A month had passed. Brian was settling in nicely, and had begun working at the coffee shop. Rusty and Moose were feeling increasingly comfortable leaving Brian to watch things while they spent a late night out. Bekah's extreme competence coupled with Brian's nightwatchman duties were making it possible to contemplate time away for them both.
They lay together, comfortable in the dark and quiet. Moose had his thickly-furred arm across Rusty's torso, his paw playing idly with one of Rusty's nipples. Rusty's soft, furry butt was nestled in Moose's crotch and Moose's heavy leg was up and over Rusty's. Both bears had grown since becoming were, Rusty more so than Moose. Moose had always been big, even in high school. The most noticeable difference was that he had become much hairier than he had been, even in his twenties; and he was no longer bald. Apparently something in Walt’s genes had transferred over to him and he’d regrown the full head of bright auburn hair he’d had in his twenties. He had briefly played off his new-found hair as a very good, very expensive, toupee to his coworkers before he and Rusty had ‘disappeared’. His coworkers assumed midlife crisis or cheating with a boyfriend on the side or both. The change had increased the fur on his chest, belly, back and his legs. All were now covered with auburn fur that was a pleasant compliment to Rusty's strawberry-blond coloring.
Rusty had become hairier as well but the most noticeable change for him had been increased height. For the first time in his life, he now looked most people in the eye instead of up at them. His shoulders, arms and legs had gotten thicker with muscle as well but he still retained the classic 'round bear' look. He was frankly thrilled with his new body. Rusty had always been defensive about his size and endowment and had developed a sharply sarcastic tongue as part of his social armor. Moose's frank worshiping of his body and cock had gone a long way towards convincing Rusty that he was desirable; and the physical changes after being turned were had relieved much of the rest of his life-long anxiety about the inadequacy of his size.
In school, Moose had been athletic in both shape and outlook. Now, he looked like a middle-aged athlete with more than a bit of a gut, a linebacker in the off-season. He had the height and bulk to be intimidating to all but the biggest of men; but like many large men, he was rather placid and non-aggressive. He'd never had to defend himself in a fight, in school or as an adult; and perhaps that was why he had grown up with a generally sunny outlook on life.
Rusty took Moose's paw in his and kissed the palm. “Love, why don't we take the weekend off and go out to the national forest? I want us to change and run naked; let the ‘Bears’ out to play. We haven't done that for a while and I know how much you like it. We can do it, now that Brian is living downstairs and filling in for Zack. What do you say?”
Moose was half asleep, content with the warmth and closeness. “Hmm?”
“This weekend. You. Me. National forest. Naked-Bear-Time!” The last part said with that announcer’s voice used by the advertisers of monster truck rallies, complete with echo effect.
“Sounds good,” Moose intoned sleepily. “Let's do it… but now, sleep.” He hugged Rusty to his broad chest and kissed his ear. In two minutes he was asleep, warm breath regular against Rusty's neck and back. Rusty smiled to himself. Familiarity had never dulled the sense of joy and contentment he got from Moose's touch or his closeness in bed. Soon, he too fell asleep.
That weekend was clear and cool, unseasonable for early August, but not unheard-of in coastal Oregon. “You got everything you need?” Rusty asked Rebekah Friday afternoon. “I've put in the bakery orders ahead so you won't have to worry about that and Brian will be here and up early Saturday to open; Randy and Sandy are taking some time off so they are doubling up on deliveries, and...”
“Stop fussing, Boss. I'm on it, we’ll all be fine. The cafe will survive, go!” She flapped her apron at Rusty, who smiled.
“Yeah, I know, Bekah, I fuss too much. It's just that...”
“GO!” She shooed him with her hands like a teenager who wanted her parents to just leave for their night on the town.
With Brian now a steady employee and the über-competent Rebekah in charge, Rusty really wasn't worried about leaving for three days. Their plan had always been to have enough trained staff that he and Moose could get away for long weekends when they wanted to. Both of them really enjoyed the work they were doing and neither of them liked long vacations; but it was sure nice to be able to get away now and then. A trip to Canada and one of Boris' summer bear gatherings would take more planning but was actually do-able now. Rusty was humming as he climbed the stairs.
