Unbalanced and Off-kilter
Date Thread??? For Mousely
The peninsula, if you took geographic definition into account, was an amazing, massive stretch of land jutting out into the ocean.Though word on the mainland that the peninsula was once an island, apparently owned by Prince Edward. That fact was reinforced by the worn signs and plaques he found while exploring. Whoever Prince Edward was didn’t really matter to Thread, though he was curious about the place becoming a peninsula. Could the same thing happen to his home island? Would one day Isle Royale become attached to the lands he plundered in the past? That thought also didn’t matter so much to the present, but it was a musing to pass the time at least.

He and Marten had gained some friends who have stayed by their side for quite some time now. The young archer Blaise, and the hearth-tending Khol. Thread appreciated their presence and all the help they had given him and his ward. They had a secure camp, and a whole island paradise to call home. Quincy was there too, but the fella was… well, he was an odd one for sure. They were all odd, really, but Marten’s friend seemed a whole different kind of weird.

Thread walked alongside one of the crew, Kohl Breaux to be exact. The clumsy, but wonderful woman who he had found in the dead of night. Together they had searched East to West of their landmass of a home, but were unable to find her missing lover. Thread’s heart ached for Khol’s plight, but it also began to beat to the rhythm of her misplaced footsteps. It was difficult for him to walk the fine line of supporting her hopes, while crushing his own. He had grown to love her, and he tried not to selfishly dash her wants for Jericho to be around. She was… breathtaking. Graceful like a newborn fawn, stumbling around in the underbrush.

On a particularly rough stumble that looked like it could be a fall, Thread reached out to Khol and grabbed her shoulder to help steady her. His hands on her fur made him feel fuzzy inside, but he tried not to indulge. “I got ya,” he stated, trying to soothe her from the fright. The man then patted her gently on the back after she had steadied. He wanted to share his feelings for her, as he gazed at her with his slightly off-kilter face. Thread knew not what to say or how to say it. Back home he was the leader, he could readily pair with most women. Here he was a leader, but not the all-powerful supreme one that he was. He didn’t want to overstep his bounds, especially with Khol. It was just a walk around where they put their camp down, they could just shoot the breeze, but he wanted to sing what his heartstrings were ringing. “Do ya need me ta carry ya?” The man teased.

He teased, but he’d carry her for miles if she just asked.
Kohl looked up quickly as Thread’s strong hand kept her upright despite her best attempts to flatten herself into the dirt. Her mismatched eyes twinkled brightly as her gaze met his, but a rush of…something, deep inside her belly made her look away again. She felt his rough finger pads on her shoulder through the thin fabric of the threadbare tunic dress she always wore and a little shiver went up her spine despite the warm weather. “After a few laps around the beach I reckon my legs might just be tired enough for a piggyback ride,” she said, smiling a bit wider than she might have normally. A little shadow in the back of her mind prodded at her, urging her to feel guilty about being so close to another man when Jericho was still unaccounted for. Another part of her psyche snarled at the guilt- shouldn’t he have also been looking for her all this time? It was painful to think of, but there was a very real possibility that he simply ran away and had no plans of ever seeing her again. If that was the case, why shouldn’t she make new friends? It was easy enough to tell that Thread cared for her, the way he doted on her and lavished her with endless patience when she displayed yet another ineptitude that’d stemmed from a sheltered upbringing. He’d spent nearly two hours the previous day showing her how to put a worm on a fishing hook so that the fish couldn’t easily nibble away the bait and flee; even Kohl knew that most would have thrown their hands up and told her to shove off after a few minutes of such a task. Thread was sturdy and calm in a way that Jericho hadn’t been, strong and unwavering like an oak tree and still kind as well. He might not have had much of a way with words, but Kohl was a firm believer that actions were more important anyways.

She worried that her love for the man was growing beyond what she felt for the other members of their little band- Marten and Blaise and even the strange Quincy each claimed a chunk of fondness in her heart- but she didn’t go on long walks in the forest and playfully tease and shove at them like a lovestruck pup either. No, whether she wanted to admit it or not, this was developing past a simple camaraderie. This was a different kind of affection than what she had had with Jericho, rather than racing hearts and stolen moments in the dead of night when no one was looking, here on the peninsula the pair were free to do as they pleased with no disapproving family members to scowl or cast her away for it. In a way it was even better than what she’d once had and lost, and rather than punishing herself for it she decided to just be happy for the moment.

