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Sighing, he leaned back against his truck and stretched his arms over his head. The sun wasn’t up yet, though his eyes easily adjusted to the darkness. He was more than a bit early to meet Shane for their little trip and honestly, he wasn’t even sure if the man would show up in the first place. They hadn’t really left things in the best way the other morning and Will had been going out of his way to give Shane some space.
It was a bit hard, when they lived together, but he managed. He left plates of breakfast out on the table, made sure his clothes were out of the laundry when he knew it was Shane’s day to use the machine; little things around the apartment that he hoped showed how sorry he was. Well…even if he didn’t quite understand why the conversation had turned so tense with one little comment.
He’d been playing it back over and over again in his head and chalked it up to his being socially inept. He might be completely comfortable with the Ikusi’s, but that didn’t mean that he actually knew how to talk like a person. He sighed and let his arms fall back against the sides and knocked his head against the passenger side window of the truck. Shane was as secretive as they came; a twitchy cat, rather than a wolf and Will had attempted to pet the coveted belly without asking permission first.
He sighed again, his chest deflating as he eyed the woods in front of him. His pack was in the back and he figured he could head out on his own, just put a call into his beta to make sure everyone was fine for the next day or so; he’d just cut it short, before people started calling him Mountain Man Matt again—
The sound of an approaching engine startled him. He knew he looked as surprised as he felt, when Shane pulled up into the lot next to him…and hell, if his luck was as crappy as it was, he probably looked as dazed as he felt as well.
It had been a few days since he’d seen the guy properly and Shane looked—he looked good. Then again, he always did, didn’t he?
”Hey!” He said happily, pushing himself off the cab and walking over. ”You came! I, um…I didn’t think you would. After the other day. But I’m glad, man, this is gonna be fun!” Because only Mountain Man Matt would think ‘fun’ meant hiking until his werewolf legs felt like jello.
He couldn’t go back to preferring silence. In Will’s absence, it only annoyed him to try and ride his motorcycle on the barely-used roads or read in his room. Instead he hunted with the rest of the pack, played pool with them in warm taverns, or video and card games he couldn’t get the hang of. Even then, he came home disappointed to find Will scarce, still.
A text a day or two before, cancelling their camping plans, wouldn’t have surprised him. He was prepared, too, to pull into the parking lot with Will’s truck absent. But there he was, maybe waiting, maybe only cycling the sharp air slow through his lungs before the experience was an effort.
A smile half-cocked at Will’s surprise when he climbed out of his Forester.
"What about the other day? That wasn't anything." He scowled, suddenly irritated at the thought that he could spook Will away from him so easily, as he hauled his pack and duffle bag from the back seat. He was too glad for the trip to maintain his annoyance, though, and instead scoffed off the week’s petty tension. Now they could go back to themselves, with the gleaming, cold wilderness ready to help.
He twisted around to unzip a compartment of his pack, pulled out a ziplock bag of candy. Starburst, Skittles, M&M’s. A mini-Halloween. “Made it in a bathtub myself.”
He pinned the bag to Will’s chest with his palm. “Don’t spoil your lunch.”
He was also bouncing around on the balls of his feet like he was energized, before he realized what he was doing. Then, he remembered to cross his arms over his chest and rearrange his face to something less manic-excited and more cool. Composed. Sophisticated.
Probably constipated as hell.
God, if Shane knew half the shit that went through his brain, Will thought to himself with an aborted snort. He shouldered his pack and made a show of adjusting the straps and buckles, then checking the canteen he’d stuck into the side pocket. He figured one little show of enthusiasm was enough for the both of them, because emotions were evil and all that jazz. Still, it didn’t stop him from looking up in surprise, when Shane spoke again and practically…did he just bark at him?
He just had a knack for pissing this guy off, even if he claimed he hadn’t been the other day. Despite being an alpha and a grown up, Will could feel his shoulders slowly rise up around his ears and he forced a smile, rubbing at the back of his neck. ”Okay then. That’s good to know,” He was ready to let it drop there and start walking, but then, Shane smacked something against his chest.
