"Something REALLY Unexpected": a Class Menagerie fanfic by Matt Wolf

      The story awaits...but FIRST...a description and a disclaimer!

     “Something REALLY Unexpected” is very closely related to another TCM fanfic, “Something Unexpected,” by Ivica Folnovic. If you haven’t read that, I strongly encourage you to do so. It’s so KYOOT! Um, anyway, SRU is a companion story to SU, which involves Mikey getting together with a nice wolf babe. My companion story changes one detail. Same species. Different gender.
      That said, yes, this story does involve homosexuality. It’s about homosexuality, actually. The subject is dealt with in a tasteful and not-porn manner, though, so chill, man. Ya really think Vince would post a dirty fanfic?
      Of course, don’t think that it’s all roses and sunshine, though...this story is decidedly PG, and maybe even PG-13 (gasp)! There’s the issue of sexuality, and a teeny bit of foul language (“&$!@%*” doesn’t exactly translate well into non-comic mediums), but I think that’s it. There shouldn’t be anything more serious than what’s dealt with in the strip, anyway. And nobody tries to murder characters in science labs, either!!!

      Well, Dear Reader, I’ll let you get to the story now, assuming I haven’t scared you off with the dreaded “g-word.” (That’s “gay,” in case you’re wondering.) I hope you like the story! And if you DO, you can email me at sanhusky@hotmail.com and I’ll love you forever. Flames will cause massive retaliation with extreme prejudice, but I really sincerely appreciate constructive criticism. I hope you like the story, thought!

      I’d like to give special thanks to Vince, author of the best comic strip on the planet, to Ivica “YES, that’s my real freakin’ name!” Folnovic, author of the super-spiffy original “Something Unexpected” (GO READ IT!), and to Innvisigoth, the bestest brother’s girlfriend in the whole entire world. Love ya, Mona! Also, thanks a TON to all the editors the final version of this thing had...Acheron, Ter-ter, Lord Emsworth, Chysalis, and Ivica again...MUCHOS GRACIAS!

      All characters except for Caleb Sherman © Vince Suzukawa, and used with permission. Caleb himself and this absurd little take on events © 1999 Matthew Wolf.

"Something REALLY Unexpected"

      It was 8:55 AM on a Tuesday, and, as usual, Michael Hopkins was thinking the same way he typically conducted his affairs -- no less than three things at a time. At the moment, he was jogging. But he wasn't just jogging -- he was also thinnking of revisions for an Econ paper he needed to turn in tomorrow, what time he was going to practice his singing before the recital five days from now, and when the heck he was supposed to eat lunch today if he had back-to-back classes and a review session from 10:10 AM to 3:40 PM.
      And, of course, there was, as always, another issue, deep in the back of Mikey's mind. It was frequently at the forefront of his thoughts, but the opposite never proved true -- thoughts along these lined were never completely absent. After all, this was pretty serious stuff -- course-of-life-determmining-type stuff.
      Mikey was gay.
      It hurt him to admit it, confused him to try to figure it out, and scared him witless when he considered the implications of this particular trait. So, he didn't think about it often. He'd denied it until just recently, hoping against hope that it was a phase he would pass through, something he could grow out of. Now, after acceptance finally came, and with it depression, he tried not to think about it too often. He went about his life, planning activity after activity, filling up every available hour, so as not to let his mind wander. There was never enough time to get too introspective -- there was always something else that could be done instead. Like, running, for example. Which he was doing now.
      Mikey had long since slipped into a comfortable rhythm of movement. Mikey absolutely loved running. His first class had been cancelled (Professor Sullivan was sick again), and he was thrilled to be able to fit an extra half-hour of jogging into his chronically hectic schedule. Of course, Mikey's schedule proved that he liked it hectic: today (just today) he had four classes, the aforementioned review session, two meetings, and a film viewing. His schedule wouldn't let him rest until 10:30 that evening, which was just enough time to hop (as kangaroos are prone to do) into bed for a full eight hours of sleep, and then it was back to the daily grind. Mikey liked his days full, because it kept his mind off of...certain things...and plus, the insane hours he kept made for a handy excuse whenever someone asked too many questions regarding his social life. Or lack thereof. Which, incidentally, would come into play rather soon, though Mikey didn't know it yet.
      As it happened, there wasn't enough time for a long run around the lake, but Mikey was content to simply circle around the campus. This particular Tuesday morning was absolutely gorgeous, and it would have been perfect if his stupid running shoes had been in better shape. The left one was starting to make an annoying flapping sound that could only signify a sole that had worked its way loose.
      Thud flap thud flap thud flap thud flap... Mikey sighed. Shoes never lasted him all that long -- this particular pair was a mere eight weeks old -- due to his excessively active lifestyle. Annoyingly, he'd have to hit tthe mall sometime soon for some new shoes, which meant that he had to fit that into his schedule, too. Mikey considered and rejected several possible time slots while simultaneously deciding that he'd need to snag a few Nutri-Grain bars or something around noon when he was suddenly and unexpectedly hit by a train.
      Of course, he wasn't actually hit by a train...but that was Mikey's first thought when it happened. As he passed the end of a line of shrubbery running from the rec center to the street, something came flying down the other side and broad-sided him. It wasn't a train, but it was big, and it was sufficient to throw him a good six feet.
      Mikey didn't see the impact coming at all - one second it was the reassuring thud flap thud flap thud flap of his rapidly deteriorating Nikes, and then he heard somebody yell "HEADS UP!" After that, it was thud flap WHAM, and suddenly Mikey was skidding across the pavement. Whatever it was that hit him nailed him on the left side -- it caught him low on the left leg and high in the stomach. He caught only a glimpse of a large blue mass continuing on intto the street before cracking his head on the pavement.
      While Mikey didn't pass out, he came pretty close. In fact, the only thing that kept him conscious was the fact that he'd had plenty of practice crashing into things, on account of his absent-mindedness, especially while moving. He was stunned, though, so he was only dimly aware of the sound of screeching tires, a car horn, and muffled shouting. Then, his head cleared a little. Mikey propped himself up on his elbows and stared into the street, through eyes that wouldn't quite focus.
      His assailant wasn't blue after all -- he was only wearing that color: long jeans and a navy blue tech vest. In reality, he was grey. A grey wolf,, in fact, kneeling in the street and yelling at a disappearing Cherokee. A mangled bicycle -- also blue -- lay a few feet away, its front wheel still spinning. Apparently, after giving Mikey an up-close-and-personal look at the pavement, this wolf had probably himself come within two feet of being turned into a reddish smear on the street.
      The wolf got to his feet, brushed himself off, and turned around, at approximately the same time Mikey's vision cleared. Mikey stared at this creature and immediately decided that he'd never seen him before. He also thought he was one of the best-looking men he'd ever seen in his entire marsupian life, even though his arousal quickly changed to shame.
      If you had asked Mikey what the top ten things he'd like to see upon regaining consciousness and then showed him a picture of this wolf, the lupine would have made the top three easily. Well, if Mikey had been out of the closet (which he wasn't), and had been convinced that it was okay to have that sort of feelings (which he hadn't), that'd be the answer you'd get.
      The wolf that stood before him looked maybe five-nine, and looked about soft as a brick wall. It turned out that he was wearing only jeans and the vest -- no shirt -- and from what Mikey could see of his chest and arms, the boy was solid muscle. His neck was like fluid stone, rock hard but smoothly animated, and his jawbone seemed chiseled out of granite or slate. He was mostly covered in thick, soft-looking grey fur, but had a splash of white running from his chin all the way down his chest, in the same place Mikey did. He also had an adorable dollop of shockingly white fur on the inside of both of his eyebrows, which, at the moment, were furrowed in a scowl as the mystery man turned away from the street.
      Mikey was just starting to think that maybe same-sex attraction wasn't so bad when the wolf noticed him sprawled out on the sidewalk. "Aw God!" the wolf gasped in a surprisingly deep baritone. With one hand, he picked up the bicycle and tossed it effortlessly onto the sidewalk, where it landed with a crunch. He knelt at Mikey's side. "Hey, buddy, are y'allright?" His words were peppered with a heavy, musical-sounding Southern accent that seemed to Mikey to be the polar opposite of the ear-shattering screech of brakes he had just heard.
      Unfortunately, in his still-somewhat-shaky post-head-trauma state, Mikey picked up on his companion's dialect.
      "Yessah, ah reckon so," he replied, still dazed.
      The wolf stared at him. "What?"
      Mikey's head cleared all the way. "Uh, I said I'm fine."
      The lupine blinked. "Ohhkay," he said slowly. "Here, let me help ya'up." He gently grabbed Mikey's right hand with his own right paw and slipped his left around Mikey's side. He lifted the kangaroo as he had the bike, with much more care if not undue effort. As he did so, Mikey noticed the muscles in the wolf's arm and chest stand out like steel cords. His whole body seemed to tighten. Whoa, he thought, and this time there was no shame.
      The wolf gently stood Mikey up. The movement sent fresh arrows of pain rocketing through his head. He winced and swayed gently.
      "Are ya sure you're ahlraht?" the wolf persisted, putting one paw on each of Mikey's shoulders to steady him. Mikey still swayed gently in one direction and then another, despite both their efforts to prevent it. "Do you want me ta'call the health center?" Mikey was starting to like the sound of this guy's voice -- it had a very cowboy quality to it.
      "No thanks," Mikey said, and was about to shake his head, but decided it would hurt too much. "I have no desire to see a medical 'professional' whose license to practice was obtained through points cut off of cereal boxes."
      The wolf laughed and smiled. Mikey was wondering where the hell his witty comment had come from when the wolf said, "Alright then." He paused. "Caleb Sherman," he added.
      There was a brief pause. "What?"
      He smiled again, this time looking faintly amused. "Mah name," he explained. "It's Caleb Sherman."
      "Oh," Mikey said, suddenly understanding. "Duh. Sorry. I'm Mikey- uh, Michael. Michael Hopkins."
      The wolf took one of Mikey's hands and shook it. His grip was firm but gentle. Just right, as far as Mikey was concerned.
      "Nahs to meet you," he said. "Listen, I'm really sorry ah ran into you like that. Ah'd just had a run-in with a lawn sprinkler, and on a bike, wet brakes means no brakes."
      Mikey nodded. "Don't worry about it, Caleb."
      The wolf blinked. For a moment, Mikey was afraid he'd said something wrong. Then, Caleb spoke again. "Actually," he said, "most'a my friend call me Cal."
      Okay. False alarm.
      "Well, Cal, like I said, don't worry about it. You were the one who almost got killed."
      The wolf shrugged. "Yeah, well...he did swerve." He looked to the street, looked back. "It hadda be an out-of-state driver, too. No California native would have swerved unless his car was at risk." He grinned.
      Mikey smiled. He was beginning to like this guy.
      "Uh, you don't, maybe, have a class now, or anything?" asked Cal. "Ah've got a nine o'clock that ah can prolly get by with being late for, but..."
      Mikey shook his head. "I had an eight-to-nine-thirty, but it was canceled."
      Caleb grinned again. "Ah bet you wish you'd gone."
      "Not really," he said, smiling. When Caleb didn't say anything, he went on. "After all, I made a new friend."
      Caleb smiled. Mikey thought he saw a new look in the wolf's clear amber eyes, a kind of fierce twinkling, but he couldn't be sure.
      "Ah, well. Whatever," Caleb went on, turning away. "Listen, how's your leg? I think that's where ah hit you hardest."
      Mikey took a few test steps forward. The first time he put weight on his left leg, a jet of pain rocketed upward from his ankle. He toppled with a cry of pain, and would have slammed into the pavement for the second time in two minutes had Caleb not lunged forward and seized him in his strong weightlifter's arms. Mikey simultaneously noted and thanked God that Cal's reflexes were at least as quick as a cat's.
      "Oh, man...ah think y'might really be hurt!" Cal said from less than three inches away. He looked concerned.
      "It's nothing," gasped Mikey. "Twisted ankle. Nothing serious. I've done it tons of times before." He suddenly became aware of the fact that Cal had him in what could easily be mistaken for a bear hug. It also occurred to him that he wouldn't dream of complaining.
      "Are you sure? Y'aren't hurt badly?"
      Mikey tried to smile. "Yes, I'm sure. I'll go back to the dorm, put a little ice on it, it'll be fine."
      Caleb did not look convinced. He gently lowered Mikey onto the steps of the nearby rec center. "All right. But if you're sure you don't want me to call an ambulance or something--"
      "Whoa! Definitely not hurt that bad!"
      "Okay," Caleb conceded. "But ah gotta tell ya, you don't look so good." He looked Mikey over. "Well, I mean ya do," he added softly. "But ya don't look healthy." He made eye contact, looked sort of anxious.
      Mikey did a mental double-take. Wait a minute...is he FLIRTING with me?! he thought.
      The very prospect made Mikey's heart beat faster and adrenaline pump -- much to his own surprise.
      However, before he could even consider a response, Caleb spoke again, hastily, and the moment was lost, along with all its confusing and exciting implications.
      "Well, whatever the case, ah'm at least going to help you back to your dorm. Where d'ya live?" he asked, as he picked up his mangled bicycle and chained it to the bike rack in front of the rec center. "I'll be back for this thing later," he said, scowling at it.
      "Uh, Richter Hall," Mikey answered, still stunned...in more ways than one.
      "Well, that ain't far," Caleb answered, kneeling next to Mikey once again. He lifted the kangaroo to his feet and slipped Mikey's left arm around his shoulders. It felt...it felt good, and right there, Mikey made a decision...a decision to make the most of the life he'd been given. It was wasn't immediate, it wasn't as monumental as it might seem, but later Mikey would cite this event, and specifically the moment when the two of them set off for Mikey's dorm, as the turning point in his life -- when he decided to make the proverbial lemonade out of life's lemons.
      "Life goes on," Cal declared, little knowing how right he was.
      And together they hobbled off to Richter Hall. Neither of them would soon forget the encounter.

