The Wolf and the Lamb
They didn't see each other "around" in the Town, though – not that either of them had thought they really would. Had Taylor been of high school age, they might have seen each other there, but the elementary school was a different building, in a different part of town. And while predation was strictly forbidden inside the Town's limits – predators and prey species still didn't mix much. And herd-forming prey mixed even less. And sheep, even less than that, if that were possible. So no – they never saw each other in town.
But a week later, as the flock was out again doing Balance duty, someone raised the alarm, and all eyes turned to a bare hillside, where the silhouette of a single wolf stood out conspicuously against the evening sun. All the sheep bunched together and continued picking their herbs and grasses, while the rams patrolled the perimeter. All the sheep but one.
Taylor could tell it was Tristan up there – something about the shape of his ears, or the profile of his body. Obviously Tristan. He looked for a long time, until one of the rams knocked him out of his trance, and he joined the flock again. By the time he looked back, Tristan was gone.
Which was too bad – but still, it felt good that the wolf-boy really was keeping an eye on him. It made him feel safe, oddly enough. Like he had during that walk through the woods, in the dark. When he'd held the older boy's hand. For some reason the wolf – the way he talked, the way he acted – just made Taylor feel comfortable. Comfortable yet kind of excited. It was cool having an older boy as a friend, and a wolf, at that! And as for the other thing – the sex - well... doing that with him had been pretty cool too. Having a wolf for a boyfriend was just cool in general. If they were "boyfriends"... weren't they?
If here were to tell anyone, of course, they'd be likely to say that the wolf had raped him. Tristan was older, Tristan was a wolf, and Tristan had put his jaws on the boy's throat. If that isn't forced sex, then what is? What no one would understand – probably not even the other prey – was that Taylor had already given up fighting when he'd gone through his death-shock. In that moment, while he was waiting for the pain of the sharp teeth to end his life, he'd felt a strange sort of... connection... with the wolf he was sure would be his killer. Yes, he was willing to die to feed the predator. So what? Death was a part of life – all prey knew that. That connection then morphed – quite naturally, if felt at the time – into something else. Unfortunately, there weren't many people around who had experienced death-shock and lived to tell about it... No one was going to understand.
But, of course, Tristan hadn't killed him.
Just the opposite, in a way. Well – the two boys weren't going to be creating life through having sex – but the sentiment could almost be called the same. And yes, the wolf did have the lamb "in his the power"... but that wasn't part of the act itself. That wasn't why Tristan had done it, and Taylor had felt that. The wolf had wanted him – and not for food. And being wanted felt good. And being wanted in that way... felt good, too.
And afterward, talking, going through the woods, rubbing the wolf's nose – that had also felt good. Everything about Tristan made him feel good!
Tristan himself, meanwhile, was facing things that didn't make him feel so good. Yeah – he did "like" Taylor. A lot. A whole lot – as in, he couldn't stop thinking about him. When Taylor'd had nosed him, just before running off... He could still feel it, the warm wetness of the boy's nose against his, and found himself unconsciously licking his snout when he thought about it. Why had Taylor even done that? Nosed him and then giggled as if something was funny about it and then run away to join his flock... Nothing had felt "funny" about it to Tristan. Nothing funny at all.
Fuck, man... Little boys aren't supposed to nose big boys. Even if they do – big boys damn sure aren't supposed to like it! Then there was that other little fact – Taylor was a sheep. A radically different species. Prey. Man – he'd broken all kinds of laws that day. If it ever got out...
Why was something that felt so good - and in so many ways - so bad?
Well – it wasn't going to happen again, that was for sure, which made it all the more maddening that he couldn't stop thinking about Taylor, re-living their short time together, and wanting more. The way he'd felt when the kid had merely held his hand! Gawd, what had that been all about?
'Going to die young' Taylor had said. Well, fuck that. Tristan didn't know what he'd do, if he were to see Taylor about to be brought down, but he knew he'd have to do something. That's why he was there. That's why he was always there, every day. To keep the boy alive. Because he needed the boy to live. Because he needed the boy... for... Tristan forced himself to abandon that train of thought.
