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The Wolf and The Rider

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Part One - The Wolf

Early summer air had always been Felix’s favorite. It was clean and crisp, the morning dew thin and sweet as spring was forgotten to the latter season. It made good weather for riding, the painted horse under Felix happily trotting along the worn path lapped the familiar woods during their dawn ride as his crimson cloak fluttered gently behind him.

The sun hadn’t even broken the horizon by the time they’d departed, the brunette rider tying back his hair and slinging his bow over his back on the off chance he was either attacked or an animal crossed his path, ready for the hunt. He was quite a bit behind this season, the late warming of the weather setting him back many furs, so he would take any opportunity to hunt with open arms.

He took slow breaths, posting himself in the saddle to reduce the strain on his horse, May, as she trotted. With each upbeat, he raised himself up, letting himself fall gently on the downbeat of the opposite diagonal. May was a little green still, unused to being ridden, but she had taken to him well enough over the last year and was starting to adapt to her new life with the hunter. He took her out as often as possible, desensitizing her to the sights, smells, and feelings that came with the countryside.

His old horse, Tybalt, had fallen ill a few months ago and was no longer fit for riding at the frequency Felix’s life demanded. This was part of the reason Felix was so behind on his fur and meat stock, as well – it was hard to hunt when you had to care for an old horse and train a new one simultaneously. He had very little time to hunt because of that, and when he did hunt, he had to do it on foot. It was exhausting.

What happened was set in stone, though - he could not take back the time he had lost. Felix would simply have to deal with the consequences of his inaction and inexperience.

It served as a lesson for his future, since he shouldn’t have let himself get behind on his tending’s in the first place and should have anticipated Tybalt’s sickness in the horse’s old age. He no longer had a father to remind him of his faults – he had to take responsibility for himself.

The woods had warmed considerably, the young June sun breaking through the canopy and dappling the forest floor below with mottled sunlight. The path had some overgrowth from a lack of use over the winter and early spring, but it was nothing overly restricting, especially since May apparently had an affinity for the trail-side plants that got in her way, nibbling on them as she passed.

She flicked her tail as Felix let her drop to a more leisurely pace, no longer outrunning the flies that always seemed to linger near horses. He petted her, gently running his hands over her fur in small circles as they enjoyed the morning. When he pulled his hands away, a fine layer of dirt covered them.

I’ll have to wash and brush her this evening.

They were a few leagues from his home in the woods when Felix’s ears picked up of a curious sounding whimper, unlike anything the hunter had ever heard before. It was barely loud enough to be heard over the rushing water of the nearby creek, most likely a decent distance from his current position, but the hunter’s keen ears were more than adept. He pulled back his hood, listening closer to make sure he wasn’t imagining the sound.

It repeated, high and pained. Now he knew he wasn’t hallucinating.

Felix drew the reigns in, commanding his horse to stop before dismounting and tying her loose up to a tree with a quick-release knot. If whatever he heard was a predator or had drawn predators, he wanted May to be able to get away safe and sound.

Felix followed the noise, pulling his bow over his shoulder and adjusting his quiver of arrows before he descended down the slope that led to the creak – a fifteen-foot-wide body of water that bordered the northern side of the woods before pouring into the nearby lake.

He placed his feet carefully, minding the smooth and wet rocks under the heels of his boots. The rain the night before had loosened the soil and made the slopes far more dangerous than they normally were, some of the rocks sliding in the mud as he stepped on them. He had to catch himself more than a few times, grabbing onto a stray branch for balance.

Luckily, he made it to the bottom of the ravine without too much incident, but he had still yet to find the source of the whimpering. He stopped and listened, the rush of the water now nearby making it even harder to hear.

Chirp, splash, peck, groan, crumple, whine.

Felix hoped that the sound was a fox or perhaps a mink, since both of those creatures fetched high prices for their furs, but that was unlikely. The noise had sounded slightly too low for a fox or mink but was still canine. Worst case, it was a dog – perhaps the companion of another hunter in the area. He would hate to have to put an animal like that down, especially if he knew that it had a home to go back to.

The creak bent after about a minute of walking, Felix crossing the water over a fallen tree in order to get across without soaking his boots. The sound of water rushing was quieter on the far side, the high bank blocking out the white noise and allowing the hunter to focus on the crying animal. He listened for a few moments, turning about in order to determine its direction, and then set off once he was sure. It didn’t sound far. In fact, it sounded as if he was nearly on top of it.

He pushed through the undergrowth, getting closer to where the bank sloped down and met the water slowly, only a few tens of feet from where the creek became more treacherous and swift. There was very little erosion here, the banks of the creek shallow and gradual. Moss grew on the rich earth, the thick green carpet serving to cushion his steps. He pressed just a little further, pulling a branch to the side to clear his vision.

The view no longer obscured by leaves, Felix looked down at the sight in front of him.

Tangled in the undergrowth was a wolf, grey and wild. It was wet and muddy, three fourths of its body submerged in the freezing cold stream water, only it’s head, neck, and front paws clinging onto the bank where it dropped off suddenly into deeper water. It was desperately trying to stay afloat, its yellow eyes wide and frightened.

