[A/N] So! Here we are again, new story time. This is something started for nano, but despite managing the word count it's still not finished. The way I see it, what better way to get a kick in the behind than FP? This way I can even get some feedback before I plunge deep in to editing. So feel free to let me know what you liked, what you didn't, etc. It would be greatly appreciated.
I decided to steer clear of romance as the main genre and try my hand at some adventure, or mystery, I don't quite know what it is. It's supernatural for one—I think I'm throwing in just about every kind of creature I can think of. It's been vastly amusing to write so far which gives me great hopes for the future. Nevertheless, it's still slash (m/m), and a lot of it. I am apparently quite thick when it comes to heterosexual relationships beyond the very superficial. This is not much of a surprise.
Well, I hope it meets at least some approval. I guess that's it for the notes, here's the little prologue.
Hope you enjoy,
Absolutely no one was on the road at the godforsaken hour of half past four in the morning, which would prove fortunate should the riveting scenery of bushes and farmland manage to lull him to sleep. Duke glanced in the rear-view mirror to check on the other two and guessed they would probably stay peacefully asleep until Sasha noticed the drool Mick was leaving on his shoulder. He was tempted to pull over and join them in a proper puppy pile but the need for a bath was more pressing and Sirenhome was mere hours away. Fuck, he was pretty much ready to run there if he had to.
Maria's birthday was the day after tomorrow and they would sing and play all night for her, the entire community would. Maria was the doctor's assistant but she would always be a dancer, a singer, and a daughter of her people. It couldn't have been timed any better, her birthday coincided with the full moon which pretty much guaranteed it would be a party to remember—and not just for the wolves.
Duke sighed, he really should have listened to her when they were younger. He would have been a father by now and the endless running around would have ended. She had known he did not love her like that and it hadn't mattered, they would have lived well together. It would have been perfect save for the burning in his blood, the promise they'd made—the reason Mick, Sasha and he were so often on the move with their lives in the trunk of a car. It was no use wondering about may have beens and should haves, everyone had a path to walk and that was that.
"Duke, rein her in a bit," Sasha mumbled sleepily form the back-seat.
"No, not now, not fucking now," Duke prayed, but did as he was told and slowed down. Sasha was the highest in rank of the three of them, not that he asserted it often. Still, there was no way he could disobey.
A lumpy thing by the side of the road stirred slowly and then jumped up, waving its arms wildly. Apparently, he was fated to suffer. He already knew they would pick the kid up, there was no way they could not. That would go against everything they believed in, but it wasn't written anywhere he had to enjoy it.
He could smell it on him now they were closer, hellfire, he really hated Sasha's intuition sometimes.
He pulled over and watched the kid scramble towards the car. It was a he, that was plain to his nose. Sometimes it was hard to tell, especially at the wrong side of midnight after having driven for hours, but not if he actually paid attention to what his senses told him.
"Where ya going kid?" Duke asked kindly. At least he hoped it came across somewhat kindly, he was too tired for particulars. The kid took one look at Duke's tattooed arms and nearly fell over.
"F-f-f, Farsithe," he stuttered.
The kid was a mess. His clothes were rumpled, dirty and torn in interesting places—and that was the least odd thing about the colourful silks he wore. His hair was tied back in an attempt to disguise its unwashed state and there was so much dirt on his hands and under his fingernails a shovel might be needed to dispose of it. There was also something not quite right about him. He smelled like their kind, but not exactly.
"We can take you as far as Sirenhome, give you a bed and a meal, and perhaps even a shower once I'm through with it. You can find your way from there. Well?"
The kid glanced at his plastic bag which seemed to decide it for him. Duke couldn't blame him, he'd be hard-pressed to decline food if all he had was a nearly empty bottle of water and half a chocolate bar too. The kid smiled and got in the passenger's seat, carefully lodging his funny looking rucksack between his feet.
"I'm Duke, back there's Mick and Sasha. If you have courage, there should be a box of cookies on the floor somewhere," Duke told him.
The kid's smile could melt snowy peaks. "My name is Shinobu. T-thank you."
"Thought you'd be in that ditch forever," said Sasha leaning over the seat with the box of cookies in his hand."
"Obviously he didn't, or he'd have brought more food," grumbled Duke.
"Oh shut up. Here, take it," Sasha told the kid with a wink. "We're asleep anyhow"
"Too noisy is what you are. Stop bothering the kid and give me a cigarette. I'm getting us home in two hours if my baby allows it," Duke notified him. Sasha lit a cigarette and handed it to him.
"I'll leave you to it then. Goodnight."
Shin had in the meantime started on the cookies—the first food he'd had in over thirteen hours—with noticeable relish. He'd planned to eat slowly, but he was already half-way through the box. Somebody had actually stopped to give him a ride! He couldn't believe his luck, mostly because he didn't think he had any. In over two months of travelling he had been shown kindness exactly four times, five if he counted that one time the lady next to him on the bus had seemed to forget her lunch.
