***Slight Homoerotic theme warning***
The next morning Ryan and the rest of the Were were given protein bars and bottled water again before being left alone except for two guards who continued to watch them from seats near the door. Later that night another guard came in, wielding a shotgun and a long cattle prod.
“Change!” he barked at those who were not in wolf form. “Change or be punished.” He said, trusting the cattle prod through the bars at one of the men who was still in human form. The thin form convulsed as he was electrocuted before the guard finally withdrew the cattle prod letting him collapse to the rough floor, a red burn rising on his skin where the prod had connected. “Any Were not in wolf form in ten minutes will be shot and dragged out into the woods for the crows to eat.”
Naked and with no weapons, Ryan slowly hunkered down against the cold concrete and tried to ignore the howls and whimpers that broke out around him as the others changed around him. He had barely finished the change when the man came back surveying the group. A single man lay shaking in his cell, too weak to change. He was shot in the head without any warning, the other goons moving forward to remove the body leaving a thin trail of blood leading out the door.
They were herded out soon after two by two, every hour or so. Those that came back did so injured. Several wolves were dragged back in, too injured to make it themselves. They moaned and whined their way back to human form, using the change to heal most of the damage even if it was at the cost of energy they did not have to spare. Ryan guessed that it was after ten or eleven at night when he was finally take out of the cage along with one other wolf, his coat a sandy white and blonde like that of a huskie.
They were lead at gunpoint down a long concrete corridor before he was pushed through a low door, the thick metal slamming shut and being locked once he was in. A metal grating let him see in the concrete and steel pit that was laid out before him. The crowd seated above laughed and joked with each other, smoking expensive cigars and drinking while they waited. He felt sick, it was a pit fight like people did with dogs. He had to fight or risk getting shot by the guards that prowled the walkway above the pit.
The grate in front of him was lifted at several of the men watching let out a cheer. Ryan slinked out of the confining chamber and into the pit, the other Were doing the same. Ryan noted that the other Were was smaller than himself but did not take it as much of an advantage. He had never fought in his Were form.
Past, New York City, NY.
The change was only one day away and Ryan was already feeling the effects. The wolf sat firmly in the forefront of his mind, instinct clouding some of his normal reactions. Yet at the same time he was filled with a swell of nervous energy. He went on a long run that morning, splurging afterwards on a real breakfast at a local dinner. He worked extra this week at the fish market to make sure he had enough to afford a different hotel after tonight if he got kicked out. Were might be welcome at the place but having a man spending half the night screaming was never on the menu no matter how cheap the place.
The last stretches of muscles finally clicked into place and Ryan fought to pull himself to four feet. He whined slightly as his shoulder burned and the scars along his side added to the pain of stretched and torn muscles. He slowly dragged himself up to lay panting on the small bed, ignoring the way the frame creaked and groaned at his weight.
It made no sense that he would actually be bigger as a wolf than as a human, but he was. He was more dire than timber wolf, shoulders hulking and muscular on his long frame, the thick coat of fur only made him seem even larger. Yet, he still maintained his human weight on average and most of the basic characteristics would stay the same. It was extremely rare but sometimes a wolf would have different eye or fur color than his human half, thankfully that was not Ryan. He actually was rather normal looking for a Were according to the doctors, not that it was exactly a comfort when you’re a giant half human wolf.
The banging and shouts from the nearby rooms finally stopped but he could not stop the deep thrumming growl that rumbled from his chest with each breath as the wolf protested their confinement, they were meant to run, to hunt, not to cower in an ill fitting den. Frankly, Ryan agreed with the wolf, his body thrummed with the need to move and run even with every muscle screaming in pain.
Until he was sure he was completely in control of the wolf’s instincts, however they would continue to change in a locked room. The separation between the wolf and him was gone while he was changed and he could not say what would happen out in the world. Would he give into the blood lust and hunger that drove so many of the other infected men mad? He did not know. The wolf filled his dreams with hunting, tracking smells, hunting the rabbits and doves that he had hunted as a teenager on his families land. He woke with the taste of blood on his tongue and the memory of the warm limp forms of the animals he had killed in his hands. He decided it was a bonus that he was at least not dreaming of hunting people.
The press of wrongness still pushed at him, he was closer to a normal wolf than human this time but the differences were still there, the paws more hand like, the shoulders and legs still too human to move easily, smoothly like they should. He pulled the details that he had gotten right this time to the front of his mind and tried to memorize the feel and movement of the muscles. Each time he moved just a fraction closer to wolf.
The small room lay close about him in grey scale. He knew from his earlier changes at the hospital that his fur was the same reddish brown of his hair, his eyes still the greenish hazel they always were, now just surrounded by fur and a wolf’s skull. Once his muscles stopped twitching and some of the ache faded he spent the rest of the hours until the moon set tracking the various smells that coated the room, he was slowly learning what each variation meant and tried to guess how long ago it had been left by how strong the scent was. Some scents seemed to fade quickly while others lingered for no reason that he could discern. The tracking and scenting kept the wolf entertained until the change back started.