Looking down in surprise, he caught it before it could fall and…blinked. He remembered that bit of their conversation, that little admission made in passing and—Shane had—Will’s brain stuttered as he looked down at the little baggy. He’d tried some of the more modern candies, but he’d never had much of a sweet tooth and most of the readily available ones were much too sour for his taste. Yet every single piece in this bag was surely to get eaten before their trip was over. When he looked up again, he was grinning from ear to ear. ”Thanks, Shane,” He said, opening the bag. He made a show of inspecting the ‘wares’ and selected a bright yellow starburst, which he popped into his mouth with a little bit of fumbling.
And proceeded to have a full body twitch. After the initial sourness, he chewed thoughtfully and…oh. Wow. He pocketed the bag, but not before pulling out two more of the square candies, one of which he held out for Shane.
”I think these are better than Ben and Jerry’s,” He declared. And given that Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was probably his favorite thing about the present, it was high praise.
With another grin and this time, a friendly clap on the shoulder, Will started walking. They had a some ground to cover before they reached a good place to stop and have some lunch and most of the time, Will was content with the silence between them. But now…
He popped another starburst into his mouth and chewed with a grin. ”Damn, these are good. I dunno why it took me so long to try them. I know I should share the bag with you, but damn.” He gave his pocket a pat and smiled at Shane again before facing the trail.
”If I end up getting a sugar high and scaling a tree, you gotta take it to the grave, Shane.”
He studied the orange piece Will offered him and, rather than taking it, dug two fingers into his palm and took the one beside it, strawberry-flavored. "The red ones are the best."
It didn't surprise him that Will thought to share. So many interactions were stiff, hollow routines of consideration, but Will was one of the world’s rare, raw gems who simply never thought to be anything but a caretaker.
Shane had his fill of both steadiness and unpredictability. Neither were good or bad traits by themselves. He supposed it took finer makings to be good kind of predictable. It didn’t mean Shane could get free of that irritating urge, not entirely wolf or man instinct, to test Will. To press into his softness till he felt the hard structure underneath. Maybe that was every wolf’s inclination, to trust the Alpha, but keep them keen and test that trust occasionally.
"You eat them. I got 'em for you." He dismissed the thought of sharing the back with a wave of his hand.
Silence but for their heavy boots crunching the cold earth and brittle leaves. The sounds of civilization faded like twilight, slowly replaced by the shrieks of hawks, the breathless, shivery shift of branches slithering out from underneath falling snow.
It was relaxing just to cut his profile out with his eyes, apart from the dark, sturdy trees beyond him. Like this, bundled and penetrating nature no faster than a man five centuries before him would’ve been able, he could’ve been plucked from any year in Shane’s last hundred. Who had Will been in the brightly bleak sixties, when everywhere awakenings had been blooming around Shane and the coeds blazed their youths by in such a hurry? In the soot and steel years of the twenties? Had he always been this warm, genial force of gravity?
In glances while Will’s attention was elsewhere, Shane watched his jaw work the candy, the extra effort of unsticking it from his teeth and squeezing out the sweetness. Even when his eyes were on the path ahead, the vision in front of him was still Will's mouth. Ripe, peach fruit in the middle of his beard.
Shane slowly peeled the red wrapper open and ran his thumb over the rubber-hard candy texture before slipping it between his lips.
"Were you avoiding me?"
Though…was it more in appreciation of the sweet candy, or the way Shane’s expression seemed to soften, just a little bit? He’d seen these little glimpses of the man beneath the stony, ‘do not cross’ exterior and every time he was the cause, well. There was a reason why he’d beaten himself up so much, when that same door slammed shut in his face the other day.
Not to mention why he found himself inching closer and closer, despite the man’s obvious need for privacy. God, if Shane were anyone else in the pack, he’d offer friendship but not crave it like he did and that, that disturbed him. That made him wonder why the hell he was smiling so much at the gift of a plastic baggy full of candy…or why he was making such a point to file away the fact that ‘the red ones are Shane’s favorite.’
