|Dietre Henrich Abendroth (sonataind) wrote in repose,|
@ 2019-02-03 21:09:00
|Entry tags:||*log, aleksi ackerman, dietre abendroth|
First Encounter: Dietre & Aleksi
Who: Dietre and Aleksi.
What: Finding a werewolf.
Where: Orchards / Adrian's place / the Carnival.
When: A few days ago?
There was no way to track the passing of time down here. Aleksi learnt that early on, that there is no sunrise or sunset, the entire world just a perpetual dusk, and that the hunger that would strike him semi-regularly was the only real indicator that time had indeed gone by. As such, he didn’t have any idea how long he’d been wandering, lost and alone - how much time had passed since everything had fallen apart around him.
It occurred to him to wonder if there are any adverse effects from remaining in his wolf form for such a length of time, whatever it may be - but, as he had before whenever this line of thinking occurred to him, Aleksi pushed it away to be figured out later. For the time being, his choices were limited, and the wolf was far better suited to this place than the man could ever hope to be. Stepping around a tree - or what passed for close enough, in this eerie place - a sound caught his attention, something new and unexpected, after being stuck with all the same things for however long it’d been.
Aleksi followed his ears - that was definitely a canine of some variety, a far more mundane creature than whatever thing (or things, he had yet to confirm if there was more than one or not, and he didn’t know if he wanted to know the answer to that) lived, or at least, inhabited this dark world. As he cleared a fallen log, he spotted the light, and for a moment he froze, shocked and hopeful all at once. And then he managed to right himself, bounding towards it and all the promising things that might lay that was. He could see sunlight and smell fresh air, which was far more than he’d had for far too long, and Aleksi wasn’t about to waste any time getting out of here if he hadn’t finally lost his mind.
It was cold, but Dietre didn’t mind the cold. Neither did Sieglinde. The air was crisp and clean, steaming with every exhale. He liked to walk his dog when no one else was around, early morning or late at night. He also liked to walk her where no one else would be around, like the woods behind the carnival, or, like today, through one of the abandoned orchards a little closer to the neighborhood. Leaves crunched underfoot, brittle with frost, and the sound seemed to echo in the still, winter-dead orchard.
All was peaceful until Sieglinde’s ears perked up, the German Shepherd mix suddenly straining against her lease. She barked, claws scrabbling at the earth as he began to pull Dietre off of the path and into the trees. No amount of stern rebuking or tugging stopped her, she was intent on her goal, and her owner was dragged along reluctantly. Generally, Sieglinde was a very good girl, and very smart. Dietre sometimes suspected that she was unnaturally intelligent for a dog, she always seemed to understand whatever he said to her. But she wasn’t listening today.
“Du verhältst ungezogen…” He tried to dig in his heels, but was too much of a softy where Sieglinde was concerned. She never acted this way, and though he was sure she was just after a squirrel, or maybe a rabbit, he was curious as to where she’d lead him. He let her lead him to a large tree, where her barking intensified.
There was a hole in the tree, and the sight of it made Dietre pull hard on the lease to prevent Sieglinde from getting too close. Something seemed off about it. It had an aura of wrongness. He eyed it warily for a moment before a shape exploded out of it toward him. He cried out and fell back in surprise, sure that he was about to be attacked.
Sunlight. And the warmth of it on his fur.
That was the first thing Aleksi took note of, the one he was the most grateful for. He practically collapsed on the grass as he landed, taking in deep lungful of the crisp air with panting breaths. It took him only a few to realize there was something, a smell that was so fascinatingly different from anything he’d ever experienced before, that he had to open his eyes to see what it was.
A human male, probably a bit younger than himself, was not at all what he was expecting to find. Aleksi suddenly realized that he was disgusting. His fur was wet and matted with dirty and dried blood and slime and ooze and probably some mold, now that he was thinking about it. Sitting back on his hind legs, he blinked, considering the human for a moment before his canine companion jumped into his line of sight.
She was an absolute baby, practically vibrating with how excited she was, but apparently smart enough to recognize that he was stronger, even like this, and was waiting for his approval before moving. Tilting his head to one side, he sniffed at one of her ears, and allowed her to do the same before his attention got caught by the boy again. Aleksi had never smelled anything like it, and yet, something in his skin or his blood or maybe even his soul was comforted down to Aleksi’s bones. His grandmother had always said, a mate smells like home, and for the first time, he thought he might understand what that meant.
Dietre felt no comfort as he scrambled quickly back to his feet. When he saw the animal burst from the tree he was at first horribly reminded of Halloween. The man from the maze, the way his face elongated into a muzzle, his jaws filled with long sharp teeth made for ripping. He had escaped once, but this time he wouldn’t. He was done for, yet he couldn’t make his legs move to run.
A few shaky breaths and that initial adrenaline spike faded as nothing happened. More logical fears followed, not for himself, but for Sieglinde. Getting mauled, rabies, mange… Every devastating possibility that could be passed from a wild animal to a beloved pet went through his mind and he tugged again at her leash before the wolf could follow up its sniffing with a bite. That was what it was, a wolf, he realized after getting a better look. Was it sick? It looked like it had been through a hard time. Dietre’s soft spot for canines was triggered and he couldn’t help but pity it as it lay there.
“Hn…” He made an uneasy sound in his throat, glancing around him as if he could find the answer as to what he should do pinned to the trees. Should he call animal control? Rangers? He didn’t know. At a loss, he thought he could at least give the wolf some water. Maybe he’d be able to tell if it was rabid that way, he heard something about rabid animals being afraid of water. He took out the small collapsible rubber bowl he carried for Sieglinde from his pocket along with a little water bottle and filled it. Cautiously, he set the bowl in front of the wolf, murmuring, “Guter junge…” and other softly spoken praise in an attempt to keep it calm. Dietre always spoke his mother tongue to his own dog, so it was only natural to speak to the wolf in German too. It didn’t occur to him to wonder if it could understand.
