Chapter 5: Tickles & Tantrums
10:51 AM MST
It turns out, there’s lots to do and Wyatt’s the only one who can do any of it because, supposedly, my one and only job is to keep quiet and rest. This bearded recluse is back to humming an unknown tune as he de-feathers the birds – apparently called grouse – and sets to work butchering them. In the end, I watch him do everything; there’s absolutely nothing else going on in this place anyway.
Canuck is by Wyatt’s side, but occasionally he leers at me in that untrusting way of his as if warning me not to get close. He also barks if I speak up or get Wyatt’s attention. Needless to say, I haven’t left the safety of the mattress since his return.
After a few minutes, Wyatt sets up a small pot of water in the fire and removes the heads from the stems of the clovers; though he just dumps all of it in to boil anyway.
When he stands up to continue with the grouse, I simply can’t take the silence anymore.
“Wyatt I really need to go,” I remind.
“Alright,” he allows without looking up at all from his work; instead, chopping the floppy, limp neck off the bird and tossing the mutilated thing to his wolf. With a giant turn of my stomach, I just barely manage to suppress a gag.
“Where –?” I begin, but he throws his head to the direction of the door while removing small breasts of meat and setting them inside of a pan.
“Outside, where do you think? Oh – and be careful not to do it around the house. Canuck won’t be happy with you.” His eyes are trained on breakfast and the frustrating idea that I’m being ignored drills its way into my head. I’m overcome with an unexplained desire to get him to look over to me.
“Aren’t you going to help me?” I ask, only slightly wary that he’s in a bad mood again. Though I didn’t imagine it… he told mehe’d help me only a few minutes ago… and I haven’t done anything except keep still and quiet like he’s asked…
Finally Wyatt glances to me and I can see his smirk hidden behind his beard. “What do you want me to do? Hold your fucking hand?”
There’s a million things I need him for; my leg isn’t strong enough to get me there – I’m terrified going outside alone – his wolf will probably eat me if I step foot off the mattress. While I’m debating which of these is the least embarrassing to admit out loud, he breaks into laughter.
“Calm down, I’m kidding,” he reveals with a smile, wiping his hands on a rag by his side before moving over to me.
Maybe I don’t find my dependence nearly as funny as Wyatt does. Actually, it’s kind of pathetic… almost like I’m getting needier by the minute…
“Not in the mood to joke around?” he asks, observing my unamused frown. “Don’t pout… it’s making me feel bad.”
Wyatt doesn’t seem to be a big fan of the silent treatment, but I keep it up anyway.
“Come on… smile.”
“No,” I refuse, but it’s way too soft – barely above a whisper.
If he heard me, Wyatt chooses to ignore the statement. He leans forward to lift me under the armpit and help me to my feet, but just as I’m applying pressure to the bad leg to limp forward on it, Wyatt spins me so my back is against his chest. Before I can get a word in, he grips my waist tightly so I can’t go anywhere and proceeds to dig his chin right into my neck.
The effect is immediate – the bushy beard is fucking ticklish and Wyatt’s hold is way too strong to fight off. Helpless, I burst into reflexive-like laughter as he sinks his jaw into the sensitive skin.
I’m shrieking, gasping for breath, and my eyes are watering from the intensity of trying to laugh and inhale oxygen at the same time; Dax was the last person to tickle me, and that was probably when I was twelve.
“Aahhaa! Wy—ahahaha—tt! St-aiihhh! Haha! –op!”
After what feels like an eternity of tickle torture, he finally lets me go. I’m left panting to catch my breath as Wyatt practically carries me to the door – grinning ear to ear.
“Smiling now, eh?”
“That doesn’t count,” I manage – though it’s true that I’m smiling and it won’t go away. My neck is throbbing from the beard rub and I press my palm to the affected area and scrub the tingles forcefully, as if trying to erase them.
11:08 AM MST
I’m pissing against a tree that Wyatt has placed me in front of.
His back is turned to me but I’m still conscious of his presence. The last thing I want him to do is glance over and laugh at the size of my dick or something. I mean, it’s not small, but I have a feeling that, next to Wyatt, everything about me is laughable.
Why it even matters? I have no idea. It was just like yesterday when he undressed me… the self-deprecating thoughts are like a disease that won’t go away. Wyatt is so capable, handsome and strong that I feel inadequate – weak – in a million ways.
“Done yet?” he asks impatiently over his shoulder.