      Scott Sorrell as just waking up when Mikey came back. He was only dimly aware of the dorm room's door creaking noisily inward, and a pair of voices. One he could identify as Mikey's, but the other was a deep rumble he didn't recognize.
      "You're SURE you're gonna be okay?" said the mystery man, from out in the hall. Southern. Very Southern. Like, violently Southern.
      "Yes, Cal, I can take it from here," Mikey laughed. He was already partially in the room. "I'll be fine."
      "Well, okay," answered the other man. "I'll seeya later." Scott heard footsteps heading away from the room.
      Mikey closed the door and turned on the lights. Scott blinked in the sudden brightness.
      "Jeez, Mikey, way to be considerate." He stretched, yawning. With his eyes closed, he didn't notice Mikey's eyes straying briefly to his bare chest.
      "It's 9:15. You should be up already." Mikey looked directly at him and grinned. "I got up early, and I'm having one of the best days of my life."
      Scott blinked. What the hell was that supposed to mean?
      "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he asked.
      Mikey grinned again. "Oh, nothing you need to trouble yourself with. A class cancellation, among other things." He flopped backward onto his bed and stared at the ceiling, smiling faintly. "One other thing," he muttered, no longer speaking to Scott.
      Scott frowned. What had gotten into Mikey this morning? He sounded rather...weird. Granted, the mornings where Mikey made perfect sense were few and far between, but this...this was a different kind of weird. Scott studied the kangaroo staring into space, and noticed a faraway look in his eyes, even without his prescription shades. If he didn't know better, he'd say that Mikey was-
      And then the pieces fell together.
      "Oh, my God..." Scott said slowly. "You're in love! " he cried joyfully.
      Mikey glared at him, narrowed his eyes. "What?! That's preposterous!" he spat. "I don't know what you're talking about!"
      Scott approached Mikey, grinning, now fully awake. "I don't believe it! It's true! You've got hormones after all!" Mikey scowled at him. "Don't try to deny it, 'roo boy. You've got all the classic symptoms! Weird voice patterns...that strange look...denial..." Mikey was looking away.
      Scott leaned forward. "Refusal to make eye contact," he whispered. Once again, Mikey glared at him, then stood up.
      "I can't believe you actually have a sex drive! That's news to me.... So, tell me, who's the lovely lady? The mink who just transferred from Berkley? That lovely leopard in your economics class?" He lowered his voice an octave. "Finally fall for the darling Miss Lisa? "
      Mikey actually bared his teeth. "Even if I HAD fallen for someone, which I HAVEN'T-"
      Scott scoffed loudly and rolled his eyes. "Sure. Fine. Whatever."
      "-then it wouldn't be ANY of YOUR business, now, WOULD it?" He stalked across the room.
      Scott held up his hands in a mock gesture of surrender. "Touchy subject, tiger. What's the problem, isn't it a woman that's stuck your...fancy...." He trailed off - he'd noticed something odd.
      "You're limping," he told Mikey.
      "I know. I had a run-in with a wolf on a mountain bike. And by the way, congratulations on your powers of perception." Mikey pulled a dishtowel out of his closet and hobbled over to the refrigerator. "He said his name was 'Caleb Sherman.' Know anything about him?" he asked, casually. Very casually.
      Scott thought for a second. "Sherman. Sherman. Sherm -- wait, yeah, I do know that wolf. Was he wearing a tech vest with no shirt?"
      Mikey paused in removing ice from the tray, and nodded.
      Scott nodded, too. "That's, like, his favorite outfit. He's in one of my Gen Ed classes. Meteorology, I think. I lifted with him once, too. Lessee, what do we know about Mister Sherman... He's from somewhere in the South, Texas, I think...he's majoring in English, which is weird 'cause he talks like Jeff Foxworthy...no sports or anything -- also weird, 'cause he's built like a tank..."
      Sherman Tank, thought Mikey, smiling.
      "...he lives in either Feldman next door or Reeder across campus...what else? Beats me. The guy knows a whole lot about phases of the moon, though I guess that's to be expected..." Scott trailed off. He had the vague feeling he was forgetting something very, very significant.
      "Oh, yeah, duh," he said. He'd finally remembered that last bit of information. The question was, how should he inform Mikey for Maximum Comical Shock? "Are you sure him running into you was completely...innocent?"
      Mikey stared at him. "Well, unless the near-flattening via SUV was part of his evil scheme, I'm pretty sure he didn't plan it. WHY?"
      Scott grinned. "Well, it's a known fact that our friend Caleb plays for the other team."
      "Is it..." Mikey responded. He paused. "What on earth does that mean, now?"
      "He drives his car on the other side of the street." Mikey still looked blank.       "Deals from the bottom of the deck?" Nothing.
      Scott sighed. "He's GAY, you nimrod!"
      Mikey stared. His expression was completely blank.
      "Huh," he said.
      Scott was disappointed. He'd expected to get more of a rise out of Mikey. Ah, well...he'd find something else to annoy him with. And it would be soon, if his own evil scheme was going to work.
      "Well, whatever." Mikey put the makeshift icepack back in the fridge. "Listen, I think I'm gonna take a quick shower before I ice my ankle. I'll be right back." He grabbed his shower kit and towel, and quickly slipped out the door.
      Scott smiled. He had a meeting to plan for.

