Becoming the Bear
By PapaWereBear and UrsusMajr
(What follows is a work of fiction. Enjoy the fantasy, but please do not confuse it with reality. None of the incidents portrayed happened, and none of the characters are meant to depict actual persons, living or dead. This story contains descriptions of sex between consenting adult males. If such offends you or is illegal for you to read, please leave now.)
Mitch Wilkins walked into the main hall of Thomas Jefferson High School with just a touch of trepidation. He hadn't been here in almost exactly forty years; not since his graduation. He looked around and realized that he was early. Walking down the empty hall, he was hit with a wave of not especially welcome nostalgia. "Buck up, man," he thought to himself. "You've come. You're here, make the best of it."
Notices had come for the ten-year reunion and he had pitched them in the trash. After ten years, the memories were still painful; the rejection, the teasing, the cruel pranks and names were still raw in his memory. He stroked his new mustache as he read the reunion letter. It was a thick, wide, black mustache and it looked good on his face. He'd tried a goatee a couple of times through his college years but it just didn't suit his face, so he had trimmed it down to just the mustache. He'd given thought to a beard but decided that look was too 'old' for him.
He had graduated from college with honors and had been working on his doctorate. Consequently, he felt no reason to return to his old high school and reopen old wounds. Besides, he told himself he didn't have time for such nonsense between work and his studies.
After twenty years the notices came and again Mitch pitched them in the trash. Mitch's black mustache had given way to a full jet-black beard. He figured he was old enough now to carry it off. His face wasn't so 'boyish' anymore and the beard gave him a certain air of 'maturity'. Mitch had been hairy in high school, but not completely covered; now, twenty years later, he had a full pelt of dark hair that almost obscured his skin. His barber shaved the back of his neck below the collar, but it was obvious after just a week that Mitch was a very hairy man when the hair grew back as neck stubble, thick as ever.
Mitch had projects that needed to be completed, he had a busy life and it was mostly full. Well, full with work, anyway. Somehow, the social aspects of life seemed to elude him. He was very shy in social situations, though lecturing was easy enough. When it came to personal interaction, he was tongue-tied and could not voice how he felt. Mitch was almost forty and felt he was very distant from the young man who had survived high school.
Most of the memories had faded but a few lingered. He remembered being called ape, monkey man, Captain Hairball or simply "freak" by his classmates. Mitch had thick chest and belly hair even then and was beginning to grow stray hairs on his back when his classmates were just barely getting some hair around their nipples. Mitch had started shaving occasionally at eleven and could grow a full beard by fifteen. Since late grade school until he graduated from TJ High he'd been teased about his body hair. Other kids used to ask him if his son had come to school with him or say that he was so hairy he didn't have five o'clock shadow, he had two o'clock shadow. He was dubbed 'Ape' or 'Animal', and they weren't terms of affection.
The teasing made Mitch a loner, it isolated him and it locked him away within himself so no one could get in and hurt him. He remained alone as he got older, never getting close to anyone for fear of being hurt. In college, he wore long sleeved shirts that covered up his hairy arms and neck. He never wore shorts or a tank top when exercising, opting for long sleeved jerseys and long legged sweatpants to cover his hairiness and he never took physical ed courses that would reveal his pelt, like swimming. Mitch didn't have a social life, he studied and stayed in the dorms for the most part. A few times he had tried to reach out to someone, but these fumbling attempts hadn't worked out. In the end he felt it was better to be alone than to run the risk of being hurt again.
When the notices came for the thirty-year class reunion, Mitch was away on vacation in Europe. By now, he was a successful research scientist and almost fifty years old. His beard was salt and pepper and his pelt was just as salted as his beard with silver strands all over his body; Mitch liked the feel of his body hair and had come to appreciate it. He no longer let the barber shave his neck, allowing it to grow naturally. In many respects, he had learned simply to not care what the rest of the world thought. He wore shorts now, and tank tops, kept his body fairly well fit though he had more than a bit of a belly. He would get looks from people as he jogged by, children sometimes stared and laughed; but by now Mitch had forged thick enough armor to deflect the snickers and stares. What completely threw him though were the rare looks of appreciation; they made Mitch uncomfortable. He knew how to disregard revulsion and ridicule, he had been practicing since grade school on that; attraction to his body was quite something else and it made him feel like a freak all over again. It broke through the 'I don't care' armor he'd grown.
Mitch had written many papers and was considered a brilliant mind in the field of genetics. In fact, his college had asked him to speak to their graduating class only last year as an honored guest. His high school's reunion committee sent him an invitation to speak at the reunion a year in advance. The alumni association wanted to honor him at the upcoming reunion. Mitch crumpled up the letter and pitched it in the trash.
