Andy apart or that my blood brother couldn’t even let the police get a whiff of it. Failing that, I returned to the bedroom and collapsed into the armchair in the corner still covered in Andy’s blood.
Slumped in the chair, exhausted, I decided I didn’t believe that whatever Andy had done was illegal. Andy was, perhaps, the most law abiding person I’d ever known. He abhorred hard drugs, he never threw the first punch and he wouldn’t even cross the street against the red light.
I went to sleep with visions of corrupt cops slicing into Andy with box cutters while terrorists held his family hostage dancing through my brain, which set the tone of the dreams that followed.
I had the cat dream again, only worse. One of the cats, with my rib cage splayed open, had started playing with my heart. The organ was beating so fast and hard in my panic that it jumped and kicked in the cavity, which delighted the great cat no end as he battered it with his paw. Finally, sick of the game, the Lion, which I could see from its dark mane, crushed it between his fangs.
My heartbeat merged into a hard knocking on the front door as I came back to reality, the way it sometimes does with repetitive noises like barking dogs. I moaned as I hauled myself up to my feet. Peeking into the bedroom, I saw Andy unconscious on the bed, the spots of blood on his new bandages were small and he was still breathing, so I decided it was safe to see to the door. Paranoid, I grabbed a mop from the cupboard to use as a weapon… not terribly effective, I know, but better than nothing.
Looking through the eyehole in the door I got the shock of my life. It was Andy’s Mom holding a grocery bag full of stuff.
Opening the door cautiously, with the chain still in place, I nodded to her, “Mrs. Blaine… a-are you alone?”
She breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “Jack! Thank God you’re all right. Yes, I’m alone. Did Andy make it?”
Something about the evident relief in her voice made me trust her, so I unlatched the door and opened it wide. She practically hurtled into my arms, dropping the groceries on the floor to give me a particularly vicious, yet motherly, hug.
I blushed. Either Andy’s Mom, Ellen, was particularly well preserved or she was all of eleven when she’d had Andy. To look at her, you wouldn’t think she was any older than thirty; she was tall, lithe and graceful with a cherubic face and deep hazel eyes. She had the darkest, smoothest, ebony complexion I’d ever seen and it suited her perfectly. To top it off, she worked as an underwear model, I jest ye not. So I blushed, poor little virgin me being hugged by a wet dream incarnate who happened to be my best friend’s mother.
“Y-yeah,” I managed to stutter, “Andy made it. What the hell’s going on?”
I felt her stiffen in my arms. A moment later she pulled back from me and sniffed, looking down at the state of my clothes poignantly.
I winced, remembering that I was covered in dry blood. “Well, I didn’t have a chance to shower properly.”
“Did you get any in your mouth? Do you have any cuts? Nothing small?”
I blinked, surprised. “Uh, no… no, not on either count.”
She sighed again, but this time I couldn’t read her expression. It almost looked like disappointment. “I better check on Andy… how is he?”
I picked up the groceries and closed the door, nodding towards the bedroom. “He’s in there. He was bleeding pretty bad but it’s stopped now. I don’t think he’s awake, but… oh, hell, what happened to him? He doesn’t have AIDS or anything does he?”
“What? Oh, no,” she shook her head the corners of her lips twitching like she was holding back a grin, “nothing like that. I’ll tell you what’s going on but first I have to see my son. There’s some microwave meals in those bags, why don’t you heat two up and we’ll talk over dinner? There’s a lot I have to say.”
I agreed and went into the kitchen to prepare. By the time it was done, she was sitting at the table fidgeting with her cutlery.
“He’s healing,” she reported, “and you were right, he’s stopped bleeding. Good signs.”
I had the feeling she was holding something back but I didn’t press, I just dropped into the seat opposite her and started eating. “What happened?”
She took a deep breath as if steeling herself for a confession. “Andy’s father is dead.”
My whole body paused. I’m not sure if it was the news or the way it was delivered. She hadn’t said ‘John’s dead’ or ‘my husband’s dead’, it was very clear. “Andy’s father is dead.” I repeated dumbly.
She nodded. “And the family has disowned us; kicked us out of the apartments. Under the terms of his will, Andy and I inherited all his money but his uncles have the apartments divided equally between them. Then they…”
A picture was starting to form in my head. I hadn’t had much to do with Andy’s extended family, or even his immediate family. I knew he had about four real brothers and seven half-brothers but he’d purposefully kept me away from them. Heck, he’d kept away from them as much as possible himself. He never spoke about why and I never asked, it was one of those gentleman’s agreements, but I figured that they were in some sort of shady business.
“So Andy didn’t want to go to a hospital because he doesn’t want to betray his family,” I concluded.
She nodded, unable to meet my eyes for the tears welling up under her eyelids.
“Andy killed one of them, didn’t he?”
She nodded again. I handed her a tissue for her to dab away the tears. After that, I lost my appetite; it was all I could do to push the food around on the plate.
“Do you blame him?” She asked.
I shook my head. “I saw what they did. It was either him or them. If I’d been there, I’d probably have capped a few of them myself.”
She smiled and grabbed my hand. She was very warm; I could feel the pulse in her fingertips. She mouthed the words ‘thank you’, unable to find the voice to speak.
“Are they likely to come for you?”
She shook her head. “No. We won’t ever be able to go back to the neighborhood but that’s no great loss. John left us plenty of money, enough to last the rest of our lives if we wanted. Knowing Andy, he’ll still want to work. I guess he gets that off me, I’ll still work if I have a choice. Have to start looking for a proper house soon, though.”
I smiled. She seemed very confident that Andy was going to make it and I, of all people, wasn’t about to disillusion her. Heck, I desperately wanted to share her illusion.
Neither of us ate very much that night and both of us were tired. She went in to sleep next to her son despite the blood, I took the couch. When I woke up the next morning, it was quiet, far too quiet. I hadn’t dreamed at all during the night, which wasn’t something new but it was unusual.
I got up feeling old, but that’s what sleeping in a lumpy couch will do to your back. I padded into the hallway intending to look in on Andy when something made me pause. It was a sound coming from their room. Whispering.
I’m not a sneak or an eavesdropper by nature but the shit going on in Andy’s life right then was just so off the wall that I had to know. I was wearing socks and the hallway was carpeted, so sneaking up to the door was easy. Leaning forward, I put my ear gently to the door without leaning on it.
“…it’s no use doing anything until we know which hospital I’m getting assigned to,” Andy said seriously, “after that, we can buy something nice.”
“This place just won’t do, Andy,” his mother complained, “it’s too small. In a month we’ll be begging for space. Dear, we have enough money that we’ll never have to worry ever again. You don’t even have to work…”
Andy interrupted her with a low growl. “Bullshit and you know it. We need permission to lair in this city and they won’t give it if I don’t have something to contribute to the collective.”
There was a short pause. “Dear, you do know Jack’s listening at the door, don’t you?”
My heart leapt into my mouth.
“Of course I do, he’ll be finding all this stuff out soon enough. Come on in, Jack, and pull up a chair. I have something to show you.”
I opened the door and entered, sheepishly scratching my head. I was about to mutter an apology when I noticed how they were lying on the bed. Andy was on his back but Mrs. Blaine was wrapped around him like a lover, clothed only in her underwear. She made no move to cover herself.
My face must have looked beetroot red with embarrassment but neither of them commented. Andy smiled at me and waved, looking so relaxed that the blood-spotted bandages didn’t seem real. “Hey, dude, sorry for the scare. I would have dragged my ass somewhere else, but you’re the only person I could trust. Great job on the stitches by the way, you should be a nurse.”
I gaped at him, caught between being happy that he was alive, the embarrassment of seeing him with his own mother like that and the warm glow developing in the pit of my stomach at his praise. Overwhelmed, I slumped into the chair, deciding to ignore the fact that his mother was practically naked. “Andy, I just… fuck, man, I mean, fuck. Your own fuckin’ family…”
Andy glanced at his mother. “What’d you tell him?”
She paused for a moment, considering how to reply. “I thought that until you were awake, discretion was wiser. The choice is yours now.”
I glanced at them both, first Andy, then Ellen. “Andy, what the fuck are you talking about?”
He sighed. “I was hoping to keep you out of my family life, Jack, you gotta believe me. I didn’t think Dad would… I mean… oh, shit, any way this rolls you’re in it up to your neck and rising.” Suddenly, he looked me square in the eyes. I couldn’t look away; he seemed so serious in that moment I just knew whatever he had to tell me was momentous. “Jack, no matter what happens from now on; I want you to know I love you. Ok, man? Forever.”
I nodded, taking those words in my stride. “I love you to, my friend. What’s going on? You’re scaring me.”
Without a word, he ripped off his bandages. I almost leapt out of the chair screaming, half afraid this was some sort of suicide by torture thing, but what I saw stopped me. There were no wounds under the bandages, just clean, clear, skin. There weren’t even marks from my stitches or the slightest scar.
“Andy…” I croaked, starting to panic. My hands shook like leaves in the wind.
“Mom,” Andy nodded to the door, “you better go get Jack a stiff drink.”
She nodded, gracefully hopped to her feet, and strutted out the door.
“No, I don’t drink.” I protested.
“You do now,” Andy said in a tone that brooked no argument, “trust me, this will all go a lot smoother after a drink. Jack, remember that message I got on my phone at graduation?”
I nodded, still staring at his chest. “How could I forget?”
“That was from my father. I am… was the first of his children to come of age, his eldest son, but you knew that right?”
“Ok, good. The moment I came of age, my father did something I didn’t think he’d be desperate enough, or hate me enough, to do. He called me out for a duel under tribal law.”
I blinked. “Huh? Did I suddenly go back in time while I slept?”
He rolled his eyes. “Dude, I’m serious. For the moment, just accept what I’m saying as truth, I can prove it all later just trust me, please. I swear on our friendship it’s the honest truth, I’ll swear any oath you name.”
I gulped. Andy had never lied to be before and he took his promises seriously. “Ok. I’ll accept it for now, but your proof better be good.”
