Cali realized he had a flaw in his brilliant security setup—it was difficult to carry an unconscious person back to the house… or to get them over the fence or lug them around to the front gates.
It sucked that he only thought of those issues as he carried the still-unconscious male. The long trek to the gates was definitely something that he didn’t want to repeat. Not that he was winded by it, but had the man been much worse off, he might have died before Cali could have gotten him home.
Once he had his…guest, inside, Cali rushed into the bathroom while carrying the man over one shoulder. If there were injuries, he needed to know what they were. Then, if possible, he was going to bathe the stranger, because the smell of him was godawful.
Cali laid him out on the bathroom rug. The man’s hair color was indistinguishable, matted and clumped with dirt and mud. He had a scar bisecting his right eyebrow toward the middle of it, and bruises on his face. One eye was swollen, blackened. His bottom lip was split.
Shifters had excellent healing capabilities. Cali scowled as he studied the one on his floor. “I can’t keep thinking of you as ‘wolf’ or ‘man’. You need a name, and I know just what to call you.” Without a doubt. It’s accurate, if nothing else! “What’s wrong with you, Lobo?” he murmured, giving his guest a nickname suitable to his species.
Cali was intrigued by Lobo, despite the fact that he should have been irritated with having a wolf in his home. To the extent of Cali’s knowledge on the subject of differing species, by nature, as with cats and dogs, lions and wolves generally did not associate with one another. Maybe, in the human world, if they had to work together, then they would do so. Other than that, the two shifter species didn’t have a reason to interact.
Not that he’d been around any wolf shifters in a very long time. So many of them had been slaughtered along with natural wolves. It was a shame, an absolute horror, but one Cali could do little to nothing to prevent.
What would make a shifter incapable of healing quickly? Cali pondered the question as he checked Lobo’s pulse. It was steady but not as strong as it should have been. He examined his face and head thoroughly, even looking inside Lobo’s mouth. There were cuts on the insides of his cheeks, perhaps where his teeth had punctured them when he’d been hit, however that had occurred.
“Are you going to wake up?” Cali said, mainly just to fill the silence. Then he decided it would be good to explain what he was doing, on the off chance that Lobo could hear him even in his unconscious state. “I’m going to remove your clothing, then check you for injuries. If possible, I’ll bathe you. After that, you’ll be dried off and wrapped in a robe. I would hope you’d be awake before then.” He received no reaction at all.
He hadn’t expected one. His senses told him Lobo wasn’t feigning sleep. Cali started to undress him, but the material was worn, and ripped easily. With a shrug, he decided to not worry about the clothes and simply tore them off, then cringing at all the bruising he saw, along with Lobo’s emaciated form. His ribs protruded and so did his hip bones. Cali could easily see his collarbone, and his arms were little more than skin over bones.
“Jesus. What happened to you?” Could wolf shifters get sick with some kind of…wolf disease? Cali didn’t think that was possible, at least not for lion shifters, but what did he know of others? Shaking his head, he put the questions aside for now.
Cali would have removed Lobo’s shoes and socks as well, except there were none on him. Lobo’s feet were a grungy, bloody mess. “Fuck. You poor bastard.” Cali couldn’t imagine what had happened overall, though he guessed Lobo’s damaged feet were due to travelling a long distance while barefoot in human form.
Cleaning Lobo up took more work than Cali expected. A bath alone was out of the question. The water would have been filthy in a minute flat. He started the shower, glad the water warmed almost instantly. Then he picked up Lobo and stepped into the shower with him.
As it turned out, washing an unconscious man was damned tricky. Cali almost dropped him twice and finally had to sit him down and prop him against the side of the shower stall. But Lobo kept slipping, and Cali probably cussed more during that shower than he had in a long time. He couldn’t believe the number of injuries on Lobo, and Cali’s frustration with trying to wash the slippery man vanished under the anger and concern that swamped him.
Whatever had happened to Lobo, it probably had left deeper scars inside than those Cali could see.
His lion stopped grumbling over a wolf being so close, not that the lion saw Lobo as a threat anyway. But even the big cat part of Cali felt sympathy for the wolf shifter.
Almost an hour later, Cali was gently toweling Lobo off when he felt muscles suddenly tense beneath his hands. “Did you decide to join me now, Lobo?” He brushed aside a knotted sandy-blond lank of hair from Lobo’s forehead. “Yes, I know what you are.”
Lobo surprised him by opening his eyes in a flash. “Nnn—“ He coughed hard enough to jolt his entire body.
Cali was stunned by Lobo’s eyes. Tiny flecks of gold and streaks of a deep green made the amber color of his irises really stand out.
“Not—“ Lobo coughed again, turning his head and covering his mouth with one hand. “Not Lobo,” he muttered through his fingers.
With Lobo’s profile on display once Lobo lowered his hand, Cali noticed the fine cheekbone, the uptilt to Lobo’s eye, the long, straight line of his nose. Lobo’s lips were distorted by his injuries, but Cali would bet they’d be lush and soft once they healed up.
Lobo’s firm jawline was covered in stubble. Despite being hairy beasts, wolf shifters tended not to be very hairy in human form. Cali couldn’t guess when Lobo would have last shaved just by the stubble on his cheek and chin.
“I’m not Lobo.”
Cali dared to touch Lobo’s chin, to cup it and guide his head back around so Cali could look in his eyes. “If you don’t want me to call you Lobo, then why don’t you tell me your name, along with what happened to you?”
Lobo’s pretty eyes widened and his nostrils flared as the scent of fear filled the air around them.