Eager feet pounded the snowy ground, racing across the pasture to try to catch him. Kel'luknar looked back over his shoulder and laughed, kicking more speed into his run, outpacing the Layer. Sodre narrowed his eyes. He was going to catch that wolfe, if it was the last thing he did.
It wasn't fair, after all - just because Lucky was bigger (only by 5 inches! ...and 70 lbs), and supposedly "older" (even though really, they were both 19 and just because Sodre was a Layer didn't mean he had to be immature, it just meant that he might be) and just a tiny bit braver than Sodre (ok, a lot braver), didn't mean he could just leave the Layer behind! They had started out on this mission together, after all, and Sodre would be damned if Lucky collected all the good winternuts and didn't leave him any. The grove wasn't far from here, and Sodre knew he was a fast runner. Faster than Lucky, for sure, faster than Alpha Kellan, faster than his mom, even! If only Lucky hadn't gotten a stupid headstart.
Sodre ducked his head against a gust of cold wind and darted forward. On all fours, this would be easier, but it would be hard enough to get the nuts back as it was - he didn't need to add paws on top of it.
The ground pounded beneath his paws - push past, back, away, away, go, run, take off! Sodre threw himself into a leap over a tangle clump of wood. He landed safely and ran, ran, met some rocks, vaulted over those, ran and now Lucky's back was getting closer.
Sodre put all the power he had into his run; his thighs ached as he soared along. Lucky's back drew close; the wolfe glanced over his shoulder, gave a surprised little expression, then grinned that handsome wolfish grin and kept running.
He was going to catch Lucky. He was sure of that. He was so sure of it that he almost considered slowing his pace to tease him a little. No, better not, Sodre thought, remembering the story that Mate Gustin had told him.
Kel'luknar glanced back over his shoulder one more time. Damn, but the Layer could move. Even bundled up as he was, with layers of clothes on and a carrying bag slung over his shoulder, the Layer moved. Kelluk watched him for a minute, distracted. The Layer ran like something from the beyond - as if he moved without touching the earth. Beautiful. Kelluk blinked and the Layer was closer. Well! Damned if he'd catch him that easily. The wolfe turned his eyes back to the path just in time to miss it as Sodre caught his foot on a tree root, yelped, and went down.
Kel'luknar never saw what tripped him, never knew what happened - only knew that in less than a breath, he had spun on his heels and was running, running, tearing across the ice and snow back towards his friend. Sodre was still on the ground when he got there, lying prone and shaking. Lucky dropped to his knees on the ground besides him and crushed one hand to his back.
"Sodre!! Don't move! Are you hurt? Can you breathe??"
Sodre whimpered pitifully and Lucky reached out to try to lift him, but the Layer caught his hand and stayed it.
"No, no. I'm - " he drew in a shaky breath. "I'm fine." he began to struggle to his feet, but collapsed again and moaned. "Just give me a second." he managed, breathless.
Lucky's tail slapped the ground anxiously, leaving little feathery marks in the snow and kicking powder up onto his back. He paid it not mind, however. Not until Sodre could stand.
"Sodre, please. Let me pick you up. I'll carry you back home."
The Layer had gotten to all fours now, his hands bright red against the whiteness of snow.
"No. I'm OK." he sounded more normal now, Lucky noticed. Sodre took a deep breath and got to his knees, then stood. Kel'luknar stood with him, offering him an arm to steady himself.
Sodre blinked and shook his head.
"Nothing. Nothing. I just tripped. And I hit the ground weird." he paused, turning his focus inward. "And I feel weird."
Lucky had already conducted a sight and scent census of his friend, but now he quickly ran his hands over the smaller male's back, his arms, his neck, his sides -
"Ahhh!" Sodre yelped and jumped backwards as Kelluk's hand brushed the side of his belly. Kel'luknar stared at him, and Sodre met his eyes worriedly.
"No. No. No, I didn't."
Lucky didn't answer; just tilted his head and slowly reached out again, this time grasping a handful of the Layer's shirt and lifting it slowly upwards. Sodre whimpered. The wolfe nodded.
"Yep. You did."
"Well, push it back up!! Make it go back!"
Kel'luknar cast a skeptical look at the Layer.
"I don't think they go back up."
"Just do it!"
Lucky shook his head.
"No. I'm not going to hurt you."