He sighed. “Oh, it is, believe me. Where was I?”
“Your Dad called you out for a duel.”
“Right. Well, four of my uncles picked me up from graduation and forced me into the back of their van. They took me back to the apartment… Jack, what you’ve gotta understand is that my Dad… he was a crime boss. Our apartment building goes eight stories underground and links up with the Chinatown underground network. My uncles run illegal gambling out of the basement levels, the apartments are just a cover and Dad was in charge of the whole thing.”
I hated to admit it, but that filled in a few holes from my life’s story so far. It seemed almost too fantastic to be true, so it probably was.
“One of the things my Dad ran down there was extreme combat sports. Full body contact deathmatches. Even got an arena that’s like a big circular pit with a gravel floor to squeeze more blood out of the fighters.”
“That’s messed up.”
He nodded. “Yeah. My father felt threatened by me, said that if he let me go my own way the others would see it as weakness. Personally, I think he just couldn’t stand the idea that I was making something of myself. We fought and I killed him.”
I took a deep breath and let it out. “Him or you?”
“Him or me,” Andy nodded, absently rubbing where the jagged scars had marked his shoulders, “almost got me too…”
At that point, Ellen came back in with a half glass of scotch along with the rest of the bottle. “Sorry, took me a bit to find it. Your kitchen’s a mess, boys.”
Despite her reproving tone, I just couldn’t think of her as Mrs. Blaine anymore. You just don’t see your best friend’s mom in her underwear and think of her the same way you used to. My discomfort level, already high since we were talking about Andy committing patricide, went through the roof as she returned to her place in the bed cuddling up to her son. I downed the first half glass in one gulp and broke out in a fit of coughing as it burnt away the inner lining of my esophagus.
Andy and Ellen chuckled knowingly. I had to resist throwing the glass at him. “Asshole.”
I nodded. My hands had stopped shaking and a warm glow was radiating out from my stomach. “Ok, so, you won the match. What then?”
“Then,” Andy sighed, “my uncles decided that if I was dead they could keep my father’s money and the apartments. I convinced them it was bad idea. Mom took my side and the rest of my aunts fell in with her. We keep the money, they get the apartments and we never come back. Perfect deal.”
Ellen took my glass and poured another three fingers of the scotch into it. I shook my head, “No, thanks, I’m fine.”
“The day’s still young,” she answered cryptically.
I looked at Andy. “There’s more?”
“Yeah, a lot more. Too much more to get a grip on in one day.” He paused, tapping his fingers on the sideboard. “Ok, what do you know about Lycanthropy?”
I felt one eyebrow raise involuntarily. “Lycanthropy. As in Werewolves?”
He nodded. “Exactly. Derived from the Greek Lycanthropos. Of course, literally, it means wolf man and specifically it refers only to Werewolves, unlike some of my colleagues who refer to anyone who thinks they have the ability to change into an animal as ‘clinical lycanthropy’. The proper generic term is Therianthropy or ‘clinical therianthropy’ if you’re talking about the insane. If you want to get specific about my mother and I, however, we are Ailuranthropes.”
I stared at him blankly.
Ellen rolled her eyes. “What my son is trying to tell you, taking the long way around, is that we’re Cat People. Werelions.”
“Werelions,” I repeated dumbly.
Andy nodded at the glass of scotch. I drank the whole thing without letting it hit the back of my throat.
“Ok,” I said very calmly, “I know I gave you my promise but I’m sure you’ll understand when I say: Bullshit. Bull fucking shit.”
Ellen chuckled, slapping her son on the chest. “You owe me five bucks.”
I started pouring a third drink.
“Maybe that’s enough scotch, Jack,” Andy suggested, concerned.
Holding the glass up to the light, my vision was starting to blur. “Werelions. Fucking Werelions. Bullshit. I can’t… where… why… there’s…”
I only vaguely heard the glass hit the floor, splashing its contents over the carpet.
“Oops, I think I’ve gone and sheered one of Jack’s pins.” I heard Andy sigh.
“I think I put too much rohypnol in the scotch,” Ellen confessed. I thought that was somehow important but I couldn’t think why.
“Mom,” Andy growled. It wasn’t a whine, it was a reproof.
“It has to be done, Andy. The moment you stumbled through his door you only had two choices in this. Either he becomes or he dies. I don’t think I can kill him, can you?”
There was a long pause. “Never.”
Another, longer, pause. “I didn’t want this.”
“You think I stayed with your father because I had a choice? Did he give you a choice in any of this? Like it or not, you’re a King now. That means making hard decisions. You don’t turn him now; the Council will kill us all.”
“I don’t want things to change.”
“Too late. Andy, this isn’t the end. Is our life so bad that bringing Jack into it’s a crime?”
“No. But he won’t thank me for it, particularly doing it this way.”
“You saw how he reacted. It’s how they all react before the change. Showing him your beast could break his mind. You MUST do this. I wouldn’t ask this if it wasn’t necessary.”
“The Council wouldn’t…”
“Yes, they would.”
Andy growled and I heard something smash apart. “I’ll do it. Damn me, but I’ll do it.”
I felt a giant hand grab me by the scruff of the neck and lift me to my feet. I recognized Andy’s smell but my vision was a mass of colored blobs. I batted at his chest weakly, trying to push him away, hardly able to keep my feet. He hugged me, resting his head on my shoulder, rubbing his cheek against mine.
“I’m sorry, Jack.”
I felt his flesh start to writhe and twist against my hand, the flesh of his cheek against mine as he rubbed suddenly brushing soft fur over my skin. My feet rose into the air without any apparent change in his stance. His grip around my body became stronger, almost crushing, pinning my arms firmly against my sides. I drew in breath to scream but he wrapped his hand around my head, blocking my mouth and pulling our cheeks apart.
A moment later, pain exploded through my shoulder and I passed out.
Any hope I could have had that the last time I’d slept peacefully would start a trend was dashed the moment I woke up from my drug and pain induced sleep trying to scream my lungs out. I was bound to my bed, the blood-soaked bed, surrounded by half-man, half-cat beasts sniffing at my limbs. I was naked and gagged when they started picking at my skin with their teeth.
“JACK! Jack, snap out of it!”
Something cold hit me in the head like a mallet, something I was having trouble seeing. I tried to focus on the voice.
“Jack, its Andy, remember? You’re fine, ok, you’re fine… you’re burning up and it’s making you hallucinate…”
A great roar chased away the cats before they could begin their feast. Levering my head up, I could see another, larger, cat approaching; only this one had no mane. It walked between my legs, sniffing up from my feet, past my crotch, and began to nuzzle at my abdomen. One slice of its fangs ripped through my skin, but the nuzzling continued. First, its head disappeared inside the wound, then its forelegs and shoulders. Finally it slid all the way inside; stretching my skin until I thought it would break.
I blinked and Andy was looking down at me, wiping my face with an icy cold cloth. “Dude,” I groaned weakly, “you wouldn’t believe what I just dreamed about. You said you were a Werelion and then you bit me…”
Andy groaned. “That bit wasn’t a dream, dude. I’m sorry; it was either bite you or kill you. What you’re going through now we call the change. Mom’s just gone out to get some more ice.”
I shook my head, trying to get the stupid dream out of my head, but something sloshed that caught my attention. I wasn’t on my bed, I was in a bathtub full of icy slush and my whole body still felt like it was on fire. I was, however, handcuffed to the cold water tap by one ankle.
“Andy, what is this? Quit fooling around!”
“I’m sorry, Jack, I can’t let you go yet.”
“WHAT THE HELL IS… AARGH!”
My question was interrupted by a sudden thrill of pain that launched my whole body, from the balls of my feet to the top of my head, into the air. Andy’s arm punched downward, forcing my stomach back under the water while his other arm kept by head out of it.
“Focus, Jack! This is the hard bit; your body’s adjusting to your new metabolism. You’ll burn hot for another four hours then… well, we’ll see.”
At that moment, Ellen burst through the door with two plastic bags of ice on her shoulders. Dropping one onto the floor, she held the other out over the water and slashed the base with her fingers. The thick plastic ripped apart, spilling its contents over me and the warm water over the edge of the tub. The second bag followed in short order. Smiling, she held her hand close to my face so I could see, her dainty hands tipped with sharp, curling, claws. As I watched, the claws slid back under her nails.
“I think that’s enough proof, don’t you dear?” Ellen grinned at me, her eyes shifting momentarily to a golden yellow.
I was gaping when another spasm wracked my body.
After an hour, the cycle slowed from one spasm per five minutes to one every ten. At two hours, it spaced out to half an hour. By hour four, I felt like a wet, bedraggled, kitten from Milo and Otis, with Andy and Ellen playing the part of the sadistic producers. But at least the spasms had stopped.
“Ok,” I croaked, “Werelions.”
Andy washed his face in the sink then sat on the toilet. “Yeah, Werelions. In case you haven’t noticed, my ancestors were African…”
I snorted, which made me groan in pain again. “God, dude, don’t make me laugh. Lungs aren’t up to it right now. Too much screaming.”
He grinned. “Sorry, I’ll try to stick to the facts. When the slavers invaded Africa, they brought back with them more than just Negros. Our people peacefully coexisted in the tribal system and got caught up in the net. Not many, not the strongest ones, but enough. The separation of the American chapter of the Masonic Lodges from its parent organization gave us an in with the fledgling Council of Mages…”
“Mages?” I gasped.
Ellen nodded. “Witches, sorcerers, wizards, mages… they’re the top of the supernatural food chain. Forget Harry Potter or Gandalf or any of that crap, they can’t shoot bolts of lightning from their fingertips. But they can manipulate the fabric of space and time to a limited extent. Earthquakes, tornados, curses… they’re pretty impressive on the whole but subtle, in general.”
“So, we threw our lot in with them,” Andy continued. “Uncontrolled, we’d have to compete with the Wereleopards, Werejaguar and the native Werewolves and Werebears. The Mages get to be the leaders and make the big decisions. We stick to keeping quiet and trying not to kill each other. It keeps things relatively peaceful.”
