Warnings: Yaoi, lemon, AU
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is not mine.
This is written for Sunhawk, since she guessed that the guy on the train in The Gambler was Goyjo. This story is based on a Heather Alexander song called 'Wolfen One' (thus my stealing of the title...).
Wolfen One Part 1
The hunter picked up the supplies from the counter and stowed them in his pack. "You don't have any information other than that? Just that the wolf has been stealing your sheep, the dogs are scared of him, and only two of the shepherds have actually caught a glimpse of him. That's it? Haven't you gone looking for him yourself?" His voice was heavy with disbelief.
"Of course we have!" The shopkeeper answered. He was also the mayor of this tiny village and the one who had decided to hire the hunter. "We haven't even found footprints."
The hunter raised a skeptical eyebrow. "According to the two that saw him, he's a gigantic white wolf. How could you not find his footprints in all this snow?"
"We hired you to kill the wolf, not lecture us!" The mayor snapped. The hunter sighed, tucking his long braid of hair up and inside the hood of his black coat.
"I apologize. You don't know how many villages hire me to hunt animals down for them and then try to wiggle out of the payments by claiming they could've done it themselves." The hunter took note of the mayor's shifty expression and hid a sigh.
"So, you'll bring back the skin- agreed?"
"Of course. I promised." The hunter shouldered his pack, suppressed a wince as it hit his sore shoulder and left the store. Damn provincial villagers. They deserved to lose a few sheep. He'd spend a few days looking for their ghost-wolf, but if he didn't spot anything, he'd move on. Let these idiots deal with their own problem.
Duo sighed. He couldn't do that. He was a hunter, damn it, and a hunter's reputation was built on what he managed to catch. He had already earned a small bit of fame; he didn't want to lose it. Plus a good hunt would guarantee him enough money to see him through the remainder of the winter. He needed time to rest and heal.
He headed out into the woods. The forest was dark and overgrown; the ground covered with only a thin layer of snow- most of it had been caught on the branches above. First things first, find a good place to camp.
The hunter climbed over fallen trunks and large roots, scrabbled around bushes. Most of the villagers stayed out of the forest, and he could see why. But, the wolf had been seen retreating into the forest, so this would be the place to hunt him.
Duo yawned. It had been two hours to dusk when he'd left the village, it was growing darker now. He needed to find someplace to camp and soon. He was tired and he needed to rebandage his shoulder.
Fortune suddenly smiled on him.
He stumbled into small clearing, the remains of a lightning split tree in the middle, the area around it free of underbrush, more than likely from the resulting fire. Duo was surprised the whole forest hadn't burned, but perhaps the rains accompanying the lightning had been heavy enough to keep the rest of the growth from burning. The snow was heavier on the ground here, thanks to the opening in the canopy. Still, it was a good place to camp, and he could see the sky.
The tree had a large piece of trunk still in the ground, neatly hollowed out by the fire. Duo investigated it carefully. It had been used as a den by something at one time, he determined, but nothing lived there now. He set his pack inside, pulled out his tent tarp and draped it over the top of the stump. He fastened it down, brushed the remaining snow out of the stump and laid out his bedroll.
Close to the opening of the trunk, he cleared a space and started a small fire. The heat would hopefully carry into his shelter, the light was comforting. He sat close to the flames and pulled back his hood. His shoulder was aching badly; he'd have to see to it soon.
He dug in his pack for food, pulling out some bread and cheese; which he toasted over the small fire. He ate slowly, feeling very weary. He hadn't been able to sleep much after the last hunt, his injury had been too painful, the dreams too frightening.
He heard a sound out of place in the rest of the night noises and froze. Something was moving around the edge of the brush. He reached into his boot and yanked out his knife, scanning the clearing, straining to see into the dark.
"Peace friend," a soft deep voice spoke out of the darkness. "May I share your fire for a while?"
"A friend is always welcome," Duo replied, but he kept the dagger in his hand.
"Then you will welcome me," a man stepped out of the shadows, raising empty hands.
Duo put the knife away and the stranger sat beside him.
"I am called Heero."
