Linden was tired of traveling. It felt like they’d been on the road for weeks even though it’d only been a few days. Rolph insisted on driving straight through only stopping for necessities. Linden desired a hot meal, a warm shower and clean sheets but Rolph didn’t consider that necessary.
Linden tried to make the best of his lot even though the rain was making his melancholy mood worse. The cab of the moving van smelled of wet dog and damp sheepskin from Rolph’s jacket with an undertone of stale cigarettes from previous occupants. Every time Linden rolled down the window to catch a bit of fresh air, Rolph snarled at him to close it.
The unpleasant scents combined with rhythmic snick-snick of the windshield wipers and the unending plink-plink of rain on the metal roof of the poorly insulated rental van was nearly enough to drive Linden insane. Rolph wasn’t a good distraction, either. The other man’s attention was focused on the road ahead of them with the single-mindedness of a long haul trucker. It pleased Linden that Rolph took his job seriously but right now he wasn’t working, he was moving and he could pay a little more attention to his passenger.
Linden wondered for the hundredth time why he uprooted his comfortable life and joined Rolph on this cross-country move. Their worldviews were very different. Rolph loved the freedom of the open road, never settling down in one place for longer than it took to find the next load to haul, whereas Linden put down roots so deep that dislodging them was akin to cutting off a body part. But underneath all the superficial differences there was a deep, abiding love for each other and Linden trusted what they had would last. This was a fresh start for them. Rolph found a job that would allow him to be home more often and a piece of property that would give them plenty of space to pursue their own interests. There was even a separate building where Linden could set up his wood shop with enough room left over for a gallery.
Linden looked over at his shaggy haired partner and smiled.
Rolph glanced over as he sensed Linden’s gaze, “What?”
“The rain’s stopped; can we pull over?” Linden’s voice grew husky.
A wide smile crossed Rolph’s broad face. “That can be arranged.” He reached over and squeezed Linden’s hand.
Rolph parked the big vehicle in the next pull-out they came to. Linden grabbed a rain poncho before getting out of the cab, Rolph smiled at him with a bemused expression. “Always the practical one.”
“One of us has to be.” replied Linden as he grasped Rolph’s hand and the two of them walked far enough into the woods so as not to be seen by passersby.
Rolph pulled off his clothes with abandon, dropping it without regard to where they landed. Linden sighed and picked up after him, carefully folding everything before putting them on the poncho so they wouldn’t get soaked by the damp ground. He then did the same with his own clothing, very conscious of his partner’s eyes on him as he carefully undressed, making sure nothing got wet.
Rolph ran his large hands over Linden’s slender flanks as he gently kissed the younger man. “Did I thank you for moving with me?”
“Not in so many words,” replied Linden as he leaned into Rolph’s warm body, wrapping himself in the comfort of his lover’s embrace.
Rolph trailed kisses down Linden’s jaw and neck, “Thank you for doing this. I know it’s a sacrifice for you to leave your community.”
Linden buried his head in the crook of Rolph’s neck, breathing in the scent of him. He smelled like the forest after a thunder storm with an underlying musk that was all his own.
“How much time do we have?” he asked, already knowing the answer.
“Just long enough for the necessities.” said Rolph as he backed away from Linden and got down on the ground on all fours.
Before Linden could respond, Rolph’s skin rippled and sprouted hair while his bones popped and snapped as they reformed. Where a large blond man once crouched, there stood a golden hued wolf. He shook all over as he settled into his alternate form. He woofed playfully at Linden, one ear cocked to the side as his warm brown eyes studied him for a moment before he scampered off into the woods to release some energy and find a nice bird or rabbit to eat.
Linden watched his lover for a moment, shaking his head at the playfulness of the wolf compared to the time conscious man, before beginning his own transformation. He buried his toes in the moist ground and extended roots. He turned his face to the sun as branches and leaves sprouted from his raised arms and his pale skin grew bark.
He drank in the sunlight and smiled inwardly as pale yellow flowers burst forth from his limbs. The wolf came loping back, blood covering his muzzle. He grinned up at the linden tree and rubbed his jaw against it, acting more like a cat than a canine, before settling at the foot of it to lick his face clean and take a quick, but necessary, nap before continuing their journey, though his home would always be where Linden put down his roots.