Felix gasped, covering his mouth with his hand as he looked at the creature. It’s leg was marred horribly, the flesh torn down to the bone and the limb twisted. It looked like it had caught it’s leg in a bear trap – one that another hunter had put near the water’s edge – and that the wolf had fallen in out of fright. It couldn’t maneuver itself properly to get out and could only cling on to the bank until it was saved or until it simply gave up on life.

The hunter circumvented the wolf, and as soon as it saw him, the animal started snarling at him and bearing its teeth. Felix drew an arrow, contemplating ending the animal’s suffering.

It was an appealing option. It’s pelt would fetch him quite a sum - the rich folk really loved their garish wolf pelts, after all - and the animal wouldn’t have to limp about with a broken leg. It was a win-win situation, in all honesty, but...

Felix looked down on it, making eye contact with it down the shaft of his drawn arrow. He watched as it growled, lips curling back and displaying it’s deadly fangs before closing its mouth and giving him a hard stare. It was too tired to even be properly fierce. There was no way it was going to live.

I could make good money.

He pulled the drawstring back as far as it could go, telling himself it was a dog eat dog world. The wolf drew back its lips once again, snarling low and powerful.

This would help me catch up on this season.

Its growl rumbled deep in its chest.

This animal will only steal my hunts if I let it go free, but at the same time...

Felix loosened the string and let the bow fall to his side, looking at the animal and the cognizant acceptance on its face.

I can’t. I can’t kill something with so much drive to live.

Felix strung the bow back over his shoulder and knelt down, extending his hand within smelling distance but not lunging distance of the wolf’s mouth.

I will help you, damned be the consequences.

“Hey, boy…” He whispered, unsmiling. Smiling - aka bearing his teeth - would only spur on further aggression from the wounded animal. Felix knew he looked insane, talking to a wolf like it could understand him, but he didn’t care. He was alone, anyway. “I’m going to help you okay?”

His words seemed to calm it, it’s snarl disappearing, replaced by the vulnerability it had been sporting before it had caught sight and smell of the hunter. When Felix was certain that it wasn’t going to lunge for him, he let his hand get the slightest bit closer, the wolf licking the tips of his fingers and looking up at him with those big, expressive eyes.

Help me.

Felix drew his hand away removed his cloak, bow, and quiver, setting them aside far away from the riverbank. Those items were valuable and he wanted his warm cloak to be dry and ready to warm him if he fell in - Not to mention how a bow is utterly useless up-close. Wild animals were unpredictable, so Felix wanted to make sure he was prepared for the worst.

The hunter circled the animal in order to get to the pin of the bear trap, never taking his eyes off of the lupine creature in fear of it turning on him. It was observing him for now, but wolves were dangerous, injured and restrained or not. His dagger was ready on his thigh in case it changed its mind about him, too.

Kneeling down to where the chain of the bear trap was staked into the ground, Felix attempted too pull it loose from the ground. It didn’t budge, of course, since it was meant to keep a grizzly bear from fleeing the trap, but Felix thought it was worth a shot anyway.

Not wanting to waste any further effort, Felix pulled out his dagger, wedging the blunt end of the hilt onto the wide end of the release pin that kept the chain linked to the stake. It didn’t budge at first, but after a few good hits, the mechanism gave, the chain sliding off the earth and into the water with a rush and a plop.

The wolf, feeling the sudden slack, pulled itself forward onto the bank, its three good legs serving to haul itself up and out of the freezing water. Felix feared, for a moment, that it was going to lunge for him as soon as it collected itself, but the wounded animal instead collapsed onto the mossy ground, breathing heavily.

It looked at him, tongue lolling out of its mouth, and glanced back at its foot.

Now that the limb was in full view, Felix was horrified. The limb was twisted – most likely broken, sprained at least – and looked more morose than bloody. If it wasn’t treated soon, the wolf was either going to lose it’s leg or lose it’s life, and now Felix was wondering if saving it from the trap was truly the kindest option.

Regardless, he had set it at least partially free, and Felix intended to follow through on his internal promise to help. He wasn’t going to let this proud animal die. Not if he could help it.

“Steady, steady…” Felix said softly. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to help.” He knelt down beside it, surprised as the animal did nothing but whine and point at its leg with its snout. It was as if it knew, almost - as if it knew what needed to be done.

He wanted to get this over with quick, stepping down on the spring neck and using his dagger to pry open the stubborn bear trap before the feeling came back into the wolf’s leg, its limb still freezing cold from the water. He grunted, the effort of levering back the jowls of the trap straining his arms.

Finally, the bear trap opened with a loud clang, the serrated edge separating from the animal’s flesh. It made a disgusting shucking sound, the wet muscle clinging onto the metal and peeling away painfully. The wolf whimpered, dragging itself forward with its front legs as soon as it was wide enough to pull itself free.

Luckily, the bone hadn’t broken as far as Felix could tell, the wolf stumbling onto all fours, albeit shakily. It stood, shaking off the water that had soaked it thoroughly from it’s shoulder’s down, and turned towards Felix.

Normally, once a wolf was free from immediate danger, it would flee or at least attempt to get away in some fashion, but this wolf was… odd. It was free, but it wasn’t running away.

