It was Yeller and not Cashia asking this time. Nat looked at him sceptically. Hana rested a hand on Nat’s, her finger rubbing his thumb.
Yeller rose and offered Nat his hand. Nat brushed it away and dragged himself up on his own. He couldn’t look at Yeller. The white-haired man wasn’t sure if he was ashamed or embarrassed. He waited until the blond left to the kitchen, then followed him in, his hands jammed into his pockets. Yeller found a quiet corner boardering on the mudroom nook behind the edge of the fridge. Nat raised an eyebrow, waiting.
“God, this is going to sound so freaking weird. Tereza wanted to talk to you, and it hurts like freaking hell for her to take over. Like electric spiders,” Yeller told him.
“You dragged me in here to talk to Tereza?” Nat quipped.
“I have some standards, and I’m not gonna have them hearing a woman coming out of my vocal cords. It’s hard for her to take over as she is and I didn’t exactly want to yak in front of the group if she buckled me. She can’t navigate the neural paths as Cashia can,” Yeller growled back.
“Fair enough.” Nat motioned for Yeller to move on with it. He knew he was being cold, but he didn’t know how to act around Yeller at the moment. He had been close to the drummer. He had learned Gaelic for him, and underneath it all, he knew that there were feelings buried deep.
Tereza switched over. “I talked to Sylvi. She agrees with us that she needs to fully transform for everyone’s safety. Without the full transformation, she is a liability to this group’s safety.” She had a quiet voice, as soft as could be obtained from Yeller’s vocal range.
“What’s your idea then?” Nat leaned against the counter.
“I move in with Sven.” Tereza shrugged.
“And that would help how?” Nat wrinkled his eyebrows into a confused frown.
“Us, Yeller, you, and Sven, enough of the genetic mix-up, and we should be able to accelerate the transformation.” Tereza motioned her index finger between them.
“Wouldn’t the acceleration kill Hana?” Nat’s spine stiffened at the suggestion. Sven sat back, waiting patiently. He had already drawn his own conclusions and was waiting on Nat to accept his fate.
“There is always that possibility. However, look at it this way, if she was to slowly transform through the prolonged process you’ve been stumbling into like a bird in a cave, she might be put in more danger because of some type of trouble you’d get yourselves into. You remember how she followed you guys through the sky in the town. What would happen to her if her wings failed her in the middle of flight, or she blacked out when trying to help you out of a river or something?” Tereza crossed her arms over her chest.
“We should talk to Hana about this. Is she on board? I’m not going to force her against her will.” Nat took a step back from her.
You’ll do damn near anything to keep my Sylvi safe, human. Sven bit at him.
No, it’s wrong, and it’s not happening, Sven. I will not become Michael. Don’t you dare make me into him. Nat threatened back. Sven slunk into the recesses of his mind. He cursed, knowing the wolf would pop up again at an inconvenient moment.
“Talk to Hana if you need to, but what about me?” Tereza dropped her arms, opening her stance up to plead.
“I’d rather talk to Yeller about it. Switch out for a bit.” Nat twisted his fingers symbolically. His energy was wearing down. They had covered at least fifty miles since they had left the enclave. His shoulders were still raw. He had contributed a large energy burst to Hana. His emotions were everywhere. He watched, edgy, Yeller’s transformation from the female to the male.
“She is my mate, sir. Please, I need to be able to talk to her. I need to know I can hear her again.” Cashia overrode the change.
“I get it, just-just give me Yeller.” Nat pushed, weary. He watched again as the transformation shifted across Yeller’s eyes. “Yeller?” he asked. “Ruben?” he whispered.
“I’m here. Having these two lively and awake is a pain in the ass. Now that they’ve gotten vocal…gah. They keep trying to use me as a middle man, and I can’t keep up with it.” Yeller pressed a hand to his temple.
“I need to know from you, do you honestly want me to take on Tereza? And the thing with Hana?” Heat rose to Nat’s cheeks.
“To be free of at least one of these guys would be nice,” Yeller confided.
“Which one would you rather be free of? I’m-I’m okay with taking Tereza unless you’d rather…” Nat rubbed his arm, pulling himself into a tight strand. He couldn’t quite meet Yeller’s eyes at the question.
Yeller connected the dots. “Oh… you mean…which way would I rather swing in this type of a relationship for them?”
Nat nodded, lips thinly pressed together, warily watching every move Yeller made. “Tá náire agus eagla orm1,” Nat confided, shivering. He couldn’t believe that he could admit his feelings. He had never put a finger on them before, but faced with the need to analyze them, he could come to terms with who he was.