      "Are you SURE?" asked Tony, for the third time.
      "Of COURSE I'm sure!" said Scott. "You don't think a connoisseur of love such as myself would mistake the occurrence of such in our dear friend Mikey, would you? He's been hit by Cupid's arrow! The signs are unmistakable!"
      "Connoisseur of LOVE"? thought everyone other than Scott.
      It was now 10:30, and Mikey was safely in class. Most of the other men on the floor, i.e. Scott, Brad, Tony and Kevin, were now gathered in room 303, all in attendance for the realization of Scott's evil scheme -- an "emergency meeting" (Topic: Startling New Developments on Floor Three). The "meeting" was already in progress.
      Brad was still shaking his head. "I just can't believe it. Mikey actually falling for a girl. Unbelievable."
      "Are you REALLY, REALLY SURE?" asked Tony, yet again.
      Kevin shook his head and squinted. "I still have my doubts, man. I mean, Mikey's been unfazed by anybody for the last two years, and you don't even have a name to tell us. If it is true, then great, but..." he trailed off. "Come on, let's face it, he's fought off everybody's favorite buxom vixen for this long. And Lisa's a great gal! Who could possibly turn his head after all her attempts have been unsuccessful?"
      Brad sneered. "Stop thinkin' with your honker, Mister Kitty...it's screwing up your judgment."
      Kevin rolled his eyes. "Shut up, Brad. At least I'm attracted to women, you-"
      Tony stepped between them. "Not now, guys," he said.
      Because Tony was quite effectively blocking Kevin from both insults and Brad's vision altogether, the bird turned back to Scott. "Ya know, now that'cha mention it, I saw Mikey on the way to his 10:10 class, and he looked pretty out of it."
      Kevin raised one eyebrow and scoffed. "More so than usual?"
      Brad nodded. "Yeah! In fact, while I was watching him, he almost knocked down the head of the music department. He didn't even seem to notice."
      Keven scoffed again. "Inconclusive. Last month alone Mikey knocked down seven people (including a uniformed policeman), walked into the same flagpole not once, not twice, but three times, AND fell down a flight of stairs. He's just naturally out of it!"
      Scott stared at him. "What's the problem, Kevin? Too afraid to admit that a space cadet like Mikey might find love before you did?"
      Kevin glared coldly at him. "I'm just skeptical, that's all."
      Tony spoke, more to Kevin than anyone. "Boy, I hope you're right. Or else it's going to get very touchy on this floor."
      Everyone stared at Tony.
      Finally, Scott spoke. "Why is that?"
      Tony turned to look at the lizard. "Well, what do you think is going to happen... once Lisa finds out?"

      Caleb staggered back into his room and collapsed directly onto his bed, face-down. He'd been in a lot more trouble for being late to his 9:00 class than he'd let on to Mikey, and had just been chewed out after trying to explain to his professor that he'd been late because of a particularly malicious sprinkler head. He was also in more than a little pain from his bicycle accident. However, he was still glad he'd helped Mikey out. After all, he'd-
      "Dude, you look like shit."
      Cal jumped in shock, and then relaxed. He'd been so preoccupied with getting into his bed that he hadn't even noticed his roommate was in the room. So much for acute sensory perception.
      "Thanks a lot, Shane," he mumbled into his pillow. Shane was an otter, a native Californian, and one of the top five fastest swimmers in the state. He was also Caleb's best friend, two years running, thought no one would have guessed that from the exchange that had just taken place.
      "Wow, man. You look you were flattened by a Cherokee or something."
      Caleb blinked. He looked up. "How did you know that?" he asked suspiciously, narrowing his eyes.
      Shane grinned. "You know that guy down the hall? The one from Wisconsin? He was driving the Cherokee. Says you flew out into the street and cursed a blue streak. Not a happy little weasel, as you'll find out as soon as he finds you. He also said you took out a kangaroo or something. I guess you're not in the running for the Bike Safety Award after all." He paused. "What happened? And was the other dude okay?"
      Caleb rolled over and nodded thoughtfully. "I got my brakes wet and couldn't stop. Some moron pointed a sprinkler head at the sidewalk near the rec center. And yeah, ah wasted a kangaroo on the way down. His name is Mike Hopkins, and I twisted his ankle. Pretty cute little dude. Real nice, too, especially for somebody ah almost killed."
      Shane blinked. "Wait, did you say Mikey Hopkins?"
      "Yeah, I did."
      "Huh. I know Mikey. He's in my Econ class."
      Caleb sat up, interested. "Really? Know'im well?"
      "Sure. We did a project together a couple weeks ago. He was over here once or twice. I'm surprised you two didn't run into each other then."
      "Well, I sure 'ran into him' now. What do you know about him?"
      Shane raised an eyebrow and smiled. "What you're really asking is, is he available?"
      Caleb pretended to be shocked. "Me?! The gentleman Mister Sherman? Courting another male? My God, man, I can't believe you'd suggest such a thing!"
      There was a pause. Shane lowered the first eyebrow and raised the other one.
      "Well, of course ah'm asking if he's available, you twit," Caleb admitted, giving up the act. "I mean, have you not seen him? He's adorable!"
      Shane rolled his eyes. "Wouldn't know, myself," he muttered. "Anyway, I happen to know that he IS available -- no girlfriend. However, I'm not sure that he's available to you, you horny lupine, you."
      Caleb thought for a moment. Then, he smiled wolfishly. "Well, we'll just have to find out, then, won't we?"