"Duo," Duo answered. He studied the stranger carefully. Dark brown hair, golden skin, a deep green coat and leggings that didn't seem insulated enough for the weather. He didn't look like the other people of these northern lands that Duo had encountered so far- or those from the south where Duo had been born. He must not be native to the area, Duo decided, and wondered where Heero was from.
Heero held his hands out to the fire and looked back at Duo with bright blue eyes. "Well met, friend," he said. "What are you doing out here by yourself?"
"The village hired me to hunt some white wolf that has been stealing their sheep. Have you seen it?" The stranger's eyes widened for a moment and then he nodded.
"I have seen the wolf, yes. I didn't realize the villagers hired anyone to hunt it down."
"You must be one of the shepherds that saw it?"
Heero chuckled. "No, I live here in the forest. I don't go near the village if I can help it." Duo couldn't blame him for that.
"But you've seen the wolf? What does he look like?"
"A wolf," Heero smiled. "No more and no less."
"Did you try to hunt him?"
"No," he shook his head. "He has not bothered me."
Duo sighed. The man studied the hunter's profile, his eyes lingering on the other's hair where it lay against his neck. It was the custom in the South to grow it long, but the Northerners clipped their hair short. Duo was used to people staring at his hair, it didn't bother him that Heero seemed fascinated with it- that was a normal reaction.
Or was the man eyeing his neck? Duo pushed the thought away, but moved his hand closer to the knife in his boot.
"I wish he hadn't bothered the villagers either."
"You aren't looking forward to the hunt?" Heero seemed surprised. His eyes moved away from Duo's neck. "To most hunters, the hunt is their life."
"I like to hunt, but I'm not looking forward to them trying to get out of my fee at the end of it," Duo frowned.
"Do the villages here normally try to get out of paying?" Heero was definitely not from here, Duo decided.
"Some do," Duo raised his shoulder in a shrug without thinking and winced.
"Are you hurt?" Heero moved closer, and Duo was reminded of predators approaching a wounded animal...
"Yeah, last hunt. A bear. He was bigger than I expected, he managed to swipe me."
"In the wintertime? He wasn't hibernating?"
"No. I think he was ill." Duo shook his head. "I need to rebind the wound."
"I'll help you," Heero offered. Duo slanted a glance at him under his bangs. Could he trust the other? Heero seemed to sense the thought. He raised both of his hands higher. "I would not hurt one who welcomed me as a friend. Let me repay you for sharing your fire."
Duo weighed his choices for a moment and then nodded. It would be tough to do this alone.
Duo dug the bandages and ointment out of his pack and placed them on the bedroll. He pulled off his coat, shivering slightly, and unlaced his shirt.
Heero moved behind him and gently undid the bandages. Duo heard him hiss. "The wound is infected... you need to treat this..."
"I know. I will be okay. Just help me put the ointment on it and bind it up."
"Infected wounds do not heal themselves." Heero's fingers were gentle as they spread the ointment over Duo's skin. "Why didn't you see a healer?"
"Well, the last village tried to stiff me out of my fee- so I tried to strong arm it out of them and failed. I don't have money for a healer."
"Idiot. You could barter with one."
"It will be fine." Duo drew in a sharp breath as the ointment started to sting. "I'll go after I hunt down the wolf."
"It may be too late then." Heero helped him pull the shirt back on. " He looked at Duo's snug nest. "At least you were smart enough to bring enough warm coverings."
"Hey!" Duo flushed at the insult.
"I need to get home." Heero got to his feet. "If you are intelligent, you will forget this hunt and see a healer." He vanished into the darkness.
Duo stared after him, straining his eyes to catch a glimpse of the man moving in the trees, but there was no trace of him. What an odd man. For a moment, Duo remembered the fairy tales of his youth, and then he snorted. Fairy creature? That one? Hardly.
Duo woke up the next morning feeling warm. Almost uncomfortably so. He realized he was running a fever. He touched his shoulder and winced. It felt like it was on fire. Damn it. The sooner he caught the wolf and got to a healer the better.
