Drew stretched as he pulled on his jeans and T-shirt, tired in the pleasant way he always experienced after a run. Bright moonlight streamed down into the clearing he stood in, filtered by the nearby trees. A cool, crisp breeze ruffled his hair. It was a perfect night.
He had really needed a break, both from his long trip and his own dark thoughts. As he sat down beside his motorcycle to put on his socks and boots, he decided that he'd let himself go too long without the release of his change. He may have left his pack behind, but leaving his wolf was not an option.
A distant crashing sound from the forest interrupted his thoughts. He tilted his head to listen. The noises were too loud to be from a rabbit or squirrel. Whatever approached was much larger than that. There were plenty of deer in the area. A bear or mountain lion was less likely, but not impossible. Drew finished dressing and stood, ready to defend himself if necessary.
Suddenly, something unbelievable rushed out into the clearing. Drew stared, shock and disbelief warring in his mind. The creature saw him and tried to back away. Instead, it stumbled over a tree root and fell backwards, where it cringed away from Drew as if terrified.
This couldn't possibly be real. He surreptitiously pinched himself, just to make sure he wasn't having some kind of bizarre dream, but the small pain convinced him otherwise. It had to be real. Whatever it was.
The creature before him appeared to be a slender human male, with very pale skin, curly black hair, and wide, fearful, dark eyes. Obviously, it wasn't a human. Drew had never before seen a man with pointed ears and huge, black, bat wings. For a moment, he thought the ears and wings were a damn good Halloween costume, but it was too early, and no costume could be this realistic. Of course, as a shapeshifter himself, he knew better than to discount the possibility of any creature, no matter how bizarre.
"Holy shit." Drew couldn't seem to stop staring. On closer inspection, he noticed it wore a pair of loose-fitting, beige, drawstring pants and nothing else. He also noticed it--he--was scratched and bruised.
Drew moved a bit closer to the--he paused to wonder what he should call the creature. A demon? A fairy? That Bat-boy thing from the National Enquirer stories? He almost laughed at his own wild thoughts before dragging his mind back to the situation at hand. The creature scrabbled away until his back hit a tree trunk. He held his hands up, shielding his face, and Drew saw red, raw marks on his wrists, which looked an awful lot like rope burns.
Before Drew could think about what those marks might mean, his keen werewolf hearing picked up the faraway sounds of several large, unknown entities coming through the woods.
"I think he went this way," a distant voice shouted.
Drew looked again at those raw wrists, and the cowering, helpless creature before him. His first instinct was to protect, but he needed to be sure he understood before he got involved in something so weird. He crouched down to the creature's level and kept his voice gentle. "Hey. I'm not going to hurt you. I can hear people coming, though. They're after you, aren't they?"
Bat-boy, or whatever the hell he was, lowered his hands, revealing bruises and scrapes on his face. He gazed back at Drew without speaking, his dark, liquid eyes frightened.
"I guess you're not much of a talker." He frowned at the bruises and tried again. "You're pretty beat up. Did they hurt you?"
Bat-boy nodded, a movement so slight Drew would have missed it if he hadn't been paying attention.
He chose to take the nod as progress. "Did you do anything to them to make them want to hurt you?"
Bat-boy shook his head, hard. For some reason, Drew believed him. He was well aware that humans often feared and hated anything they saw as different or threatening, and this guy definitely qualified as different. He didn't look very threatening at the moment, though. The strange, winged man had certainly had ample opportunity to try and hurt Drew if he'd wanted to, but he hadn't.
Coming to a decision, Drew stood. "All right, I'll help you. I can stay here and try to stall them while you run ... or you can come with me."
Drew hadn't intended to make the second offer, but once the words were out, it felt right. Reaching down, he offered Bat-boy his hand. The creature eyed Drew nervously for a moment, but as the sounds of pursuit drew closer, he took the offered hand.
Drew pulled Bat-boy up and handed him his leather jacket. "Put this on. We've got to cover up those wings." As an afterthought, he thrust his helmet into the creature's hand. "And put this on too."
Bat-boy pulled the jacket on, covering most of his wings. The helmet hid his pointed ears nicely. Drew grabbed his bike and headed for the road. Minutes later, they reached the blacktop. Drew hopped onto the bike and started it up. The roar of the bike's engine startled Bat-boy, who flinched.
Drew motioned impatiently, knowing their pursuers probably weren't far away. "Get on behind me and hold on tight!"
Awkward and hesitant, Bat-boy clambered aboard the bike and wrapped his arms around Drew's waist. When Drew was sure his passenger was secure, he pulled onto the road.
They rode for several hours. Just in case they were being followed, Drew took a circuitous route, taking several detours on winding, county roads before he returned to the main highway.
