Eric Van Doren looked in the mirror, flexing his muscles. The wolf had worked hard on his body for 7 years, ever since he got a weight set as a gift when he was 12. He smiled, as he watched his biceps and triceps bunch up, relax, and bunch up under his black fur. He moved on to flexing his pecs, his six-pack, and so on. He grinned, his years of hard work had left him with a body to be proud of. He headed into the weight room, to work on his body a bit more.
One sniff told him something was wrong. There was someone else's scent on the weights. And he knew who's.
Eric sighed, as he stormed out of the weight room he'd set up in the house he shared with his parents. Damn parents, the wolf thought to himself, his tail lashing angrily. Always running off and leaving me with The Twerp. He was thoroughly ticked; his brother's smell was all over the weights. His 12-year-old brother had put them back, but that wasn't the point. The point was, The Twerp wasn't supposed to use them. Those weights were Eric's and Eric's alone.
He stormed up to Jason's door, and pounded on it hard enough to rattle it.
Jason! Open this fucking door!
There was a shuffle of sheets, as Jason opened up the door. He stood around 4'6", and looked rather disheveled from getting out of his bed. He stared up at his 6'6" brother.
What the fuck were you doing in the weight room, he snapped.
I was— began Jason
You were fucking around in the weightroom, weren't you, you little shit! snarled Eric.
You know you're not supposed to go there!
But nothing! he snarled.
I WAS gonna let you go to see He turned away, and slammed his brothers door. FUCK, he hated that twit.
'The Towers' with your buddies, but not now. You're grounded for a week!
Note to self, he muttered.
Get a padlock for the weight room.
Jason sat on his bed, a tear sliding down the wolf's muzzle. He was a rather skinny kid. He looked down at his body, lacking anything remotely resembling muscles or muscular tone.
All I wanted to be was like him, he said sadly. Muscles... Muscles got admiration. They commanded respect. And they'd be enough to set off the stigma of being an albino. He blinked his red eyes unhappily, then wiped them. He would earn his brother's respect one way or another.
Eric's mood was very clear to Vladmir, the tiger who was his work-out partner.
He's been playing with my bloody weights, Vlad! Even after I told him not to!
Eric and Vladmir had met years ago, when Eric was in Grade 1, and Vladmir in Grade 3. They'd been instant best friends, and had stayed that way through hundreds of trials, Vladmir often acting as Eric's advisor.
Vlad, who was a giant of a Siberian Tiger, was spotting him on the bench press.
And that is bad how? he asked cooly.
They're MY weights! barked Eric.
Mine! He has absolutely NO business in that room!
Vladmir didn't reply, as Eric finished his set, then stood up. Vladmir stood head and shoulders about the other tigers in the school, and was nearly 2 feet taller than Eric. Eric never spotted Vlad on the benchpress; there was no way he could lift what Vladmir could.
You are angry, the tiger said.
Angry at everything to do with your brother. Why?
Eric sighed, sitting down again.
Cause I'm always stuck with the twerp. He and I have absolutely nothing in common, I swear he does this shit just to piss me off.
Vlad didn't say anything more, but just went to work out on the butterfly press, while Eric took his frustration out on the punching bag, grumbling. Vlad watched him, silently.
Finally, Eric stepped away from the punching bag, panting. He went to his bottle of water, and took several deep drinks.
Vlad finished his reps on the butterfly press, looking disturbed.
Eric, I think this bitterness in you is going to be your undoing, he said.
I dunno, he said, working on his shinkicks.
Personally, I think I'd be a lot better off without The Twerp always fucking up my life.
Eric wasn't the only one who called Jason
The Twerp. Of course, there were meaner names that were out there, and he was called them, too, but
The Twerp was the most common that Jason heard. Right on its heels was
freak, a slur on his albinism. He tried to ignore it, but it was hard. He had absolutely no-one to talk to; his strict curfew made it impossible to hang out with anyone after school, so he had no friends. His brother, of course, was not one he could EVER talk to...
On days like this, it was hard convincing himself that life was worth living.
.o0(What IS worth living for,) he wondered, looking at the floor.
.o0(What's keeping me from just ending it. My brother would be happier without me... and nobody here would miss me... maybe I should just end it.)
He watched some of the jocks swagger by, joking amongst each other. Standing apart from them was a wolverine, with muscles that were nearly impossible to believe, even when one saw them.
The wolverine looked at the small kid, and smirked.
You like what you see, he asked, calmly.
Jason looked at the muscles, his eyes nearly popping. This wolverine was as big relaxed as Eric was flexed. He nodded quietly.
The wolverine chuckled.
You wanna have muscles like these, doncha? he asked, his tone calm and cool.
Jason slowly nodded.
Well, I can tell you how to get these, he smirked.
Come on, and I'll show you.
He led Jason to the weight room.
Let me show you how to work on these, he said. He began showing Jason various exercises on the butterfly press, the barbells, the legpress, and the bench press. When Jason had started mastering those, the wolverine called a halt.
Come with me, he said.
Let me show you the secret of getting big muscles fast, he said.
Jason followed him into the locker room, and the wolverine pulled out a small bottle filled with pills.
Ever heard of steroids? he asked.
Jason shook his head.
No, he said, feeling ashamed.
The wolverine just laughed.
Nothing to be ashamed about. What these do is speed up your growth. In no time, Eric's gonna look at you, and wish he had muscles like you, instead of the other way around.
Jason's eyes brightened.
Really? he asked.
The Wolverine nodded, handing him 7 pills.
Start off easy, he said.
Take these, one a day, and I'll work you in the gymn. You won't believe your growth, he said. Jason nodded, shocked. The wolverine grinned.
Remember, if you need me, just ask around for Blackthorne, he smirked.
What you've got there are just a free sample. When you want more, you can buy them from me. He headed out the door and disappeared.
Jason held the pills carefully in his paw as he headed home.
He was half-way there when rain began to fall. He ran home, praying he wouldn't be late.
When he got to the door, he saw his brother waiting for him, tapping his footpaw. He was late.
You took your sweet time getting home! he growled, standing in the doorway.
Get your ass in here, he said, yanking Jason in by the paw, causing Jason to yelp in pain and drop the pills. Eric saw the pills, and picked one up.
Steroids? he growled, baring his teeth.
YOU'VE BEEN TAKING FUCKING STEROIDS!? Eric nailed his brother in the jaw, sending him to the floor. Eric called Jason every filthy name in the book, punctuating them with kicks at his helpless brother.
GET OUT! snarled Eric.
GET THE FUCK OUT OF THIS HOUSE! GO! RUN! OOOOUT!
What could Jason do? He got up and ran.
Eric swept up the precious pills, and threw them in the garbage, seething. His punching bag would get a LOT of abuse tonight.
.o0(This weather is NOT meant for driving in, growled Vladmir silently, struggling through the downpour-turning-hailstorm. It was difficult seeing anything through the rain. Lightning lit up the sky, and thunder crashed, making the tiger flatten his ears. He winced, hating the thought of anyone caught out in this. Lightning flashed again, and Vladmir frowned.
.o0(A pedestrian?) he wondered.
Out in THIS? No matter who it was, he was stopping. He pulled to a stop, and blew his horn, rolling down his window.
HEY! he yelled out.
Need a ride?
The form stopped, then came towards him. Vladmir's widened, as he saw who it was. And his heart fell to his footpaws.
Jason? What in every Hell there ever was are YOU doing out here? he asked, opening the passenger door.
Jason staggered around the car, and got in. He was shivering too hard to give a coherent answer, so Vladmir hustled home, silently.
.o0(Eric, he thought.
.o0(Eric has something to do with this sorry affair, I know it.) A cold anger burned within him.
He drove Jason to his own, modest house, and sat him near a furnace vent.
Stay here, he said kindly.
I don't want you going anywhere until you've recovered.
A hot meal served to Jason proved that the kid was starving as well.
Finally, Vladmir sat down, and looked at Jason.
Jason, I want you to be totally honest with me, he said gently.
Jason looked at him, worried.
What happened? he said.
What's been going on at home?
The next afternoon, Eric was getting changed for his workout. He nodded at Vladmir, who'd just come in.
Hey Vlad, he said, nodding to him.
Vladmir nodded back.
Hey, Eric, he said, his voice calm and casual.
You know, Eric, I once thought you couldn't have sunk lower than when you took steroids yourself, he continued.
Eric froze, his eyes going wide. Of course, Vladmir had known about that, Vladmir was the one who'd forced him to give them up.
I was wrong, said the still calm Vladmir.
Eric's heart hit his feet just as Vladmir's massive paw siezed his throat, and pinned him up against the locker.
Vladmir's eyes were filled with a cold, controlled fury that set Eric's heart to hammering, and the tiger's voice was like ice.
Now. I am going to speak. YOU are going to listen. His claws slowly extended until they touched the wolf's skin.
Eric closed his eyes. One wrong move, one wrong WORD, and he was history.
LOOK AT ME!
Eric's eyes snapped open.
You have got to be the lowest, most disgusting thing I have seen in my life, Vladmir snarled.
Tossing your brother out in the rain like so much garbage.
Eric's lips worked slightly.
Oh, I know he had steroids. He told me all about that. Which means, you tossed him out right when he needed you the most. When he could have used your guidance the most. But you were never interested in giving him guidance, were you? All he ever was to you was a punching bag to take out your hatred of your parents on. Never mind how much he needed you. You ever listened to your own words? he asked, his voice still colder than the Ice Hells.
You said your parents were
'always running off and leaving you with The Twerp.'
Eric flinched at having his own words thrown back in his face.
WELL, LISTEN TO YOURSELF! You as good as said you're all he's got! But can he depend on you? No! You hate him, too! So who does he have to keep him on an even keel? NOBODY! Of course, you don't care about that. You don't care that he was considering on making this day on earth his last.
Eric managed to speak this time.
His last? he gagged.
Vladmir's eyes were completely merciless.
Who'd have stopped him? You? You'd be happier without him, wouldn't you? he said icily.
You'd be happier if he'd just... took himself out of this world. You wouldn't care if he was dead? Would you?
Eric growled as best he could.
Who the hell told him that?
You did. You told him that every day. You told him that every time he wanted to do something and you found some excuse to ground him. You told him that every time he tried to do something that would better himself and you shot him down. You told him every time he looked at you for love, and you spat on him. WHEN have you ever told him you loved him? When did you ever look on him with something other than scorn and contempt? When did you ever show that you cared for him? He told me that the thing he wanted to be most was you. YOU were the one he worshipped. Well, man, he almost got there. He almost fell to the trap you fell in. But there was one difference.
Eric looked at him, frightened.
Vladmir's voice dropped.
He had a reason. He was a weakling, and he wanted muscles fast. Why? So others would respect him. So you would love him. It's a shitty thing to do, but he had a good reason. You? You just wanted bigger muscles to show off.
Eric closed his eyes. It was true. He had taken steroids for several weeks, when Vladmir had caught him. The tiger had nearly torn him apart in his rage, and Eric basically went through detox and traction at the same time.
Vladmir kept him pinned against the lockers.
Now. Listen, and listen closely. You are going to go to your brother. He is at my house, so I will take you there. You will apologize to him, not only for kicking him out, but also for treating him like dirt for so long. You will CONFESS your own steroid use to him. And you will do your very best to patch things up with him. Do you understand?
Eric nodded, agreeing. Someone like Vladmir didn't make threats, he didn't NEED to make threats.
Vladmir let him go, and Eric dropped to his knees. The tiger looked at him.
I'll be waiting in the car, he said.
Eric slowly got dressed, his emotions numb, while his mind worked, freely. Vladmir was right. He was angry at his parents for basically leaving him to fend for himself... but he had been taking that out on his brother, who wasn't old enough to do so.
He WAS keeping his brother locked up at home, and he honestly couldn't remember when he'd last let his brother do something.
His mind was still a whirl as he walked stiffly and slowly to Vladmir's car. He got in, silently. And, in silence, he was driven to Vladmir's place.
Vladmir noticed the peculiar blank look on Eric's face.
.o0(Good,) he thought.
.o0(At least he's thinking it over.)
He pulled up in front of his house, and got out. He opened Eric's door.
Come on, he growled.
He led Eric to the house, and through the front door. They took off their boots, then Eric followed Vladmir to the guest room where his brother was waiting. Vladmir gave him a little push.
Eric stepped in, looking at the little brother that he'd - he'd basically betrayed. He tried a few times to speak, and finally, the words came out.
I'm sorry, he said, sitting on the bed.
All I ever wanted was to be like you, said Jason miserably.
All I ever wanted was for you to love me! But all you ever did was shove me away... push me around, and... and... and HATE me! The young wolf pup trembled.
You NEVER let me do anything! You were ALWAYS grounding me for shit! And I thought... maybe if I had muscles... you'd be proud of me... and... and you'd maybe love me... like you used to before Mom and Dad left us on our own!
Eric looked at the floor, remembering the old bond. He'd forgotten it, but clearly, Jason hadn't.
