|The Wolf and the Seal
Author: Kimagure PM
Wolf's been a part of the circus for a long time, and it's left scars. But when the circus obtains a new attraction, things are about to change for Wolf. One-shot. Complete. M/M slash.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Words: 17,544 - Reviews: 53 - Favs: 176 - Follows: 14 - Published: 09-04-05 - id: 2000484
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This was a story I wrote for the Snail Mail Porn community on LJ for Tsuchan55. She was nice enough to let me post it after she'd gotten it in the mail, and I'm just now getting around to putting it up here since it's already up in my LJ.
The Wolf and the Seal
Wolf watched warily from his cage as the Ringmaster took center stage in the main tent. Assistants were wheeling a large glass tank full of water in behind her as she gave a great bow to the audience. It was a full crowd tonight, as far as Wolf could tell as he peered out at the stands. The advertisements for the new attraction must have brought people out in force.
"Ladies and Gentlemen! Tonight, we have a special treat for you." Gesturing grandly, the Ringmaster turned back to the assistants who were now leading out another boy about Wolf's age.
Like Wolf, he was wearing the same standard red silk pants and red vest of the circus. He had a thin gold collar on, and Wolf could see that they'd lined the boy's blue eyes with kohl in order to make him appear more exotic. God only knew the circus took great pains to make sure Wolf looked particularly wild and vicious when he was called upon to perform.
There were faint red rings around his wrist that Wolf doubted the audience noticed. He saw them straight away, of course. Wolf knew what chaffed, raw skin looked like after a couple of days clapped in the ringmaster's heavy steel manacles.
"May I present to you," the Ringmaster grandstanded for the audience, "for the first time in polite society, the amazing sea boy, Seal!"
Amazing sea boy? What the hell was he? Craning his neck, Wolf tried to get a better look at what she was holding. Chances were, this kid was the real deal. Manacles weren't used on those who faked it. And imposters didn't last terribly long with this circus troop.
"Now, I know he doesn't look like much." She laughed, obviously catching on to the fact that the audience was less than impressed with the skinny kid before them, and she poked at Seal's bare arm. Wolf didn't blame Seal in the slightest for shrinking away from her or her fingernails. "He's merely a half grown boy. But this," she unfurled a long length of animal skin and Wolf's eyes were drawn to both it and the angry jerk Seal gave at seeing it, "possesses the power to transform this normal looking boy into a creature of legend."
Wolf snorted as he paced to the edge of his cage. What was this amazing sea boy going to do with some animal's pelt? It would have to be something spectacular for the Ringmaster to be carrying on the way she was.
A platform was wheeled up beside the glass tank and the Ringmaster held the pelt out in full showman style in one hand while she grabbed Seal's upper arm with the other and pulled him up the platform. In almost a motherly gesture that was completely at odds with everything Wolf had ever known from the Ringmaster, she threw the pelt around the boy's shoulders bringing it together in the front before pushing the boy backwards off the platform and into the glass tank of water beside it.
There was a loud splash, followed by the stunned silence of the audience. Craning his head as far out of his cage as the bars would allow, Wolf caught a glimpse of the boy's new form.
Dammit! Snapping his head back from between the bars, Wolf resisted the urge to snarl and bare his teeth as Emil, the lion tamer, opened his pen and reached for the collar of his vest. Struggling would only make it worse, and he wasn't about to just give Emil a reason to wail on him. So Wolf went limp and let the man drag him out of the boxcar pen they kept him in between performances. Emil, of course, was not at all happy with his compliance.
And pissing off Emil made Wolf happy. He lived in perpetual hope that one day Emil's tigers, Kaja and Kong, would eat the nasty little man.
"You look wild enough for tonight. No need for make up," the Ringmaster declared, between performances, as Emil dragged Wolf past her towards the entrance to the main ring. There was one last tiny check up mirror placed in the archway for the troop to use before parading themselves in the ring and Wolf caught a quick glimpse of himself. His light red hair had been cut in a deliberately messy fashion, so it hung in awkward dirty chunks in his face and it fell over his shoulders and across the steel collar he sported around his neck. There were thick dirt smudges across his cheek and on his shoulders from where he'd tried to wrangle his way between the bars to get a better look at Seal. And his brown eyes were almost feral, he supposed, as Emil grabbed a long chain and snapped the end of it onto his collar and pulled.
He looked pathetic, really. Much more like a feral mangy mutt than any kind of glorified and bloodthirsty beast.
Stumbling behind Emil, he tried to keep up as the man walked quickly before bowing in grand fashion and yanking Wolf into the lion cage behind him. Wolf heard the audience gasp in shock as Emil shoved him towards the perch between Kaja and Kong, snapping the bullwhip when Wolf didn't move fast enough for him.
Distantly, he could acknowledge that the Ringmaster was calling out to the audience, working them and explaining as Emil snapped the bullwhip at Kaja and Kong alternatively, putting them through their paces and cajoling them into the tricks that they'd been raised from kittens to perform.
He was aware of it all happening around him, but yet not at the same time. Each time the bullwhip snapped he flinched. Each time Emil barked out an order, he had to resist the urge to comply and cower. It was like this for every show the circus preformed, and for every show, Wolf spent this time in stark terror, standing rooted to the perch Emil had coerced him onto with the whip. This was something to be endured. If he could have blacked it out, he would have.
After Emil raced the tigers around the pen, they returned to their perches on either side of Wolf. Looking blankly ahead, Wolf was vaguely aware of the hush that fell over the crowd at the Ringmaster's introduction of him.
He watched with wary, helpless eyes as Emil pulled a pig sticker from his belt and walked up to Wolf. An evil grin on his butt ugly face, Emil used the knife to slash a thin cut across his forearm before shoving the new blood in Wolf's face.
The change was almost immediate as the blood permeated his senses. His bones snapped and rearranged themselves. He fell to his knees, roaring as the fur and claws sprouted.
And then the whip fell, fast and furious across him.
What seemed like hours later, Emil roughly dragged Wolf's limp body back to his boxcar cage and hoisted him into it with one heave, the doors locking firmly behind him, swearing the whole time. Good, Wolf hoped he'd herniated a disk or something.
Lock him in and lock the rest of the world out. He was just fine with the forced solitude.
Changing unnaturally was exhausting. On the full moon, it happened as it was supposed to. Slowly, painlessly, and with him in complete control of his faculties. But the circus wasn't interested in him changing only once a month in a non-lethal fashion for their performances. They wanted the snarling and the blood and the excitement. Audiences paid to see a dangerous beast, not an overgrown puppy.
So they forced the transformation. Each time, leaving him in his cage exhausted and sore from the change and covered in bleeding and oozing strips from where Emil had beat the feral out of him for the sake of the audience and their paying tickets.
Groaning, Wolf tried to hoist himself up into a sitting position, but the effort failed and he lay back down on the old blankets of his home and panted from the exertion. Emil had been extra angry this evening. Most likely he was upset by the idea that Seal might have upstaged the tigers and Wolf, and thus, Emil's performance, and he'd taken it out on the werewolf's hide. Heaven forbid that someone steal his dubious limelight.
"Oh Wolf, you poor thing."
Cracking an eye, Wolf grunted at Gladys, the circus's resident bearded lady. She was a big blonde lady with a big blonde beard that fell to the middle of her chest, and she was the oldest and the only friend that Wolf had at the circus. On nights like this, she'd pass bandages and antiseptic to him through the bars, which was what she was currently doing as he struggled again to lever himself up off the floor of his cage. "Was it a good night?" he asked, fishing for information in a hoarse whisper as she clucked her tongue. It wasn't that he cared how much the circus brought in. He certainly saw none of the profits. But money influenced mood, and it was better to know when he should be ducking.
"With you and your new cellmate, Shelia's dragged in twice the cash flow that she did last year when we were in this area. She's beyond thrilled. Emil's a little put out that his performance was moved to the end. You know how the man thinks. He wants to be dead center in everything, the selfish little prick," Gladys snorted. And Wolf favored her with a weak grin.
Wait a second. "What cellmate?" He asked, trying to clear his throat before giving up the effort to exhaustion.
"Can't you smell him, honey?" Gladys laughed. "He's cowering over there in the corner of your cage. Probably scared beyond his wits at that vicious little display Emil treated everyone to." She pointed to the far corner behind him, but Wolf didn't have the energy or the heart to turn around and face the stranger. "Maybe if you ask him nicely, Seal will help you with your wounds. Once he stops being terrified of you, of course," Gladys said gently, not that it eased the sting any. "I have to go before Shelia sees me. You know how territorial she is about her favorite attractions."
Yes, because heavens forefend that someone befriend the devil's spawn. Shelia wasn't interested in Wolf's obedience, he'd long since learned. He'd tried to please her, and upon discovering that she was impossible to please, he'd simply tried to exist. She wanted to be alpha bitch? Well, it wasn't like he could stop her from his side of the bars. "You better go," he agreed wearily.
And with that Gladys was slinking off into the night. Probably to find Hamish, the trapeze artist's tent. Wolf could smell the sexual tension that came off the two of them any time they came within a hundred feet of his cage. Hamish was a beady-eyed little midget, but who was he to question true love when he didn't really even know what love was in the first place? He just knew they stank of pheromones when in each other's presences.
Speaking of smelling things, he could smell the terror now, as it emanated in waves from the far corner where Seal was apparently huddled. And really, the kid had nothing to worry about. Wolf didn't have the energy to sit up, let alone attack his new roommate. Thankfully, Emil had thrown him in close enough to his pile of blankets, most of which came in handy during the colder nights like tonight. It was a struggle to even get one of them thrown loosely around him, and he knew that come morning, his back would be one huge, tender and painful mess.