      "It's just a rumor." Tony repeated, the tone of his voice clearly indicating that he didn't believe a word he was saying. "Mikey might not have found anyone at all..." He trailed off.
      Lisa shook her head, quickly. Her hair fanned out in a momentary brown halo. "No. It's alright. Dense as Scott is, he does know his stuff." She collapsed onto her bed. "I'd really, really hoped this would never happen."
      Tony felt terrible. He'd thought this was the best thing to do, thought that Lisa should hear this news from someone who cared, but now...now, he wasn't so sure.
      Lisa lay back on her bed. She was disappointed to the point of tears. Anguished, even. All those tries...did she go about it the wrong way? What had this other girl tried that had finally worked?
      "It's probably not true," Cindy offered gently. "You know how these rumors go."
      Lisa looked up at her. "I wish I could believe that." She sighed. Then, she sat up. "Well, there's only one thing to do now. I've gotta go talk to him."
      "Are you sure that's a good idea?" Tony asked. He immediately regretted it.
      "Why? Who better to hear it from than him? I'm not going to freak out over what could just be a rumor."
      "Well, uh...you know...what if it's...what if it's true?"
      Lisa shrugged. "I don't know. All I know is that I have to find out exactly what is true." She stood up and walked toward the door. "I'll burn that bridge when I come to it," she muttered. Tony hastily stepped out of her way as she approached him.
      "Uhh...good luck!" he called after her. She left the room. "Oh, man..." Tony said. "I sure hope everything turns out all right."
      "She'll be fine," Cindy assured him. But she wasn't so sure, either.

      Knock, knock, knock. Lisa rapped on Mikey's door, four feet from her own. She couldn't see Tony or Cindy, but she knew they must be listening. She'd be curious, too, if one of them was in a similar situation, but it was still irksome.
      "Hang on a second!" Mikey called from inside the room. Lisa heard the lock click. She took a deep breath.
      The door opened.
      Mikey saw her and smiled. "Hey, Lisa! What's up? You need something? Wanna go jogging?"
      Same old Mikey.
      Lisa stared at him. He frowned. "Is something wrong?"
      She nodded slowly. "We need to talk." She glanced in the direction of her own room. She heard a faint "whoosh!" as she turned around, and just made out the tips of Tony's and Cindy's faces before they disappeared back into the room. "Alone."
      Mikey looked confused. "Well, come in then, by all means." He took a few steps back. Lisa walked into the room, shutting the door behind her.
      Mikey sat on the bed and gestured to his vacant desk chair. "Please, sit down." Lisa did so.
      Well, this is it, she thought. "Mikey?"
      "Is there...someone else?" That came out wrong, she thought. It sounded like they were already a couple, when in fact they would never be. Not now, not ever, in spite of all she had done.... Lisa felt tears welling in the corners of her eyes, and quickly blinked them back.
      Mikey's eyes went wide. He blinked a few times, looked away. "Scott told you, didn't he," he said flatly. It was more of a statement than a question.
      It was true. The tears threatened to come again. Get ahold of yourself, Lisa, she thought. He had indignified her this much; she sure as hell wasn't going to let him see her cry. "Not directly, no. I heard it from Tony."
      Mikey sighed, took a deep breath. "Yes. There is," he said softly.
      Lisa didn't want to cry, but she had a feeling she was going to, anyway. She sniffled, prayed that Mikey didn't notice it. Judging by the look on his face, however, he had - his normally thoughtful and perpetually anxious expression had contorted into a sad look of sorrow and regret.
      "I'm sorry, Lisa, it's just..." He trailed off. That was okay. She didn't need to hear any more of that, anyway. She had one more question to ask.
      "Who...who is she?" she stammered, trying to sound normal, trying to sound almost conversational, and not succeeding in the least.
      Mikey's look suddenly changed altogether. He seemed to be pondering something. A long moment passed while he wrestled with whatever decision he was making, and it was clear he was wrestling. Then, he looked up, and Lisa thought she saw...a smile on his face. Yes, he was definitely trying not to smile! What was wrong with him, for God's sake, couldn't he see she was hurting here-
      "Lisa, can you keep a secret?"
      Lisa was dumbfounded. "What?"
      "Can you keep a secret?" Though he kept the smile off his face, she could see he was amused. He had a kind of wild look in his eyes.
      Part of her wanted to shriek Why should I do anything for you, when you stabbed me in the back?! but there was something in his eyes that made her bite her tongue. Lisa sensed that there was something much deeper here than she imagined. She was not the happiest person in the world right now when it came to Mikey, but she still had enough feelings for him to be concerned -- as, she suspected, on some level, she always would. "Well, I guess so..." she finally answered. "Why? What's going on?"
      Mikey took a deep breath. It took him a few moments to form his sentence. "It's..." he finally started. "...it's not a 'she.'"
      Lisa was again perplexed. But that would mean-
      "The person..." Mikey said slowly. "...the 'someone else'...is a 'he.'"
      Lisa thought about that for a moment. What Mikey had said didn't make sense at all. If the person was a he, then-
      Oh dear God he's telling me he's gay, was Lisa's first thought. But she refused to believe that. Mikey was the last person on earth she would suspect of same-sex orientation. There must be another explanation. "Uhhh..." she drawled. "Could you please repeat that?"
      "She's a 'he.' I mean...the other woman...she's a man. I mean, he's a man, not a woman. Er...his name's Caleb. I met him yesterday."
      Lisa stared at him, unblinking. No way.
      "He's cute...?" Mikey offered.
      Oh. My. God. It was all Lisa could do to keep from falling out of her chair. "Do you mean to tell me that you're a-"
      He nodded, and she trailed off.
      "You're gay? " she whispered, her voice barely audible.
      He nodded again and then seemed to find something absolutely fascinating about his shoes.
      It hit. Shock. Total and complete shock. More extensive shock than Lisa had ever experienced. Mind-numbing, even. If Mikey had told her anything else -- that the mystery woman was none other than the Queen of England, for instance, or perhaps his alien mistress, long awaited and fresh off the shuttle from Planet Xoombar-9 -- Lisa wouldn't have been as blown away as she was now, having found out that the mystery woman was a mystery man. "Good Lord," she said finally. "Oh, my. Oh, my God. You...but...man...not...oh my God! " she stammered.
      Mikey smiled, weakly, nervously. "Well, that's the truth." His voice shook. "For the first time in my life, to anyone, ever, that's the real honest-to-goodness truth."
      There was a long pause while Lisa continued to process that information. The implications were staggering! The refused propositions! The "lack of time" for a social life! The indifference to girls! All explained! Sweet mother!
      Lisa looked up and noticed that Mikey was regarding her with nervous expectation. He's waiting to see what I'll say, she thought. She let out a deep breath and struggled to form a complete sentence. "Wow. How come...uh, how come you never told me before?"
      He thought for a moment, shrugged. He still had that sort of manic look in his eyes. "I don't know. I guess I thought I could keep it a secret forever. I still could, I suppose, but I don't think I want to anymore. I ...I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, but...I couldn't. I just couldn't do it..."
      She shook her head. This information would probably have saved a lot of anguish, but Mikey was clearly still on some pretty shaky ground. "Uh, don't worry about it," she said, trying for a reassuring tone but sounding less sure than Mikey himself. "Uhhh...Are you going to tell the others? You know, c-" She swallowed. "Come out?" Her voice cracked.
      Mikey shrugged again. "I have no idea. I might. I might wait, too. I don't know at this point." He threw his hands into the air. "I don't have a clue what I'm doing. I'm..." He took a breath. "I'm pretty damn scared."
      Lisa was having a hard time thinking right now, but she was certain of one thing. "Well, uh...this was kind of...out of the blue... but I want you to know...whatever you choose to do, I'm behind you all the way."
      A moment passed, and then Mikey's face suddenly changed from nervous anticipation to complete and total relief. "Oh, thank God, Lisa. I thought you might...I mean...God, it means so much to hear you say that..." He wiped a tear from his eye. "Thank you," he said, though it came out as a whisper.
      Lisa wanted to reach for Mikey, to hold him and tell him everything would be okay, but she needed to get some things clear first. "How...how come you're telling me now?"
      He smiled. "Because you're such a good friend. I knew I could trust you. Not just to keep it a secret...but to be there for me. Also, it's...I can't lie to you anymore. Maybe somebody else...but not you."
      Lisa felt her cheeks turning pink, even through her fur. In spite of everything, she was flattered. Her heart fluttered at the favorable attention from Mikey, but considering current circumstances, she did her best to curtail that feeling.
      "Are you okay?" Mikey asked. "...with this?" he added.
      She nodded hastily. "Yeah, fine. It's just...this was something...unexpected." She looked down. Something REALLY unexpected. "I'm, you know...shocked."
      He nodded. "I figured you might be." He smiled again, exhaled mightily. "God, I can't believe I'm doing this," he muttered, running his fingers through his hair. He still looked like he was seriously considering bolting from the room. God, this must be so hard for him. I wonder what's going through his head right now, she thought.
      Lisa stood up. She needed time to process this. "Well, uh, if that's all..."
      Now it was Mikey's turn to let his jaw drop. "I think this is sufficient for one conversation, yes," he said. "Unless you have any life-altering secrets you'd like to get off your chest?"
      She smiled weakly. "Not today. Mikey...thanks for coming clean with me. Thanks for trusting me."
      He grinned, nodded. "Thank you. For understanding. This was...this was pretty hard for me."
      I have no doubt of that, Lisa thought. Lisa took a step forward, gave Mikey a tight hug. He was shaking, she noticed. She rubbed the back of his head, and he sighed.
      They held each other for a moment. It was a moment that Lisa had fondly imagined on many an occasion -- holding Mikey after a heartfelt discussion of their feelings. Granted, these circumstances were slightly different from those she had so wistfully imagined, but the embrace they held each other in was no less full of love and devotion and trust and tenderness than Lisa could ever have hoped it would be.
      They separated, held each other at arms' length. She kissed his cheek -- he returned a weak smile, still shaky but rapidly returning to his normally-confident self -- and turned away.
      Lisa exhaled and walked out the door.
      A moment later, she let herself into her room, which Tony and Cindy had graciously vacated. Suddenly exhausted, she turned off the light and lay down on her bed.
      Her last thought before sleep took her was With friends like these, who needs soap operas?