I sighed. “Andy… you bit me because I knew too much.”
He nodded but couldn’t meet my eyes. “I didn’t want it to be this way. I didn’t want to take you by force. But Mom was right; the Council would have demanded your death to keep you quiet. They wouldn’t allow me to turn you… this way, you have a chance. Like we said, whatever it takes.”
“Whatever it takes,” I echoed. “This is dangerous, right?”
“It… it could kill you,” Andy admitted, forcing down the lump in his throat, “and you… won’t be the same as you were.”
“We’re half lion, half human,” Ellen explained, “it’s a mistake to forget either heritage when dealing with us. Humans believe that Lions are regal creatures but the reality is that they’re just another great cat. Still, human belief dominates one half of our views… many of our peers are awfully impressed with themselves, like my brothers-in-law and my ex-husband. I knocked that out of Andy early on. When you befriended him, I thought my prayers had been answered. You kept him away from the bad influence of the pride’s male coalition.”
“Our old pride was large,” Andy added, “able to support all seven males comfortably. My coming of age disturbed the balance. In the wild, lions have a dominant male and a dominant female that rules, for lack of a better term, the rest. The same is true of Werelions. My uncles will ruin the pride fighting to be top cat.”
I yanked on the handcuffs around my ankle. “Any chance of getting this thing off now?”
“No.” Ellen stated with dismissive finality before striding out the door suddenly.
I looked at Andy, trying to do my best pleading puppy dog eyes.
He shrugged, unmoved. “Sorry, Jack, I can’t do that.”
“Dude… who am I going to tell this to? They’d lock me up and throw away the key…”
He shook his head emphatically. “No, no, no. You just don’t get it yet. If you tell anyone, even your parents, what’s happened, the Mages will wipe them out of existence. It won’t look like murder, of course, just a quiet heart attack. Maybe even a joint suicide. Officially, there is no such thing as magic, so anything the Mages choose to do with their power is just written off as a freak of nature or a normal, rational, occurrence. Then they’ll come for me and mom. If I let you go now, they’ll think I’m incompetent to be King of my own pride and deal with us.”
I let my leg go slack. “Shit. Dude, you know me. I’m not going to do anything to put you in danger…”
“No, Jack. No. You can’t feel it yet but right now your body’s pumping out hormones and chemicals and a lot of other things are going on modern medical science can’t adequately describe. Your whole personality could change, drastically. I just can’t take the risk.”
“So, I’m a prisoner?”
“Yep,” Ellen answered matter-of-factly as she stepped back into the room, throwing her son a raw t-bone steak, “but don’t worry, I’ll be here to look after you. Eat this; your body needs the protein.”
She shoved a lump of red raw rump steak into my hand, probably defrosted in the microwave. “Uh, no thanks, I’m not hungry.” My stomach chose that moment to rumble audibly, the sound slightly magnified by the surrounding water. They both looked at each other knowingly before taking a bite out of their own hunks of meat.
Curiously, even to me, I sniffed at the meat in my hand. To my surprise, it smelt good. It was an even greater surprise to me when I nibbled at one edge to test out the taste. It wasn’t just good, it was scrumptious. All of a sudden, I couldn’t get enough of it into my mouth at once and chewing before I swallowed was a real chore. How can I describe it? I guess you could say your first meal as a Were is like losing your virginity. You lose something in the transaction but a whole new world of pleasure has suddenly opened up before your eyes. I devoured the whole thing and was licking the juice off my fingers once it was done.
“Come on, guts,” Ellen quipped as she grabbed my arm to haul me over her shoulder, “lets get you to bed.”
I tried struggling, but every movement made me feel as if someone was stabbing needles through every muscle in my body. I just couldn’t get any strength into it. By all rights, Ellen shouldn’t have even had a chance of lifting me, but she pulled me up like I was stuffed with cotton wool. Andy unlocked the handcuffs and brought them with us back into the bedroom where they lowered me gently onto my mattress and handcuffed my wrists and ankles to the steel posts on each corner. I tried to resist a bit harder but it was no use, both of them had grips like steel.
“JESUS, guys… don’t you think this is overkill?” I shouted, wiggling in my bonds, the cuffs clanking and clattering in sympathy.
“Hey, I like a man at my mercy,” Ellen grinned, running her hands through the hair on my chest.
“He’s not a mouse, Mom.”
Ellen snarled and threw a pillow at him. “Bite me. He’s mine, you get the couch tonight.”
“Andy?” I asked, getting more than a little nervous.
He sighed. “Don’t worry, dude, Mom’ll take care of you. Sleep well.” He waved goodbye and closed the door behind him on his way out.
When I looked back at Ellen I got yet another in a long line of shocks. She was undressing herself. “WOAH! Woah, Mrs. Blaine, wha…”
“Oh, don’t be a prude, Jack,” she rolled her eyes and grinned at me, “and call me Ellen.”
I panicked when she started removing her panties. “WO-WA-WHA-WOAH! WOAH! Mrs… Ellen! Please!”
Smirking, she slid the lacy, purple, garment over her smooth, athletic, legs, kicking it away with her long feet. Turning away from me, she gave me the old bedroom eyes over her shoulder as she slipped the straps of her bra off then reaching back to undo the clasp. She moved like an exotic dancer, every muscle rippling with perfect grace and coordination. Allowing the bra to drop, she turned around on the balls of her feet to face me.
I felt something creep down the whiskers of my chin and realized I was drooling. I tried to slurp it up and wipe the remains off my chin, which made her laugh. She lent over and crawled onto the bed, rolling her shoulders with each fluid motion. As I watched her face, her pupils expanded, sharpening at the base and apex while the iris shifted and flexed into the cat-like golden color I’d seen before.
The world around us seemed to darken, her lithe body a darker shadow in the shadows that surrounded us. All except for her eyes, the glittering golden orbs floated in front of my face, disembodied. She pressed against me and I felt her body heat seep into my skin but all I saw were those golden eyes.
“Sleep,” she whispered into my ear, “you’re so terribly tired now, I know. Go to sleep and feel better in the…”
My head hit the pillow before she could say ‘morning’.
I dreamed again that night. I was crawling across bare earth, loose stones scraping my knees and feet, trying to escape the shadow-maned Lion that was toying with me, batting my legs with its giant paw to keep me running. After a while, it got tired of the game and pounced, bashing me into the ground and pinning me there. Stepping over my body, it sank its fangs into my shoulder gently, careful to hurt but not break the skin.
I tried to push myself up but it was like trying to lift a car, all I managed to do was get my hips off the ground. That turned out to be a mistake. It mounted me. I screamed as the long, hard, thickness of it entered my body. That only excited it more and soon its whole body was rocking, rutting to an unknown beat.
I woke up screaming again. You get used to it.
Ellen clamped her hand over my mouth and forced my head back down onto the pillow. “Shhh, Jack, shhhh. It was just a dream.”
“Wha-“ I murmured dumbly, still half asleep. It took me a moment to realize my position. I was in bed, naked, spread-eagled and handcuffed with my best friend’s mother, also naked, wrapped around me. Her thigh was resting against my crotch and I was hard, no real surprise there, in my circumstances you would have been too. The sun was up and I was sweating, my skin glistening in the light. She was warm, far, far too warm for normal body temperature. “Damn, you’re hot.”
“Why, thank-you, dear,” she grinned, licking my cheek, “you’re not so bad yourself.”
I snorted. “Yeah. Do me a favor, don’t take the piss like that.”
She chuckled. “Maybe you should look again. I think you missed something while you were asleep.”
I looked back down. She was right, something else was different. She ran her hands down my smooth chest. Smooth for the complete lack of any body hair. That was wrong, my chest had been like a gorilla’s. Further inspection revealed a toned, flat, abdomen with a distinct lack of excess fat. I said the only thing that seemed appropriate at the time. “Holy shit!”
She started nuzzling my neck, rubbing her cheek on my shoulder. “We all run at a slightly warmer body temperature. It has to do with our metabolism. The disease, curse, whatever you want to call it, it purifies the body. Makes you faster, stronger… all that shit.”
At that point, she started rubbing me with her leg. I admit that I squeaked, shuddering in ecstasy a moment before I came. She stopped. When I managed to pry my eyes open I expected a lot of different looks on her face. Humor, disgust, derisiveness, anger… I didn’t expect concern.
“What?” I asked, my eyelids fluttering. I was having a hard time focusing on her face.
She sat up and shifted her leg, making me shiver again but I didn’t go. I felt her hand slide down my abdomen as she reached for it. Her touch set me off again, quaking with the pleasure of her flesh.
“Well, shit,” she growled before raising her voice, “ANDY?”
“What? I’m just getting breakfast!” His call was muffled by the door.
“ANDY, HE’S OVERSTIMULATED!”
In the delirious fog that shrouded my mind, I heard something smash on the floor. A millisecond later, Andy was at the door, jaw hanging lose from his skull. “Holy shit!”
“I said that,” I croaked. It must have been a sight, me and Ellen lying there splattered with my juices.
Growling with frustration he bashed his fist into the wall, cracking the plaster from carpet to ceiling. “Jesus, Jack. Man, I’m sorry, I’m so, so, sorry…” I’d never heard Andy’s voice crack, it had always been smooth and deep, even in sorrow and pain. He was crying now.
“Andy,” his mother said softly, “go for a walk.”
“No! You know what has to be done; I don’t think you’re up to hearing it.”
He looked away and bit the heel of his hand.
“Andy! Call the Council. Start the process; we won’t be able to stay here now. This will help.”
He punched the wall again, span about without even looking at us, and slammed the front door behind him on his way out.
Ellen pouted. “Men, always such babies.”
“What the hell are you…” I trailed off, pain shooting up from my scrotum. My eyes screwed shut of their own accord, muscles I’d never felt before cramping up all over. “Aaargh…”
“Sorry, Jack,” I heard Ellen’s voice whisper to me through the pain, “this is going to hurt.”