Moose had finished with his last patient of the day but needed to stay late. Two sports trainers from the regional high school were coming over for an informal workshop on taping and preventative icing for young athletes, so they would not be able to leave until early the next morning. Although they would not actually need any food for their trip, relying instead on foraging, Rusty would pack a convincing amount along with the camping gear as a cover for anyone curious about their absence.
The alarm went off very early on Saturday morning, and after some quality cuddling and a relaxing hot shower afterwards, Moose and Rusty said their goodbyes to Brian and hit the road out of Wolverton; heading towards the Deschutes National Forest. Singing to music on the SUV's stereo, the two big bears rolled down the highway, windows down. “I don't know who has the better voice, you or me!” Moose joked.
“Neither!” Rusty tossed back, starting another falsetto off-key verse of Blondie's 'Heart of Glass'.
They parked the SUV far off the road in a tiny clearing they had made some months ago on a previous, shorter trip. Normally, they took time stripping each other of clothing, enjoying the sensuous pleasure of the act of revealing each other’s bodies. Somehow, after years of being together, they never tired of this, but now they were anxious to get to the safety of the deeper woods so they could change into their full ursine forms. They stripped quickly, locking their clothes in the rear cargo area. They carefully spread the tarp over it along with branches from a nearby tree and locked it and set the alarm; Moose hid the key. The vehicle was completely out of sight from the road and covered with the camo tarp and vegetation, no one could tell it was parked in the copse of trees from more than a few feet away. Satisfied, Moose and Rusty walked naked, Moose's cock swinging, Rusty’s was bobbing as they headed deeper into the woods. Inhaling the cool, pine-scented air, they reveled in the freedom they were soon to enjoy.
“Here?” Moose asked, looking at Rusty.
“Yeah, you go first, I love watching you change.” Rusty sat on a nearby rock and watched his lover change into an enormous, auburn-furred grizzly. Moose's thick fur muffled the creaks and cracks as bones and joints rearranged themselves into a bear skeleton and new muscle layers formed. His face elongated to the dished face and snout of a grizzly bear, while his ears moved upward, becoming fur-covered and rounded. The stubby tail formed at the base of his spine while pads formed from palms and soles and claws from nails. Dense bear fur pushed through his already-copious human pelt. His eyes turned to the chocolate brown he shared with his ursine brothers but there was a glint of deeper intelligence in them that perhaps might be noticed; if you weren’t too afraid to make the observation.
Moose growled, unable to speak in his full bear form but Rusty understood easily enough. It was his turn to change and Moose eagerly watched as his mate went through his own transformation. Rusty had less trouble with his changes than Moose had originally, but he deliberately slowed the process so Moose could watch and enjoy the metamorphosis; it was something that invariably made his mate horny. Moose was now fully proficient in his changes but it hadn't always been so. Now, both bears could change smoothly at will; neither got tired of watching the other.
Dropping to all fours, both bears ambled off, their amplified senses drinking in the myriad scents and sounds of nature. One scent in particular Rusty found most appealing. Moose was leaking after the show Rusty had given him. Rusty halted the larger bear, ducked his head under his mate’s belly and took the semi-erect member into his muzzle, lapping up the precum with his big warm tongue, rumbling a growl that vibrated the cock he was suckling.
Moose growled deeply and made happy rumbling noises of his own and then Rusty abruptly pulled off, turned around and began walking in the direction in which he’d started.
Moose chuffed and whined which became a disappointed growl at the end: ‘You’re not gonna finish that?!’
Rusty laughed in the way of bears and rumbled over his shoulder, ‘Not now; antici…’ he left an intentional pause, ‘pation.’ He finished and laughed again.
Of all their senses, sight was the least enhanced, lagging far behind smell and hearing. Nevertheless, they saw more sharply in this form than they did in human form, particularly at night. Like many animals, bears have a reflective layer, called the tarpetum lucidum lining the back of the eyeball; werebears were no exception. But, combined with some of the features of human vision, the werebear had superior vision to either humans or bears. Color vision was more tilted to the blue and green end of the spectrum but colors meant more to the bears in this form; for example, indicating the relative health of vegetation far more accurately to them than it might to humans.
Hearing was greatly enhanced, allowing the bears to sense and track other animals with great precision over many miles. The additional resonating chambers in their ear structure increased their hearing into the near-ultrasonic range.
Few things could surprise an alert bear but above all, the sense of smell ruled supreme. Possessing by far the sharpest sense of smell of any land animal, this was even further enhanced by the Jacobson's organ, in the roof of the mouth, a feature bears share with cats and retained in weres, even in their human form, giving them an enhanced sense of smell. The barrel of a werebear's snout was almost entirely devoted to smell, with over 100 times the surface area inside the nasal ,assages compared to their human form. It was the were's central way of perceiving the world in this form. Scent became language; a completely different range of communication and understanding became possible, either of them could smell mood changes and identify them faster and more readily than they could have by looking at each other while in human shape.
The blending of enhanced senses, tremendous strength, regenerative ability and greater intelligence made werebears truly the most formidable creatures in the forest.
Rusty and Moose ambled along companionably, chuffing and growling to each other, commenting on an especially tasty berry bush ahead or the pregnant sow who had passed this way two days earlier. They stopped occasionally to mark a tree, urinating and standing on their hind legs, reaching up to claw the bark from the tree as high as they could stretch, rubbing the tree with the scent from the glands on their backs and necks.
Moose rumbled, chuffed and made other verbalization after he was finished, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; because I'm the biggest son of a bitch in the valley!”
Rusty woofed and growled in appreciation of the humorous but true comment; Moose's claw marks far outdistanced ones left by other males.
As the day wore on, they split up, wandering wherever their noses led them. Through ravines, up narrow washes, across open meadows; they roamed at will. Twice they crossed each other's path and each time, they mounted and vigorously plowed each other, roaring thunderously as each reached his climax, filling each other’s rectums with generous quantities of hot werebear seed. Other animals either fled in terror or scattered to safe hiding places, sensing something other than the usual ursine coupling. Nuzzling briefly, then going their separate ways, exploring, ever increasing the distance between themselves and the human world they had temporarily left behind.
Rusty made one special find, a hollow tree trunk that had been colonized by bees. Breaking into the comb, his prehensile tongue eagerly lapped up the sweet wild honey and bee larva. The numerous angry bees were ineffective in their attacks on his thick fur but his snout suffered. The stings healed rapidly, though; and the honey was sweet. Nearly two miles away, Moose's nose detected the complex odors of honey, Rusty and angry bee and he lumbered toward them at a rapid pace. They shared the last of the honey and then wandered off in different directions for more foraging.
Several miles away, another bear halted his own foraging and raised his muzzle, inhaling deeply. The wind-carried scents told his sensitive nose of others of his kind; two, in fact. For an older werebear who now spent nearly all of his time in full ursine form, this was a rarity. It had been years since he had come across other weres in the wild. He wondered if these two were visitors or new residents. He altered his course and began moving purposefully towards his ursine brothers.
In the late afternoon, Rusty tracked Moose to a large rocky ledge he had found that looked out over a small valley. The ledge was backed by a cave and had a waterfall and pool close by, an ideal place to spend the night. They rumbled and chuffed a greeting to each other and nuzzled and licked each other’s faces. They each stretched out next to the other, their bellies absorbing the last of the sun's warmth radiating from the rock, rear legs kicked out behind, their great heads resting on forepaws. One, the larger, auburn fur glossy and thick; the other, smaller but striking, with a creamy coat tinged with faint orange. They were what they looked to be: two large, healthy bears in their prime, comfortably full from a day's foraging, taking their ease. They looked out contentedly; watching the sun edge down towards the horizon, then dip behind the ridge line across the valley from them.
Moose rolled on his side, his bear cock gradually easing out of his sheath, the flattened tip glistening with precum. He woofed at Rusty, who reached out a paw and gently nudged Moose in the chest and then rolled over himself. His own cock was already fully out of its sheath, his fur-covered balls snugged tight against his groin. Moose, seeing this, rolled on his back and motioned with a paw. Rusty heaved his bulk up and positioned himself between Moose's hind legs and flopped down so he was belly to belly and cock to cock with his mate. The clumsiness of bears was softened by the obvious joy they expressed in their movements. Rubbing and pressing into each other, hunching, licking, chewing on nips, nuzzling in each other’s thick aromatic fur; they expressed the same frank pleasure they found in one another’s body in their human forms.
Rusty's breathing became heavier and more rapid. Moose growled and raised his rear legs in open invitation. Rusty scrambled upright and as Moose raised his butt, centered his penis on the bigger bear's anus and pressed forward. The baculum-stiffened cock slid smoothly into Moose, who growled louder in pleasure. Rusty wuffed and set to work, tenderizing his lover's insides. Rusty fully intended to pull out and roll Moose onto his belly and finish the job in the classic bear position of all-fours but the intoxication of sex in full ursine form, all senses tingling on overload, pushed him over the edge. With a roar that caused night-resting birds to scatter in alarm, he came, filling Moose with his life. He pumped as his testicles contracted even more tightly and then, spent, eased down so he was lying on Moose's belly and chest. Moose folded his paws over Rusty and the two rested, letting their hearts and respiration return to normal. Eventually, they separated and fell asleep, pressed tightly against each other.
As the sun was coming up the next morning, Rusty awoke and padded off a ways to urinate. When he returned to the ledge, he found Moose awake, standing, with his bear cock fully extended and dripping. Rusty came as close as he could to chuckling in his full bear form and moved in to lick the sweet nectar from his lover's meat; Moose rumbled his enjoyment and his body responded by producing more of the fluid. He nudged Rusty around so he could mount him. Rusty eagerly complied, bracing himself for the heavier bear's weight. Moose heaved his bulk up and hunched over Rusty's back and butt, his rigid cock finding its way to what it sought. Entering, he growled and then took Rusty's muscled shoulder hump into his jaws and bit down, drawing blood. A human would have screamed out in pain but Rusty only felt waves of sexual pleasure as he was penetrated from behind while being firmly held; he loved it rough. He pushed back hard against the pole occupying his ass, growling and whuffing in ecstasy.
Blood seeped from the bite on Rusty's hump and Moose tasted it, the hot flavor increasing his lust. The feelings that cascaded into his brain were different than when he and Rusty bred in human form but no less pleasurable. Neither of the bears would ever be able to successfully communicate the range of feeling nor emotion their mating created in full werebear form; only another werebear could fully appreciate it. It was wonderful, a kaleidoscope of lust and tension and release and love.
Empty now, all seed pumped deep into his lover, Moose dismounted and watched as the bite wounds on Rusty's back quickly healed. Rusty turned to Moose and licked his muzzle and Moose playfully batted him on the side of his head.
A low, rumbling growl from the bushes behind them caused both to turn. Standing there in mighty bulk was a grizzly, his brown fur shining in the morning sun. The huge bear wuffed at them. Eyes intent, he gazed first at one, then the other of the bears in front of him. Both Rusty and Moose were instantly on alert, growling, the fur starting to rise on their shoulder humps, both stood on their hind legs to appear as large as possible. The large bear growled again and swung his head back and forth. He stood on his hind legs and raked his claws diagonally across his chest and belly. Red furrows formed and bright red blood spurted; then quickly clotted as the furrows closed and healed, leaving hardly a mark. Moose and Rusty looked at each other and then back at the bear. They all dropped back to all fours and took a step forward, then another. Moose and Rusty moved in closer until they were all nose to nose. They all inhaled each other’s scent, the smells communicating a great deal more than simple speech could allow. The new bear's growls and wuffles expressed his appreciation for the vigorous fucking he'd witnessed and for the two bears in general. In turn Rusty and Moose indicated their appreciation of the ample bulk of the obviously successful bear in front of them.
In the course of the next hour, Moose and Rusty and the new bear got acquainted, exchanging information about their pasts. The new bear was much older, and Rusty recalled Boris having mentioned that some older weres turned completely feral; staying in full ursine form for the rest of their lives. They lived in seclusion, aloof from human contact. This bear didn't seem to be totally feral but had certainly shunned general society, spending most of his time foraging and wandering his range in full bear form. When Rusty started to change back to his human form, the big new bear swung his head from side to side again, making it obvious he did not wish to change form. Rusty backed off, remaining as a Kermode.
Moose and the new bear began a playful wrestling bout that turned into a prelude to a more sexual form of play. The three coupled and broke and licked, sucked and humped each other, forming a fraternal link in the age-old way of werebears. The big bear finally withdrew his still-rigid cock from Moose's ass, gave a last lick to Rusty's dripping meat and flopped down on his belly. Each had drained their balls into the others, filling both open maw and willing ass. The big, old bear had even taught the two younger weres a couple of very satisfying moves of his own. All three were pleasantly tired. Moose and Rusty pressed themselves against each side of the bear and the three of them napped in the morning sun.
When they awoke, the big grizzly was gone and the pair marveled to each other over the stealth of such a massive beast.
Their stomachs were grumbling, signaling the need to replenish energy stores expended in vigorous bearsex, so they headed off for a morning of foraging.
The rest of the second day was spent in several naps, a cooling splash in a small pond bordered by wild blueberry bushes and one more intense session of lovemaking. They denned for the night in a different cave, this one amidst a jumble of rocks. It had recently been occupied by a three year old male black bear, who was going to be greatly surprised and puzzled by the smells left behind when he returned. The gentle snores of the two bears were heard by nervous nocturnal forest creatures, who gave the site wide berth.
The following morning, both bears awoke, stretched and spent a good ten minutes each scratching itchy backs against a tall pine close to the cave. Rearing up to full height, Rusty raked his claws across the tree, noting with satisfaction that the previous occupant's scratch marks were much lower than his. The two ambled their way back towards the car. They had come far in their wanderings and it wasn't until late afternoon that they reached the vehicle they had concealed. Carefully checking the area for any hikers or campers that might be unwelcome witnesses, Moose growled an 'all clear' and both began their changes back to human form. As the last of their bear pelts retreated to their more human density, Moose and Rusty embraced and kissed.
“Gods, that was good!” Rusty said, fondling Moose's hefty ball sack and kissing him again, “But who was that guy and why couldn’t I sense him?”
“I dunno, you’re the one with the spooky superpowers. I’m just the irresistible brutish sidekick, remember?” Moose said with a purposefully dumb look on his face.
Rusty rolled his eyes.
“I really get why some bears spend weeks in bear form.” Moose said as he reached for the keys he had concealed under a nearby rock. Fitting the key to the lock, he added, “Boris said there were some really old bears that stayed in full bear form all the time. I guess we met one”
Rusty nodded. “Right now, though, I'm happy the way we are. I miss my coffee! Let's get moving.” Moose and Rusty pulled their clothes on, cleared the branches, folded the tarp carefully and stowed it in the back, and climbed into the SUV.
Moose stopped and seemed to become aware of something for the first time, he sniffed at his pits, then turned his nose to Rusty and took two deep sniffs, “Man! We reek!” He smiled and Rusty gave him ‘the look’.
“Of course we reek, Norman. We smell like bear musk, the great outdoors and bear semen. We just spent two days fucking in the woods as bears, what did you expect? ... Midnight in Paris?” He chuckled. “But yeah, we’re going to need showers; our scent would be rather hard to explain.” he said while plucking a twig out of Moose's bushy beard, “and we need trims too! Just look at us Norman; we look like hillbilly mountain men!” Moose smiled at Rusty's still slightly fastidious nature.
Moose imitated the banjo music from Deliverance. “Yew shore got a’ attractive face hole, suuun,” Moose badly imitating a rustic southern accent.
Rusty took a playful swipe at his hubby and grinned back. “Good thing it’ll be well after closing time by the time we get back to the shop. Let’s just hope we don’t run into Brian before we get a chance to clean up; don’t know what he’d think. Our scent is powerful enough that after spending a few hours in here, I think we’re going to have to air it out or get it detailed or something.”
“Heh, sooo… no stopping off at a quaint lil’ restaurant along the way for us then, I suppose.” Moose chuckled and his belly gave a rumble.
Rusty laughed at the sound and rubbed his husband’s belly, “Awwww… Is my Norman hungry? My poor bear! I suppose those ‘just for show’ supplies we brought will come in handy after all!” Rusty said and dug around in the back seat for bags of chips, cookies, jerky and bottled water.
He retrieved the goodies and Moose reached for a bag and promptly got his paw slapped, “I got it, you concern yourself with starting up the car and getting us down the road, I’ll feed you while you drive.”
Moose pouted and Rusty petted his bushy bearded cheek and gave him a quick kiss. He turned the keys in the ignition and idled the car for a moment before putting it in gear.
Moose asked, “Can we keep the clothes unwashed for a while? I kinda like that wet bear scent we have right now.”
“I don’t see why not, we'll keep them in a cloth bag by the bed until the scent fades and then we’ll wash them, how’s that?” Rusty asked while the car trundled down the dirt road toward the highway. “Hell, I'll put some under my pillow,” Moose chuckled.
“Home, James!” the strawberry blond bear said with a grin as he opened up the extra-large super economy sized reseal-able plastic bag of ‘Sasquatch Links’ brand teriyaki pork jerky.
“Who's 'James'”? Moose asked.
- - - - - - - -
That same morning Rebekah blew into the coffee shop, quivering with righteous indignation. “Have you SEEN this?!”
“Seen what?” Donovan asked. Rebekah slammed down the copy onto the counter of the Wolverton Tribune down on the counter.
“That!” pointing to an article below the fold on the front page, “Right there, plain as day. Valmer's at it again. It wasn't enough for him and his cronies to buy the last city council election, now he's trying to get rid of the shelter!” Rebekah's wild hair got even more disheveled when she was angry. It was flying now.
“He's trying to get the council to terminate their permit to run the shelter. Saying it's a...a...” Rebekah ran her finger down the newspaper column. “A detriment to the community's safety,” She snorted, “bull SHIT! … if there's any 'detriment', it's Valmer and his cronies… detriment, my ass!” Rebekah snorted again and made a rude noise.
“Remind me never to make you mad, Bekah.” Donovan said, eying the knife Rebekah now held in her hand.
Rebekah pointed the knife blade at her co-worker. “I've lived in this town all my life, and my parents before me. I know things change, but ever since that man moved into town and started throwing his money and weight around, things around here have gone downhill. He out-bid local businesses, bought up those he could and I just KNOW he intimidated a couple of others to close up and leave. I'll never forgive him the way he undercut my dad's business. He's evil and he's up to no good at all, I just know it!” Rebekah's eyes flashed as she waved the knife blade. “And DON'T call me Bekah!”
“Easy!” Donovan said, backing slowly away from the irate woman with the fiery red hair.
“Oh. Sorry.” Rebekah put the knife on the counter. “I just get so damn mad when that man gets up to his... his... shenanigans! Sorry, didn't mean to scare you.” She angrily began scooping beans from the large foil bags and began feeding them into the grinder hoppers for the morning rush.
Donovan had learned that Rebekah sometimes got herself worked up over a perceived injustice and that it was best in such cases to simply let her vent and cool down on her own. He'd also learned as a youngster that when his mother was in a 'mood', it was best to find somewhere else to be. He elected to use that time-honored strategy now.
“I'm headed downstairs to get a couple a bags of beans and napkins… and stirrers. Oh and sugar, too. Need anything else?”
Rebekah grunted a “no” and continued to vigorously fill the grinders with today's selection of beans. Donovan headed downstairs and took an unusually long time to gather the needed supplies and bring them up.
- - - - - - - -
By the beginning of October, a mere five months since Rusty had found him huddled on the doorstep; Brian had turned into a very able employee as well as a competent handyman. He’d finished installing cabinets in the storage room, painting it a burgundy and staining the cabinets a rich walnut. He’d also finished off the garage workout room, framing a wall to separate it from the parking area, insulating it and painting it, too. Moose decided that Brian’s room should have built in shelving and closet space and told him to pick out any wallpaper or paint colors he desired. Moose had said, “I want you to feel at home, the room is yours for as long as you need it, you might as well decorate it the way you like.”