Aleksi watched curiously as the human moved, staying still because he was tired and didn’t sense any real danger at the moment. He perked up at the scent of fresh water, moving towards the offered bowl even before the water was finished filling it. Drinking greedily, he listened with a bit of confusion to the words, since he had no idea what was being said to him. But that didn’t stop his appreciation of both the water and the communication, since it had been far too long since he’d heard human speech. He flopped back down to the ground once the bowl was empty, rolling a bit try and get rid of some of the grime that was still stuck to his fur.
The wolf made showed no signs of aggression and so Dietre began to feel a bit calmer, more in control. Its behavior wasn’t normal, certainly, it was obvious. Dietre wondered if he had spent time with people before. Maybe he was some foolish person’s pet, raised like a dog until they finally realized a wolf is not like a dog far too late, abandoned with no clue how to survive in the wild. Dietre scowled at this imagined scenario and pitied the wolf all the more. The poor thing! People were too cruel, it made him question why he bothered trying to make friends at all.
Sieglinde whined anxiously, inching closer to continue her sniffing, tail wagging slightly. She looked questioningly at her master, as if saying, ‘Aren’t you going to help?’ Dietre pet her absently, thinking, thinking… Picking up the wolf and carrying it somewhere was probably a very, very bad idea. But he didn’t think it would follow him and he didn’t want to leave it while he left to get help incase it wandered off and got into trouble. There was only one option for him, then…
Dietre took off Sieglinde’s collar, confident she’d stay by him and not run off. Carefully and slowly, he moved toward the wolf, speaking softly, saying soothing things and making little sounds of coaxing. If the wolf let him, he’d put the collar around its neck to lead it home where he could think of what to do next.
As soothing as those sounds were, Aleksi was not about to suffer the indignity of having a collar put around his neck. Keeping an eye on the ring of fabric in the human’s hand, he moved, circling closely around both his legs before leaping to land behind the puppy. She apparently found this very exciting, as she flipped around to face him with a quiet bark, her entire body trembling with anticipation. Aleski paused, considering for a just a moment, before he started to move away from the entrance of whatever that place was, wanting to put some distance between him and it, now that he was over the initial excitement of finally being free.
The puppy followed him, bounding at his side as he walked almost sedately across the small clearing. Aleksi glanced over his shoulder to see if the human boy would follow as well - it seemed unlikely he’d want his pet just wandering off unsupervised with a dangerous predator.
“No! No, no, no..!” The wolf’s jump behind Sieglinde almost stopped Dietre’s heart. He might be a bit overly protective of his pup, she was his everything, as well as a parting gift from someone he cared for very much. He couldn’t let anything bad happen to her. He scuttled across the cold ground until he could put his hands on her, preventing her from following the wolf any further. The collar was replaced and Dietre stood once more, leash gripped tightly.
Again he was at a loss, and maybe a little suspicious now, paranoid that the wolf had been purposely trying to lead Sieglinde away. He gave the ragged animal a long stare, then patted his thigh.
“Komm her…” He beckoned the wolf, took a few steps, then called again. “Komm…Komm junge.” He couldn’t actually tell if the wolf was a boy or not, but he thought so.
Dietre turned toward town, moving slowly, not wanting to lose sight of the wolf. He hoped it would follow him the whole way home, and was glad that it wasn’t likely anyone would be out at this time of morning in the middle of winter. Adrian was at work, another good thing. Dietre felt that as long as he could just get the wolf to his house, everything would work out. He could keep it safe until he figured out who to call to pick it up, maybe feed it too if it wanted to eat.
Returning the suspicion with a healthy dose of his own, Aleksi did follow at a bit of a distance, keeping his eyes on the human as they moved in tandem. He tried to take note of their surroundings, but now that the immediate danger of being in that place was starting to wear off, he was growing more exhausted by the minute, and it was hard to concentrate on anything more than moving in the right direction.
Thankfully, they didn’t encounter anyone else along their trek, which Aleksi was grateful for - he probably would have run off on instinct, no matter how much of a strange draw this human seemed to have on him. As they got out of the woods and into an area that at least looked like it should be populated, he did wind up closer to his companions, weaving their way through the buildings.
Dietre couldn’t believe the wolf was actually following him. It seemed like such a long way, almost enough for him to wish he could drive and owned a car. That would have been so much easier. Regardless, somehow the three of them made it to Adrian’s place, and Dietre’s hands shook as he fit the key in the lock and opened the door. He thought for sure that this would be too much for the wolf, it’d never come inside. But he backed into the living room, the door left wide open, and made little coaxing whistling sounds, still patting his leg.
Sieglinde was quite beside herself, tag wagging happily, feet shuffling as she tried to contain her excitement at having a visitor. She was the opposite of her master, friendly, outgoing, loved to meet anyone new. Apparently other animals were just as welcome as people. Dietre was shy, reserved, and serious. Even now, despite the sweet soft cajoling of his voice, his expression was tense, almost grim. He was not a boy who smiled often.
Aleksi tensed as they approached the house, mostly because the scent of another human, also male, was permeating out of the place, almost overwhelmingly so. He wavered between his curiosity regarding this boy and his scent, and the vague feeling of a threat from the environment, though it was obviously nowhere near as intense as the place he’d just escaped from.
With a low sound that wasn’t quite a growl, Aleksi took a few tentative steps into the house before backpedaling out of it very quickly. There was just something too much about the space that made him uneasy, and he moved to prowl around the side of the house instead, to see if there was anything that might indicate why, or if it was just his instincts being out of whack from that place.
Dietre sighed through his nose as he wolf retreated, shoulders sagging, disappointed. Concerned, too, that he had brought the wolf to a part of town where families lived. He remembered a year back, news about a man being mauled to death by a wolf in one of Repose’s seedier areas. A bar or strip club, something like that. All it would take was one person looking out their window at the wrong time and calling the police. He wouldn’t be able to stomach the guilt if the animal died because of him, shot dead in the road.
Quickly, he secured Sieglinde inside. A moment later he reappeared on the front porch, a packet of deli turkey slices in hand. He carefully followed the wolf to the backyard, keeping a respectful distance in an effort not to spook him any more. A slice of meat was gently tossed in the wolf’s direction, soon followed by another. Dietre thought his best means of gaining the animal’s trust was with food. Each slice was given a weaker toss, forcing the wolf to have to come closer and closer if he wanted to eat.
