This is a Red Riding Hood-inspired short story from the (were)wolf’s point of view. Much thanks to my pal Fleet for looking over it for me. Red Riding Hood has always been my favorite fairy tale and I try to play around with it every single chance that I get because it can be done so many different ways.
Contains: allusions to violence, dubious consent/consent issues, mild gore, animal death, sort of sexualized violence, mild sexual situations/imagery
Val’s second in command Koan comes to him in the early morning before the others awaken, coming off his patrol around the forest. Koan lopes towards Val in his human form, moving gracefully around the other wolves despite the sheer amount of space that their fellows take up around the cooling fire.
“There is someone in the woods,” Koan says, speaking in a low voice when he comes close to Val. He dips his head in a short bow and then steps forward, moving into his alpha’s space just far away from the rest of the pack to provide the illusion of privacy. “I heard the humans talking about it in the middle of the night and I –”
Koan does not get the chance to complete his sentence.
“And you what,” Val says, sitting up slowly from his makeshift bed of hides. He combs one hand through his hair, clawed nails catching on the silvery strands as he peers at Koan with an unreadable look on his narrow face. “You waited this long to come and tell me about it? You could have sent a runner, one of the natural wolves in the forest, if it was serious. What’s changed?”
Dropping to a bow that presses his forehead to the loamy earth beneath his feet, Koan murmurs his apologies.
“It’s just a boy,” Koan says. “A boy on a horse with a hooded cloak as red as his hair. I thought—I thought that you would want to know. He’s lovely, Val, and he’s been sent from the village for refusing to wed. I heard the village chief talking about it when he and his men came back from their patrol.”
Val’s wolf-yellow eyes widen. “What exactly are you suggesting, Koan?”
Koan lifts his head slowly, daring to meet Val’s bright eyes. “We haven’t had horse meat in a long time, Alpha,” he says, a rumbling note in his voice. “The boy has a gelding big enough to feed the entire pack and well – he is lovely. When was the last time that you let yourself indulge?”
As the alpha to a pack as large as his own, Val hasn’t had the opportunity to indulge in his other hungers. The travelers to and from the too-small village of Daneh rarely travel outside of groups anymore. They know of the wolves, of Val’s pack and the natural wolves that roam alongside them, and have changed their behavior accordingly. Val’s chance of finding a lover out of those narrow-minded villagers is woefully small.
Honestly, Val can’t remember the last time that he had a human in his arms for a time. His mouth waters at the thought of bedding one again, of coaxing soft noises from a tender throat. Val actually hungers for it, stomach tightening almost in the same way that it does for food.
“How soon will it be until he passes us?” Val asks Koan, his mouth already curved with a smile that feels overlarge. “Get the pack ready for this and tell them, without question, that the boy is to be left alone. I want him unharmed.” Val looks at Koan seriously, a frown on his face. “If any of them draw blood, I will be most displeased. Understand?”
Koan nods again, nodding hard enough that his shaggy brown hair swings round his tanned face. “I do, Alpha,” he says in a solemn tone. “I’ll make sure that the others know that the human is off limits.”
“See that you do,” Val says.
The human is lovely.
Val catches a glimpse of riotous red curls and pale green eyes set in a faintly rounded face. Almost immediately, Val feels overwhelmed by how much he wants to steal him away right then and there. When the boy’s horse rears up, he flies forward, fingers tightening around the reins until the leather looks as if it is digging into his palms.
“Calm down,” the boy cries out, his frightened voice echoing through the chaos. He yanks at the horse’s reins in vain, trying hard to get the great beast back under his control. The horse bucks underneath his weight, mouth foaming with fear, and Val knows what has to happen next.
Val growls out a command as Koan and one of the smaller males, a red-furred beta named Tallis, surge forward. He uses the wolf-tongue sparingly, only delivering the command before he moves toward the youth clinging to the horse itself. Val reaches the boy at the same time that Koan does, grabbing for his wrist and holding him steady as he went to reach for the hilt of his knife. Koan snatches the reins free from the boy’s gloved hands and with his strength, manages to hold the horse still despite its attempts to escape.
“Let me go,” the boy snarls in the common tongue, yanking at Val’s arm despite the near crushing pressure exerted on the bones of his wrist. “Let me go, you brute!” He squeaks a second later when the pack, sensitive to Val’s frustration, slinks closer and the deepness of their growls rumbles through the forest.
Val bites back a smile at the way the brown-skinned youth falls silent and stares at him with his eyes gone wide. “Do not talk,” he orders roughly. “My friends want the horse, but if you decide against coming with me, then I won’t be able to promise that you will survive.” At the acrid scent of fear that hits his nose, Val softens his grip on the boy’s wrist. “Will you come?”
The boy nods his head and then, almost before Val can move to help him, starts to get off his mount. Val helps as much as possible, grabbing the boy’s pack and swinging it onto his shoulder before the boy’s feet even touch the ground.
“What – where –”
“We need to move,” Val says as his pack surges forward, lost in their eagerness to taste fresh horse meat for the first time in several long months. They’re all lost to the hunger, teeth snapping as their eyes gleam red and gold even in their human forms. Val tugs at the boy’s wrist, gentle at first and then more forceful as the members of his pack swarm the horse.
They run from the feeding, run from the scent of blood and meat thickening the air until Val can almost taste it. They run for a long time, Val guiding the youth through the tricky paths that they had carved out into the winter-hardened earth until they can both breathe again without wanting to choke on the sweet-copper scent of fresh blood.
“Stop,” the boy cries out. He yanks against the grip of one strong hand until Val stops in his tracks and turns to face him.
“Where are we going,” he asks, peering up at Val through eyes rimmed with a thick lace of lashes. “I don’t – Will we be safe from the wolves?” He glances over one shoulder as if expecting to see the pack of wolves bearing down on them. “Won’t they – won’t they follow us?”