But it was little gestures like this one that made Shane someone worth knowing, as far as Will could tell. He’d heard gossip amongst the pack, of cars being fixed without being asked and little kids on tours being herded around with more patience than one would expect from such a reticent man. And he’d seen it himself, with orange juice and castor oil; with an almost teasingly exasperated voice and a willing ear. There was someone worth knowing, in this mysterious man.
It really didn’t surprise Will that Shane had more than a few of the younger Ikusi’s looking at him longingly from over a pack dinner. He realized he was staring and quickly looked away, pointedly ignoring the way his face heated up against the cool wind. One day, he’d stop turning into a cherry, but at least he had the weather to blame it all on this time.
The silence was comfortable where it should be tense and Will settled into it with a soft sigh. He never felt more at home than he did out in the woods, in the wild. The greenery, the hint of snow; it reminded him of the mountains in the Dakota’s. He turned his head to the left at the crack of a branch and slowed, watching the retreating form of a deer as it bounded away. If he squinted right, this place always smelled like home.
”Hmm?” It took Will a minute to realize that Shane was speaking and when the words finally computed, he turned back to him with his eyes widened slightly. ”I—no. Of course not,” He said, finally swallowing the candies. He matched his stride with Shane’s and hooked his thumbs into his backpack’s straps. ”I was giving you some space. I…I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable at breakfast,” He glanced sideways at Shane, then back at the trail in front of them. ”I figured you’d want some time away from me and my big mouth.”
He smiled, a little self-detrimental thing and shrugged. ”I tend to talk a bit too much sometimes. It’s a character flaw.”
”Not that much space.” A sulk in his tone pulled it down a note lower than normal. He wasn’t sure if it was true, but damned if the words weren’t too quick to surface. Maybe it was an easier thing to say out here, with so much untamed space around him, ready to catch him in its indifferent chill if he needed to run.
His head turned as quick and sharp as the sound of a breaking branch—he could almost instantly recognize it as a deer by the length and volume of the sound. Instinct divided up immediately into formation. Half was an impulse to hunt, the other half awareness of Will. Whether he was threatened, whether he’d give a signal to hunt. This was too shallow a spot in the forest to turn, but he imagined multiplying his legs into four, stretching out his sense of smell like a satellite, then edging ahead of Will in a race toward the doe’s slender form springing away. He’d get there first to cripple her with the first, violent and toppling bite so Will could follow with a more seasoned, skilled maul to the throat while she still trashed.
It wasn’t time for that. Will would give the signal when it was. Relief and anticipation made a strange, animalistic acquaintance in him. Almost intoxicating in its reassurance. There was permission and order for what he was. He was trying to pass the feeling to Will in drifting closer to him, till their elbows and shoulders brushed by each other a few times. Protectiveness? Persuasion to stalk the woods with a reliable reinforcement? He coasted back into his own space.
“Your talking doesn’t bother me. It would if you were stupid. Or egotistical.”
He was glad for the path’s turn uphill. It’d be a greater challenge than most of the hikes he led. The beginning of the ascent put the initial flush in his cheeks, pressed on his pulse. They strode into quicker and rougher existence, sweat and hot breath promised soon in the light itch on his skin.
“Or, take what you just said, about talking too much bein’ a flaw. You could’ve said it…heavily. With too much self-pity. Self-pity’s just another way of being egotistical. But that’s not you.”
But. Apparently, that hadn’t been the right move and. Will just. Damn, he was really bad at being a normal person, wasn’t he?
With the other pack members, they just…told him what they needed in little ways. They were skittish and thus needed to be slowly won over, or they were outwardly friendly and needed someone to listen; they were open in ways that Will had grown used to. Shane on the other hand, brought him candies because he remembered that Will had never tried them and then growled at him in the next second.
He supposed that he should feel chased off, but if anything, it just made him want to know him even more. Especially given that there was an honest to God sulk in Shane’s voice right now and Will had to bite his cheek to keep from smiling. He just kept that earnest look on his face, even when Shane started talking and…started complimenting him. Well, he thought they were compliments, in a backhanded way, but once again, Will was thrown for a loop.