Thursday Morning...

      Mikey was, as usual, starting his day with a jog. However, today, his route took him zigging and zagging through the interior of the campus, as opposed to his usual trek through the nearby woods. He had altered his course for a reason -- he was on a mission of sorts. The mission was to find Caleb, and nothing more. Well, maybe to find Caleb without smashing into him and concussing one or both of them, he thought with a smile. Of course, he hadn't minded being helped back to his room one bit, but his now-throbbing ankle was a slightly higher price than he would have liked to pay. Also, he'd recently seen a preview for The Blair Witch Project, and as a result he wasn't too crazy about jogging through the woods. As he ran, he scanned every face he saw for Caleb's now-familiar slate-chiseled features, which he had immediately burned into his memory.
      The reasons behind Mikey's impromptu search of his kind-hearted assailant baffled even him. Having just told the first person in his life the truth about his sexuality, even Mikey couldn't believe that he was currently on the prowl for a boyfriend. Before any of this had happened, Mikey had imagined it would be weeks or months between coming out and finding a mate, assuming he even ever chose to do that. But he hadn't factored in Cal.
      Mikey couldn't explain his attraction to Cal. Well, he could; the wolf was built like a pro-wrestler and had a smile that made Mikey's heart beat faster than jogging did (even the memory of it), but that would be simply be chalking Mikey's insane infatuation up to hormones, and it went deeper than that. Cal's personality was actually more appealing than his body, if that was possible. Even from their all-too-brief encounter yesterday, Mikey had it bad for Caleb Sherman, and, hope against hope, the feeling might be mutual.
      Mikey had been hopeful that Scott's analysis of his new lupine friend was correct. However, he didn't know if Scott's "information" regarding Cal's sexuality was the truth or just a rumor, and there was no way to verify it without arousing suspicion - he sure as hell wasn't going to ask Scott exactly how sure he was (on a scale of one to ten) that Cal was same-sex oriented. And so, Mikey began to unhappily consider the possibility that me might have to give up any idea that Cal could be his. He'd had crushes on guys before (Tony was one of them, though he planned to take that secret to the grave) that he'd had to let simply wither and die, and even though what he felt for Cal was unprecedented, he'd almost made the decision to do the same. But, later that night, Lisa had wandered back into Mikey's room for a follow-up discussion. It was mainly about their friendship, Mikey's past, and Lisa's feelings, but later, she alerted Mikey to what was rather significant inf ormation.
      She'd asked if the wolf named "Caleb" was, by any chance, Caleb Sherman.
      Surprised, Mikey had answered in the affirmative. He asked her how she'd known.
      Lisa told him that she and Caleb shared their English major, and had had a few classes together. They were actually quite good friends, and had even seen a few plays together. Of note, they had also worked on a project, co-writing an essay. The topic was truth and honesty, and they each had to write an essay involving telling the truth in some way and then co-author an introduction.
      She gave Mikey three guesses what Cal's big truth was.
      Mikey, too excited to remember to do so on his own, had to be reminded to breathe. Now, he smiled, remembering both the elation he'd felt and Lisa's comical reaction when he'd needed to be reminded to respire.
      And then, later that night, as Mikey lay in bed unable to sleep, he'd made the decision: he was going to go for it. Tomorrow, he'd go gunning for Cal.
      And so, here he was. Mikey was circling the campus looking for a wolf who liked Shakespeare and had nearly killed both of them less than forty-eight hours ago. He turned left in front of the Center for the Arts and jogged in the direction of the rec center - the same route he had taken yesterday. As he was approaching their original Point of Impact - the line of bushes next to the athletic center -- it suddenly occurred to him that they might repeat yesterday's collision. Cal might be (hopefully, was) looking forr him, too, and it would be so typical of Mikey's life to crash into the same person twice on two consecutive days. Abruptly, he slowed from a run to a walk -- too abruptly, apparently, for the person behind him, who slammed into Mikey at a good thirty miles an hour.
      "AHSHIT!" he heard, and then it was THUD, and after that, as expected, was the ground. Mikey hit pavement in the same spot he had yesterday, as proven by the sight of Cal's thirty-foot long skid marks. Whoever had slammed into him went rolling off into the grass off to Mikey's left.
      He rolled over to get a good look at his assailant. It was Caleb, sans bicycle, wearing jeans and a green sweatshirt. He was lying on his back in the grass and staring up at the sky. "Owwwwwwww..." he said. He slowly sat up and looked at Mikey.       "We've GOT to stop meeting like this," they both said together. There was a pause. Mikey's heart suddenly doubled its speed, and he wondered if Cal's was doing the same. Judging from the wolf's shy grin, the probability of that was high. Oh God, I hope so.
      Mikey stood shakily up. He wasn't hurt. This time, it was his turn to help Caleb up. He leaned forward, and did so.
      They brushed themselves off. "You know," said Mikey thoughtfully, "It hurts much less when you do that without the bicycle."
      Cal laughed. "I didn't do it on purpose! " he said. "I saw you as you passed the Arts Center, and I was running to catch up. And it's kinda hard to go from Full Speed Ahead to All Stop in three seconds, especially if your top speed is around thirty-five."
      "Riigghhttt," said Mikey, feigning skepticism. "You just wanted to knock me down again," he added, grinning.
      Cal's mouth didn't quite drop open, but it looked like it wanted to. Uh-oh! thought Mikey. Caught him off guard! Too forward! Abort! ABORT! DIVERSION!
      He pointed at the top of Cal's head. "Um...you've got a clump of dirt stuck in your fur."
      Cal looked up and brushed it off. "Well, ah'm usually more coordinated than this," he told Mikey. "It's strange. You're the one notorious for crashing into people," he added with a smile.
      Mikey laughed. He sat down on the rec center steps, in the same place he had yesterday. Caleb followed suit.
      "Soo..." Caleb said, signifying that the conversation was about to take a turn in the direction of worthless small talk, which seemed to be the starting point of every collegiate relationship and almost always involved the same questions. "What's your major?" he asked, thus preserving the tradition.
      "MaJORS, actually -- I've got three of them." Mikey saw, with some amusement, that Caleb's jaw had dropped -- all the way, this time. "Physicss, Music, and Econ."
      "Wow," the wolf said. "That's...also strange." He laughed. "Gee, I feel inadequate. Ah'm only an English major."
      "I know," Mikey said. Caleb raised an eyebrow, so Mikey went on, "Lisa Dodson lives on my floor. We're pretty good friends," he added.
      Cal raised the other eyebrow. "Really, " he said. He cocked his head.
      Whoops, thought Mikey. Awkward complication. He's wondering if I know he's gay. This is harder than I thought! Hmmm...how to proceed... Ah, screw it, he thought. "Cal, do you want to...do something?"
      Cal paused, blinked. After a moment, he responded, "Actually, I was planning to ask you the same thing. What didja have in mind?"
      "I don't know. Maybe dinner? A movie?" Sex? he thought.
      Caleb nodded, smiled. "I'd like that. But I have to ask you a question first."
      Mikey balked. Oh God, more complications. Remain calm, he ordered himself.
      Cal took a deep breath. He seemed tense. "You know...about me, right? How I'm..." he searched for a word. "Different?"
      I guess it doesn't get any easier, Mikey thought. He nodded. "Yeah. I think 'plays for the other team' was the phrase I heard."
      Caleb looked at him for a second and then burst out laughing. "That's pretty creative. I don't think ah've heard that one yet." He stopped for a moment. "Well, at least that's out in the open. Well, I just have to be sure, you know, just for the record...will this just be a night on the town, or will it be...?"
      Mikey took a deep breath. "A date," he said.
      There was another pause. "Was that the answer, or part of the question?"
      Mikey smiled and rolled his eyes. "Both."
      Cal grinned. "I was hoping you'd say that." He relaxed. "So, Mikey...when?"
      Mikey suddenly realized that he'd been so concerned with asking the question that he hadn't actually thought that far ahead. Small tactical error... "Uhhh...I don't know. Tomorrow night?"
      Caleb frowned. "Sorry, pardner. I'm booked solid every Thursday. Classes, then work. How about Friday night? Around, say, six?" It suddenly occurred to Mikey that Friday at six was probably the time slot Cal had been going to ask him out for.
      Mikey smiled. "Great! I'll see you then. Meet you in front of Chadwell Hall?"
      Cal nodded. "Great. See you later." He walked off, grinning widely.
      That wasn't so hard, thought Mikey. I should be gay more often, he thought, irrationally, and that thought made him smile. Of course, as far as the date itself was concerned, another daunting question now loomed...NOW WHAT?

