He looks at Cub; Cub is determinedly looking in one direction, straining forwards but obediently not moving. Marcus can't hear anything, but he knows to trust the wolf. He listens, flicking his eyes round the clearing and trying to match what he hears with what he sees and feels – the rustle of leaves, the sparkle of sunlight through branches onto the forest floor and dappling Cub's fur, the slight breeze from the west, carrying the small smell of damp moss. As he listens, he feels the familiar thread of Cub's thoughts winding in, and jerks away.
He is not so panicked after all this time with his young wolf, but it still startles him when it happens. And there is something else here. Cub is scenting something that he is not familiar with, but desires with all his heart. It is paining him to stay with Marcus and he is tempted to leave. All this Marcus knows in an instant, staring at the wolf before him.
He knows the stories of course. But he'd never believed them; no-one believed them. They are stories to frighten children. And later, stories to titillate late at night; exotic stories of mythical exotic peoples, wedded to their wolves and enjoying wild congress under the full moon.
But here is the kernel of truth that has scared him since Cub adopted him – he can feel what his wolf is feeling. He knows it, and now he must go with Cub, or lose him – there is no more ignoring it; he must choose.
As soon as he thinks it – before, even - Cub is off, straight ahead and eager. Marcus follows in the same direction, off the path and into the trees, occasionally calling aloud and hearing an answering yip ahead; less often, but more bravely, trying to sense ahead and picking up – something; something confident, something delightful in his wolf's quest.
It is … no, he is, a freak, but he is full of something himself; a growing anticipation and excitement as they progress through the densest part of the wood, and the trees and bushes begin to thin out on the east side of the ridge. It is time to make camp before it is dusk, but Cub is going onward, and Marcus can't find it in his heart to stop him now; the feeling in his own chest swelling as they move ever nearer to – that something.
The other wolf is a bigger shock. His heart pounds and he stands stock still, searching. All he can see around him are trees and earth, but her presence is clear as a bell, and though it isn't words he gets from her, complex meanings ring through; so unlike Cub's fuzzy emotions.
He can tell what direction this is coming from – the same place that Cub has vanished towards, so he sets off again. Climbing up the side of a gully, his head is full of the other wolf's excitement, seeking and hoping for agreement. There is a puzzlement at his lack of response, and a to-ing and fro-ing between him and Cub, trying to reconcile the unexpected differences between the wolf and Marcus.
Cub is also seeking his permission, but Marcus doesn't know what he is being asked.
Then it feels like the she-wolf – he gets a scent of juniper as a... as the wolf's identity, juniper-at-night – introduces a man – her brother - into his head, and he is suddenly filled with human thoughts. And though there are words and they are unknown and foreign, the meaning is there, apparent. It is a request and an invitation to him and his wolf. To mate.
Marcus stumbles over a tree root, blinded by the shock of his understanding.
The other man is making a genuine offer, aroused already and slightly desperate, and also, Marcus realizes belatedly, in pain. More, he can feel the link between the two strangers; the wolf's concern for the man and a faintly apologetic sense that this need to mate has happened at this inopportune time; the man's tenderness towards the wolf and relief that a suitable partnering has appeared from the lap of nature. The she-wolf finds it unsurprising that the world has given her what she needs; the man is slightly nervous at these so-unfamiliar newcomers.
Cub … Marcus can feel Cub clearer now, like tuning in to a long-forgotten but once well-known language – Cub is ecstatic with the newness of it all; his youth overflowing. He has not mated before and his passion is alight like a flame. Marcus is losing track of what his own feelings are and what is other in his head, and his bewilderment is sending him giddy as he crashes through undergrowth, pulled on by Cub's excited yips.
He has a sudden concrete image of a grey wolf, haughty and fine, assessing and pleased with him, and then notices the young man lying in the darkening grass, cradling a waterskin and looking into his eyes. Only, it isn't his eyes, but Cub's, and Cub's attention goes swiftly back to the other wolf, captured. Marcus gasps out loud, “Wait,” and Cub obeys, though Marcus can feel the power of his urge to run forward, to smell both strangers. Almost immediately the young man and the other wolf mentally rein themselves in, respectful, and he only half-senses their shared communication.