And so far, it had worked, not that Tristan had really done anything. The pack was off elsewhere, without him. But – how long could he keep making excuses?
A couple more days, was how long. The wolf-pack was back in the meadow again, Tristan with them. Right in the spot where Taylor had run into the woods that day they'd – for lack of a better word - "met". And sure enough, the lamb kept looking at that spot too.
He probably thinks I'm here watching him... Shit! I should have told him that this is our favorite spot. Dammit! Why didn't I think of that? Don't come over here, kid... do NOT come over here...
But Taylor knew something was going on. The way the bushes were moving, little flashes of brown and gray where there shouldn't be any. He wasn't sure – but if Tristan were hiding somewhere, where else would he be? He edged closer, curious but cautious. If possible, he'd like to talk with the older boy again... It would sure be nice if they could just... meet somewhere, and maybe hang out for awhile. Or something. He got still closer. Tristan oughta to be giving him some sort of sign, if that was him in there...
"C'mon, lammikins... come on..." one of the wolves was whispering to himself, as if trying to coax Taylor still closer. All five members of the pack were hidden in the bushes, down low, in the shadows.
Tristan was in a panic. The lamb was falling right into the trap! If it weren't for the rams who just happened to be on the near side of the flock at that moment, they probably would have launched the ambush already. What could he do?! In a moment, the rams would be headed back around in their patrol of the flock... What could he do?! He couldn't just give himself away – if Taylor were to see him, he'd probably run towards him! He couldn't alarm the flock – imagine, a wolf warning a flock of sheep that there are wolves about. Fuck! Dammit kid! God-dammit! Get the fuck out of here!
Then he had an idea. It wasn't a good one – but it was all he had. He inched forward until his muzzle was out of the shadows, trying to do it quietly so that the other wolves wouldn't be able to tell. Just his muzzle. That ought to be enough.
There, Taylor obviously saw. And apparently, recognized Tristan's muzzle. The wolf hadn't expected to actually be recognized... but no matter.
He bared his teeth. All of them.
Taylor froze, unsure what was going on. That was definitely Tristan under that foliage... but – why was he doing that? It chilled Taylor's blood to see all the gleaming white teeth. Tristan? But...
Instinct fought with logic in the lamb's mind. Those teeth were making him scared... 'being scared is a GOOD thing, for you'. Tristan had told him that. Be scared, but don't panic. He pretended to casually turn his interests back toward the flock – and saw that the rams were starting to head away. As soon as he was facing the right direction, Taylor began to run as fast as he could towards them.
"FUCK!" the leader of the pack hissed, "What the hell spooked him? Did one of you guys do that?"
Everyone denied it. So much for teamwork.
On the road back home, Taylor was again hanging around the tail-end of the flock. He always liked to check out the spot where Tristan had dropped him off that day, and he was pretty sure it was the little alcove in the trees next to a boulder. So far, the wolf had never been there, but there was always a chance, so he always checked. No one would dare stage an ambush this close to the Town. Not that it wouldn't be legal or anything – it just wasn't done. It would be... shameful, for the predators to do something like that. It'd be like attacking someone who was sick, or hurt, or too young to understand the Balance. Unthinkable. Animals did that sort of thing... not people.
This time, he couldn't be sure in the twilight, but he thought he saw something. His heart raced.
"Taylor! Get your ass over here!" Tristan said quietly but emphatically.
The lamb smiled – Tristan! - and ran towards the alcove – but stopped before he was actually within it. The bared teeth. Could he really trust Tristan? A wolf? He wanted to...
"Taylor!? What the fuck?"
"Why'd you show your teeth like that, Tris? I was scared..."
"Because I wasn't alone, dip-shit! The whole damn pack... – would you get over here!?"
Ah. That made sense. Tristan had been trying to warn him! Cool! He ran into the cover of the trees, but his eyes didn't adjust very well, and he ran smack into his teenage wolf friend.
"Tris? That's... that's you, right? I can't hardly see..."
"It's me, kiddo... Now you listen to me! What did I tell you about-"
He was cut off by his surprise at being hugged tightly by the boy, the lamb's face nuzzling low on his chest. Geez... were all sheep like this? So... physical? So open? Was it just some kind of sheep thing? Wolves certainly didn't behave like that... Amongst wolves, using each other's names was considered "intimate"...
