The Wolf and the Lamb
Tristan sighed. He couldn't kill this kid now... 'Taylor' he'd said his name was. Gawd. Everything about him was so damn sweet, even his name. If only he were... a little older. And, of course, a wolf, like him. He gingerly removed himself from Taylor and got up off off the boy.
Tristan had expected that he would scramble to his feet and make a bee-line back to his flock – if they were still around. But he wasn't doing that. Instead, he was just getting casually to his feet, and looking as if he wanted to say something. He looked guilty, too.
Tristan was the guilty one here. Way guilty – the Elders would know who to blame for what had happened. It wasn't the poor kid's fault. Tristan felt bad about what he'd done – and suddenly, to his surprise, he realized that he felt bad about what he'd done.
"Hey, uh, Taylor. It wasn't your fault, okay? You have nothing to be ashamed of. I broke the Law, not you. Well – except for that talking part, but I don't think anyone's gonna care about that. I'd... uh... are you gonna tell... or what?" Tristan was at the boy's mercy now. The lamb held the wolf's life – or at least, his comfortable life – in his hands. How weird was that?
"I won't tell..."
Gawd – what a relief! Tristan was in the clear! He let out a breath he didn't even realize he was holding.
"Good... good. So... like it never happened, okay? Our secret, right?"
"Tristan? Why didn't you kill me?"
Now there was a good question.
"I dunno, Taylor. I guess you're just too cute to eat." Oh, shit - did I really say that?
"Uh... maybe you should get back to your flock before I change my mind... Whaddaya think?" Tristan said, trying to sound menacing.
The boy looked at him questioningly, and Tristan realized that he wasn't buying the threat – that, in fact, he was only wondering why Tristan was suddenly being so mean. Mean? I was going to EAT you kid! Now you're all bummed out 'cuz I'm being MEAN? Nonetheless, he wished he hadn't said it.
"Uhm – look. Kid. I'm sorry, okay? About... everything. Now go on back to your flock and forget about this. I'll see ya 'round in town. Okay?"
Taylor smiled, showing his even, white, ruminate teeth, and Tristan suddenly felt great – but he didn't connect the two: Taylor's smile, and his feeling.
"Okay," Taylor said, "Uh, Tristan? Which way do I go?"
Now the wolf smiled – but not enough to show teeth. He pointed west, "That way, kiddo."
Taylor jogged away, Tristan's eyes following him. Heh. He really was a cute kid. Would've been a good little-brother. Well – if he'd been a wolf, anyway. Or if Tristan had been a sheep. As it was... well, Taylor was still a cute kid, even if maybe it was illegal for Tristan to think so.
Well, hell – another kill-less day, then. The rest of the pack was probably home by now – even if they had downed someone, they'd have already 'wolfed down their food' – there was a reason it was called that – and left by this time. Dusk was coming. Might as well call it a day and head home.
That deal with the boy though. Taylor. That had been so... well, fuck – it had been great. Wonderful, even. He would never be able to tell anyone about it, of course, but still...
"Tristan! TRISTAN! TRISTAN!" he heard Taylor calling out from somewhere. What kind of trouble was the boy in now, for god's sake? He'd only been gone for five damn minutes and the kid was screaming Tristan's name. In the woods. At dusk. A lone little lamb. Fuck. Tristan ran in the direction of the boy's voice.
And found him, right back where he'd left him. "Taylor! Shut the hell up! You want everyone to know you're out here?"
Seeing him, Taylor ran up to him and hugged him at the waist, "They're gone, Tristan! The whole flock is gone!"
"Yeah, well, you know the road home – hurry and you can catch up to 'em. Flocks never go anywhere fast."
"But... but... Tristan... I can't go out into the meadow alone! And... and I don't know how far ahead they are!"
He had a point – it was the time of evening when the cats would be coming out. And the canines would be heading home. A young sheep, obviously alone... it would be suicide for Taylor to try and get to town by himself. No wonder the little guy was so scared... and no wonder Tristan hadn't realized he would be. He wasn't used to thinking like a prey species.
"All right, all right, Taylor. Tell ya what – we'll take a shortcut through the woods, okay? You can meet up with the flock before they even get close to the town. Stop clinging to me like that... and stop crying. C'mon."
"T-Through the woods?"
"Yeah. The road winds all over the place – but if we cut through, we can meet them at-"
"I... I dunno, Tristan... I mean, the woods..."
"Oh, come on. Ya got a big strong wolf with ya, don'tcha? You'll be fine. Anyone comes after you will have to go through me first."
"R – really?"
"Sure. Uh..." Tristan hesitated. He wanted to tell the boy why he'd go out of his way – perhaps even having to fight off other predators, although he didn't think that event would be likely – for Taylor's sake. But then he was forced to wonder about that himself. Just why was he feeling so... protective, of this boy?