In theory, it would be best to bandage up tonight, but he couldn't move. He didn't want to move. And he was sure that if he did, Seal would most likely flip out on him, and the last thing he wanted to deal with was someone who had the potential to be either hysterical or violent or both. "I'm not gonna hurt you kid. Relax," he managed with a strained croak, hoping that Seal knew he was talking to him. Past that, he was willing to let his eyes drift shut and just stay still. Pulling in a breath and then releasing it until his own scared tremors died away.
"Do they do that every performance?" The quiet, almost solemn voice scared about ten years off Wolf's life seeing as how he hadn't been expecting Seal to even speak to him. He gave a hurt hiss.
It dawned on Wolf that the sight of the strips currently displayed on his back might be the reason behind Seal's fear.
"They won't do the same to you. Different situations. Different attractions," Wolf managed, his hoarse voice still managing to sound bitter. "Nobody lives in fear of the bloodthirsty selkie," he couldn't help but add in spite, uncomfortable with the idea of having to share his sanctuary and his jail with someone else. Particularly someone else who in all likelihood was not going to be at all amenable to Wolf. Not many people were, after all.
"I," Seal paused, "I could help you with that."
"What?" He couldn't have been more shocked if Seal had produced the key to the lock on their cage and proposed that they leave. Seal had to have seen the performance. The way he smelled indicated as much. And while Wolf was never entirely conscious of the proceedings, he knew enough to know that it was frightful to watch. There was almost always a town or two every year that tried to crash the circus grounds and lynch the dangerous werewolf the troop was hiding.
"They have no right to keep us locked up in here," Seal whispered vehemently and suddenly, making Wolf jump as he touched a bare spot on Wolf's arm. He was beside Wolf, touching Wolf. Was he insane? "To them, we're little better than animals." Seal's fingers were smooth and gentle and quavering slightly as they traced over Wolf's elbow. "This is going to sting a little bit."
Opening his eyes, and glancing up disbelievingly. Wolf could see that Seal was kneeling beside him, a bottle of antiseptic in one hand and a piece of cloth in the other. "It usually does," he said cautiously, keeping his tone neutral. He was tense as Seal placed the cloth gently over the wounds, and he hissed slightly as the alcohol stung.
"We have to get out of here," Seal whispered furiously, seeming to get more and more indignant with each bandage he applied to Wolf's back, his blue eyes flash angrily as his black hair fell in his face. Yes, because it was just that easy, and Wolf was just that incompetent that he hadn't managed to free himself before Seal's timely arrival. Wolf rolled his eyes before frowning slightly at the boy beside him. He couldn't work himself up into genuine anger though at Seal's words. Who wouldn't want to escape after all?
The bandaging was done in short order, and while it felt uncomfortable and confining, Seal's amateur job was worlds better than anything Wolf would have managed on his own.
So what the hell was the matter with this boy? Either he was too stupid to understand that Wolf was the spawn of Satan, or for some heretofore unknown reason, Seal didn't share the same opinion that just about everyone who had ever come across him shared. Maybe it was more that shared circumstances that drove Seal to his side? Compassion forged out of necessity? A friendship started out of pity? Either way, Wolf would take it and be grateful, he decided. If Seal was the village idiot, he certainly wasn't going to try and enlighten him.
"Thank you," he said quietly, relaxing against his blanket. "It's not much, but there are blankets in that corner," he lifted a finger in the direction Seal had been huddled in, "and the chamber pot-like hole is over there in that corner. You might want to get some sleep. You're looking at the crew that helps clean up after the animals in the morning after they've been fed." And god only knew that morning usually came all too soon. They used chains on Wolf, keeping him tethered from pen to pen as he cleaned. They wouldn't have to do that with Seal, he imagined, given the fine filigreed gold collar he sported as opposed to the heavy steel one Wolf had.
There was some rustling and Wolf was surprised when Seal pulled up his blanket surprisingly close to Wolf. "We have to get out of here," Seal repeated, his face merely inches from Wolf's, giving Wolf the opportunity to study Seal's high cheekbones and the bump on his nose where it had probably been broken in the past. "We have to plan our escape," Seal murmured sleepily before his eyes fluttered closed. After a few minutes, Wolf listened as Seal's breathing evened out and deepened in sleep.
Their escape, huh? Wolf blew out a small sigh. As if it would be anywhere near that easy. What, did Seal think he hung about this place because it was so unbelievably fun? And besides that escape to what? The world outside these bars was just as harsh as the one within them.
Frowning, he reached out cautiously to pull Seal's hair out of his face. To think that he felt so comfortable just drifting off to sleep with Wolf sitting there. He'd seen the show, hadn't he? He knew exactly what Wolf was capable of, right?
And yet he wasn't huddled in a corner screaming at Wolf to stay the hell away from him and he wasn't attacking Wolf in an attempt to subdue him. Wolf suspected that lack of fear was what had gotten Seal captured in the first place, but he wasn't going to complain over the circumstances. If Seal felt relaxed around him where everyone else Wolf had ever known was edgy and hostile, Wolf was fine with it.
And only when he was certain that Seal was asleep did he sneak closer until his arm could be flung over Seal's waist and he could snuggle his head against Seal's side. It had been so long since he'd been able to touch skin that wasn't his own, to hug sides that didn't belong to him, and he savored the sensation. Given the way Seal didn't even twitch at his touch, Wolf could do this and Seal would never know. He'd wake up before Seal for sure.
Wolf woke up slowly, noticing as he did so, the feel of someone's breath against the top of his head. Opening his eyes, he jerked, more than a little surprised to find that he'd managed to inch his way over until he was half on top of Seal in his sleep. Seal had his feet all tangled up in Wolf's while Wolf's arm was flung haphazardly over Seal's middle while Seal's arm was curled carelessly over the tops of Wolf's shoulders.
Scrambling up abruptly, Wolf ignored the twinges in his back as he came up against the bars and hugged his middle. "Sorry," he said, sure that his face was turning red even as he was saying it. He'd meant to wake up before Seal. He should have woken up before Seal. Not that the daft kid was aware of the fact that he should be at least a little bit apprehensive around Wolf or that he should fear waking up to discover a werewolf half sleeping on top of him.
"Why?" Seal asked simply, scooting up until he was almost nose-to-nose with Wolf. "It did get pretty cold last night. And you were hurt." Seal explained away for him. "I sleep like this all the time with my brothers and sisters. No big deal."
"Sure," he murmured.
"Okay brats, get your lazy asses up," Emil ordered, and Wolf jumped as Emil jabbed a finger at one of his bandages between the bars before grabbing Wolf's collar and clipping on the short chain. "Who's afraid of the big, bad Wolf?" Emil snickered as Wolf slowly, painfully, pulled himself to his feet.
"Asshole," Seal muttered and Wolf had to hide a grin. Although, Seal was lucky Emil hadn't heard him, or he'd be in a world of pain right now.
"Get to, freaks," Emil grinned and Wolf grabbed his chain before moving to the door, which Emil unlocked. He tolerated it as Emil grabbed the end of the chain and yanked him down, making Wolf stumble slightly. Given Seal's indignant squawk, Seal wasn't as accepting of the behavior as Wolf. Well, he'd learn. Wolf bit down on his lower lip as Emil reached up and boxed Seal's ears hard. The bastard laughed as Seal stumbled out of the boxcar. "Since there's two of you, it should only take half the time," Emil sneered, pulling the main leader chain out and hooking it to the smaller chain on Wolf's collar.
"But he's never done this before," Wolf protested before thinking better of it. Emil gave him a nasty cuff to the side of his head. He could smell the stale beer on the man from a mile away, and Emil sober wasn't exactly a treat. Emil hung over was just someone a person didn't talk back to unless they were in a position to defend themselves, which Wolf most certainly was not. Swallowing down the enraged snarl that was itching to crawl up his throat, Wolf moved to help Seal up onto his feet.
"I'll be back in two hours." Emil stomped out of the tent all together. Sighing, Wolf could tell from Seal's confused expression that none of what was happening was making a bit of sense to the kid.
"We have to get the horses, the elephants, and the giraffes' pens cleaned out. There are shovels over here," Wolf trudged to the far corner of the awning they were under and pulled two shovels out of the storage bin, handing one of them to a perplexed Seal. "The dung goes into one of those wheelbarrows that Emil will come and get later. Don't pile 'em too high or you'll get hit again. Those buckets over there are supposed to be to rinse the floors and give them water, so be careful and don't use a lot to clean out the cage. They all drink a lot and it'll get hotter in the afternoon. " The elephants knew him on sight and smell, they weren't as wary or as hostile towards him as Wolf suspected they would be to a complete stranger like Seal, so he took those pens, waving Seal over to the horses.
"Why do they keep you chained up?" Seal's voice came around fifteen minutes later, muffled from the way he was bent over, shoveling manure. "And why the hell won't you move, you damned horse! I'm trying to clean there." It took Wolf a good five minutes and a raised eyebrow to figure out that Seal was addressing him with the first question and not the horse whose pen Seal was standing in.
"Because I've tried to runaway in the past. Made it two towns over before they caught me, but they haven't trusted me since." Or really, before that even. It had just been a careless mistake where someone had forgotten to lock his cage and he'd taken advantage of it. However, the next town over had gotten wind of his performance in the circus and instead of welcoming him with open arms or letting him blend into their background, they'd tried to hogtie him to a stake and burn him to death.
The Ringmaster and Emil had tracked him down just in time, and if the beating Emil had given him hadn't served as enough of a deterrent, the smell of smoke and the angry faces of the people who came to the shows would be. Maybe thoughts of escape came to Seal so easily because escape for someone like Seal would be easy. They certainly weren't going to try and lynch someone who was cheerfully whistling as he shoveled horse manure.