The banging had barely stopped when it started back up on the door. He forced his aching body into a pair of jeans and shuffled to the door. The banging thankfully stopped as he fought with the deadbolt and chain. The hotel manager was on the other side, face red in anger. The color drained from his face as he took in the angry red scars that covered Ryan’s chest, shoulder, and torso.
“Listen, I don’t mean any disrespect to Were but I can’t have that much noise here. I need you out if you’re going to do that every full moon.”
“I know. I’ll be out by the end of the day.” Ryan agreed tiredly, trying to ignore how the other man’s eyes stared at his scars. He knew they were hideous, he didn’t need the reminder.
“Make sure you are.” He said with a firm nod before turning away. Ryan closed the door and shuffled back to the bed, he tumbled back into bed, exhaustion pulling him back into the dark as soon as he was horizontal.
That afternoon he pried himself out of bed and into the shower before gathering the rest of his things. He stopped at the manager to drop off the key, waving away the other man’s apologies. This time at least he already had a hotel that he knew allowed Were not to far away.
He had avoided it the first time around, the faint scent of other Were leaving him nervous and twitchy as he surveyed the small block of apartments that surrounded the new hotel. He had been avoiding trying to track down the various Were he scented about the city, not sure of what kind of reception he would receive. The spokesperson for the Were, Maria Fitzgerald, an older female lawyer whose husband was a Were, had called the forcibly infected an abomination and was calling for severe punishment for those that had created and released the altered virus. She was strangely silent on how she wanted those forcibly changed treated however.
The hotel was still rather run down and severely overpriced for what he got but it would do for a week or two. He would have to take extra shifts at the fish market until he could find another job. Still it was an bed in a room that had a door that locked. It would be okay for now. The next day, Ryan was back looking for jobs, taking the subway farther downtown to try and get to a few of the local bars before the afternoon rush hit.
“Hello, I’m looking for the manager.” He called out, eyes picking out a thin form moving inside the darkened back of the delivery truck.
“You found him.” The woman said with a grin striding forward and picking up a case and gesturing for him to take the next. “If you want to talk, you’re going to have to help.”
Ryan picked up a large box proclaiming the contents to be Bacardi and followed the woman into the back of the bar and through a side door into the bar. The only lights on were at the bar, shrouding the rest of the place in darkness. It looked like most of the bars he had frequented in college and on leave.
“Something I can help you with?” She asked cutting the top of her case with a pocket knife and starting to stack bottles on the bar. She was a small, older woman with grey streaked blonde hair that was pulled back into a thick ponytail. She wore jeans and a form fitting t-shirt that showed off the tattoos that wrapped each muscular bicep.
“I heard you had an opening for bar staff. I have a resume if you need it.” He said pulling a copy out of his jacket shifting his case to the other arm.
“You ever worked a bar before?” She asked, not looking up from her task.
“Not since high school, Mme.”
“The name is Dixie, Darling. The only Mme. I know are the Queens who come into lip sync on Wednesdays.”
“Alright, Dixie.” he said with a grin, setting his case down next to her’s when she had emptied the one in front of her.
“Let me see your resume, Honey. I have a couple of slots open right now with half the staff graduating last month. You don’t have the build to be a bouncer but you could clean up nice enough for the bar.” She said taking his resume and skimming through the information.
“I don’t have much of a wardrobe right now.” He said with a wince, hoping he would not have to buy a uniform.
“You’re a Were?” she asked, eyes running back along his frame like she would be able to see the scars that had turned him.
“Yes.” He said simply, already bracing himself for the brush off.
“I don’t let any gang happenings go on in my bar, you want to fight you take it outside. We understand each other?” she said, stepping up next to him, folded knife still in one hand, bottle of liquor in the other held by the neck like a weapon.
“I’m not in a gang and unless someone starts insulting my mother or takes a swing at me first, I won’t fight.” Ryan said firmly, shifting automatically into a more secure stance in case the small woman decided to go crazy. He had long ago learned to never judge and opponent by their size, a small opponent often meant that they fought harder and dirtier than a regular size opponent would.
“Honey, I don’t care if you’re Were or not but there are some around here that work for the local street thugs. I won’t have it in my place. If you stay, you keep yourself clean and out of that mess, understood?”
“Cute.” She said with a smirk. “Come back tomorrow at five and we’ll see how you hold up. You last a week and you can consider yourself hired.”
“I look forward to it. Thank you, Dixie.”
“Don’t thank me yet, Darling. Five o’clock sharp. Now go on, get some better clothes before you burn my eyes out in those tent rags.”
Ryan smother the next “Yes, Mme.” that wanted to come out and headed out. He still had a bit of money set aside, it would be enough for at least one good clean outfit that actually fit without cutting into his down payment stash for the apartment he had yet to find.
The next afternoon he headed downtown to the bar a bit early. He had spent a bit of his savings on several pairs of jeans that actually fit and a few long sleeved tee shirts and button downs he could layer for work. The Ha’Penny’s sign was already lit even though it was only just after three in the afternoon.