Yeller wanted to hug him, troubled at his admission, troubled that Nat would tell him such a thing in Gaelic. “Please, don’t be, Nat. You mustn’t feel ashamed of who you are, ever.”
Nat could allow himself, away from prying eyes, to admire the packed muscle that rippled beneath his friend’s shirt. He turned away, heat flushing his cheeks up to the tips of his ears. Nat turned to stare out the window over the sink, waiting for Yeller’s reply.
“I’d rather keep Cashia if that works for you?” Yeller walked over to the sink to study the dead tree in the backyard. He glanced down out of the corner of his eye at Nat’s face. The slight man worked over his lips, chewing nervously. Blood came and went from his cheeks as thoughts flashed across his eyes. His white hair, almost albino skin, and pale green eyes were breathtaking. He had a thin, almost elfish long nose in a chiselled face.
“I don’t know about this, Yeller. You and me, our folks went to church together. We-we were raised…not to give in to this. I was.” Nat turned to him.
There were so many emotions flickering across the waif’s face, it was hard to discern what he was thinking now. Yeller finally allowed himself a moment, a touch. He feathered his thumb across Nat’s jaw. He succumbed to the electricity coursing through his system, a heady, drowning high. Nat’s skin was smooth, almost freshly shaven. The small man had mastered his hair growth between being wolf and human. It was rather convenient, or else the whole group would have been pretty scruffy by now.
“Screw the church and it’s fucked up priests. They’re hella dead by now. You exist here, now. Who are you? Who do you want to be when no one is watching?” Yeller asked, putting his hand down, trying to distance himself. He quaked inside. Tension built across his shoulders. His tongue and lips tingled with the desire to feel Nat’s skin under his touch again. He had come to grips with himself on a personal level of who he was. He knew he was nothing like what his parents wanted. He was part wolf now. He sure as hell was no longer what his parents wanted. He knew, though, that he couldn’t force his position on Nat.
“I burned out of it long ago. Lost my faith when Gage died. Didn’t mention it to mom and dad. They wouldn’t have understood. Made that kind of obvious. Turned up for mass like a good little boy just to keep them happy. Keep me safe. But some things are difficult to overcome, you know?” Nat barely hid the tremble in his lower lip.
“Deck and Sun Hee and Zola and Benj don’t care, Nat. They aren’t going to say anything against it. You heard them.” Yeller tried to reassure the man.
“I guess I don’t really have anyone to torture me for this, do I?” Nat smiled back, his heart rate dropping to a normal rhythm. He had watched too many other kids eat asphalt when they got ratted out, both in high school and college.
“You’re nervous about what everyone else would think of you.” Yeller returned to the scene in the backyard.
“How did you get through it? I sort of always had a feeling about you, but I never wanted to ask, in case I was wrong. I didn’t want to offend you. I sure as hell didn’t want to make it awkward between us.” Nat pulled himself up on the white Formica counter next to the sink.
“I lied to myself. I pretended. You remember Samantha Boone?” Yeller asked.
Nat snickered. “Do I? We were all thrilled to see her gone. God, those blocky heels she’d wear to school every day and her incessant chewing gum habit. She was a horrid, brutal gossip. We were all relieved when you dumped her.”
“That was me trying to convince my parents they didn’t have to be any more ashamed of me than about my preference in music. Didn’t have to think about shipping me off to a camp,” Yeller confessed. “Honest, I didn’t mean to put you in this predicament. If you’d rather not.” He backed up a step.
Nat fought past his ingrained prejudgments, the ones his parents and his church had smashed into his brain until all he could do was regurgitate what they said, and there was no room in his brain for his own thoughts. He reached for Yeller’s hand, battling against the nervous prickle that ran up his skin.
Yeller pulled away for a hesitant second before letting Nat wrap his hand around his. He had never thought this day would come. The comfort, the warmth in that thin, elegant hand made Yeller want to smile.
Nat held it in his lap for a minute, staring at the large size of it in comparison to his delicate fingers. “I think I can at least admit to lust. Does that make sense? Is that okay to say?”
“I wasn’t asking for love in this.” Yeller twisted his fingers with Nat’s as the man on the counter feathered along his nails.
“Why not?” Nat looked up, brilliant green eyes catching the moonlight.
“Love and lust. Loyalty lost. You would protect any of us to the death. You love all of us in your way. You are loyal to all of us, but you aren’t specifically partial to any one of us with more favours than the other. Even Hana. You aren’t really after her for her loving, devoted companionship. That’s apparent enough. You might be an asshole some days, Nat. Honest.
“These Victorian ideals where people think that humans are meant to be in a monogamous relationship comprised of some lovely-dovey crap where every word is a whispered kindness. That’s not reality,” Yeller caught Nat’s thumb.