Well, the longer he thought about it, the darker it got. Which wasn't a problem for Tristan – he couldn't see whatever it was "colors" were, but he could see pretty good in the dark. Taylor, he realized, could not.
"Yeah. Just stay close, Taylor. I'm not gonna run off and leave you in the woods or anything, okay? In fact, I promise I'll get you back to your flock, okay? You know about wolves and promises?"
"That's just a fairy-tale... I'm nearly 12, y'know. In seven months. I'm too old to believe in fairy-tales..."
Tristan smirked, "nearly" 12 – in seven months. Ooookay. "Well, there's a reason behind some things about fairy-tales. And that part is true: wolves keep their promises. Now c'mon. Stay close."
Taylor let go of him and Tristan began walking. Taylor walked a little behind, looking all around suspiciously. To him, it was already 'dark', and danger lurked everywhere he couldn't see. Which was pretty much everywhere.
He reached out and took Tristan's hand.
Tristan's stomach fluttered, but he didn't let on. What he did do was almost trip over a root.
"Uh... careful of that root there, Taylor," he said, trying to save face.
"I see it. Barely."
They walked in silence for awhile.
Until Tristan couldn't stand it anymore – he was just dying to find out more about this kid, "So, Taylor. What grade are you in..."
"Sixth. I'll be going to Jr. High next year. You?"
"I'm a junior. Next year will be my last one – I can't wait."
"What are you gonna do then? After high school, I mean."
"No idea. I haven't really decided if I'm gonna stay in the Town or not. Maybe I'll just go out and be a Lone Wolf. Like in the fairy-tale."
"She was kicked out of the pack in the fairy-tale. You have a pack..."
"Yeah, but... well, just barely. I don't get along with those guys much, really."
"I'm the same way with my flock. Everyone says I'll die young."
That perked the wolf's ears up – it had almost been true. "They do? Uh... how come?"
"'Cuz I... they say I don't act right. Like everyone else. I go off by myself too much, get... caught up in things, don't pay attention. They say I'm too curious about stuff. And that I don't 'play well with others' – that was on my kindergarten report card. I guess it's still true."
"Well, I'll tell ya one thing, Taylor – never head into the woods like you did today. We wolves know the woods – and even your rams aren't gonna go in there. And you guys can't hide for shit with that all-white fur you have, either. I mean, you were so easy to spot... I bet you thought you were hiding, huh?"
"Yeah... I thought... well, that if I didn't move – they always tell us not to move..."
"Well, you're old enough now, you can run pretty fast, and you're good at zig-zagging – that bit about 'stay still and they won't see you' doesn't apply anymore. You're best bet is to stay where the rams can see you now, and if you do get into trouble, then at least they'll come try to run us off. Once you're in the woods, though – you're a gonner."
"I was kinna scared..."
"Yeah, and that's a good thing for you, kid. Be scared – but don't panic. It's panic that gets prey into trouble."
"Okay... uh, thanks."
A little while later -
"You really think I'm cute?"
That caught Tristan a little off-guard. "Uh... well... yeah. Yeah, you're cute, all right? Don't go getting a big head about it – I still almost ate you."
"But you didn't."
"That's because I'm a criminal, apparently."
"You like me?"
Tristan almost had to laugh – the kid had no tact at all! Fuck, man... "Yeah, Taylor. I like you."
"I like you too."
"Great... We like each other. The wolf and the lamb. Maybe we'll be a fairy-tale, someday."
"That'd be cool!" Taylor said, and squeezed Tristan's hand. The wolf's heart fluttered again.
After an hour and a half, they were at the edge of the trail that lead into Town, but the flock was still nowhere in sight.
"We're ahead of 'em, Taylor. We'll just have to wait until they show up."
"I can't see a thing."
"I can. I'll letcha know – although I imagine you'll hear 'em coming anyway. You guys make so much noise chattering when you're in formation – I don't see how you can stand it."
"I think I hear something..."
"Yeah. Good. Just wait until they're going by, and then you can run out and join 'em. I imagine your mom will be amazed to see you."
"Not really. Kids get eaten all the time. Mom's know that."
"And it doesn't bother them?"
"Nah. Part of the Balance."
"Yeah, well... hey Taylor? Uh... I know this might sound funny coming from me – but I don't want you to get killed, okay? You be careful out there. I'm gonna be watching you."
"Here they come... wow, they are loud, aren't they..."
"Can you see 'em? They're almost right in front of us..."
"I can see something white. That's them?"
"Yup. Okay, you go on now."
Taylor turned his head to look at Tristan, and seeing the motion, the wolf looked back. "Hey, Tristan?" the boy said.
But instead of replying, Taylor quickly leaned forward, mashing his nose against Tristan's. He just as quickly backed off, giggled, and then ran off to join the flock.
"Fuckin' kid..." Tristan said to himself. He couldn't help grinning though – and this time, he knew why. "Fuckin' sweet kid..."
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