She started by stroking it. I thought an angel had descended from heaven to ease my pain. At least, that’s what it felt like at first. After an hour, I had come so hard, so many times, that each new load felt like liquid fire. Personally, I’m surprised that I never passed out, considering it had been something of a theme for the last day or two.
After an hour, it stopped. My body literally had no more to give. When I managed to pry my eyes open, who knows how much later, we were both covered in my seed. The bed was soaked, not just from semen, but from my sweat and blood. I’d clenched my fists so hard that my nails had cut into the skin of my palm, leaving small, arcing, wounds that leaked onto the already sodden mattress. I just lay there gasping, I couldn’t speak.
Ellen left and returned with a bucket of soapy water. I hardly noticed. I screeched as she patted a wet towel over my crotch, the whole area was literally red raw. She washed us both down, removing the worst of the muck. “Gonna have to burn the mattress,” she commented, “give the owner a right heart attack.”
“W-water,” I gulped, parched.
“Sorry, dear, that’s a bad idea right now. No guarantee that you wouldn’t swallow the wrong way and choke… I’m sorry. I can’t say I’ve been where you are but I am sorry.”
She sat down and crossed her legs, still naked. She bit her lips for a moment, then something flickered in her eyes that let me know she’d made a decision. “The Change comes in stages, all of them pretty painful. I was born a Were, so my change when I entered puberty wasn’t so bad. I was eight, which is young even for us. By nine, I was pregnant with Andy.”
I was in too much pain for that confession to really sink in… or maybe I just went numb from shock. Doing a quick calculation in my head, that meant that she was 32. I was honestly astonished.
“Oh, don’t look like that, it wasn’t such a big deal… well, it’s not such a big deal for us. Humans have all these silly ideas, a hundred years ago there wasn’t such a thing as age of consent at all. We just had to keep me away from school for a few months and that was that. I became John’s Queen after that, which was a good life. John was an asshole but the pride is a King’s power, he can’t afford to mistreat us.
Anyway, as I was saying, the Change starts with what you went through last night. The curse runs through your bloodstream and infests every part of you, every cell. Your body tries to resist it, however, and it burns you up. But the curse is stronger than anything your body can throw at it, it’s only a matter of time until it wins and takes over. After that, it starts remaking you in its image. And this, my dear, is where your problems start. For females who are bitten there’s not much of a problem. Males, however, have other worries than gaining the ability to go furry.”
She paused for effect, I think, or maybe she was just trying to soften the blow that was coming.
“However, if the male becomes overstimulated, it’s the first sign that… well, you see, in Lions, the male to female ratio predominantly favors the females and there aren’t very many male Werelion children born at all… so we think the curse changes some men female to keep the ratio intact… so all that means that you’re turning into a woman.”
I blinked. My eyelids were about the only part of me that still worked right.
“Over the next little while your body’s going to cramp and uncramp,” she informed me, “your skin will change first, your muscles will shift around a bit and finally your bones will realign themselves. You’ll have trouble moving and controlling yourself during this time, you may even lose control of your bladder or bowels. If I hadn’t… er… milked you dry, that stage of the process could have lasted hours, trust me, its better this way. Your brain will start pumping out a lot more chemicals, so you’ll probably hallucinate. I wish I could soften the blow for you, but your next eight hours are going to be a living hell.”
And how right she was. How to describe the Change? Her description really tells you it all. I didn’t lose control of my bowels. Everything else she said was true. And it HURT. If you’ve ever had cramps, I mean jump-out-of-the-bed-screaming cramps; you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever broken a bone and then scraped the jagged ends against each other, you can understand how it felt when my bones started to shift. Four hours into the change, my insides literally began to melt. All Ellen could do was watch and try to make me comfortable.
The next part I’ll describe clinically because there is no way I can explain how it feels to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. The flesh under my skin; that is the muscles, fat and organs, gained the consistency of warm jell-o. To redistribute the excess tissue to where it was needed, the curse used my bloodstream, visibly distending my veins, as a transportation channel. The parts that were useless were exuded from my pores as a yellow-green puss.
Yes, my mattress was becoming a road map of horror.
The place where this was most visible was my penis and scrotum. My scrotum literally deflated, melted and was absorbed but that was nothing compared to what happened to my penis. The underbelly split open starting from the tip and began to turn itself inside out like a flower opening in stop motion. This part of my torture lasted three hours before it started to get better.
The first sign that I was coming out of it was my skin. During the worst of the melting part, it had gained a sort of sickly translucence so that the veins could be seen in a vivid blue just under the surface. Cleaning the puss off my skin regularly, Ellen gave me the good news. “Your skin’s getting its color back.”
Once it did come back, not only was it a natural, healthy, Caucasian tone but all the old blemishes had disappeared. The puss stopped soon after as my form began to settle down in earnest. I think that my pain receptors overloaded at some point because I was numb to all feeling. I was also paralyzed, unable to even do so much as twitch a finger. The only assurance that I was still alive was the beat of my heart and the rise and fall of my chest. Of course, as soon as my body began to settle down, the changes started to become noticeable.
My hips were larger. My body was entirely curvaceous, but the hips flared out smoothly from my waist in a perfect teardrop shape. My manhood had disappeared entirely into those hips, whatever parts hadn’t been rendered down and exuded from my skin were probably nestled comfortably inside my pelvis. Everywhere else, I was a lot thinner. I must have lost about a third of my mass, total. Ellen also told me that I was getting shorter, but exactly how much would have to wait until I could stand up.
Just when things should have been getting easier for me, the hallucinations started. I can’t remember any of it; all I know is that Ellen had to gag me to keep me quiet. I didn’t scream, but apparently I swore like I had a bad case of Turet’s. Again, clinically, it was a side effect of a sudden change in brain chemistry, the full effects of which I was blissfully unaware of.
My next truly coherent thought wasn’t really a thought; it was more of a feeling, or an expression of a feeling. I told myself that I was cold the way you comment on the weather to other people. That brought me to the realization that I was staring at the ceiling. The lights were off and it was dark outside but I could count the cracks as clear as if it were daylight which was very weird. I turned my head and found Ellen smiling down at me, now wearing one of my coats like it was a long shirt. She was holding my hand in her lap, stroking it the way you would a child’s.
“Hey,” she greeted softly, “how do you feel?”
It took me a moment to remember how to speak. When I did speak, it came out a few octaves higher than I was used to, “I… oh my God! What happened to me?”
I looked down at myself but the view was partially blocked by the two mounds gracing my chest, medium size B-cups if a decade or more years of jerking off to Victoria’s Secret catalogues had taught me anything.
“You’re a Werelioness now,” Ellen broke it to me gently, giving me a sisterly kiss on the cheek, “welcome to the Pride. Andy came back an hour ago; he has a special visitor in the other room.”
Looking around, I found that I wasn’t in my own bed any more, I was in Andy’s. I was still handcuffed to each corner but the clean sheets were an improvement. “I’m cold.”
She nodded, letting go of my hand to pull a second blanket up over me. “I should have thought. You’ll probably find that you’re a little more sensitive to temperature now, both as a woman and as a feline.”
I squirmed slightly at the mention of being a woman. I could feel a certain uncomfortable emptiness between my legs, though my skin felt soooo nice rubbing against the cotton sheets. In my position on the bed, covered by a double layer of blankets, I was really in no position to assess myself so I decided, for the sake of my sanity, to steer the conversation away from my sudden change. “Who’s the visitor? Has Andy… seen me yet?”
Ellen smiled, seeming very pleased with something. “The visitor is a Mage. He’s considering sponsoring us in the Council. That will grease the wheels for us nicely; maybe even get Andy his pick of hospitals to do his apprenticeship. And no, Andy hasn’t looked in on you. I don’t think it’s wise right now.”
I felt a wave of relief wash over me, tempered by an inexplicable feeling of disappointment. “Can you undo the cuffs now?”
“Hell, no,” Ellen clucked, “for twice as many reasons as before. Girls in your position have been known to do stupid things with sharp objects or hurl themselves out of windows. Of course, neither of those things are likely to kill you now, but its better not to find that out the hard way. Tomorrow morning, we start your training. As the eldest dominant female, it is my job to show you the ropes, so to speak.”
“Then do I get out of the cuffs?”
“Maybe, if you’re good. Now budge over and don’t hog all the blanket…”
She squirmed her way into the bed, sharing her body heat. The way she snuggled up to me, molding her curves against mine, it was like nothing had happened, only this time nothing obstructed her thigh as it pressed into my crotch. I was already tired, my brain overloaded with so many thoughts and questions that it was about ready to burst open. Then Ellen started to purr. Older domestic cats purr with a certain amount of decorum. Ellen purred like a kitten the size of a human being. It was the sort of sound and vibration you usually only encounter when dealing with power tools. It was also deadly hypnotic. For the second time since I’d met her, she forced me to go to sleep.
This time it didn’t last long. I was dreaming about Andy stroking my cheek when I felt something wrong. It wasn’t anything concrete, just a vague, indefinable, sense of wrongness and unease. It was enough to draw me out of the whirlpool of sleep and back into reality.
When I opened my eyes at first all I could see was a dark figure silhouetted against the light from the hallway, looking down on me in the darkened room. It was still night out but Ellen wasn’t in the bed with me anymore. Slowly, the shadow over the figure’s face became clear as my eyes got used to the light or, rather, the lack of light. First, I noticed that he was smiling, almost an amused smirk but not quite, without showing teeth. Then the lines of his face started coming into view. He was young-ish, probably mid 30’s. His body and face had devolved past slander and into the territory of gaunt. His eyes were lined from too much squinting, a pair of reading glasses rested on a chain around his neck over a beautiful Italian suit. His hair was mostly black aside from a few grey hairs at the temples and immaculately styled and kept in check with mousse.
Startled, I tried to jump but the cuffs prevented anything but slight movement, clanking against the steel bedposts. “Who the hell are you?” I sounded like a scared little girl, even to me.
His smile broadened. “My name is Carmody. It is a pleasure to meet you. I would offer to shake your hand but I am afraid it would be rather difficult considering your current disposition.”