“What is reality? What have you seen?” Nat tugged it back, starting an absent-minded thumb war with the drummer.
“We’re members of the primates. Primates, bonobos, in particular, though it’s been observed in most others, don’t mix love and sex together. They use it for social order, tension release, group bonding, things of that nature. It’s not some metaphysical tantric act looking for enlightenment. It’s not even in that religious conviction that it’s there for children. If it were, then women would have more noticeable signs of coming into heat when it was time for them to procreate or would ovulate like rabbits or llamas or something like that.” Yeller caught Nat’s thumb. They started over again.
“I mean, let’s look at things rationally. You remember the whole adultery thing and the looking at another man’s wife, yadayadayada. You hide it from yourself, but you still do it. Well, for me, that’s other men; for you, looks like it might be both?”
Nat shrugged at Yeller’s question. He wasn’t sure of himself at that point.
Yeller raised an eyebrow, but continued, “Are we supposed to judge other people for that? Are we supposed to condemn them for the natural human condition?” Yeller turned his gaze back out the dusty window, losing that round and letting Nat have his hand entirely. “Humans are always looking for a potential bonding partner. We humans, in that hindbrain that is always looking for that one moment of physical bliss, judge everyone that we come into contact with and ask ourselves what we think of them. And I don’t think that’s wrong.
“Genetic differences is always a good one to look at. Quite a few cultures that don’t fall under the modern western Judeo-Christian model allow for some form of non-marital or marital polyamory. I mean, there’s some archaeological evidence for large clan orgies. There were tribes in Nepal before the monster or somewhere where one woman has many husbands to keep birthrates down that way land possession doesn’t get divided up until it’s unusable for agriculture. In many matriarchal cultures that celebrated earth spirit religions, the LGBTQ+ community were respected, if not seen as holy,” Yeller paused, sure that he had talked himself into a twisted knot. He had splurted a lot of facts that all seemed to connect in his brain, but he wasn’t sure if he had explained himself well.
“You’ve studied this quite a lot, haven’t you?” Nat circled the calluses on the man’s palm.
“I had to come to a better understanding of who I was in this world, and, living on my own, I had access to unrestricted internet. Even though I never told any of you guys, I was able to get to a point in my life where I didn’t hate me. I found that most everything I was taught was not what I felt comfortable with. I had to realise that I could make my own decisions and that I couldn’t let peer pressure from everyone, including my parents, tell me what I could and could not do in my life. I studied so much to understand what was wrong with me.
“What I found out is that there’s nothing wrong with me. There never was. It was outside cultural and social values that were not my personal feelings that were saying that I was a freak, a deranged renegade. I’m fine the way I am.
“If what you need is some kind of release, some type of non-commital fulfilment, I’m fine with that. I didn’t set out in this conversation to make you love me,” Yeller closed his fingers around Nat’s.
“I think we’re both warped on hormones, and you’ve always been there for all of us, for me. I see what you meant by Victorian ideals. You lost me there for a minute, but it makes sense. No one in their right mind sets out in this type of conversation to have a dry monologue about the principles of sexuality to sweet talk a lover.
“Honesty is necessary between us, and thank you for being honest with me about it.” Nat studied the callused hand holding his so carefully. To hell with it. He raised it to his lips. Electricity ran beneath his skin. The prickly edge that wanted pressure and warmth ate at his core. The tension in his shoulders had released the farther Yeller talked. It reassured him that Yeller wasn’t going to judge him or blackmail him. The man in front of him was saying it was okay. It was finally safe. “I think we’ve been in denial long enough, mo rún,” Nat whispered.
Fire swept through Yeller’s gut at the pet name. When had Nat learned that one? Yeller watched, frozen to the spot as Nat’s tongue swept the length of his thumb, his bottom teeth barely rasping against his thumb pad. Jolts seared his nerve endings, a low throb responded to the onslaught.
Nat sank into fixation. The salty skin against the tip of his tongue was rough from years of drum work and logging. Ridges from the use of the sticks meshed with thick skin from lumber work. Nat let his body override his mind. His fingertips burned. The snap of electricity crackled across his skin and seared through his stomach as his head throbbed. His imagination drove at him cruelly.
Yeller stood, entranced. The sweet, painful hardness that pressed against his jeans was enough to make his knees weak. Nat’s lips parted again; his tongue swept across his thumb as he pulled the digit into his mouth. Yeller groaned, unable to keep from reeling at the delicious torment, the hidden intimacy that so much was meant in that action. He savoured the exquisite moment. Nat’s tongue moved up the nerve-tender skin of his thumb, and he could imagine more.