He was clearly still unsure of the company, and Duke couldn't blame him. The three of them didn't exactly conform to standards, least of all him. He decided to give the kid some space—it would only get worse when they arrived at Sirenhome and their Aunt got her paws on him. The pack would be happy to welcome a new kid, they were hardly the elitists some of the others pretended to be. Duke preferred it that way. They were all children of the moon in one way or another, why make a distinction based on parentage? No one else would mind another wolf either and if they did he was sure it wouldn't last once they actually met the kid. It didn't even occur to him to think the kid might not stay. It was just one of those things.
He glanced at the kid—he had apparently devoured the cookies and was sipping his water carefully. He looked too pretty, really. Those were some of the darkest eyes Duke had ever seen on one of their kind, and he had some really sharp eyebrows.
That was another thing, while most wolves he knew leaned toward the hairier side of the spectrum, this kid was entirely smooth with not a hair out of place. Duke's own hair tended to run rampant whether he allowed it or not but the kid looked groomed. Grubby, but groomed.
Soon enough the kid started producing yawns and soft snoring followed. Duke cursed them all, lazy bastards, and himself for offering to take the last few dozen miles. No matter, when they arrived Aunt Sofia would feed them all a glass of bourbon and wrap them in soft sheets for a few hours. It would be good to be home again after so long, they hadn't been back since Ēostre .
The markers started popping up, nothing too obvious, an arrangement of stones, a scarf in a tree, and the rusted body of a car, but they let him know he'd nearly arrived. When they entered town it was somewhere close to seven in the morning, there would be no one on the streets for a little while yet. Duke could probably drive the rest of the way to Aunt Sofia's bed and breakfast blindfolded so they arrived without incident.
"Up, you mongrels. We're home," he said with obvious relief.
He'd barely parked the car when little woman in colourful skirts wearing many beaded bracelets appeared in the doorway with her arms spread wide. "My boys are home! And you brought a guest, marvellous, marvellous!" she enthused, rushing at Duke like a tiny colourful whirlwind. "Mon dieu, you all look positively wretched, come, come with Sofia, I have something for everyone."
"Aunt Sofia, you look more beautiful than ever," said Sasha. He picked the woman up and spun her around, setting her down in front of Mick, who crushed her to his chest.
"We have missed you, lady," he told her.
Sofia endured their affections with a wide grin bearing her teeth, but when Duke gave her a light kiss on her fingers she smiled like a mother would. "My Dushan, my gentle boy, my heart. You should leave home less often. Bring your friend, there will be breakfast for those who want it and clean beds for everyone. Come!"
Shin watched them all with wide-eyed amazement, there seemed to be so much love between them, love freely shown. Much different than where he was from, that was for sure. He let himself be dragged inside, clutching his bag nervously, wondering when they would realise he didn't belong. He was hardly worth all their attention, he was an intruder and he knew how people generally dealt with intruders.
That Sasha with the wild hair and twinkling grey eyes kept looking at him and making faces. He seemed nice enough, if a bit odd. They were all a bit odd, really, an assortment of torn jeans and boots, leather and golden jewellery. And tattoos, they had many, many tattoos. The woman was craziest of all though, she just didn't stop moving or talking, but he wasn't listening. He was wondering now that he had gotten there, what the hell he would do once he left.
Not that he had any grounds to complain, they had treated him better than anyone since he'd left his home. Of course, that would all be over once they realised what he was, he though morosely. He'd been warned, but he hadn't believed the Elders. At least, not until he'd ventured into the world on his own. He'd learned about people and strangers the hard way.
"Now who is this wonderful boy you have brought me?" Aunt Sophia asked looking straight at him.
"I'm Shinobu, madam. I'm just a traveller," he said looking down at his feet.
"A drifter, and such a polite one! Well, you have come to the right place. I insist you stay for the party tomorrow, I will even go so far as to say I will be very cross with you if you don't," she said and was back to digging through the cupboards of her massive kitchen.
Duke pushed Shin into a chair on his way to the sink and washed his hands thoroughly. He set some water to boil and let himself fall in to the nearest chair accepting a lit cigarette from Sasha. Sofia clicked her tongue and threw a window open. Mick set out three glasses and a bottle of bourbon which Sofia cleared away as soon as he put them down, ignoring the half-hearted frowns of the three men. Instead of the bourbon she set out plates, cutlery, and large cups full of milk with curly straws.
"There, now who wants eggs? Or perhaps toast, or waffles? Tell Sofia what to give her boys, I will do it gladly," she said, petting Mick affectionately.
"Nothing but milk for me, I will drink this and set up camp in the bathroom," Duke stated, shaking his head. "Feed the boy, he's scrawny."
