Roman has a lot of secrets. Some of them come to him by virtue of his father’s name, still others from the curse within his mother’s blood; nearly all of them are his birthright. This is who we are, his mother might say if she still had a tongue. She said it to him often enough when she still had one, but he hadn’t quite appreciated her meaning then as he does now. He gets it, but she’s wrong; it’s not who he is. He tried to carve something different from the world for himself. Tried to run before he even fully realized he had any reason to.
There are other secrets. Secrets that belong only to him, to Roman Godfrey, and have nothing at all to do with his blood or his name. If he had to lay his finger on a single one and say, This is who I am, it would be Peter laying back on the hood of his car, his eyes shining like broken glass, his mouth smiling that way he had with a look in his eyes that said he knew many things, not the least of which was exactly who he was and his place in the world. One crooked, beckoning finger, words rolling off his tongue in a language that sounds like kissing in the dark and meant, Come here.
He goes to the old trailer where the Rumanceks had lived and it looks the same. The hammock in the yard has gotten tangled from the weather and the ropes are rotting. Though it hasn’t collapsed yet it probably wouldn’t hold much weight. The river nearby still more closely resembles a cesspool and he doubts if anything lives in it. Maybe a few salamanders where the water is more calm, some leeches. They cleaned out the place good and proper when they left; covered the furniture, wiped down the counters and the floor, burned some incense to get rid of the smell of cat hair and the last meal Lynda cooked on the stove before they skipped town.
Or perhaps it had been to cast out evil. Who the hell knows?
All that cleaning and then a sink full of Peter’s hair. Might as well ask what that was supposed to mean.
YOUR DEAD scream the walls at him as he passes.
DIE GYPSY MURDERERS
They had some creative minds working down at the five-o that day for sure.
Roman sits on the top step, which is rickety and unsteady, moldering quickly in the dampness. He lights a cigarette and sits there inhaling the sour scent of the river water, the clay earth smell of rotting leaves, the expensive odor of his own shampoo and cologne, and he thinks that he’s contaminated it all just by being here. Then he thinks about how strange the world would think it if they knew that this little scrap of the world, this wasteland deposit, this cursed bit of earth is the most valuable piece of property he owns. He bought it after Peter and his mother abandoned it.
One of his most closely guarded secrets is that he comes here sometimes and sits and looks at it and remembers.
No one ever bothers him here, but sometimes he has such strange, compelling dreams and it’s almost good enough. Sometimes it feels like there are things in the dark watching him. When the sun goes down, the trees stretch their limbs across the ground and he imagines he can feel them touching him, whisper-soft.
He thinks of Peter’s hands on him the same way he thinks of razor blades.
He thinks of Peter’s teeth against the back of his neck, his panting whispered nonsense, the same way he thinks of a line of coke on a mirror.
He thinks, This is who I am, and it makes him laugh.
His laughter startles some finches in the trees and they fly up, then settle back down. They’ve heard stranger things in these skeletal woods around sunset.
His cigarette has nearly burned down to the filter without him noticing it. Roman uses the butt to light a new one and smokes it, watching the sky go dark and the moon rise. He closes his eyes and pictures Peter changing. He had been standing… just over there on the left. Peter’s mother had been watching him more than Peter, not sure that her son had made the right decision by trusting him. And Peter… had been beautiful. He imagines it in reverse and remembers telling him how beautiful he was, but Peter would never really get that because he could never watch it, only feel it.
Something flashes brightly in the dark on his right and Roman watches it. Two spots like fireflies that he tries to convince himself aren’t eyes. They draw closer and the moon touches on fur, painting the black pelt of a wolf with silver frost as its features become clear. The eyes, those deep, gold, bottomless, savage-souled eyes stare into him, sharp like two pins holding him. He can’t know, but he knows.
“Peter,” he says.
The wolf draws its lips back from its gleaming teeth and approaches. Roman doesn’t move, he doesn’t run and he’s not afraid. If it isn’t Peter, then it will probably run away again. Wolves are not as aggressive as people believe, especially not on their own. It has the same markings, the same coloring, the same bearing and attitude as Peter though. And what other wolf would find anything of value in this dank, hopeless place?
“I came looking for you,” Roman says. He flicks his cigarette away and rests his arms on his knees. “After Letha. We both loved her, Peter.”
The wolf gives no indication that he has heard or understood what Roman is saying. He walks up to him, steps up on the stairs where he sits and stares up into his face. It is Peter. Any other wolf that got that close to his nuts would rip them off.
Roman puts his hand out and the wolf sniffs his fingers, then licks them and makes a sound low in his throat. Not quite a whine, almost like words.