After however long of eating rodents and the occasional deer, even meat that had been processed as much as this was appealing. Feeling his stomach gurgle at the promise of food, Aleksi didn’t bother trying to save any dignity, snapping up the offered slices almost before they could hit the ground. He moved easily towards the boy, nudging his head against the side of his knee when he was close enough to do so, belatedly realizing that the motion smeared some dirt onto his pants.
While Dietre did not smile often, he couldn’t help himself when his plan worked. It was the slightest curving of his lips, a brief look of pleasure at his success, then back to seriousness. His heart beat a little faster the closer the wolf came, and he held oh so very still when the animal actually made contact with him. That gesture of thanks, or affection, or whatever it was, convinced Dietre that the wolf had lived among people for sure.
Emboldened, he reached down, moving as slow as molasses, and gave the wolf a soft pat between the ears. He offered another slice of turkey in apology immediately after, just in case the wolf didn’t appreciate being pet. He hoped that it’d be more inclined to bite the meat instead of his hand.
“There now,” he murmured, finally switching off the german, “will you come inside with me…?” His english was not heavily accented, but it was clear it was not his native language. He did not expect the wolf to understand the way Sieglinde seemed to, he only wanted to keep it calm. “You’ll scare the neighbors.”
For some reason, the boy’s fingers against his fur surprised Aleksi, and he froze, shocked by the first real contact he’d had with another living being in ages. After that, the fact that he could understand the words coming from him didn’t quite take him back as much as they probably should have.
Letting out a small huff that would have been an exasperated sigh in human form, Aleksi took a reluctant step towards the house, still wary of it. That was overridden by his curiosity, and he was more interested in learning about this stranger than he was concerned for his safety, since he was confident in his abilities to defend himself, in the seemingly highly unlikely scenario that he needed to.
He eyed the structure suspiciously, not straying far from the boy’s side as they made their way back. Aleksi knew he had a lot of things to figure out, including exactly where he was, but for the first time in a long while he didn’t feel the unyielding, crushing pressure of constant vigilance that had been needed during his time in that place. His exhaustion was growing with every step, and sooner rather than later he was going to need to actually stop and recoup his strength.
The wolf was rewarded for its trust by Dietre dumping the rest of the turkey on the floor once it was fully inside. While it was distracted by its meal, Dietre carefully crept back around to shut the door and prevent the wolf’s escape. He felt much better once it was inside, hidden and safe, and he breathed a quiet sigh of relief. Somehow, he felt no fear over his own safety, only a general anxiety over what Adrian’s reaction would be to the inevitable mess the animal was bound to make.
Tethered in the kitchen, Sieglinde whined in disappointment at not being allowed to play with her new friend. Dietre thought it would be best to keep them apart for now, just in case the wolf had something catching. He watched it eat, frowning again at the sorry state it was in, until the turkey was gone, then commenced trying to get the wolf into his room. He had nothing left to entice it with, but hoped it would still follow him.
Dietre backed into his room and sat on the edge of his bed, whistling to get the wolf’s attention and call it over, just as he would any other dog.
His hackles raised just slightly as he heard the door shut behind them, wary about being trapped. But this human had been nothing but kind so far, even when just confronted with Aleksi’s wolf, which was more than he’d had in a very long time. Scarfing down the rest of the offered meat, he glanced into the kitchen at the dejected puppy, feeling a little bad that he wasn’t quite up to giving her the attention she was so desperate for at the moment.
He let out another huff at hearing that whistle, moving down the hallway slowly. Butting his head into the boy’s knee again, Aleksi considered jumping up into the bed for a moment, but ultimately decided against it, given his current, still-grimy state. The exhaustion was really starting to settle in, and he sat down heavily, leaning against the boy’s leg as he did so.
Aleksi blinked once, then twice, and the third time his eyes didn’t open again, as unconsciousness tried to overtake him. In the last few moments before he was pulled under though, he felt the last bit of his control slip away from his grasp, and he shifted without meaning to, the wolf’s fur giving way to human skin.
His eyes popped open immediately as he realized what was happening, and even though he tried, he quickly figured out that he was too tired to stop or shift back.
“Oh fuck,” Aleksi murmured hoarsely, one hand coming up to rub over his face for a moment. Once he’d scrubbed at his stubble briefly, he glanced up at the boy on the bed from where he was still sitting on the floor, which was a little weirder as a man than a wolf.
Dietre thought the way he wolf rested against his leg was wonderfully sweet. Who said animals didn’t have emotions? He considered the wolf’s behavior to be a clear display of gratitude and it brought another of those faint smiles to his lips. He didn’t ruin the moment by attempting another pat, he simply sat still, keeping sudden movements to a minimum.
Now that he had a minute to think, he fished his cellphone from his pocket and began to search for what to do next. He tried to google search the contact information for Repose’s animal control, unsure if the small town even had one. Dietre was so focused on his phone that he did not sense what was happening right at his feet, it was only when an unfamiliar voice drifted up from below that he realized something was different. Really different.
“Scheiße…!” The phone fell to the floor with a loud clatter and Dietre was on his feet in an instant. He almost fell, his shock at discovering a naked man where a wolf had been a moment before was so great, he had to grab the bed’s headboard to keep from toppling over. He could not speak, only stare, pale eyes wide, his mind not quite able to comprehend what he was seeing.
“Who-- How--??” That was all he could get out before his voice died.
Wincing at that reaction - which was, admittedly, understandable - Aleksi held out both hands in a universal gesture of ‘I’m not going to hurt you’. The motion showed him that the change hadn’t impacted how disgustingly filthy he was, and he definitely felt the grime more now that he had just skin instead of fur.
“Sorry,” he murmured, his voice sounding strange to his own ears after not having been used for so long. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” He belatedly realized that didn’t actually answer either of the questions the boy had asked, and by this point, Aleksi figured the metaphorical cat was out of the bag. With a small sigh of resignation, he added, “My name’s Aleksi. And I’m a werewolf.”