Shin wanted to protest but Sofia clapped her hands and dove in to the refrigerator with glee. He watched her with wide eyes as she rapidly produced a bowl of batter and chocolate chips, pulled a frying pan out of seemingly nowhere and started to make delicious smelling pancakes.
Duke and Sasha excused themselves and left the kitchen, leaving Shin with the silent Mick. Mick was sprawled out in his chair, resting his head on his fist and sipping his milk. His dark curly hair was messily pulled back by a red scarf and he had a gold hoop in his nose. His shirt collar was stretched wide and bared his deeply tanned shoulder, exposing part of an intricate tattoo. Shin looked away when Mick glanced up at him with piercing amber eyes and raised his eyebrow. He had been staring at the dark bohemian over his plate of pancakes, which was bad enough, and he'd been caught at it, which was worse.
"Eat, child! You are nothing but skin and bones." Sofia smiled. "What a pretty colour, your hair. Is it your own colour?"
Shin cleared his throat. "Yes madam. Just black, nothing special," he said.
Sofia shook her head. "Young people. Many girls in Sirenhome would kill to have such straight, thick hair. You should be a little more proud of it." She fingered her own greying locks. "I don't think we have anyone resembling you around. You will be remarkable."
Shin blushed to the tips of his ears. "I'd rather not be."
"You won't have much of a choice," Mick said softly.
"Don't worry the boy, Mihailo," she chided. "It will all be splendid, not to worry," Aunt Sofia said dismissively.
Shin watched Mick as he ate. He didn't really understand what all that had meant, but they seemed like nice people so it was probably nothing too bad. So what if they didn't exactly feel usual to his senses? He had no right to judge anyone, not after having spent so long in isolation, living in a clan that hated outsiders. He honestly knew nothing of the world, something he badly wanted to change. Something no one back home had understood. He hadn't expected it to be as difficult as it had turned out to be, but he wasn't about to give up and go back to the clan with his tail between his legs.
The one called Sasha appeared in the doorway dressed in fresh clothes and a towel slung over his shoulders. He had apparently managed to beat Duke to the shower. He ruffled Mick's hair before taking a seat next to Shin. Helping himself to the pot of coffee, he sat back and sighed.
"There's nothing like home," he said.
Sofia chuckled. "I would never have guessed. Most times, you are more anxious to leave than return my boy."
Sasha shrugged, grinning lazily. "That, is not my fault. Besides, you can better appreciate it from far away, I've found. Do you agree?" he said, looking directly at Shin.
The boy looked down at his plate, his fists clenched at his sides. "I don't really know. I have not had many opportunities to test it," he said quietly. He looked up just in time to see the storm flash in Sasha's eyes. One second later, and he would have missed it. If he'd had an ounce of sense in his head, he would have noticed that Sasha had been watching him ever since they'd arrived, but no one could accuse him of having sense. He saw it, though, now that he was fed and not running on desperation.
It didn't exactly surprise him—Shin knew he didn't exactly look ordinary. He'd become quite used to staring in the last few weeks. What he was no used to, however, was the way Sasha was all over him. When he spoke, the man watched him. When he yawned Sasha grinned and started ushering him to bed. Before he'd even thought of undressing his shirt was being slipped off and nimble hands found his sash. That was when he had to call a stop to it.
"Thank you very much for helping me," he said, firmly gripping Sasha's hand and shaking it. He quickly sat down in a nearby chair and started fussing with his boots, hoping the man would get the hint and just leave. If the chuckle he heard was anything to go by, Sasha had gotten the hint but wasn't having any of it.
"Are you shy? Best get rid of that quick," the man said lightly.
Shin looked up at him, eyes wide and a little frightened to be honest. "I, I didn't mean to-"
"Never you mind. Someone will be probably by later to check up on you and show you where you'll be sleeping. Do have a shower if you like, we aim to please," he said, giving Shin a smug little grin. "Second door on the left," he said, pointing at it.
Once he'd left, Shin jumped up and ran as fast as his legs would go to the shower. He was just in time to walk into the sauna Duke had created, and of course Duke himself. That could not have been accidental, Sasha had obviously set him up.
At least the man had finished showering and was sort of dressed. He was wearing a pair of sweatpants that had seen better days and stood in front to the mirror combing his hair. It was quite long when wet, Shin noticed, and the curls started half way down, and Duke obviously thought one couldn't have quite enough eclectic tattoos. Unlike back home, there was no obvious theme to them, skulls, symbols, flames, writing—there was a little of everything
"Come in if you're coming. You're letting all the heat out," Duke grumbled.
Shin hurriedly closed the door and pressed up against it. He was in no hurry to get undressed with someone present, but neither did he want to be a coward and run away. Duke thankfully ignored him for the duration of his combing and afterwards grunted something before he left Shin in the blissfully large bathroom.