“Not yet!” I squeak. “Don’t look!”
He must think I’m totally weird – but I can’t lose track of the fact that Wyatt is the strange one.
I zip up and we make our way back to the cabin. Canuck is standing at the edge of the treelines waiting for us and he growls at the sight of me. When Wyatt snaps his fingers with the hand that’s not helping to keep me steady, I can’t help a superior feeling taking over me. There’s an urge to stick my tongue out at his stupid wolf and say “neener-neener-neener”.
11:15 AM MST
Back inside, Wyatt leaves me to start cooking the grouse but only a few minutes in and I’m feeling restless. I’ve never been very good with sitting still, or paying attention… or keeping quiet; all things Wyatt seems to expect from me. Top it off with this unbearable worry about my situation – Dax’s situation – and I’m a fidgeting, anxious mess.
Thankfully, after he has everything on the fire, Wyatt turns back to me. He only needs a wave of his hand to indicate he wants my leg up on the bed and as I manoeuver it, the dull aching that has been consistent to this point turns into a terrible, painful throbbing.
Wyatt has a whole bunch of new rags – some already blood-stained – and he sits on the mattress to untie the tourniquet.
It’s a gag-worthy sight.
In fact, as one bloody rag is peeled off of me after another, I’m quickly losing any appetite I’d worked up. The whole leg is inflamed and where Wyatt haphazardly stitched me up, there are gobs of green pus and other sticky fluids seeping around the thread. The flesh has turned bluish – whether from bruising or blood, I’m not sure. In any case, it is a serious reminder of my situation.
My head spins dangerously; vision darkening as a terrible nausea overcomes me. I don’t recognize that I’m close to fainting until Wyatt slaps my cheek to keep me focused. It’s not hard – just enough of a tap to force my eyes away from my leg.
“It’s okay,” he assures patiently. “It may look bad, but it just means it’s healing.”
Somehow, the words make me feel better – but maybe it’s the fact that I’m looking at Wyatt and not the gruesome display on my lower half. “Let’s let it breathe for a little bit,” he suggests. “We’ll eat first, and then we’ll clean and re-dress it, okay?”
Wyatt’s voice betrays him. I’ve known him less than a full day and still I can make out the smallest difference in his tone – it’s way too gentle in comparison to his usual booming authority. I realize my face must be giving away how scared I am. Before I can even attempt to rearrange it into an expression that is not completely terrified, he sits up to tend to breakfast.
“Oh yeah, put this back on,” he says, tossing my shirt back at me from the floor.
Looking down at myself, I certainly look like I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been half-naked since the fever – bruises, scrapes and scratches adorn my torso. To top off the look, one half of my jeans has been torn off completely thanks to Wyatt’s knife. It’s like wearing half shorts, half pants. Add the crazy black hair standing up in a million directions like it is every morning, and I’m pretty much a walking disaster.
I pull my arms through the shirt, not bothering to button it up just yet. My hands are shaking.
Wyatt pours some of the soup into a ceramic bowl, but Canuck isn’t interested in it; his snout is high in the air sniffing at the meat instead. I watch Wyatt pull a strip of breast meat off and hand-feed it to his wolf – first as usual. Canuck eats happily before licking between his master’s fingers for any residual flavour.
11:35 AM MST
Bowl and spoon are placed in my lap and I inspect Wyatt’s Clover Soup for the first time. Small heads of flowers and stems float in steaming water – and I give it a curious sniff. “This just looks like tea or something.”
Wyatt sits beside me with his own bowl before revealing a grin. “It’s my favourite,” he replies with an elbow to my side. “And best while it’s hot. Better eat it quick.”
So I bring a spoonful to my mouth and blow the steam from it before putting it in, swallowing immediately with a choke.
“It tastes awful,” I say with a defeated look to Wyatt. In fact, it’s so bitter that I can’t help the face I pull; it’s a disgusting, lingering taste of dirt. “How can you eat this stuff?”
Wyatt is happily eating away, though. “Guess you’ve never had Pinecone Soup…”
“If it’s just pinecones in hot water, then yeah – haven’t really tried that. You know, just because you put it in water doesn’t make it a soup…”
A sharp, blue-eyed glare from the man at my side stops me from carrying on with my critique. My stomach growls for more, and I figure it’s best just to choke it back with a smile and a thank you. I’m rewarded shortly after with a mouth-watering piece of grouse breast. Unlike the bear, which was tough and filmy in comparison to beef, the bird is strikingly close to chicken and I devour it so quick even Wyatt is surprised.