There was literally nothing that Shane Raleigh did that didn’t keep him on his toes. And damn if that wasn’t intriguing as hell.
Yeah, he was going to focus on that being intriguing and not the flush to Shane’s cheeks and the satisfied look in his eye as they crested one hill and started on another. Will himself didn’t really feel it, used to the terrain as he was, but he relished that familiar burn in his thighs anyway. ”Uh. Thank you,” He said after a minute of surprised blinking. ”I mean, you’re not stupid either. Or egotistical. I really do like talking to you.” And joy, he’d graduated from surprised to the exact opposite of what Shane had said about him; stupid. God, he’d never been good at taking compliments.
They were close enough that Will could pick up the faint scent of soap and aftershave and he swallowed, turning back to the trail in front of them. He could practically feel the heat coming off him warming the air around his face and he bit back a sigh. One day, one day he’d learn how to stop blushing. Shifting the pack on his shoulders he huffed out a soft breath. ”You might regret giving me permission to talk though. No take backs, as the kids say.” He couldn’t help but say it, his sense of humor had always been a little warped. Tilting his head back, he looked up into the trees and thought now might be a good time to change the subject.
”This place always reminds me of home,” He said, straightening with a small smile. ”Well, one of my homes. I spent a few years in South Dakota and the smell of it, it’s the same here. Even after so many years, the smell never changes.” He glanced over at Shane. ”Do you like it here? In Alaska, I mean.”
Smirking at how gracelessly Will tossed the same praise back to him, he wanted to ask if there were anyone he didn’t enjoy talking to, but decided instead that he’d rather remain ignorant, thinking himself just a little preferred to everyone else.
“I won’t regret it,” Shane assured him with a shake of his head, and once again was compelled to meet Will’s safe, kiddish tease with harsher one of his own. “If you start to bother me, I’ll shut you up.”
How a respectable Alpha should’ve responded to the threat, he couldn’t have said. By snapping back with something curt and final? By laughing it off, or exposing it with questions?
At Will delivering his usual politeness with a quick, savage edge, Shane was helpless to the sharp grin that overtook his expression and had to admit to himself that maybe this bolt of aggression in Will had been his real goal, rather than any sociological interest in pack leadership.
The moment passed but Shane kept it warm and limber in his memory, ready to bring it back the next chance he could. Will asked then about Scylla Bay, which was a subject that put him in a much different mood.
South Dakota—he’d lived there once, working on a bee farm, and fleetingly entertained the idea of having been there the same time as Will. It was a useless hypothetical, one that changed nothing about the past or the present, but it didn’t stop him from imagining those years colored by a nameless yearning.
“Yeah.” The answer came easily, but he tilted his head up to affirm it, up at the blue silhouette of mountains past the trees. “If I left here, everything would seem so small. Here, you can run for miles and miles and never smell civilization. Just the trees, the cold. The sky.”
His response should be composed, maybe a little bit teasing and definitely enough to disarm whatever tension might have sprung up between them. He was definitely calm, save for that little bit of irritation—that he didn’t feel often, just leave it to Shane to make him twitch like that—so he could do that. Just smile and keep his body language loose and—
”Well, I’ll try not to put my foot in it, then,” Will said, looking at Shane in the eye with a grin that, perhaps, had a bit too much teeth. He should have left it there, because the response was as neutral as he could ever want it, but for some reason, he found his mouth opening again to continue. And when the words came out of his mouth, he surprised himself at the low cadence of his voice and the uptick of his eyebrow. ”But I’d like to see you try.”
Well. Shit. Hopefully Shane wouldn’t take that as a challenge because Will was pretty sure that he was flirting now. It was a testament to how long it’d been since he’d wanted to do that, that it came as such a surprise. Wow.
Blinking, the expression faded slightly as the thought slid through his mind—oh wow, and he wasn’t even that rusty, go him—and he shifted his pack again. His face was suddenly warm and he latched onto Shane’s waxing poetic about the scenery. ”Y’know, speaking of running,” He said, ignoring how his face felt like it was about to burst into flames. If this were a comedy, his voice would be two octaves higher than normal. Sliding his bag off of his shoulder, he let it set down on the ground and started toeing off his boots. ”How about we go for a run? I was planning on setting up camp a few miles down the ridge, but this seems like a good enough place.”