"A better question might be to ask why they haven't chained you up," Wolf said softly, slapping Sana the three year old elephant on the flank lightly before peaking out to see that Seal had moved on to the next pen.
"They don't have to," the frustration was evident in Seal's tone. "As long as they have my pelt, I can't leave. I can't transform without it. I'm not whole without it. And because I was stupid and careless and arrogant, they have it and I don't and so they don't have to chain me because I can't go anywhere without it. Bastards." Wolf could hear the bitterness in the confession.
"It'll get easier," he murmured. Although, he wasn't entirely certain he'd meant the words for Seal, or for himself now that Seal was here to stay.
Wolf deliberately dragged a couple blankets over to the far corner of their cage as Seal watched him with confused eyes. It had to end, this weird need to be beside Seal. He'd given in to temptation the first night, but really, he couldn't be too hard on himself for that. He'd spent years in this cage alone and without another soul to talk to.
But it wasn't right. He couldn't continue to sit up and patiently wait until Seal fell asleep and then sneak in like a bandit and practically smother Seal as he fell asleep on top of him. Seal might say that he was okay with it now, but it was just a matter of time really before Seal came to his senses. About everything. It was stupid to get his hopes up. Especially since he should know better by now. It would be best if he did the smart thing and cut it off now before Seal finally understood the severity of their situation.
"What the hell are you doing?" Seal sounded exasperated as he propped his chin up with his hand and watched Wolf work.
"Making my bed," Wolf answered shortly. The less he said the better. Seal would get it eventually.
"Is this about me teasing you this morning?" Seal demanded. "Geez, I didn't really mean anything by it. It's just funny, you know. The way you turn bright red and skitter away. I mean, who knew? The oh so scary werewolf really enjoys a good cuddle." Seal gave him an impish grin.
Wolf did not return it.
"My back is doing better now." Although, it was just a matter of time. Tomorrow was the beginning of a three nights of shows, but for now it was as good an excuse as any. Seal had only seen him change in that first show, if he'd seen Wolf change at all. After a refresher performance, Wolf doubted Seal would be as amenable to him as he'd been so far.
"You're being really stubborn."
"No, I'm not. I'm just being practical."
"Practical would be getting your skinny ass over here and sharing the blankets since it's cold and the floor of this stupid cage is rock hard," Seal pointed out. Scowling, Wolf had no retort for that. He flopped down on his impromptu bed, back to Seal. Seal would get the hint eventually. Maybe. "Okay, fine. Be that way."
"Where is it? You know they keep that dirty werewolf locked up somewhere around here."
Wolf flinched at the rather loud, rather drunken voice. Glancing up, he could make out the lanterns of a few someones who most likely weren't where they were supposed to be. If Shelia caught them, the local authorities would probably get involved and the circus would have to pull up again because of the ensuing scandal. But since the Ringmaster thrived on that scandal and since the circus often profited from the free publicity and the gawkers interested in seeing what all the fuss was about, she wasn't as tight with security as she could have been.
"There it is! I can see the hair!"
Lovely. Wolf snarled silently, rolling over so his back was to the bars. Maybe they'd leave. And maybe the Earth would rotate backwards. Great. Just great.
"What's it doing?"
"Aw man, it's just sleeping. Hey Perry, wake it up!"
"C'mon beast. Show us your teeth!"
Stubbornly, Wolf ignored them as they came closer to the bars. He cracked an eye to see that Seal was sitting on the blanket bed in the corner watching them with undisguised disgust. Well, Wolf didn't plan on giving them a show, so hopefully they'd just get bored and leave. It didn't happen very often, but maybe Wolf would get lucky.
"No fun. It's just laying there. C'mon Perry, make it move." The high pitched voice made Wolf roll his eyes. Some idiot out to impress his date and friends then.
"Why don't you leave him the hell alone and get a life," Seal snarled. Their audience merely laughed at him.
"Oooh, check out the bite on the little itty bitty selkie! C'mere selkie-welkie. I have a peanut."
"A peanut? What are you, retarded? Do I look like a goddamned elephant?" Seal sneered. And then suggested something anatomically impossible that the drunk could do with both the peanut and his foot.
"Here, this'll do it." The statement was followed quickly with the smashing of a bottle against the bars that coated Wolf with both glass and liquor. Seal gave an indignant squawk, but Wolf resolutely tried to ignore them.
Three rocks and two more bottles later though, and his patience had finally snapped. Springing to life, he threw himself at the bars, startling the drunks enough to send them stumbling back from the cage. They wanted a show? He'd damned well give them one. It wasn't like they were going to leave until they got it anyway.
He snarled, making sure they got a good eyeful of his abnormally long canines as he threw himself at the bars. He growled and paced and howled and did every other hokey thing he could think of short of changing. And since they'd been stupid enough to arm him with ammunition, he took the rocks they'd thrown at him and threw them back, smiling in satisfaction when he nailed the date on the ass, the prick she was with in the chest and their asshole friend in the stomach. Served them right, he decided, howling at them with the knowledge that he sounded more animal than human. Let them take that back and exaggerate it six ways to Sunday. Good thing that there was a show tomorrow night. Security would be tighter and more people would be around, making a reprise harder for drunks to enact. Not impossible, necessarily, but harder.
Glad that they were gone, he slumped back down onto his now alcohol soaked blankets. Lovely. On the bright side, and least they hadn't cut him with the glass from the bottles or actually nailed him with the rocks. They'd been terrible shots. He wished all the idiots that came skulking around were as blind. He had a scar under his right eye from where one particularly good shot had tried to take out an eye one night.
He could hear Seal fumbling around with something, but he didn't have the heart to turn around to look and see what Seal was up to. If Seal had wanted something do with him before, that certainly couldn't be the case anymore.
"C'mon Wolf." Seal startled him by tugging on his vest. Turning around, he could see that Seal had taken all the blankets and piled them in the middle of the cage.
"What are you doing?" He couldn't keep the confusion out of his voice as he asked.
"You're all wet, and you're being stupid. Just share the dumb blankets with me."
Reluctantly getting to his feet, Wolf was bewildered. Had Seal not seen the teeth? Heard the growling? If he didn't come across as some reject wild boy, he had to have at least come across a little scary. And given the faintest hint of fear that he could smell coming from Seal, the kid wasn't completely unaffected by the display. "What?"
"Look, what ever it was that I did to piss you off, I'm sorry. But get over it, already," Seal spit out before physically pulling Wolf over to the blankets and shoving him down onto them. "Honestly. You'd make a mule cry."
Wolf hid a grin at the exaggeration as Seal plopped down beside him, throwing an arm over Wolf's middle to prevent him from getting back up without a struggle. He was almost asleep, his head slumped on Seal's chest, when the low rumble of Seal's voice woke him. "We're not animals, you know. We don't belong in here."
Wolf wished he had half that conviction.
"What the hell are you doing?" Wolf whispered more than a little incredulously as Gladys, slid a key into the lock on the door of the cage that Wolf had shared with Seal for the past two weeks.
"I'm freeing you both. It's not right, the way she's got you both chained up and penned in here. Those sores you're always walking around with. It has to end, Wolf." And while Gladys said things like this all the time, she'd never actually unlocked the door before. The small, traitorous part of Wolf wondered if maybe the reason she'd never gone as far as this was because she was just as scared of him as everyone else in the circus. She'd never seemed as if she'd had an ulterior motive for helping Wolf out before, but he never knew.
"Why now?" he asked, running a hand through Seal's black hair to hide his nervousness at the prospect of leaving. Despite the two weeks he'd been a part of this circus, Seal had yet to learn how to sleep lightly. But with him around, Wolf supposed, Seal didn't necessarily have to be a light sleeper.
"Because it's time. Seal's said that he has family looking for him, and we're as close to the coast as we're going to get for the year." Gladys shrugged, scratching her beard thoughtfully before pulling the door up. "Stick with him and you should be okay."
"But his skin," Wolf whispered back. "It's not like he's in the cage because he'll run away if he's not," he scowled back at her as Gladys rolled her eyes.
"Hamish knows where she keeps it. He's smuggling it out as we speak." She pulled open the door. "It's now or never, love."
There were times before the circus, but they were hazy and blurred and Wolf had no desire to remember any better than that. "Seal," he murmured, shoving Seal's shoulder lightly. "Seal, wake up." Seal's blue eyes popped open and Seal scrambled up onto his knees before looking confused.
Seal wasn't scared of him. Hell, he wasn't even intimidated by Wolf. And Wolf was more than a little confused by it.
Wolf's skin was a map of scars made from Emil's bullwhip. He had light red hair that most villagers often claimed marked him as the Devil's child, and since his eyes were so dark that it was hard to distinguish the brown of his irises from his pupils, rumors were spread about how he could suck out someone's soul with just a look. Seal looked at his hair and said it reminded him of kelp and that his eyes looked like those of an old humpback he once knew. And Wolf didn't know whether to be insulted or relieved.
In spite of all appearances, Seal had the distinction of being the only person in Wolf's experience to have willingly reached out and touched him. Gladys snuck him bandages and antiseptic through the bars, sure, but she couldn't touch him. Wouldn't touch him? He was never sure. It all got confused in his head.
Seal slept beside him at night. Seal let Wolf curl up beside him, and sleep with his head on Seal's chest. Seal didn't push him away or treat him like a leper when he came near. Wolf could touch Seal, and Seal would touch him in return.