Cub is vibrating with excitement; he can feel it strongly, and he can smell the she-wolf; delicious. He can feel his own erection despite his fear as he clatters on towards them, loud in the quiet wood. Finally he makes it into the semi-clearing, stopping next to Cub and looking at the same scene he'd witnessed through Cub's eyes. The moment is suspended, waiting for him.
Somewhere, under the haze of want, he is aware that he feels good. Although the choice is urgent now, it is a real choice; the man and wolf are giving him that. He is used to saying no to Cub, and these days he is obeyed. He could say no to all three if he wanted to, and though he can sense the disappointment, he knows his choice would be honoured.
He looks at the man in the grass. The man keeps his thoughts – and needs - blanketed, but looks back, proud, hurt, defiant. It is a tendril of another emotion that finally releases Marcus from the spell and makes his decision for him; at some level, the man is amused.
He must have given some sign to Cub; he is only aware that he is walking forward. Cub and the other wolf are together already, sniffing, biting, and his heart is beating loud in his chest. His mind fills with bliss, and the other man is holding out a hand from where he lies. He looks dazed with lust himself as he takes Marcus's hand and pulls him down towards himself, lying back and pulling Marcus down to cover him. They gaze at each other for a moment, and Marcus registers something still held back; a request for permission. His whole body is saying yes, but he realises he has to say it in his mind too. He is flooded with sensations as the mental barriers come down between them and they are moving towards each other.
The next moments blur, focused on hands, mouths, clothes in the way, the occasional stab of pain in – he picks up the man's wolf-name – goes-further's ankle as they twist and hold each other, kissing and biting, gently at first. The wolves are already fucking, and the hand grasping his cock startles him into groaning. Like Cub he is a novice at this, and they both succumb to the sensations rapidly. His first orgasm is quick; his inarticulate cries tip goes-further over until he too is pulsing between them, mouths pressed together hiding his cry as he shudders in Marcus's hold.
He feels the man settle back on the ground underneath him, trying to get more comfortable where his leg is obviously hurting, and they have a moment to look at each other. Marcus asks aloud, what is your name?, even though he sort of knows it, but the man says something long in reply that he doesn't understand. Great. He is obviously from one of the unconquered Eastern tribes, and they have no interpreter. But then the man is present in his mind, and he hears the word: Esca. “Esca,” he says, and the man's smile is beautiful, and the she-wolf is happy too.
He lifts up and kisses Esca, feels his surprise as their lips meet, warm, gentle, and he licks, tasting; letting Esca's tongue take him softly.
When he wakes, it is to a wolf's consciousness nudging at his own; not Cub; this must be juniper-at-night – the wolf seems to be greeting him. Tall-safer-one-with-meat must be his own name; he laughs at the memories evoked of Cub as a foundling, bonding to Marcus feeding him tiny scraps, and growling whenever Placidus or anyone else came near.
Esca's wolf is hungry and she and Cub are going off to hunt. It is remarkable what level of detail she is telling him, reassuring him, whilst Esca sleeps on and Cub almost sheepishly conveys merely contentment and pride. She warns him to take care of Esca while she's gone, though there is something teasing there, as if she feels it will always be Esca caring for him; she is calling Marcus youngster, pup, but with affection. Her love for Esca is imprinted on every thought, and as they melt away he is left staring at the man by his side, relaxed and beautiful.
His eyes wander over the sharp bones of Esca's nose and jaw and his smooth brow when a glimmer of amusement floats into his head, and Esca's eyes open, blue-grey in the morning light. Marcus is shocked by the sudden deluge of the man's thoughts, so immediate; the wolf was one thing but this is almost too intrusive and he has no protection. Straight away, Esca is soothing him mentally much like his wolf did, looking concerned, but also surprised. Without words Marcus picks up the level of fresh curiosity that Esca feels at his naivety: don't you know this? What does your home-pack do?