Kohl’s hand drifted to the small knife she kept on a belt around her hip and fiddled with the worn wooden handle, as she always did when she was nervous. The sharp claw on her thumb traced the designs across it, following swirls that resembled the curling waves known for lapping at the peninsula’s shores during high tide. “I have been thinking…I worry that I won’t find Jericho. We’ve scoured the whole place and I am ever so grateful for your help, Thread…” she trailed off as they walked, all too aware of his presence next to her and now his attention on her as she spoke.

“I just, would I be a terrible person if I were to let him go? What would you do, if it were you?”

She wanted him to affirm what she felt in her heart, that maybe it was time to turn her attention toward other things and more importantly other people, but she didn’t have the courage to come out and say it. Kohl wrung her hands in front of her belly and swallowed dryly.
He’d carry her back then, Thread decided when the woman made her reply. Anything to bring her comfort and joy. He’d carry Marten too, but only if she was too tired to move, but the wild creature of creatures was not with them. Yet she did not stray too far from his mind. In fact, as time went on, anxiety rose as to the whereabouts and status of his ward. Back on Isle Royale he didn’t have to worry too much, as his family traveled together as one unit. If someone went missing, they’d be found in a day or two. They would be found, no matter how hard they hid, or were hidden. Out here the world was bigger, and full of frightening strangers. Thread felt blessed that he was able to find some normalcy in all the chaos, and though the territory that they intended to settle was a bit larger than his birth place, it did remind him a little of home.

Kohl’s presence soothed him, and helped keep his mind in the moment. Marten had Blasie to watch her, though the girl was young herself, the two could fend off trouble together. They were probably chasing dragonflies or talking about arrowheads, or something. Thread wasn’t sure what young ladies spoke about. He knew what boys becoming men talked about, and the feats they tried to commit. Always one-upping the other. He doubted his two did that, as they argued so little.

The man walked, arms at his side as he looked out at the emerald stretch of land that cut through the sapphire waters. It really was the most similar place to home, and now it was going to be his home. Isle Royale would always be his origin, but, as he told Khol when they had first met, there will be a better one. The phrase worked with places too, it seemed, though those were more static and hard to find than people were. His gaze trailed to the woman beside him as Khol spoke. His gut plummeted at what she said, it had almost sounded as if she was ready to move on from him and their group, but then she asked a question. One of pain. She sought guidance.

Thread let out a sigh as his eyes scoured the world around them. He took in all of her words, and was relieved it wasn’t a goodbye. Still, it hurt to know that Khol was hurting. “Nah,” he stated simply. “Letting someone go is hard,” he stated. “I tink I’d jus let dem be?” The man knew his words weren’t coming out in an easy way to understand. “On da Isle I have lots of family, and I tink of dem every day.” His sisters, Loops, his mother. Even the people of Thunder Bay who took him in. Thread never really let people go. The impacts they left on him, even small, lingered. “Da love I have fer dem doesn’t go away.” He turned to face Khol and placed his hands on her face.

He was very gently, just barely cupping her countenance in his hands. “Dat love moves an’ flows, becomes sometin’ else. If it didn’t, we’d never move on from loss. Yer not lettin’ him go, yer just lettin’ Jericho be,” he explained, trying best to think what she was thinking. Thread imagined that even when Khol’s muzzle turned grey and her eyes began to cloud, she’d still think about Jericho, and the love she held for him. What it was, and what it would become. Real love evolved into new love, should it move on.

Thread did not let go, he held on to every bit of love he had ever felt, and as he felt great love for the clumsy dog who he found in the dead of night, he pulled her into a hug and held onto her.
She rested her head against his broad chest as he held her, inhaled his scent which once had been rather unpleasant and acrid to her nose but now felt as welcome as home, and tried not to feel too guilty as she absorbed his words. Surely it was okay for one to move on from relationships that no longer served, if what she now felt for Jericho could be considered a relationship at all. In truth, the memory of his face was beginning to fade into obscure lines and general ideas rather than the razor sharp depiction of him she once carried inside her mind; it made her feel all the worse for moving on without him. 