“What?” Roman asks.
Peter nips his fingertips and steps up, forcing Roman to lean back, then he licks his face, his throat, and bites at the collar of his shirt, tearing loose a button.
“Whoa. Hey,” Roman says. He puts his hands up on the wolf’s wide chest and his fingers sink into the black ruff of his fur. “Sorry, man, but I didn’t bring a Frisbee this time either.”
Peter licks his face again, runs his tongue from chin to forehead, and Roman laughs. It feels good, being able to laugh again this way. He hasn’t in a long time. He even remembers the last time he laughed like this—with Peter in the waiting room as Letha lay dying—but he slams the door on that memory and sits forward to bury his face in the soft fur of Peter’s neck.
It’s a great risk he’s taking by being so careless and so familiar with the wolf if it’s a wild thing and not Peter. Such creatures have their own ways of reminding you where you stand; where your real place is in the food chain. Though Peter’s always been wild himself and Roman knows… he knows this wild furred beast is Peter. He breathes in his smell of fur and musk and forest and wind and Peter goes still, allowing it, patient as a mother.
“You left me,” Roman mutters into Peter’s pelt. He raises a hand and hits him, but the blow has no strength behind it and makes a solid thumping sound on the wolf’s side. The only indication that Peter has felt it at all is a soft huff of breath into Roman’s hair. “You left me alone. Alone with her, with everything. Damn you.”
Peter snorts and butts his head against Roman’s chest, pushing him back. When he has the room, he sticks his nose under Roman’s shirt, licks at his warm belly in passing and whines. It’s like he’s trying to climb inside his clothes with him, Roman thinks, which almost makes him laugh again until he realizes what that means.
Because Peter’s still in there. His mind is in there and completely functioning, completely him. Peter and Lynda both told him that and Roman’s seen him like this enough to know it’s true. If Peter’s in there then it’s Peter trying to get into his clothes, which isn’t a totally new concept, except for the wolf part.
It’s never happened while Peter was the wolf.
Peter nips him, a light, bloodless bite of his teeth on Roman’s side, and Roman jerks. Awareness and twisted desire chase themselves down into the pit of his stomach and Roman huffs out a breath of incredulous laughter.
“Seriously?” is all Roman can think because seriously?
Peter makes a canine grumbling sound in his throat and pulls his head back, jerking at Roman’s shirt. He’s managed to get his head inside it.
Not much surprises Roman, partly because he’s seen a lot of fucked up shit in his short time, but mostly because he’s not really a very nice person and consequently, he’s really jaded. Still, the idea of sex with Peter like this is… Except it’s not. It should be, but it’s not. He considers trying to put Peter off and he’s sure he could because Peter’s still Peter inside the wolf body, he just has another face and another name he’s never spoken aloud, but he would listen if Roman told him no. There’s going to be I’ve-missed-you-you-asshole make up sex, one way or another no matter what he does and they could wait until morning after the sun’s come up, but when Roman really considers it, why should they?
Because the idea isn’t awful. The idea of it should be shameful and disgusting and frightening, but it’s not.
So he takes his clothes off. Peter steps back and stands watching him undress and Roman leaves his clothes on the steps and goes to him. He thinks This too is secret, then nothing coherent for several long minutes except that Peter’s claws are more like nails than razor blades, that they punch through him with every touch.
The coil of boiling desire in his stomach is exactly like a snake eating itself and when Peter mounts him, his weight the same when he’s a wolf as it is when he’s a man, Roman falls down in the dirt on his forearms panting. Peter thrusts inside him and it’s like being stabbed. The shock of pleasure Roman gets from it, from the idea of the filth and decadence of it as well as the sensation, forces a cry from his throat that alarms the finches in the shadow trees again. Peter pants against the back of his neck, his breath warm along his spine, and licks him, softly whining. He clutches at Roman’s sides, scratching him until he bleeds as he fucks him and tries to get closer, harder. He licks away the blood and Roman doesn’t even feel it. His body’s alive with feverish pleasure. He rests on his elbows and puts his head down in his hands, fingers clenching in his hair before pushing it back, shivering and crying out.
Peter thrusts hard and something bigger than his cock pushes inside him and Roman has seen dogs mate before so he knows what it must be. Pleasure is like a pummeling fist in his gut and his voice breaks, cracks, shatters to pieces. Peter growls and bites at Roman’s shoulder. He licks it after, then bites him again, harder when he starts to come. It is completely different from when Peter has come inside him as a man; slower, hotter, and he goes still as it happens. It doesn’t matter. Roman’s body is thrumming with feverish pleasure; his skin feels like it’s pulsing and bright and Peter’s knotted up inside him like a dog in a bitch and that just does it for him. Roman comes, his orgasm twisting and nearly painful in its release, and he screams, biting at his own arm to muffle it. He digs his fingers into the soft earth as pleasure strums up and down his body like the vibration of a harp string.