      Kevin crept slowly and stealthily along the dark, deserted, anonymous hallway, keeping low to avoid making himself too good a target. Everywhere he went, he would be hunted, but he sure as hell wasn't going to make it easy. Every muscle, every nerve in his body stood rigid and ready for action -- after all, this was survival. He slowly surveyed his surroundings, his sharp feline eyes taking in every detail. SSparks raining down from a shattered light fixture provided the only illumination, casting a faint, erratic glow upon an empty hallway with gunmetal-gray walls. It couldn't have been bleaker. As he turned a corner, however, he saw hope...in death. A soldier, clothed in camouflage fatigues and blood, had been gutted from navel to throat. Fortunately, whatever had killed him (which was doubtlessly still on the loose in the immediate vicinity) had left the soldier's weapon with the soldier's remains. Kevin silently thanked God. It was a Magnum, a seriously he avy-duty gun, and with that kind of firepower, Kevin might actually have a chance at making it out of this nightmare alive. His luck took a turn for the worst, however, a moment later. A shotgun put an end to any hope he may have had of death from old age.
      Kevin never even saw the shooter. Fired from behind at point black range, the buckshot blasted through his torso, shredding internal organs and bone alike as it tore through his chest. His body slumped motionless to the floor, and within seconds, he was facedown in a rapidly expanding pool of his own blood. It was all over.
      "GAME OVER!" the computer informed him. "Loser," it added.
      Muttering, Kevin pushed the button on his computer's CD drive and removed the game's compact disk. He didn't like this. Ever since the "discussion" yesterday morning, the discussion that had taken place in the very room that Kevin was now the sole occupant of, Kevin had been wholly unable to concentrate on anything. No matter what he'd done on that day or this one, be it schoolwork, computer games, or even driving, which required a great deal of concentration (especially if you were Kevin), there was always one thought at the back of his head that didn't want to stay in the background. That thought had a great deal to do with current events, and involved a great secret of Kevin's own. For the seven-hundredth or so time that day, he wondered if Mikey really had found someone other than Lisa. And if that was true, if Mikey really was out of the picture...could the unthinkable happen? Could Kevin really have a shot at Lisa, the su per-secret girl of his dreams?
      Survey says No, he thought. She probably thought of him in the same manner that every other girl since eighth grade had thought of him -- as a friend, and nothing more. That had always been his problem: the ladies liked him too much. Nobody ever took hhim seriously, especially when it came to the dating game. They came to him for dating advice and went to obscenely over-built guys like Tony when they wanted a date. Frankly, it sucked, and he was sick of it. It hurt the most, however, when it came to Lisa. Nobody had a clue he was so gone for her, and he liked it that way. Not telling meant not getting hurt.
      He sighed. He obviously wasn't going to derive any satisfaction from computer games, and he dared not attempt to drive anywhere in his current distracted condition, lest he run over a pedestrian or five. Maybe he should try to get some reading done...though there was an even lesser chance of him actually accomplishing anything worth-
      There was a knock at the door. Kevin leaned behind him and twisted the knob. Grunting, he pulled the door open.
      "Lisa!" he gasped, leaping to his feet. "Hi! Come on in. Sit down!"
      Lisa smiled. "Hey, Kevin. Thanks," she said. She glanced surveyed the interior of the room. "Good," she said. "You're alone."
      Kevin's heart leapt. Relax, tiger, he thought. She probably just wants to talk. They ALWAYS just want to talk.
      "I need to talk to you," said Lisa. ARRRGGGHHHHH, thought Kevin, silently cursing his social status.
      "What's up?" he asked her, straining to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
      "Well, it's about Mikey," she said. Once again, Kevin's heartbeat quickened. Calm down, curse you! he willed himself, showing no outward signs of his turbulent emotions.
      "He told me something yesterday," she continued. "I'm going to tell you today. He and I talked later, and he said if it helped I could tell you, as long as you swore to keep it a secret," she said, truthfully.
      At this point, Kevin would have done a great many things to keep Lisa in the room. He rarely got to talk to her alone, and relished every minute of these infrequent encounters. Not that retaining her company for as long as possible was his only motive...she was beginning to pique his curiosity.
      "Sure," he said, "Whatever it is, I promise to keep it between you and me." He began to wonder what Lisa was about to tell him.
      Lisa took a deep, swelling breath. Kevin strained to keep his eyes on her eyes, where they belonged. "Well, as you know, Mikey had a bit of an accident yesterday. Specifically, he was run over by a wolf. Named Caleb. While jogging."
      Kevin stared for a moment, then blinked. "You know, Mikey does have the most...interesting problems."
      Lisa grinned. "You have no idea." Kevin was about to ask what that was supposed to mean when she went on. "Anyway, as I'm sure you also know, Mikey's fallen for someone else."
      Kevin nodded slowly, while simultaneously leaping for joy inside. Apparently, Scott had actaully been right! He was thrilled. Of course, by now, he had lost any and all concept of where this conversation was going. "And this is significant because...?" he said, gently.
      "Well...this is hard to say...but...they're the same person. The wolf and the someone else."
      "Wait...but I thought the wolf was a guy..." His eyebrows shot up. "Wait a minute! Are you telling Mikey is a-"
      She nodded.
      WHAT?! is what Kevin thought.
      "I...see," is what he said. He had to try even harder than before to keep his voice even and rational. Good God, Mikey's gay! he thought "Oh, my," he said softly. He quickly regained his composure. "Well...uh, at least we know how he was able to resist your advances. No straight man would have been able to do it." Including myself, he added silently.
      Lisa smiled. "Charming. Been hanging around Scott?"
      He smiled weakly, resisting the urge to point out that HE could be charming, too, dammit.
      Lisa went on. "Thanks, Kevin. Anyway, I just had to tell somebody. It was just such a shock, you know? I still can't believe it."
      Kevin nodded. "I don't think I do, either. And I don't think I'm going to for a while. I mean, wow. Who knew?" He sighed. "Man. Learn something new every day."
      Lisa looked at him anxiously. "So...are you okay with this? With him?"
      Kevin nodded hastily. "Oh, heck, yeah. I mean, it's his life. But wow...it's just such a shock! "
      She smiled. "Tell me about it. So, if I wake up in the middle of the night and desperately need to discuss Mikey's sexual preference, you'll be here for me?"
      Kevin decided to press his luck. "Well, yeah...but only if you show up in that skimpy nightgown of yours."
      Lisa completely missed the point of Kevin's flirtations, obviously assuming that he was simply being goofy. She totally missed the fact that his interest in her might be genuine, rather than a general lust for her entire gender. He could've screamed.
      She leaned forward and hugged him tightly. "Thanks, Kevin. I love that you're always here for me." She gave him a quick kiss.
      Kevin almost burst into tears when he heard that sentence. It was the same line he'd heard many times, dozens of times, but for some reason it was like daggers coming from Lisa's mouth. The day before, Brad had mockingly referred to his crush on Lisa, without having any clue as to exactly how right he was.
      And then, he knew what he had to do.
      "Lisa," he asked, slowly and softly, "Will you go out with me?"
      She pulled back suddenly, stared blankly at him. In that moment, Kevin would have given anything to take back those six horrible words. There was a long pause.
      "No, Kevin. No, I won't."
      He was crushed. "I...I though you might say that." He looked away. He didn't want her to see the tears in his eyes.
      "Kevin," Lisa said, putting her hand under his chin. She turned his head so that he was looking at her. And so what if she did see him crying? What the hell did it matter now? "You know I can't. Not now. Everything's...everything's just so...messed up. I need you now as a friend, not as a lover."
      Kevin sighed, blinked back his tears. "Of course."
      She paused for a moment. "Give me a week," she said thoughtfully. "I can't make you any promises, but I think my answer will have changed."
      Kevin blinked again. Did he hear her right? "What?" Hope threatened to blossom forth once again. He suppressed it for the time being.
      "I said, I need some time. Give me till...oh, I don't know...next Wednesday, and ask me again. I just...I can't deal with this now. Can you wait for me?"
      For the first time in years, Kevin had completely lost control of a situation. He had no idea what to do or say. He was completely at Lisa's mercy. "I...guess so."
      Lisa smiled. "Good," she said. "In the meantime, I've got to go do some serious re-evaluation of my life. Can I talk to you again if I have a problem?"
      Kevin sniffled. "Of course," he said, most of his dignity regained. He was back in control. He stood up straighter, smoothed his hair back.
      Lisa smiled again, which made Kevin smile, too. "Great. I'll see you later."
      "Bye..." Kevin offered weakly, as Lisa let herself out.
      Kevin took a deep breath. Why had he let himself lose control? What happened to his upper hand? In GENERAL, what the hell had just happened?
      He took one final, shuddering breath. He had no clue what had just transpired here in his bedroom, but he did know one thing - whatever had happened, he now had a chance with Lisa.
      He had a chance.
      Kevin grinned.