Felix stood completely still. He didn’t want to provoke the animal, hoping it would limp away in its own time. The wolf was between him and his bow, and all he had now was a dull and slightly bent dagger (thanks to the bear trap) that could prevent the hunter from getting completely massacred by a hungry wolf at best.

He was contemplating swimming across the creek back to his horse when the wolf suddenly trotted forward and jumped, knocking the brunette back onto the mossy bank with two feet to his chest. Felix nearly screamed, holding in his voice as the wolf stood over him, yellow eyes bearing into his own dark brown ones.

The lupine creature’s breath was heavy and thick, rushing over his face with every pant. Felix was loath to move a muscle, fearing even the slightest twitch would send the animal into a blind, bloodthirsty frenzy. He held his breath and closed his eyes, praying the beast would either stalk off or get it over with quickly.

But no bite came. No sharp teeth, no claws, no growls…

Just one big, gross tongue.

Felix was paralyzed for a few moments, stunned at the affectionate action. The wolf was acting less wild and more dogish, lapping at his skin like a hound greeting its master.

“Hey!” Felix yelped, turning his head to the side and covering his neck with his hands as the wolf licked him. “I just took my weekly bath, for the Seven God’s sake! Stop it!”

It ignored him, one paw heavy on his chest and the other placed far too close to his head for comfort. The hunter squirmed, not sure what to make of the affections.

“Get off of me…” He groaned. The wolf whined, sounding almost upset that Felix wasn’t enjoying the unsolicited tongue-bath. He turned over, peeking at the creature over him with a single eye. The sight he was met with was one he was not expecting.

In his blind panic, he had not felt the paws change from heavy, dense feet to calloused, broad hands. He had not noticed the fur vanishing, replaced with unruly, curly brown hair. He had not noticed the lupine body shift to one that was man rather than beast, a broad expanse of pale skin laid over the prone hunter.

Most of all, he hadn’t noticed the long, sopping tongue turn into a short, rough one with its own set of heart shaped lips, dragging against his neck leisurely and slow.

Felix took a single beat before screaming, repeating at the top of his lungs, “GET OFF OF ME!”

He kicked and screamed, the man – wolf? – climbing off of him completely unphased by his kicks. The man grabbed his arms, pinning them crossed on Felix’s chest until the brunette calmed down slightly, no longer thrashing.

“What are you?” Felix said, gasping around his heavy, restrained breaths. The pressure of his arms on his diaphragm made it hard to breathe.

The man’s dark amber eyes blinked, answering simply. “Grateful.”

Felix frowned, still struggling to breathe,  “I – That’s not… I meant physically. What- what are you physically?”

The man looked down at himself, confused. “Human…?” His face was far too close for Felix’s liking, “Is that not what I am?”

“I meant,” Felix paused, “What are you so that you could be both man and wolf.” He didn’t know what sick game this man was playing. He caught his breath, putting as much force into his next words as possible. “Explain before I kill you.”

“Kill me?” The man’s brow furrowed. He spoke with absolutes, “But you’re underneath me.”

Felix gritted his teeth, jerking his upper body up and looping his legs around the man’s hips and attempting to flip them over with the momentum his motions created, swapping their positions briefly. The man grunted and pushed him back harder, the brunette once again pinned to the ground, this time with his hands above his head.

The hunter had his knife in the middle of the scuffle, his hands free briefly when he had flipped themselves over, only to lose it when his arms were gripped and held back into the moss above his head. Felix was lucky they weren’t on rocks.

The man was breathing heavily still, his breath just like a dog’s – gross and musky. His face was neutral as he spoke, but his eyes were bright. “You’re stronger than you look.”

“So I’ve been told,” Felix maintained eye contact. He decided bartering was the better way to go about this. “If you don’t answer me, I’m not going to help you, so what are you?” Felix took a beat, “Man or wolf?”

The man answered with little hesitation. “Both,” he said. He kneeled back off of Felix, his bare knees bracketing Felix’s thighs. The wolf-man extended his hand as he stood up shakily, offering it to the hunter.

The grounded man glared at it, instead opting to stand on his own while averting his eyes from the wolf-man’s dangling genitals. He hadn’t intended to get an eyeful, but when your head was crotch-level, it was tragically unavoidable.

“Seven Gods…” The hunter muttered, cringing. “Cover yourself, fucking hell.” He kept his face shielded as he circled the wolf-man to get to his previously discarded items, throwing the bundled red cloak at him. It was for both the wolf-man’s benefit and his own.

The man held the cloak in his hands uselessly, unsure of what to do with it. Felix huffed a sigh, tossing it around his shoulders and tying the drawstrings tight in the front. “It’ll keep you warm, alright? Keep it on at least until we get to my cabin.”

“Your cabin?” The wolf-man asked.

Felix frowned, slinging his bow over his back. The wolf-man eyed the motion. “Yes, my cabin.”

“What could you possibly do to help me there?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Felix rolled his eyes. Damn my morality. “Prevent you from losing your damn leg?”

“But you’ve already helped me enough,” the wolf-man tried to take off the cloak, wincing when he stumbled back onto his bad leg. “I’ll be okay,” he said.

“No, you won’t,” Felix argued, swatting his hands away from the cloak’s drawstrings. “You’ll get hypothermia if you don’t already have it, gangrene will set in, and you’ll die. I’ve already put in this much effort to save you, so what’s a little more?” The hunter pulled up the hood, gently ruffling the wolf-man’s hair to dry it. “Let me take care of you.”

