"Are you alone in there?" Taylor asked as he edged nearer to the woods in the High Pasture. He was pretty sure he'd seen Tristan's muzzle poking out from under that bush – but better safe than sorry.
"Yeah Tay. C'mon in," Tristan said.
The lamb spared a glance back at the flock to see if he was being watched, then pretended to see something interesting and strolled nonchalantly into the wood. These woods were thin enough he could see Tristan immediately, and went right up and hugged him.
"Hey, kiddo. Uh… does it bother you if I call you that?"
"No, Tris," Taylor said, his voice muffled by the fur of the wolf's stomach.
Tristan could feel himself getting excited already – man, it sure didn't take long, when Taylor was around. Weird. All the way to the Pasture he'd been nervous about this meeting; what was he going to say? Wasn't this still wrong? For several reasons? How was it going to be, this secret thing? How long before someone would find out? What would happen then?
So many problems, so many reasons not to go through with this.
But when he got to the Pasture, when he saw Taylor in the flock, looking for him – all that was pushed aside. Not forgotten, just pushed aside. And now that Taylor was here, hugging him, being so open and trusting and… Taylor-y… that Tristan knew – yeah, this was going to happen. He wouldn't give this up for anything. It just felt too good being with him, and in too many ways.
"C'mon, Tay – we gotta go deeper in the woods. This cover is too thin."
"'Kay." Taylor took Tristan's hand in his again, and again, Tristan's heart fluttered. The wolf sighed as he led Taylor into thicker forest. In a way, that flutter in his chest was bad – it meant that he was seriously into the boy, and he knew it. On the other hand, of course, it was also good, because - well, it meant that he was seriously into the boy. I guess good or bad kinda depends on how you look at it… Great. Another thing no one would ever understand…
Eventually, they reached the spot Tristan was taking him to – a little circle of moss maybe ten feet wide, a felled tree on one side, a bare-rock cliff on the other, with a stream burbling underneath. Ferns all around. The moss was like a thick green carpet, and Taylor released Tristan's hand so he could lay down in it, rolling around to feel its coolness. Tristan joined him, lying on his side on the forest floor, holding his head up with one arm. He watched the lamb wiggling and enjoying the feel of the living cushion of moss.
Taylor saw him lying there as he cavorted, and proceeded to "accidentally" roll right up against the reclining wolf. Tristan put an arm around him to keep him there, and then laid his head down, the bottom of his muzzle atop the boy's head. As usual, Taylor smelled good. Maybe I'm just hungry... Tristan thought to himself, and chuckled inwardly.
Inward or not, Taylor felt it, and asked "What's so funny?"
"The Wolf and the Lamb, Taylor. That's what. Being around you makes me hungry."
Taylor didn't say anything, leading the wolf to wonder, "You know I'm kidding, right?"
"I know. You make me kinna scared, too. But... I think I like it. It's hard to explain," Taylor said, then shuffled his butt against Tristan's hips. "Hungry isn't all I make you, feels like..."
He was doing it again – being Taylor. In its good-but-embarrassing way, it was heart-melting when he did things like that. Wolf courtships were so... awkward, but Taylor was right out there, like it was no big deal. And really... it wasn't. Wolves could learn a few things from sheep, he thought, but then – that might lead to a lot more wolves around. Ahhhh... I get it. It's a Balance thing. We're SUPPOSED to be different like that. Taylor wiggled his butt again against Tristan's growing erection. Yay for differences! Tristan smiled. Luckily, the lamb couldn't see it.
"Hold on a sec, Tris. I gotta look for something," Taylor said matter-of-factly, and got up.
"What? Hey – where are you going? Tay... we're in the forest. I thought you were scared of the forest?"
"I need to find some Ickystem. I won't go far – believe me. Look, here's some right here. It's pretty common stuff." He broke several of the green, succulent stem-leaves off and brought them back to where Tristan was still lying. "Okay look – you break up the stems like this," he demonstrated, snapping the thickest end at half-inch intervals, "and then you squeeze them in your fist." He did so, and clear slime ran out from between his fingers. "It's so you can get me slick. That first time, it would've hurt except you were pretty much already cumming before you even put it in me."
Abashed and intensely embarrassed, Tristan only said, "Oh."
"You cum a lot, too! Do all wolves-"
"Well... okay – it's lube, I get it. And how am I supposed to know how much I... cum... compared to other wolves? I swear... You are so weird sometimes."