Dietre still clutched the headboard, his grip white knuckle. He didn’t take surprises very well, his anxiety levels were high enough as it was. Wetting his lip with a nervous swipe of his tongue, he stood there staring so long it began to reach uncomfortably awkward levels. That tended to be a habit of Dietre’s, though. He often lagged during conversation with long pauses before he answered questions, and that was when things were normal.
“Uh…” He almost seemed to glare. Unintentional, though. Some might say he had what was called a resting bitch face. “A werewolf.” Echoed in a blunt statement, testing the word on his tongue, trying to decide if it was digestible before he swallowed it.
He found that it was. Some life came back into him, and he took a calming breath to steady himself. “I see.” The reality of werewolves was accepted. It had been proven right before his eyes, so who was he to question what he’d been told? Dietre had grown up seeing things other people thought were impossible, and since coming to Repose the strangeness in his life had doubled. He almost loved an angel once. Still kept one of his gilded feathers as a memento. So a werewolf in his bedroom? Why not?
“...What happened to you?” This was asked with a touch of suspicion. All that sweetness he displayed trying to help the wolf had been replaced with a cold stiffness.
That easy acceptance was not what Aleksi had been expecting - but he was grateful for it nonetheless. It was impossible to miss the change in the boy, though he supposed that suspicion made sense. A wolf covered in blood and grime was a lot more understandable than when it was a man, and Aleksi was reminded all over again of how gross he felt. With a deep breath, he tried to ignore the stench coming off his skin as he figured out the best way to explain. He wasn’t even entirely sure where to start, so he hoped his explanation made sense.
“My town… it got destroyed; chaos and fire and monsters… it’s all a little fuzzy now, but I have no idea what happened,” he began softly. “I followed one of them, and wound up… somewhere else. Somewhere dark and disgusting, and before I knew it, I was lost, with no way to get out and nowhere to go back to even if I had.” Aleksi sighed, closing his eyes briefly against the memories of the life he’d once had. “It was nothing more than luck, hearing her and finding that way out,” he concluded, nodding his head towards the door to indicate the pup that he could still hear whining occasionally.
He sighed again, unsure if that would be enough of an answer - another wave of tiredness hit him, and Aleksi slumped a little, waiting for whatever reaction the other might have. “What’s your name?” he asked curiously, because it seemed unfair not to know who his accidental savior was.
Dietre listened, no interruptions, only giving the man an almost imperceptible nod at the end of his story. A town destroyed, a mysterious world filled with monsters… It sounded like an insane fairytale, and that little self hating, self doubting part of Dietre’s mind wondered if he was dreaming all of this. Maybe he was still back in Quiet Home, drooling in a straightjacket, locked in a padded room, drugged out of his mind. Would explain a lot, if that were so. If this was a dream, he couldn’t see a way out, and so he had no choice but to go on living it.
“My name is Dietre.” The boy frowned, brow furrowed, muscles still tense but getting looser. “You’re in Repose. This town--… Strange things happen here.” That was Dietre’s vague way of saying he believed Aleksi.
Now that a little time had gone by, Dietre began to see past the blood and dirt. Pale, gray-green eyes followed the lines of the werewolf’s body and recognized him as handsome. He was suddenly very aware that Aleksi was naked. An annoyed flush came to Dietre’s face and he quickly averted his gaze, grabbed a blanket folded at the end of his perfectly made bed and half offered, half flung it at the naked man. “Here. ...So you can, erm… cover up.”
‘Dietre’, Aleksi mouthed to himself, getting a feel for the name on his tongue as he committed it to memory. He blinked at the information about the town, storing it away for later, since it would almost definitely come in handy. Opening his mouth to ask about what he meant by ‘strange things’, he jumped a little at the blanket that was suddenly in his hands. “Ah,” he said dumbly, and then added, “thanks.” Aleksi gripped the edges of the fabric and fanned it out to its full size, leaning forward to wrap it around himself even as he warned, “It’s going to need a very thorough washing. Your carpet might too.” He pushed himself to his feet, trying to avoid touching anything more with his dirty skin even as he wobbled where he stood.
Aleksi was easier to look at once the majority of him was hidden under the blanket. Dietre’s icy exterior was melting was quickly as it had formed. Becoming more human by the minute, his nervous gestures showed up one by one. A bite to his lip, the wringing of his hands, the frequent clenching of his jaw, and the way his eyes seemed unable to settle for longer than a second or two in the werewolf’s direction before flitting away.
“That’s alright… I don’t mind some washing,” he assured the man. Dietre was soft spoken, his voice a pitch lower than one might anticipate given the androgyny of his face, with a huskiness that was akin to the result of a pack a day habit, though he had never smoked in his life.
“...Would you like to take a shower?” Since they were on the subject of washing, it’d only be polite to offer. Playing the role of host at least gave Dietre a point of reference for how to behave, even if things were feeling rather surreal at the moment. He frowned again, “I don’t think I have anything you can wear…” He stole a sidelong glance. Aleksi looked to be his height, but was a larger man all around otherwise. Dietre was gracefully slim, sometimes too slim if he didn’t have anyone around to make sure he ate. Adrian’s clothes were out of the question, as he was quite a bit shorter and not much thicker.
Aleksi could almost smell the anxiety coming off Dietre, which was a little odd, he thought. Mostly because it hadn’t been there at all when he’d been in wolf form, and though he was too tired to really focus on the actions themselves, he could tell they were reflecting that nervousness as well.
Blinking in surprise at that offer, Aleksi paused for a brief moment before saying, “A shower would be great.” Beyond great, actually, given exactly how disgustingly filthy he was. He shrugged at the comment about clothes, because he’d never actually been bothered by his own nudity. It took him a few long moments to realize that such a thing might be making Dietre uncomfortable though. “Oh,” he said when that thought occurred to him, and then offered, “I can shift back once I’m clean. So there’s no worry about it.” That was probably true. With the current exhaustion it might be a little harder than anticipated, but Aleksi was stubborn enough to try and force it.