"What's going on?" Seal blinked sleepily before standing. He then immediately made for the door that Wolf hadn't moved an inch closer to, despite it's being wide open. "Are we escaping?" The question was directed at Gladys. Wolf wouldn't have to explain what was happening, Seal would figure it out. After all, this had been what Seal had been planning for every second of every day since he'd been brought to Wolf's cage.
"Yes, love, you are. But if you aren't quick about it, you won't make it. You know Shelia can smell a rat a mile away." Gladys smiled as Seal hopped out the open door. Hesitating, Wolf made his way towards the edge of the cage. Seal turned around to give him a hand down and Wolf tried to gauge the look in Seal's eyes. This was freedom, right? This was what Seal had wanted from the moment that he'd been thrown into Wolf's cage.
Maybe, a long, long time ago it was what Wolf had wanted too. Maybe every full moon, he still did. But this wasn't the full moon. The one and only thing that was going to make this escape any different was that Seal was here with him, escaping with him.
"We haven't got all night, Wolf," Seal reached up and Wolf felt himself taking Seal's hand before hopping out of the cage.
"There's Hamish," Gladys added, relieved. Hamish, small little man that he was, scurried up to them, tossing a bag to Wolf before threading his fingers through Gladys' hand. "This is where we leave you, boyos."
"What about you?" Wolf asked. Gladys had been good to him. And while he couldn't exactly fathom her romance with the strange little trapeze artist man, he could smell it nonetheless.
"Love, I've been let go. Downsized, if you will," Gladys let out a soft belly laugh. "I just had to stick it to that bitch of a ringmaster one last time. That I could get you and Seal out, well, that was an added bonus." She winked and Wolf nodded, understanding better now, as he hugged the bag to his middle.
"I assume," Seal trailed off, gesturing to the bag.
"Of course," Hamish giggled. "Wouldn't be much of an escape for you, now would it, if we didn't get your pelt back to you."
"Thank you," Seal smiled a genuine smile and Wolf almost smiled one in reflex. "Best of luck on the outside."
"And to you, too." Gladys murmured, hesitating slightly before pulling a startled Wolf into a brief hug. He could smell the faint twinges fear on her as she held him for a second before letting go. He made her nervous. He suspected he always had.
"Thank you for everything, Gladys," he murmured before turning to follow Seal. He'd never see her again, he knew. She was gone for good whether they got recaptured or not and he owed it to her for every time she'd brought him what little help she could despite the fact that his existence unnerved her.
"Whatever you do, don't lose that," Seal whispered to him, grabbing Wolf's arm as they snuck out of the main tent and towards the edges of the fairgrounds. He snorted, like he had to be told that.
Seal was shorter than him, smaller than him, so it was easy for Seal to slip underneath the chain fence. So there were a few scratches, but he made it under the barrier in short order. The grounds themselves were practically deserted, lending Wolf to think that they probably had about a good two hour head start before the troop started heading back in from whatever tavern or bar they'd found. It wouldn't take them long to discover the empty cage.
Two hours wasn't a lot of time. Not when Shelia had horses and dogs and tigers at her disposal to use to track them down. God only knew, it wouldn't take Emil with Kaja or Kong too terribly long to find him. While Emil didn't like him, the tigers certainly did. Wolf had spent four years cleaning out their pens before he'd been reassigned to the elephants.
"Do you know where we're going?" He half snarled, feeling uncomfortable without the surroundings of his cage and trying not to think about what had happened the last time he'd tried this. "Do you even know where we are?"
"Calm down. Of course I do," Seal smiled back, ruffling Wolf's reddish blond hair out of his brown eyes and smiling a cocky smile. "I used to play here all the time as a kid."
"What's to stop Shelia from tracking us both down? What's to stop them or anyone from the town who saw last night's performance from finding us and throwing us back into that cage." He tried to cover his nervousness with a growl, but he suspected from the way that Seal rolled his eyes that Seal saw right through it.
"My grandparents will know what to do when we get to them. They'll, of course, chew me out for having been so careless as to have gotten myself caught in the first place." Seal grinned, shrugging a shoulder before grabbing Wolf's wrist and pulling him along the edges of the fairgrounds to the forest that bordered it. "It shouldn't take too long to get to their cottage. They live just on the edge of the sea."
"But the sea is miles from here," Wolf protested in a hiss as they started crunching through the undergrowth of what was shaping up to be a pretty dense forest. He had to duck at least three times in a two minute span to keep from getting swatted in the face by branches, and he'd had to keep a steady grip on Seal to keep Seal from tripping over the littered debris of old tree branches and bushes on the forest floor. That Seal thought this to be a merry little hop, skip and a jump to the sea astounded Wolf. He'd never taken Seal for a thoughtless dreamer before this. Village idiot, sure. Delusional? Not so much. "She's going to catch us."
"No she won't," Seal smirked confidently. "We'll be long gone before that."
"How the hell can you say that?" Wolf shot back, getting understandably annoyed and apprehensive. "We have two hours at the most before they start scouting for us. Those tigers might not want to sniff you out, but they'll find me in short order. Are you planning on ditching me half way into these woods?" The question was meant to sound sarcastic, but Wolf didn't exactly not mean it either. There was nothing stopping Seal from simply abandoning Wolf here and now and letting Wolf fend for himself. They'd been cellmates for two weeks, and while Seal wasn't exactly scared of Wolf, he couldn't be sure that Seal exactly wanted him around either.
"Don't be a grumbley ass," Seal chided. "Of course I'm not leaving you behind. We just won't be going in a way they'll expect, or be able to follow, I might add." Seal tugged him past a particularly huge willow tree and with a splash, pulled him knee deep into freezing water.
The moon was three quarters full, and Wolf could see that the water Seal had pulled him into was part of a river that was flowing gently through the thick vegetation on either side of its banks. The moonlight bounced off the ripples around them, making Seal's skin look paler than normal, but Wolf wasn't sure if it was the moon or just the naturalness of being in water that made Seal's usually dark blue eyes shine.
"I can't swim," he blurted out, hugging the bag Hamish had handed him closer to his body as Seal laughed. Scowling, Wolf was so glad it amused Seal. Maybe it would amuse him even more when they headed downstream and Wolf drowned in midst of their escape attempt. Seal might be a creature in tune with everything that was aquatic, but Wolf wasn't.
Hurt, Wolf whirled around to storm away when Seal grabbed an arm to stop him. "Oh lighten up. It was just funny the way you said it, is all." Seal reached up, cuffing him affectionately upside the head, confusing Wolf all the more. "Let me see the bag."
Uncertainly, Wolf handed it over, watching as Seal pulled a long gray animal pelt out of it. "How's that going to help us escape?" he asked as Seal tossed the bag back to him. Peering in, he could see that Gladys had had the foresight to pack them some supplies. A blanket and an extra set of clothes. There was even a couple of bills rubber banded together at the very bottom, and it made him smile in spite of himself.
"I'm going to change, and you're going to hold on for dear life," Seal said matter-of factly. "I've swum on this river my whole life. It leads back to the sea and back to my home. As long as you don't let go, it'll be fine." With the pelt in hand, it almost looked as if there was an entire glow about Seal as he threw the skin around his shoulders. It was much more impressive on the banks of the river than it had ever been during the middle of a circus performance, Wolf had to admit, as Seal transformed into a selkie before his eyes.
To Wolf, he seemed impossibly huge. A larger than life version of the seals that traveled with the circus, only Seal had more elaborate flippers and there were markings that curled up the sides of his neck to where there were tiny fish like fins to denote his ears. He was sleek, graceful looking with the pale gray of the pelt covering his whole body leaving nothing that truly reminded Wolf of Seal except for the mischievous blue of his big eyes.
Seal had whispered to him once, after the first week of performances that he was actually quite small for a selkie. No one could have proved it to Wolf at this particular moment though. He watched as Seal gave him one slow, languid wink before hopping slightly and diving into deeper water. Terrified for a second that Seal was going to leave him here on the banks of some stupid river by himself, Wolf stumbled out farther to follow him.
"Seal?" He tried calling quietly before almost shrieking as something brushed up against his side. Blinking, he looked down just in time to see Seal reaching up to butt his shoulder with his slender muzzle. "You ass," Wolf blew out, exasperated. Gingerly, he ran his fingers over the silky soft skin while Seal waited patiently for him to get used to the change. "You really think this is going to work," Wolf said flatly.
For his troubles, he got a flipper full of water splashed in his face. Sighing, he slid his arms around Seal's neck, being careful not to hold on too tight, despite the fact that the whole situation was completely unnerving him. He couldn't swim. If he let go, even by accident, chances were he'd drowned. But none of that seemed to matter to Seal who took Wolf's grasp as assent and pulled them both out into the deeper water of the center of the river and started swimming almost joyfully for the sea.
It seemed like years later when Seal changed back and had to haul Wolf up onto the shore by his shoulders. Flopping onto the sandy beach, it was all Wolf could do not to shiver uncontrollably as Seal packed his pelt back into the soaking wet bag. Seal, of course, was unfairly dry and Wolf might have mumbled something to that effect, given the way that Seal rolled his eyes and helped Wolf out of his soaked shirt by dragging it off of him.
"So here we are," Seal laughed as Wolf tired to curl up in a tired ball beside him. "Over fifty leagues from where we started and free. How does it feel?"
"Cold," he mumbled, ignoring Seal's chuckle. He was freezing.
"C'mon, you big baby. Here's my shirt. We're almost home." The dry material fell on Wolf's head, and Wolf didn't hesitate to scramble into it. It was still warm from Seal's body heat and it smelled like Seal to boot. Wolf certainly wasn't going to complain about that. Although, he was going to reserve the right to take exception to the baby remark. Seal had whined for days about his stupid shovel induced blisters.