I stare at his plate, drooling for more and he’s about to give me another piece before Canuck gives a sharp bark to stop him. The wolf is sitting at Wyatt’s feet, staring at the meat in his hands just like me; he gives a low whine and lifts his head a little higher indicating he has his sights on it too.
“Come on,” I say – suddenly frantic at the serious look Wyatt is giving us. “I’m starving!”
The hesitation is clear; Wyatt is debating which of us to feed.
“If I give it to you, Canuck is just going to resent you even more,” he explains. My mouth drops open a little. The idea that he’d feed this animal before me is absurd, and brutally close to happening. “Think of it as a peace offering.”
“Wyatt,” I begin. “You can’t be serio—”
My words are cut off as he tosses the strip of meat to his wolf in a sudden decision. Before I can recover from my shock Wyatt simply pats me on the head and brings me in close to his side.
“Don’t make a big deal out of it,” he warns in a low voice as Canuck focuses on eating the meat. He must know I’m moments away from stammering out ice-cold words at this complete and utter betrayal. “I’ll give you something even better later, okay?”
“What? More fucking soup?” I seethe, tossing the empty bowl and spoon to the floor with a clatter. The anger is rushing to me – but it’s more than that; I feel completely dejected. The solid confirmation that Wyatt’s dog is more important than me is a hard blow to my own ego that has been steadily deflating since meeting this dude.
But I may have gone too far with my tantrum; one look back at Wyatt has the blood draining from my face. He still has a firm grip on the side of my head and he fists a bit of my hair to bring me in impossibly closer; he growls out the next words from behind clenched teeth.
“What did I say about learning your place?”
His grip is too strong – my hair is being pulled from the roots and my hands shoot to his to try and remove it.
“Ow! Stop… it…!”
“I’m not going to tell you again, alright?”
My eyes water from the pain – or at least, that’s what I tell myself. I bite at my lips in a stubborn refusal to acknowledge this maniac; pulling at the fist in my hair to remove it by force. After a moment, it’s clear that it’s not going to go anywhere.
“You’re… hurting me!”
“Answer me then,” he snaps.
“Stop!” I beg with a shout, as he yanks so hard my neck bends. “I’m sorry! Let me go!”
There’s a deep breath before Wyatt eases up a little – his hand is still knotted in my hair but at least he’s not tugging and the relief forces the tears to spill from me. There’s shock, and with it, the terrible, re-surfacing feeling of betrayal.
I pull his hand off before face-diving into the pillow beside me. I scream, shout and sob – and Wyatt doesn’t seem to give a real shit at all because he gets up and lets me go at it.
As I cry, I beg and wish for Dax beside me – he’d spoil me like usual. He wouldn’t yell at me, or snap like that… he’d give meanything I wanted. I know it’s childish, but I’ve already been through so much and Wyatt’s being way too mean… that spot on my head is throbbing…
11:46 AM MST
The sobs have turned to hiccups and I peek up at Wyatt to see he’s returned with vodka and hot water.
I’m not even sure what to say because now, on top of losing my brother, I’ve lost what little dignity I had as well. It’s embarrassing.
When I don’t respond, Wyatt kicks the small bed frame – it slides across the wooden floor a few inches and then he’s crouching beside me. “I don’t want to make you cry anymore, Calix. Stop trying to make the rules and I won’t get mad.”
The vindictive part of me wants to hurt Wyatt’s feelings; call him names, tell him I hate him – do anything I can to make him feel as small as I do. But I can’t bring myself to do those things because now, there’s fear. Fear of Wyatt snapping again… I know he’s close. There’s an overwhelming aura of authority radiating from him as he hovers near me. His blue eyes are way too intense again as they search mine.
He reaches out to me – whether to pet me or pull me up, I’m not sure – I flinch regardless and Wyatt’s hand stops halfway.
“Stop that,” he says with a frown. “For fuck’s sake, I’m doing my best to help you Calix! I’m not going to hurt you.”
Here we go again.
“You did hurt me!” I remind with a shout – emotions boiling over.
“I barely touched you,” Wyatt contradicts. “And what, because of a bit of discipline – you throw a big crybaby tantrum?”
I want to murder him; tell the police it was cabin fever – it’s not a lie if you consider it literally… but who am I kidding? No one knows this guy exists.