Kohl sighed and released the man from her grip, stepping back from him a bit awkwardly. It was a very new experience, being able to hug and chat and spend time with the man she held such affection for- all without fear of reproach from anyone. If she had gone back in time and tried to tell the version of herself that lived so far south just a year ago where she was now, she’d have scarcely believed it. For so long she had her future pinned down to the last detail; she’d find Jericho and live happily with him as they grew old, surrounded by the children they’d have together. Now she knew that was not possible, but perhaps she could still have the family she’d always longed for. 

Coasting on a braveness that she had never previously felt, Kohl leaned up on her toes and quickly planted a kiss on the side of Thread’s face. It was just a short press of her muzzle against his cheek but the rush she felt in the pit of her stomach was similar to what it might have felt like to jump off a canyon’s edge with no safe landing in sight. She briefly worried that she had mistaken his kindness for more than what it truly was, but Kohl knew she might regret it if she didn’t act on the feelings fluttering behind her rib cage. Besides, he didn’t seem like the type to be cruel about such a misunderstanding. No, even if the worst was to be confirmed Kohl was confident that he would let her down easily. 

Words normally came easily to the young woman but now she was rather mute, instead offering an awkward wag of her tail. Feeling a bit too nervous for much eye contact, she quickly turned on her heel and marched off again on the path they had just been on; perhaps they could just pretend it never happened if he didn’t return her feelings. Yes, she decided, that was probably for the best. Her cheeks burned as she pushed through the brush, though mercifully she kept her face mostly neutral. 
Physical affection was a language Thread knew well. He grew up in a very literally touchy-feely pack. Hugs, nuzzles, headbutts, kisses; all things that were commonplace between friends, lovers, family, and any combination of those. He learned real quick what personal space was, and how inappropriate it was to hug a stranger who had given him something when he was incognito in Thunder Bay. To be denied this easy and freeing way to speak had left the man stress-laiden. Of course the whole ordeal of abandoning his home and people weighed heavily on him too. Poor Thread threw himself into a world that was not built for him. A strange place that lent credence to Old Grey’s original teachings.

The mainland was full of demons. He was certain of it now, but he knew they were not the terrible monsters he was told about in the myths and stories told to him by his grandparents. No, not everyone was completely horrendous. Marten was his only light in the world for quite some time. She was a lost soul, much like he was, wandering in a bizarre land. Her youth frightened him, in that he had quickly become an authority figure for her. One without the tools to thrive on the mainland. He worried he would teach her the wrong things, so instead he did his best to instill common sense, and protect her. Two things that were sometimes very difficult. Then there was Blaise, a stranger who had made well on her word. The first companion the two shared for an extended time, in fact the archer was still with them.

Kohl was different from the two. Older, obviously, but in all the weirdness the world held, despite the distance between their birthplaces, she held familiarity. Something he craved. The man yearned for sameness, not just in those around him, but the same feelings he got from home. She carried what he sought. A dangerous thing, if he was like his father. Thankfully Thread was blessed with a conscience, one that he may have inherited from his mother. The man walked on unsteady terrain with every interaction he had. He watched for pitfalls, thistles, and other things that were not pleasant to walk in.

Had he been more carefree, the steady fire in his heart he held for Kohl would have been a giant, uncontrollable blaze. An inferno bent on eating up all of its fuel. There was the danger that the healthy flames would have died out, but thankfully they still yet burned. Thankfully for him. He was not sure if the beautifully clumsy dog felt the same. Perhaps she did, or maybe her affection was only of kindness, and nothing more. Then again, his was of kindness too, but sometimes they were more. Were both of them too afraid to share the bubbling feelings?

Thread was bad at courting, and he knew it. There was no real right way of going about it, but where he was from, he would have grown up with all of his potential mates. He would have known them well, he had known them well. None of them felt like this. Did he not love his wives? The thought would have caused him to stop and ponder, but the kiss on the cheek from Kohl made his mind move elsewhere. The mates of yore mattered little now. He hoped they were in high spirits, and good health, but the woman walking in front of him was far more important than the past.

“Kohl,” he stated, now that she had a small bit of distance ahead of him. He followed behind, his stomach burning with needless anxiety as he tried to spit words out. Thread was embarrassed, not at his feelings for her, but for the fact he could not muster up anything about them. The man was a leader of a pack in decline, and his decisions alone brought them great strength. Strength at the expense of others, but he was successful. He did what he set out to, and when that stopped sitting well with him, he ran away. He could do anything he wanted now, and yet when it came to something as simple as stating his feelings, his voice seized. Sentence after sentence he formulated, none of them seemed like they would work.