"How far is your home from here?" He grumbled, because it really was Seal's home. Not his. Wolf wasn't about to get his hopes up in believing that these people, no matter how related to Seal they might be, would be as accepting of him as Seal was. Seal was an anomaly.
"Just over that hill. You can see the smoke of their chimney from here." Seal smiled broadly, pulling Wolf to his feet. Tugging the soggy bag up, Wolf stuffed his wet shirt into it before Seal handed him his pelt, which quickly went in as well. Following more sedately in Seal's excited footsteps, Wolf tilted his head to get a better idea of this house as they came upon it.
The cottage itself was simple in style, but surrounded by trees. There was a trellis on one side that leaned against the stone exterior that was covered in wisteria that was currently flowering. A small vegetable garden was beside it and in the back of the property; Wolf could make out the telltale red of a barn. There was indeed smoke coming out the chimney, and the place looked cozy enough, but Wolf was still understandably wary.
Seal didn't bother with knocking, merely threw open the door, dragging Wolf in behind him by the wrist. "I'm home!"
"Seal!" there was a happy squeal and Wolf started as a lady who was actually smaller than Seal got up out of a rocker to rush over to hug him. "You naughty boy! We were so worried. Where on earth have you been?" she scolded even as she attempted to squeeze Seal to death. Although, in truth, he was glad that Seal had let go of him to reach back to hug his grandmother with both arms. It gave Wolf a chance to create some distance and give himself some space in this unfamiliar place. There was an older man still sitting by the fire, but reaching for his cane and Wolf didn't like at all the way the man was glaring at him.
"It's a long story, Gram," Seal managed to wheeze out. "I got caught."
"Caught?" The grandfather asked sharply, and Wolf flinched a bit at the tone, feeling at least somewhat mollified that Seal flinched as well. "What, pray tell, did you do in order to get caught?"
"I got careless, Gramps. I left my pelt out where someone stumbled upon it," Seal hung his head and Wolf had to resist the urge to grab Seal's arm and pull them both out of the cottage as fast as he could manage it. Emil, he knew. Emil, he understood. This old man? If they were going to get beaten for past transgressions, Wolf wanted no part of it or of them. Family be damned.
"We'd heard rumors that the circus inland was traveling with a real live selkie," the grandmother said carefully. If anything, Seal's head hung even lower. "Oh, Seal."
"But we escaped!" Seal protested as the grandfather climbed out of his chair and hobbled over towards them. This time, Wolf had no qualms about shrinking further back into the shadows created by the firelight. "I've learned my lesson, trust me. I'll never be that careless again. The circus was not even a smidgen as fun as they claim it's supposed to be," Seal gave a weak laugh.
"And who is this that you've brought back with you?" The grandfather jerked his head in Wolf's direction with a distrustful glower.
"Gramps," Seal admonished, "You're going to scare him away with all your bluster. This is Wolf. He's my friend." Seal reached over, pulling a rather reluctant Wolf back into the light to endure the inspection of both adults. He'd had enough of the spotlight when he'd been in the lion cage with Emil. Wolf favored both adults with a sullen frown. He wasn't going to put on a show for them, if that's what they wanted. "He and I were imprisoned together."
"Wolf?" The grandmother gave him a hesitant smile before shuffling towards a back room. "Seal's father left behind some clothes that might fit you, let me just get them for you so you can get out of those wet things."
"Worthless son of mine," the grandfather growled, hobbling back to his chair by the fire. "You'd do best not to follow in his reckless footsteps, Seal."
"I know, Gramps," Seal sighed heavily. "Have you seen Mom lately?"
"We alerted her when you went missing. She shouldn't be too far off the coast. She's been searching, rather fruitlessly, for you for the past two weeks." The old man lit a pipe and blew out a puff of smoke. Seal rolled his eyes, and pulled Wolf even father into the room, pushing him down to sit beside the fire. Shifting as far away from the old man as possible, Wolf kept his back to the wall, not wanting any more surprises.
"Here we go," the grandmother called out cheerily as she came bustling back into the room with an armful of clothing. "Come with me, Wolf."
Not quite knowing what to do at the rather imperial command from the rather small woman, Wolf shot Seal a questioning glance. He got a chuckle for his efforts. "You best go after her, or she'll be scolding you for the rest of the night." Seal smirked at him. Scowling in return, Wolf got up, giving the old man a wide radius as he slunk off into the kitchen after the old woman. He turned just as he reached the doorway of the kitchen to get a glimpse at Seal's pensive face.
"Seal?" he questioned softly, speaking for the first time since he walked through the door.
"I'm going to go out and find my mom, talk to her a little bit. I'll be back later," Seal scooped the wet pack off the floor from where Wolf had left it. "Gram and Gramps'll take care of you till I get back."
Funny, how that wasn't in the least bit reassuring to him. Frowning, Wolf went cautiously into the kitchen. Much blushing, a few growls and one nervous snapping of his teeth at her when she startled him by accident, Wolf was in clothes that were a little too big for him, but dry. The kitchen was warm and cheery, and Wolf was more than a little bewildered by it as the old woman shooed him into a wicker chair at an old sturdy, but beaten up, table and pushed a plate of sausage links in front of him.
From the dubious look she gave him as he bolted them down as quickly as possible, he could tell she was less than impressed with his table manners. It was just that, in his experience, food that was not eaten fast was food that was taken away from him. He was hungry. He'd make no apologies for it, he decidedly somewhat stubbornly.
"There's a spare room you can sleep in. Seal will most likely take the pallet on the floor beside it if," she paused, "when he gets back from seeing his mother." He nodded and let the old woman lead him into the room on the other side of the kitchen. She gave a pillow on the bed a nervous fluff before smiling benignly at him. "Sleep well." And with that, she left the room, closing the door behind her. He waited patiently for the sound of a lock clicking into place or a dead blot sliding home. It never came.
Frowning, he took the pallet and moved it right in front of the door. Sitting down on it soundlessly, he placed an ear on the wood door and listened carefully and closely. At first there wasn't anything much. Sounds of plates and water as he assumed the old woman was washing his plate from dinner and cleaning up after him. Then there was the shuffle, bump noise of the old man with the cane as he made his way into the kitchen to join her. And then finally there was conversation.
Had he not been a werewolf, there wouldn't have been much of a prayer of him hearing the conversation itself, he realized. So, on one level he supposed, he should be thankful to Seal for not spilling the entire secret of his identity to these relative strangers.
"Caught! He was caught. I can't believe he was so careless. I thought we'd taught him better than that, I thought he knew better than that!" The old man growled, thumping his cane against the floor for added emphasis.
"He's just a boy."
"That's no excuse," the old man shot back, "his mother was just a girl when that no good brat of ours stole her pelt. She paid for her mistake for many years with her freedom."
"It all worked out in the end though," the old woman tried to placate. "It's just the way of youth. They'll never learn if they don't experience it for themselves. We coddled our boy, and look what happened to him. We can't protect Seal from everything."
"Who wants to protect him from everything?" the old man grumbled. "He'd not like other boys. There are more who would take advantage of him and who he is. There are more, like that godawful circus, who would as soon exploit him. His place isn't here. Not with us and not on land."
"It's not entirely at sea either," the old woman chided. "He's half human, too."
"Like that whelp he dragged home with him?" the old man snorted and Wolf flinched at the mention of himself. "I don't trust that one farther than I can toss him. Did you see the look in his eyes? Shifty. That's what he is. He'd sooner stab us in the back, you mark my words."
"Oh stop!" the old woman scolded. "He's just a boy. And a scared one at that, you blind old coot."
"You think the whole world's in need of mothering," the old man muttered sullenly.
"Not the whole world, just some. Him, maybe."
"He can't stay. Seal either. Their place isn't here. Seal belongs at sea. It's where his mother is. His brothers and sisters. It's where he belongs, and it's time he finally realized that. We've been coddling him as much as we used to coddle our son. No good can come of it," the old man stated flatly.
"You think we've been coddling Seal that much?" she asked doubtfully.
"He was careless enough to get captured."
"It was a simple mistake."
"One that someone like him can't afford to make. We should have drilled him harder, longer on that. We should have been tougher with him. His mother might forgive us, but that won't help him any the next time he gets caught unawares. He belongs in the sea with his kind, end of story."
Wolf suppressed a shudder at the words.
"What of his friend? Should he go join Seal in the sea?" the old woman snapped back.
"That boy? That boy can take care of himself just fine. It's in his little feral beady eyes," the old man dismissed. Wolf yanked his head away from the door before clapping his hands over his ears. Seal was a selkie. He knew that. He'd known that from the first moment he'd met Seal. This wasn't a revelation. Hell, it wasn't even much of a surprise.
Except that it was.
It was rare to even catch a glimpse of a selkie on land, let alone catch one without its pelt on. It was rarer still to actually meet one that was living on land. In fact, it was unheard of. And Wolf would know since the circus had always specialized in sniffing out the obscure and rare and then dabbling their hands in it. Seal was the first and only selkie that Wolf had ever heard of, let alone known, who had possession of his pelt and still stayed on dry land in human form. It just wasn't done.
And from the sounds of the grandparents, it wasn't going to be done for much longer. According to them, Seal didn't belong with them, and he certainly didn't belong with Wolf.
Curling into a ball on the pallet, Wolf pulled the blanket up over his head. Without Seal around, there was no reason for these people not to sell him back to the circus. Wolf had no idea how much Shelia had paid for him the first time, but it had to have been pretty penny given the speed at which he'd been handed over without a second glance. Or maybe he was simply that worthless. He imagined that given the option of housing him and feeding him or handing him over for a pittance, the old man wouldn't have a hard time accepting a few measly bits for him.
He didn't want to go back.