“It's this way,” Dietre gestured toward the door and began to lead Aleksi out of the room. The house was old, a victorian, but well kept. A lot of wood floors, though not much in the way of decor. Adrian had moved in recently, and the only thing Dietre owned of any worth was the newly restored upright piano that currently sat in the living room. They were clean people, no sign of the mess one might expect from two twenty something year old males living together. The place was comfortable, if a little bare.
Talk of shifting brought a troubled look to Dietre’s face. Well, more troubled than he already looked to begin with. “...No,” he said over his shoulder. “You shouldn’t-- I don’t think that is a good idea.”
“There’s been something going on… in the woods,” he went on to explain as he opened the bathroom door for his guest. “Someone was found dead. And last year… a man was killed by a wolf at a bar.” It had sounded like such a crazy story at the time, but now, after discovering werewolves were actually real, Dietre didn’t question what a wolf was doing in a bar anymore.
“If someone sees you, it could be bad,” he warned. An uncomfortable pause, then, “You can stay here and I could go buy you something… And, well, do you have anyone you want to call?” Aleksi said his home was destroyed, but Dietre couldn’t quite fathom that. He assumed most people weren’t outcasts like himself. Surely Aleksi had some kind of family or friends out there wondering where he was?
If he wasn’t so tired and out of it, Aleksi would have been paying a lot more attention to the house and all the details he could pick up from it - but as it were, he could barely focus on keeping his gait straight as they made their way down the hall.
He was a little taken aback by the vehemence in that statement, confused as to why shifting would be met such a feeling, at least until Dietre explained a little further. It didn’t quite tell him why Dietre was evidently so concerned for his well-being already, but Aleksi wasn’t about to question his good luck in that regard. “Okay,” he agreed with a small shrug, though eventually that might be a problem of some sort, if he really couldn’t take the wolf form without trouble.
Glancing over at the boy curiously at that offer - they were, after all, almost perfect strangers, such measures were surely beyond simple common courtesy - Aleksi opened his mouth to say that wouldn’t be necessary (though he had no idea how he’d deal with the clothing issue otherwise) and then stopped short when Dietre asked about calling someone.
“There’s no one left for me to make any calls to,” he answered softly, feeling the weight of that loss. Not just his pack but his whole town, an entire way of life, like a punch to the chest that almost knocked the wind out of him.
There were those who have accused Dietre of being selfish and entitled, and maybe he was about some things, but those people didn’t really know him. How could he not feel sympathy for this man who (if he was telling the truth) lost everything? Dietre knew what it was to be alone, he had only just recently begun to make friends for the first time in his life over the past year and a half. And of those few friends he had already lost half of them in that short amount of time. As brief as those friendships were, each loss left a mark, a lasting, damaging scar on the boy’s sensitive heart.
“Oh…” Dietre turned fully toward Aleksi, eyes sad. “...I’m sorry.” An apology felt insufficient, but he was not good at comforting, having been so rarely comforted himself growing up.
“I’ll-- I’ll let you shower,” he said lamely, looking away again. “Call to me if you need anything. I’ll just be, um… cleaning up.” There were muddy footprints from the hall to his room and that wouldn’t do. Dietre was a guest in this home and he was quite serious about not making Adrian regret allowing him to live there.
Loneliness was not a concept that Aleksi was familiar with. At least, not personally, not before… Before. Now, though…
He shrugged at the apology even as he murmured an automatic, “Thank you.” And Aleksi was grateful, for all the things Dietre had already done. It was more than he would have ever thought to expect, if he’d ever been able to stop and consider what might happen once he’d escaped that place.
Wincing slightly at the brief glimpse of the mess he’d made, Aleksi closed the door once Dietre stepped out of the room. It took him a long minute to figure out how to turn on the water, and then the shower head, but he eventually managed. He stood under the hot water for a very long time, almost scalding his skin as he rinsed away the dirt. It seemed like a strange sort of intimacy to be using someone else’s bath products - but perhaps that was just the wolf already associating the scents with Dietre, and thereby making himself smell like Dietre, which was not a thing of small consequence, in the world he’d come from.
However many minutes later - when the water has started to turn warm instead of hot - Aleksi climbs out, feeling even closer to sleep than he had earlier. There is a towel hanging that also holds a hint of Dietre’s scent that he steals, wrapping it around his waist to make his way back down the hallway, slipping into the bedroom quietly.
Dietre had a preference for natural, subtle, fresh scents. Rosemary mint, a hint of eucalyptus. Nothing overwhelming, just a faint wintery coolness that lingered close to the skin. His collection of toiletries were neatly arranged in the bathroom, clearly separate from Adrian’s.
Having started by the door, Dietre had made it to his room by the time Aleksi finished his shower. He did not blame the man for taking a long time, he certainly looked as though he needed a thorough cleaning, that was for sure. The boy had mopped, and now sprayed a foam cleaner into the carpet beside his bed. At some point he let Sieglinde loose, and she had trotted through the house, looking for the wolf to no avail. Eventually, she parked herself outside of the bathroom and stood at the ready to greet Aleksi once he opened the door. Oblivious to his exhaustion, she pranced around him before bounding ahead to her master, who had to push her away from his cleaning stuff.
Hearing the werewolf enter the room, Dietre looked up by instinct. Free from all the blood and muck, Aleksi was a sight to behold. He was all rugged masculinity, the sort Dietre knew himself could never possess. Flustered, he turned his attention back to his work, giving the carpet an aggressive round of scrubbing as he asked, “...Feeling better?”
A long time sufferer of insomnia, he had seen that same drop dead tired look on his own face in the mirror countless times. “...You can use my bed, if you’d like.”
Aleksi couldn’t quite read the reaction his presence got from Dietre - between being a wolf for so long, and his own exhaustion, he wasn’t up for attempting to interpreting the subtleties of human interaction. He nodded in response to the question, and then looked down when he felt something nudging at his hand. The pup had made her way to his side, leaning against his leg and looking up expectantly as she pressed her head into his fingers again. Moving to scratch behind her ears automatically, Aleksi asked, “What’s her name?”
That offer was possibly the most shocking thing to happen since he’d stumbled out of that place - and there was no way Aleksi could accept it. “No, I can take a spot on the floor. I won’t put you out of your comfort.” He shook his head slightly, as if to emphasize the point.