“If I would have known you were this sensitive, I would have just split it in half,” he continues with a groan. “Calix, I’m trying to teach you how to get along. What happened to trying whatever I wanted for the pack’s health?”
Throwing that into my face…
“You don’t have to be so mean,” I say – swallowing back another urge to cry. “Go easy on me. I hate feeling this way.”
“What way?” Wyatt prompts, eyebrows lifting sincerely.
“Like, weak… and stuff,” I admit lamely. “You even make a show of it to your dog and keep reminding me of my place at the bottom. I get it already! I’m not as good as you two.”
“I’m sorry for being hard on you,” Wyatt says – but his tone is less apologetic than it is firm and he continues into a lecture. “When you’re talking back – throwing dishes – it’s hard to control myself.”
I’m well aware how little of an apology it actually is. In fact, Wyatt hasn’t necessarily said he’s sorry about pulling my hair or making a fool of me…
“Go easy on me too, okay?” he implores, opening his arms. “Besides, just because you’re at the bottom, doesn’t mean we’re making fun of you.” There’s no use resisting these words because at least they’re kind. I sit up, half hoping he’s as honest as he looks, and Wyatt pulls me into an embrace. “Guess what, Calix – being in my pack is awesome. I forgot to mention that. You and Canuck are the only ones I trust.”
That also makes me feel loads better for some reason and I exhale slowly, allowing myself to be convinced with a rough squeeze.
“So you have to trust me in return, deal?”
“And for fuck’s sake, listen to me.”
This is a bit harder to agree to – but somehow I end up nodding desperately; already under this spell.
12:25 PM MST
My obedience skills are put to the test as Wyatt hands me some vodka and tells me to shoot it back. Apparently, the fact that it is noon doesn’t matter to him. He’s preparing to re-dress this green breeding ground for infection on my leg and he’s already boiled new water in a pot beside us.
Mentally, I’m nowhere close to okay. There’s kind of a numb, aftershock effect of Wyatt’s cruelty that manifests like a thick fog in my brain, making it hard to keep eye contact.
Still, I do what he wants and nearly choke to death on what I am fast thinking is Everclear or something. It packs a serious kick that I didn’t notice in my adrenalin-filled state of mind last night.
“You too?” I ask, handing Wyatt what’s left.
He debates it before taking it from me and finishing the glass off with a few gulps. “Tell me about your brother,” he says.
I brighten immediately – although it’s still really unclear whether this sudden warmth in my stomach has to do with the burning, strong alcohol I just forced back.
Wyatt returns my enthusiasm with a smile. “Yeah, tell me what he looks like.” He sets to work dipping one of the rags into the boiling water and wringing it out. I know he’s probably distracting me from what’s going on, but I appreciate it.
“Light brown hair, dark brown eyes, tall and thin – like me – and he’s got a beauty mark on his chin,” I rattle off instantly, pointing to the identical spot under the left side of my jaw.
Applying the wet cloth to the stitched up mess, Wyatt’s smile broadens. “That’s pretty specific, good job.”
“I miss him so much,” I admit with a tight, constricting kind of feeling squeezing my heart. “I hope you find him.”
“Me too,” he agrees offhandedly. Then Wyatt applies pressure and I’m too caught up with the pain to concentrate on anything else. He occasionally mutters updates on his progress as I lay back, clenching fists to my eyes just in case I start crying again; I want to stop the tears before they can even get to the surface…
12:40 PM MST
“You sure check your watch a lot,” Wyatt comments. He’s just finished re-bandaging my leg and he’s sticking all of the blood-soaked rags into the same pot we used to eat, setting it to boil as if washing them.
My wrist flops back to the mattress and I meet his eyes for the first time in a while. “So?”
“Well, it’s not like you have anywhere to be,” Wyatt continues. “Why do you check it so much?” I bite back the urge to shoot back a snotty comment about why he even cares. Instead I just shrug my shoulders, trying to drop the subject. “You need to let go of things like hours and minutes.”
It’s a habit of mine to check the time religiously – a part of my restless attention deficit. Time is relative anyway; according to my watch I’ve known Wyatt half a day, yet it feels ten times longer at the very least…
“I don’t want to lose track of time,” I reply weakly.
Wyatt doesn’t seem to understand and I don’t expect him to. His lifestyle revolves around the lack of structure and living for the day, after all. I’m thankful that he finally drops the subject, but that gratitude is wiped away almost immediately as he beckons Canuck over.