Yeller eased between Nat’s legs, his hand pressing the man’s lower back until he was sitting precariously on the edge. The musician, falling to the fire and lost to the electricity of his nerves, leaned in to test the porcelain skin of Nat’s neck, the heady smell of cedar and woodland wrapping around him. He bent the waif farther back, smiling at Nat’s hard admission again his abs. The blond nibbled on Nat’s earlobe.
Yeller, barely able to control himself anymore, groaned as Nat dragged a pointed tongue tip from the base of his thumb up to his print. His free hand wandered down the length of Nat’s side to find the waistband of his jeans, feathering the line of his hip. It was becoming painful. He rested his forehead on Nat’s shoulder, trying to steady his breath, his chest tight, his body raging. It took all he could, his voice husky in the quiet of the kitchen, he pleaded, “Nat.”
Nat’s eyes snapped open, suddenly remembering where they were, embarrassed. “I’m – I’m sorry.” He dropped Yeller’s hand quickly.
Yeller continued resting his head on Nat’s shoulder, fighting hard to bring himself under control. It had not taken much for his mind to reach for every hidden fantasy that he had stored in it long ago. He breathed heavily, waiting for the electricity snapping across his skin to dissipate. Slowly he brought the roaring in his head down to a dull ache. “Tereza. That’s what we were talking about here, at least that’s what we came in here to discuss,” Yeller tried to redirect their thoughts. Nat looked away from the tall man, the tips of his ears cherry red. Yeller eased himself from between Nat’s legs, both still aware of the painful hard-ons each other had.
“I’ve taken her.” Nat curled his hands around the edge of the counter in an effort to ground himself. Yeller glanced over at the man, still trying to regain his composure. What he heard was ‘I’ll take her.’
“Do any of the mongrels in this room have a good idea as to how to transfer her then?” Yeller asked, pointing his question to Cashia and Sven.
“I said I already took her,” Nat mumbled again.
“Abair é sin arís, le do thoil2?” Yeller’s hands came up open in confusion. He went delving in the recesses of his mind to find a blank spot where Tereza had been occupying space. He turned, wide-eyed to Nat. “How did you?” he couldn’t finish the sentence before realization dawned on him. “Ingestion of genetic material. Not just bodily fluids. Even skin cells?”
Nat nodded. It didn’t take much for Tereza to jump ship. It was Sylvi that Sven was worried about. A receptive host with normal genes could accept the transition easily it appeared. Hana though, with her avian mutation, was suffering difficulties in accepting Sylvi.
“Can I accept her back or Sven for that matter?” Yeller swallowed.
Sven? Nat asked.
Oh, glad you’ve finally come back to me. It isn’t easy having Tereza in here roaming around trying to get comfortable. I had a nice soft spot all made up. Yeah, Yeller can take her back or me for that matter if we wished it. Anytime he feels like it would be nice. Sven grouched.
So, this is how you gave Hana Sylvi?
Well, not in such an elegant manner. Sven snipped back.
How do you mean? A pit dropped in Nat’s stomach.
You, idiot that you are, had to get that hand looked to. Sven provided.
You mean she touched my blood and you gave her Sylvi through what, her pores? It really is just a crossing of any genetic material? All I have to do is touch her and that gives her more of Sylvi? I’ve touched her multiple times. The rest of the group has touched her. Wait, did you make me lacerate my hand just so you could get your rocks off? Damn you!
Now you’re getting it. She was the first prospective female that seemed suitable to carry Sylvi. How was I supposed to know she had that bird contaminant in her? Sven snorted.
How’d you know that she would come along with us? Nat wanted to scream.
Sylvi’s not completely with Hana, enough to be able to relay information. That’s why it takes so much to communicate with her. You have the rest of her in here. I thought you understood this already. Sven bristled.
I practically swim in denial. I thought you got that part. That’s why there isn’t much room in here? Nat rubbed at tired eyes.
Bingo, give the kid a doggy bone. Sven remarked coldly.
“Bloody perfect. I have three wolves occupying my brain,” Nat lamented.
“Beg pardon?” yelped Yeller.
“You can have any of them over into your space any time you want them, Yeller. I have the entirety of Tereza and Sven in here, and most of Sylvi. I would like to remedy that as quickly as possible,” croaked Nat.
“Well, that’s going to be fun. Your hormones are going to be off the chart sharing between two women and Sven and yourself,” Yeller crossed his arms.
“You have no idea.” Nat tilted his head back to stare at the popcorn ceiling.
 I am ashamed and scared.
 Please say that again.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
If you would like to tip the author, check out the following buttons: