“Lupus est homo homini, non homo, quom qualis sit non novit” – A man is wolf, and not a man, to another man, for as long as he doesn’t know what he is like.
“And this is the specimen itself.”
It was impossible to miss the sheer excited pride in the scientist’s voice, literally bursting as it was over every word and expressive hand movement. For an eminent scientist in an extremely specialised and limited field he looked like a child on Christmas day in front of a mound of brightly wrapped presents each with his name on.
The man with him appeared stoic in contrast, controlled, refined but interested none the less.
“Fascinating,” that man said, his eyes homing in on the figure on the other side of the protective glass.
Behind them two soldiers stood guard, imposing in their all black uniforms, a pistol on one hip, a tranquiliser gun on the other, a knife on their belt. They were far from alone as other scientists, workers, technicians moved quietly around the room, pressing buttons, taking readings, analysing data, but it was the creature in front of them, on the other side of the glass that was the centre of attention.
The creature was lying naked on the bench-like bed, curled up on his side away from them, facing the back wall, his skin pale under the stark lights. Red lines ran diagonally across his side and part of his back, another red mark, round and darker, on the junction between his neck and shoulder. He was perfectly still, the only movement the faint rising and falling of his ribs as he breathed evenly and deeply.
The remains of what could have been a shirt and a pair of jeans were lying tangled together in one corner while around the secure enclosure were scattered various paraphernalia in the form of playing cards, paper, books, balls and more. There were scribbles and writing on the walls, and in the far corner was a specially designed latrine, but there was nothing technological in there, nothing beyond the most basic supplies.
For all the scientific equipment in the wider room, there was no doubt that the inner one was nothing but a highly technical cage.
“Of course he’s currently in Homo sapiens form right now, well when we say Homo sapiens it’s just a term we use. He isn’t a Homo sapiens, not technically. He may look it most of the time, but he is very different from you or me.”
The other man raised an eyebrow but let the scientist continue.
“Physically he appears Homo sapiens, and to the casual and even the less casual observer that is what he is, but he’s not. Ooh, he’s so much more. I’ve already explained about his ‘condition’ on a cellular level, but just look at him, such perfection. Even in Homo sapiens form he has the look of the Canis lupus about him. Look at the curve of his back, the power in his shoulders and buttocks. Isn’t it just beautiful?”
“Fascinating,” the man repeated his eyes not leaving the creature. “And how long did you say you’ve had him for?”
“Ninety-two days. Just over three lunar cycles. The last full moon was only two days ago, but the results of that. Oh the results. We wanted to see what would happen but we never predicted that they would….”
“They?” the man asked with a tilt of his head as the scientist trailed off into a kind of giggle. “You have another… specimen?”
“Oh no. No, no. We haven’t yet been fortunate enough to track down another. They are clever you see. Ever so clever, but we’ve got the next best thing.” There was that almost laugh again. “Come, have a look.”
The scientist led the man to a computer terminal where another worker stepped away from a large screen. On the screen were half a dozen shots of the creature and its prison virtually from every angle.
“See, here, have a look,” the scientist said pointing to one particular image, waving at someone to enlarge it. It was an aerial shot, looking down on the creature and on the figure it appeared to be curled around. Or more accurately on the person.
It was hard to tell, but pressed protectively but not constrictively between the wall and the creature was what looked like a man, smaller and stockier in build to the creature, fairer in hair colour but a touch darker in skin tone. He appeared to be asleep, curled up, relaxed, not at all concerned that the creature was wrapped almost possessively around him.
“He’s human,” the scientist said almost gleefully. “Just a regular run of the mill human. Nothing special about him and yet.” Another small laugh. “The preliminary results are astonishing. Limited in that we haven’t been able to re-examine him as of yet, but we will. The specimen has been rather reluctant to release him so far. Even so, what we’ve gathered already will have us busy for weeks. We want to make sure that the mating is completed before we disturb them. We may never have another opportunity like this.”
“Mating,” the man said, a brief twitch of his lips as he tapped the screen absently with his finger.
“Oh yes,” the scientist responded, rubbing his hands together. “No doubt about it. No doubt at all. We weren’t sure at first, but now… we have it all, on tape, no doubt. No doubt at all. That is a fully grown werewolf and his human mate.”
“Fascinating,” the man responded, once more another brief twitch to his lips.
The creature’s eyes opened then, sharp and pale blue as they stared boldly up into the centre of the camera lens, his gaze hard and unyielding. The fair man stirred briefly but that was the only other movement as the creature offered a silent challenge before his eyes closed once more.
“They are quite inseparable,” the scientist said. “We may have to go to some lengths, but the results will be worth it.”
“I’m sure they will be,” the man said turning away from the screen to address the scientist face on. “And we will be more than interested in funding your… research,” he said smoothly as he leant on his umbrella. “In an unofficial capacity of course.”
“Of course,” the scientist said. “Unofficially. Quite right.” The hands rubbed together. “I’m sure you’ll appreciate that none of this specialised equipment comes cheaply. We’re working with an unknown species here, we must be thorough and we must be careful.”
“I assure you, for the right project we have very deep pockets,” the man said.
“Excellent. Excellent. Perhaps we could discuss it further. “
“Tea would be appreciated,” the man said. “Do you have a Samovar? I have always wanted to try it the traditional way.”
The scientist looked thrown for a moment but quickly nodded still rubbing his hands. “I’m sure we’ll be able to find something.”
“Good,” the man said his eyes trailing back to the screen. “Good.”
Ninety-Three Days Earlier
He should have told them where he was going, but the rules had been chafing worse than usual and he had wanted some modicum of independence as much as he had wanted to howl at the moon. He had never been one for ‘running with the pack’ preferring to do things by himself, how he wanted, answerable to no one. To him the pack was at times like a collar, taming him, controlling him, restricting around the throat. Out here he felt free, alive, liberated.
Right now though he felt hunted.
Head down, he stretched his body and raced near soundlessly across the grass and the heather, a dark shadow against the moorland. Everyone around here knew of the legend of the Beast of Dartmoor, and no one would be foolish enough to venture out at night, especially on a full moon. There were some who claimed they had seen the beast itself, but few alive knew of its current identity.
He had come on a whim, escaping London with its pollution and traffic and overwhelming stink of human for the tranquil setting of nature. It wasn’t unusual for him to do that and the pack would easily decipher his movements, but that would be tomorrow at the earliest. That would not help him tonight.
He was being chased.
Somehow they had known he would come here, or else they were extremely lucky.
He should have pieced it together; the overwhelming scent of peppermint all over the moor, obscuring his sense of smell. It was everywhere he turned. His head felt dizzy, light, his sense of smell shutting down in order to not affect his other senses, but that left him one sense down and with a clouded mind.
The thick cloud overhead was just unfortunate, not that he needed to see the moon or the stars to be able to navigate, to ‘see’, but with his sense of smell already compromised it was one less sense to rely on.
He turned right heading towards the river. The cool, freshness of the water called to him. He was fit and he was swift, but he hadn’t run like this in a long time. Not at full stretch, near flat out. The air was a cool rush against his fur, the November night crisp and fresh. Snow was coming, a few days away still but it would come. He would be long gone by then, back to the hustle and bustle of London where his nose would be assaulted by a thousand other stenches, some good, others very much not so, but all familiar, all part of home.
He slowed as he neared the river, the thin silver snake weaving between the heather and the gorse. Stopping he sniffed the air but the scent of peppermint still lingered even here.
Ears pinned back he trotted down to the cool water, dipping his head to take a drink.
The dart to his left flank hit like a burst of fire. Rearing up, he fought against it, snapping, snarling, crazy and then darkness.
The wool felt scratchy against his over sensitive skin.
He had had more than his full share of bad changes over the years, but none quite like this.
Lying still, he fought the instinct to curl further in on himself. His head felt both foggy and achy, a persistent pounding sensation threatening to rip apart his skull. His mouth was dry, like cotton wool, probably a side effect of whatever drug he had been foolish enough to try out. That would also account for the queasy stomach and the general malaise. No doubt Mycroft would turn up in a moment, berate him for being an idiot, but would also give him a drink and maybe some other drugs before leaving him to sleep the worst of it off. Whatever ‘it’ was.
He frowned. What had ‘it’ been? He needed to know so he could avoid it in the future. He had no desire to ever feel like this again. Once was more than enough. He just couldn’t quite put his paw, no his finger, on it.
Must have been one hell of a night. His tolerance for drugs was far higher than the average individual’s, even for his kind, so for whatever it was to do this to him must have been impressive and why could he smell peppermint?
He shuddered, dry heaving as everything flooded back to him. The chase, the hunt, the tranquiller dart. Bloody hell, whatever they had put in that thing it would have been enough to have brought down a full grown male elephant. They had certainly decided to take no chances with a full grown werewolf.
He had not stood a chance.
They had come prepared and that was far from a comforting thought.
He was human again but whatever they had shot him up with was messing with his senses. His usually eerily accurate sense of the passage of time was all over the place leaving him uncharacteristically and somewhat alarmingly unsure as to whether he had been unconscious for hours, a day or even longer. What he did know though was that he was no longer in Devon. If enough time had passed there was a good chance that he wasn’t in England either.
He was also not alone.
“Tea would be good,” he said his voice dry and raspy. “Wet, warm, in a mug. Milk, no sugar. Failing that water, cool, wet, in a bottle or glass. Spring, mountain, tap, well, distilled, mineral, doesn’t matter. Also a non-opium based painkiller would not go amiss. Double strength preferably.”
He didn’t bother to say please or thank you, just pulled the blanket further around his body and worked on keeping his breathing even. They would do whatever they were going to do regardless of what he said or how polite he was. Either they would give him a drink or they wouldn’t. He, on the other hand, had other things to worry about. Like what the hell Mycroft was going to do or say when he found out.
Captured. That was not a word a werewolf wanted to be a part of. A person or a group of people had set out with the express desire to capture a werewolf. Someone knew that werewolves actually existed and that did not bode well for him.
He licked his lips. The air was dry, clinical, sterile. He could hear the hum of machinery, the heartbeats of a dozen or more people, the faint smell of chemicals that was not totally obscured by the lingering scent of peppermint. His stomach rolled. He was going to have an aversion to peppermint after this.
Something itched at the back of his neck, something metal, beneath the skin. Reaching back, he scratched at it, the shape revealed under his fingertips causing a growl to roll through his chest. A tag. They had tagged him, like an animal.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
The voice reverberated through the sound system, a touch tinny but clear and defined. It did not help the thumping in his head.
“If you were me we would not be having this conversation,” he said.
Stretching, he pushed aside his discomfort, his pride not wanting to show his weakness, and forced himself to his feet. He was naked under the blanket but he would have been more surprised had he been anything else. He kept one hand on the cover, less for his own modesty – he was a werewolf, he had no issue with nudity – and more to do with the unknown.
He scanned his eyes round to confirm what he had already suspected. He was in a cage. A high-tech, extremely expensive medical and observation facility, but a cage none the less.