It took him ages to dress, his head was spinning, his clothes too warm. He gathered up his crossbow and headed for the edge of the woods. The best place to wait for the wolf would be at the edge of the forest and the meadow where the sheep would be let out to graze for a short period of time.
Duo managed to climb a tree and wedge himself in the snow-covered branches. The cool air helped ease the warmth of his fever once he stopped moving, and he was able to focus on the edge of the woods, waiting for the wolf to appear.
Hours passed as Duo waited patiently. He shivered and burned alternately, but didn't let himself stop scanning for the wolf. All he had to do was kill it. Then he could take its hide to the village and have a healer look at him. He'd even accept that as his fee at this point.
There was a faint movement under the brush at the edge of the woods. Snow dropped off branches and Duo saw a patch of snow move.
Then he realized it wasn't snow, but fur. The wolf had finally appeared. He raised his bow wincing as his injured shoulder flared with pain. He took aim carefully, forcing his hands to stop shaking.
The wolf was moving slowly towards the sheep. Right as Duo flexed his fingers to release the string, the wolf turned its head in his direction.
The arrow flew from his bow, and Duo saw the wolf leap back. The arrow flew by the wolf's head, narrowly missing it, and Duo cursed. He fumbled with his quiver, trying to pull out another arrow quickly. The movement made his shoulder burn and his head spin, and as he yanked the arrow out, he lost his balance.
He twisted, trying to catch the branch, missed, hit his head on the trunk, and fell flat on his back in a snow bank.
Duo blinked, his eyesight blurred and doubled. A large white shape loomed over him and he scrabbled for his knife. Wolf, his mind provided. More than likely not happy about being shot at. The knife came free and he slashed out with it. He was blinded, hot with fever, shivering, but he knew he couldn't act like prey.
A cool hand caught his wrist. "Stubborn hunter." The voice sounded amused. The knife vanished from his hand and an arm eased itself under his shoulders. "I should've known you wouldn't give up." The voice was familiar, but he couldn't place it.
He was pulled to his feet and regretted it. The dizzy feeling increased and he had to close his eyes to keep from being sick.
"Lean on me. You need help." Duo leaned into the offered support, eyes still closed. A hand touched his forehead and the voice cursed softly. "Idiot. I told you to go see a healer."
Duo wanted to argue, but he couldn't manage it. It was taking all of his energy to simply stay on his feet.
"What am I going to do with you?"
Before Duo could suggest that he'd be perfectly happy to just lay down in the cool snow again, his knees buckled and his consciousness slipped away to the sound of the voice cursing again.
Duo opened his eyes. It was dark, pitch black, and he couldn't see anything. Where was he? He shifted a little, felt the slide of blankets around his shoulders, the softness of feathers beneath him, the brush of cotton under his cheek. Was he at an inn? How had he gotten here?
There was a heavy weight across his waist, holding him in place. What was that? He shifted a little more and couldn't dislodge it. The movement made pain stir in his shoulder, made his head throb, and he stopped. What had happened? He squeaked as the weight resting on his waist suddenly tightened. It was someone's arm.
"Quit moving," a voice muttered in the darkness. "You're safe. Go back to sleep."
"What... happened?" Duo asked.
"You fell out of that tree and gave yourself a concussion. I told you to go see a healer. Idiot."
The voice was familiar. The man from the woods. Heero.
"Now go back to sleep. I wasted most of my day on you as it was." The arm around his waist squeezed him for a moment. "I'll talk to you in the morning."
Duo shifted slightly again, ready to do as the other asked, when he realized something else.
"Where are my clothes?"
"Drying. You soaked them in the snow." Reassured, Duo closed his eyes again, moving a bit closer to the warmth instinctively. Another realization struck his brain.
His eyes flew open. "Why are you in the bed with me?"
He heard Heero sigh. "First off, it's my bed. Secondly you kept trying to flip over and since I'd cleaned out that wound on your shoulder, I didn't want you doing that. Satisfied? Can I go to sleep now? Gods know how many idiots I'll have to rescue tomorrow."
Duo opened his mouth and heard the other sigh again. "What now?"
"I just wanted to say thank you."
A different kind of sigh. "You're welcome."
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