One after another, some on top of others, every single phrase he thought of could not make it out, and then, all of a sudden, and a little bit loud too, something broke free. “Can I kiss ya?” he blurted out. It could have been so much more suave, it could have been gentle. What he said could have been perfect, but that came out. That. And he knew he didn’t kiss like mainlanders did! If she accepted… oh no, panic was beginning to take hold. “I-uh, I mean, um,” he fumbled with his words, hands immediately grasping eachother and fidgeting. “I wanna kiss ya, I meant ta say,” Thread amended his first request.
If she had been unsure before of her feelings for the scruffy wolf before her, Kohl instantly became entrenched in the love she had fostered for him so quickly over these months as he wrung his hands and searched for the right words to say to her. She no longer saw what others did when they gazed upon him, the slightly askew face and the less than civilized posture, and promptly the woman threw on metaphorical rose colored glasses and could only admire him in all his perfection.

Gleefully she agreed to his request and all but leapt into his arms, gratified at the firm muscle under his skin as he held onto her and her nervous energy. Kohl’s tail now spun at warp speed, a doglike instinct that had not been bred out of her lineage as of yet, and she peppered his face and neck with wet kisses. The girl had little experience with the ritual as Jericho had not been much for it, but yet another ingrained part of her told her that true kisses were meant to be delivered sloppily and with much tongue. In her excitement to be accepted at last, she didn’t consider that she’d never seen anyone else do it quite the same way in her time in the north, but surely Thread would guide her if it was not what he wanted.

A less matched couple there never was, him taller and broader and single toned of color and her a bright splash of black and white and caramel, but Kohl couldn’t quite remember another time that things had felt so right.
His question was met with a fierce and immediate answer. Assaulted by an embrace, and repetitive slobbery licks, Thread was forced to chuckle. Truly, the world was much larger, and very different from his little blip in the water. He had witnessed with his own eyes how many folks kissed. All were different from his people’s way. Some merely used only their lips, others, like Kohl seemed to lavish their loved ones with licks aplenty. For the folks on Isle Royale, things were only slightly different from the woman’s method.

Gently Thread found his hands cradling the sides of her neck and head, fingers holding her carefully as he steadied her volleys of kisses. The man pressed his muzzle to hers and licked. The man’s tongue lashed at her whiskers, lips, and occasionally her tongue. He did not direct her with words, instead it was all silence and actions. Thread’s crooked tail wagged behind him, betraying his mother’s side of things. There was a little bit of dog in the misshapened islander.

Happiness flooded him as they kissed and embraced. Perhaps unconventional, but it was a show of love. Something more than just friends, something more sacred than familial bond, though Thread believed those two things could intermingle. That wasn’t happening here, but it felt right to him nonetheless. After a few shared licks, Thread’s hands traveled slowly down Kohl’s sides, resting on her hips. His fingers seemed tentative, almost as if he was unsure if the placement of his hands was wanted or not. Thread’s tongue ceased, and he rested his head atop hers. “I take it ya wanted ta kiss me too, eh?” he asked, teasing her ever so slightly. “Do ya wanna be mine den? ‘Cause I wanna be yers.”
At his inquiry she felt suddenly shy, perhaps putting the arrangement into words was simply too much for her to navigate, so instead of speaking Kohl just nodded quickly as her cheeks burned beneath her fur. Her muzzle and whiskers were wet with saliva and she scrubbed it away with her sleeve, though not unkindly and rather because she wasn’t sure how to conduct herself now. “‘Course I do! I think we’d make a great pair!” It wasn’t the most romantic declaration, but she figured he’d overlook her lack of couth. 

Where his tail wagged slowly, as wolves normally reserved the motion for special occasions, Kohl’s doglike demeanor meant she allowed her tail to spin wildly-any faster and the wags would have lifted her off the ground and into the sky. His hands on her hips felt heavier than they should and the woman was acutely aware of his touch, the way the rough pads on his fingers brushed against her silken fur, the way he watched her like she was the only thing worth looking at. It made her heart speed up pleasantly and nervous energy flew from her chest and into all her extremities. It was all Kohl could do to stand still, despite not wanting the moment to end. 