"Taylor... damn..." Tristan said, still a little bewildered. He couldn't say it wasn't nice, though. He put one arm around the boy's shoulders, while his other hand tousled his snow-white hair. The boy was so sweet it just melted Tristan's anger. He didn't even have time to think about how wrong it was.
"I missed you," Taylor said simply.
Fuck... it must be a sheep thing... "I missed you too," Gawd, that should have been an embarrassing thing to say. Odd how it wasn't. "But you have got to stop hanging around that spot at that meadow! All the predators know about that place! Wolves, coyotes, foxes – even the damn cats use it!"
"Okay, Tristan. I'll be careful." He was still nuzzling and hugging the wolf, though. It was actually making Tristan a little dizzy. "I saw you on the hill the other day," Taylor said, "You saw me?"
"I see you every day, Taylor. And you make me nervous on most of them. Please stay closer to the flock, okay? I'd chase you back in there myself if I wasn't afraid some ram would blind-side me and break my ribs. I got hit by a ram once, y'know. Last thing I remember was flying through the air, looking down at him. I was outta commission for three weeks after that."
"I'm gonna be a ram when I grow up. But I won't hit you."
When he grows up? Oh... oh shit... "Uh... yeah. Let's... I gotta sit down a sec here, Taylor," he said, feeling behind himself for the fallen log he knew was there somewhere. Ah. There. His butt landed on it hard, clumsy for a wolf. The lamb was now eye-to-eye with him, standing between his knees. Smiling a little wickedly.
He rubbed his pink nose across Tristan's black one again - but he didn't giggle this time.
"Dammit, Taylor... stop doing that! It makes my nose itch." It was a lie, but the wolf rubbed at his own nose as if it were true. The truth was that it made him uncomfortable for entirely different reasons. But Taylor didn't seem to even hear. He leaned in again before Tristan could do anything about it, and touched noses yet again – not mashing, not rubbing, not swiping. Just holding it there, nose-to-nose, and eye-to-eye.
That shut Tristan down. He couldn't think, he couldn't react, he couldn't do anything – except stare into those eyes, until the boy released him by pulling away. Even then, it took awhile to recover.
And before he could, he found the lamb's mouth against his own, his head turned sideways, their muzzles dove-tailing together. Luckily, the boy's tongue wasn't long enough to penetrate far into Tristan's mouth – that would have really shut his mind down. He wouldn't have been able to resist that. He was getting a hard-on as it was. Damn this kid was hot-to-trot... must be another sheep thing...
He pushed the boy away, grabbing his shoulders and holding him at arm's length. "Taylor... you... you gotta stop this..."
"Why? You liked it... I can see you liked it." He glanced down, and sure enough, there was proof. Fuck.
"Okay, so I liked it. The thing is... Taylor... it's wrong. And you know it, right? Rule #4?"
Taylor looked off to the side, abashed, "'Cuz I'm a sheep? I thought... I mean, you said I was cute... And anyway, it's not my fault I'm a sheep, Tris... I can't help it."
Truthfully, Tristan wouldn't have had Taylor be anything else – but that wasn't what he needed to get across to the boy right now. "Even if you were a wolf, Taylor... It would still be... I mean, you're a little kid, y'know? You're eleven damn years old! I'm sorry, I've-"
The lamb interrupted with a tone Tristan hadn't heard before – hurt. Very, very hurt. "You... you think I'm a little kid? I'm... I'm almost twelve..." The look in his eyes said the same thing his voice did.
Tristan hardened his heart against those eyes - "You are not 'almost twelve', Tay. You're eleven. You're a sixth-grader. I'm a junior in high school! It's... it's just not right, Taylor... we can be friends – and even that's a little weird – but... but not..." Tristan couldn't finish – the look on Taylor's face, his eyes – he just couldn't finish.
"I... I thought..."
"I thought we... that you..."
"For god's sake, Taylor, it's not-"
"Is that why you like me Tris?" Taylor said, remembering something he'd heard about and horrified at the idea that Tristan might be like that, "Because you think I'm a little kid?"