The wolf-man growled softly. He didn’t like the implied notion. “I don’t need to be taken care of.”

“There is nothing wrong with accepting kindness,” the hunter said wisely. The wolf-man only grumbled back.

“I am already indebted to you,” he sighed. “I do not wish to accumulate more.”

“Then would you rather be dead?”

The wolf-man said nothing.

Felix huffed. “That’s what I thought.”

 

After an intense struggle to get the wolf-man on the horse, Felix walked back the five miles to his cabin, horse-reins in hand. It was late afternoon by the time they arrived, the summer sun still a few hours from setting. The hunter was frustrated with himself, angry that he had tangled himself in the wolf-man’s mess when he had his own problems to worry about.

But then he looked at the sleeping wolf-man’s leg, mangled and dripping, and he started to feel less angry and more resigned.

I made my bed and now I must lie in it, Felix thought to himself.

Luckily, the man had ceased complaining about the horse only a couple of minutes into the trek, falling asleep from exhaustion on the horse’s back, his finger’s laced tightly in May’s mane. The horse didn’t like the wolf-man as much as the wolf-man didn’t like the horse, but Felix bribed her with sweet-grass, so all was well.

When Felix woke the wolf-man back up, the delirium had been exchanged with grouchy irritability. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get the wolf-man to move unless he grabbed him and manipulated him physically, dragging him off the horse and onto the muddy ground. All his energy had been sapped from his body and into the creek long ago, and Felix was beginning to doubt if the wolf-man would live, after all.

“Come on,” Felix grunted, “Cooperate with me, here.”

He dragged the heavy wolf-man by his arms, too weak to carry him into his home over his back or to his chest without hurting his drawing arm. The wolf-man was made of dense, sinewy muscle and bone making him heavier than Felix first guessed.

It took him a while, but eventually the wolf-man was in his house laying in front of his fireplace. He laid him down with a tired huff, his biceps demanding a break, but he had to continue. He couldn’t half-ass this. The hunter proceeded to get a fire started in record time, fetching a basin of water from the well, ignoring his aching muscles, to heat up and have the wolf-man drink.

After he put the water over the fire to boil, he picked out any debris from the wound, handing the half-conscious wolf-man a wooden spoon to bite down on when Felix stitched the wound shut. The guttural screams and growls sent shivers down Felix’s spine, reminded of the massive chance he took to save this wolf-man simply because of a set of damn puppy eyes.

“Drink,” Felix commanded, holding a cup of water to his lips. He cupped his jaw, helping him sit up to gulp the water down. “That’s it, that’s it…” he stroked his thumb along his jaw, “Good boy.”

“I’m not a boy,” the wolf-man reminded him, gasping for breath as he strained to drink more water.

“But you are a dog,” the hunter teased. He had to have some fun with this, alright?

“A wolf,” he corrected, glaring at Felix. The hunter simply laughed in response, bringing the cup back to his lips. He returned his hand to the wolf-man’s head, letting his fingers lace in the hair at the nape of his neck. It was surprisingly soft, although quite oily. It wasn’t like Felix wasn’t gross himself, though.

“Right – a wolf.”

When the wolf-man seemed to loll off to sleep, Felix stood, aiming to get up and head to bed himself. As he stood, the wolf-man stirred, a calloused hand snagging his wrist. It was the fastest he’s seen him move since he rescued him, the hunter yelping as the wolf brought Felix’s hand down to his face.

Felix calmed down when he realized what the wolf-man was doing – the creature rubbing his face onto Felix’s hand like a dog would his owner. He has seen animals do things like this before, the animal rubbing their scent off on a person in order to make them smell like them. It marked their friendships and bonds, serving as a thank you and as a warning to anyone who would dare trifle with their marked human.

When the wolf-man pulled on his hand, wanting to pull Felix down on top of him, Felix decided that he had indulged him long enough and pulled away entirely. The whimper the man let out at the loss of his hand made the hunter feel a touch guilty, but it wasn’t enough to persuade him to come back down and let the wolf-man fucking scent-roll him.

“Sleep,” He said.

“Outside,” the wolf-man begged, “Please.”

Felix shook his head and nodded to the fire. “The warmth will help you heal.”

He left him a cup of water and a few slices of cured meat for the night before retiring to bed, his body melding into the stiff straw mattress as if it was actually comfortable.  It took him hours to fall asleep, laying awake and listening to the rolling and soft, pained moaning of the wolf-man a single room over.

When he finally fell asleep, his dreams were filled with amber eyes and dark, dark fur.

 

The man complained less and less as time went on, taking what Felix gave him gratefully, although the man consistently insisted on sleeping outside. His mutterings the following day were only the beginning of a running theme, unending and on loop for what seemed like hours.

“It feels unnatural,” the wolf-man began, “being indoors.”

“You prefer outside?” Felix raised an eyebrow as he waxed his bow, his hand rubbing small circles with a rag into the wood. He turned it over to get to the other side, glancing down at the wolf-man who was still restricted to laying on the floor. They’ve already been through this conversation multiple times, the dialogue memorized line-by line per actor.