It surprised him, really. Given that when he'd been standing at the river beside Seal only hours ago, he'd wanted nothing more than for the escape to have never taken place and the two of them sleeping peacefully together in their cozy cage. In fact, even in this tiny room with these nice clean blankets and an actual pallet beneath them, a part of him still sorely missed the bars and felt more than a little unsafe without them there to keep him in and keep the rest of the world out.
But he didn't want to go back now. He didn't want the beating from Emil that would come as punishment for thinking himself better than he was. He didn't want to have to suffer through all the vile towns the circus went through where everyone started and pointed and sneered.
He didn't want to go back to the times before Seal. Because they'd be harder, almost impossible, to endure now knowing what life could be like with Seal around to take the edge off of it. It wouldn't be a life worth living at all, and Wolf could see that now where he couldn't have seen it before. There was no going back, and he could only go forward. The old man was just going to have to get over it. Because Wolf wasn't giving Seal up, and he wasn't going back. There weren't enough whips in the world to convince him.
Worried now, he burrowed deeper until the blanket and the pillow and the pallet were nothing but a little nest with him nestled in the center. He waited many hours, but sleep never came. Finally, Seal did, sneaking in the door before slipping underneath the blanket nest and sliding an arm over Wolf's chest as he nuzzled in closer. And then, Wolf could relax his sore, tense muscles. He could breathe easier despite the fact that Seal's hands were bitingly cold from having been outside and that his hair was damp and smelled of the sea.
And still, sleep didn't come.
Rolling over hours later, Seal merely mumbled in his sleep as Wolf pushed him gently aside. The pack Gladys had given them was sitting beside the door with Seal's pelt hanging haphazardly out of it. Skin prickling and his hands shaking apprehensively, Wolf stood and crept closer to it, pulling the soft gray skin up to touch it to his cheek while keeping an eye on the sleeping Seal.
When Seal showed no sign of waking or even of noticing that someone was handling his pelt, Wolf shoved it into the pack before quietly sneaking out the door. Dawn was still a couple hours off, but the moon was shining brightly enough for Wolf to see. He scanned the beach in front of the cottage briefly before spotting the beginnings of a rocky ledge that led to a rockier beach on the other side of the barn. Walking quickly, he sniffed out an undisturbed, dry spot and dug up the rocks until he'd reached what he judged to be a safe depth. Looking around and sniffing the air, he knew he was alone. Plopping the pack with the pelt in it into the hole, he made quick work of covering up his work and leaving the beach and the ledge just as they'd been before he'd touched them.
Quietly, he snuck back into the cottage, sliding back under the blankets, but taking the time to warm his hands before curling into Seal's snoring form and nuzzling the back of Seal's neck. Without his pelt, Seal couldn't leave Wolf behind for the sea. And with that knowledge tucked safely away, Wolf let himself drift off to sleep.
A couple hours later, he woke up as Seal gave a lazy stretch and yawned. "God, it feels good to not have to get up and do chores, doesn't it?" Seal mumbled sleepily, poking Wolf in the ribs before thumping his head back down on Wolf's chest.
"Did you talk to your mother last night?" he asked quietly, sidestepping any mention of the circus all together.
"Yeah," Seal stretched again, popping the joints in his wrists as he did so. "Saw some of my siblings, too. They still sleep in one big pile of flippers and tails, just like I told you. And you were worried," Seal snickered. And it was like reality was crashing all on top of Wolf once more. Seal had family, real family, here. People that cared about him and worried about his safety and took care of him.
Scowling at the ceiling, Wolf rolled over, wrapping both arms around a semi-startled Seal. Well, they couldn't have him. They, whoever they were, didn't need Seal as much as Wolf needed him. "Did they miss you?" The question slipped out before he could stop it and he wished he hadn't asked it at all when Seal gave an exuberant smile.
"Course they did. I am their bigger, older, smarter brother." Seal puffed out his chest before laughing. "But they're used to me being gone for long periods of time seeing as how I live here and they live out at sea."
"Have you always lived here?"
"Yeah. I like it here. The sea is nice, but it's not for me," Seal dismissed easily. Wolf wanted to believe him, but he wanted to believe a great many things. It didn't exactly make them true, and it sure didn't stop people from lying to him for their own purposes. Seal would have no choice but to live on land now anyway. It wouldn't be that bad, Wolf vowed to himself. He'd do everything he could to make it easy for Seal. "C'mon. I bet Gram has breakfast on the table for us both by now." Struggling to sit up, Seal cracked his knuckles before shaking his head at Wolf's grimace.
"They don't like me." He felt obligated to inform Seal of the facts before they walked blindly into the situation.
"They don't know you," Seal corrected. "And they're a bit over protective. They'll like you in no time, don't worry," Seal said with more confidence than Wolf felt he was entitled to.
Breakfast proved to be a strained affair though, with words left unsaid and not a few glares from the old man in Wolf's direction. It wasn't that Wolf was blind to the glares. If anything, he was hyper aware of them, but he'd long since mastered the art of pretending like it didn't affect him and that he wasn't aware of the obvious distrust. The old man could stare until his eyeballs fell out. He wasn't getting a reaction from Wolf.
"Seal," the old woman finally said, "your grandfather and I need to talk to you." It didn't take a genius to see where this was going, Wolf decided, pushing away from the table. "Maybe your friend could explore the shores while we discuss some things?" The question was directed at him. He wasn't stupid. So he gave an abrupt nod and slipped out of the room, ignoring Seal's protests.
It didn't matter anyway. It wasn't like they could steal Seal from him now. Wherever they thought to send Seal to, no matter how far away it happened to be, Wolf would be able to track him down. Granted, he didn't have much experience with tracking, but given how distinct Seal's smell was to him, it wouldn't be hard to track Seal down. And with his pelt hidden away underneath the rocky beach, there was no where that Seal could go that Wolf couldn't follow.
Funny how that didn't make him any less apprehensive of what they were discussing back in the house behind him, he acknowledged with a shiver. The old couple would have no good words to say about him. They'd tell Seal that Wolf was no reason to stay chained to the land and no excuse to keep from returning to the sea. They'd point out how Seal was better off without Wolf's suspicious presence and bring up the family that Seal would be callously ignoring should he choose not to live out on the water.
And Wolf, in his heart of hearts, suspected that they were right.
"Are you the Devil's child?"
Startled, Wolf barely kept from baring his teeth at the squeaky voice interrupting his thoughts. Looking down, he came face to face with a small child. She had the same black hair and blue eyes as Seal, but her skin was a more incandescent pale and there was a whole ephemeral glow about her that Seal lacked. Obviously, given the way she had a blanket of animal skin wrapped protectively around her shoulders despite the fact that she was standing on the surf's edge, she was a selkie.
"Cause Lion says that anyone who has red hair is the Devil's child and has to have the evil beaten out of them. I think he's lying though because he's never even been on shore, so how would he know, right?" She swiped wet strands of hair out of her face less than successfully before crawling awkwardly up onto the beach and plopping down beside him on the sand.
"Hmm," he murmured, not entirely sure what was wrong with her to have not scampered away from him the moment she'd seen him.
"Lion says that all humans are evil and that they want to take us away from the ocean and kill us. But Seal's human. Kind of, not really. And his grandma and grandpa are human and they give me treats whenever they see me, so they can't all be bad. But Lion says that's cause they're old and that all the young humans want to steal us away. Are you going to try and steal me away?" She looked up at him with big blue eyes.
At least she'd asked an easy question this time. "No," he said abruptly.
"Why not? Is it cause you're a Devil's child?"
He scowled down at her.
"Harp, are you bothering him?"
Blinking, Wolf scooted back from the little girl as her mother came wading into shore. Long inky black hair trailed all the way to her knees, and she had a pelt as well that wrapped around her shoulders. If Harp had looked otherworldly, her mother was a creature almost straight out of myth itself. Her ears weren't even real ears at all, Wolf decided as she shooed the little girl back into the water, they were tiny and delicate fins that lay almost flat against her skull. "You must be Wolf," she murmured quietly as the girl quickly shifted forms in the water and let out a squeal as another seal came up to tag her.
"My son has told me a little about you," she slid him a sideways, measuring glance, and Wolf resisted the urge to fidget. She didn't smell human. Neither had the little girl, for that matter. Seal, at least, smelled vaguely human. There was a bit of spice to him, but it was nothing like the almost overpowering perfume of the woman beside him. It unnerved him just a little. "He trusts you."
Wolf had no words for that. The idea that anyone trusted him was more than a little laughable. After all, the years that he'd spent locked in a cage little better than an animal seemed to indicate the opposite. Granted, Seal was different. Almost wildly so from anyone Wolf had ever known.
"Don't betray that trust," she murmured quietly, her eyes flashing slightly before she waded back out into the sea to join the two seal cubs.
Wolf stared out at the incoming tide a long time.
"Hey Wolf," Seal blew out a tired sigh thumping down on the sand beside Wolf. Glancing over, Wolf could see that Seal had changed into cleaner clothes, ones that didn't have the faint hint of blood stains or of the circus on them. The wind had picked up sometime in the last hour and Wolf had to squint to keep from getting sand in his eyes as he noted just how at ease and relaxed Seal looked here. "Sorry about my grandparents. They just worry a lot."
"Hmm," he murmured, hating himself just a little for giving into his desire to lean in closer to Seal until their elbows were touching and he could feel the faint heat radiating off of Seal's body. He had to admit, it wasn't as if Seal's grandparents were completely unjustified in their concerns. Seal had gotten himself caught.