“Sieglinde.” A weighty sounding name for such a playful, lighthearted creature. Dietre thought that maybe in time she would grow into it. For now, she was all goofy dog smiles, wiggling butt, and wagging tail, soaking up attention. “...She likes you.” Not a hard thing to achieve, Sieglinde liked everyone, but Dietre was looking for excuses to say something complimentary.
The floor? Dietre stopped his cleaning, the rag forgotten as he stood. “But I’m not using it right now,” he insisted. “And you look like you need it.” The boy could be stubborn, and he would be stubborn regarding his hospitality. He found Aleksi, and therefore he felt responsible. That feeling hadn’t completely dissipated when the man shifted out of wolf form, even though Dietre had retreated behind his stiff, chilly mask. He wanted to help, so he would.
“I’m going out to get you something to wear.” This was not a question, it was a statement, a thing that was going to happen even if Aleksi said no. “...You can stay here with Sieglinde and nap while I’m gone. I won’t be long.”
“Sieglinde,” Aleksi repeated, feeling as though it sounded much less elegant tripping off his tongue than the way it had rolled off of Dietre’s. He heard more than felt the way her tail wagged even harder in response, so at least he knew it wasn’t totally unrecognizable.
“But…” Aleksi attempted to interject, though it was a little difficult to argue when he was just as tired (if not more) as he appeared to be. The idea of a bed was appealing, particularly given that Dietre’s scent was already becoming comforting all on its own.
There was a kind of steel underlying that statement that Aleksi wasn’t about to try and argue with. He was going to need clothes, eventually, and he’d just have to find a way to pay Dietre back for the growing list of things he now owed him for. “Okay,” he agreed quietly, sitting on the edge of the bed as if to show his acquiescence.
Dietre’s back straightened, a bit of pride over things going his way. It was so rare that he felt in control of a situation, it was quite an alien feeling. He doubted it would last, but for now he’d take it, no complaints.
“Good.” An almost smile and his cleaning supplies were gathered up. “I’ll be back soon,” he promised as he left, forcing himself not to linger or look back lest Aleksi begin to argue with him. Dietre’s room was plain, very neat and orderly. There were no pictures of family or friends, no posters on the wall, none of the clutter that collected over time. If it wasn’t for the little pile of library books on the desk (mostly poetry) and the electric keyboard tucked away in the corner, it would look like an unused guest room.
True to his word, Dietre was back within an hour. Shopping for a complete stranger was rather stressful. His own sense of style was formal and polished, and while he no longer had the money he’d grown up with, Dietre still dressed as though he did (at least until all of his old clothes wore out.) Buying anything fitted was out of the question, therefore, though it pained him to do so, he had to settle on a t-shirt, hoodie, and sweatpants. White, gray, and black, respectively.
Arriving home, he kept quiet and did not attempt to wake Aleksi if he were sleeping. Instead, the bag of clothes was hung on the inner door handle of his bedroom, and Dietre sat in the living room to think. There was a lot to think about, a lot to process. Repose was full of surprises.
Aleksi was asleep before his head even hit the pillow, all of his exhaustion catching up with him at once. Sieglinde curled herself up against his back, the weight of her a reassurance that he hadn’t just imagined his escape. He slept deeply enough that he didn’t dream, and he woke up only once Sieglinde moved, whining softly at the door.
Disoriented for a few long moments, until his memories played back where he was and how he’d gotten there, Aleksi took another minute to mentally pull himself together, at least as much as he could. He was still exhausted, but he also wanted to thank Dietre again, particularly once he realized the bag of clothes hanging from the doorknob were meant for him.
Getting dressed took a little longer than it should have, especially considering how simple the clothes themselves were. Eventually, Aleksi managed though, opening the door and following Sieglinde down the hall to find Dietre sitting on the couch. “Thank you,” he said into the silence between them, his hands shoved into the pocket of the sweatshirt, his shoulders slightly hunched as if that would make him smaller. “For… everything,” he added awkwardly, because there was no way to put into words how grateful he was for all the things Dietre had already done for him.
Dietre turned at the sound of Aleksi’s voice, startled out of his thoughts. He blinked at the sight of the man clothed, then his gaze swept him up and down, assessing. He had done well with the clothes, they looked like they fit. Then again, it is hard to mess up when the tags only range from S/M/L.
“You’re welcome.” He shifted uncomfortably, not often the recipient of heartfelt thanks. It was instinct to try to deflect it. Not quite modesty, more like low self esteem. “I only did what anyone would do… I couldn’t just leave you.” The way some people got hysterical over wild animals in this town, that was a total lie. The current climate in Repose right now meant that a mangy wolf seen in broad daylight acting strangely would be shot on sight.
“I’m sorry, I forgot to get you anything for your feet.” Dietre ran a hand through his hair, wondering if, since they seemed to be the same height, any of his own shoes might fit.
Aleksi wasn’t inclined to believe that everyone would have done the same, but he couldn’t bring himself to argue about being the recipient of Dietre’s hospitality. “I still appreciate it,” he replied with a small shrug of his shoulders, feeling as though the words were inadequate.
Glancing down at his feet briefly, Aleksi shook his head as he brought his gaze back up to the boy on the couch. “It’s fine,” he stated with another shrug. “I don’t really like shoes anyway. They’re very constricting.”
He felt very awkward just standing in Dietre’s line of sight - and possibly swaying on his feet, either from the lingering tiredness or perhaps the hunger that was starting to make itself known in his stomach - but he also didn’t want to make any assumptions by sitting down next to him either. Shifting his weight from one side to the other, Aleksi reached up and ran his fingers through his hair, unsure of what else to say.
“Oh… Well, if you don’t mind…” Dietre was painfully aware of the awkwardness of the silence that fell between them. He began his usual nervous fidgeting, no longer feeling like he was on top of anything anymore. Buying clothes had been a task to focus on, now there was nothing but this stranger before him and the unbelievable fact that he was a werewolf hovering in his mind, undiscussed.