“Good, he’s here. James, come meet the new potential bartender. Ryan, this is James, our occasional bartender and owner of the Ha’Penny.” Dixie waved another man forward who was wiping down the long wooden length of bar that filled one side of the room, the rest of the wooden floor was open space to mingle and dance with a handful of booths and tables near the wall.
“Pleasure to meet you.” James said with a light English accent. “I hope you’ll stick around longer than the last guy.”
He was a roguishly handsome man, tall and lean with a wiry muscular build that promised strength. His dark hair fell in disheveled curls, long on top while trimmed short everywhere else. Dark eyes and pale skin filled out the image. Ryan would have called him Black Irish if he didn’t have the rich English accent layering his every word, he probably made a killing in tips based on his accent alone.
“He’s all your’s, James. Don’t break him too soon.” Dixie said with a cackle, waving goodbye before she headed towards the back her ponytail bouncing along behind her.
“Always careful, Dixie.” James deadpanned. “Welcome to the Ha’Penny.” James said, waving him along to follow James behind the bar and gesturing for him to start unpacking the boxes stacked to one side, loading the contents on to the bar to be sorted. “Monday and Tuesday nights we are a traditional pub, darts and football matches on the tellie. Wednesdays is Karaoke, Thursday’s trivia night, and Friday and Saturday we have live bands of just about every genre. If you have a favorite in town let us know, we’re always looking for different bands to lure in.”
“I just got back in town but I’ll keep it in mind.” Ryan said with a grin, glancing of the rest of the staff as they set up.
He liked the atmosphere of the place already. The other workers were laughing and joking as they swept and prepped the rest of the bar. They finished stocking the bar and set up to finish the prep work, cutting lemons and limes and restocking any bottles that were getting low. They talked cocktail recipes and what the place had on tap while they worked. Around four pm the customers started to trickle in. It was slow but considering it was only a Tuesday it was not a bad night. Ryan was mopping behind the bar when James came back in, waving for him to hand over the mop.
“Okay, rookie. We’re done for the night. We close early Monday through Wednesday, closing around 11 to midnight depending how crowded we are, you’ll get out of here around midnight most nights. Then we stay open late Thursday through Saturday, closing around 2 am and finishing up around 3 or 4. Closed on Sunday. Get here by four pm at the latest, earlier unless you want half the staff to hate you.”
“Sounds good. Guess I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Looking forward to it.” James said with a grin. “Have a good night, Ryan.”
“You too.” Ryan said, turning and waving to the others before stepping out the door.
He blew out a breath once he was away from the bar and walking, great time for his libido to come back to life. He had not had the slightest interest in sex for months between his wounds and the infection. Now that his body was finally starting to fill out and get enough food everything was cranking back up with a vengeance.
It did not help that James was a handsome man with a wicked sense of humor. He hit all of Ryan’s buttons after only five minutes of talking to the man. The last man to do that for him had been Sam, his best friend and partner, a member of his unit in the Marines and the one who watched his back. He had died along with the rest of the soldiers in the attack.
He would have to clue James in on his status in more than one area and hope that he wouldn’t take it badly. He did like the man and hoped they would become friends but he doubted any regular human would want to date a broken soldier and who was also a Were. Not anyone sane anyway.
Sam and Ryan had been best friends for years, following each other from mission to mission, watching each other’s backs until finally they had fallen together completely, seeking out what privacy they could get to hold each other in the dark. They had never said they loved each other and there were no open looks or touches of affections between them. It had been a secret they shared only in the dark, stolen touches and harsh grabbing hands as they slacked the sexual tension that living in each other’s pockets created.
That night, Ryan lay on his narrow mattress in his crappy hotel thinking about Sam. They never had enough time together, it had always been frenzied and rough coupling until one or both of them came and then it was back to business as usual on base. Ryan had wanted more than that. He wanted time to hold Sam to him for hours, to memorize his musky scent and the taste of his skin. Time to do more than rutt against each other or a quick hand job. To plunder his mouth and map his skin with gun callused hands, to nip and suck at each small imperfection until he had them memorized.
More than once Sam had left him aching and hard, leaving him to take care of it himself as the other man pulled on his boots and left, his own need already sated and his cum cooling on Ryan’s boxers. They never kissed, and rarely touched beyond sex. Ryan knew it had not been love for Sam, that once their tour was over it would have soured and been forgotten. He had wanted it to be more but you rarely ever get what you truly want, right?
The handful of times they had actually managed to get leave together Sam would hunt down a girl for the night while Ryan got drunk. Eventually Sam would come back to the room they were sharing and either pass out or they would have sex again before moving to separate beds. Once or twice, Sam had passed out once he came, leaving Ryan curled against his side body slick with cum yet to happy at being held for the night to make himself move.
Yeah, Ryan knew it had been a bad relationship, bordering on abuse but he had taken what he could get to keep his best friend near him. He tried not to think if in doing so he had killed his partner and lover by having him by his side when the monsters stepped out of the shadows to claim him.