About seventy miles after he turned onto the interstate, Drew's weariness caught up with him. He'd been traveling for most of the day, and taking the scenic route to escape any possible pursuers hadn't helped him get closer to his destination. He'd have to stop for the night.
Relief filled him at the sight of an exit that advertised a lone gas station and a small motel. He turned off the interstate and headed toward the lighted sign. Pulling into the gas station, he shut off the bike and turned. "Wait here. Leave the helmet on in case somebody else shows up."
He climbed off the bike and went inside. Once in the store, he selected an assortment of first-aid supplies, two bottles of water, and snacks. He paid quickly and went back outside, hoping Bat-boy hadn't gotten into any trouble while he'd been inside. Luckily, his strange passenger still sat on the bike where he'd left him. Drew got on, started the bike, and drove the short distance to the motel.
The motel turned out to be one of those tacky little motor inns sporting a partially burnt-out neon sign and a dingy, faded exterior. Drew hoped the interior would be clean, even if the place clearly wasn't going to be fancy. After parking the bike where it wouldn't be visible from the road, he turned to Bat-boy. He didn't want to pressure or frighten his odd traveling companion, so he chose his words with care.
"Okay, Bat-boy, this is where I'm staying tonight. You're welcome to stay too, if you don't have somewhere else you need to go. I'm going to go to the office to rent a room. If you want to stay, be here when I get back. If not, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave my helmet." With that, Drew got off the bike and made his way to the office.
A few minutes later, room key in hand, Drew returned to his bike. Bat-boy had removed the helmet and was standing by the bike, expression uncertain. His black curls were tousled, and his skin gleamed silvery-pale in the dim neon lights of the parking lot.
Drew found himself smiling, although he wasn't quite sure why. "Decided to stay, huh? Let me grab my gear and we'll get inside."
Bat-boy trailed after Drew as he grabbed his motorcycle saddlebags and the bag from the gas station and headed for their room. They were in room 13, and Drew wondered whether that was going to be lucky or unlucky. He wasn't superstitious, but bringing an unknown creature to room 13 in October seemed like a recipe for bad luck. Rolling his eyes at his own thoughts, he opened the door.
The room was small and worn, but clean. There was a large window with an ugly orange curtain. A little square table flanked by two orange chairs sat in the corner by the door. A scuffed dresser with a small television on it took up another wall. To the left was a queen-sized bed covered with an orange, brown, and white striped comforter. The carpet was orange as well, making Drew think the place had last been redecorated in the 70's. He walked to the narrow door at the end of the room and peered into the bathroom, unsurprised to find the tiny room boasted a hideous orange shower curtain.
"Well, at least it's clean." He looked at his rumpled companion. "Would you like to clean up?"
Bat-boy nodded but didn't move. His gaze darted around the room as if he expected something to jump out at him from behind the bed or television.
Drew frowned. He didn't have much experience with anything supernatural, other than werewolves. Bat-boy could understand his words, apparently, but could he talk? And why had he been running around in the woods half-naked? Maybe he lived in the forest. If so, maybe he had never been in civilization. That might explain his silence, and his apparent confusion.
Several minutes of motionless silence later, Drew sighed. "Have you ever been in a place like this before?"
A quick head shake was the only answer he got.
"Do you need help?"
"All right then, I'll show you how to work the shower." Waving the other man into the bathroom, Drew opened the shower curtain and demonstrated how to turn on the hot and cold water, as well as how to make the water spray out of the shower fixture. He unwrapped a bar of soap for the soap dish, and then showed Bat-boy the shampoo and towels.
"I'll try to find you something to wear and set it on the counter for you. I know my clothes will be huge on you, but maybe I can find something that won't fall off at least..." Drew trailed off as Bat-boy removed his leather jacket, revealing those amazing wings and a smooth, pale chest.
Bat-boy was about five or six inches shorter than his own six-foot-two-inch height. At first glance, he appeared thin, even fragile, but although he was slim, he was mostly muscle. He turned to hand over the jacket, inadvertently giving Drew a chance to study his face.
He's beautiful. His own thoughts surprised him, yet the truth was undeniable. Drew had seen attractive men before, but there was something about this strange man ... With high cheekbones, a wide, sensual mouth, and those big eyes, he looked just like a dark angel. In the bright light, his eyes were a violet so dark it was almost black.
Drew realized he was staring and reached out to take the jacket. When their hands brushed, he felt a shock of desire. Horrified, he jerked his hand away. Bat-boy recoiled as well, and then looked at him with eyes full of confusion.
Shit! He had to get out of here before he did something stupid. "Um, I'll bring you something to wear in just a minute," he muttered over his shoulder as he fled the bathroom.