Baring his teeth, he had to stop himself from giving in to his natural reaction to growl deeply in his chest, the inner wolf still near the surface following his transformation, bristling at the perceived confinement. His gaze settled on a man stood a few metres back on the other side of the glass screen. He appeared to be about five foot ten, with mid brown hair and an expression of barely contained excitement. He was also younger than he might have expected.
“Incredible,” the scientist said, his words relaying through the sound system. “Male specimen of the lycanthrope in Homo sapiens form twenty-three hours and eighteen minutes since retransformation from Canis lupus form. Upright, verbally communicative, self-aware. Six foot tall, eyes blue, hair the same shade as Canis lupus coat.”
Twenty-three hours since he had changed back? Just what exactly had they shot him with?
He stepped closer to the glass, lifting one hand to press again it, aware that his look was part way between a smile and a threat.
“Very good,” he said with a slight drawl, “but only partially correct I’m afraid. You on the other hand are a Homo sapiens male, five foot ten and a quarter inch, aged between thirty-six and thirty-nine, single, spent a number of your adult years in London, probably while studying, but were initially raised in the midlands, most likely near Coventry. Long sighted since adolescence but you prefer contacts over glasses, no doubt because you were bullied. No close relationships except with a female family member, most likely your mother.”
He paused to offer a brief insincere smile. “I would ask your name but I honestly don’t care. Now that introductions are out of the way though, I will repeat my earlier requirements of liquid subsidence; tea, water, or failing that anything non-alcoholic and non-carbonated. After that I require suitable clothing including shoes, food suitable for human consumption preferably containing a good quantity of red meat, and an explanation as to why you feel it sensible to try and cage, to use the old, common vernacular, a werewolf.”
They gave him water, loose clothing and Beef Stroganoff through a hatch in the glass door. The water came in two separate 1.5 litre bottles, their labels removed – as if he couldn’t tell from the taste that it was Evian – the first of which he downed half of rapidly.
The clothing was almost insulting compared to what he was used to; two pairs of white underpants, grey jogging bottoms and top, and two pairs of socks. They didn’t provide shoes.
The Beef Stroganoff was nothing special, he’d certainly had had better. The meat was a little overcooked for his liking, but there had been nothing untoward added to the food. He ate it in silence with the provided plastic spoon, sat crossed legged on the floor, his gaze fixed over the bowl at the observation room beyond.
He had counted five cameras at various unreachable points in the cage. The glass was reinforced shatter and bullet proof. The speakers and microphones were embedded in the ceiling and therefore virtually impossible to reach. The cage was impregnable.
He didn’t need to be told that he was here to be experimented on. That was both obvious and horribly unimaginative. He just wondered how long it would take for the pack to find him and what they would do when they did.
They gave him a full physical examination, prodding, poking and sticking instruments in places he very much preferred that they didn’t. He protested at parts but of course they didn’t listen to him. They didn’t even speak to him other than to issue short clinical directions. Stand up, lie down, arms out.
He talked to them when he could be bothered to, deducing their life stories, watching as they flinched when he got too close to home. Not all spoke English, although that was the primary tongue he heard, but he also recognised some German, Russian and French mixed in. He didn’t bother to tell them that he understood those languages and more besides.
The main scientist did not take part but was no doubt observing. At least two security personnel accompanied him at all times. The doors were alarmed and could only be opened with the proper access code. The facility was definitely not in England.
Escape, he realised, would not come easily.
They had tagged him, at the back of his neck, under the skin, just below his hair line. A tag, like an animal, like some sort of domestic pet, except this tag, he concluded, was far more than just an electronic tracker. It was also a monitor, constantly recording his heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels and no doubt hormone levels as well.
It itched; physically or psychologically he wasn’t sure, but he was acutely aware of it, like an intruder or threat. There was no way of getting at it and he knew that because he’d tried, his fingernails having left deep red marks at the join between his head and his neck. Part of him fought to ignore it, the other part urged to gouge it out with a claw. He pushed that side of him down. He had spent a life time separating the animal urges from the ridged self-control he had developed. Unlike some he was not a slave to the more base elements of his self. He controlled the wolf. The wolf did not control him.
But that did not give them the right to treat him like this. He was not a common animal.
He snapped on the second day.
He had spent much of what his senses had told him to be the night lying on the bunk analysing all the data he had observed and gathered. He slept a few hours because he had nothing better to do and it had been a very rough transformation. There were no clocks, no way of manually tracking the time but he was a creature governed by the moon, his internal clock was faultless.
They gave him porridge for breakfast. His sense of smell told him they had not added anything to it. He ate it in silence, watching their movements.
An hour later he had had enough.
He tapped on the glass. They stopped to watch but made no other movements. He tapped again.
“Bored,” he said clearly, knowing that they could hear him. “Bored.”
They just continued to watch.
“Oh for goodness sake,” he said. “Look, I know you’re all here to observe me, but read my lips, I Am Bored. I have been reasonable and cooperative so far considering and I have rights. I also know that you have questions. So come on, I’m waiting.”
They had obviously been ordered not to interact with him, but his message, he was sure, had been received and would be passed on. Now all he had to do was wait. Waiting was not, however, one of his strong points.
Returning to the bed he stretched out on it, pressing his fingers together under his chin as if in prayer, and waited.
Forty-eight and a half minutes later he had his answer.
A chair was pulled up in front of the screen and just over two minutes later he had his audience.
“I’m told that coffee will only work as a substitute for sleep for so long,” he said tipping his head to the side before returning to staring at the ceiling. “Also sleeping at your desk will put additional strain on your neck and back. I’m sure your mother would chide you for it, so you may want to catch up on your rest before you video call her again.”
It was all so obvious but the scientist was still looking at him as if he was a medical marvel or perhaps a monkey who had just typed out a soliloquy from Hamlet. It was both gratifying and utterly demeaning.
“Incredible,” the scientist said. “High cogitative function: observation, senses, reasoning, analysis, language.”
“Yes, fascinating,” he said in turn. “Provide some balls and I’ll even juggle for you.” Swinging his legs down, he sat up. Crossing his legs and leaning back casually he met the scientist’s gaze. It was a relaxed challenge, but one that even the slowest of humans would have failed to miss.
The scientist blinked for a moment then looked down at the folder in his lap. “Designation, identity or name,” he said clearing his throat.
“Yes,” he responded.
“Yes?” the scientist said.
He curled the corner of his lips. “Yes, I have a name,” he said but offered no more.
The scientist pressed his lips together. “Official species designation?”
“It’s a secret.”
The scientist raised his eyebrow. “Official species designation,” he repeated.
“I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” He smiled with his teeth showing. “And I’m sure that wouldn’t work out well for either of us.”
“Why would you have to kill me?”
He let the smile spread. “It’s a secret.”
The scientist wisely moved on. “Age.”
“Six foot and a half inch.”
“I’m sure you know that better than I do right now.”
The scientist tapped his folder. “How many are there like you?”
“Like me? None. I am unique.”
“How many of your species are there?”
The scientist frowned. “Approximately.”
He leant forward slightly. “How many Homo sapiens illegal immigrants are there currently residing in the United Kingdom. Approximately.”
“About one million.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure? Count them all personally did you?”
“Are you saying that you don’t know how many there are of you out there because you’re hiding?”
“No, I’m saying how would you know that what I tell you is the truth? I could say there are fifty or five hundred or five thousand or five million of us worldwide, but how would you know if that is true?”
He slipped seamlessly to his feet, keeping his eyes trained on the scientist as he moved to the glass barrier.
“We look like you, act like you, dress like you, go to the same places as you, most of the time we are you. We’ve survived this long because we know how to hide, but don’t think that hiding is the only thing we know how to do. There is a reason we only exist in myth and legend.” He ran his index finger down the glass. “How does that quote go? ‘Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead’. And trust me, we are perfectly adept at keeping a secret.”
The scientist smiled slightly. “No one’s coming for you,” he said. “And even if they were to, they’re not going to be able to find you.”
He tipped his head slightly and offered a pleasant smile. “Care to stake your life on that?”
They gave him chicken soup and two rolls for lunch accompanied by a silver spoon. He ignored the spoon, dipping the rolls in the soup before drinking the rest from the bowl.
On the other side of the screen the observers watched and made notes. When they came for the tray he plucked the spoon from it and then spent the next thirty-six minutes hanging it from his nose.
That afternoon they strapped him to a treadmill and forced him to run. He glared at them but ran, partly glad to be out of the cage and burning off some excess energy.
Returned to his cell he found a handful of books, half a dozen crayons, a few sheets of paper, a pack of cards and five juggling balls on his bed. He refused to say thank you.
“‘He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf’?”
The words were written neatly in red crayon across the right hand wall just above the Latin ‘lupus est homo homini, non homo, quom qualis sit non novit’ which had been written on in blue.
“King Lear,” he said not bothering to look up from where he was lying on his back on the bunk bouncing a juggling ball off the ceiling.
He had been here for over nine days now and the boredom had settled into a sense of lethargy. In the far corner the pack of cards stood built into a tower surrounded by a variety of origami animals made out of pages of The Da Vinci Code, which he hadn’t even bothered to read and felt insulted that they had provided in the first place. The other juggling balls had been discarded somewhere, bored as he already was with his newly developed juggling skills.
The beard growing on his lower face itched where they had refused to allow him to shave. He was apparently lucky that they had allowed him to shower and wash. He didn’t feel lucky. He felt bored, trapped, caged.
He felt like he would go mad. Apt then that he had taken to quoting from Lear, and from the fool in Lear at that. Although when it came to Shakespeare it was often the fool that spoke the greatest truth.
“Here to observe or to participate?” he said idly, not bothering to spare the scientist even a glance. “What would you like me to perform this time? Or do you need me for something? More blood? A urine sample? A semen sample? Or are you as bored as I am with this whole thing?”
“Where did you learn Shakespeare?”
He groaned slightly. “Questions. You’re here to ask more questions. Yes, well, why not. I’ve already jumped through your other hoops today. School. I studied Shakespeare, or at least that Shakespeare, at school. And yes, I went to school. I’m sure that comes as a great surprise to you. The savage knows Shakespeare. Then again, maybe it’s not that surprising, Shakespeare was one of us after all.”
“Shakespeare was one of your kind?”
He smiled slightly to himself but said nothing more just continued to throw the ball and catch it.
“You didn’t eat your lunch today,” the scientist said after it became clear that nothing more was forthcoming on that topic.
“You didn’t give me anything edible to eat.”
He kept throwing the ball at the same speed and height. Throw, catch. Throw, catch.
“You’ve never refused any food before.”
“You’ve never tried to poison me before.” He said it idly but he was far from calm on the inside. He had known it would happen at some point but that didn’t make the wolf in him any less angry. He could feel the beast stalking around inside him, fuming and ready to snap at anyone or anything he felt deserved it.
“Poison?” the scientist said raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, poison,” he snapped catching the ball.