"They think I'm going to do something stupid and reckless like my father did when he stole my mother's pelt. Which is ridiculous because I already have my own pelt. They just don't get it," Seal frowned angrily, kicking at the sand. "They think I belong back out at sea with my mother and her new love and my half brothers and sisters."
"I saw your mother." Wolf regretted saying the words the minute they left his mouth. He didn't want to think about Seal returning to the sea or to his family there. Seal couldn't return to the sea, he'd seen to that. Seal was his family now, and the one he had out at sea would just have to learn how to get along without him. They'd done it just fine while Seal had been a prisoner in Wolf's cage.
"Oh yeah?" Seal grinned. "Told you she was more impressive than me."
"Smells funny." Wolf blushed as Seal laughed and threw an arm around Wolf's neck to pull him closer. "You smell better."
"If you say so," Seal returned dubiously. Curling his fingers around Seal's forearm, Wolf grinned slightly before tackling Seal, pinning him to the sand for about half a second before Seal laughed and pushed back wrestling with him. There hadn't been the room—or the energy, really—in their cage for them to have done this there. So Wolf revealed in it, experimentally pinning Seal a few times before letting Seal pin him with a triumphant laugh. "I win."
"You cheated," he gave a low laugh, pushing Seal's face away from his playfully and wiggling out from under Seal's hold to sit beside him. They were both covered in sand, but Wolf didn't care.
"I can't help it if you're slow," Seal scoffed, before flopping back on the sand. They stayed like that for a while, just watching the waves rolled in, and Wolf wished that it could stay just like this. Even when he was sure it couldn't. "I've got to go and talk to my mom."
"Don't." Wolf curled up on the sand beside him.
"Why not? I have to. She's the only one who's gonna be able to set my grandparents straight on this."
"Let's just leave. We'll find a place somewhere. Shelia's probably still looking for us. We could just disappear."
"I can't just leave my family behind," Seal laughed incredulously. "Don't be ridiculous. This is where I live, Wolf."
"Why?" He demanded. "What's so great about this place, anyway? What's so great about them? You don't need them. We could just leave today and find our own place. Make our own place where no one's trying to make us do things that we don't want to do or forcing us to be something we're not."
"What's gotten into you?" Seal turned to look at him. "This is my home. This is where I live and it's where I belong."
Wolf bit his lip. Be that as it may, Seal wasn't going back to the sea. Wolf wasn't going to let him. He'd been abandoned carelessly and callously too many times in the past and he wasn't about to let Seal just flit off because two old fogies couldn't mind their own business long enough for Wolf to convince him. Wolf's home was with Seal. Or, at least, he wanted it to be. They only home he'd ever known was his cage and he didn't want to go back to that. "Your grandparents hate me." He tried a different tactic.
"They don't hate you," Seal shot back rolling his eyes. "They just don't understand what it was like. They're sheltered. I just have to humor them a little and it will all be good. I'm going to go and see my mom and pretend that I'm doing what they want, but I'll be back once I get it straightened out with her. If you stay out in the barn for a couple hours, they'll never know."
"Don't go." He tried pleading, knowing how fruitful it was even as he did it. People didn't do things merely because he asked them to. If that were the case, he'd never have spent so many years at the circus. And if his begging could sway someone, his parents never would have sold him to the Ringmaster in the first place.
"It'll be okay, you big baby. I swear." Seal rolled his eyes before cuffing Wolf lightly on the shoulder. "C'mon. Let's go back in. Gram is making dinner and we can have that before we put the plan into action."
"I can't find it!" Seal came scrambling into the room in a panic. Dinner, like breakfast, had been a stilted affair, but with Seal having agreed to go back out to sea, the grandparents hadn't spent the majority of their time glaring Wolf into the floor. Not that Wolf cared. Joke was on them. Seal wasn't going anywhere. Not without Wolf at least. "It's gone. I left it in the bedroom last night and now it's not there anymore."
"What did you do with it," the old man bellowed, turning on Wolf. Wolf favored him with a small smirk. "By god, you do not know what you're dealing with."
"Like hell I don't," he finally snapped back. He'd been, well maybe not polite per se, but he'd been quiet. He'd tried not to shake things up too much. They were the ones who'd taken an instant dislike to him, not the other way around. "I don't think you realize what you're dealing with. Seal's not going anywhere."
Turning, Wolf took in the hurt on Seal's face. "You're not going back. You don't even want to." He tried to point out desperately.
"We talked about this. I had it all worked out," Seal took a step closer to him. "I would have been back."
"No, you wouldn't have," Wolf returned bitterly. "I'm not stupid, okay. You would have left. You would have rejoined your family and they would welcome you with open arms and I would have been history. You'd have your perfect life with them and I'd be less than an afterthought."
"You don't know that," Seal yelled back. "You didn't even give me a chance."
Didn't Seal understand that taking that chance was just too great? "The chance to what? Leave me? Let them sell me back to the circus?" He flung a finger at the old man who bristled.
"No! I thought you were my friend. Funny, I know, but I thought you'd have some faith in me. I thought you'd trust me enough to know that I wouldn't do something like that or leave you here with them if I thought they were going to do that, which by the way, is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
Oh it was, was it? "What reason do I have to trust you, or them, or anyone for that matter?" he snarled. "Everyone lies."
"God, you're so hardheaded." Seal scowled at him, before breathing out a frustrated sigh. "I'm not lying to you. Just give me back my pelt, and we'll work this all out," Seal pleaded softly.
"You might not mean to lie," Wolf admitted reluctantly, "but you would. I've met your mother. Your little sister too, for that matter. They can come on shore, can't they? You can see them when you want. So why go back? Stay with me," he stumbled over the last words. Begging again. There was just something about Seal that reduced him to it. Emil could come at him for hours, and Wolf would stonily take it, screaming when it hurt and whimpering when he was too hoarse to scream, but he'd never begged the man to stop. It was a pointless endeavor.
And maybe it was pointless now, but Seal had to see things Wolf's way. What the hell was the point of being free if he was alone? He'd just get lynched in the first town he came across. He'd just be alone and wandering aimlessly until someone else did him the favor of locking him up again. He needed Seal. Why couldn't Seal see that?
"I don't have much of a choice, do I?" Seal spat back at him. "You've stolen my pelt. You've done the same thing that my father did to my mother and that Shelia did to me."
"Seal," he started only to have Seal's heated glare draw him up short.
"Are you going to give me back my pelt?"
"Then I have nothing to say to you. I don't want to see you. I don't want to talk to you. Stay away from me." With that Seal stalked off to the bedroom, leaving Wolf alone with the grandparents.
"Get out," the old man snarled.
"Gladly," Wolf growled back, slamming the door on his way out.
Wolf paced nervously along the beach, grumbling under his breath. He'd known it wouldn't go well when Seal discovered what Wolf had done, but he'd thought Seal would have taken it better. He'd thought Seal would have understood. Besides, hadn't Seal told him that the sea wasn't for him? What the hell did he need the pelt for anyway if he was planning to stay on land?
So it was part of him. So it made him whole.
Wolf blew out a ragged breath, sinking to his knees in the surf. He knew what he was doing was wrong. If he were a better person, hell if he weren't a dirty worthless werewolf, he'd probably march right back up to the house, grab Seal and lead him straight back to his pelt. But he wasn't a better person. He was a dirty worthless werewolf and the only way he'd ever get anyone to stay with him was to make them. It was all he knew.
He loved Seal. He wanted to be with Seal. Was that really so bad?
"You can't have him," he screamed at the ocean.
"If you take away his choice, you won't either."
Startled, Wolf jumped, baring his teeth as Seal's mother came upwind behind him. "Choice is just an illusion. No one has it and everyone is always subject to someone else's whims," he told her straight up. From her indelicate snort and eye roll, it was obvious that she didn't hold the same opinion.
"If that's what you'd like to believe, but he'll come to hate you. He'll tell himself at first that you're doing it out of love and that you'd never meant to hurt him. To betray him. And then slowly, the sea will call to him, and he'll forever be trying to fill that empty hole inside of him. That hole you created by stealing something that was important to him. He'll come to resent you for keeping him tethered. He'll come to hate you for not loving him enough to trust him," she told him matter-of-factly.
"It won't be like that. I won't let it be like that."
"You're not going to have much of a chance making it any other way," she retorted sardonically. "You think you love him? Is this love?" She raised an eyebrow.
"He means everything to me," Wolf murmured barely above a whisper, but knowing that she heard him just the same.
"You think so. But everything that you're doing is selfish. You don't care about him. You don't care about how upset this makes him. You don't care about how he might miss his family. You don't care about anything other than yourself and how this is affecting you," she told him harshly. "You don't love him. Nothing that you're doing makes me think you might."
"You're wrong." He glared at her. "He'll get over it. He's stronger than you think. He doesn't need you anymore." But was that really strength? Wolf avoided looking into her sad blue eyes.
"He's always been an independent boy. Headstrong even. He hasn't needed me in a long time. But that doesn't change the facts. You've taken away something dear to him. You've betrayed his trust and it will be a long time before he gives it back to you. If he ever does."
Wolf gave Seal a week of space. And Seal had spent it moping around, looking forlorn and lost. Unable to make himself watch it all, Wolf had hid around the barn, he'd played in the tide pools with Harp and he'd tried to stay out of the grandparents' way, for the most part, waiting for Seal to come around. Hoping that Seal would.
And on the night of the full moon, Wolf lay panting on the sandy beach, exhausted from having chased a curious Harp away from his tail. Seal's mother, who hadn't deigned to say any more to him since their discussion, had watched cautiously as he played with Harp, never interrupting their play, but letting Wolf know in her own way that she didn't approve of him fraternizing with any and all of her children.
"So this is what you look like on a full moon."