      Mikey yawned and sat down on the steps of the Simon Chadwell Science Center. He'd hardly had any sleep last night -- he'd been too nervous. This was his first date, ever, with either gender, and he'd had enough butterflies in his sttomach to lift a commercial jetliner. As a result, today he was exhausted.
      He'd gone to Lisa early last evening, when he was sure Cindy was at a class, to ask for advice about the following day. She'd seemed a little bugged out by the idea at first, but she'd come around quickly. She'd even thrown together an outfit for him. He was dressed, at Lisa's insistence, in a style which she called "Casually Semi-Formal," a term that could only have been coined by a woman. The outfit he currently wore consisted of long blue jeans, a pair of seldom-used-and-therefore-somewhat-new-looking hiking boots, and a hunter green dress shirt, the top two buttons open.
      Mikey checked his watch. It was 5:57. He'd been in front of the Science Center for almost fifteen minutes. No way he'd have been late for this.
      For the third time in the last five minutes, Mikey wiped his palms on his jeans. Despite his near exhaustion, he was still pretty darn nervous. You shouldn't be, he heard Kevin's voice say. This is probably Cal's first date, too. Just relax! Kevin and Mikey had had a long talk yesterday afternoon -- that guy was an excellent person to talk to, Mikey had decided -- and as a result, Mikey was feeling a hell of a lott more confident about himself in general and his sexuality in particular. The cat had also told him that Caleb Sherman had "come out" sometime last semester, so he couldn't have had THAT much dating experience. Yet another reason for Mikey to calm down.
      And, yet...
      Mikey's watch chimed softly. It was six o'clock. He took a deep breath.
      Suddenly, off to his left, Mikey noticed a very familiar face peeking around the corner of the building. It was Caleb.
      "Uh, Cal?" he asked slowly. "What are you doing?"
      The wolf approached Mikey, smiling shyly. He was wearing jeans and a blue denim dress shirt -- a shirt, Mikey noted with some horror, nearly identical to the one Lisa had chosen for Mikey himself to wear but rejjected at the last moment. "I, uh, I was afraid that we might crash inta each other again," Caleb said sheepishly. "Ah's just being extra careful."
      Mikey grinned. "That was probably a good idea."
      "You look good."
      "So do you."
      "So...what'd ya have in mind for dinner? I'm starving."
      Mikey shrugged casually, though he had extensively debated the answer to that question. "I thought we could eat at that diner between the rec center and Leland Hall."
      Caleb smiled. "Sounds good. Let's go."
      They went.

      They sat in a small booth at Ruthie's, the only restaurant on-campus that wasn't run by the food-service people (thankfully). Mikey ordered a deluxe Caesar salad; Caleb ordered a T-bone steak, rare. Apparently, opposites did attract, thought Mikey.
      As the evening wore on, however, he discovered that Caleb Sherman and himself had a great deal more in common than different, and not just sexual orientation, either. They listened to the same type of music, watched the same type of television programs (when there was time, that is), liked the same sorts of people, and much more. As the night progressed, Mikey found himself falling deeper and deeper for the wolf named Caleb Sherman.
      After dinner, the two of them slowly meandered over to the Farrell Street Theatres, a small movie complex just off campus. Mikey hadn't had a preference, so Cal, being the English major that he was, had chosen Shakespeare in Love. They bought their tickets at the door and wandered down the hall to their theatre. The pair found a set of seats near the back of the auditorium just as the lights were dimming for the coming attractions.
      A few minutes later, the previews ended, and the lights went down all the way. "ARTISAN FILMS" appeared on the screen, followed by the logo for Haxan Films.
      "Wait a minute," Cal said. "I thought this movie was made by-"
      The words "The Blair Witch Project" appeared solemnly on the screen.
      Mikey raised an eyebrow. A series of short sentences appeared on the screen, stark white on a pitch-black background. "In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while filming a documentary. A year later their footage was found."
      "This is NOT Shakespeare in Love, " said Mikey.
      "Ah, nope," Cal agreed.
      Neither of them moved.
      "You're okay watching this one, then?"
      Cal looked at him. "Ayup, if you are."
      "I'm game," Mikey answered. He had a feeling they were both thinking the same thing.
      There was a pause.
      "You won't, ah, mind if I feel the need to, say, snuggle during the scary parts?" asked Mikey, grinning.
      "Ah reckon not," Cal answered, smiling.
      "I hear it's a pretty scary movie," observed Mikey.
      "Ayup," Cal agreed, grinning himself, now.
      "Cool," Mikey said.
      As it turned out, the horror flick was better for romance than the romance would have been.