It wasn’t like he was running away, because they could still communicate as wolves, but if he started shucking his clothes quicker than he usually would without waiting to see if Shane was okay with it, well. It really was a nice place for a run.
Easy as breathing, Will went from shivering and naked—he’d never had a problem with his nakedness, unlike some of the pack; he always chalked it up to how old he was, because people didn’t exactly have the benefits of bathrooms and closed showers—to sitting on his haunches and sneezing as the wind blew his fur into his face. He got up and stretched, loving the feeling freedom and trotted around in a circle, flashing a canine smile.
And when Shane was shifted as well—he was polite enough not to watch, instead opting to stand guard a few feet away—he trotted over with another grin, wagged his tail happily and nipped at his ear a bit playfully before moving away. He made a show of stretching again, then looked out at the woods around them, then back to Shane. Want to run? was the obvious question.
Tongue sliding thoughtfully over his teeth beneath his lips, Shane didn’t have time to polish his reply—Will was already set on some new activity, preparing for Shane’s agreement before it was given. The hurry seemed to spring from nowhere and nothing, but Shane watched the first layers of his clothes come off, until his familiar outline emerged underneath and he was satisfied there was nothing suspicious about the change in plans.
“Yeah. Okay.” Distance between them during the change was normal by now. He crossed the woods for more secluded ground, but looked over his shoulder in time to see Will’s healthy flesh, thick with muscle and brisk with confidence in motion, flushed like pink fire against all the woods’ solemn colors. Like to see you try. He grunted sensual frustration between him and the birds, then tucked his clothes and bags into his thicket hide-away.
He let only Alexandra near him when he shifted, and only so she could help him better train his bones to their second nature. For Will and his sister, the shift was easy as melting ice to liquid—likely he was finished already, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Shane suffered a thousand snapping protests before he could play. A headache cracking down his skull as it lengthened; runner’s splints down his shins; the shock of his knees hyperextending until they hammered their way into place.
But maybe you enjoy it more because of that, a she-coyote suggested to him once, and his senses did explode in the sharp relief of sudden healing. The world turned simpler and more dangerous at once. All the death and life he couldn’t see as a man rushed into his lungs through his nose. He smelled the air and ground before he dashed toward Will, dark charcoal charging his way. Shane circled him restlessly, jumped at his back to bite the loose skin above his shoulders in play, then gave himself a second to sniff the ground again—tracks, likely not fresh enough to end the day with a kill, but he sprung deeper into the woods anyway.
Mud and snow barely had the chance to meet his tough paws. The incredible balance of four sure feet letting him dart under and over branches. Smells flashed by; birds, pink and newly-hatched, the stench of a sparrow addled with diseased feathers, the trembling awareness of snowrabbits, and Will. Near him like he should be, though Shane dashed to outrun him.
His senses were sharper, his body felt stronger and the urge to run until his lungs ached was more insistent now than it was before. He could feel the earth under his toes and where his human feet would acknowledge nothing but dirt, Will could feel the soft vibration of hooves on the peat before he smelled the scent of deer on the wind.
This was nature in its finest and here, like this, he felt closer to his family than he ever did. After all these years and it still made that familiar ache enter his chest.
It was easier now, though; now that he had a pack, friends, family. When the noises stopped, Will turned back to that little bunch of bushes farther away from him and inched closer. He didn’t have to wait long before a familiar, dark furred blur launched itself at him. He barked out something surprised and amused, lips pulled up in a doggy grin. He play-growled at the bite, nudging their shoulders together as he sniffed at the top of Shane’s head, then stepped away.
The smell of the woods embraced him and he sighed, feeling more comfortable in this skin than his human one. When they ran, it was against the wind and the effect was much like if he stuck his head out of the car window while he drove, he supposed. The rush of rabbit, deer, pine and wood smoke almost made his brain overload; it had been too long since he’d had a good run. And with Shane beside him, he felt something sharper, something like contentment and peace and happiness all rolled into one.