"What? No! Look-"
"Is that why you... uh..."
Tristan made the connection – god! How could the boy even think that? "Tay!"
"I... I... I gotta get back to... they'll be wondering... uh..." Taylor stammered, in a different sort of panic than he'd ever experienced before. He wasn't panicked over what might happen, he was panicked over what had already happened.
Taylor was backing away from him as if the wolf were suddenly turning into something deadly. Like... like a wolf, for instance. Tristan tried to reach out to the lamb's hand, but as soon as he did, Taylor turned around and quickly said "I gotta go!", and he was off, stumbling amongst the bracken, tree limbs whipping into his face as he made blindly for the road.
"Taylor! Hey... TAYLOR! Goddammit, TAY!!" Tristan yelled. He could follow him. He could give chase. He could catch the boy easily.
But – what would be the point?
Fuckin' hell. Tristan walked home despondently, thinking about Taylor and what had just happened.
It was bad enough he'd had to... discourage the boy, like that. Had he really needed to make him feel bad about himself, being a lamb, being eleven? Was that really necessary? Why could he have just said... well, that he wasn't interested in Taylor like that, or something... Had a little tact. Showed a little sensitivity. Some empathy. Okay – so those weren't strong points with wolves... but then, neither was having lambs for boyfriends...
Lamb boyfriends. How sick was that? Way sick, and everyone knew it. Everyone except Tristan. No one understood - you'd have to know Taylor to understand... yeah, he was a kid, yeah, he was a young kid... but hell man... He was cool. He was... gawd he was sweet. And cute. And -
The next day - and the next, and the next – Tristan was always waiting in that spot by the road. And Taylor – staying in the main body of the flock these days, but always on the edge nearest that side of the road, so that he could look over there as he passed – Taylor knew he was there. He could just feel it, and Tristan could feel that the lamb felt it, even if he knew the boy wasn't able to actually see him.
He was still keeping watch on the boy by day. Although – it didn't really seem to be necessary now. Taylor was staying will within the perimeter of the flock now, and usually even following along with the patrolling rams. Over-cautious. Was that something Tristan had done? Had he... frightened the boy that much, somehow? Was he just avoiding the wolf? Tristan wracked his brain trying to think of what to do, and how to do it. He needed to talk to him. Just talk! It was infuriating to have... broken up this way! What the hell was Taylor thinking about him?
Did it matter? It was the next week before Tristan figured out – yes. Yes – it did matter.
He watched various predators attempt to take members of the flock – sometimes successfully. They'd run in and try to split-off the slower or dumber sheep, and maybe they'd get lucky enough to have time to take one down before the rams could get there. The rams had little interest once the kill had been made – Balance and all that. Priorities. Watching a pack – coyotes, this time, and a big pack of them, at that – take down some other lamb or ewe only made Tristan more nervous than ever. Because it did feel right. And he wasn't doing his part anymore. He had to watch Taylor.
By the third week, things were getting on the wolf's nerves. Taylor was getting on his nerves. The other wolves were getting on his nerves. People, in general, were getting on his nerves. And – he was getting on his own nerves. He was still fighting with himself between what he wanted, what was right, and whether what he wanted was right and who said so, anyway? The only thing he knew for sure was that things couldn't go on like this. He didn't know why, or what would be better, or what he hoped for – but it was going to have to end, one way or another.
So one evening, as the flock made its way back to Town – he ambushed them from the place where he'd waited so many times to watch the lamb pass, attacking from the side in the middle of the flock. Since the attack was so unexpected, all the rams were at the front of the flock, and the sheep that scattered from his attack back up the road made haste to turn around and run past him the other way, once they dared. It was chaos.
Except for the one lamb who just stood there in the melee watching it all, his arms crossed over his chest. Once the others were away and running full-tilt for the Town Limits, Tristan turned around to see Taylor glaring at him.
Tristan tried desperately to think of something to say as he got closer to the boy. This hadn't exactly been a well thought-out plan...
"You're gonna be in big trouble for that, Tris. Attacking on the road like that, this close to town."
"It's not against the law... And besides, I didn't make a kill anyway."
"Whatever," Taylor said derisively, "What do you want?"