It was still barely noon, but each hour that passed meant less time to figure out what to do about Aleksi. If this was his house, it’d be easy, but Dietre was not about to invite the man to stay without Adrian’s permission. How on earth would he explain him? Adrian knew Dietre didn’t have many friends. Anyone who knew Dietre knew he didn’t have many friends. No one was going to buy the sudden existence of this man no one had met before as someone close enough to him to share a room. ...But maybe they didn’t have to.
“...You don’t have anywhere to stay, do you?” A rhetorical question. If Aleksi was telling the truth, then he not only had no where to stay, but no means to pay for one either. “Listen. I have a place-- I work at the carnival, and I own a little house, not quite a cabin, just-- You can stay there if you need to. I’m not using it.”
Shaking his head - possibly unnecessarily - in response to the question, Aleksi found himself frozen again at the offer. “But…” he started, unsure of what he’d follow that up with. He was not really in any position to be turning down such a thing, though it felt too huge to really accept, especially on top of everything else that Dietre had given him thus far. And it had only been a few hours.
No buts. Dietre had decided. On some level he understood Aleksi’s reluctance, he had been on the receiving end of this sort of charity before, and he never had a choice over any of it either. The house had been an unexpected Christmas present last year, so why not pay it forward? He wasn’t giving it to Aleksi, only letting him stay there, so where was the harm?
“I’m working tonight. You can come with me.” Dietre hoped Aleksi wouldn’t ask for too many details about his job. His part was innocent, but everything else about it embarrassed him. He never knew how to delicately explain that he played the piano for a burlesque show. He never actually even watched it outside of rehearsals, he kept his piano facing away from the stage.
“It will be better than a motel,” he insisted. “And only until you find something better.”
There was a hint of steel in Dietre’s voice again, one that Aleksi couldn’t find it within himself to argue with. “Only until I find something better,” he repeated back in quiet agreement, already trying to think of ways to start repaying the enormous debt he was racking up with this boy. “Thank you,” Aleksi repeated, knowing he had already said it but feeling the need to express his gratitude again.
“What do you do?” he asked, curious about Dietre beyond the generosity he’d shown Aleksi and scent of him that seemed to have taken up residence in the back of his brain.
Hearing voices, Sieglinde came around to see what was going on, sniffing at Aleksi’s bare feet before jumping up to join Dietre on the couch. She technically wasn’t allowed, but Dietre welcomed the distraction and lavished her with much petting and scratches.
“I play the piano,” the boy answered, still focused on his dog. It was easier to talk when he wasn’t looking at Aleksi. “I’m not part of an act or anything like that, really… I just provide some music.” Now this was true modesty rather than the thinly veiled self hate from earlier. Dietre was proud of his musical abilities, the one thing he felt he was actually good at in life. “I wanted a job as a pianist and the carnival was the only one I could find, so…” He trailed off with a shrug.
Pale eyes flickered toward Aleksi. “...If I ask you what it is like to be a werewolf, would you tell me?”
“That’s very impressive,” Aleksi commented, genuinely impressed. He’d had a cousin who’d played piano, and he remembered going to her recitals at the university - and he pushed those memories away forcefully. There was no time for that, at least not yet, though eventually he knew he’d have to deal with all the grief that was just waiting at the edges of his mind.
Blinking at the question, Aleksi shrugged after a moment of thought. “Sure,” he answered after a moment. It wasn’t as though he had anything more to lose, at this point, and it only seemed fair to satisfy whatever curiosity Dietre might have, since he’d so willing provided so much help already. “What do you want to know?”
“I don’t know…” What would be impressive would be if Dietre played professionally. Concerts, composing, creating music that could say everything in his heart and soul the way he couldn’t with words, that was the dream. But it was a dream that he didn’t think would come to be.
“Anything,” he answered without much hesitation. “Everything. Whatever you’re willing to tell me.” Somehow it felt safer to ask questions of a werewolf than it had been with an angel. Aleski was more human, despite not being human, if that made any sense. It almost did to Dietre, though he had a difficult time understanding his emotions in general.
Dietre finished petting Sieglinde and ushered her off of the couch as he stood. There were things to do before they went to the carnival, and he figured they could talk while he did them. “Were you bitten? Like in the myths?”
“It is,” Aleksi stated, confident at least that he could recognize that accomplishment for what it was. Music took a certain kind of mindset, and discipline, and not everyone was capable of it, so it was impressive that Dietre was good enough to make a living for himself using the skill.
He moved when the boy did, following him on instinct, closer than he had been earlier. Shaking his head, he answered, “No. There are bitten wolves, but I was born this way, as were my parents and their parents, and their parents, as far back as anyone can remember.” Aleksi paused, and frowned, and the corrected himself. “Could remember.”
That lingered in the air for a few awkward moments, and then he offered, “Some of the myths are based in truth. We smell better, hear better, see better than humans. Heal faster. The full moon has a pull, a strong one - but, as you saw, that isn’t the only time we can shift.” Aleksi shrugged as he trailed off, not sure what more to give.
Dietre lead the way into the kitchen where he began to go through cabinets and make a small collection of nonperishable foods. His little house at the carnival had not been left stocked since he moved in with Adrian. Actually, it barely had any food in it when he did live there, which was part of why he had to move where he was now. He either never remembered, or just never got around to going grocery shopping when he was on his own, and if he didn’t have food on hand, he simply didn’t eat. He was terrible at taking care of himself, but it seemed things were different when it came to taking care of other people. He could let himself starve, but not Aleksi.
“Hm…” Just a soft sound in his throat, thoughtful, as he listened to Aleksi. “I see. ...But could you turn someone into a werewolf? If you bit them?” There was a bit more than mere casual interest in that question, Dietre lacked the finesse to properly hide it.
He didn’t leave Aleksi much room to answer before he came up with more. “Which do you prefer? The times where you are a wolf, or the times where you’re human?” And there was the reason for his interest. For someone who felt as much of an outcast as Dietre did, the idea of shunning society and living completely as an animal was alluring.