Shifting to his feet, he stalked over to the screen and stopped to stand in front of the scientist, almost but not quite touching the glass. “Don’t try playing the innocent,” he said his eyes narrow. “Aconitum lycoctonum. A species of the genus Aconitum, a native to Europe and northern Asia. A herbaceous perennial plant with palmately lobed leaves and flowers that are most commonly dark violet but a yellow-flowered version can be found in the Alps of Switzerland. Also known as Alpine wolfsbane or Northern wolfsbane. Like all species in the genus, it is poisonous to both animals and humans, yet somehow that ended up in my lunch, and you wonder why I didn’t eat it.”
He bared his teeth.
“You know a lot about it,” the scientist said watching him carefully.
He could hear the unvoiced assumption; a werewolf knowing a lot about wolfsbane, maybe the legends were right on that account. It was all he could do not to roll his eyes or scrape his nails down the glass.
“I know a lot about poisons,” he said, “but not for the reasons you’re thinking.”
“How do you know what I’m thinking?”
Because you’re extremely obvious to read, he thought, but said nothing. Instead he returned to the bed, lay down and returned to throwing the ball. The conversation was over.
The next day they strapped him down and attached electrodes across his body. On the highest setting he screamed and the wolf howled.
He could feel the full moon creeping up on him getting stronger with each passing day. It was like an itch that he couldn’t quite reach, a sort of feeling of general discomfort, a sense of dissatisfaction with being in his own skin.
The wolf was stalking restlessly and he in turn paced. Four steps then turn, four steps, turn, four steps…
He slammed his hand into the wall against the large yellow smiling face he had drawn on with the crayons. The force jerked pain up his palm but he didn’t care. He wanted it to hurt. He needed it to hurt.
He already knew that the change would not be a good one. The wolf was a creature of nature, one who at the best of times did not like constraints or restrictions. He belonged in the wild or with his pack, not in a cage alone, and he did not like being held back.
He didn’t bother making small talk with them that day, just did what they wanted, running on the treadmill, glaring at anyone who dared to look at him. He then spent the afternoon meditating, wanting to maintain his last vestments of control before the wolf finally took over.
The call of the moon came early; the days were short in winter. He could feel it in his bloodstream, like ice spreading through him. With falsely steady hands he stripped himself of his clothing, stretching out as his bones creaked. Any other time he would have already changed by now ready for the moon, but his rational side said that would be a huge mistake. The moon was still not quite up and he had no desire to let those so called scientist in on the biggest secret; that he, like most of his people, could change form at will.
He perched on the bed, crouched with ease on the balls of his feet, elbows on his thighs, breathing in and out through his mouth in what could be considered a continuous low growl.
They were all watching him now, the hairs rising on the back of his neck and down his back at the blatant interest they were showing. They would regret this, he thought as the moon slowly rose. The captivity, the pain, the humiliation, he would make sure they would regret it.
Then the moon cleared the horizon and he gave in to the call.
The wolf was angry, growling deeply the moment his front paws touched the ground. He was trapped. Some human had dared to trap him, to put him in this glass prison. Him!
He stalked the room, back and forth, teeth bared, heckles raised, claws clipping across the floor. Back and forth. Back and forth.
He could smell their anxiety. They had no idea what he was going to do, what he was really capable of. Over the chemicals and his own scent he could smell the fear radiating from them. And so they should fear. Human, weak, fragile.
Paws together, head down, he leapt.
There was not one part of him that didn’t hurt.
Curled up on the bed he pulled in on himself and tried to force the wolf back into his usual box. He wanted to sleep but didn’t dare, unsure of what would happen if he didn’t maintain control of the wolf, or what the scientists would do to take advantage of his physical weakness. If he remained awake they were less likely to come near him.
The bed was virtually the only thing that had remained intact and even that had been heavily damaged. Once the wolf had realised that no amount of throwing himself at the glass would break it he had tried the hatch in the door and then resorted to his claws. Nothing had been safe. His clothes, bedding, books and everything else had been torn to shreds. Then once that had proved futile the wolf had started on itself, scratching at the tag under his skin.
Angry, distraught, in pain it had finally tipped its head back and howled.
There had been no answering howl.
He felt the scientist’s presence long before he heard the tapping on the glass.
“Fuck off,” he growled, his voice hoarse and tender.
“It is imperative that we inspect your injuries.”
He dug his nails into his bare scratched upper arms. “I said fuck off,” he repeated.
“The readings show that you’re in pain. It is not our intention to cause you any unnecessary suffering.”
Ignoring the pain he sprung to his feet, slamming his palms into the glass. There was dried blood under his fingernails. “Unnecessary suffering,” he snarled past his tender throat. “You kept a wolf in a cage after a month in captivity. Just what did you expect would happen?”
“It is necessary for our experiment.”
“Fuck your experiments and fuck your so called compassion. If this is what you call humanity then I want nothing of it.”
He stalked back to the bed. Flinging himself on it he wrapped his naked body in what was left of the blanket and concentrated on healing himself.
They gave him steak for dinner. Thick, juicy, lightly cooked cuts, large and bloody.
He tried not to hate himself when he finally gave in and devoured them.
“You’re quieter than you were.”
He carefully moved his knight.
It had been two weeks since the full moon. His physical injuries had healed completely within a day but the wolf had refused to go away so easily. ‘You need me,’ the wolf said. ‘They should pay. We should make them pay.’ The rational side of him found it hard to disagree, but it wasn’t the wolf who had to deal with these people day in day out.
“What exactly would you like me to say?” he asked, his voice quiet as he kept his gaze firmly on the board.
The scientist took one of his pawns. “You used to ask questions, make observations, throw insults.”
He let his left hand hover over his rook. His dominant right hand was bound to the chair, his ankles to the chair legs. They were taking no chances.
“I have nothing to say to you.” He moved a pawn.
This had become their new routine. Forcing him onto a treadmill and then onto an exercise bike. They had immersed him in water to test his lung capacity. Pressed different metals against his skin to see what he reacted to. Tried to poison him again. Tried to prevent him from sleeping.
He was tired, both mentally and physically, but also tired of being here in captivity, of bowing to their will.
He scratched his ear and tried to ignore the way the guards’ fingers twitched towards their weapons. They had increased the guards but at least he was out of his cage, however temporarily.
He lost another pawn.
They also allowed him to shower and shave regularly now. He supposed that was part of their ‘compassion’. He was supposed to be grateful or something. He felt like ripping their heads off.
He moved his rook.
“Check,” he said and then said nothing more until he uttered the words, “checkmate,” three moves later.
Four days later he made his bid for freedom.
He was tasered in the corridor. The chess games ended once and for all then but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
“Why?” the scientist later asked, his lip split, a bruise spreading across his eye.
“Said the frog to the scorpion,” he said dully, staring up at the ceiling from where they had bound and drugged him. The wolf was still stalking having all but smelt freedom, but his body was against him, drowsy and tired.
He closed his eyes and turned his head away. They injected another sedative into his arm.
Her name was Annushka. They put her in his prison on the morning of the next full moon. She was small, pretty with blond hair and smelt as if she couldn’t be more than nineteen. He could also smell her fear from the moment they pushed her through the door.
He knew exactly what they were doing and he had never loathed them as much as he did now.
Keeping away from her he pounded his fist on the glass.
“You can’t do this,” he shouted. “You bastards. You fucking bastards. Don’t do this.”
No one paid him any attention.
The girl was staring at him with wide eyes, fear streaming off her in waves. The wolf stalked her with interest, circling, prowling, wanting.
‘Back’, he snarled at the wolf, digging his nails into his palms. The wolf hesitated but agree, slinking away, if only temporarily.
“Will I die?” she asked later in broken English as she huddled in the corner.
He didn’t respond, just tossed her the latest pack of cards they had provided and sat close enough to play a game of snap.
‘Don’t harm her’, he told the wolf as the moon slowly rose. ‘It’s not her fault. Don’t take it out on her.’
‘What do you think I am?’ the wolf snarled as the transformation started. ‘A mindless beast?’
He awoke the next morning to Annushka’s gentle hands bathing his injuries in warm water. It felt surprisingly good. It had been a long time since anyone had touched him with such tenderness.
The wolf slumbered but refused to be contained, content though to accept the gentle administration. True to his word the wolf had not touched her but nor would he be ignored any longer. The separation between the two sides of him was growing thin, dangerously so. It would now only be a matter of time.
“You no beast,” Annushka whispered, unscrewing the lid on a bottle of water and pressing it to his lips.
He drank but offered no response.
“You didn’t attack her.”
Annushka was gone. He didn’t bother to wonder where they had taken her but he was still furious that they had even taken the risk.
“I am not a beast,” he said slowly and clearly pausing only briefly as he paced back and forth across the small room.
“Wolves have been known to attack humans,” the scientist pointed out as if it was all so reasonable.
He stopped, pressing his body against the glass.
“I’m not a wolf,” he said and snarled.
The wolf was angry and restless. ‘Look what they’re doing’, the wolf growled. ‘They’re breaking you.’
‘No,’ he said but he had nothing to cling onto.
The sensory deprivation tank had stolen everything he relied on, everything he had left. Blind, deaf and overpowered by the sterile smells, he floated in the water with only the wolf and his mind for company and he could feel his mind shutting down one part at a time. They had already pushed at his physical limits, refusing him all nourishment but water and now they had forced him into this water coffin, numb, alone, exhausted. It was night but he couldn’t sleep. One hour, two hours, three… six, seven… ten… twelve.
‘Stop holding me back’, the wolf said.
‘I am not a beast,’ he said.
‘Neither am I’, said the wolf.
“What do you want from me?” he asked.
He sat in the corner on the bed, his hands pulled up into the baggy top they had given him to wear, his knees tucked under his chin.
He already knew the answer but he asked them anyway.
“We want to know your secrets,” the scientist said.
No, they wanted everything. They wanted to know how werewolves were made and they wanted to know how to control them, because once they had the answer to both they could start making their own, harnessing the stronger physique, the better cardiovascular system, the more acute senses. They wanted to understand and then they wanted to tame it.
They struck his bare back with a riding crop.
He almost sliced his own wrists fighting to get out the bonds and at them.
“How many in a pack?”
“Is a pack governed by location or by blood?”
“How many packs are there in Britain?”
“How do you communicate?”
“Who is the pack leader?”
“Where do you rank in the pack?”
“How do you hide?”
“Do you mate?”
“How do you mate?”
“We can make you talk.”
No, he thought, you can make me scream. There is a difference.
He watched them as he was once more forced onto the treadmill.
He watched and he ran.
And the wolf did likewise.
Another month was ending and another full moon was coming. He had missed Christmas, New Year and his birthday. They still hadn’t found him.
‘They will find us,’ the wolf said sharpening his claws. ‘The pack would never leave us.’
Soon, he hoped, or else he wasn’t sure who or what they would find.
It was with a sick feeling that he watched them push a figure into his room. It was the day of the full moon and they had given him a playmate, bound and blindfolded, shoved into his cage with no ceremony and no apology.
He barely raised his head from where he was sat in the far corner, knees pressed to his chin.
The man struggled, cursing slightly as he slowly worked the bonds off before ripping off the blindfold.