Lucky released his shirts gently and straightened back up. Sodre was looking at him, stricken.
"I didn't - did - is it - so it's just gone?"
Kel'luknar released the Layer and threw a distinctly wolfish grin up at him.
"Welcome to adulthood, RooRoo."
Sodre punched him in the arm.
"It's not funny!"
"Is too! You finally dropped an egg." he raised a suggestive eyebrow at Sodre. "Who'd've thought you'd have your first time with me?"
Sodre would have put his ears back and growled if he'd been able.
"You wish, Barky."
Lucky laughed again, but Sodre just sat down on a nearby flat rock and looked worried. The wolfe clucked at him, then came over and sat beside him.
"Aw, come on, Roo, it's not that serious. You're not hurt. What's the matter?"
Sodre looked down at his hands, red from the snow and from his squeezing them into fists. He looked desperately up at Lucky.
"My appa." Sodre shook his head. "He's going to be mad. I'm going to be in trouble." Sodre cast a sideways glance. "Especially because I was with you."
Lucky grinned as if he were a little impressed with himself, and Sodre wondered how it was that the wolfe could take a sense of pride from something like that.
"Well, he'll understand. It was an accident. It just happened. I didn't even touch you."
Sodre rested his chin in his hands and sighed.
"But my appa, he'll still think - " Sodre stopped speaking suddenly, and began wagging his tail fiercely. He looked up at Kel'luknar, putting on his best puppy dog eyes. "Lucky?"
Kel'luknar took one look at Sodre and knew that this was nothing he wanted any parts of.
"No. Whatever you're thinking, the answer is no."
"Just for three days, or however long it takes the egg to regenerate!!"
"I don't want my dad to know!"
"Then don't show him!!"
Sodre shook his head.
"He'll know if he sees me. Please?"
It was then that Kel'luknar made the foolish mistake of actually looking at Sodre. He took in the adorable face, so helpless, upturned towards him; the bright eyes, damp with unshed tears; the full lip gently bitten, caught between the Layer's perfect little teeth...
"Well, what are you going to tell them when you get back?"
Even as he said it, Lucky was annoyed with himself. It was as good as a commitment. Sodre knew this. His tail wagged faster.
"I went hunting, got trapped by snow over at the Ridge again."
"Won't your appa be mad about that?"
Sodre shrugged carelessly and grinned.
"Not so mad as he'd be if he knew you made me drop an egg."
The deliberate way the Layer uttered that simple statement made Kel'luknar's ears turn pink and his cock thicken. He ignored both and looked off into the distance.
"This is stupid."
Sodre shook his head, fidgeting with excitement.
"No, it's not! It'll be just like an adventure! We can stay in the caves at the Secret Grove. Nobody'll find us there. And then - "
"Whoa. Whoa." Lucky held up a hand to stop him. "We?"
Sodre's face fell.
"I can't stay by myself."
Kel'luknar leaned back.
"Well, I can't stay with you! The entire pack will be out looking for us by nightfall! And what will we say when they find us denning together, of all things, and you without an egg?!"
Sodre, seeing that he was losing support, tried to placate the wolfe.
"OK. OK. The first night, we'll stay together and just tell them that we fell asleep at the Grove or something. In the morning, you'll go back and say I went on to the Ridge or something. Then you can just say you are going looking for me, and come back at night, and go home in the morning! It's perfect."
Perfect, except for the fact that it was four miles between here and home. Sodre looked happily up at Kelluk, and the wolfe sighed. Four miles wouldn't be so far, he supposed.
"Fine. Let's go catch something for dinner, then, since we're going to be staying out tonight."
Sodre cheered, then remembered.
"I'm too sore to hunt."
Kel'luknar rolled his eyes.
"Fine. You go to the cave at the Grove. I'm going to go raid the traps. I'll meet you there in an hour."
Sodre whined again.
"What if there's something in the caves when I get there?"
Lucky narrowed his eyes.
"It's the middle of our territory. There won't be anyone there. Maybe a raccoon."
Sodre's eyes got big, and Kelluk sighed in disgust.
"Fine. I'll go with you, then I'll go and raid the traps."
Sodre smiled delightedly.
"Thank you, Lucky!!"
"Don't thank me yet. Thank me in three days."
Under his breath, Lucky added, If I make it that long.