Val shakes his head. “They have the horse,” he murmurs. “They don’t need human flesh after that. You will be safe.”
“How do you know that?”
It’s almost too good a question.
Val smiles, yellow eyes gleaming as his lips part widely enough to draw attention to the sharpness of his teeth. The boy squeaks and backs up until his body hits the trunk of one of the massive old oaks that jut out from the snow-covered landscape. Val is on him in an instant, long arms bracketing his head on either side as clawed nails dig into frozen tree bark.
“Don’t you know a wolf when you see one?”
“You’re – you’re one of them?” The boy’s eyes grow impossibly wider and he presses his back against the tree until his thick cloak flattens out from the pressure. “But you – but you didn’t eat me. You’re not like them. You can’t be.”
Val smiles. “I am and I am not,” he murmurs. “But the important thing is that you are safe with me. No matter what, you are safe.” A corner of Val’s mouth quirks up with a wry smile and he shakes his head. “Even from me.”
“Wh-what is your name then?” The boy says with a haughty flip of his curls. “If I’m to be so safe with you, then why don’t you start by telling me your name?”
“You first,” Val tosses back. “After all, I rescued you. You owe me that at least.”
“Oh! I – I am Allan,” the youth says in a quiet but comfortably melodious voice. “I am– I mean, was – from the village up there.” He pauses with an expectant note left hanging in the air between them. “And you?”
Val tells Allan his name with little fanfare, taking the opportunity to move in even closer until their bodies press close together. That close, he can feel everything from the trembling that takes hold of Allan’s lithe body to the hitching breath that sticks in his throat. All it does is make hunger gnaw at Val’s belly to the point where he has to move back or risk going back on his promise of safety. He takes several steps backward, moving back until Allan’s scent doesn’t hang so heavily in his nostrils and he can look at that lovely face without the hunger threatening to take over.
“There’s a cottage nearby,” Val says instead of everything else that he wants to say to that confused little human. “You’ll stay there for the night and when the day breaks, you’ll take the path through the woods and go to the city.”
Allan blinks, nonplussed. “But there are wolves in the forest,” he points out a bit needlessly. “Without a horse, how am I supposed to get out of here with all the snow on the grounds?” Allan’s nails press against Val’s bare bicep and he shakes his head. “How will I be safe then?”
For once, Val doesn’t think before he speaks.
“I’ll take you,” he finds himself saying. “I’ll take you through the forest myself.”
The cottage is small and old, wood nearly crumbling underneath the weight of the snow piled atop its rafters. From the outside, the small structure looks as if it could cave in at any minute. When Val leads Allan to the door, the little human actually balks, pulling back against the strength of Val’s arm.
“What is this place?”
“We come here when it gets too cold to stay out in the forest,” Val says. In just a few words, he’s told Allan more than anyone else has ever known about his pack and what they do to keep safe. He’s not thinking straight. He can’t be. Because if he had been thinking straight, he wouldn’t be with Allan at that moment.
The inside of the cottage is nicer than the outside, with hay mattresses arranged on every flat surface for Val and his pack to take comfort in. He leads Allan further into the cottage until they reach a bed tucked away into the far corner of the room. The sheets are a bit threadbare and the mattress is a not quite as comfortable as it could have been, but when Allan sinks down onto the bed, he does so with an audible little sigh.
“I feel like I’ve been awake for days,” Allan says, leaning back against the bed and shifting about until he’s comfortably spread out across the sheets, the combination of red curls and red fur looking so tempting that Val caches himself taking a step towards him. Allen pushes himself up to sit with his elbows braced on the mattress and that doesn’t help Val’s wandering eye at all. Neither does the surprisingly sweet smile on his face. “Thank you.”
Val frowns. “Thank you?”
“For saving me,” Allan says as he glances up at Val’s face.
“You shouldn’t thank me for that,” Val murmurs. “After all, I did it for purely selfish reasons.” There. It’s out in the air and as clear as Val can make it. He takes a step forward so that his knees brush the front of the bed. Val hesitates, stopping just shy of climbing onto the bed with Allan. “My second overheard the men of your village talking about you. When he saw you enter the forest this morning, he knew that you would catch my eye.”
Allan’s forehead wrinkles with a frown. “And if I hadn’t caught your eye?”
Val can’t meet his gaze. “I –”
“Oh,” Allan murmurs. “Would I even be here now?”
“You are lovely,” Val says quietly. It isn’t an answer and they both know it. “I want you, Allan.”
“And what exactly will you do with me after you have me?” Allan asks in a quiet murmur. He curls his fingers in against the richly dyed red of his furs, squeezing his fingers together until it must hurt. “Your wolves killed my horse. Will I be next?”
Val frowns. “No,” he says in sharp tones. “Of course not!”
“How can I be sure of that?” Allan asks with suspicion clear on his face. “How can I be sure that you’re worth the risk?” Allan tosses his hair back out of his face and then directs a lusty, heavy-lidded look long the length of Val’s body that leaves him warm with desire. “I am not… averse to sharing your bed for a time, but only if you’re planning on me walking away from it afterwards.” He licks his lips, pink tongue sliding over a deliciously full bottom lip that just seems to call for Val to nibble at it. “How do I know that you won’t hurt me?”
“Would you take me at my word, Allan?” Val asks.
Allan pauses for a moment, green eyes wide.
“I – I would,” he says, marvel in his voice as if he doesn’t know what has come over him. He strokes his palm over the side of his fur cloak and then nods. “You know, Val,” he murmurs without quite meeting Val’s bright yellow eyes. “Had I known that someone like you lived in the forest, I might have left the village sooner.”