I blinked. He sounded foreign but it wasn’t any sort of foreign I was familiar with. His word usage was precise and correct but the inflections were wrong, slightly off somehow, like he was paying more attention to each syllable than to the word as a whole. He reached down to touch my cheek and I flinched away, shakily calling for Andy at the highest volume I could muster. It took all of three seconds before he appeared in the doorway.
“Carmody, what are you doing in here?” Andy demanded; his face like a thundercloud.
“I merely wanted to see her for myself, Andrew,” the emaciated man replied, his gaze never leaving my face, the rest of my body mercifully obscured by the blankets, “I can see why you couldn’t wait for permission before turning her.”
Andy took a step forward. “Don’t touch her.”
Carmody chuckled. “Relax, my friend. I wish her no permanent harm at the present.”
“Even you have laws to follow, Carmody,” Andy growled, “even you.”
“I am well aware of that,” Carmody answered without a hint of ranker, “just as I am aware that she is Gifted.”
The air itself seemed to freeze, as if the whole world had stopped breathing for a moment. Andy broke the silence. “Gifted?”
Carmody nodded. “I am certain. I am well aware of how protective your kind is of both your lairs and your cubs; I would not have intruded on both if I had not felt such a strong emanation from this room. I found her sleeping so I watched but she felt my presence and that pulled her back into awareness. You’ll forgive me for trying to touch her but I will need to do so in order that I can give my full report to the Council. Cooperation would be in your best interests.”
Andy swallowed; I could see his fear in the set of his jaw. Not many could read Andy’s moods but I knew him better than he knew himself. “Does this affect the deal?”
“Yes,” Carmody stated flatly, “but I will stand by it. You have my patronage; that has not changed. On the other hand there are Mages that will take a dim view of allowing a Gifted Werelion to run loose… they will most certainly demand that she be Imprisoned or Erased.”
“No,” Andy shook his head, “either you take all of us or you get none of us…”
“Calm yourself, my new friend, calm yourself. Some Mages will ask this, a few out of blatant bigotry, a few out of jealousy that I have obtained you where they haven’t. Do you really believe that I don’t want another Gifted being beholden unto me? It is quite the feather in my cap, you know. But the majority of the Council is not unreasonable, nor will they fail to realize the value of this asset. If we appear reasonable and apologetic, and provide substantial proof that we are sincere, I am certain that we can silence the critics.”
“Proof,” Andy picked out the most important word from the Mage’s diatribe, “what sort of proof?”
Carmody shrugged. “If we, say… bound her until she is fully integrated with her totem.”
Andy flashed me a concerned glance. “I can control her beast; I think that should be enough.”
“Enough for you and enough for me but not for my colleagues,” Carmody pointed out. “If you testify in the Lodge that you reluctantly acquiesced to my suggestion but could see the necessity of it, it would not only help our case but place your own standing higher in the Council’s eyes.”
“Andy,” I protested, “you can’t keep me chained up like a dog!”
“Then you should be pleased, she-who-was-Jack,” Carmody smiled like a used car salesman, “once my binding is done the handcuffs will be unnecessary.”
I stared at them both for a moment. Andy was wavering, looking from me to Carmody like we were playing full-court tennis. “Andy, no…”
He looked at me helplessly. “I’m sorry, Jack.”
Smiling, Carmody held out his hand. I felt something grate down my spine as he flipped his hand over. One moment, it was empty, the next he was holding a short length of black silk with a clasp and a tiny silver lock hanging from one end. “Would you be so good as to touch this strip of silk, Andrew? And maybe Ellen as well, considering that you won’t be available to babysit all the time.”
Andy agreed and called her in. Carmody had them hold out their hands while he entwined the silk through their fingers. Turning back to me, the Mage stretched the silk between his fingers, grinding his teeth in thought. “Ellen, could you please hold her head down?”
Ellen looked at Andy. Andy nodded. She pulled my chin up and pressed my forehead down while Carmody slipped the collar around my neck, locking it tight. I tried to struggle but I still wasn’t up to much of a fight, my muscles felt like wet clay. Satisfied, the Mage stroked my cheek. “Most interesting. Most interesting indeed. Listen to me, She-who-was-Jack. Obey any order that we give you and do nothing that would expose our secrets. Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” I answered immediately without so much as a moment’s concern.
“Well, it is working,” Carmody smiled, straightening up to his full height. “But the night is young and I have some rather crotchety old gentlemen to placate, so if you’ll excuse me.”
He nodded to me politely before striding out the door. Ellen followed directly after him. Andy waited, staring at me. For the first time I saw his eyes flash gold in the dark. “Jack, I am so sorry.”
I snarled. I was getting sick of hearing it. “Fuck off, Andy.”
He flinched, like my rebuke had actually stung him before storming out. I couldn’t sleep all night, the look on his face before he turned away playing over in my mind. I hated him, not just for the betrayals, but because I still felt something for him.
I was still lying in bed when Ellen sauntered in the next morning wearing a white nightgown and carrying a plate of raw meat and a jug of water and some glasses. “Sleep at all?”
I shook my head, throat too dry to speak.
She lifted my chin up and looked me in the eyes, balancing the tray in the other hand. “I order you not to attempt to escape, understand?”
I glared at her and nodded.
“Good. I’m going to un-cuff your hands so you can sit up and drink.”
Once my hands were free, I didn’t look the gift horse in the mouth. I grabbed the jug and chugged the whole contents without taking a breath. I even lapped up the last drops with my tongue. When I was finished, I felt her stroking my hair.
“Interesting. I think you’re growing in blonde.”
Snarling again, I whipped my head out of her hands and huddled up the other end of the bed, hugging my legs to my chest. I tried to ignore the squishy feeling, still refusing to look down at myself, particularly now that the blankets were off.
She huffed, letting her hands fall back in her lap. “Not sleeping at night is quite normal for us; we are usually most active after dusk. Of course, human business precludes a completely nocturnal existence.”
“Cut the crap,” I growled but it didn’t sound as impressive as it used to, “what the fuck have you people done to me?”
“I believe we’ve been through this,” she sighed.
I started yanking at the collar around my neck, trying to give her the hint.
“Oh, that,” she caught it, “Carmody’s insurance policy. Mages may not be able to hurl fire but they are very good at enchantments and geasae. Here, why don’t you have some meat while I fill you in?”
I grabbed the shank of meat from her, balled it up in both hands and started chewing, all without my eyes leaving hers.
She held her hands empty and in sight, trying to be as non-threatening as possible. “The Mages are the ruling class due to the nature of their powers and the fact that they can organize better than the Were or the Vampires. Us supernaturals tend to be more emotional and prone to infighting. But they’re not one big government, in fact there are four national branches: The American Black Lodge; the British Masons; Italian and Bavarian Illuminati; and the Asian Traditions. The Black Lodge was a splinter group of the British Masonic Lodge who found themselves a very long way from home and decided to circumvent the hierarchy by forming an entirely new Lodge here. Carmody is one of them, not on the Council itself, but his word carries great weight in the Hall…”
“Wanna cut the history lesion to the part where I’m wearing a fucking collar?”
She paused, considering her next words. “They’re paranoid, bigoted, old farts who are very, very, very impressed with their own power. They aren’t the only ones with Gifts, they aren’t even the only ones with Mage-gifts, but they view us as subhuman monsters. Well, some of them. Mages like Carmody are more moderate, they say that the strength of the Black Lodge is in their acceptance and diversity which is a far cry from how the British Mages treat their subordinates. Only the Chinese are more liberal… but then, they truck with Demons... God, I’m being more wordy than Carmody. The point is that they like things quiet at home while they fight their cold war with the British and the Asians. Young, impulsive, Werelions with Mage-gifts are trouble, if it were up to some of them, they’d Erase you. Erasure means that they don’t just kill you; they wipe out your family, your friends and even your pets. Then they destroy your files, they obliterate any evidence that you ever existed, until the only place you exist in the memories of your casual acquaintances, none of whom will ever think of you beyond a passing fancy.”
I snorted. “Bullshit. Nobody could do that.”
“Trust me, it’s real. As long as you have that collar on, nobody will see you as a threat. Until you get control of yourself and accept your new life, the collar stays on. Nothing else will make it come off. You can thank Andy for that proviso, by the way; he made a lot of promises to Carmody for that little alteration to the contract.”
“Andy can suck my dick.”
“I guess you haven’t been keeping up with current events,” Ellen snorted.
“Fuck you too,” I grunted between mouthfuls, “my life is gone. Andy turned me into a freak and now I’m a fucking pet. Do I look like a bitch to you?”
She flinched and shook her head. “No. For the record, if you really want to start a fight with another female Werecat, call them a bitch. It’s the most derogatory insult we have… DON’T say it.”
I’d opened my mouth but with the word ‘DON’T’, her eyes had turned cat-like and the tips of her claws had poked out from her fingertips. I may be a dummy but my mother didn’t raise a fool. I kept my smart mouth shut.
“Good,” Ellen smiled, “finally you’re showing a little common sense. As the eldest and most dominant female at the moment, my job in this Pride is to teach you all there is to know about us and your new place in life. I will become your teacher, your mother and your lover before you are ready for that collar to come off. Once it does, you will be Andy’s Queen as his first, eldest and hopefully most dominant female, so you will be the last Werelion I’ll have to train. Since you’ll also be my daughter in law, I’m going to make sure that you are a Queen among Queens.”
I glared at her, squinting my eyes down to slits. “I am NOT a girl.”
She sighed theatrically. “I didn’t want to do it this way; I want you to know that. Open your legs wide.”
My body moved of its own accord, following her order precisely. I overbalanced and fell backward, almost tumbling over the edge of the bed, but she saved me by grabbing my arms and spinning me about until my head was in her lap.
“Hold your legs open by the ankles. Good. Now look down at yourself.”