He couldn't remember how long it had been since he'd seen something so fine. True, it was nothing like the springs back home, but the water was divine, almost as divine as feeling clean. He washed his hair twice, carefully combing out the tangles with his fingernails. He cleaned those too, letting them grow out a bit to make it easier. He cheated with magic when it came to his teeth. He'd been doing that for a while, actually. It was kind of funny—he'd never been that proficient in household magic back home. It was true after all that needs must.
Once he was sure he was free of any kind of dirt, he shifted.
That was more than wonderful. Not only did it feel nice to have the warm water soak his fur, but he had missed his other form very much. It had been a while, he'd been afraid to risk it in case he was seen by a human.
He didn't get to enjoy it for very long though, a minute or so later the door flew open and Duke stormed in looking savage. Shin yelped and quickly shifted back, pressing against the wall. He trembled, not daring to look up. "Please, I'll leave, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he muttered. He was still muttering when Duke cursed and stepped under the spray to pick him up.
"Jesusfuck kid, what did they do to you?"
There was the sound of rushed footsteps and there were suddenly three people talking at once. Shin didn't hear any of it, he was too busy muttering and fearing for his very life.
"Quiet!" Aunt Sofia snapped, shutting them all up instantly. "Good. Now, what is the problem?"
Duke pointedly looked down at the boy who was still trembling in his arms and back at her.
"Dear me, what's happened?" she asked.
"I smelled a strange wolf but there was none of the usual signs. I guess I wasn't thinking, I just barged in on the kid—he was showering with his fur on," he said. "He freaked out, started saying sorry and shit. Smallest damn wolf I've ever seen, even for his age." Duke gave them another loaded look and turned around, still carrying Shin.
He took him to one of the free bedroom and set him on the bed. Shin curled up, turning away from him.
"Will you calm down kid? No one's going to hurt you." Duke rolled his eyes and growled. "This is getting tedious. Right, let's get it over with." He removed his shirt, tossing it in a corner negligently, yanked down the sweats, then jumped on the bed with a roar. His bones cracked, rearranging themselves, and he threw his head back and howled.
When Shin turned with a startled look he was face to face with a large grey wolf. He stared in amazement at the beast that was easily twice his size and still a little tangled in a pair of ratty sweatpants. Shin offered a trembling hand to the wolf who sniffed it interestedly and gave it a playful lick, making him giggle. The wolf backed off him and gracefully jumped on the floor, turning to sit on his haunches and observe Shin. He was magnificent, truly magnificent. He was a wolf.
Shin pulled himself in to a sitting position and inclined his head. "You must all think me quite the hysterical child now," he said self-depreciatingly. There was a rush of energy which felt much like a vacuum followed by a low chuckle from the floor.
"It's fine kid, we've seen worse. You're hardly the first to have a little tantrum in Sirenhome," Duke said. "Although you are the first to do it while naked," he added with more than a little amusement.
Shin scrambled for the blankets and covered himself quickly to the sound of more laughter from Duke. Once he was more or less decent he gave Duke a curious look. "What, I mean, how, I mean, oh dear," he rambled.
Duke got up off the floor and joined him on the bed. "We're all weres, me, Sasha and Mick, even Aunt Sofia. It's you I'm curious about, you're clearly wolf but you're not like us." He paused there, not quite knowing how to continue. "You're...very small. Now I know you might not want to talk about it, just know that I'd listen. If you wanted to talk, you know."
Shin giggled. "I'm ōkami yōkai, a wolf shifter and magic user. My size is perfectly normal."
Duke let out a relieved breath. "Good. That's really good. Never heard of you, though. I mean your kind that is."
"We keep to ourselves," Shin said bitterly. "Isolated from everyone and everything. I wasn't even aware werewolves were anything more than a fairytale before today."
Duke pinched himself, winking at the kid. "Very real, and likely not the most bizarre thing you'll see. I'm going to love seeing your face when you meet the more interesting species around. We have a bit of everything in Sirenhome but you're the first, eh, yōkai." He paused to shake his head. "No, I tell a lie. There's that five-tailed kitsune bastard," Duke grumbled. He shrugged. "We're an odd community. I don't know when it started but it's a local custom to pick up strays and give them a home here. I'm sure you'll fit right in."
"Do you have humans?" Shin asked, his eyes glittering with excitement.
"Yeah, some. There's even a few Mundanes—that's non-magical humans—but they're aware of the rest of us creepers. Like I said, we're an odd community," Duke said nonchalantly. "But really, you'll find out soon enough. For now, you might as well get some sleep." He got up and ruffled Shin's hair. "Come on, I'll set you up in a dry bed," he said with a smile.
Shin grinned back, feeling content for the first time in a long while. "Thank you. Thank you for everything."