"You guys don't ever talk about stuff like that?"
"No! You mean... sheep do?"
"Yeah we do. Of course we do... Tris – you're not my first boyfriend. Well... actually, you are, but you're not the first person I've sexed with."
Tristan thought about that. He wasn't? "I thought you said you were kind of a loner... sort of like me..."
"I am. That's why I've never had a partner. Doesn't mean I haven't had sex... You people only have sex with partners?"
"Uh... well... yeah..."
"Wolves are weird," Taylor said.
Tristan chuckled, "No, sheep are weird. I like it, though."
Taylor wiped his slimy hand on the moss, "Me too. Okay, I'll just set these here... you know what to do, right?"
"I'll figure it out, Tay." Tristan smiled toothily again – and this time, the lamb could see it.
"Wow. Your teeth are so cool... can I touch 'em?"
Yes, he could, and did. It was a bit of an odd feeling for Tristan as the boy pulled his lips up and down, getting a good look - he'd never had anyone fondle his teeth before, but the boy seemed fascinated by them, and kept saying "Wow..." over and over.
Then, having apparently satisfied his curiosity, Taylor backed off, looked into the wolf's eyes, and touched noses again. Then came open-mouthed kisses.
Which morphed into sex. Just like before – face to face, with Tristan staring down into the lamb's bright eyes, and Taylor staring up at him with his mouth hanging open as he panted.
Only this time, it went on and on – nearly half an hour. By the time it was over, they were both exhausted, and Tristan rolled off of Taylor to sit with his back against a log. Taylor put out a hand and was soon pulled up against him, between the wolf's legs, the sheep's back to the wolf's front.
They sat like that for awhile, not talking, just enjoying being with each other. Their mind's wandering their separate ways. Until finally, Tristan had an unusual question -
"Hey, Taylor? What color are your eyes?"
"I just wondered. I wish I knew what that meant..."
"Well... the sky is blue, too."
"Your eyes are the color of the sky?"
"Well... not quite as light blue – but yeah, pretty much."
"I wish I could see it..."
"I'd trade ya if I could see at night like you."
"Hmm. Maybe we better stick with what we have."
They made more such small-talk, until it was time to go. Taylor re-joined his flock, and Tristan kept watch until they were back in the Town limits again, as usual. He waved good-bye from the usual place by the side of the road, knowing that Taylor wouldn't be able to see, and was therefore surprised when he saw Taylor wave back. No, the lamb couldn't in fact see the wolf there – but he didn't need to. Taylor knew he was there.
And so it went. On, and on, and on. Not necessarily every day – but most days. Their relationship developed, both sexually and otherwise.
They tried other positions -
"You're too low, Tay."
"If I stand up, I'll be too high. On my back again?"
"I think I like it best that way anyway."
"Me too, Tay."
And, even -
"You're way too far up, Tris..."
"Lemme scoot my knees back. How's this?"
"Still too high."
"I can't go any lower without being really uncomfortable, Tay..."
"'Kay. On your back, I guess."
"They say we're all the same height lying down..."
They talked, about themselves -
"FIFTEEN brothers and sisters?"
"What? We're sheep!"
"I have five – and that's too many..."
"I agree. There are far too many wolves around."
"Oh, very funny."
- and about their differences -
"Well – you get to know about plants when that's all you eat..."
"I guess that makes sense."
"You probably know a lot about the different species of people, right?"
"Uh, well... you don't really have to know too much just to... uh..."
"Kill and eat them."
"Yeah. I mean – sheep behave differently from, say, deer, but really, it boils down to breaking off the slow or dumb ones, then catch them, then, uh, you know..."
"Eat them. It's hard for you to talk to me about that stuff, isn't it..."
"Yes. Very. And I can't understand how come it's not hard for you to hear it!"
"I'm prey, Tris. Maybe not now, and maybe not you, but someday, someone's going to kill and eat me. I know that. I've always known that – we're born knowing that. That's how we die. It's not a big deal."
"And death doesn't... bother you?"
"Bother... It bothers you? The thought of dying bothers you? Really?"
"Can we please talk about something else, Tay..."
And, a little more than two weeks later, the burning question that was more and more on both their minds -
"It really sucks sneaking around like this all the time, Tay."
"I know. I wish... well... I wish we didn't have to, anyway."
"I wish I knew what to do, is what I wish. Are we just going to go on like this forever? Tay – I dunno if I can. It's starting to get to me..."