And while he felt the same when he was with the pack, it was also different somehow. More intense, more important and it made him much more playful than he usually was; much more daring. He nipped at Shane’s flank playfully when he pulled in front of him, but it wasn’t a show of dominance. Hell, if the way he kept leaping over the guy’s back was any indication, Will had just de-aged to a puppy.
He paused in mid-ear nibble—Shane was going to bite off his nose, he just knew it—and tilted his head at an unfamiliar smell. It was sour, almost stale; there in one moment and gone the next. Shrugging internally, though he made a mental note, he turned around to leap on Shane again, looking like a terrier with the air time he got. But hell, he just couldn’t stop; not with this new freedom to touch.
Yup, he was definitely going to lose his nose. But, just. Worth it.
With one more playful nip, he trotted forward, wondering if he could put them on some wild game’s path. They wouldn’t necessarily take it down, but the chase was also enjoyable. Though…now that he thought of it, Shane was probably better equipped with that. Even in his prime, Will had always been a shit tracker; it was a surprise he hadn’t starved back in his early days.
Turning to get Shane’s attention, he didn’t look where he was going. Later. he’d blame the way Shane looked so damn good without that pinched, shut down expression on his face and the fact that they were downwind, on what happened next.
Or, rather, what didn’t happen. Because, where there should have been nothing but smooth, grassy ground for his paw to step on, there were a million sharp teeth instead. The metal trap made a rusty, screeching sound as it closed over his leg and now he really could hear the snap of bone. He might have made a noise, might have screamed or howled, but hell if he knew. His first reaction was to jump away, but the thing was tethered to the ground. He felt a burning next, one that he hadn’t felt in decades; not since he’d run into a nasty family of hunters in Texas.
Oh. Shit. That wasn’t good.
He found himself on the ground, wiggling around like a fish and growling; a deep, pained, constant sound. Realizing that Shane was there, he turned and snapped at him, as if that could urge him to run.
Who the fuck actually used traps to kill their kind anymore? Maybe it was a way to weed out the stupid older werewolves who don’t watch where they’re going, he thought a bit hysterically. He snapped at Shane again, growling deep in his throat and forced himself to go still.
Off-trail, he and Will ran, into and out of clouds of information. Shane dropped and picked up the scent of the lone doe again and again, a thread that connected each diversion when he wheeled and snapped at Will, growling in imitation of a rival and lunging at him only to soften his blows at the last possible moment. Twigs and leaves stuck in his fur from gleefully clumsy tumbles.
In an open clearing, he used the space to test the height of his leaping. Four restless feet sprung off patches of muddy snow where the cool shade kept it from melting, brought him back in snapping happy spar with Will again and again. Caution turned harder to hear. With any Ikusi, he’d learned to assume a scout role, staying on the boundaries of their path to sense threats flanking or following. But only half an hour or so at galloping play, he stopped trotting the perimeter of each new area with his nose low.
He knew the sharp sound that stung the air, remembered it and the stench its companion, faint but foul, suddenly thick and swirling with Will’s thrashing. No—careful, feet careful too late brought him closer—no—the dark soil maroon—no—and Will's white fur pink with blood. No. No no no.
Whoever set the trap had done so months past, long ago enough for the wolfsbane to wither and bacteria to eat away the mercury. He couldn’t help Will like this, without hands and supplies.
Ignoring Will’s protest, he took the edge of a warning bite to his foreleg and, rather than heeding, lowered his head and swiped Will’s snout twice with his tongue, as soft as he could—as gentle as he needed Will to be till he returned. I'm not leaving. Try to stay still.
The way back was easy. The scent of their human selves was bright—their clothes, packed food, Will's aftershave—and he could suppress his worry to a singular, sharp instinct. Returning to Will on two legs, burdened with his clothes, backpack and blind nose, cued leaden dread. The wind was against him, now, branches reaching out to slow and catch him. For too long, he ran, emptying his lungs and crashing through the woods on slow, blunt, booted feet.