Wolf jerked slightly as Seal plopped down beside him, a hand landing gracelessly on Wolf's head. He chuffed softly, almost as an apology for what Seal had gone through the last week as he laid his jaw across Seal's thigh. "I'd wondered. And I figured you probably wouldn't want to be alone like this." Fingers scratched over the back of his head, itching just beneath his ears. If he were a cat, Wolf suspected he would have purred.
"I tried talking Gram and Gramps around, but they won't have any part of it. They say they've been through this once and they don't have the heart or the energy to watch it happen again," Seal said softly.
Wolf whined and butted Seal's hand with his head. They could make it just fine without the grandparents. They weren't worth getting worked up over. If they couldn't accept this reality, then they had no business sticking around. Wolf could be enough for Seal. He was sure he could be, if only Seal would give him the chance.
"They say it would probably be best for me if we went inland. Seeing the sea will only make it worse." He could hear the pain in Seal's voice as he said it.
There had to be another way, he decided as he licked Seal's hand. They could find another patch of sea somewhere else. Away from here and prying eyes.
"It'll tear me apart if we stay near the ocean. I don't want to be near it if I can't change. You understand, right?" Seal rubbed a hand over Wolf's back. "I know there's a higher likelihood of us getting caught if we're inland, but if we stay here, I'm going to go slowly mad."
Wolf chuffed again, unhappy at both prospects.
"I'm still angry as hell at you, don't get me wrong," Seal bit out sardonically, startling Wolf. "But well," he shrugged uncomfortably.
Taking a chance, Wolf inched closer and gave Seal's hand a tentative lick. For his part, Seal made a slight face at the werewolf saliva.
"I can understand where you're coming from. I think. You've never had anyone. And I like that I'm that important to you. I like that you like me so much. In fact," Seal sighed heavily before leaning in, "I love you. When I'm with you, I'm not my mother's mistake. And I'm not that ne'er-do-well's bastard child. You want me with you, and what's more you need me with you and that made me feel worth something for the first time. My grandparents love me, but they don't know what to do with me. They think I belong out at sea. My mother thinks my place is on land. And when I'm with you, what they think isn't important."
Seal lay down on the sand beside him. "I just wish you could see that."
Wolf rolled over closer to him, blowing out a doggie sigh into Seal's black hair.
"I want my freedom, Wolf. But I'm willing to wait for it. However long it takes, I can wait for you. Just promise me that someday you'll actually give it to me. Please don't keep me chained," Seal pleaded, his hands brushing down Wolf's neck and finding the old steal collar still hanging there.
Wolf watched as Seal curled in then, falling asleep next to him. There were dark rings under Seal's eyes and his skin was an unhealthy shade, even in the moonlight. And the things that Seal's mother had said were replaying over and over in his mind. Was this love? Seal said he loved Wolf, but what did Wolf know of it? He'd wanted Seal to want to be with him. He'd needed Seal to need to be with him. He loved Seal.
But he wasn't what Seal needed. He wasn't even sure he was what Seal wanted. He'd given Wolf the words, but they were as empty and meaningless as everything else in Wolf's life. And why? Because he'd taken Seal's stupid pelt. He'd forced Seal's hand.
He was no better than Shelia.
In fact, he was probably worse. Because he'd done it, telling himself that he was doing it because he loved Seal. Because he wanted what was best for them. And Seal's mother was right, it was selfish. Seal deserved better than that. Deserved better than some stupid wolf who couldn't figure out how to love or how to live.
He inched out from beside Seal, jogging halfway up the beach before shaking the sand out of his fur. It would take some doing in this form, he decided as he made for the rocky ledge, but it could be done. And digging awkwardly, moving rocks with his mouth and pushing them aside with his paws, Wolf finally dug out the hole where he'd hidden Seal's pelt.
Grabbing it gingerly, he hesitated. And then he shook off the hesitation, trotting back to Seal's side and gently laying the pelt on top of him.
It had been a nice fairytale while it had lasted. But now it was time for Seal to stay where he belonged and Wolf to go back to where his place in the world was. With a heavy heart, he gave Seal's face a quick lick and then loped off the beach, past the house and back into the woods Seal had taken him through not so long ago.
Wolf let Emil toss him gracelessly back into his cage without as much as a whimper of protest. His back was a mess again, but it was nothing compared to the fact that he was now sporting a bandana that covered the socket that Emil had gouged his eye out of upon his return to the circus.
Oh, home sweet home.
To say that Shelia was pissed off over having spent two weeks without her two top grossing attractions was an understatement. And of course, she'd been more than happy to let Emil take the loss out of Wolf's hide both in performances and out of performances. It didn't matter to Wolf. There wasn't any point in putting up a fuss and it only would have made it worse anyway.
Besides that, he was simply too apathetic to care. The circus was where he belonged. It was where his parents had sold him without a second thought and it was practically all he'd ever known and would ever know. It was about damned time he accepted that. Maybe being with Seal had inspired a brief rebellion in that thinking, but it was over. Seal was happy and at home and where he belonged, and Wolf could find some small solace in that.
"Oh God, Wolf?"
Jerking, and then swearing when the jerking resulted in a world of pain, Wolf came face to face with Seal. He had to blink three times simply to reassure himself that he wasn't hallucinating. Because Seal was standing just on the other side of the bars, crowbar in hand and a stubborn look on his face. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Me?!" Seal squawked in an incredulous whisper. "What about you, dumbass? I can't believe you came back here. After everything they've ever done to you," he continued furiously as he stuck the crow bar under the lock and threw his weight on it.
"Seal, you have to leave," Wolf tried to persuade him urgently, knowing that Emil couldn't be too far away and that of both of their actions, Seal's were by far the stupider of the two. "If they catch you, it won't be pretty. Just leave me here."
"No way, you prick. You're coming with me," Seal grunted as he pushed harder. "I don't know what goes through that insane head of yours, but a person doesn't leave a loved one with these raving lunatics."
"But I gave you back your pelt."
"Yes, and thank you for that."
"No, I mean, you have it back. You don't need me and you don't need to be here. I'm not worth the risk of getting caught, Seal. Your mother was right. It was selfish of me to love you like that. You have a place, you have a home even with them. You have no business being here," Wolf hissed desperately at him, trying to convince him before someone heard the noise Seal was making as he tried to pry off the lock.
"Look, you loved me enough to give it back. And I love you enough to get you the fuck out of here. Take it as it is and be grateful," Seal grunted before there was a loud pop. The lock flew and landed against the tiger cages with a heavy plunk. "Now get a move on."
Seal threw open the door, not waiting for Wolf to put up a protest as he climbed halfway in, grabbed Wolf's hand and practically pulled him out. "You're not listening to me," Wolf tried one last desperate time. "Where would we go? Your grandparents hate me, your mother thinks I'm slime. Harp, well, I think she's okay with me, but that's beside the point. They don't want me there."
"Course they do. In fact, Gram and Gramps came with me."
"What?" Wolf did a double take.
"Gramps is distracting Emil and Gram is keeping watch. I told you they weren't bad people. Just over protective."
"But," Wolf trailed off helplessly as Seal pulled him out of the tent.
"Seal! There you are, let's get out of here," Seal's grandmother said urgently as she hurried over to them. "Oh, you poor boy, what have they done to you?" Her face was stricken as she got a glimpse of Wolf. Feeling self conscious, he shrank back slightly as she came up to him. "You'd best give your grandfather the signal, Seal. He's fairly close to shooting that nasty little beggar where the sun doesn't shine."
For a second, Wolf was convinced that he was the nasty little beggar, but when Seal scampered off, he was left at a loss. Seal's grandmother though, had no such problems as she drew him into a hug, minding his injuries. "We saw that horrid thing they called a performance. And Seal explained to us what it was like," she said simply before reaching up to gingerly peel back the bandana he had covering his empty eye socket.
"You have to get Seal out of here," Wolf told her hoarsely. "He doesn't belong here and if they catch him, it won't be good."
"We're getting you both out of here," she told him sternly.
"No." He was getting angry now. "This is where I belong. He deserves better. He deserves somewhere else than this."
"So do you," she told him gently. There was a loud gunshot, and they both jerked up to see Seal heading for them followed closely by his grandfather at a dead run.
"Try using a whip with that hand now, you smarmy cretin!" Seal's grandfather yelled back behind them before shooing them all towards the exit at a dead run. And maybe Wolf couldn't hide his grin at Emil's girlish screams in return.
Wolf struggled uncomfortably into the shirt Gram had made him, feeling more than a little self conscious as Seal watched him do it, a big grin on his big silly Seal face. "You know, this would be easier if you went somewhere else."
"Yeah," Seal agreed. "But it wouldn't be as much fun."
Wolf scowled at him half heartedly. It had been a week since they'd left the circus, but it felt like an eternity, and Wolf still wasn't sure how to take it all. "Why'd she make me a shirt anyway?"
"Because while I might appreciate you running around half naked. They're a bit more civilized. And cause you're family, stupid," Seal laughed, climbing off the bed they'd both been asleep on less than an hour ago. "Gram spoils all of us. She'd spoil Lion too, if the idiot would ever take the chance to get his feet dry." Seal came up on his blind side, throwing an arm around Wolf's neck and pulling his head down until Wolf was looking straight into Seal's eyes.
"Is it really okay that I--"
Seal cut him off, kissing him softly. Wolf stood stock still, letting him, as Seal pressed again and he opened his mouth slightly as Seal slid his tongue across his bottom lip. It was just a small little half kiss, but it was enough to make Wolf forget what he'd been about to ask in the first place. "You belong here with me," Seal whispered with a grin. "Get used to it."
"Okay," he said, feeling the beginnings of a grin on his own lips.