“Bloody things,” he said before straightening his back and looking around. His lips pressed together as he took in the cell, eyes alighting on the cameras and microphones before settling on him.
The wolf growled but he clamped his mouth shut.
“No expense spared I see,” the man said. “Could have given us a bigger room if they expect us to share.”
He doubted that would be an issue for too long.
“Been here long?”
He didn’t reply but watched the man, tipping his head slightly to the side, his eyes narrowing.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?” he asked his voice still a little hoarse from the workout the day before.
The man looked at him in surprise. “Uh, Afghanistan. How?”
“You’re a soldier,” he said. “Haircut, tan, stance. A fighter, but they managed to get to you somehow, so probably injured. No tan below your wrist so not sunbathing. You smell like sand and desperation. Injured in combat then. Where would you see combat like that? Afghanistan or Iraq.”
There was a pause. The wolf stopped his pacing and looked on with interest, head slightly lowered, ears pinned back.
“That was… amazing,” the man said. “You got all that just from looking at me?”
“And smelling you,” he said.
The wolf lifted his head to sniff more deeply.
“Smelling me?” The man turned his head slightly. “You can smell me from there?”
He could do more than just that. He could hear the blood rushing around his body, feel the beating of his heart, the rising and falling of his lungs, the heat rising from his body.
“There’s a full moon tonight,” he said softly.
The man shrugged slightly clearly not getting it.
He bared his teeth, the wolf stepping closer.
“They didn’t tell you why you’re here?” he asked.
The man shook his head. “They weren’t too forthcoming with much at all. Pretty good with fists and weapons though, you know, between the questions.”
Yes, he knew.
The wolf started to circle.
“I’m guessing this is for you then, rather than me,” the soldier said motioning to the cameras, the microphones, the screen where they were still being observed. He took the moment to stick his middle finger up at the nearest observer before turning back. “Pretty elaborate. I take it you’re someone special then. Do I want to know who you are?”
“’Who’ doesn’t matter,” he said, his head tipping. “’What’ is a better question.”
“What?” the soldier asked.
The wolf stepped closer.
“Yes, what. I am… for a lack of a better word… a werewolf.”
The smile bleached from the soldier’s face. “Shit.”
The wolf pulled back in surprise.
The soldier ran his hands over his face, the curse word slipping like a liturgy from his lips.
His eyes narrowed.
“That’s not what people normally say.”
“What do people normally say?”
Freak. Liar. Monster.
“Everyone knows that werewolves don’t exist.”
The man pressed his lips together again. “I guess I’m not everyone then.”
His name was John and he had been a soldier in Afghanistan.
“There were rumours,” John said sat on the floor, leaning against the bed. “Up in the mountains, of wolves or large cats. Sometimes on quiet clear nights, we would hear noises, howls. They must have been from a hundred miles away or more, across the desert. There have always been rumours, old wives tales, people claiming to have seen something strange, but you know.”
Considering it all John was taking it rather well.
The wolf lay intrigued.
“A werewolf. A real, live werewolf. We used to joke about it back when I was at Barts; what would you would do if you found that one of your patients wasn’t, well, human.”
He blinked. The wolf raised a quizzical head.
“You’re a doctor,” he said slowly. “An army doctor.”
“Was,” the man corrected.
“Ah. There’s always something.”
They talk about everything and nothing. They play cards, tossed a ball between them, tried to annoy the observers. It was almost… pleasant, but not enough to allow the small smile to linger for more than a moment or two.
The hours ticked passed.
John was nothing special… and yet. He was just under average height, his hair couldn’t be described as either blond or brown and his eyes were a surprisingly dark blue that could look brown at certain angles. Yet there was something about the way he spoke, the way he held himself, the way he smelled.
The hand that reached over to touch his was warm and slightly rough.
“It’s okay,” the incredible man, this doctor, this soldier said. “I know… I… you can’t change who you are.”
It was just a few hours before moonrise. The wolf was close by, so close.
“I don’t know what will happen tonight,” he said.
John shot him a half smile. “Well I presume it will be the end of a rather brief but interesting acquaintance,” he said.
Anxiety, anger and regret rolled from him like a waterfall of scents, but there was no fear.
The wolf sniffed, nose pressing closer and closer.
He shook his head trying to clear his senses. “There… there are…” he tried.
“There are other things that could happen. Worse things.”
“Worse things?” John asked from a frown. “Worse than being killed? Or are you saying you could turn me?”
“No,” he whispered. “No, not that, but there is worse.”
The wolf’s ears flattened back as realisation finally dawned.
“Worse because I find you… surprisingly attractive.”
John, the doctor, the impossible man looked at him, his eyes wide, his mind almost noisy in the way it was ticking over.
“You find me attractive?” The lips pressed together and then were sucked into his mouth, his eyes raking up as down as his cheeks twitched. “Seriously? A gay werewolf?” The smile was infectious.
His own lips twitched. “I’ve known more unusual,” he said. “I once knew a transsexual vegan vampire.”
“Of course not,” he said as he shook his head, “vampires don’t exist,” and he smiled as John laughed.
“Just so you know, you’re not so bad yourself.”
Perched on the bed, John opened watched as he slowly stripped off his clothing ready for the transformation.
“I mean, it’s obvious that you could do with a few good meals and perhaps a haircut, but whatever happens tonight, I don’t blame you. I wish… I wish I could have got to know you better.”
And then the moon rose.
The human didn’t move.
The wolf stalked, head low, ears pinned back. Nervousness, anxiety, ah yes, fear, he could smell fear now. Fear was good. Humans should fear. They should recognise the danger, know when they were outmatched, outplayed, out-evolved. But there was more. The human heart was pounding, the blood racing through his veins, his eyes shifting, taking in his strong, sleek form.
“Extraordinary,” the human said. “That was just… bloody amazing.”
He stopped and bared his teeth, letting the growl rumble low in his chest. The human stopped talking, while his heart pounded harder. Sweat, scent, sitting there, sitting up, not cowering, not hiding, not attacking. Just sitting and watching. The bravery of a human.
His growl deepened, crouching, threatening.
The human continued to stare wide eyed in fascination and then his eyes lowered, his head tilting to one side, his neck offered… and was accepted.
He leapt, knocking the man sideways off the bed and onto the floor, paws pinning him by the shoulders, mouth open, teeth sharp as he growled in his face. The human gaped, heart hammering but didn’t look away, just offered his throat.
He pushed his nose down against it and sniffed. Warm skin covered hot blood. He could smell fear but not panic. Breaths were panted and there was something there that called to him.
Mate, part of him finally said. A worthy mate. Take. Have. Claim.
He pressed his snout in further. Testosterone, pheromones and something more.
Not enough. The neck wasn’t enough. Stronger, sharper smells were needed. Armpit. Manly, basic, hot, but shielded by clothing.
He raked his claws against the offending material, the fabric parting with his stroke. The human flinched, his hands rising to try and stop him.
Stop him? He pressed down, snarling, face to face. The man froze but then a hand sank into his thick coat, pushing gently but firmly.
“Let me,” the human said hoarsely. “I’ll help. Just… let me.”
Their eyes met, man and wolf, the man now unmoving but with his hand still pressed against him. Insistent but not challenging.
He watched for a moment, tipping his head one way and then the next before rearing up. The man nodded, his hands pulling at his clothing, tugging it over his head until there was skin and sweat and scent. The man then looked at him expectedly, openly.
He pushed his nose in, sniffing, licking, nuzzling. The man jerked, curling up, a high pitched whimpering noise coming from him.
He pulled back in alarm and growled.
“Sorry,” the man said. “Tickled.”
He paused for a moment before pushing the man back down and resuming his mission. The body below him lay back and relaxed into the touch, a hand sinking back into his fur, to stroke and feel.
Head, neck, chest, armpit, he had the lot but he still wanted more.
Mate. Mate. Mate. Mine.
He pressed his nose to the man’s crotch, growling when he met thick denim.
“Hey,” the man said, a hand pushing sideways at his muzzle.
He growled, pinning the man again, forcing him down.
The man stared back, unblinking, barely reacting when the claws dug into his bare skin. “Yes,” the man said before tipping his head up and back, his hips rising slightly. “Yes, alright, but hold on. Let me.”
He hesitated but then reared back, watching as the man adeptly stripped off all his remaining clothing, tossed them away and then lay back.
He smelt so good. Powerful, strong, a worthy mate.
The wolf pounced and smelt, pushing his nose in everywhere, leaving nowhere unexplored. The man whimpered and then sighed as he started to lick, tasting on his tongue what he had already smelt with his nose.
“Oh god,” the man said but made no move to stop him, hips jerking with certain swipes, hands sinking further into his fur. “Normally I’d ask for a drink first, but to hell with normal.”
Mate, his mind said. Mate. Mine. Now. Mark him and no one else would ever dare come near him.
He licked the human’s front, his back, his bottom and genitals until finally there was nowhere else to explore and he started to whine softly, his explorations softening to nuzzling, rubbing his scent across the human, leaning into the human’s touch in turn. He jerked when exploring fingers touched the sensitive spot on his neck, whining slightly before lowering to his belly, lying with his head nudging those fingers. The human did it again and he shivered. No one had ever touched him like that in years. He pressed against the human wanting more and closing his eyes he slowly relaxed.
The fingers continued to stroke.
“You know,” the human was saying, “for such a dangerous creature, you are extraordinary, quite extraordinary.”
He lay with his head on the human’s middle, eyes half open but still fully alert.
“I have no idea if you understand me, but thank you for not harming me, and if you want to finish what you’ve started when you’re back in, you know, human form, then you only have to ask… or pounce, whichever.”
He could feel the moon reaching its pinnacle and it was all he could do not to throw his head back and howl.
Sat on the bed, John watched as he turned back.
He stood for a moment, between John and the glass, naked and tall, chin up, shoulders back. John met his gaze, equally naked, skin still a little damp across the scar on his shoulder where the wolf had taken a last interest shortly before. Then John’s eyes dropped, slowly and unabashedly taking in his full form, head to toe and back again, lingering briefly on his crotch before once again meeting his gaze. He said nothing but his eyes were challenging and then, as in slow motion, he tilted his head back and bared his neck.
That was it.
With a growl he pinned John to the bed, forcing the human’s hands over his head, holding him there with his superior strength, their breaths mingling as they stared. He could smell the wolf across the other man and his body screamed at him to take, to claim, to mate.
“Yes,” he heard John say as he angled his hips up. “God yes.”
Their lips met in a bruising kiss, although it was more of a mouth to mouth invasion than a kiss. Despite ceding the dominance, John gave as good as he got, pressing back, nipping at his lip, not letting him have it all his way. Their legs tangled together and he could feel the other man’s interest pressing against his thigh. It was hard to miss the smell of arousal he was giving off.
Tearing his mouth away, he pressed his forehead into the shoulder, rubbing his nose into the offered neck.
“We need to talk,” he managed, giving into the urge to sink his teeth into the skin.
John yelped, body jerking but not fighting him off. The wolf was pleased.
“You owe me a drink… and a new shirt,” John said tugging in an attempt to get his hands free. “And if you continue like that a new neck.”
He nuzzled at the neck, pressing a kiss to the reddening skin but not letting up on the hands.
“There are things…” he said before hissing slightly when John’s hips moved in a particular way.
Take him. Claim him. He wants you. Mate him. Make him yours.
He closed his eyes and panted as he dropped his head.
“If those things don’t involve carrying on with what you’ve started then I don’t want to know,” John said.
“I play the violin,” he finally managed, “sometimes I don’t talk for days… and werewolves mate for life.”
John stilled beneath him like a puppet with its strings cut.
“So you’ve never… mated… before.”
“I have… experience… but the wolf choses the mate. There has never been anyone he’s deemed… worthy.” He let the rest of the sentence go unspoken.
He felt John’s Adam’s apple rise and fall. “Oh, right.”
The seconds felt infinitely long.
“I drink tea,” he finally heard John say. “I have a temper, and I’ve jeopardised every relationship I’ve ever been in by my need to run heedlessly into danger.”
“Nothing more dangerous than mating with a werewolf.” He ran his teeth against the skin nipping gently.
“We’re strong, fast, possessive. I don’t like anyone touching what is mine. If you cheat on me I will find out and I will kill you.”
John swallowed, his back arching. “Will I regret this?”
“And if I don’t, will I regret that?”
He licked up to his ear. “Almost certainly.”
“Do you want me?”
Mate, the wolf snarled.
He breathed deeply as the wolf pounded at the last of his defences. His body shook from holding back, from fighting the urge to rub, to rut, to bite, to lick and to claim. John, he could smell John, the musk of arousal, could feel him, the warmth of his skin, the beat of his heart, could hear him, the intake of his breath. He was so close, everything he had denied himself for so long was right there and he couldn’t think why he might turn it down.
“Yes,” he said, the word reverberating through his chest his want for this human merging with the desires of the wolf, joining and multiplying, becoming one. “Yes, god yes.”
“Then have me.”
He didn’t care that they were being watched by the cameras and those tiny little humans, that he was about to bind his life to a human male he had only known for one day and one night, or that he was about to do something he had always vowed never to do, all he cared about was getting as close to this person and making him his.
His arousal was hot and heavy against his stomach as he pressed his pelvis down and against John’s. John let out a soft gasp, mouth open, breath warm brushing his check and neck before being swallowed by his mouth. Part of him – the more rational part – wanted to ask if John had ever done this before, had ever lain with a man, engaged in sexual intercourse with another male, whether he knew what to expect, but the other part – the instinct part – didn’t care to ask. The answer would make no difference to the outcome and had the potential to make him angry. John was his now. He sank his teeth into the flesh on the shoulder. No one else would ever touch him in that way again.
He could smell the wolf all across John and he followed the scents with his own tongue, kissing, nipping and licking in much the same way he had done hours before, except this time he had less restraint, less reason to be gentle.
He moved slowly down the offered body, mapping each line, each contour, each scar and committing them to memory, overlapping them with the sense memories of the night before. John wiggled, giggled and moaned in varying amounts, his hands coming down to burying themselves in his curls.
John’s erection lay hard and swollen, the skin darkened by the blood and he could practically hear the blood rushing through it. His balls were hot and heavy and for a moment he was torn between which he wanted to lavish his attention and tongue on first. The cock won, but only he needed to know what it felt like against his tongue, what the clear, gathering liquid at the top tasted like. He pressed the tip of his tongue to the slit before sucking the head into his mouth. John made the most delightful noise that he had to do it again, adding in a flick of the tongue.
“Jeeezus… Christ… fuck….”
He hummed in vague agreement before sliding his mouth down, making a note of what John appeared to like and by what scale. The noises took on a whining quality that sounded so right that he never wanted it to stop.
Take him. Make him yours.
Pulling his mouth off he pulled the hips up towards him and buried his head lower, nuzzling the gently furred balls, swiping his tongue across them, breathing in the primal scent.
He could hear John saying more words but understanding them was something else, but he didn’t need to understand them, John’s body spoke to him more thoroughly and more truthfully than anything else. Every flex, every jerk, every whine, every sigh told him exactly what he needed to know.
Now. He’s yours. Now, now, now.
He flipped him over, pulling him up onto his elbows and knees, spreading his legs until he had him exactly how he wanted him; shaking with anticipation and need, heady with arousal, gasping with want.
He both felt and heard the sharp intake of breath as he parted the cheeks and then he was between them, circling his tongue round and round, breathing in and blowing out in equal measure, taking his time to caress every inch of skin until bathed in his saliva and the red rim loose and quivering with each touch.
“Please… pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease…” fell from John’s lips like a ceaseless cascade but this was not something he was going to rush.
Leaving his prize, he ran his tongue slowly up the centre of John’s back, stretching his body against him, stroking soothingly with his fingers.
“Shhhhh,” he murmured nipping at the skin below the nearest ear. “I’ve got you. So responsive.” He ran his fingers down John’s side, gently stroking. “You won’t regret it. Gonna make you mine. Gonna make you feel so good.”
He sucked his fingers before slipped them between John’s arse cheeks, pressing against the softened ring of muscle. John arched and groaned, words lost as he pressed his face into his arms.
“That’s it,” he said soothingly. “Relax. Open up for me.”
His finger slid in and he couldn’t stop the groan at the feel of the warm heat clenching at him. It felt so good, so right that it was all he could do not to drive his cock in and been swallowed by the feelings. But with no additional lubricant other than his saliva they would have to go slowly.
Pressing his lips to the back of John’s neck, he held them both still for a moment, glorifying in the feel of John’s pulse against his finger, then he nipped at the skin and flexed his finger. John jerked up and forward, a string of nonsense words falling from his lips. He waited for a moment, simply holding position before he did it again, moving firmly but carefully across John’s prostate. The outcome was just as good as the first time, John’s body rocking forward and then pressing back desperate for more, his thighs shifting marginally wider.
“Good, that’s it,” he said huskily and pressed in a second finger.
John’s reaction was beautiful; hot, open and so ready, so very, very ready.
He carefully pulled his fingers out, shuddering slightly at the sound of John’s protesting whine, but then he was back down there, replacing his fingers with this tongue, bathing the area in as much saliva as he could manage, pushing his tongue in, swirling it round. He could have kept doing that for hours, but the shifting hips and the needy whines shot straight to his cock and he had to take, take, take.
Take now. Mate. Make him yours.
Growling, he pulled away, spreading the pre-come across his cock as much as possible, coating the rest with saliva. Then he pressed himself back over John and mounting carefully pushed himself in.
It was hot and clenching and so, so good. Never in his life had he felt something like this, something as good, as right as this. Bending his head, he nuzzled at the neck before sinking his teeth into the skin as he pressed his hips forward again. John jerked and cursed, but pressed back with equal desperation, begging and pleading for more.
He gave more, and more and more.
Responsive and greedy, John took it all, swallowing him up with each thrust. He could feel the bond growing between them, his possessiveness increasing with each thrust. My man, my mate. Why he had denied himself of this wonderful feeling he had no idea, but nothing was going to stop him now.
He was nearly there, he had nearly done it. He could feel the heat rushing to his balls ready for the final marking, the final claiming, and then suddenly he was there, on the edge, but he wasn’t alone. John, so powerful and so strong was there with him, reaching out for him, wanting him and as they moved to touch it was as if everything exploded in heat and light. He could feel hot heat clenching tightly at him as everything tensed and shook and then the rush of orgasm was upon him.
Throwing his head back he gave in and howled.
“Is it going to be like that every time?”
John lay boneless and sated under his arms, drifting on the edge of sleep. The smell from him was stunning; pheromones and arousal, sex and sweat, him, the wolf and John. If he could he would bottle it to have forever.
“No,” he whispered, nuzzling his nose against the fair hairs on John’s chest as John’s fingers idly scratched at the back of his neck. “It’ll get better.”
He slept for three hours, twenty-two minutes and fourteen seconds. In that time he could feel the bond strengthening and binding.
John, with his frail human body and need for sleep, slept for an additional two hours, six minutes and thirty-eight seconds. He watched the man for that entire time, a silent vigil, taking note of the scrapes and bruises across the skin while shielding him from unwanted attention from their observers. He had never seen anything so fascinating in his life.
Then again, he reasoned, John was just as fascinating while awake as well, which led him to wonder how he could have ever considered him just an ‘average’ human.
“So, not a dream then?” John said as their eyes met.
He growled, his teeth on full display, but was surprised when John then laughed, tugging him down for a kiss. Mate, the kiss said. Mine. And then John was pushing him away, rolling off the bed to walk to the window, tapping on the glass with purpose and authority. Following, he wrapped a possessive arm around his mate, pulling him back and away, his chest rumbling with a constant growl.
Food, he heard John demanding, water, antiseptic cream, wipes, towels and, for god's sake, some lubricant. It was glorious and he didn’t bother to fight the urge to lick that neck and drag him back to the bed.
After John made him eat, they tried to force him out of the cage and onto the treadmill. It became very clear, very quickly that he was going nowhere, and neither was John.
He threw his head back and moaned as John’s fingers scored into the skin on his back and sides. It was a moment of exquisite ecstasy as he thrust into John’s responsive body and felt the hot, slick heat clench around him.
Face to face, John’s legs were wrapped high around his waist giving a different angle and feel to the wolf-style of their previous couplings. It also meant he could watch every thrust, every emotion, every thought play across John’s face, from the crinkling of his eyes, to the gasps that fell from his lips. For the first time in his life he couldn’t get enough.
“So if you’re an alpha male, does this make me your beta?”
He pressed his ear to John’s chest and concentrated on tapping out his heartbeat.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he muttered. “I would never mate with a beta.”
“Oh right.” A gentle rumble in the chest. “So I’m an alpha too then?”
“Of course. The alpha mate. An alpha for an alpha.”
It took a moment for it to sink in and then he smiled as John groaned. “Oh god, I’m the bloody girl. I’m the alpha female.”
He hummed in acknowledgement, tracing his name across the offered skin.
He didn’t bother with clothing. He felt perfectly at ease in his own skin. Those so called scientists had already seen everything and more. Coyness was a not a trait associated with wolves. Possessiveness, however, was.
He could feel the newly formed bond between him and John, felt it and accepted it. One part of him was surprised by that, by how easily he had given into it, the other part wanted to make it clear to the world that this surprising human was his and only his.
They were watching them, but more than that they were watching John. They wanted John back, he could tell. They wanted to take him away, to test him, to place their hands and their equipment all over him. He was not going to let that happen. John was his.
He bared his teeth, crouching down as he watched them.
He felt John’s hand in his hair, scratching lightly at the side of his head. Before this he had never liked anyone touching his hair. Now, he couldn’t get enough of it, but only if it was John. It would only ever be John.
He accepted the caress, turning his head to press into it. It helped that it brought his nose closer to John’s equally naked body, the familiar smell washing over him, calming him somewhat. John’s genitals were also close, and he couldn’t help but nuzzle into them, swiping his tongue across the offered flesh.
John tensed slightly before tapping him on the head. “Later.”
Later, yes. It hadn’t actually been a sexual caress, although he could understand why it had been mistaken as such. Humans tended to get confused when things involved their genitals. Such moves weren’t always a sexual act. Sometimes it was just a comfort thing, or a reminder, or a confirmation. Those genitals were his now, but it pleased him that John was more than open to further copulation but at the same time wasn’t afraid to say no to him.
“Stop threatening them and come and play some gin.”
Moving away, John took a seat on the floor and collected up the cards to shuffle without even waiting for an answer. He liked that about John; his ease with himself and the way he wasn’t afraid to given an order, even to someone as dangerous as a werewolf.
A worthy mate indeed.
Rising to his full height, he shot the scientists one last look, before joining his human on the floor.
It’s wasn’t something he had been expecting much of, but it was definitely something he wanted more of. It was like licking and nuzzling, only mutual and hotter.
They were sprawled out on the bed, John pressed on top of him leading the kiss – the many kisses –tracing them around his face, his neck, his hair before returning regularly to his mouth. It was more leisurely and nicer than it had any right to be. He could feel John’s arousal pressing against his leg, his own making its presence known, but there was no urge to do anything with it quite yet, not when he could be enjoying the intimacy of this embrace.
“I want to know everything about you,” John had said earlier as they ate their offered evening meal. “I want to know who you were before all this, where you came from, what you’re like away from this place.”
They had both glanced across at the wider room where they were being watched and recorded.
“I want to know what you look like running under a full moon, how you spend the rest of your time, what your interests and activities include. I want to watch crap telly with you, take you to a pub, hold your hand and challenge anyone who objects. I want to meet those closest to you, those you care about, watch you interact with other people. I want to know what’s important to you and I want to be a part of it. But I know you can’t tell me and we can’t do that, so I’ll just have to contend myself with getting to know you, this you, here and now.”
John was certainly making good use of the here and now.
“Tell me this isn’t just about sex,” he heard as John mouthed kisses by his ear.
“Mate,” he said, his voice low and gravely, his arm moving up to stroke along John’s back. “Sex is just part of it.”
“Is that… is that why I feel like this?”
He cocked his head to get a better look at John’s expression, for a moment concerned by what he might see, but he didn’t have to be. The look was one of accepted fondness, not of angry accusation.
“For life,” he replied. “We’re genetically predisposed to keep our mates wanting us; physically, mentally, sexually.”
“So that’s why I can’t get enough.”
“Yes,” he said as the nose rubbed against his check. “Problem?”
“No.” Fingers tangled in his hair. “Just wondered. It’s not as if I’m a teenager any more so I figured it must have been something.”
John’s erection rubbed gently against his side and then their lips were meeting again, warm, moist and deliciously unhurried.
He kept vigil most of the night while John slept, pacing restlessly until warm hands caught his and pulled him back to bed.
The sex that followed was rough and he growled and arched into the feel of John’s nails digging into his back and side.
“Yes,” he heard John say, the last letter pushed out from between teeth as he pressed in with more force than usual. “Yes, give it to me. More. God… yes, more.”
The climax left them both drowsy, John’s hand capturing his to stop him from moving away. It was still some hours before daybreak and he could feel the waning moon sinking slowly towards the horizon. He was pleasantly content though, and wrapping his arms around his mate, curled around him and allowed sleep to come.
He knew the instant the door opened. Their kind always knew when another was nearby, even if the other was a stranger, and this was no stranger. No, this was far from being a stranger.
Instantly alert, he froze and worked on keeping his breathing regular. He had no desire to draw too much attention to himself, but finally it was the moment he had been waiting for; they had found him.
He couldn’t clearly hear what they were saying, but if he concentrated he could feel it; in the air pressure, in the vibrations. They were talking about him, well of course they were talking about him. The lead scientist was sickeningly enthusiastic about it, his words babbled, his hands rubbing together. Then they were moving away, towards the computer consoles.
Keeping his eyes closed, he concentrated, waiting. He heard the camera above them moving, focusing on them and then… ah, there it was, four clear and careful taps. It was all he could do to stop the small smile.
Opening his eyes, he stared up straight into the camera, unyielding, unblinking. Message received and understood.
John stirred obviously feeling the changes in his body. Relaxing again, he closed his eyes and tightened his arms around his mate, a message of his own; I’m not going anywhere alone.
Calming himself, he concentrated on listening to the vibrations. The day was one thing, the place… Tea? Were they really talking about tea? And then he pressed his lips together. Clever. Of course. That at least explained why it had taken them so long to find him. But not long now. Soon, very soon and they would be free. He could almost smell it.
“What was that about?” John asked eyes closed as he rubbed his nose against his chest.
It was very clever, his brilliant, brilliant mate, who was more awake than he was letting on.
Slipping a hand between them where none of the cameras could see, he carefully drew a house against John’s skin. There was a moment’s pause and then a small nod that he understood before a question mark was drawn against his skin. He pondered for a moment how to relay the message before reaching forward to press a small kiss to John’s lips, then a second, then a third and then finally a forth before running a finger in the shape of a crescent over his face. It just looked like a random caress but John got it instantly.
Four days. They only had four more days of this, or more accurately, four more moons, and then home. They were finally going to go home.
Pushing John behind him, he widened his stance and growled. How dare they come here and threaten to take his John away. How dare they demand and try to bully him into doing anything. John was his. It didn’t matter how many of them there were and what weapons they had he wasn’t going to give in without a fight. He would rather die than be alone again.
There was shouting and movement and weapons being raised but none of it concerned him. John would be safe. He would keep him safe. He would rip them to pieces with his bare claws if need be. He would….
He froze at the word and at the feel of a hand on his shoulder. Spinning, he found himself face to face with John – his John – the growl that had been rumbling in his chest easing slightly at the sight of his mate.
“Hey, it’s okay.”
It wasn’t okay. How could it possibly be okay? They had already taken so much from him and still they wanted more. But then John’s hand was on his face and he was sinking into the feeling, leaning into the touch.
“It’s okay, they only want to run a few tests, let me have a shower, shave, that sort of thing.”
No, no, no, no, no, they wanted to take him away.
“Then I’ll be back. Isn’t that right?”
The last question was aimed at the scientists behind them, firm in pitch and meaning. They confirmed it but he still didn’t trust them. Why should he trust them? After everything they had done.
“A couple of hours, that’s all.” John’s voice was soothing, reasonable. “You’ll barely know I’m gone.”
No, he would know every second, feel every moment.
He looked around, his eyes drawn to the tranquiliser guns. There were so many of them. To fight them would be futile and yet he would try.
“Promise,” he said hoarsely pulling John towards him until their forehands met. “I can’t… I can’t….”
John’s finger touched his lips stilling his words. “They couldn’t keep me from you. Not now.” A press of those lips against his, the breath of a promise and then John was slipping from his grasp, calmly walking to the door, ready to be let out.
He felt frozen to the spot, afraid that any movement he would make would result in him pulling John back or harming someone. Then the door opened and John was stepping through, head high, arms held slightly away from his nude body. The door shut and locked.
He growled, rushing forward to press himself to the glass.
“I’m fine,” John said with a small smile. “I’ll be back soon. Promise.”
Then his mate was being pushed from the room and it was like he had been plunged in icy water.
He paced. He growled. He flung himself on the bed and pressed his nose against the material, immersing himself in the smell. He threw the balls against the wall. He wrote John’s name across the cell wall over and over again, breaking three crayons in the process.
He paced some more.
He sniffed at the clothing John had worn before the change, looked critically at the slashes in the shirt. John’s scent both settled and unnerved him in equal measure. He could smell John there but he wanted more. He wanted the real thing.
He counted the seconds, marking off the minutes on the wall as they passed.
He paced some more.
He stood and watched the door, waiting for John to come back. Part of him knew he was acting irrationally, that John would either be back or he wouldn’t and there was nothing he could do about it, but the other part, the overwhelming part, demanding that John be brought back now.
He scrapped his fingernails down the glass, growling at a constant rumble.
An hour passed and still no John.
He started pacing again. Up, down. Four steps then turn. Four steps then turn. Four steps then turn. He slammed his fist against the glass.
Ten minutes passed and then ten more.
Throwing himself to the floor started to do press-ups, counting out the seconds as they went. It felt good to do something physical but he needed more, much more.
Another ten minutes passed.
John had said a couple of hours. So two hours. He could wait two hours. He could.
He curled up on the bed and tried to think of something else, anything else. He ran through the elements on the periodic table including their properties and groups. He named all the prime numbers up to a thousand. He listed all the counties in England in alphabetical order.
Another ten minutes passed and he resumed his pacing.
He redrew over the smiley face on the wall and paused by the quote from King Lear. With a snarl he grabbed the remains of another crayon and crossed over to the glass. Delving into the depths of his memory he searched for the texts he had once been forced to study and learn, those that had avoided deletion and stuck with him. Then he started to write.
Long minutes later he tossed down the crayon, checking through his backwards lettering, knowing that even these humans wouldn’t be able to miss his meaning. They would also be able to read it from the outside. No excuses.
John would be back soon.
He resumed sitting on the bed, letting their joined lingering scent wash over him, his fist tightening as he waited. He could not explain why he was so agitated, only that he didn’t trust them. They had given him John so suddenly and they could take him away again so suddenly. Had it really only been a couple of days since they had first met? It felt like a lifetime now.
Maybe in some respects it was a lifetime. His life had only really started when they had mated and joined.
He closed his eyes and breathed deep. His internal clock ticked passed the second hour mark.
Still no John.
Rising to his feet he tapped at the glass. They ignored him.
“How much longer?” he asked. “You promised me.”
You promised me.
He started pacing again. It was like torture. The not knowing was now even worse than the waiting. How had he allowed himself to get into such a state? He had always been so independent, hadn’t needed anyone, and now he was brought to his knees by a single human male. His human male.
He slammed his fist into the glass, the door, the wall. He kicked, he shouted, he punched. He wanted out. He wanted John. They were keeping him from his mate and they would regret that. They would be sorry. He would make them pay.
He scored his fingernails down his arms, across his chest, the pain grounding him, giving him something else to focus on, something other than John, John, John.
What if they were hurting John? What if they were hooking him up to different machines and testing his pain thresholds? What if they were touching him in inappropriate ways? No one should touch his John.
John. John. John. Where are you?
Was this what it was really like to be bonded? To be separated? Or was there something wrong? Was there something wrong with him? Had he denied it too long, pushed it aside? Would he always be like this; clingy, desperate, emotional.
No, he was better than this. He was more than just the wolf.
He forced himself to sit, wedging himself in between the wall and the bed. Pulling up his knees, he lowered his head and gripped it with his arms. He could get through this. It would only be for a while longer. John would be back soon.
He would be back.
He was on his feet the moment the doors opened.
Three hours and nine minutes his internal clock said, but now John was back.
John was back.
He watched as John was walked in, flanked on either side by guards. It was obvious he had showered and changed. His hair was lying differently and his cheeks were smooth after a shave. They had him in clothing, just jogging bottoms and a t-shirt, but they looked strange on him.
Their eyes met the instant John was in the wider room, an affectionate and apologetic smile gracing his mate’s mouth. He knew that it had been more than two hours. Did he know what that had done to him? Could he see it in his stance, in the scratch marks across his skin, in the desperation showing in his eyes?
He stepped away from the door, not thinking of escape but rather of doing anything to get his John back to him as quickly as possible. If that meant backing away even momentarily then that was what he would do.
The door opened and then John was back and he could feel him, hear him, smell him. Within two steps he had his arms wrapped around the smaller man, dragging him against his body, fingers scrabbling with the clothing. He smelt like soap and them – the scientists. It was distracting and wrong and he had to fight to get to the proper smell underneath.
He tugged aimlessly at the clothing until steady hands helped dispose of it and then he was back, pressing against his mate’s naked body, burying his nose into the crook of the neck, breathing in deeply to get at the base smell.
“It’s okay. I’m okay,” he heard spoken as arms wrapped around his back and a hand tangled in his hair to hold him there. “Shhhh, I’m back. I’m here. It’s fine. Look at me.” The hands cupped his face, lifting his head so their eyes met and all he could see was John, his John, with his smile and his warm eyes. “It’s fine, I’m fine. See.”
He nodded, feeling his heart rate slow, the tension in his body starting to ease. Lowering his head again, he pressed it against the nearest shoulder, rubbing his nose against the skin.
“Sorry,” he said, his word muffled by his position. “I… I can’t….”
“It’s alright,” he heard again. “That was difficult for you, wasn’t it? But it’ll get better. It’ll get easier. I’m back and I’m not going anywhere.”
It was all illogical, this overwhelming need for this human. It was weak and dangerous and something he would have derided in the past, but now it made so much sense. He felt like a better person, a fuller person when John was around and he wanted to hold onto it.
He pressed his lips to the offered skin and started to kiss, lick and bite it. He just had to get rid of the smell of the others, make John smell more like John again and then things would be better, he would be able to think again.
He felt John sigh, relaxing into his ministrations and for a moment he wandered about that, about the ease at which John accepted his interest, but distracted he pushed it aside and concentrated on making John his once more.
They lay on the bed, him on his back, John on his front by the wall, an arm slung across his chest.
He almost missed the words, concentrating as he had been on the very faint marks on John’s wrist. They had tied him down, broad strap, probably leather, about three inches wide. He had tugged against it, more than once, more than just to test the give. Had most probably been strapped to a chair, similar marks on his ankles. Legs bound to the chair legs, arms to the arm rests. Not just a medical examination then, they had wanted him in a seated position but didn’t trust him not to fight. Had he fought them? Probably wanted to ask him questions. What sort of questions? Had he answered? What had he said?
“Hmmm?” he managed before tilting his head to follow John’s gaze. Oh, the writing, his latest masterpiece. “Wanted them to read and know,” he said. Backwards so to them it would be forwards and they would have no excuse.
“What does it say?”
He ran his fingers across John’s wrist over the fading mark. He knew that if John wanted to he would be able to read it but this was about more than just the words.
“It’s a quote,” he said, “more or less.”
He closed his eyes and sank back fully onto the mattress.
“I am a wolf,” he spoke softly. “Hath not a wolf eyes? Hath not a wolf hands, organs, dimensions, sense, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a human is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not… revenge?”
He stayed still as John’s hand stroked soothingly over his chest in the silence that followed.
“Merchant of Venice,” John finally said.
They lay there for a while longer, comfortable and still, not dozing but not completely awake either. The next question caught him as unprepared as the first.
“Who are you?” John asked simply.
The wolf, he thought instantly.
He didn’t reply.
They took him the next day, in between breakfast and lunch. It had been expected and they didn’t fight it.
They gave him a full medical, carefully going over every inch of his body, noting changes, spending more time than he thought necessary on his genitals. They even tried to arouse him but to no avail of course. There was only one person who would interest him there from now on.
They stuck him on the treadmill and then on the exercise bike. He endured it as he always had, but flinched more when they moved to touch him. They then let him shower, shave, wash his hair. It was the same shower John had used the day before, a thought that comforted him. At least now he would be able to picture where John had been. It would also make future partings easier. Not that there would be many more partings. Three moons to go and then it would all be over, one way or another.
He could still smell his brother in this room. It was extremely faint, but it was a scent he would never be able to miss. No doubt the lead scientist had brought him here while on the tour of the facilities. See where we test the specimen. Yes, we make him run and skip and jump through hoops. And with your generous investment we would be able to do so much more. Of course it will be off the record but for that price we would be more than willing to share our findings with you. Which government department did you say you were from?
It amused him to think that despite everything that these people knew and had found out, they had completely missed the fact they had had a second of his kind under their roof. His brother had been playing a dangerous but necessary game. Someone had had to come in, just to find out if he was still alive, and if he was, what state he was in. Considering his positions and roles in the British Government, it was hardly surprising that his brother had been deemed the best suited.
Just three more moons.
They strapped him down to a chair and asked him more questions.
Why had he mated?
Why hadn’t he ever mated before?
Is this normal for his species?
Are there many gay werewolves?
How do werewolves reproduce?
What the difference between an alpha and a beta werewolf?
What constitutes a pack?
How long will this mating frenzy last for?
For the most part he ignored them waiting for the time they would get fed up and let him get back to his cell and his John.
It took over four hours in the end in total for everything.
John was sat on the bed, his head in his hands, when they finally took him back.
“Is this what it was like for you? This waiting? The not knowing?”
Unlike the scientists’ questions, John’s were pleasant, broken up as they were by grabbing hands and greedy lips pressing warm kissing against his skin.
“What is it that makes me want to be near you all the time? What have you done to me?”
His back hit the bed as John asserted his physical strength. He didn’t respond verbally, but suspected that John knew the answers anyway.
It was what he had most feared. Of course it had only been a matter of time, but he had hoped to be able to put it off for just a little longer, but that was not the case.
Another moon set, another day and this time rather than removing them separately they were taken out together. They were then strapped to different treadmills and told them to run. Between them they had to cover twenty miles and neither would be allowed to stop until the distance had been covered.
It was very clever. John was obviously the weaker of the two of them, especially with his frail human body, which meant there would be a limit to his speed and distance. So it would be mainly up to him. They were trying to force him to show exactly what he could do, and there was a chance it would work.
He shouted and argued with them, then ran harder and faster than he had been, desperate to spare John the prolonged agony of exhaustion. The scientist already knew what each of them were capable of, except in his case he had never had a reason to exceed their expectations before, never had to run at near capacity, until now.
John was his weak spot and they knew it.
He had been holding back. Of course he had been, both physically and verbally and now they had leverage.
How many of your kind do you know of?
Is there a pack leader?
Do werewolves regularly mate with humans?
What happens to a werewolf if a mate is killed?
Are there werewolf children?
Are humans and werewolves able to breed together?
Were your parents werewolves?
Will your children be werewolves?
How far will you go to protect your mate?
It was painfully inevitable. Bound to the chair, the straps bit sharply into his arms and legs as they placed electrodes over John’s body. The intent was clear.
“You bastards. You bloody, fucking bastards.”
John’s curse words covered verbally pretty much what he had been thinking.
“Don’t do this,” he said his voice low and far steadier than he was feeling. “Take those things off and I’ll answer your questions.”
It wasn’t going to work like that.
“How many of your kind are there?”
“Take those things off!”
“I don’t know.”
He snarled and tugged sharply at his bonds as John sucked in a breath and slammed his mouth shut, every muscle in his body appearing to go rigid.
“How many of you are there?”
“I said I don’t know.”
John gasped but made no other sound as another wave hit him, his fists clenching tightly.
“I. Don’t. Know. I don’t know. Idontknow. For fuck sake, I don’t know. It’s not that easy.”
John breathed in deeply and measuredly, his eyes not leaving the lead scientist. They were cold and hard and full of hate.
“Every country is different,” he said quickly. “Some are more organised that others. Some are more remote or wild than others. There could be hundreds, tens of hundreds, across Australia, Canada, parts of Africa or South America which we just don’t know about.”
He did some quick calculations, his shoulders slumping. “Between two and five million.”
“How many in Britain?”
“About four hundred.”
He could feel John staring at him, his head shaking, but he ignored it.
“How do you hide?”
“How do you think?” he snapped. “We look like you, we act like you, we just happen to make sure we’re not in public when there is a full moon.”
“What do you do for money?”
“What do you think? We have jobs, we pay bills, we vote in pointless elections.”
“What did you do?”
“As a job? Office temp.”
“All over, but mainly the south west. A month or so here or there, then move on. Less questions.”
“How many in your pack?”
“I don’t have a pack.”
He fought against his bonds as John went rigid in pain.
“Twelve, alright!” he shouted. “There are twelve. Just please, stop that. Stop hurting him!”
He was going to kill them. He was going to kill them all.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Forgive me. Please forgive me.
Back in their cage he fell to his knees in front of his mate, pressing his face against the legs, needing to know that he was alright while unable to ask for anything more.
Fingers buried in his hair as a tired arm tugged him upwards. They toppled onto the bed together, a tangle of shaking limbs.
They hurt you and it’s my fault. I’m sorry. I’msorrysorrysorrysorrysorry.
“Shushhh. It’s okay. We’re okay.”
He clutched and he held on and he refused to let go.
John slept, curled up on his side. There were faint burn marks on his skin where they had applied the electrodes and sharper marks across his wrists where he had strained against the bindings.
It was all he could do not to go on a rampage. They had dared to hurt his mate. They had caused pain and suffering and they would pay for it. Oh yes, they would pay. He would make sure of that.
The third moon rose. The third moon set.
He bared his teeth as they strapped both him and John down.
“I’m going to kill you,” he said, his voice flat. “We have a saying; to harm a mate is to make an enemy of us all.”
Afterwards he snarled and he paced. Not even John’s hands and gentle ministrations were enough to calm him down. He wanted blood and he would be getting it soon, very soon.
He slept for a few hours, John pressed up against him, holding him from behind, but he could only manage the bare minimum. Concentrating he made sure he could feel every shift of that moon.
The fourth moon.
An hour to moonset and he dragged himself away from his mate’s clasp searching through the clothing bunched up on the floor in one corner. He momentarily pressed John’s top to his nose, breathing in, but the scent was weak compared to the real thing and there would be other time for that.
After so much time spent naked, the clothing felt rough and a little uncomfortable against his skin, but that could not be helped. He made a note to remember to acquire some shoes, particularly for John, but for now bare foot would have to do.
Two guards stood by the doors, armed to the teeth – gun, tranquiliser, knife – but lazy after months of inactivity. He could see their tiredness. It wasn’t much, but their reactions would be that little bit slower, that little bit more imprecise.
He paced, not because he felt compelled to, but because it was expected and would not be seen as out of character. Three months of watching and waiting had allowed him to judge routines down to the second, personalities to the slightest weakness and technology to their functions and capabilities. He had never been more ready.
Two guards, three scientists, ten minutes to go.