In the kitchen, Aleksi lingered close enough to be able to feel the heat escaping his own skin and warming Dietre’s instead. He watched the process with rather unseeing eyes, the questions taking up more of his attention. “Theoretically, yes,” he answered, not seeing it as a question on a personal level, just a broad overview. “At least, that’s according to the myths that I grew up with. I have never actually known a bitten werewolf, so I can’t say for certain.”
He felt unprepared for that second inquiry though. “I… that is difficult. Because sometimes I want, or need, to be one or the other. The preference is based on the situation,” Aleksi tried, wondering if it was clear enough. “Now, for example. Being human means I can use my voice, so I choose it instead of the wolf.”
Dietre did not notice, at first, how Aleksi was inching closer and closer until he could feel the warmth of him at his back. He grew flush, his nervousness spiking, and fumbled with the bag he was filling with the items he’d selected. He tried to subtly put a little more space between them by shying away with a side step, wanting to avoid coming off as rude. His personal space bubble was large and so rarely invaded that he hardly knew how to react.
“Oh. Um… Do you think the same, though? Are your thoughts and emotions different when you’re a wolf?” He wasn’t sure if that would be another unanswerable question. Being a wolf all the time would only be better if he could also give up his human mind while being one. There was no denying animals had feelings, but he assumed they were more simple than human emotions. He couldn’t imagine a wolf agonizing over all the things his mind assaulted him with.
Aleksi turned when Dietre moved, though he didn’t take the same step, not wanting to inadvertently trap the boy in the corner of the kitchen. It had been too long since he’d had any kind of contact with another sentient being , so he would take anything he could get, at this point.
He hummed thoughtfully at the question before shrugging once again. “Sort of. The wolf doesn’t have the same sort of complexities as the the human side, but there’s still the concerns for food and shelter and safety and social needs,” he tried, not sure if that explanation actually made as much sense as he thought it did.
Dietre nodded, it seemed he was somewhat right with his assumption. While he was still inwardly burning with curiosity, he found himself falling silent, unable to organize his thoughts into any more meaningful questions. The longer the silence went on, the harder it was to break. And when he finished packing the few foodstuffs he felt was a reasonable amount to bring without depleting Adrian’s kitchen, he did not know what else to do with himself.
Eventually, he ended up calling a taxi to bring them to the carnival grounds, hours early. The burlesque shows he played for were some of the last of the night, but at least getting Aleski settled at the house would take up some time. Sieglinde, of course, came with them, as Dietre rarely left home without her. She happily sat between them on the ride there, soaking up attention from both sides.
A stranger walking through the area where the carnies and performers lived earned curious looks and a few stares. Dietre was a familiar sight, however, though he stood out amongst the more colorful characters that made the carnival home with his serious expression and dark clothes. One of the reasons he moved out of his house was a persistent feeling of not belonging. It wasn’t that the carnival folk were unfriendly or mean, Dietre just didn’t feel like he fit into the family group everyone else seemed to be part of. Whenever he was here he stayed holed up in the house, an unsociable hermit.
After unlocking the door, Dietre turned to hand Aleksi the keys. “This place is small, but it has a kitchen and a bed and television… Almost everything you need.”
By the time they stepped into the small house - which smelled to Aleksi like Dietre and a faint layer of dust - he was shaking, his exhaustion catching back up with him. The nap had been nice, but not nearly enough for what he needed. He took in some bare minimum observations about the space, leaning heavily against one wall.
His fingers brushed over Dietre’s as he took the offered keys, curling his hand around them in a tight fist. “Thank you,” Aleksi said again, heartfelt even with how tired he was. “For everything.” The words were beyond inadequate, but they were, for the time being, all he had.
“When will I see you again?” Aleksi asked, his eyes opening wider with the importance of the question, and how invested he was in the answer.
“You’re welcome,” Dietre’s voice was very soft, eyes averted. When their fingers touched he was struck by a familiar panicky feeling, that terrible mix of want and fear that he had felt around each of the men that disappeared from his life over the past two years. Pessimism rose it's ugly head and told him that he wouldn’t be hearing those heartfelt thank-yous from Aleksi for long. He wasn’t even from Repose, all the more reason to expect him not to stick around.
Swallowing his feelings of impending doom, Dietre canted his head at Aleksi’s question. “I can come see you before work. Or… Well, whenever you like, really.” It wasn’t like he’d be busy doing anything else. “Hold on--” He pushed the door open and went inside to where a desk was built into the wall. There, he grabbed a little notebook and began to write. “I’ll leave you my phone number… And this is my address,” he explained as he wrote Adrian’s street name and house number down.
“I know you don’t have a phone, but I’ll bring you one the next time I come.” The bag of food was placed on the counter before Dietre glanced back Aleksi’s way. He looked exhausted again. Dietre thought it best if he was allowed to rest properly. “Um… I suppose I’ll let you get settled, then...”
“All the time,” Aleksi answered, because he couldn’t imagine that a time would come that he wouldn’t want to see Dietre. “Whenever you want,” he amended, because surely the boy had a life, and Aleksi didn’t want to detract from that.
He blinked at the comment about a phone, glancing down at the paper with numbers and letters that his brain was too tired to focus on clearly enough to make them make sense. “Thank you,” Aleksi said again, knowing he was repeating himself and still not being able to find anything better to say.
Shrugging a little, he offered awkwardly, “You can stay.” Which seemed silly to say, Aleksi realized, given that it was Dietre’s house.
Stay? Dietre grew flustered at the suggestion and unconsciously backed toward the door. A little too much had happened all in one morning, more than he could handle at once. He needed a little time. “I… I can’t… Not today. I just-- I have some things I need to do, but I’ll be back tomorrow.” He was surprised by the guilt he felt and bit his lip to stave it off.
“I’m going to find some ways to help you, so… All you have to do is rest right now, alright?” He searched for some understanding in Aleksi’s eyes. “And you don’t need to thank me, I want to help you.” It felt good to be needed. He’d savor it while he could, something told him Aleksi wouldn’t need him for very long.
“It was nice to meet you, Aleksi.” A faint smile of parting was offered, and with a tug on Sieglinde’s leash, Dietre left the werewolf to recover.