I tried to fight it but my neck craned forward without even hesitating and my eyelids refused to close, forcing me to stare down. The body attached to my neck was a girl’s, there was no denying it. All that remained of my old friend was a small mound bisected by a cute little pink slit; there wasn’t even a single hair to cover my shame. My breasts sat on my chest, nicely rounded and firm. My hips were nice, not too plump and not too slender, with the promise of a nice ass around the back. There couldn’t have been an ounce of fat on me, I was lean and lithe like I’d been taking dancing classes my entire life and eaten nothing but salad. It was the sort of body I would have killed to have in my bed; and me on top humping like a rabbit. The thought made my toes blush.
Ellen chuckled, sliding her long, dark, fingers over my stomach. “If I’d known this was hiding under your skin, I would have suggested that Andy bite a long time ago.”
Her hand reached the top of my groin and I jumped, biting my lower lip.
“Awwww, so cute. Did I mention that Werelions are the most sexual of all Therianthropes, dear? No? A female lioness will copulate with one male around 3000 times per cub born, in a litter of 1 to 3. And they’re only fertile once every two years. If you split the difference, what’s 6000 divided by 730? About 8 times a day? And guess what, dear, the female is always the aggressor.”
I squeaked when she stroked my outer lips. I opened my mouth to say no when she slid her finger inside, taking my breath away. When she found the hidden nub tucked away between my folds and began circling it, I moaned loudly. A minute later, I was huffing and sweating on the edge…
…then she stopped.
My first reaction was anger, I almost growled at her not to stop, but a moment later I realized what I was thinking.
Ellen smiled at me, a hairs breadth away from condescension. “Yes, the kittens are always so cute. Let go of your ankles, dear, it makes you look like a slut.”
My face was burning but I found I could let go and close my legs. I sat up on the bed, crossed my legs clumsily and folded my arms over my breasts. Ellen tisked me, folding her legs perfectly, “that’s how you do it, dear. It’s worth practicing.”
“Why did you do that?” I asked in a small voice.
She looked me over from the corner of her eyes. “Why did I do it or why did I stop?”
My blush deepened until I thought my head was going to explode in a shower of blood.
“Just to prove a point. Think you can deny what’s happened to you anymore?”
I looked away and shook my head. I caught sight of my legs; long, hairless and slender.
“I didn’t think so. Dear, the curse is permanent and irreversible. People have tried. But for a curse, it’s really not so bad. We don’t get sick, we live a very long time and we stay young and healthy much longer than the humans. My mother lived until she was 157 and she didn’t have modern medicine. You’re faster, stronger and tougher than any human. You will regenerate almost any wound. Forget silver bullets or any of that bullshit, if someone deals enough damage they can put you down permanently. Watch out for blows to the head, they’re the most dangerous.”
I could feel tears start to roll down my cheeks, hot against my bare skin. “I’m a freak,” I whispered, “I’m a monster.”
She hugged me and I buried my head into her hair. There was something about her smell, something familiar and comforting. “Shhhh… you’re just emotional. Along with everything else, you’ve got hormones and things to deal with, as well as your new beast spirit. Monsters are as monsters do, dear. I’ve met too many monsters to be too worried about their species.”
Suddenly enraged, I pushed her away violently. “NO! You did this to me! You and your bastard son!”
Ellen stood, glowering down at me. “Do you have any idea what Andy is risking for you? He is putting his life, his future, my future, EVERYTHING on the line to keep you alive! If it wasn’t for Andy, you would be DEAD. Your parents would be DEAD. When we left the apartments, on foot, Andy bleeding like a stuck pig, you know what he said? Jack will take us in. Jack won’t go to the cops. And you didn’t. Andy thinks of you as his brother, he considers his REAL brothers less than nothing. He could have stayed with the Pride and killed his Uncles with our help, but he didn’t. Want to know why? Because he would have had to cut his ties with YOU, maybe even have you killed anyway because the Mages don’t tolerate any human being too close to our world. They may even have ordered him to kill you himself as a show of loyalty, and yes they can be that sadistic. So if you want to be an ungrateful bitch, let it be on your own conscience!”
I leapt at her roaring. I could feel my claws unsheathing from under my fingernails while two sets of fangs, upper and lower, extended from my gums. My charge lasted all of three seconds. Ellen slapped me across the cheek so hard that I span around like I’d been shot. She adroitly kicked my feet out from under me, twisted one arm up behind my back until it hurt then shoved her knee into the small of my back, pinning me completely. I thrashed but it was a useless gesture of defiance.
“Good, anger is good,” I could hear the grin in Ellen’s voice, “a Queen needs fire. Spread your legs.”
My body did what it was ordered to again without my say-so. I started struggling but it just hurt more. My back arched when she slid two of her long fingers into me, searching out my g-spot. She found it and stroked it hard, squeezing the breath out of my lungs with each movement. Whatever I was, I was certainly a very vocal lover. It took me a long time to build to orgasm because of the pain lancing up my arm but she started to time her twists of my arm with her strokes, lending a bitter counterpoint to the pleasure. I wanted to shout for her to stop but my body wanted more and more. The pressure inside me built and built until I was screaming on the edge of orgasm…
…then she stopped again, pulling out and dropping my arm at the same time. She turned me over by the shoulder, my body wet, numb and exhausted. “I order you never to masturbate. Understand?”
“Yes,” I breathed, crying again. “Why couldn’t you just kill me?”
She shook her head. “I love you. Andy loves you. And you never struck me as the type to commit suicide. We’re both sorry it had to be this way but life never deals a good hand, you just have to play with the shit you get. So, are you ready to play yet or do you need me to go over that lesson again?”
I glared at her again. I was angry but she’d proven that I wasn’t a match for her. She wasn’t even bothering to order me not to hurt either her or Andy, which meant she was confident. I was thinking straight, the pain had cut through the hormonal fog. It was a simple matter of threat assessment. “We’ll probably be playing this game again but I’m ready to play a new one now.”
She chuckled, one eyebrow raised in amusement. “Smart. I guess I underestimated you. Well, lets get that hair in order; you look like a chocolate dipstick.”
She helped me into a chair, my knees still weak while my groin was still sensitive to the slightest touch. Most embarrassingly, I was leaking fluid like a cheap tent in the rain, so much Ellen had to get a towel for me to sit on. She sat me in front of a mirror and forced me to look at myself while she cut my hair. About an inch from the roots, I was blonde. It had grown that much in about 24 hours. The mirror gave me ample time for self examination, and boy was there a lot to take in. I wasn’t just a girl, I was gorgeous. The little I’d noticed from my back on the bed was nothing compared to the whole. My legs would turn a man’s head while the sway of my butt would probably mesmerize half the block. I tried moving jerkily but I just couldn’t shake the natural grace that I seemed to assume automatically. It was the sort of reflex action that people train their whole lives to attain. Last but by no means least; I was shorter, 5 foot 9 inches rather than a round 6 foot.
“It’s not so unusual,” Ellen explained as she cut, “if you’d had an African in your bloodline somewhere, you would have become black during the change. Lions are blonde, so in white females who get bitten we’ve discovered this tendency. Males tend to have their hair darken; it’s a sign of bad blood in a male if they’re blonde after the change. Kings have been known to sever the bloodline of a blonde male.”
As rapt as I was in my examination of myself, I caught her meaning. “You mean they kill them?”
“Sometimes. It was a lot more common in the old days. The younger generation of males tends to be more enlightened.”
She stopped cutting my hair. After a moment, she quietly put the scissors down. In a blinding move that I hardly saw, she span around and grabbed me by the face with one hand, digging her nails into my flesh hard enough to break the skin around my cheekbones. I whimpered, with her hand over my mouth it was all I could do. She forced my head up so that I had to look into her eyes.
“Listen to me,” she growled, “in our world there is only one rule. Dominate or be dominated. Humans think they’re so much better, but they’re not. I don’t see any of them lifting a finger to stop African warlords using child soldiers. I don’t see any of them muttering a word about foreign aid money being used to buy tanks and jet fighters and soldier’s rations. I don’t see anyone trying to stop genocide in the Middle East just because the perpetrators happen to be on our side. In this world, everyone is guilty; all that’s left to us is our degree of sinfulness.”
She let me go, picked up the scissors like nothing had happened, and went back to cutting my hair. After two cuts, she gave up and reached for the comb. “You shouldn’t make me do that to you, dear, it tangles your hair something horrid.”
I hardly heard her; I was too busy watching the tiny cuts on my face heal in seconds, leaving little lines of blood in their absence. It was at that point that I noticed that my eyes had turned deep blue, which made me scrutinize the rest of my face. I seriously doubted my parents would have recognized me even if I could have escaped to see them. My features were fine and delicate now, with a well-defined jaw line and a cute, slender, nose above full, pink, lips. With my mouth slightly parted I could see the sharp white of my teeth, tiny fangs visible, though within the norm of human length, that made me look more dangerous when I smiled.
When she was finished cutting, Ellen seemed very pleased. “I’m not sure if we should keep cutting it or let it grow out, either way would be a good look for you.” My hair was a lovely golden color that shimmered like silk in the sunlight and she was right, I looked spunky with it short, even in disarray as it was. If I’d seen the girl in the mirror a few days ago, I would have said that she was out of my league.
Ellen left for a moment and returned with a short white dress, one of hers for me.
“Don’t you have any pants?” I complained.
She slapped me on the back of my head. “You’ll wear what I tell you to wear, no arguments. Just for that, no panties and no shoes today. Probably for the best since mine are a little too big for you. We’ll have to work something out to get you some thing that will fit.”
It must have hurt, that admission, but she did have a bigger ass than I did. I kept that thought to myself, though, and slid the simple sports bra on over my head. No clasp, just comfortable and functional. The dress followed in short order. I felt uncomfortable wearing girl’s clothes, but that was about my only objection. It could have been worse, she could have ordered me to wear just a garter and greet Andy at the door when he came home in nothing else. I was creating a bright side, sure, but it was better than living in hell.
With all that done, she sat me out on the breakfast table, filled another jug of water, and fed me more raw meat. I chewed in silence, squirming to get my crossed legs to feel comfortable in the unfamiliar position, when something occurred to me. “Hey, I’ve never seen Andy eat raw meat before. In fact, I’ve hardly seen him eat anything as big as a steak before.”