“Very much so, yes.” The wolf-man rolled onto his stomach, groaning with the effort, his bare ass out because he still refused to put on clothes to any degree. It was distracting, a bit, but Felix had to admit he had a nice ass. “I’d like to go out.”

Felix sighed. “When you’re completely healed and no longer my responsibility, you can. I’m not letting my efforts to keep you alive go wasted if you get sick as soon as you sleep in the cold.”

“Wolves don’t get sick from the cold. Not easily,” the wolf-man argued, “And I never was your responsibility.”

“Key word: easily.” Felix threw the blanket that had been on his lap over him which the wolf-man promptly tossed off. “And I saved you, so yes, you are my responsibility.”

“Wolves take responsibility very seriously,” the wolf-man warned, bundling up the blanket and throwing it to the side. “I already have a massive debt to you and with each day it grows bigger.”

“Then so be it,” Felix answered. “I hate waste and I would hate to see all my efforts wash away if you die.” He continued waxing his bow, feeling the wolf-man’s dark amber eyes boring into him. “Do not ask again.”

The wolf-man asked again.

 

The hunter took care of the wolf-man for at least four days before he was able to stand, each day feeding and giving water to the weak beast. The wolf-man grew in strength with each passing day his appetite returning with a greater vengeance, his body desiring more and more food to heal from his injuries. Felix realized the burden of this and gave the man an ultimatum.

It was early on the morning of his sixth day at Felix’s cabin when the hunter approached him. The wolf-man was sitting by the fire, his injured leg extended as he watched the flames. He seemed to know what Felix was going to say before he even said it, the only cue that he was listening being the slight tilt of his head in the hunter’s direction.

“You are able to stand,” Felix began, “and you seem fully prepared to eat me out of house and home.” The wolf-man had the decency to at least look sheepish, his shoulders sloping guiltily. He knew his appetite was rather large. “You either stay and help, or you go. No one lives under my roof without their fair share of hard work,” he paused, “so what’ll it be?”

The wolf-man tilted his head further, looking at him over his shoulder. “What is your name?”

“I-” Felix started, scowling. “I asked you a question. Do not counter me with one of your own.”

“I simply want to know your name before I give my answer,” the wolf-man said as he stood and turned around. Felix kept his eyes above his waist. “Names are vital in deal making. Promises mean nothing without them.”

“I wasn’t asking you to make a promise,” Felix frowned, “Just a decision.”

“It’s all the same to me. My decisions are my promises,” the wolf-man squared his shoulders, “and I want to know the name of the man I am giving my word to.”

Felix looked at him, narrowing his eyes. It did not seem wise to trust a wolf - the lore and history surrounding the beast foreboding the worst - but the wolf-man had done nothing to offend him besides his perpetual distaste for clothes (although he allowed loose linen pants). In fact, he has been kind and has only taken what Felix has given him, never asking for more and always thankful for what he is given. If Felix was being honest, he might even miss the wolf-man if he were to leave.

The hunter met the wolf-man’s steady gaze. “My name is Felix,” he said, “And you are…?”

“Chris, Christopher, or Chan,” the wolf-man smiled, his sharper-than-average canines on display. “Christopher was my first name and Chan is my lupine. It’s easier to distinguish.” He tilted his head, “Although you, Felix, can call me whichever you like.”

“I’ll stick with Chris, thanks.” Felix answered shortly. He wanted to get this over with quickly. He’s a wolf, so of course he is going to want to return to the woods. It’s better to forget him fast than to drag on those lingering what-if’s in his head. “Your decision?”

The wolf-man took a few steps forward, crossing the room to stand in front of Felix. The brunette was the same height as him, but the build of the stronger man made the hunter feel tiny and Felix wasn’t exactly scrawny, either. He grabs Felix’s hand just like how he had done a few days ago when Felix had first tended to him by the fire, bringing it up to his face and nuzzling into it.

“You saved me out of the good of your heart,” Chris said, “No matter how badly you want me gone, I have a debt to repay. You saved my life and now I must live for yours.”

“Chris, you have no debt to me.” Felix relaxed his hand, letting it slide down his neck to rest on his shoulder. The wolf-man leveled his gaze, looking at Felix evenly.

“The customs us wolves follow differ from those of humans,” the lupine laid his hand over the hunter’s. “It is a life for a life, given or taken, and you have given me life.”

“That’s very poetic of you, but I gave you no such thing. All I did was provide a means for you to escape an unfair death.”

“But you could have killed me,” the wolf-man reasoned. “You could have killed me as a wolf and stolen my pelt. I’ve heard you muttering to yourself – I know you could’ve used the money my skin would have given you - but you let me live instead. You are kind.”

“I’m stupid,” Felix muttered to himself. He was happy, secretly, but he wasn’t about to let Chris know that. He didn’t want to let on how desperate he was for company. “I should’ve taken you seriously when you said wolves take responsibilities seriously.”

“I won’t argue with that,” He smiled, lifting Felix’s hand to his mouth and pressing his smirking lips into the palm of his hand. “Besides, I’d rather devote my life to a kind idiot than a smart asshole, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Who said you can call me that?” Felix wiggled his hand out of his grip, slapping him a few times by accident in the process. The wolf-man made a disgruntled expression, scrunching up his face at the uncomfortable feeling.

“You called yourself an idiot and I simply agreed,” Chris teased.

“You weren’t meant to agree.

“You’re right,” he gave the hunter a wolfish grin. “You’re brilliant for having saved me.”

“I signed up for a wolf, not a cockish prat.” Felix fired back. Chris buried his face in his neck, rubbing his cheek across his jugular. Felix strained his head away as he pressed up against him, his breath heavy in his ear.

This is new.

“Being a cockish prat comes with the gig.” The wolf-man laughed, the rush over his ear making Felix shiver. If Chris felt it, he didn’t say anything, instead pulling away and giving Felix space to breathe. “Oh, and also?”

“Yes, Chris?”

“… Can I sleep outside?”

He was mostly healed, so really, there was no reason to restrict him to the indoors, anymore. Felix sighed deeply. “Knock yourself out.”

 

Felix knew that when the wolf insisted on sleeping outside, it was going to bother him, but he didn’t expect it to bother him this much. He thought he would make the horses uneasy at best, but even from the dry shed his very presence made them alarmed. It had only been a few days, but the rider already knew that this situation wasn’t going to resolve itself.

He wanted to let Chris do what would make himself comfortable, he really did, but if Tybalt had to be frightened for even one more night, Felix feared the old horse would keel over and die. The hunter decided that he would do something about it as soon as he could, most likely that night.

It was a few hours from dusk when the hunter came home, a doe strung up over the back of May, the patter of the deer’s hooves on her torso and the clack clack of her horseshoes announcing his arrival home. It was the first kill he’d come back with since the wolf-man had joined his household.

“Chris!” The hunter called.

The wolf-man popped his head up from around the south-side of the cabin. His curly brown hair was awry and his arms were crosshatched with what looked like… chicken scratches?

“Did you get in a fight with the rooster again?”

“No,” Chris defended himself quickly, blatantly lying. Felix cocked an eyebrow and the wolf-man rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, “Maybe…”

“How many times do I have to tell you – just use the coop door. You don’t have to go in to get the eggs!”

The hunter dismounted, Chris removing the doe from May’s back before he led her to the stall. The horse eyed the wolf-man, whinnying each time he came closer than ten feet. “It’s alright, girl. He isn’t going to hurt you…” he soothed her, running a gentle hand over her cheek.

Felix had already field dressed the doe, removing its organs and windpipe to prevent spoiling the meat, but he had yet to skin and drain it. He turned to Chris, about to ask him if he could begin that process, but he was already on it, hooves in hand.

“You’ve done this before?” Felix asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” Chris answered, dragging the deer behind himself to where Felix normally strung-up his kills by the dry shed. The wolf-man hoisted the deer up, Felix grabbing the hook and driving it through it’s haunches to hang it head down.

“I used to hunt when I was younger,” the wolf-man smiled at him over his shoulder, flashing his sharper-than-average canines. “I wasn’t always a wolf, you know.”

“I didn’t,” Felix said quietly, noting the new information. He bit his lip as he removed his skinning knife from its leather holster, digging it into the pelt with care. “I don’t know much at all about wolves.”

Chris hummed. “You’ve never hunted one?”

“They don’t tend to come this far south, especially in the summer,” Felix explained.

“I see,” the wolf-man lifted one side of the deer, helping the hunter with a delicate cut. “Would you kill one if you had the chance?”

“Only if it was for the good of the animal or if it threatened my life.”

It was simple, really.

“But you didn’t kill me?”

Or at least it should’ve been.

“Yeah,” Felix shrugged, “I didn’t.”

“Why?”

The hunter furrowed his brow, withdrawing his knife from the animal’s flesh. He looked at the wolf-man who was currently leaning against the wall of the dry shed, hands in his pockets. A loose shirt dangled from his shoulders, flowing gently in the evening breeze. He was looking at Felix with an expression the hunter couldn’t decode. He went back to skinning.

“You just gonna stand there, or are you gonna get me a wash bucket?” Felix spoke up after about ten minutes of ignoring his question, cutting under more skin.

“Not until you tell me why you didn’t fire that arrow between my eyes.” Chris raised an eyebrow.

The hunter scowled, “Why do you want to know so bad?”

“Just curious,” the brunette rolled his head to the side, his adam’s apple bobbing as he watched Felix cut away under the skin. Felix, with periodic glances, couldn’t tell if he was serious or teasing. “I want to know what you saw in me.”

“I saw a wolf,” Felix answered shortly, letting the pelt slough off in one clean sheet, “That’s it.”

“You sure?” Chris smirked. Felix immediately recalled his bare body perched over him, smooth and sleek like one of those statues the traveler’s in town described from their journeys across the mainland. So maybe he had seen a little more than a wolf, but he wasn’t about to let that get to him, much less let Chris know that that moment had stuck in his head for the past couple nights.

He maintained an indifferent expression, bloodied hands dripping onto the earth as he removed the skin completely from the animal. The hunter gave the wolf-man a flat look, revealing nothing. He wasn’t about to give him any carnal satisfaction.

“Yes,” he patted the wolf-man’s cheek a light pat, the blood rubbing off on his jowls. “I’ve never been more sure.”