Marcus is instinctively trying to defend his mind, realizing how much he has been doing this with Cub, and now afraid of betraying his strong feelings: admiration, arousal, fear. He tries speaking aloud again, and feels Esca try to withdraw a little, aware that he is making Marcus scared. “I am Marcus. You are Esca.” He waits for Esca to respond, and Esca repeats the sentence word for word. He laughs when Marcus looks frustrated, and into Marcus's head he conveys their names plus their wolf identities, along with the human and wolf names of their wolves; he calls his wolf Leesha. Then he tries again in Latin, and gets it right, laughing again at Marcus's satisfaction. Then Esca says what must be the same sentence in his own language, and Marcus tries to copy him. He realises that he has made the same mistake, and haltingly reverses their names, feeling Esca's flood of pleasure.
Esca says another sentence, and when Marcus looks blank, he mimes eating, says the sentence again stressing a word and asking him, mentally, hungry? Marcus instantly senses the wolves nearby, returning with game, and his stomach rumbles. He nods and says the word that Esca stressed, and Esca smiles at him. Suddenly he can feel Cub's joy and sense of glorious freedom, and he is in the centre of a loop of communication, deeper than anything he has felt before, but not threatening; already strangely familiar. He can feel Esca, Cub (strongly), and Leesha calm and clear.
Words out loud are so clumsy. It is easier to talk to Esca – and the wolves - within his mind, even for practicalities, and he begins to relax with it; there is enough to do to keep him from wondering too much, yet. He helps Esca build the fire and cook the meat; he goes for more water and then helps Esca up to hobble to their latrine-tree. After the first step and the piercing pain Marcus can feel in Esca's bad ankle, Marcus sweeps Esca up and carries him, already able to tease away Esca's indignant mental squawk with sensible soothing.
The wolf names too become known; easier – more immediate - for the wolves to understand, though he still finds conveying sense-experiences odd, not easy. Leesha, juniper-at-night, is helping him; he can feel her concern that he get it right, and her affection for his efforts, amplified by Cub's sheer enthusiasm. There is also a pang of feeling for Cub, who does not have a wolf name, though Leesha understands what “Cub” means and the affection that is implied by it.
Underneath juniper-at-night's happiness is another feeling, and it doesn't take long for it to overwhelm him as he feels it overtake Cub and the man beneath him. Leesha is not satisfied and her desire surrounds them all; it is time, she is done with resting. Her need to be filled is visceral. Marcus can feel Cub respond, and he also feels Esca's need building around his wolf's; this time he wants Marcus to take him bodily.
Marcus is not sure what is wanted from him; he has bedded a woman, on campaign, but never a man, despite his occasional interest. But Esca is entirely sure, and forcefully confident. He is scrabbling for something from the pack lying next to him, and he unfolds a cloth and a pouch. Marcus watches as his fingers dig in to sweet-smelling grease. Esca props his good leg on Marcus's shoulder and Marcus is entranced as he watches; the leg pulling up and open between them to show creamy-white thigh, the exposed pink arsehole, Esca's darker-tanned fingers moving to touch himself.
Cub is whining; Leesha has him pinned, teeth on his throat, urging goes-further to hurry as Cub's growing desire mirrors Marcus's as he supports Esca's legs, kneeling up between them and keeping their combined weight away from Esca's injury. He thinks he is more aware of Esca's pain than Esca is; the man is so focused on his need and his wolf's need, struggling up to reach further with his fingers.
Marcus's cock reacts as he watches, and he pants through his arousal, trying to keep some distance from the spiralling need to just push Esca down and fill him. He can feel Esca's willingness for him to do it, and has to fight even harder to hold his own feelings uppermost. As he feels the fingers breach - through this no-longer-weird mental bond they are sharing, so much clearer than any translator - he feels the two wolves twist and turn, juniper-at-night letting Cub go so that he can move to mount her. Marcus needs to be in there too; he needs this inside him; he can't tell which feeling is which as he watches Esca's fingers moving in and sliding out.