“Yes, I’d feed him mass quantities before he’d go to visit your house. Males need even more meat than we do.”
“Ouch,” I winced, looking at the bones of the last three t-bones I’d eaten, and this was just one sitting, “do you… sorry, do we eat people?”
“Ergh, no! Not unless we’re desperately hungry or enraged. Humans taste awful and they’re stringy. You have to pick your teeth with a fence post to get them out of your fangs after.”
I looked at her suspiciously. “That sounds like the voice of experience.”
She looked back into my eyes and smirked, but she wasn’t joking. “It is.”
I viciously bit another chunk out of my steak. “Do we change, like, on the full moon?”
She snorted. “Hollywood myth number 2. All Were can change any time they take a notion to it. There are only three exceptions to the rule. First, if our King or Alpha forces us to using his power. Second, if a Mage uses a spell to force us into another form. Three, if we become sufficiently enraged our beast spirit will take over and transform us to defend itself. That last, despite the way it sounds, is the worst of the three options because it will likely involve indiscriminate murder before you come back to your senses. Control is our cardinal virtue.”
Since it seemed the proper time for it, I considered my next question for a while before asking it. “What about the other Therianthropes? What are they like?”
“Some good, some bad, all under the power of the Mages,” Ellen shrugged, masticating a particularly tough chunk of meat, “our main allies are the other Ailuranthropes: Werejaguar, Wereleopard, Weretiger and Werelynx. The Werejaguar and Werelynx are from the Native American tribes, so we share a sort of bond being displaced tribal types. Wereleopards came over with us but a few have migrated along with the Weretiger in more recent years. Their problem is that they’re all loners by nature; they don’t have much individually to bring to the table when dealing with Mages, except for the Tigers because of their sheer size and strength. The Werewolves, of course, infest every country around the world; they are the most numerous and carry the least deadly curse, so more of the infected survive the Change. If Werecats could be said to be the minorities, the Werewolves are the average white folk of our world. They have the most pull by sheer numbers. Werebears are everyone’s friend, mainly because they’re built like brick shithouses and have enough spiritual power to level mountain ranges. Even the Mages tread lightly around them, but none of them are interested in power or money, so we all let them go their own way.”
“Is there such a thing as a Werebird?”
Ellen pouted in thought. “Most people think they’re just a myth, but they’re around. Very, very, rare. Where a mammalian change will burn you up like a candle and liquefy your organs, people who die from the Avian curse waste away before your eyes, and that happens far more often than not. There are Wereravens, Werecrows, Werehawks and Wereeagles. My mother once told me stories about Werevultures but I’ve never heard of them from anyone else. Visitors to Australia, South America and Asia sometimes talk about Werecrocodiles, Werealigators, Weresharks, Wereorca and Weredolphins but it’s always ‘my second cousin twice removed who knows a guy who’s daughter’s husband’s nephew saw…’”
I snorted, cutting her off. “Maybe Captain Nemo disappeared getting bitten by a Giant Weresquid.”
“I’ve seen a lot of weird shit in my life,” she chuckled, “I wouldn’t discount the possibility.”
I looked over at the kitchen sink and then over the plate we were sharing the meat off of. “Well, there’s one consolation about all this. Not many dishes to do.”
Her chuckle turned into laughter. “Right you are. I actually can’t remember the last time I used a plate. Back in the old pride, people just grabbed what they wanted from the freezer.”
My next question was a little delicate and I didn’t really know how to say it. After a bit of ummming and arrrring, I decided to go for broke. “Did you like it there?”
She looked at me sadly. “No. John was the worst sort of King. He never lifted a finger, took all the rewards of our work and gave nothing back. Say one word against him and he would beat you within an inch of your life and leave you for the crows. I took a lot of beatings on Andy’s behalf to make him the King he is today. None of it matters now, the old pride will sink. Whichever of my brothers in law wins, his first act will be to kill all the remaining infants and children by John or any of the other males who are too young to defend themselves. That’s more than half the whole pride. It will take years to recover.”
I stared at her. Ellen’s face was full of emotion but her eyes were dry. “Any of them yours?”
She nodded. “You get used to losing children and they belong to the pride more than they belong to me anyway. A pride shares the responsibility of child rearing.”
I shook my head, “I don’t understand how you can be so callous.”
“You’re still too human.”
We finished the rest of our meal in silence.
After lunch, she dragged me back into the bedroom, forced me to assume the position on my back once more then proceeded to torture me for hours on end. After gagging me and forcing the dress over my head to cover my face, she used a feather on my most sensitive parts, spread wide so that she had the greatest amount of access. But she’d never allow me to come, never allow the wave to break, keeping me on the edge of bliss but never forcing me over. Each flick drove all thought from my mind, which was a mercy since I might have gone mad otherwise.
As before, she stopped abruptly but left me to recover on my own. I cried, I wailed, I broke things; I punched walls until my hands were bloody and she just left me to it. I felt helpless, afraid and alone. I fought against the pleasure she forced me to experience, pinching myself hard when I felt an aftershock of arousal from her stimulations. I was in the bathroom washing the blood off my knuckles when Andy got back. I heard him call out to Ellen but ignored it. When he shoved the door to the bathroom open, I half turned to see who it was.
I must have been a sight for sore eyes. The cloudy glass of the window behind me was right in line with the setting sun, framing me in golden light. With the white dress on he would have seen the outline of my body clearly, with my hair catching the perfect golden light and matching it with its natural color. I was also barefoot, was showing of a substantial length of very sexy leg, was wearing no underwear and still wet, coming down from Ellen’s expert teasing.
He took two long strides forward, wrapped one arm around me, tilted his head and kissed me soundly on the lips all before my brain had registered his intent. In my own defense, seeing him, smelling him, was making something deep in my stomach clang together like a dinner bell. All I needed was a chef to bellow ‘come and get it’ at the top of his lungs. He kissed me, sliding his rough tongue into my mouth, and I orgasmed for the first time as a woman. I was simply that stimulated, it was all I needed to go over the edge.
I plastered my body against his, clinging to his back as his muscular arms wrapped around me, one hand clasping the back of my head while the other caressed my butt. My breasts pressed against his chest, sending erotic thrills through my body as my nipples rubbed against the cotton fabric of my dress. I felt him hard, long and ready against my thigh and I needed him inside me in the same way I needed to breathe. Just his hot, masculine, scent made me burn with passion that only he could quench.
I found myself kissing him back and undoing his belt at the same time as he pushed me back against the cold tile wall. I gasped in surprise when I pulled him fourth from his underwear, his erection as long as my forearm and quite possibly thicker, a great throbbing vein stretching its entire length. I felt my lower lips drool with the sight of the feast that awaited it, a slow trickle of thick liquid dripping down my inner thighs.
He lifted me by my buttocks with ease and moved his hips in between my legs so that the only thing I could do was lock my ankles together around his back and hold on for dear life. Then a moment of pure clarity cut through my hormonal haze as he pulled me down with the full intention of impaling me. Part of me wanted to scream and shout, kick him away, do anything in order to shut him out of my life. The other part kept my ankles locked around his legs, a part that knew only the rawest need for him to complete me.
The moment passed with shocking suddenness as he rammed his key deep into lock on my soul, battering through the gates and laying me bare. I screamed with a mixture of pain and pleasure as my virgin blood leaked out around his shaft, his head nudging my cervix almost as if we had been made to fit together this way. My back arched, pushing him back a step as my head and shoulders braced against the wall, nothing but his prodigious strength holding me up.
My body panicked as he started to retreat, vaginal muscles claming down to try and pull him back to his rightful place. Arcs of pleasure skittered through my flesh but it was the pleasure of something being taken away that I needed. I needed him where he was to complete my soul; any other existence seemed to be nothing but an empty void by comparison.
Just when I thought I’d lost him forever, he shoved himself all the way back inside me and made me scream in pleasure again. My body met his thrust with one of my own, muscles convulsing by pure instinct. Our rhythm started slow but built quickly, each of us moving with such force that the wall shuddered and tiles popped free to shatter on the floor. My breasts danced together inside my dress, hard sensitive spots brushing erotically against the now damp cloth as my flesh was caught in the grip of an intense heat like I’d never felt before. Colors danced before my eyes as I cried out my joy to the world, lost in a state of perpetual bliss as I climaxed again and again. I was so enraptured that I barely felt my body stretching in places beyond the limits of humanity.
Claws burst from my fingertips as I grasped at the wall behind me, crushing tiles as I fought for more stability. Lumps pressed out underneath the skin of my back as my spine thickened and elongated, the signs of a small tail appearing just over my butt. My upper and lower canines elongated into fangs as I shouted incoherently, my whole face threatening to elongate into a muzzle as my skull shifted beneath my face.
Just when I was about to slip over a precipice that I felt but didn’t understand, Andy roared. He roared as he came inside me with one last thrust and I came in response with equal intensity at the same moment, my final climax eclipsing all those that had come before.
When I came back to my senses I was normal again, albeit dripping with sweat. I was clinging to him with both sets of limbs as he had collapsed against me, still pinned to the wall. My head was resting on his shoulder, so I heard him perfectly when he said “I love you, Jack.”
I heard him say it over and over, fading away into nothingness as exhaustion claimed me.
I was running but this time I wasn’t running away from a cat. It was a dog; a big, mean, angry mutt that hated the world and everything that moved inside its territory. Andy was ahead of me, vaulting wrecked cars that I had to scramble or roll over with ease. I didn’t look back; I could almost feel the dog’s fetid breath on me heels.
It had been a stupid dare. Run through the junkyard, he said. The dog might never even see us, he said. There might not be a dog at all, he said. Well, there was a dog and he was about to have me for dinner.
The last and greatest hurdle seemed like it was rushing towards me too fast, though my conscious mind knew I had to be moving towards it. Either way, the chicken wire was still at least twice the size of either of us and I doubted that I had the strength left in my legs to leap up, let alone clamber over the razor wire at the top.