He let the pack sling to a skidding landing when he dropped to his knees beside the bear trap. Panting, he snatched the zipper back and dug out a screwdriver before reaching into the shallow pit surrounding the trap to pull away the wolfsbane, careful to avoid Will’s leg.
“It’s okay. It’s all right.”
When he’d removed four screws from the trap, he could pull apart it’s clamped jaws, carefully lifting the top half away. The teeth hadn’t snapped Will’s slender, vulnerable leg bone, like Shane feared, only punctured through the skin and muscle.
“Good. We’re good. You’re gonna be all right.” The pause was just long enough for him to draw in a steadying breath and smooth his fingers along Will's mussed flank fur before he poured saline solution onto five sheets of gauze and used each to wipe the wound free of wolfsbane and quicksilver.
He sat stroking behind Will’s ears, along his throat and sides, as much a motion to calm himself as it was an effort to monitor and comfort Will. Finally, breathing restored but still quaking with nerves, he spoke low.
“Okay. Will. I need you to shift back, buddy.” He lifted a shirt partway out of the pack beside him. "I have your clothes."
If he ever hurt someone else who didn’t deserve it, a hunter would take him out; pure and simple. He wouldn’t have to worry about being a werewolf in jail, or hurting anyone else…it was cathartic to know that the people around him were kept safe. Or something like that; he’d never really put a lot of thought into it. Aside from keeping an eye on the local gun toting nut jobs who policed his kind and other non-humans in Scylla Bay, he gave them a wide berth and hoped they did the same.
However, it seemed that not all of those motherfucking pieces of fucking shit and any other goddamn explicative he could think of, did that. A goddamn fucking dick of a wolf trap? Are you serious?
Later, Will would be all fifty shades of angry about the trap, the placement, what was probably silver worn down by the weather and what was probably some wolfsbane powder still clinging to the poisonous tincture and everything else about this situation. In that moment, though?
The only things running through Will’s fluffy head was a barrage of cuss words that would shock the people who knew him best and a constant, painful whine.
He’d run into hunters who’d taken potshots at him before and back in his 70’s, he’d taken a nice bullet to the side. It had burned like shit and made him sick as hell—the most ill he’d ever been in his life—for a few days, but this…it hadn’t felt like this. Will’s leg felt like it was on fire and the pain shot up and into his shoulder. He panted, trying to breathe through it and think rationally, because chewing on fucking metal wasn’t going to get him out of this, but it hurt.
The familiar scent of engine oil and Shane filtered through his brain and he growled halfheartedly, still trying to get the wolf to run away. What if there was some fucknut hunter prowling around their trap? Shane had been through so much—fuck if Will was going to let someone else hurt him, someone else take him away. The thought made a different kind of growl rumble out of his chest, but he was quickly distracted before he made any other strange, inappropriate sounds.
He blinked at the sudden wetness on his nose, looking up at Shane with eyes that were slightly glazed. Panting and resigned, he gave the other wolf an answering nudge with his nose. Don’t do anything stupid.
When Shane turned around and ran, Will felt relieved and terrified all at once. He forced himself onto his belly, adjusting himself so he put too much pressure on his leg and inspected the trap. Just as he was about to attempt at pulling on the chain with his teeth, he heard the sounds of pounding feet and went tense, fur bristling as he faced the noise with a snarl.
A noise that quickly died in his throat when he saw who it was. He whined, going stiff as a board at each tug on the trap that shot fiery agony through his leg and then an even worse goddamn burn as the wound was cleaned out. Shit fuck dammit! he growled, settling down to allow the man to work. Shit, he was glad that Shane was the type to come on a camping trip with a fully stocked first aid kit.
He leaned into Shane’s hands as they stroked his fur and he sighed, shivering. The sound of Shane’s voice was a comfort and he latched onto it…especially when he was urged to shift. Which was…really going to suck.
Limping a step away, he squeezed his eyes shut and summoned the human in his head, just as he always did. Whatever shit was still in his veins made the shift slower, more painful, as if he were a bitten wolf just like Shane. When he was done, he fell on his bare ass and curled around his calf.