"Yeah, they want to honor me now, now that I would be worth bragging about." He muttered darkly. Standing by the trash can, his mood clouded as he once more began to remember painful events from school he thought he had erased.
He thought about the time some of the guys on the football team had caught him in the locker room, held him down and had stuck packing tape to his chest and pulled it off. He remembered it hurt, but not half so much as them parading it around after showing how much hair they'd pulled off and telling everyone who saw it that it was a small fraction of what still remained on their victim.
"This is fucked," Mitch thought as he angrily flipped through the rest of the mail. He poured himself another cup of coffee and sat. "Its almost like they are trying to buy my friendship now that I could be an 'asset' to them," he grumbled. He thought about all the friends he hadn't had and the one he sort of had. His name had been Walter. He was a big guy, good looking and popular but only graduated at the same time as Mitch because he'd been held back a year for bad grades in his junior year. Walter Miller -- God, Mitch had had such fantasies about Walter in high school. He'd always sought to be close to Walter; he wanted to be Walter's close friend, his buddy. But that never happened and at the moment he didn't know why he thought about him.
He had a crush on Walter then and he thought about how different his life might have been if he'd been Walter's buddy… ah, 'what if'… his life had a lot of 'what ifs'. He thought about all his missed opportunities and possible 'happy endings'… What if he'd talked to that well built, hairy handed bearded guy in the bar who was giving him 'the eye' a month ago instead of just smiling, paying his tab and leaving. What if he'd actually acted on the invitation to meet a local bear from the chat room for coffee? What if he'd come out in college? Mitch shook his head to clear out his sad musings but his thoughts turned again to Walter.
Walter had had a respectable amount of fur on his chest, not nearly as much as Mitch, but a good amount and like the hair on his head, it was dark, nearly black. He also had a reputation for being an independent guy. He was popular, but he didn't hang out with the 'in crowd'. His popularity seemed to stem from his 'independence' and self-confidence. The fact that he didn't care what other's thought and he spoke his mind seemed to cast him in the part of 'rebel' and that was exceedingly attractive to most of the girls and seemed to make other guys want to follow his lead.
Walter had sort of lessened the blow for Mitch on several occasions when he was being teased in the shower room. On one particular occasion, when 'Moose', one of the nearly hairless stars of the football team was making monkey noises at Mitch, Walter told him that it took balls to grow body hair and then looked pointedly at Moose's smooth chest; leaving the suggestion that maybe Moose didn't have any balls just hanging in the air. After a heartbeat of silence allowing the suggestion to sink in, laughter erupted from everywhere in the locker room; but it wasn't directed at Mitch this time. It quickly spread throughout the locker room that Walt had said that Moose didn't have any balls and Moose decided to take out his embarrassment on Walt. Moose threw a punch and Walter, cool headed as always, just stepped out of the way. Moose overbalanced and slipped on the wet tile, banging his head on one of the concrete and stainless shower pedestals, bringing more laughter from the crowd. When the coach Franklin got there, the laughing crowd suddenly melted away. Moose was unconscious and bleeding from a nasty cut on his forehead. He'd hit pretty hard and the coach was quick to bark at Walter for half killing Moose.
The coach quickly found out that Moose had done it to himself and it was no one's fault but his own. Moose was bundled up into the coach's car and taken to the hospital. It was the news around school the next day that Moose had a concussion and wouldn't be playing football until he healed. Mitch thought about how Walter had winked at him when the laughter began and how the teasing seemed to lessen when Walt was around after that. The act of kindness was all the more appreciated for it being a rare occurrence in Mitch's high school life. He actually sort of felt sorry he'd missed the thirtieth-year reunion when he thought about Walt. Perhaps he'd go to the fortieth.
Ten more years passed. When the notices came for the fortieth-year class reunion, Mitch was a mature man with a full beard that had gone mostly white along with his body hair. He'd read everything he could find published about hirsutism and it had become a sort of hobby to search the net for new articles on the genetics of the condition. Mitch had become somewhat of an expert on it, though it wasn't his specific field of professional interest. Nearing retirement, he had not taken on any new research projects in the last two years and was rapidly completing those underway. His other hobby of investing in real estate and mutual funds had prospered of late as well. He wasn't fantastically wealthy, but he had enough money to travel when and where he wanted to and indulge his love of music and art without dipping into retirement funds.
Mitch had succeeded in killing his junior high and high school demons. He was in his own and the world's eyes a confident, successful man; a leader in his field. So, after forty years, Mitch decided he'd go back and actually see what had become of his old tormentors. Who knew, maybe even Walt would be there and they could catch up.