"If we say anything – they'll just throw us out, y'know."
"Uhm... Tris? You ever hear of The Old Goat?"
The Old Goat was a legend amongst the prey. Supposedly he could fight off wolves, cougars – even bears. They said he lived a day's travel to the west, somewhere, in a shack by a stream – but no one had ever been there. A day's travel meant coming back at night, or staying in the wild for a night, either way, none of the Town prey were about to go that far afield.
As for the predators, well, legends about goats fighting off bears weren't worth even telling. How ridiculous.
Supposedly, the Old Goat had come from some distant place, a long time ago. A place called Zashun, where people did weird things, like wear cloth on their fur-less bodies, and strange metal contraptions did all the work. And the different species lived, worked – even married – side by side. A strange place indeed. Hard to even imagine. In the first place, why would the predators and prey even want to live in such a place? And in the second; even if they did, how would Balance be maintained?
Obviously a myth, probably twisted by time. Even if such a place had ever existed – it would have destroyed itself for lack of Balance long ago.
But – Tristan and Taylor were desperate. They knew they were in love – a fact admitted by the lamb before the wolf, naturally - and the myth was their only hope. So one summer day, they simply left Town, and didn't come back. They headed West – and hoped to God they'd find a stream. A wolf and a lamb, together, in the wild.
It wasn't other predator people they'd have to worry about now – it was Wild People, and wild animals, as well. Tristan of course had less to worry about than Taylor – at least as far as his own safety. That didn't really make anything easier, though, since he worried so much about the boy. And as for Taylor – well, he had a wolf there to protect him – but if something were to happen to that wolf – then he'd be a lone lamb, in the wilderness, at least a day from home. They were both too nervous to talk much.
It was afternoon before they found the stream. Well, a stream, anyway. Both of them actually jumped for joy, and hugged tightly. It was their first sign that there might be a - small – possibility of hope. Which was a thousand times more than they'd had before.
But later, getting close to evening, something began to trouble Taylor.
"Tris, I feel like we're being watched..."
"It's getting towards evening. Here, take my hand."
"No, no it's not that. I'm not sure why – I don't think I smell anything funny... Just a feeling."
"Okay, well – don't let on. I don't smell anything either, only a few animals around... but nothing to worry about. Mostly prey. I'll keep an eye and an ear out though." Tristan kept walking ahead – but his ears pointed backwards, sideways, everywhere. The only thing he could hear was the gentle noise of the stream, and a little breeze through the trees. Taylor stayed as close as he could to the wolf without tripping over his feet.
But they both forgot all about it when they saw the shack.
They were only twenty yards away, too. It seemed as if it had grown out of the forest – there were ferns and mosses living on the roof, and sticking out of various places along its walls, too. A tree had been used for one corner – a tree still alive. It was constructed of logs, sticks, and mud. There were no windows. There was a door, however.
"You boys are a long way from home..."
Taylor instinctively clung to Tristan – they hadn't even seen the speaker. But now that he'd spoken – there he was, sitting in a rocking chair, apparently knitting something. He was covered chest to toe in a gray-green-brown blanket. It looked almost exactly like the forest floor to both the wolf's and the lamb's eyes. And – he was a goat.
"Uh... yes sir. We are. We... uh... we're looking for the Old Goat... is that you?" Tristan asked.
"Humph!" the Old Goat snorted, "Two insults in one breath! I am not warming up to you, young man." With that, the Old Goat pulled off the blanket and stood – revealing brown, white-spotted fur... and rather ample breasts. Breasts that seemed to be held in – tied down, even – by some kind of cloth. She also wore pants – although neither Tristan nor Taylor would have been familiar with the word.
The two travelers stared at her wide-eyed. The shack by the stream, the Old Goat, the clothes – all true! Did that mean...
Tristan stammered, still unbelieving that Taylor's myth could be real, "I – I'm sorry, ma'am. I... uh... we're trying to get to Zashun? Can you... I mean, we thought you-"
"Civilization, I imagine you mean. 'Zashun'," she snorted the word, "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised – a lot of things get corrupted in Town. You are from the Town, yes?"
Finally, Taylor gathered the nerve to speak. She was a goat, after all. Sort of like a cousin, species-wise. "Yes ma'am. The... uh... where else would be be from?"