So that's why you took steroids, he said quietly.
What else could I do? wailed Jason.
Eric hung his head. No, Jason wasn't to blame, not entirely. He'd had a lot of time to think on this, and he saw that Jason's despair had left him vunerable to temptation, despair that was the fault of Eric himself.
I'm sorry, he said, his voice shaking.
Jay, he said quietly.
Jason's ears perked up, Eric hadn't called him
Jay for years.
Jay... I gotta tell you something.
Outside the door, Vladmir watched, as Eric laid bare his own sin for the first time. Confession is good for the soul, went the old proverb, but it was true. That was why it was an old proverb. He watched the two slowly, painfully, bare themselves down to the very heart, the very soul. It would be painful, but healing was never easy.
One could only bare the wound, so it could be cleaned out. The one could truly heal.
He yawned widely. It was time for him to get to bed. Let them talk through the night, the tiger needed his sleep.
The next morning, he woke up, and checked in on the two brothers. His eyes teared up slightly, as he saw them curled up together on the bed.
Wake up, he chuckled.
The two groaned, getting up, and mumbling. They tumbled out of bed, surprised at the fact they'd fallen asleep together.
Vladmir made them breakfast, keeping the conversation light, but even now, he could feel that the tension had eased. Finally, Jason said that he'd have to explain this to Blackthorne. Vladmir and Eric exchanged long looks. Finally Eric spoke.
Blackthorne was my dealer, he said slowly.
You gonna deal with him? he asked.
Yeah... I will. He gave his bro a hug.
Damn, bro... I'm sorry for all this.
Jason just hugged back.
Blackthorne was waiting for Jason to show up, when he noticed Jason was being accompanied by Eric. He smirked.
So. Eric. We meet again. Or don't you want your little brother knowing about that?
Eric's voice was cold, as he faced the guy who'd nearly ruined his life 4 years ago.
He already knows, Blackthorne. Now I'm telling you to stay away from him, or I'll rip you apart.
Man, I got the strength of ten of you. I could fuck you up so bad you'd never recover.
Eric stepped up close.
Are you challenging me Blackthorne? he asked, cooly.
I'm warning you.
I'll take that as a challenge, snarled Eric, and tore into Blackthorne.
Jason gaped at the fight, as he saw the actual truth of Blackthorne's muscles: Blackthorne couldn't use them! They hampered his movements, slowed him down, and left him utterly at Eric's mercy.
Blackthorne clearly had paid a price for his muscles, and the more Jason saw that price, the less he wanted to pay it. Finally, Eric got off Blackthorne, having beat the wolverine bloody.
Let's go home, he said. breathing hard.
On the way home, Jason told Eric and Vlad what he felt of the fight.
Vlad nodded, leaning forward from the back seat to hear.
Blackthorne paid an enormous price for his vanity, he said.
To put it simply, he's dying. And he's no longer as... male as he used to be.
Jason's eyes bugged out, and he stammered, trying to ask a dozen questions at once.
Vladmir continued to explain.
Steroids completely screw up the body, they destroy it. As for being less male, he poses for the girls a great deal, but he can't fulfill his sex drive. His... equipment has suffered from his drug use..
YOU'RE hung better than he is, and your balls ain't dropped yet, put in Eric.
Then... how do you get muscles like... like...
With me, said Eric,
7 years of constant training. I started when I was your age.
Me, said Vlad,
I started when I was 6. It takes a lot of work and discipline to be a musclefur, no matter what stories you may read on the internet.
And Blackthorne? he wanted to know.
Steroids are about the only way, Eric said.
And, at that point, strength compromises speed and mobility to the point that those muscles are useless. As you saw.
But... I can't... how... Jason stammered...
Eric took a deep breath and came to a decision.
I'll train you, he said.
The look on Jason's face was of sheer joy, and Eric found himself grinning.
Vladmir grinned too. This would be good, for both of them.
Vladmir watched Eric as the wolf spotted his younger brother.
You've really picked up on training in this past month, he said calmly, smiling.
Eric nodded, grinning.
...and 20! Good! Get some water, and rest a bit, he said. He grinned, watching Jason drink.
He's making quite a bit of progress, too, he said.
I'm proud of him.
So am I. Proud of both of you, he replied, smiling.
Jason grinned, lying down on the bench again.
Ready for my next set, he said.
Eric grinned, getting behind the bench press.
Jason readied the bar, then started pressing.
1... 2... 3... 4...