He remembers Peter’s blue eyes on the ground staring up at him.
He remembers screaming inside the deserted trailer while his heart was breaking.
He can feel the pulse of the earth that Peter used to talk about throbbing in the pads of his fingers.
He thinks he hears the wolf whispering in his ear. Gypsy words that sound like kissing at midnight and mean Come here.
Peter stays like that and Roman doesn’t try to make him move. He’s half slumped on the ground with his forehead resting in the rice paper rotting leaves, shivering as the sweat on his body begins to dry and go cold. Peter isn’t coming anymore, but he’s still inside him and he’s restless to pull out. He doesn’t get off of him and turn around though as Roman has seen male dogs do, he waits.
Peter would probably be pretty offended if he had any idea how much Roman is thinking about dogs fucking while they’re like that, which only makes Roman cough out a tired laugh. The sound has Peter grumbling an inquiry in his throat, but Roman isn’t about to tell him what he was thinking. Peter just licks his shoulder, then he finally pulls out and gets off him.
Roman lays down right there on the ground and closes his eyes. He’s disgusting; sweaty, covered in wolf saliva and come, mud up to his elbows and a little in his hair. He considers going into the trailer to shower it off—he keeps the water turned on though he’s never used it—but it’s only a thought and it passes.
The birds are in the trees again chittering their gossip to the shadows. Did you see…? Can you believe they…? Well, I never… Now, there’s something you don’t see every day…
The wind sighs in off the river and water’s shallow and filthy where the river bends in near the trailer. It smells of decomposition, of dead things and chemical pollution, a little bit like sewage. Not toilet sewage, not shit or piss or vomit, but like dirty dish water. Grey water, he thinks it’s called.
Peter’s tongue slides warm and wet up his back, traveling the length of his spine, and Roman trembles. He wants a smoke, but his cigarettes are in his coat pocket and his coat is a few feet away on the trailer steps. It’s too far.
Peter licks him again and lies down on the ground by his side. Roman turns his head to look at him and Peter stares back, gold eyes blazing, tongue lolling. He looks incredibly pleased with himself and Roman rolls his eyes.
“I’d be more impressed if you went and got me my coat,” he says.
Peter snorts. Then he gets up and comes back a minute later with the coat, which he drops by Roman’s head.
“Thanks,” Roman says.
He lights a cigarette and rolls onto his back. It occurs to him that he’s going to be covered in mud whenever he decides to get up, but he actually doesn’t care. No one’s there to see it except Peter, and the secrets he has from Peter aren’t about his body.
“You’ll be gone in the morning, won’t you?” Roman asks the wolf.
Peter looks at him and says nothing. The expression on his canine face is a clear rebuke, which doesn’t deny what Roman has said so much as inform him of how very unfair it is of him to say such things when he can’t speak to defend himself. He makes a chuffing sound of dismissal and lays down by Roman’s side, head pillowed on Roman’s stomach.
Roman moves his cigarette to his other hand so he can pet him. It’s weird how not weird it all is. He falls asleep there on the cold ground with Peter’s fur keeping him warm, his cigarette burning out to a forgotten curl.
In the morning, it’s the red on his eyelids that wakes him and he lays there smelling the river, listening to the birds titter, lazily reveling in the sensation of Peter sucking a love bite into the side of his neck with his human mouth. It occurs to him that he’s dreaming, then just as quickly occurs to him that he can’t be.
He opens his eyes and Peter’s there looking back at him, smiling, his eyes blue again and his hair shorter than Roman remembers.
“Fuck you,” Roman mutters.
Peter’s smile widens, takes on a knowing sharpness. It’s a my-dog-just-fucked-your-brains-out-and-you-liked-it look. Except of course Peter was the dog and the dog was a wolf, but semantics. It’s not a look many people can claim to have in their repertoire of expressions, but Peter definitely has it down.
“Shee-it,” Peter says.
Roman just stares at him for a moment and he wants to be mad. He really wants to be mad and just stay that way because Fuck you, Peter, you coward. You left me here alone when I needed you most. You can’t just come back, but he can and they both know it because he has and Roman has already taken him back.
He should punch him in his arrogant, heartless goddamn gypsy face is what he should do. But he doesn’t. He laughs and sits up to kiss him.