Cub is feeling his strength finally as Leesha holds still to let him mount her, and Marcus looks up to catch Esca's eyes. He feels the command from both wolf and man, and angles his body to replace Esca's fingers. The moment his cock penetrates and he feels that warm tightness around him he is entirely lost to himself; after that he is just bucking and rolling, doing whatever feels good. At some level he keeps some control; trying to slow down the wild feedback that would have him just rut, fast, there, into that spot, and instead forcing his hips into longer, smoother strokes that tantalise both of them.
They are moving together; Esca's hands support his shoulders, holding him in place and staring into his eyes. The intensity is frightening; he doesn't know if what he's feeling now is his own desire or the pulse of want from the man in his arms. He can't tell anymore if the slide of his cock is making this shiver in his guts, sharp and sweet, or if it is Esca's feelings of yearning fullness and aching need oscillating through him. His hands on Esca's skin register velvet warmth, but he's also feeling the firmness of being held, anchored into the soft floor and pinned; he knows that this must be Esca's feeling, not his own. But they're tied together now, the feelings cycling and escalating; one's sensations fueling the other's desire; one's thrill feeding the other's hunger.
He wants more now, more and more, of Esca, of the wolves beside them, and finally he can't keep it away. He abandons his attempt at controlling the rising crest of his orgasm, watching the gasp form on Esca's lips, hearing himself making noises, or maybe that's Esca too, his body shaking and pressing as Esca strives to get himself off as well, and they both reach for Esca's cock at the same time, holding and rubbing and feeling as Marcus's orgasm ripples through them both, shared and amplified. A moment of suspense as neither of them breath, and then Esca's climax peaks and his cock spurts into their hands and one of them is moaning and choking and almost sobbing with the overwhelming feeling of the aftershocks thrumming through each of them.
Marcus puts his head down on Esca's neck, no longer held up by Esca's strong arms; he can feel Esca's acquiescence, letting him lie down on top. Their feelings are separate now, not as locked in sync, though still played back and forth between each other, calming and surprisingly joyful.
The wolves are quiet, curled against each other, almost asleep again. There is no need to move, except to wipe Esca's semen off both their bodies. As Esca pulls back and reaches for his cloth, Marcus's cock slips free of his body; Esca pauses suddenly and Marcus feels the ticklish trickle of come as if over his own buttocks. Esca grimaces then smiles at Marcus, and Marcus feels his chest bloom. He strokes his palm along Esca's cheek, kissing him again before they collapse together in a more comfortable heap. Clearly there will be no secrets. There are no words, but none are needed.
The loop of awareness with the wolves is like a background now, almost comforting. Marcus can already feel his control develop so that he can take from it what he needs and keep some of it at bay. Esca is content, body more relaxed, which helps overcome the pain he still feels; Cub is simply happy; Leesha is satisfied and slightly smug. She is like a fond teacher, knowing Marcus has learned something well.
Behind that layer, there is a hint of something else, approaching: comfort, rescue, safety. He understands via Esca that his brothers and sisters – other brothers and sisters, humans and wolves – are on their way to help him home with his injured leg. Marcus feels a spike of nervousness at meeting Esca's clan, and instantly senses the combined responses of several others: curiosity, amusement (directed at Esca: little brother, always disrupting things, what have you brought home now?), and welcome.
What will happen next? Should he stay to meet these strangers and enter their intimate world, or leave with Cub and continue on his quest? Cub is easy to read: he wants to belong, but he will always follow Marcus. Cub's primary allegiance is clear; Marcus is his brother, bonded.
Marcus wishes he knew more of these people and their wolves; what are their rules and customs? He has no idea what he is stepping in to. He also has no idea what will happen when he returns home, connected like this with his wolf.
Esca is asking him: what does he want to happen next?
He wants to pursue his quest. But... he wants to stay and discover more. He wants … Esca.
Esca waits for him to make his choice. Marcus is very aware that his choice will change his whole life.