"I need to talk to you. Why are you avoiding me?"
"I'm just being safe, Tristan. You told me it was important. I don't talk to strange wolves hiding in the forest anymore. Not since I found out that some of 'em like 'little kids'."
That set Tristan off - "DAMMIT Taylor! You know perfectly well I didn't mean it like that!"
"I know what you said!"
"I do NOT like you because you're a... kid, all right!? But you are a kid!"
"So are you, big-shot. And a lot of kids my age have girl- and boy-friends, too!"
"Yeah? With high school kids, ya mean? With fuckin' predator high school kids?"
Tristan had him there, "Well... no... but so what? I liked that you were a wolf! I thought that you liked that I was a sheep! And – I liked it that you were... older, too. You used to make me feel safe!"
He did? Safe with a wolf? "I... I mean... uh, and now I don't?"
Taylor broke off his glare and looked at the ground self-consciously, "I dunno, Tris... It's just, you know, when I found out things weren't like I thought they were, well... I didn't know what I was supposed to think, okay? Yeah, I know you're not a perv or anything – I figured that part out." Taylor paused, and then looked back up at the wolf, "Tris? Is it because you already have a partner?"
"No!" he said, not really knowing why he said it so emphatically, "I mean, no. I'm not exactly... I keep to myself a lot. I told you – lone wolf and all..."
"So... it's the Law? That's what it is?"
Tristan would take that excuse, "Yeah. It's the Law."
Taylor stared at him awhile, until Tristan couldn't take it anymore, and looked off to the side, "No," he said, "It's not the Law. Well, it sort of is. I mean..."
"You didn't mind the Law when you... downed me..."
"Tay! I apologized for that, okay? I'd take it back, if-"
"I don't want you to apologize for it, ya stupid... wolf! I don't want you to take it back!"
"Tay..." Tristan began, but let the syllable die in his mouth. He had no idea what to say. He couldn't even speak his mind – because he didn't know what he thought. He tried to remember, to re-hash it right then and there, but only one thought kept going through his mind - "I couldn't stop thinking about you..." He hadn't really meant to say that out loud.
"I thought about you a lot too, Tristan..." The lamb didn't share the need to hide how he felt. Of course he didn't. That was one of the things that Tristan loved about-
Loved about him.
"Fuck..." the wolf said softly to himself, giving up fighting, resigned to his fate. So this was what was going to happen. The one thing that couldn't. "Taylor – would you be my boyfriend?"
"I'm almost twelve."
"You're almost twelve, Tay."
"Which is almost a teenager..."
"Almost," Tristan agreed under duress, eyes on his own feet. An eleven-year-old lamb was making him say whatever he wanted. It was almost humiliating.
"And I'm cute as a bug's ear."
Tristan looked up – Taylor was grinning at him. "Cute as a bug's ear," the wolf repeated.
"But not because I'm almost twelve." Taylor narrowed his eyes at the wolf.
"No." Tristan too, grinned.
"Hey! Tris – watch it with the teeth, okay? You almost made me pee myself!"
Tristan forced his lips shut – it wasn't easy - "Sorry, Taylor. I'll try to remember – no smiling around my boyfriend. Right?"
"Right. Until I get used to it. So, tomorrow, we're going to the the High Pasture for Balance. Where's a good place to-"
"You know the place where the three rocks – no, wait. Everyone uses that. Uh... look, I'll find you, okay? Just keep watching down low at the edge of the woods – I'll be wherever you are. And until you see me, stay in the damned flock!"
"Okay, Tris." The boy moved closer to the wolf, probably intending another nose-ing, or maybe a kiss, Tristan thought.
"Not here in the road, Tay. We'll... get to that tomorrow, okay?"
"But, it's dark, Tris. No one'll see..."
"Kiddo – I mean, Taylor – It's not that dark to me. And to the cats, it's probably bright as day out here. C'mon, I'll walk you to the Town limit – in case there's any Law-breakers hiding out by the side of the road."
"Oh. Yeah, okay. I hate Law-breakers," Taylor giggled. Tristan – hearing it – felt better than he had in ages.
"Me too. They oughta be locked up..."
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