A strange thought occurred to her. “What will the others say? Will they be happy?” She knew that by ‘others’ it mostly referred to Marten, Thread’s young charge, since the rest of their motley crew were unlikely to hold much of an opinion about the duo’s private life.
A good pair. It was true. Thread merely wanted love, and enjoyed taking care of Kohl. Even when he was absent from their camp, the malformed man kept her close in his mind. She was every bit worth protecting and caring for. He wanted to make her happy, to see her smile, to make sure she was comfortable. Thread wanted to love her, to be her husband, to make her world the most wonderful place to be in. All because she would love him, because all he needed to be content and fulfilled was love reciprocated.

Then so it was, standing on their peninsula, their island in a strange land. Lost in a world who looked down on him, a world that feared him. A world full of packs that would decapitate him for the crimes he had committed to others. Packs who did more than just frown upon the relationships he had in the past, ones with family, ones with concubines that he pulled from their homes. He had killed and eaten men and women, he ripped people from their homes, and allowed his warriors to take who and what they wanted. This love he had for Kohl, one that actually came back to him, he hoped would still be there, even after he’d admit his terrible deeds.

Thread was a monster, but he wasn’t an evil man. His deeds were justified, but they were still dirty and bloody. Still, perhaps in the new and scary world he found himself stumbling around in with his ward and now his lover, he might be able to leave it all behind, start anew. Even so, they both had the right to know just who he was and what he did. “I tink dey’ll be happy,” he assured her. “Even if dey get upset, I’ll still wanna be yers.”

Though he found love, Thread feared he’d lose it. He was a good man, and a good man is what he’d be for Kohl, for Marten, and for everyone who joined them. He’d certainly be a good father for any puppies he sired. He knew they needed to talk about their relationship, really dig deep and figure out what they both wanted. That would come later, for now all he knew was that he loved Kohl, and he wanted nothing more than to make her happy.
His words reassured her, as did the strong arms he’d placed around her. Kohl breathed in deeply both to commit his scent and this memory to her mind but to steady her nerves; she felt rather giddy all of a sudden, like her limbs wanted her to take a long run. The woman wondered if her newly minted mate felt the same way, but he was always such a pillar of calm and strength that she supposed Thread was feeling just as sure of himself as he normally did. Smiling, she leaned up and pressed her muzzle into the soft fur around his throat in an appeasing manner reserved only for mates and puppies

Briefly she thought of her life as it now was and how it could have turned out if she had made different choices. Had she never met Jericho and gotten spurned from her home, she’d be back in the desert most likely married to an uncle or cousin and certainly pregnant with his children- perhaps with a young litter already on the ground. She’d have never seen the beautiful Northern wilderness, never stood under an ancient pine with this strange and lovely fellow. Never met any of her new friends they shared a camp with. Kohl realized she had made the right choice long ago without having realized it, and a shudder of gratefulness washed over her. 

Kohl never was the most fluent at speaking from the heart, and so rather than struggle to return his kind words she released Thread and took a step back, tail wagging so hard it was nearly a black and white windmill. “Wanna race back?” 

She didn’t give him time to think, darting off instantly with a rapidly shouted ‘readysetgo!’ Thread was much faster than her and she fully expected him to blow past her even with the head start she’d given herself. Instinctively she pointed herself toward home, dress catching on the brambles and ferns that lingered even when the weather began to turn colder. For this little snapshot of time, everything was perfect and she felt painfully aware of that fact and the fragility of it all. 
For once things felt complete and right. Marten’s presence had kept the man anchored, but Kohl’s love made Thread feel at home. She had become familiar, she was something he enjoyed being near. The man loved her in a way that he hadn’t been able to love in quite some time, and she loved him back in the same way. For once things were good and he was able to forget the whole world that he feared would come crashing down. He could focus on his family, once again.

As Kohl ran off, Thread could only stand and watch her. Happiness and bliss had filled his body, every capillary was engorged with the euphoria he felt. He knew then and there that there would be no insipid days from then on. Not one day would be spent in fear of what the world thought of him, instead it would be about keeping his family safe from whatever the mainland would throw at him.

He thought, and then took chase. His strong muscles pushed him forward, his practiced steps carried him to the clumsier Kohl. It did not take him long to catch up, but he metered his steps, so that he could run beside her. Glancing to his new love every so often, the man made sure to steer her away from tripping hazards in front of them as they dashed back to camp.

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