The first thing I noticed was one of the poor creature's paws beginning to stretch and lengthen. "NATHAN STOP!" I cried, which he promptly did. He shot me a confused look then saw what was happening to the wolf and quickly reverted to his own animal form.
As he did so, the wolf's paws began to revert to their true state as well. Once they had, I gave the wolf a reassuring hug, which it accepted without hesitation. It trusted me and I knew it. Hell, I didn't just know it, I could feel it. The bond we were sharing was so strong. I'd never felt like this with anyone or anything before, except for maybe Lisa. But she wasn't here and I could feel the wolf's growing despair as if it were my own.
The poor thing just wanted to go back to its pack, especially his mate. But we both knew it would never be accepted, not if it kept shapeshifting without meaning to. Memories filled my mind of happier times of hunts, playtime, sleeping in a huge pile for warmth against the cold, the bond he shared with she who was his mate...
She was beautiful. And I say this not just because of what the wolf was feeling either. I could see her clearly in my mind.
She was more blonde than I would've pictured for a wolf, but oh that face. So sweet, so intelligent, and that fur, Lord I would've loved to have the chance to run my hands through that ruff as I had with him. Her coat was so soft looking. And I knew from his memories she was intelligent and a great hunter, as well as a wonderful companion.
"If there's some way to get you back to her, we will," I sighed aloud.
"And we're going to," came Nathan's voice from behind me. Then he placed a hand (a human one) on my shoulder. Surprised I turned and saw he was back to his normal self. He was even wearing some of the clothes I'd been holding onto for him, namely his shirt and pants. "You... how...?" I stammered.
"You inadvertently helped anchor our friend," he smiled, nodding at the wolf in my arms, who was still in his true form. "That bond three of us share, allowed me to see what was going on between you two. He was so focused on showing you his pack and mate, that I was able to shift back to myself without triggering the Sangui-Sapio in him."
"Can you get it out of him now? Like you did with the Cannibal Killer?" I asked.
Nathan looked at the wolf and sighed. "The Sangui-Sapio has been a part of him for months instead of minutes or an hour. It's become a part of him, like it has with me."
I pulled the wolf closer to me. "So it's too late? There's nothing we do for him?"
"I didn't say that," Nathan corrected. "But first I to need to get him back to his pack. And to do that, I'm going to need your help."
"Anything!" I said firmly, which earned me a lick and a nuzzle of gratitude from my furry companion.
"Good. First, I'm going to need you to take my clothes again, because I'm going to shift back into wolf form," Nathan told me and began to remove his shirt. "And then once I'm in that form I'll only communicate with you through our bond. I don't want to scare the pack, once we find them, by talking out loud. Seeing one of their own kind speaking like a man will only freak them out."
"It would kind of freak me out too," I confessed.
Grinning he continued, "You may want to put my coat on top of what you're wearing."
That made me frown. "Why? Where are we going?"
"Out onto the tundra where it will be colder. That's where we'll find the pack."
"For how long?"
He shrugged, "All night?"
I blinked. "You do know how long a night lasts up here..." I began when suddenly a distant howl pierced the night. The wolf in my arms raised his head and a feeling of longing and sadness suddenly swept over me.
As it ended, I suddenly knew who it was. "That was her," I breathed, looking at Nathan, "His mate."
He nodded. But before he could speak, the wolf threw back his head and let loose a long howl of his own. I'm thrilled to say that before he finished, his voice was joined by hers. She had heard him and was letting him know it.
It was both strange and beautiful listening to them calling to one another. Emotions and memories, none of them my own, began filling my head until Nathan took one of my hands in his and called me back to myself. I was about to say something, but he placed a finger to his lips with his eyes closed tight. I stayed quiet.
After a few moments the howling came to an end, and I could hear were the sounds of the breeze rustling the trees around us.
Finally Nathan broke the silence, "A few miles north of us. The pack is with her. Here, put my coat on, it's going be really cold up there."
Obediently I did as he instructed, while he stripped down to nothing. Yes, I did peak, and I liked what I saw. Well, up until the fur started appearing. Then I averted my eyes.
After that, Wolf-Nathan came over started nuzzling his way between my legs.
"HEY! What's the big idea?" I cried, feeling slightly annoyed. I mean there have been a number of times when I would have loved for that to happen, but that was when he was himself.
'Get on my back and hold tight. Otherwise, there's no way you can keep up with the two of us once we start moving,' Once again it sounded like Nathan's voice, but now I knew I was only hearing him inside my head.
Obediently, I did as I was told. After a few more 'suggestions' I half sat, half lay across his back, with my hands firmly gripping his ruff. I wasn't really sure how well this was going to work, but then I felt some of the fur stretching and reaching up and around my waist and back. Feeling more secure I smiled and turned to our friend who had been anxiously watching and waiting.
"Let's go find her!" I shouted and immediately he took off, with us in hot pursuit.
Soon the airport and all the signs of man vanished into the distance. In spite of the ride being a little bumpy, the ride was exhilarating. Initially, I let out the occasional cry of "Watch out for that tree..." or "Oh God you're not going to jump that..." but then I got more used to it. I even kept myself from gasping when we leapt a twenty-foot gorge that no normal wolf could have managed, but by then I we'd be fine.
Eventually, I got so comfortable I began looking up at the night sky.
It was incredible. I'd never seen that many stars before. And many of them were so bright! Brighter then I'd ever dreamed possible. Then before I knew it we were in the open tundra.
OKAY, MY BAD, TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT TIME... I THINK...
PS: What can I say? These stories and the characters take on a life of their own sometimes.