Chris made a noise split between a whine and a growl. It was cute, really, but Felix only let an endeared smile rise to his lips once he was turned away from the curly-haired man. The wolf-man wiped away the blood, following after him.

“The wash bucket, Chris.” Felix reminded, voice sing-song. “You don’t want gamey meat, do you?”

He heard the wolf grumble, but he fetched the wash bucket anyway. The two set out to finish their task in near-silence, letting the soundtrack of nature fill their ears and take away any thoughts that plagued their minds, at least for the time being.

Given two hours of hard work and labor, the pelt was washed and set out to dry and the meat was set to hang out in the cool air to age overnight, ready to be salted and dried the following day. Felix breathed low and slow through his nose, the routine of washing the remaining blood from his hands and his knives and tools serving to calm his nerves.

He watched as Chris smothered the lanterns, putting out the outside lights one by one before he turned in to sleep. Felix glanced at his horses - particularly Tybalt - and sighed. The hunter didn’t want to invite the wolf back inside as much as he didn’t want to leave him out to frighten the horses, but he had to.

“You’re not gonna like me…” Felix sighed. Chris’ ears perked from where he had been settling into his makeshift nest in dry shed, laying among the hay and feed.

“Why?” Chris asked curiously.

“Because,” Felix walked over to him, poking him in the side with his booted foot. “I’m about to tell you to get up and get your ass inside.”

The wolf-man’s face fell, “Seriously?!”

“Sorry to take away your moon and stars, but you’re scaring the horses. I’d rather you be inside rather than keeping you outside and giving my stallion a heart attack.”

“I’ve been scaring them?” Chris frowned, “Really?”

“Yes, really.” Felix raised a brow, “You haven’t noticed? They’re restless.”

“I guess I’m not used to horses, either. I thought they were always like that,” Chris grimaced. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Felix said. He was apologetic as well. “I wouldn’t make you sleep inside if it wasn’t important. I know how much you like the outdoors.”

Chris chuckled. “Oh, so you know me well now, huh?”

“Well enough to know you bitch when you don’t get to flaunt you bare ass in the moonlight,” Felix snarked.

“Flaunting, ey?” Chris guffawed at that, raising a brow and chasing after the thin hunter as he rolled his eyes and retreated to his home. “Interesting word choice for someone who said they weren’t looking.”

“Do you want me to kick you out? It that it?”

“Just stating facts here, Lix.”

The hunter stopped in his tracks, glaring. “Do not call me Lix.”

The wolf-man held up his hands, “Sorry, sorry. Is that a sore spot for you?”

“You’re gonna get a sore spot if you keep asking, pooch.” Felix ground out. Any relaxation he had gotten from his routine had vanished, gone with the wind. “Boots off at the door,” he reminded, forgetting that Chris never wore shoes anyway.

“Yeah, sure. Just let me skin my feet real quick.” The wolf-man jested.

“Oh, shut it!” Felix replied. He grumbled, “At least wipe them off…”

The wolf-man huffed a soft sigh, giving in easier than expected. “Alright,” he answered, “Will do.”

“Thank you, and-” Felix said as he locked the door behind him, “Wash yourself down before you get into bed. I’m not sleeping with a bloody mutt.”

“Whoa, there! What?” Chris raised his brow. Felix laughed.

“Get your mind out of the gutter. We’re just sleeping on the same bed - I’m not coming onto to you,” he shucked off his boots. “Did you expect to get your own bed, or something? You think I’m rich enough for that?”

“Your wording threw me through a loop, is all.” Chris explained, his canines showing as he smiled. Felix knew exactly what he was thinking, but he refused to entertain it. He was taking in Chris and his overtly sexual humor (and advances?) because he needed an extra hand around the house, not because he wanted to bed him.

Although, that thought isn’t exactly repulsive and he is quite handsome and - no. No, no, no. We are ending that train of thought right there.

“You’re just gross,” Felix grumbled. Chris only chuckled in response, earning himself a prompt glare. The hunter blew a sigh from his lips, removing his shirt as he walked to his room. The wolf-man followed close behind, mimicking the younger man.

As Felix was preparing his bed, tidying the sheets and pulling off his pants to replace them with a set of sleep-clothes to protect his skin from the semi-abrasive straw bed, he was horrified to see the wolf-man crawling into bed very, very naked.

“No,” Felix pointed to everything that was out. “No, no no! Put it away!”

“My penis?” The wolf man said incredulously, “Well, that’s easier said than done.”

“Trust me, I’m fully aware,” Felix groaned. God, he was done with this man’s nudist antics. “I am not sleeping in a bed with you while your bits are free-range.”

“Oh, no…” Chris lamented dramatically, laying his hand over his forehead. “I guess I need to sleep outside then.” He stood up, more than ready to waltz back outside, but Felix caught his arm.

“Ah,” Chris smirked, “You’ve changed your mind?”

“In your dreams,” Felix cringed, dropping his arm and walking away from him. “I haven’t changed my mind in the slightest. You’re still sleeping in here, and if I recall right, you said your life is to be lived out for mine. If you hold true to that, you should have no issue putting on pants, hm? Or are you going back on your word?”

“I never go back on my word,” Chris said, dropping his playful tone. It wasn’t gone for long, though. He clicked his tongue, “But boy do I hate pants.”