”Jesus fucking Christ,” He groaned, fisting one hand in the grass. Now that he had a tongue that would support it, he proceeded to let loose a string of vehement cusses. Looking up only when he heard Shane moving around, he reached for the shirt and fumbled with it, shivering as human skin put up little resistance against the weather. ”Fuck, I didn’t even see it…no one uses those anymore! Shit, Shane, I think…” He gritted his teeth against a throb, his muscles valiantly trying to piece themselves back together against the hindering effects of the silver. ”I think you have to go back without me.”
Before he could worry about the guilt like splinters in his chest, digging in with each red, ragged breath, there was Will's ideas of separation to protest. "No. No." He shook his head. "We're not doing that."
Whoever fashioned the trap may have left it there to deteriorate in the elements, but they may have also arranged some alarm of scent or telepathy alerting them to a catch. Shane snatched Will's jeans out of the bag and pulled the waist over his ankles before he could grow anymore attached to his idea. Knuckles scraped up along Will's knee, the outside of his thighs.
"Hold onto me." He lifted the injured leg gingerly and leaned forward over him to finish the slow trip to Will's hips.
"Don't get excited, either," he warned low and shook a laugh like dust off his lungs, one that backfired his attempt to ease them into normalcy.
"Fuck. Fuck. Will. I'm sorry. I wasn't watching. I didn't. . ." He shook his head, remembering the unseeing and stupid way he'd bounded over the brush, between the trees, galloping past foreboding scents instead of heeding them and letting childish energy steer him. He curled his hand under Will's ear and squeezed gently before looping his arm around his back, reaching for the bag and hauling both upward.
"C'mon, I've got you."
He did have the presence of mind to grit his teeth and keep his breathing even, lest he hyperventilate and swoon like a goddamn damsel. Will was in pain, he was fucking pissed off for being the idiot who stepped into a wolf trap, of all things, but he was. Not. A goddamn. Damsel.
If anything, the stream of profanity coming out of his mouth increased in fervor, as Shane helped him pull the jeans up. He balanced himself with his hands on the other man’s shoulders, keeping most of his weight on the opposite butt cheek, but all the movement was making the world spin. Will was ten seconds from pulling the ‘Alpha Card’ and ordering Shane to get the hell back to town and come back with help, even though he had a feeling that all that’d earn him was a smack upside the head.
Anyway, there was a bit more for him to focus on now, wasn’t there? Because if he’d been slightly distracted before, with just an act of pants-pulling, now he was openly staring. ”Shut the fuck up,” He panted, before he could stop himself; a breathless chuckle escaping him. He wanted to say something witty, something that Alex would have come up with in a pinch, but came up with nothing.
Will didn’t think he’d ever been so close to Shane before and even though all he wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry—manly tears, damn it—he couldn’t help but notice the curve of his nose and those crinkles around his eyes; ones he’d only seen from a distance. Hell, if he ignored all the fiery pain bits, this entire scene would look like something out of a romance novel.
Or maybe Brokeback—no, actually, he wasn’t going to go there. Thankfully, he had other things to worry about; namely going from horizontal to vertical without puking all over poor Shane’s feet.
Swallowing as a wave of nausea hit him, he closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. Shane’s arm was secure around him, keeping him upright and without a second thought, he leaned into him. Turning his head, he rested his forehead against Shane’s temple. ”’S alright. I wasn’t watching either,” He murmured into the other man’s ear. He refused to budge until he could say it. ”Not your fault.”
That said, he took a tentative step forward and—another stream of enthusiastic curses escaped him. ”Fuck this pain shit,” He growled, forcing himself to keep moving; gingerly hobbling with the help of Shane’s sturdy body next to him. ”And fuck hunters. And fuck this forest.” He thought of the incline they’d climbed on the way there and groaned.
”If I pass out, you do not,” He squeezed Shane’s hip for emphasis, cutting a sideways look at him. ”Carry me like a damsel. Alex will…never let me live it down.”
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