Blair laid the blanket where the leaves would filter the sunlight because he so did not need sunburn on the parts he was about to go uncovering. He had no problem with nudity, and the psychological symbolism of stripping yourself of artificial defenses... of symbols of commercialism and status... that had value on a spiritual quest. Not that he could convince Jim of that. Oh no. Let him suggest one little spiritual retreat and quest for some inner truth, a little communing with one's personal totem animal, and Mr. Cynic just eyed him like he was considering calling the funny farm.
Of course Blair didn't really expect his spirit wolf to come strolling out of the woods and sit down to discuss the meaning of life. Spirit animals were symbols, psychological constructs. For thousands of years, human beings had used the power of spirit quests to seek truths hidden within the subconscious. Jim just did not get it.
Blair snorted and smoothed the wrinkles out of the blanket. The weather was perfect. A small breeze kept the heat from gathering and the sun shone down out of a brilliant blue sky. The few clouds were white and trailed off into wisps that didn't even hint at rain, and in Washington, any day without rain was a good one.
Stripping off his red shirt and then undershirt, Blair could feel himself shedding all the stress of life. He put his boots right next to the small pile of shirts because there were way too many burrs around to wander barefoot for long. Heck, if he was being a purist, he shouldn't even have the blanket, but there was the human need to psychologically reconnect with the primitive, and then there was stupid. There were places that Blair was just not willing to get dirt in.
While losing the pants was a little strange, Blair stripped off the rest of his clothes and sat lotus-style in the middle of the blanket. Now he could just let go of all the worries and the stresses the way he'd let go of his clothing. He opened one eye and double checked that a raccoon hadn't made off with the pile, because that would be in keeping with his luck. If he truly believed in karma, he would have to wonder what the hell he'd done in a previous life. Luckily, the pile was still there wrinkling in the warm air while a ladybug crawled over the seam of his jeans.
Jim so did not know what he was missing. Blair felt totally free to find his inner peace and commune with his Id. With a sigh, he laid back and let the dappled sunlight fall over him. He wasn't trapped by the expectations of others and he could listen to the whispers of his own heart. Life was beautiful.
Blair's spine just about snapped under the pressure of sitting up, grabbing for the edge of the blanket, and whipping his head from side to side in search of the speaker. Shit. Jim was right. Communing with nature was not only stupid, but a good way to get arrested for indecent exposure—not that Blair planned to ever admit Jim's rightness out loud. No, that was more like the inner realization his inner Superego had just come to. And those sorts of sacred revelations were meant to be kept to oneself.
It only took a second for Blair to spot the other man leaning against a tree. It took another second for his brain to really process the idea that the other guy was naked. And the weirdness of being naked had just really hit Blair for the first time. Maybe he was selling out, but symbols of commercialism and status were sounding pretty good if they included denim and cotton.
"Hey." Blair clutched his blanket and tried to make sure the folds covered all the pertinent bits.
"Have you seen a stream around?" The guy was short, short enough to not look all that dangerous, but he had wiry muscles that sort of suggested danger. And with Blair's luck, he was probably wanted in three states and crazy as hell.
"No," Blair answered slowly.
"Huh." The guy looked around, sniffed, and rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. Blair took the opportunity to snatch his jeans off his pile, and the ladybug went zipping off into the warm air. Now she was having a bad day too. She could go home to her ladybug husband and complain about how a crazy guy ripped the ground right out from under her without so much as an 'excuse me.'
"Are you looking for something?" Blair asked helpfully. At this point, he was sorry that he hadn't just pointed in a random direction and said that the stream was that way. Any place other than here would be a really good place for this guy to go.
"My clothes," the guy answered with another sniff and rub at his nose. "You here for the full moon last night?" he asked, and for the first time he really looked at Blair. With his red hair and bluish green eyes, he certainly looked normal. Cute even. Freaky, but cute.
"I came out this morning," Blair answered, not sure how to get the conversation to leave the Twilight Zone. Until they were both dressed, things were probably going to be awkward, but he wasn't dropping the blanket long enough to put clothes on.
"Huh." The guy looked at Blair like he was the strange one and tilted his head to the side as he stared. "Why?"
That caught Blair off guard. Another naked person wandering the woods really should not be accusing others, others who still knew where their clothes were, of strangeness.
"Communing with nature is..." Blair snorted at the ridiculousness of having to explain this to a naked stranger. "Man, it's primal. It's getting in touch with your true self. The Australian aborigines have walkabout and anthropologists have recorded dozens of ceremonies from the Native Peoples of America. Connecting with nature is psychologically healthy."
"Huh." The guy nodded. "Do you panic easy?" The sudden change in topic left Blair clutching his blanket and calculating the number of steps it would take him to reach the nearest tree branch that looked like he might be able to pull it off to use it as a weapon.
The guy gave a huge snuff and rubbed his nose with his entire arm, which Blair thought was a little gross. He was in favor of nature, but that did not mean you had to give up Kleenex.
"I'm having trouble smelling like this, but I sometimes have a control problem. I get overexcited when people are running and screaming and... you know." He shrugged with a casual air like this was a normal conversation.
"Um, not so much," Blair answered. If it got this guy to leave, he'd agree to be as calm as the Buddha. He'd be calm like his roommate his freshman year who'd been so stoned he'd missed November. He'd be as calm as... something really calm.
The guy nodded, and Blair looked up to see if clouds were covering the sun because the guy looked suddenly darker. His pale skin deepened into an almost olive tone, and when Blair glanced back down, hair was starting to push through the skin. Blair was so frozen, he couldn't have moved if his life depended on it. The guy's nose pushed forward, taking the mouth with it, and a wolf's snout formed out of the morphing flesh. His front feet dropped down to the ground and turned to paws. The transformation continued until Blair was looking at a real life werewolf.
The wolf looked over at him and tilted his head just like the guy had done. Blair clutched his blanket and silently promised to never again go anywhere that Jim was not within screaming distance. For a second, they stared at each other, and then the wolf gave a mighty sneeze that blew snot across the grass.
"God bless you," Blair offered. The wolf's mouth came open and his tongue lolled out before he trotted across the field, passing within an arm's reach of Blair before vanishing into the woods.
Blair blinked as he stared at the shadows the trees made in the morning light. That so should not have happened. Werewolves didn't exist. The mythos developed out of an irrational fear of all things not controlled by man during an age when man couldn't control very damn much. It was a symbolic representation of fear. Werewolves... caught colds and lost their clothes in the woods.
Blair shoved his legs into his jeans and pulled his boots on as fast as he could. To hell with nature, he could find his psychological truths just as well in the city. And he was way less likely to run into werewolf. Scooping up the rest of his clothes in his arms, Blair took off running for his car.