**Episode 3 for Rowan and Luca. At least one more part after this but maybe more. We shall see. Check the tags to catch up if you need to. Enjoy!**
Nothing beat running in fur. There was a lot of things I loved to do in my human shape, but sprinting through the woods, wind ruffling my fur, four feet pounding against the ground as the scents and sounds really came alive was the best feeling ever. In my shifted form, my animal instincts ruled, though my very human brain still added input. It had taken years to find the balance and be comfortable with it.
Luca led the way and I dutifully followed. Not only because he was the more dominant wolf, but because I simply wanted to. We raced through trees and underbrush, sides heaving as we ran. Hitting the far edge of our territory, we looped back around, slowing some, until we reached the creek. Human me would never drink from the water, but wolf me thought it was crisp and cool, soothing my parched throat. When I was finished, I lay down on the edge of the bank. Luca pushed closer, his muzzle bumping mine. Then he lifted his head sharply, paused, then took off.
I got to my feet, listening, trying to figure out why he’d run. But before I could parse it out, he returned, a dead hare hanging limply in his jaws. Human me would be repulsed, but wolf me eyed the kill with hunger. But I sat and waited. Luca was more dominant than me, he got to eat first. And if he chose to eat it all—there wasn’t much to a hare—then I’d have to hunt my own food.
Luca approached slowly but deliberately, and laid the hare at my feet. He backed up two paces, then sat quietly and watched me. I tilted my head and whined. This was his kill, not mine. I couldn’t eat it. Luca huffed, and then let out a soft yowl. When I still didn’t move, he came closer and nudged the hare. Then he licked my muzzle and stepped back again.
It took a few more seconds for my human mind to figure it out. He was feeding me. He wanted me to eat his offering. There was a significance there, I knew, but I couldn’t quite remember why. Luca laid down, gaze fixed on me, crossing his front paws. Waiting.
I ate. Bite after bite, with him watching me all the while, until half the hare was gone. Then I brought it to him, making sure he had food too. Instead of going after the food, he cleaned my muzzle. Only when he was satisfied, did he eat the rest of the hair until there wasn’t much left to the carcass. When he was finished, I returned the favor and cleaned him. His tail thumped the ground and he let out a happy little whine.
I was inordinately pleased he was happy.
He stood, then rubbed his body along mine. Both sides and under my neck. Until I smelled like him as much as myself. Luca stuck his nose in my fur, snuffled for a moment, then let out a small bark. I didn’t dare move. But he gave me a gentle nip that got me on my feet and when he took off back the way we came, I ran after him.
Luca took a more direct route back to the pack house, so we were there in no time. He stopped by his pile of clothes but I continued on, back through the still open door and onto the porch. I shifted back to human, something that always felt like a loss. Some people preferred one shape over the other, and while I didn’t really, being in fur was more of a comfort than being in skin. Once the shift was complete, I dressed quickly and was just tugging my shirt into place when he came back in.
He gave me a soft smile. “Feel better?”
I nodded. “Luca—”
“Let me get you some more water and food.” He strode toward the house door. “You need it after your shift.”
“Luca.” My voice held a note of desperation. Confusion too, if I was honest. But it did the trick, because he stopped. He didn’t turn, but he paused at least. I took a breath. “You fed me.”
“That’s kind of a big deal.” I padded closer, my feet still bare, and even though he tensed, he still didn’t move. Didn’t walk away, but didn’t turn around either. “It’s important.”
“You needed it.” His voice was so soft.
I reached out, moving at a snail’s pace, and touched his shoulder. He jerked, a tiny movement, but didn’t pull away or shrug me off. I stepped closer so I could see his profile and put my other hand on his arm. Luca’s eyes slid closed, and he looked as though he was doing everything in his power not to move.
“Talk to me?” It was a request, because I wasn’t in any position to demand. Not only because of our places in the pack, but because I was still confused. Because of the pack I’d been born into, because of how I—along with so many others—had been treated and raised, there were nuances I didn’t understand. But back in skin, with the animal part of me receded to the background, I was able to think clearer. And I knew this meant something monumental. He was taking care of me. He fed me.
Luca looked at me then. Actually turned his head and met my gaze. And I didn’t understand everything I saw there, but I got the longing. The affection. I sucked in a breath, and Luca shuttered his expression, but when he tried to pull away, I held on tighter. He froze, then gusted out a sigh.
“You needed to heal first, before I could say anything.” His voice was still that soft, barely audible tone, but I had no trouble hearing him.
“Oh.” It was all I could get out.
Luca cut his gaze away. “If you don’t want…if you aren’t ready….” He snapped his gaze back to mine, eyes blazing. “I would never force you.”
I smiled then, because that, at least, I was sure of. “I know that. But as for the rest?” I shrugged one shoulder, trying for winsome but not sure if I succeeded. “I don’t know what I want. I don’t know you well enough yet.”
For a long, tense moment, Luca didn’t say anything. Didn’t move. I wasn’t even sure he was breathing. But then he inhaled sharply and reached out. Slowly and telegraphing his every movement, so I could pull away if I wanted. I didn’t. and when his finger made contact with my cheek, I leaned into the touch.
Luca’s voice was a deep rumble when he spoke. “Let’s change that, hm?”