Brian chose a rich green for the room, trimmed in white and found framed art deco posters he rather liked at a thrift store to decorate the walls. His wardrobe had improved considerably, but he still preferred to buy from thrift stores rather than new; his time being homeless had taught him the value of reusing and gave him an eye for quality in used items. They looked good and were, of course, better for his budget, now that he actually had one. He’d also begun to save for a car and was actively trying to become self-sufficient. He kept the place in good repair, helping Rusty and Rebekah with the quarterly detail cleaning of the shop, and was working out well behind the counter. For someone who didn't know a coffee bean from a kidney bean, he had picked up behind the counter skills rapidly. He was pulling shots nearly as well as Rebekah, and better than Donovan.
His appearance had improved as well, though he hadn’t shaved off his beard; in fact he’d let it grow out longer. He’d trimmed it for shape and kept it well groomed. His beard now touched the top of his chest. His thick brown hair also grew rather fast and he hadn’t cut it either, keeping it in a short pony tail. It was a style that actually fit in with the bohemian atmosphere of the coffee shop. Rusty noted the young man filled out his employee coffee shop T-shirt much better now than he had even a month ago and had built some muscle doing morning exercises in his room and jogging. Moose had offered to help him with some weight training and he’d taken the bear up on it, working out in the back of the PT side of the building as well as using the heavier weight training equipment in the home gym he’d finished off in the garage. If anyone knew how to prevent pulled muscles and damage from lifting, it was Moose; the young man was very grateful for his help and knew he was in good hands.
But he never forgot his time on the street, and had begun to volunteer at the local shelter, helping prepare and serve the evening meal three nights a week and even hunting up donations on some of his days off.
“You think he does that just so he won't forget how it was? On the street, I mean... homeless.” Rebekah was busing tables while she asked Rusty his opinion of Brian's charitable work.
“More 'giving back', I think,” Rusty said, thoughtfully. “He’s luckier than a lot of those guys and he knows it. He might even feel a little guilty at his good fortune. So this is a kind of pay back for him.” Rusty paused. “Why don't you ask him, Bekah?”
“Hah!... I think he's a little afraid of me.” She said, lifting the tray and heading to the kitchen.
“Well, that's understandable,” Rusty said, mock serious. He raised his voice as Rebekah disappeared through the swinging door into the kitchen. “I'm terrified of you.”
Rebekah poked her head back through the door. “You should be, Boss. Without me, this place would careen aimlessly out of control and sink in a sea of cappuccino foam… and you know it!”
Rusty chuckled and went back to his order sheets. Brian came out of the kitchen door, and seeing Rusty, queried, “What's Rebekah supposed to ask me?”
“Oh, nothing, it's not really important... but she thinks you are afraid of her.” he said, smiling.
Brian rubbed his nose. “I am.... a bit. She's so... intense, sometimes.”
“Yeah, she is that. Hey, are you headed to the shelter? It's not your night, is it?”
“Yeah... not my regular, but I'm filling in for Beverly; she's down with the flu. But I'll be back in time to check the alarms and turn stuff off, no worries.”
Rusty eyed Brian's footwear. An early purchase of his had been a new pair of sneakers. They were a particularly bright shade of purple. When those had become too stained and worn, the young man had purchased another, this time in bright orange. “Ummm... nice shoes, Brian,” Rusty said with a grin to the handsome youngster.
“Ah... you like? I really should wear the old ones, but I need to break these in.” Brian stuck one foot out. “Whaddya think about lime green laces for these?”
“I think you're asking the wrong person, is what I think,” Rusty chuckled, “anyway, take care. See you later.” Rusty looked after the departing figure and thought, not for the first time, that he had chosen wisely to befriend the homeless young man.
'He's a good worker, and he's filled out nicely, almost stocky now,' he thought to himself, remembering the half-starved figure he had fed breakfast to almost half a year ago. 'He's quite a handsome cub. I just wish he could find someone he likes and who likes him back.' Rusty looked at the order form again, wondering if he should order more Jamaican Blue Mountain or leave the order as is.