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    Grumpy Bear
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Savage Beasts - 20. Epilogue – The Class Reunion

Six years later…

Gary sat in the reception hall of the Allegheny Mountaineer Academy. He hoped with everything that had happened in Bill’s life since graduating at the top of his class five years prior that he remembered his promise to his old instructor to come back to the reunion.

Several of the young men from Bill’s class had already arrived and begun to mingle. They all eagerly wanted to talk to Gary about their lives since attending the Academy, and to thank him for all that he taught them to prepare for adulthood.

Gary greeted them all equally as eagerly, and listened to their tales of success, but he was most looking forward to seeing the ten young men from his “special” survival trip, the ones with whom he shared the secret.

After an hour of the cocktail and mingling time, Gary saw four of the men from his special group arrive together, and he walked over to greet them.

He was met with warm hugs and handshakes, and low whispered conversations to let him know that none of them had ever told the secret of what occurred on their wilderness survival trip.

“Do you know if the other six will be coming?” Gary asked.

“I think the Marines are coming as a group,” one of the men said. “They all want to be here for Bill, you know?”

Gary nodded. He had been following Bill’s life closely and knew what had happened.

After graduation, Bill had immediately enlisted in the Marine Corps, and after discussing it with some of the others, five more boys from their group of ten signed up as well, including Bill’s best friend Sean.

They served their first four-year enlistment with distinction, four of the boys reaching the rank of an E-4 Corporal, and Bill and Sean reaching the rank of E-5 Sergeant. Conflict had broken out overseas a year into their enlistment, and they all served and fought together within the same unit. When their initial four years were finished, Bill convinced them all to re-enlist for another four years, and they were re-deployed to battle once again.

Bill’s distinguished service and leadership qualities earned him the rank of E-6 Staff Sergeant soon after beginning his fifth year with the Corps.

It was the 4th of July holiday, and the Marines were enjoying a temporary cease-fire. As part of the secondary duties of a Staff Sergeant, Bill had organized a barbecue and volleyball tournament at the base and invited several local civilian families with children from the village where they were stationed to join with their American friends for the festivities.

When the first bomb went off in the barracks, Bill sprang into action. He ran into the crumbling and burning structure and began pulling his fellow marines out of the fire. Twelve times he ran into danger, and each time he returned, he had a wounded brother slung across his shoulders.

The last marine that he rescued from the fire pulled Bill’s head close and whispered, “Children… in the latrine.”

Bill ran back into the building a final time and found five small children hiding and crying inside a shower stall. They were safe from the fire, but they wouldn’t be able to escape without assistance. It was then that Bill noticed the second bomb, taped underneath the sink ten feet from where the children huddled. He sprang into action again, ripping it from its hiding place and throwing it through the back window of the barracks where it would do the least damage.

However, less than a second after throwing it, the bomb exploded, shredding the entire right side of Bill’s body with shrapnel, and tossing him across the room where he impacted against the wall and lost consciousness.

Five of the twelve Marines that Bill had saved from the burning barracks that day were his old friends from the Academy, and the one who warned him of the children hiding in the latrine was his best friend, Sean.

Gary was pulled from his memories by the arrival of four young men in USMC dress uniforms. They immediately walked over to Gary and their other four close friends and shared handshakes and hugs with all.

“Are Bill and Sean still coming?” Gary asked.

One of the young Marines nodded.

“Sean and his wife Sarah have had Bill staying with them for the last couple of months so they can help him with his physical therapy and try to get him back on his feet. Sean should be bringing him in just a few minutes.”

Gary had just enough time to listen to a few war-stories from his former students when the door to the reception hall opened once again, and Sean came walking through, tall and proud, supporting his best friend Bill on his arm.

The other four Marines lined up and saluted the Staff Sergeant who had saved their lives, and with a great effort, Bill raised his right arm and returned their salute.

Bill wore the blue ribbon bearing the Medal of Honor around his neck, having received it from the President in a ceremony just a week earlier. He walked with a severe limp on his right side, due to the muscle and nerve damage from the shrapnel, and the right side of his handsome face was a patchwork of scars.

Sean led Bill over to Gary, and the Marine reached out with his weak right arm to shake his old instructor’s hand.

“Reporting as promised, sir,” Bill said to Gary, looking up at the big man with a combination of pride and sorrow in his eyes. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”

****

After the dinner and speeches were done, the party started and there was music and dancing.

Sean asked if he could leave Bill in Gary’s care for a while, as he went about mingling with some of the other men to reminisce about their days as cadets.

Bill and Gary sat together but alone at one of the tables.

“I think I’m ready to hear the rest of those secrets, now sir,” Bill said.

“Secrets?” Gary asked slyly with a small grin.

“Yes, sir. You promised to tell me a few more of life’s secrets once we were both grown-up gay men.

“I may not be the man I was a year ago…” Bill said, and paused, determined not to shed a tear in front of Gary over his disfigurement and physical disabilities, “But I was hoping that when this day came you would tell me what it’s like to be a werebear.”

“How do you know that I’m a werebear, Bill?” Gary asked with a smile.

“It didn’t take much for me to figure out that you had a lot of the same physical traits as those guys who helped us out on the trip. The guys who could turn into bears.

“I also figured out that all those werebears who helped us were gay, based on how comfortable and… friendly they were with each other. It would have been too much of a coincidence that my big, hairy, muscular, gay teacher was saved by a bunch of big, hairy, muscular, gay werebears if he weren’t one of them!”

“Good deductive reasoning, Bill,” Gary replied, “Any of your buddies figure that out too?”

“I wouldn’t know, sir,” Bill said. “We don’t talk about it. Ever. We took that promise very seriously.”

“Well, since you’ve already figured out most of the puzzle,” Gary replied, “I’ll finish putting the last pieces together for you.

“I am a werebear. We live a very long time, we never get any older, and we never get sick. We can still die, but only from a severe injury that we can’t heal from, and we heal from almost all injuries very quickly.

“All werebears are gay, especially since there aren’t any female werebears! We all started out as human men just like you, but we were born with a dormant werebear gene in our DNA that made us what we call ‘kindred’ to the bears. When I met my Papa, the werebear who turned me, he bit me on the shoulder as we made love, and that brought out the dormant genes within me to transform me into a werebear.

“Bill, that was over 150 years ago. Every fifty years or so, I have to ‘disappear’ and leave my old life and start somewhere else with a new identity before people figure out that I never get any older. I’m overdue to make that change now, but I wasn’t going to disappear again until after I’d had this talk with you.

“You see, Bill, we can tell which human men are kindred and have the dormant bear genes by smell, and I smelled it on you six years ago, just before that camping trip. I suspect that’s part of what makes you such a brave leader among men and a great protector. It’s the noble werebear nature within you.

“Bill, I’m offering you a choice. You can continue living a good and honorable life as a human, or you can choose to become a werebear. If you choose it, we will make love and I will bite you, and then in four months you will transform into a bear for the first time, and we will live together as Papa and Cub.”

Bill listened stoically to all that Gary told him, but now he broke down and wept openly. Sean noticed Bill’s tears from across the room, and he looked to Gary to make sure that everything was all right. Gary gave Sean a reassuring nod and turned back to Bill.

“Bill, why are you crying? Are you happy about being given this choice or sad?”

“I wish I could have gotten the choice before I took that bomb to the face, sir,” Bill replied. “Then I could have just healed myself and I wouldn’t be in the shape I am today. Nothing would make me happier in the world than to become one of those amazing werebears and to have you become my bear Papa, but whether I stay a human or become a werebear I’m always going to be a burden on someone else. I’m severely disabled, sir. Don’t let my activity today fool you. It took Sean and Sarah hours today to get me ready and into my uniform. I can barely walk and can only move the right side of my body with extreme effort. My face is a horror-show and I’ll never be a big, strong, and handsome man like you and the rest of those werebears that we met that night.

“I can’t go on being a burden to Sean and Sarah much longer. It isn’t fair to them. I also can’t ask you to turn me to a werebear and then expect you to take care of a cripple for hundreds of years. That isn’t fair to you. I’ll probably take whatever the VA can give me and try to get by the best that I can.”

“Bill,” Gary said, “There’s an important thing that I need to tell you about the choice to become a werebear, and I didn’t say it at first because I didn’t want to seem like I was trying to push you into the decision. Once you start the change, anything that is wrong with your human body will be healed. Over the course of four months, your body will change and grow larger, taller, and more muscular. Your leg, arm and face will return to normal. Then, after you have completed your first change into a bear, when you shift back to human you’ll have a new body with a new, perfect appearance. Any deformities or disabilities will be gone forever.”

Bill cried again, and he clutched at the back of Gary’s head with his good left arm and pulled him close.

“Thank you, sir! You’re telling me that I can become a werebear and have you for a Papa and live for hundreds of years, and have a new, big, strong human body to go with it?”

Gary held Bill’s face in his hands and wiped away the tears.

“I’m telling you that you can become a werebear and have me for your Papa and your Mate, and you’ll have a new, big, strong human body and live for thousands of years.

“Once we start the process, you’re going to have to disappear so that no one notices your miraculous recovery. I will disappear with you, and we can start a new life together as a couple forever.”

“What will we do with our new life, sir?” Bill asked.

“First, you can stop calling me ‘sir’ and start calling me ‘Papa’,” Gary replied with a big grin. “And I was thinking that we could start our own Academy. I was talking to a bear friend of mine who lives in Mount Savage, Maryland, and he owns a large property surrounded by a wall with a big, old, empty house in the middle of it that would be the perfect location for a new school. I think there are probably a lot of young men out there who could use a firm hand and wise guidance from a couple of werebears, don’t you?”

“I know there are, Papa. I’m going to work to be the best Cub to you and the best teacher to all the kids who need it!”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, Cub. You’re going to make one hell of a werebear.”

If you've enjoyed this story, please make sure to leave a recommendation and a review! - 💙Grumpy

Copyright © 2021 Grumpy Bear; All Rights Reserved.
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Hey Gang,

I just posted a poll over in the Forum.  Let me know which characters from the first two stories you would like to see as the main characters in Book 3!

I'll let the poll run a few days and then I'll get started writing!

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This has been a wonderful adventure! Combined with the first story made it even more enjoyable! Your characters have all been first rate; even the bad guys! I don't think I can pick one favorite. Your writing is very smooth and readable. It made the story flow along effortlessly! I am  looking forward to reading another story in this series! Thanks. 

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In tears again!  A beautiful coda to the story.  I definitely want to read more about Gary and Bill.  Wonderful writing, Grumpy.  Looking forward to your next adventures.

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Thank you felt sad for Christopher in the end his death was needless all because he had a bad papa 👴 but it was a happy ending really happy for Bill thanks for a beautiful story 

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