      After the movie, the walk back to the dorms took them straight through the woods east of campus, much to their mutual chagrin.
      "Well, THIS was smart," said Mikey, anxiety creeping into his voice. "Why don't we just put a sign on our backs that says 'KILL US?'"
      Cal chuckled softly. "Relax. Maryland is on the other side of the country. I think we're okay."
      Mikey scoffed. "Easy for you to say. None of the characters was screaming your name for the whole last scene...."
      Cal laughed again. "You'll be fine. None of the characters in the movie had a big strong wolf to protect them, either."
      Mikey grinned. "My knight in shining armor."
      It was not a derogatory comment.
      Cal slipped his arm around Mikey's waist.
      "Of course," Cal added with a shy grin, "if ya want somebody to scream your name..."
      Mikey chuckled, and they drew together.
      All in all, it had been a beautiful evening.

(Two weeks later)

      It had been a beautiful day.
      Kevin and Lisa had both finished their classes before 4:00 PM, and they had spent the day together. Dinner at an expensive Italian restaurant, a romantic movie, a suit, a dress, a walk in the park on a cloudless, starlit night. It was the cliché perfect date, and Lisa was relishing every minute of it.
      Kevin seemed to be enjoying it more, though. Throughout the evening, he'd had a perpetual little smile, the same look he had when he was the only one in on some mildly amusing joke. During the course of the night, she caught him a few times simply staring worshipfully at her, when he thought she wasn't looking. On those rare occasions, Kevin had been all-out grinning, like a man who's just won the car of his dreams.
      The thought that she might possibly be the reason for Kevin's perpetual happiness made Lisa feel like a princess. A grateful princess.
      The park was tranformed by nightfall. By day, it was simply a group of trees, benches, and one dilapidated path. By night, however, it was transformed into a fairy-tale setting. There was even a delicate mist blanketing the ground and swirling around the lampposts. As they walked through the park, Lisa wondered how she had missed the quiet elegance of the place up until now. It was beautiful beyond belief, especially now, at twilight. Of course, maybe it was her companion that made it seem so charming...
      After a few moments of silent appreciation, Kevin spoke. "Lisa?" he said, gently, though confidently.
      "Yes?" she breathed.
      "I just wanted to thank you."
      "For what?" she asked, expecting one of Kevin's trademark lame jokes.
      "For saying 'yes.'"
      It caught her off guard. She hadn't expected something like that. She blushed. "You're welcome." In fact, thank you. I've had a wonderful evening."
      Kevin smiled. "So have I."
      Lisa was about to say something else when she noticed a very familiar scent, one she had pined after on and off for the last two years.
      Offhand, Lisa wondered what the heck Mikey was doing in the park at sundown.
      Suddenly, she saw them. There was one very familiar face and one somewhat-familiar face. "Oh, look!" she said, "It's Mikey and Caleb!"
      "What? Where?"
      She pointed up the path, at a bench just up around the bend. "Oh, look at that," she said. "They're kissing! That's so sweeet! " She looked back at Kevin. "Isn't that just the cutest-"
      She trailed off. The expression on Kevin's face was hovering somewhere between utter shock and mild revulsion. "I guess not," she said. "Uh, Kevin? Inhale."
      He gasped. "Now there's an image I'm not gonna to be able to shake." He looked away. "I mean, I knew wolves had long tongues, but I didn't need to know how long...or what they like to do with them."
      She took his hand again. "Oh, we should be happy for them. Now come on, let's go before they see us. Or hear us."
      "Oops. Too late." He pointed with his free hand.
      She turned to look. Caleb was staring straight at them. Mikey was looking at the wolf. After a moment, Caleb said something, and Mikey turned in their direction. He waved at them.
      "Call me crazy," Kevin said, "but I think we've been spotted."
      "Hey, guys," Mikey yelled. "Come here! There's someone I want you to meet!"
      They approached, hand in hand. Mikey and Cal did the same, and they met halfway.
      Mikey smiled. "Lisa, Kevin," he said, looking at them both in turn, "This is Cal." He took a deep breath. "My boyfriend." Cal smiled at Mikey. Then, he nodded at them.
      Lisa looked Cal over -- extensively, or so it seemed. He was wearing a tight black t-shirt, which he apparently became suddenly aware of. He lookked away, slightly embarrassed. She punched Mikey lightly in the shoulder. "Wow," she said. "He looks rough. Good choice!"
      Kevin's mouth dropped open. Before he could respond, however, Lisa amended herself. "I like mine cute and cuddly, though." She closed the issue by enveloping Kevin in a massive, obscenely involved wet puppy kiss.
      When they finally came up for some much-needed oxygen, Mikey was leaning against Cal's massive bulk. He was looking impatiently at his watch.
      "Man," said Cal, to Mikey. "And I thought we were bad."
      Mikey grinned evilly. "Got air?"
      Kevin suddenly had to sit down. He did so, grinning like an idiot.
      "Boy," said Mikey, still smiling. "Is this campus turning into a soap opera, or what?"
      "Yeah," burst out Kevin, laughter in his voice. "Ain't it great?"
      Everyone else couldn't help but agree.

The End

A few thoughts on "Something REALLY Unexpected":

      I became hopelessly obsessed with TCM a couple years ago. Once I’d been esxposed to it, it was impossible not to. The characters were so likeable, believable and humorous, and the situations were so hysterical...I couldn’t help it. I fell head over heels in love with TCM.
      After exhausting the archives, and still thirsty for more, I stumbled across a fanfic, the only one at the time. It was called “Something Unexpected,” and, as I happily noticed, it starred my favorite character, Mikey! I read it, and I loved it.
      However...I was irrationally irritated by that fact that, if Mikey ended up with a female at all, it would be someone OTHER than Lisa. This may come as a shock, but I’ve always thought that, if Mikey did turn out to be straight, he absolutely had to end up with Lisa lest Vince risk a distrubance of the natural order. So I set out to write a parody, switching around a couple details in Ivica’s story of Mikey falling for Laura...based on my own sexuality and my long-established theories about Mikey, I decided to replace Laura with a male counterpart. “Oh yeah?! Set Mikey up with another girl?! Then take THIS!” was the message of “Something REALLY Unexpected.”
      At least, it was at first.
      As I was writing SRU, I got more and more into the writing process. I began to pour more of myself into Cal and Mikey, and a lot of the situations within the story took on characteristics of equivalent situations in my own life. Ivica’s very stable (and exceedingly versatile, as it turns out) scene progression kept me on task, and the story was written in an absurdly short period of time. I didn’t dream of submitting it, but I did show it to a few friends. In retrospect, I think I was subconsciously hoping one of them would catch on.
      One of them did.
      A longtime friend of mine, and my older brother’s “this-close-to-a-fiance” girlfriend asked me who I had more in common with: Kevin or Mikey. I responded, “You know, I’ve never liked cats.” Or something like that. The point was, I told her that night, and she was all happy and accepting and generally improved the quality of my life. So I have both Ivica and Vince to thank for that, as well as my friend for not casting me out of her house and spitting on me and nasty stuff like that.
      Almost a year later, I was poking through my hard drive and ran across a copy of “Something REALLY Unexpected.” I read it, reminisced, and thought, “I can do WAY better than this!”
      That was the beginning of a massive overhaul. By the time these “revisions” had finished, a full year had passed. And, BOY, did I revise the HELL out of this story.... A lot changed (Fr’instance, Cal was originally from Arizona, and didn’t have any TRACE of the Southern accent that so irritates certain readers), but the general idea stayed the same. It was hard, but it was fun, too. When I was done, “Something REALLY Unexpected: 2000” was born. Or spawned, depending on whom you talk to.
      As you’ve probably figured out by now, I like to ramble on about the history of my stuff almost as much as Vince does. I’m done now, but to those of you still reading...thanks for listening. :) Have a decent life, and fare thee well.

Matt Wolf
November, 2000