John arose and dressed with efficiency watching in silence as he paced. They had both been quieter since the first round of torture questions, so it was not something that would concern anyone. Then again there really was no time for anyone to notice anything anyway.
A minute to go and he stopped his pacing to stand at the door, eyes fixed on the nearest scientist, staring and threatening. They were ignored as usual.
Thirty seconds to go.
Every sense was on full alert, every instinct, every muscle.
He spared a quick glance at his mate and received a small nod in response.
He looked back to the room and counted down the last of the seconds.
Four… three… two… one.
The power switched off, plunging the room into darkness. By the time the second backup emergency generator was allowed to kick in both guards were dead; one with his neck at an unusual angle, the other with his fellow guard’s knife through the neck. Less than a minute later and the three scientists were also dead or incapacitated.
He nodded briefly as his hands flew over the nearest computer terminal. The information they had managed to gather on him was immense but also seriously flawed when it came to their conclusions. It didn’t take long for him to corrupt the whole lot, made easier by the external hacking that had already been done. He recognised the work. It was pleasing to see that they had a least brought in an expert, leaving nothing to chance. The virus they had planted for him to activate would leave nothing unturned.
The lights flickered. There wasn’t much time left.
He sent the final command and watched in satisfaction as one program or file fell after another. The door was next and he was glad to see that John hadn’t hesitated in stripping one of the guards of his boots and jacket.
The door code proved to be of little issue. Even with the changing codes it had not been hard to determine the pattern and the door opened with a satisfying hiss. He was just a little surprised by the figure he found on the other side of it.
He reacted on instinct, grabbing the lead scientist by the throat, cutting him off, dragging him into the room and thrusting him firmly against the wall.
“Check. Mate,” he said with a growl, his hand tightening.
The scientist’s face reddened, his mouth gapping as he struggled fruitlessly against the stronger hold. “Please,” he managed to gasp out, the word broken and weak.
He tipped his head to the side, his fingers tightening even further.
“Why?” he asked. “Why should I listen to you? You kidnapped me and put me in a cage, you treated me like an animal, you threatened and hurt my mate. Tell me why I shouldn’t end your miserable pitiful human life right now?”
He froze at the sound of his name. It had been so long since he had heard it spoken by someone else and he had never heard it spoken like that, low, commanding but also compassionate, by-passing all his natural reactions and sinking into his rational mind.
His hand loosened momentarily.
“Look, don’t give him the satisfaction of thinking that he’s right about you. You’re better than he is.”
Animal. Beast. Monster.
He let go with a snarl, the scientist falling choking to the ground. Bending down he got close enough to smell the fear, to hear the rush of blood flowing freely once more through the arteries and veins.
“Live,” he said darkly. “Live and know that everything you have here is over, that every piece of information you had is gone and that everything I ever told you was a lie. Live and know that you have been marked, that wherever you go you will be watched, an enemy of my people. Live and know that they will know you while you can’t even recognise one of us when he’s twirling an umbrella and sharing your tea.”
He punctuated the last one with a toothy smile and then rose to his feet.
“Come on, John. It’s over.”
It wasn’t long before they were away from any of the areas they had been taken to. He already knew that the base was a reasonable size and finding their way out would always be a bit of a challenge, especially with dozens of people running around the place. With the lights still flickering their countdown – twelve minutes before the place was to blow – it was clear to everyone that something was very wrong. Time was also of the essence.
His nose took them to the kitchens, a place of low security and a place that would need access to the outside for deliveries.
He grabbed the first person he could find there, a middle aged small man who babbled at him in Russian.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked quickly in Russian.
The man shook his head saying he was just the cook. He just cooked the food. He knew nothing.
“Do you want to live?”
The man said he did.
“Then show us how to get out of this building.”
The man went ahead of them and finally they were nearly there. They were so close he could smell the snow and the freedom.
He turned with a growl, eyes widening as he took in the gun held shakily in the lead scientist’s hands. They had been followed and found.
“I can’t let you go. You’re my life’s work. You’re everything.”
He should have killed the man. He should never have let John talk him out of it. He should have….
The gun shot was loud and sudden. For a moment there was nothing and then the scientist fell, a neat bullet hole to the forehead and John was standing there, one of the guards’ guns in his hand and a blank expression on his face. Slowly the hand lowered and their eyes met.
“He threatened my mate.”
The cold hit them like a blunt force to the body. Even knowing the month and country and having found thick clothing near the exit to bundle up in it was still shocking.
“Bloody hell, are we still in Russia?”
He shook himself slightly, eyes scanning around the white blanketed area that was just starting to glow with the rising sun. “Yes,” he said pushing aside the question as to how John had known their location. Clearing his throat, he tipped his head back and let out a howl. It was weak and basic, being as he was in human form with a throat less suited for it, but it got the job done.
He then waited.
Five seconds later he heard the response, distant but it sounded so good, so very, very good. They also only had a few minutes left.
The cook with them blanched at the sound of the howls, crossing himself and muttering, his eyes wide as he stumbled away from them and then fled. It was hardly surprising, in this part of the world so called werewolves were less a fairytale and more a feared possibility, tales passed down from generation to generation.
There had to be a mode of transport around here somewhere. Motioning to John to follow him, he used his nose to sniff out the smell of diesel and it wasn’t long before they found the all-terrain vehicles. Of course they were not alone.
The skidoos were closest and easiest to start.
“Drive,” he ordered John as he shoved a helmet in his hands and then hopped on the back pointing in the direction that the howl had come from.
They shot forward, flying over the snow at a steady pace, following the main tracks out. Of course they were followed.
He felt the motion change as John piled on the speed. Behind them he could hear the roaring of other engines; one rider, two, three. They may be putting distance between them and the hateful base but they were far from safe, and with two of them on the skidoo they would be caught.
Ripping off the helmet, he unzipped his jacket, pulling it off even as he shivered violently against the cold. Keep going, he motioned to John, and then twisting, he jumped and shifted.
His remaining clothing tore and fell away as his muscles changed shape taking on his alterative form. For a moment he stumbled in the deep snow, his paws caught in the remains of his trousers, but then he was free and for the first time in months he felt alive in this form. His mate though was in trouble.
Tipping back his head he let out a howl, deep and angry, and then started to run, his legs stretching out until he was shooting over the snow. Three months of captivity and enforced running and he could feel the speed and power in his legs just itching to be used.
He took the first rider by surprise, leaping at him out of the darkness, knocking him off the skidoo, ripping out his throat in one quick motion. Then he was off chasing down the next, cutting through the snow laden trees in the more direct route. He only felt the sharp pain across his left front paw after he had the second rider down.
He whined as he tried to put his weight on it, watching as red blood fell to stain the white snow. It didn’t feel as if anything was broken but he couldn’t run on it, not like this.
He froze as the explosion behind them caught him unawares. In the excitement and shift he had lost track of the time, but now that part of the mission was done, the base was destroyed, three different howls going up to confirm it. Their Russian brethren, he realised, tipping his head at the tone and cadence, before adding his own call to the mix. Help, injured, mate in trouble.
The response was almost immediate.
Hobbling, he cautiously started to continue in the right direction not wanting to think how long it would take him with this injury. The initial cry had come from over ten miles away and they hadn’t covered even two thirds of that yet. Changing back wasn’t an option, not in this weather. Without clothing he would freeze before he got fifty yards.
He heard the engine of the skidoo before he saw it. Pressing himself down, he crouched into an attacking position, ignoring the way the pain shot up his paw, but if he was going to go down, he was going to go down fighting.
“You really think I was going to leave you?”
John. He was alive and unharmed.
It was awkward getting onto the skidoo in this form, but somehow they managed it with him slung over it on his stomach, his legs dangling. John quickly scratched at his neck before they were off.
Two grey wolves flanked them, one on either side while a third larger, darker one raced on ahead to lead the way. The message in the howl was that the area was secure, the third rider had been taken out, the base was destroyed and they were nearly home.
They were met by helicopter, the blades already whirring. The smell of his family, his pack was strong and achingly familiar. He hadn’t realised just how much he had missed it.
The Russian wolves peeled away, their job done.
Strong hands lifted him from the skidoo as voices asked if he could turn back. Nodding, he shifted, the pain in his hand and arm numbed somewhat by the cold air that engulfed him. They wrapped him quickly in warmed blankets, carrying him to the chopper to save his feet on the snow. He felt tired and cold and slightly overwhelmed by the smells and the noise.
“Here, I’m here.”
He fell against his mate, nuzzling against his chest even as they were strapped in.
“It’s alright, I’m here. We made it.”
They were taken to a small private airfield.
Warm and now dressed, his hand temporarily bandaged, they exited the helicopter, stepping out onto the snow cleared runway. A small jet stood ready to go and beside it a very familiar figure in a thick coat covering his waistcoat and suit, an umbrella slung over his arm. By his side stood another familiar figure, her long brown hair falling forward as she focused her attention on her Blackberry.
“You got my message then.”
“Yes, I got your message,” he snapped back. “Three months. What took you so long?”
“Russia, my dear brother. When one is kidnapped and taken to a secret secure facility they do tend to be both secret and secure. Even with our connections and the urgency of the situation, these things are not always straightforward. Rest assured, the best and the brightest were all involved in your… extraction.”
He nodded towards the other figure. “Yes, I recognise the style. Nice virus.”
“Thanks,” she said looking up briefly before returning to her phone a vague look of satisfaction on her face.
“I see you have also used your time rather productively.”
He growled as his brother’s gaze fell on John and watched as his brother’s head tilted slightly and his lips pressed together in warning.
“Welcome back, Captain Watson,” his brother continued smoothly, “I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure. I’m Mycroft Holmes. My brother, Sherlock, I believe you are more than intimately acquainted with.”
“Yes, yes,” he snapped cutting Mycroft off. “I’m sure this is all rather….” He froze before twisting to face his mate. “Captain Watson. The Captain Watson. Maiwand Watson? The only one to come out alive?”
He had heard the name of course, Mycroft had mentioned it a couple of times at least, of the human who had survived the Maiwand pack ambush. Shot through the shoulder. Afghanistan. A soldier and a doctor but never gave his last name. Stupid, he should have seen. He wasn’t the only one with his secrets in there. There was always something.
He bared his teeth.
“Later, love,” John said softly as he rested a gloved hand on his arm.
Later, yes. There would be a lot of things that would have to be addressed, including the removal of the chips in their necks and some rather lengthy conversations.
Settled on the plane next to his endlessly surprising mate, he stared out of the small window as they pulled smoothly up into the air. His clothing felt tight and constrictive against him, leaving him longing to strip and be free. Fully dressed also, John’s scent was less obvious, forcing him to leave the window to nuzzle against his mate’s neck for reassurance through smell. Mycroft was looking across at them disapprovingly, small lines between his eyebrows which meant he was worried about something, no doubt him and the changes that the extended incarceration had brought about in him, but that was of no importance now.
Now he was free again, that wretched base had been destroyed and his mate was scratching comfortingly at his head. Yawning, he allowed himself to relax for the first time in over three months and settled into the caress with a contented whine.