“Again, I am very aware,” Felix said, “but can we at least come to a compromise? Please?”

The wolf-man sighed. “And what do you suggest?”

“That’s for you to decide. Compromises are two-sided. I can’t pick for you.”

“Hm,” he hummed, “Then… how about I just sleep as a wolf? That won’t be too disturbing for you, will it?”

Felix took a deep breath, thinking about it. “It’ll take some getting used to, but it’s better than the alternative.”

“Sleeping naked is not inherently sexual!”

“It is when you keep flirting with me!” Felix retorted. He was less angry and more annoyed. “Have some taste, will you? A little method to your madness?”

“I’m not flirting,” The wolf-man grumbled, sitting on the edge of the bed.

Felix snorted, grabbing his chin and forcing him to make eye contact with him. He stood between his legs. “Yeah? Then what do you call kissing my hand and pulling me close? Letting the sheets fall off your shoulders the moment I walk in the room? Your lewd comments and jokes? Do you honestly think those things get to me? That I’m going to fuck myself to the thought of you removing a piece of fabric?”

The wolf-man’s face flushed red, leaving Felix with a sense of satisfaction. The hunter scoffed, “Get over yourself.”

The wolf-man looked to the side, sheepish. His voice was soft when he spoke, “I’m sorry.”

“Glad to know you can feel shame,” Felix huffed, letting go of his chin and taking a step back. “I don’t want to tell you how to act, I just want you to know that things like this - your flirting, your flaunting - don’t get to me. I’m not going to give myself to you like a two-cent whore.”

“You’re not a two-cent whore, I never-”

“I know you didn’t,” Felix said, softer but stern. “I simply don’t want you to give you the impression that I’m willing to lay with someone so easily. I don’t do that anymore and I don’t plan on starting again.”

“Message received,” Chris said. “I’m sorry.”

Felix frowned, watching the wolf-man’s face twist. The curly-haired man looked so downcast, his face pinched like he was reflecting on every interaction he had with Felix so far, critical of his own actions. Perhaps he had been to harsh.

The hunter took a deep breath, letting it out slowly through his mouth. “I’m sorry as well. I… some events from my past may have been clouding my judgement.”

“No, no. It’s fine, you are fine, I-” The wolf-man grimaced, “Thinking back I may have been a bit… forward. It has been a long time since I’ve courted as a human. Wolves are much more… direct, so to speak. I’m sorry if I crossed any of your boundaries.”

“Oh, you haven’t done any such thing. I lost my boundaries a long time ago,” Felix said, chuckling quietly. “It just annoyed me that you refused to admit you were flirting.”

 Chris’ mouth opened in shock. “So that’s it? That’s why you were so mad at me?” Chris asked incredulously, “Because I wouldn’t admit I was flirting?”

“I prefer forwardness,” Felix ruffled his hair. “Honesty is the best policy, after all.”

“... I see,” he mused, grabbing the hunter’s hand. “You would fit right in with us wolves.”

“Mm,” Felix hummed, letting the wolf-man rub his scent on his hand. “Would I?”

The wolf-man hummed back. “You’re brutally honest,” he said. “It’s quite attractive.”

Felix smirked, speaking low. Riling up the curly-haired man was fun, watching his eyes darken as he let his thumb rub along his jaw. “Glad my tongue is good for something,” he laughed, “Wouldn’t want my talents to go to waste.”

A low growl rumbled in the wolf-man’s chest, his hands twitching at his side. It was nice, seeing the power he had over him, but he refused to abuse it. Felix decided that was enough for the night.

“So, can we agree that we’ll try to understand each other?” Felix asked. The wolf-man nodded, blinking out of whatever haze the hunter had sent him spiraling down into. “Good,” he sighed, letting his hand fall away, cold. “We should go to bed.”

“Do we have to?” The wolf-man said, eyes dissecting Felix’s expression, trying to glean any hint of a wavering will. “I can think of plenty of other things we could be doing instead.”

The hunter clicked his tongue, “You know…”

“Yes?”

“...I wouldn’t mind crocheting, actually.” The wolf-man looked at him, unamused. Felix smiled, “Just kidding - now go to sleep.”

The wolf-man stood, getting down on all fours and disappearing out of the hunter’s line of sight. The sound of skin on wood changed to claws on wood, the click-clack of the beast’s paws circling the bed until Chris - or should he say Chan? - hopped up on the other side.

Felix looked at him - taking in those bright yellow eyes and his long, thick grey fur. He wanted to run his hands through it and to hold the large animal close. He no longer felt any danger around the beast, knowing Chan would never hurt him. Wolves really were serious about their debts.

He pinched out the candle and patted the spot next to him, rolling onto his side. “Come’re.”

The wolf looked at him curiously before walking across the bed, flopping down with a humph at his side. He laid his head on his paws, shimmying forward to get closer when Felix put his arm around him and buried his face in his neck.

“You’re so soft…” The hunter mused, scratching behind his ears. Chan groaned in contentment, his eyes shutting slowly like two stars blinking out in the night sky that was Felix’s bedroom. The hunter shut his own eyes, letting himself bury his face in the scruff of the wolf’s neck.

“Goodnight, Chan.”