Yet again, the Old Goat snorted – apparently it was a habit, "You think our precious Town is the only one, do you? Bah! What do they teach you kids – no, don't tell me. I'm sure I don't want to know."
"So..." Tristan asked, "Can you tell us how to get to 'Civilization', then?"
She looked at him and the lamb critically, trying to make up her mind, "No. It would do you no good – you'd never make it. It is a journey of months. Maybe as long as a year. And it is a hard journey, as well. The two of you? You have no chance at all. You may spend the night here – but you will go home in the morning."
Tristan's heart sank, and at the same time his anger rose. After all this, actually finding a legend, actually hearing the true name of the place they wanted to go – and this goat obviously knew how to get there – to be turned down because... because this prey 'didn't think they could make it'?
No. "We will NOT go home! You WILL tell us how to get there! We haven't come this far-"
"I say I will not. What do you propose to do about it?"
Tristan bared his teeth, "We are going on either way – if you won't help us, then you will end up as food for me."
"Tristan!" Taylor tried to interject.
The Old Goat smiled faintly, "Humph! It's been a long time since anyone has shown their weapons to me. Last time, it was a bob-cat. Quite long claws, she had. Quite proud of them too. I wonder what ever happened to her... I sent her home with a new notch in her ear."
"I'm not a cat..." Tristan growled.
"You'll get nothing from me, 'Tristan'," she looked up and to one side, giving the wolf a good look at her throat, "We are wasting time - give it your best shot."
"Tris! Don't!" - but the wolf was lunging even as Taylor said it.
The Old Goat side-stepped daintily to get out of the wolf's way – and reached over with both hands, pushing Tristan's gaping jaws away from herself. And slamming them shut while she was at it.
Right on Tristan's lolling tongue. One of his canine teeth pierced it, and Tristan howled in pain. He also lost all composure, and fell absurdly on his face as his hands were busy covering his mouth. As if that was going to help.
"Get up. Try again," the Old Goat said.
Slowly, the wolf got to his feet again. He glared at her. Soon he realized how dumb it was holding his hands over his mouth like that, and removed them. He could taste his own blood. Goat-woman was going to pay for that! He began to set up for another lunge, then realized that it probably wasn't a good idea - he was going to have to get her off her feet, first. He crouched down, and went in low this time, aiming to sink his teeth into the meaty part of her thigh.
And he almost got there, too, when her knee came up sharply under his muzzle, slamming his jaws shut yet again – he was more careful with his tongue this time - and knocking his head back. Okay, that was a surprise – but he still had his arms around her leg – he would simply use his weight to push her leg back down and – and suddenly his whole body seemed paralyzed – he could hardly move at all. His arms fell uselessly to his sides. The Old Goat was lifting him to his feet – by the nape of his neck. No one had done that to him since he'd been a puppy... but when he'd been a puppy, it hadn't hurt like it did now! He tried to wiggle and even got his arms to move about a little, but the Old Goat had one final humiliation in store – she released him, and then hit him with her fist.
Directly on Tristan's nose.
It was excruciating. Not only that – but he couldn't smell anymore, either. At all. It was like being blinded in one eye – a whole world of sense had just been cut off. He landed on his back, his hands again flying up to protect his poor abused muzzle.
"FUCK!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, "Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!"
Taylor ran to his side, kneeling beside the wolf, who was now sitting cross-legged and rocking as he tried to deal with his pain. "Tris! Are you okay? Lemme see... Here, Tris, lemme see!" He allowed Taylor to remove his hands – and the sheep saw blood running from the wolf's nostrils.
"You didn't have to do that!" he screamed at the Old Goat, "He won't be able to smell for days now! How are we supposed to go anywhere like that?! Even if we did go back to Town – he can't go NOW..."
"You two are... friends, I take it?" the Old Goat asked, non-plussed.
"We're... uh..." Taylor hesitated, unsure what to say. Tristan was emphatically nodding his head side to side, but Taylor had already made up his mind, "We're partners. He's my boyfriend."
"Is he now..." she said.
Tristan spoke up, "Tay! Goddammit... Fine. Yes, I am, and he's my boyfriend, too. Why do you think we left the Town?! Why do you think we want to get to... to this 'Civilization'? And we will, too – with our without your damn help!" He got to his feet, and put one hand back up to his nose. Tristan had no choice but to pant from his mouth now. "C'mon, Tay. Let's get the fuck outta here."
"It... it's dark, Tristan..." Taylor said uneasily.
