Bear With Me

By: Moxie North

Chapter 1

The amber liquid swirled around the edges of the glass as Conner Rochon stared into his eighth or maybe ninth glass of scotch. Sitting in the corner of the dark bar he took a moment to glance up at the usual suspects. Drunks, troublemakers, and an assortment of women who loved them. Every few weeks Conner hit this bar, The Chinook, located about forty miles from his house. It had a number of advantages.

One, nobody knew him and nobody cared to. He was a big man and usually looked pretty pissed off by the time he came in. Not a soul there would have engaged him unless they were a moron or had a death wish. The bartender recognized him, but only offered a chin lift when he came in. No other dialogue had occurred beyond what drink he was ordering and how much the tab was.

Second, there was a somewhat seedy motel in the same parking lot. This allowed Conner to drink himself into oblivion and blur out the sounds of his bear’s non-stop yammering in his head.

And finally, his family wouldn’t even begin to think of finding him here. He could wallow in self-pity until he was ready to go home. Nobody would start looking for him for at least a few days.

His family thought he was out wandering the woods. Letting his bear out to enjoy nature, run free, and the like. Conner let them think that, it kept them happy. He couldn’t explain to his family, all of whom were shifters like him, that he didn’t let his bear out. In fact, the only time his bear took over was when he ran with his brothers, Cage and Wyatt.

Conner’s family, including his mom, Connie, and his dad, Edward, were bears. Brown and black bears to be exact. His oldest brother Cage was a Kodiak bear, as was fitting for a future Alpha. His brother Wyatt was a grizzly like him. Although his brother’s bear was bigger than his, and rubbed his nose in it whether in human or bear form.

Not that Conner was as small as his brothers teased him about. They liked to call him runt and in their world he was. Just over six-feet two-inches tall and thickly muscled, his brothers towered over him by a number of inches.

They even tormented him about his name. His mother was determined she was having a girl and was naming her after herself like her mother had done. When she didn’t get her Constance, she named her last boy Conner. Smaller than his brothers, he even looked different. He was the only blond in the family. His bear was lighter furred too, almost a blond red color when he shifted. Again, setting him apart.

His family loved being shifters. They all had accepted and bonded with their bears the moment the fates matched them at birth. They were always together, of one mind. As cubs, they would spontaneously shift which required keeping the children at home away from prying eyes. Just past the toddler years when they started talking, once you could explain the dynamic to a child better, they would stop shifting. Like the bears were giving them time to grow into themselves, get comfortable being human.

Conner’s mom told him he stopped shifting well before he spoke. They weren’t concerned, they thought he just had figured it out early. And he had, sort of. He knew there was another soul in his body and being the greedy last child that he was, wanted that body to himself. So he pushed his bear back as far as he could. Silenced him for lack of a better term. His bear was quiet for the most part, didn’t fight him too often. Usually when there was danger of some sort and he had to get his attention would he remind Conner he was there.

Conner remembered watching his brothers during their first willing transformation in their adolescence, usually a precursor to puberty. His brothers looked like they had come alive that first time. He’d had a solid year of his bear’s insistent demands, he’d gone from not hearing him at all to constantly finding ways to drown him out. At that age, loud music was his only option. Unlike now, where alcohol was his first choice.

Conner had dreaded it, his bear had grown increasingly noisy in his head, and his first shift was a fight, his bear forcing his way out. Making him become the thing he’d hid from everyone including himself. Conner never really forgave him for that. For some reason he felt he’d lost some major battle that day. After that, he’d reined the animal in and they both suffered for it.

He never knew what his animal wanted and Conner felt his bear’s agitation. Not only at his inability to go out and just be a bear, but also that Conner would shove him back in his mind, not listening to what he had to say. But Conner didn’t want to hear him, the bear was just loud and he didn’t speak roar, so he ignored him. Or like tonight, drowned him out.