Andy seemed tireless. He reached the fence and leapt, managing to mount the top in a prodigious show of athletics that would have left me breathless if I hadn’t been already. “JACK!” He shouted, reaching down to offer his hand to me. “JUMP!”
I reached up and jumped, a surge of adrenaline carrying me through the maneuver. As I rose up, I saw that I had fallen short of my goal, even as Andy reached down further to try and grab me. Our fingertips brushed against each other. Then my body hit the wire and hurled me back to hit the dry, hard, earth face first.
I looked up in time to see the dog jump, though all I really saw were two rows of pure white fangs hurtling towards me with uncanny speed. The world went dark as a shadow passed across the sun. Then Andy’s boots hit the dog square on the neck, his entire body weight crushing it.
“NOTHING HURTS JACK!” Andy screamed, caught in the grip of wrath like I’d never seen. The dog was dead but Andy picked it up, still screaming, and hurled the body into a wreck, breaking more bones with a sickening wet thud. He screamed, he cried, he told me he was sorry all the way home.
And we never did anything that stupid again.
I felt wonderful as I opened my eyes, filled with the warm, fuzzy, sensation of perfect contentment. I was in a soft, clean, bed at the perfect temperature; not too cold and not too hot. I moved my legs, allowing soft skin to rub together, and felt content. I felt the tightness of the choker around my neck but it didn’t bother me. I felt the absence of anything between my legs, the added flesh on my chest and the supple curves of my body keenly but they didn’t worry me. I was sore but it was the good kind of sore, the kind that paradoxically reminded you that the world was perfectly imperfect.
I was in Andy’s bed, I knew that before I opened my eyes. His scent permeated the pillow, the sheets, the mattress, the blankets, everything. It was like I was wrapped up inside of him, consumed by him, he was everywhere even though his warmth was absent from the bed. I realized then that I’d always been in love with Andy.
It had never been anything sexual before. We’d been best friends, closer than brothers, inseparable. It wasn’t romantic love but it was a bond just as strong. We liked the same things, thought the same thoughts. Heck, we’d lived together for all of our lives and expected to grow old and die together without ever getting sick of one another’s company. We shared silences together where neither felt the need to talk. It occurred to me that if either of us had been homosexual, then we would have been lovers. My transformation merely gave us another way to express our love for each other in a different way.
My nipples hardened and I felt myself getting wet thinking about Andy. The part of me that resented him for what he’d done to me, that had wanted to fight against the change, was gone. He loves me; I love him, why should I make it more complicated than that? Lying there for a while, I pondered that what I was feeling was just a side effect of the sex that somehow my new body’s hormones were messing with my brain. It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t true. If I’d been born a girl we would have already been lovers. All that my transformation had done was remove that impediment. The only thing I’d lost was what had been preventing my life from being complete.
I realized that I could be everything that Andy needed and that, more than anything that had ever happened to me in my entire life, made me happy.
I got up reluctantly and discovered that I was naked. Probably a good thing considering the state of my Stepmother’s dress last I’d seen it. Feeling mischievous, I opened up Andy’s closet and retrieved one of his shirts. Putting it on, I smiled as I checked myself out in the mirror. I was a perfect little blonde girlfriend wearing my man’s shirt.
Andy’s girlfriend, I thought, my heart skipping a beat. The shirt bathed me in his scent, reminding me of him; the feel of his skin; his exultant laugh; his honest tears; the need in his voice when he whispered that he loved me over and over.
“Ugh!” I shook myself, pulling at my hair, and otherwise castigated myself. “Ok, ok, enough with the love struck teenager act, girl. Come on, we’ve got a lot to talk to Andy about.”
And more sex, I thought. Then my stomach rumbled. Ok, food first, I amended my previous thought, then more sex. Though, I shouldn’t appear to forgive him too easily either. So I’ll get food first, then we’ll have a long heart-to-heart, then more sex.
Happy with my plan, I opened the door that led into the main living area of the apartment.
“Oh! Oh! Oh! OH! OH, YES! OH, YES! YES! YES…”
Each exclamation was punctuated by a jangle of metal on metal, a sound that I was unfamiliar with. Curious, I risked a peek through the bedroom door and there they were. Ellen was bent over the kitchen counter with Andy behind her, grasping her ass firmly so as to piston himself in and out with all the force he could muster. Ellen’s eyes were screwed tightly shut as she made the rather distinctive, yet hilarious, expressions of coitus. I wondered absently if I’d looked that silly. The jangling was coming from the knives hanging over the kitchen counter, clattering against one another over Ellen’s back with the vibration of their motion. I had to wonder if the extra danger got her off more. A quick glance at the window confirmed that it was still night outside and I was surprised to note that, though the lights in the apartment were off, I could still see clear as day.
They didn’t see me, so I watched the whole thing, horrified and fascinated all at once. I don’t consider myself a voyeur, even if I have watched my fair share of porn, but I couldn’t look away. It was like rubbernecking while you pass an accident in your car or watching war footage on the news, horrifyingly fascinating.
I ducked back into the room while they were recovering but kept close to the door so that I could listen in to any post-match conversation. I didn’t have to wait long.
“I think we’ve got an audience, dear,” Ellen chuckled.
Scowling, I opened the door again. “God damn it,” I swore, “how the hell did you know?”
Ellen squirmed, every inch of her looking satisfied as her son pulled out. “Smell. The shirt helps but you didn’t shower again after sex, so your own scent is quite strong. Speaking of which, I think I’ll go clean up.”
The kiss she gave her son wasn’t motherly. She even gave me a sly wink as she sashayed into the bathroom. Andy and I stood in silence, staring at each other until we heard her turn on the shower.
“You don’t approve.” Andy stated, getting in first.
I pouted. I wasn’t sure if I approved or not, I was still in shock, but I was fairly certain that I was feeling jealous. “I’m not sure what I just say,” I said honestly, “please enlighten me.”
He sighed. “Jack, I’m the King of this Pride and the only male. I’m sure Mom told you by now, one of my jobs is keeping the women of the Pride satisfied. A Werelioness’ sex drive is extremely acute, if they… if you aren’t satisfied regularly then your control will weaken and unleash your beast. Unfortunately, until we can come up with another male that we can accept in our Pride, then I’ve got to keep my mother satisfied. I’m sorry.”
I shook my head, feeling confused. “Don’t be sorry. I’m sorry, it’s just so hard to adjust to all this. Sometimes I wonder if all this isn’t just another of my cat-dreams. Besides,” I smiled as I sashayed toward him, “I’m not sure that I can be angry at you right now.”
The way he looked at me as I approached, trying my best to walk sexy for him, I knew he wanted me even after having me earlier and just having another woman a minute ago, he was still eager to please me. Delighted, I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, raised myself up on the tips of my toes and gave him a kiss that put the one his mother gave him to shame. He kissed me back like he was trying to pour all his love for me into my soul and I responded in kind.
We were interrupted by my stomach, which rumbled with the force of a small earthquake. That caused us both to laugh mid-kiss, which is a rather interesting experience in itself. I felt giddy again when he made me sit down so he could get me some raw meat from the freezer, defrosting it in the microwave so that it was just the right temperature not to hurt my teeth. I had to inwardly curse my infatuation again so I wouldn’t moon over the boy.
Once I’d devoured a few New York strips I started the conversation again. “So… you don’t have a problem with… having sex with your mother?”
Andy frowned and sighed again, shaking his head at the same time. “No. I was raised as a Were in a Pride of a dozen males and about sixty females. Even with the unusually large number of males born into the Pride, that’s just not enough to go around all the time. On top of that my father and uncles have their favorites, who they service more often to the detriment of the rest of the women. Also, my father would often forbid a woman to have sex with anyone as a punishment. I lost my virginity the day my balls dropped.”
His last statement sounded bitter. At that moment I wanted nothing more but to ease his pain, so I reached out and stroked his hand. “I’m so sorry. How old were you?”
“Six,” he chuckled.
I stared at him. Finally, I slumped, depressed. “More than twenty years and I’ve gotta get bitten by a Werelion to get laid. But you’ve been sleeping around behind my back for most of that. Jeeze, Andy, was I ever better at anything than you?”
I held up my hand to stop him. “No. No more ‘Jack’, please. I think it’s best if Jack was dead. I’m just not… him… not any more.”
He turned his hand over so that he could hold mine and smiled. “I love you, my Queen.”
“I know,” I said, smiling back, “I love you too. Always have.”
Once again we shared a moment of contented silence.
Our moment was broken a while later when Ellen came out of the bathroom naked and still drying her hair with a towel. “You two kissed and made up, then?”
We both blushed.
“Good,” she continued without waiting for an answer, “then maybe we can start on planning our next move. Like when are we getting outta this dump and getting a real home. If you kids break any more rooms or scream any louder, people are going to think something’s up.”
“I’m working on it, Mom,” Andy growled. “Carmody and the Progressives are trying to whip up some support in the council as we speak. As soon as he has an answer, he’ll give us a call. In the meantime, I’ve put the word out amongst the Weres. We’ll have to wait and see how that pans out at the Moot, though.”
“Uh, Moot?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Ellen answered me, “the Moot is a weekly Were convention. Like what humans would call an ‘official dinner’. We have a party and the Elders, those Were chosen to represent us at the Council, hold court.”
“Officially, we’re going tomorrow to introduce you to the Elders,” Andy added, “which is important but not as vital as organizing new housing. Weres are very territorial, so we’ve got to be careful not to step on any toes.”
I couldn’t hold back a smirk. “But Andy, I literally don’t have a thing to wear!”
“Which is why I’m going out shopping tomorrow while Andy stays home to look after you,” Ellen explained. “And tomorrow afternoon, I can start training you in getting dressed and doing make-up. It’s a specialist skill that you completely lack, as you’ll soon discover.”
I looked at her quizzically, one eyebrow raised. “Do I really need make-up?”
Andy said no, Ellen said yes and I got that warm fuzzy feeling again.