Then, another voice was heard; "Little young ain't he, wolf-boy?"
Tristan and Taylor looked as one towards the origin of that voice. A white rabbit was leaning against the tree that formed part of the shack, his arms crossed on his chest, one ear up, the other down. He too wore wore pants, but his were leather. He was smirking.
"Who the fuck are you?" Tristan growled – but didn't bare his teeth.
"Name's Gordon. The Lady here usually calls me 'idiot bunny-man', but I prefer Gordon. You can call me Gord – I'll let you do that since she seems to like you. I gotta tell ya, though - I don't like ya much. Wolf and sheep, both boys, and him – what, twelve years old? I don't like it at all."
"No one asked you to," Tristan said, "C'mon Taylor."
Gordon chuckled, and sat on the rough steps that led to the door of the shack, "Doesn't matter what I think, anyway. This is the Lady's house. I have the honor to be her student. So what I think don't amount to much, as I'm sure she'll tell you."
"That'll be quite enough, Gordon. You may prepare the fire now," the Old Goat said, glaring at the rabbit.
"Ma'am," Gordon said as he got up and left.
Once Gordon was out of ear-shot, the Lady said, "He likes to spoil my fun – I may have to teach him a lesson about respect. Again." She paused, rubbing her chin in thought, and then said, "Taylor, is it? Are you hungry, Taylor?"
"Well..." he looked hopefully at Tristan.
"I'm afraid Tristan won't be eating tonight – not with that hole in his tongue," the Lady said.
"No, I won't..." the wolf agreed, "What... what exactly is going on here..."
"It was a test, my young wolf. You passed. Now, have a seat in the chair. Let's get that nose fixed up. And I'll get something for your tongue, too - I know it must be hurting."
God was it. The kind of pain that just stays there, nothing he could do about it except wait, probably for days. He'd give ANYTHING to make that pain go away. Even listen to the Old Goat who'd given it to him. He went over and sat in the rocking-chair - it was the only chair around - and looked questioningly at Taylor, as if to say, What have you gotten us into?
The lamb only shrugged.
Gordon reappeared with his arms full of wood, and dumped them next to a stone circle on the ground. He silently began stacking the grass, twigs and branches for the fire. He reached into the pocket of his shorts , pulling out a flint and a steel, and began to scrape sparks into the grasses. Tristan and Taylor stared at him, but the rabbit acted as if they weren't even there.
The lady came out of her shack and began putting some sort of powder onto Tristan's nose. "Hmm – I must've hit you harder than I'd intended to – my apologies. Still, it should be fine in a few days. Or a week." She put down the jar of powder and picked up a bottle filled with black liquid, "Stick out your tongue, please..." Tristan did it, but only because he couldn't think of anything else appropriate to do under the circumstances. "This will taste awful – but I doubt you'll care. Try to let it stay on your tongue for awhile – otherwise it will numb your entire mouth. And don't talk. We'll let Taylor do the talking, tonight. I feel sure he will have questions."
"They always do..." the rabbit muttered.
Taylor sat on the ground and pulled his knees up in front of himself. The Lady was looking at him, waiting. "Okay... uh, well, how come you wear that stuff over your fur?"
"Habit. Next question."
"Oh... well, I heard that in Za – uh, I mean, Civilization – the different species all live together. Is it true? Can me and Tris be... partners?"
"It is true and yes, you can... although the difference in your ages will put you in a gray-area of the Law, assuming it hasn't changed in the last twenty years..."
"Twenty-two," Gordon interjected.
"Whatever. Hush your mouth, Bunny-man. You'll have your chance to play with them tomorrow. A gray-area of the law, as I said. But I doubt you'll have any difficulties on that account. And even if you did, it would only be for a few years. Now, Taylor – perhaps you should ask something a bit more important than why we wear clothes..."
"Okay – what's going to happen tomorrow?"
"Ah! Good! Well, I imagine most of it will be taken up with building a shelter for you two. You're going to be here awhile, you see. You're going to need training, education... we're going to need more supplies – since you don't seem to have brought anything with you – and if your partner expects to eat, he's going to have to hunt."
"You will see. We do not have much time... we need to be ready to leave by late winter. It will be hard going through the mountains – although having a wolf with us will solve at least a few problems – but we absolutely must cross the desert in the spring, when the rains come."
"You... you mean, you're going to take us to-"
"Civilization? Of course! That's why we're here!"
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