“Wh-what are you doing?”
“I said we’d start after breakfast, remember?”
Canuck approaches with sharp yellow eyes trained on me. I’m feeling apprehensive, but not completely rigid with terror. I suspect it has something to do with the bit of liquid courage Wyatt forced on me.
He sits cross-legged on the floor in front of the bed and he pats the space in front of him. Canuck lays down immediately, and then blue eyes are meeting mine. This time, he pats the floor beside him.
I can tell he’s indicating he wants me to move and copy Canuck, but I’m battling my pride. If he would just ask me… usingwords…
But no fight is worth it. I want to get along with Wyatt for at least five minutes and so with a burdensome sigh and with great difficulty due to my sore leg, I manage to slip to the floor like the dog he apparently wishes I would be.
The wolf growls but Wyatt shushes him and by the time I make it beside him, I’m drawing my knees to my chest in an instinct to protect myself. Canuck is close, but Wyatt is closer – almost like he’s playing a mediator.
“Stick out your hand,” Wyatt says.
“No way,” I refuse.
Ugh. I’m not even sure if I still trust him, and that idea is completely ungracious. Wyatt called me a thankless fuck the moment he helped me out of the woods and I can’t help but feel I’m living up to that more and more. I have to be grateful… if only for a little bit.
My shaking hand lifts and hovers from Canuck. One of my eyes is shut tight, as if in anticipation that he’ll bite it off and a part of me can’t bring myself to look. Instead Canuck leans forward and sniffs curiously. Yellow orbs trail to Wyatt who pulls my wrist closer still.
“We’ll go slowly,” Wyatt assures after I let out an apprehensive whine. “Calix, he won’t hurt you with me here, okay? So try to calm down. The more nervous and fearful you are the less Canuck will trust you.”
It makes sense, but it’s easier said than done. As his snout presses against my palm the canine gains interest and sits up to move closer. It’s as if Canuck’s trying to smell every inch of me – a wet nose trails against my arm and I try to suppress an instinct to rip it away and tuck it under me. Thankfully, Wyatt has a steady grip on my wrist and helps keep it held out.
“He’s getting closer!” I squeak, watching Canuck’s eyes hold mine with an eerie, hypnotic gaze.
“Stay calm eh?” Wyatt reminds, but he gives a laugh as I shrink against him – too wary of Canuck’s teeth and the way he bares them at me while getting steadily closer to my throat.
“What do I do?”
“You have two choices, Calix. Submit or fight.”
“That’s – stupid!” And altogether, it’s a completely barbaric idea to fight a fucking wild wolf. “I won’t win!”
“Submit then,” he offers as if it’s that simple.
“Just help me!” I shriek as Canuck prepares to pounce. Wyatt looks absolutely wild when I look up to him. His eyes are sharp and focused but he has a weird smile behind that beard. It certainly feels like he’s enjoying my suffering.
It’s too late anyway – in a heartbeat, his wolf has jumped me and forced my back against the hard floor. His paws are larger than I realize as they dig into my chest to pin me…
“Just breathe, Calix. Stay calm.”
I shut my eyes so tight I see stars popping behind the dark lids. The wet nose is sniffing like mad and it’s making my heart race – making adrenalin course through me. Suddenly I feel like I’m overheating. My breathing becomes ragged and irregular. Something wet runs the length of my throat and a gurgled scream erupts from me just as Wyatt shouts for Canuck to stop.
As my eyes fly open, Canuck’s weight lifts off of my body. He growls in a grumpy kind of way as he finds a spot in the corner of the cabin to curl up in. I look over to Wyatt – hoping he’ll tell me it’s over now, but there’s another weird look on his face. His expression is thoughtful but concerned. I can tell by the creases on his forehead; his knotted brows.
“Did I do it?” I ask at his silence. “Is it over?”
As if I’ve snapped him back to reality, he gives his head a quick shake and offers a tentative smile. “I’m not sure… I said we’d go slowly right? I think that’s enough for today.”
“He licked me,” I comment, scrubbing at the saliva residue trailing my neck. “That’s a good sign, right?”
“Sure.” Wyatt’s smile broadens at my enthusiasm, but it’s still off somehow. At the very least, he finally fucking pets me – stroking his large hand on the top of my head. I can tell he’s pleased, and there’s an odd sense of satisfaction to that.