Perrie's not quite sure why she's here, exactly. Her flatmate Jesy dragged her out for Guy Fawkes Day, said she knew somebody who knew somebody who was having a party out in the woods and bought out nearly half a fireworks shop for the event, but Jesy's the only one here Perrie really knows and she ran off to grab some of the fireworks to light practically the minute they got here.
It's not like Perrie has trouble making friends, and she recognises a few people from lectures and around uni, but she's not really feeling up to it tonight. Jesy was so excited about it, though, and Jade had gone to a family thing for the weekend and Leigh-Anne begged off because she was coming down with something and didn't want to risk making it worse by being out in the cold all night. So Perrie couldn't not come with her.
There's her answer, she thinks with a sigh.
Perrie finds herself at the bonfire, because it's fucking cold out here, even in a jacket and a jumper and a scarf wound twice around her neck, and also because it's kind of beautiful, crackling away in the centre of the clearing, burning orange and yellow in bright, giddy stripes. She's just starting to get feeling in her fingers again, and she's thinking about getting a beer from the picnic table that seems to have been designated the alcohol table, and maybe talking to the guy hovering around it with the thick Irish accent and the loud, warm laugh, when someone stops next to her, blowing on his hands. He catches her eye, smiles at her, and Perrie smiles back and thinks, nope, not going anywhere.
"You defrosting too?" the guy asks, and Perrie laughs, holding up her hands.
"You got me," she says. "Staving off frostbite."
"And Louis wasn't even going to have a bonfire until I suggested it," he says, tutting good-naturedly, and Perrie thinks, Louis, right, Jesy's friend-of-a-friend who's throwing the party. Perrie's met him once or twice, knows him will enough for him to wrap her in a hug in greeting and lick the side of her face when he let go, but she doesn't recognise this guy.
"You insisted?" says another guy, seemingly materialising from somewhere behind them. It's Liam, Jesy's friend, and he smiles at Perrie when she looks over at him. "I seem to remember it was me that told Louis if he didn't we'd all freeze to death."
Perrie stifles a laugh, and Zayn says, a little pointed, "I think your memory's a bit fucked, mate."
Liam's smile turns fond, lit up by the fire. "Yeah, maybe," he says. Then he turns to Perrie and says, "Has he offered you drugs yet, Perrie? He always offers the pretty ones drugs."
"Liam," Zayn hisses, "shut the fuck up."
"Nah, he hasn't," she says, turning to arch her eyebrows at Zayn. "I'm not sure whether I should be offended or not."
"Not," Zayn says. "Liam's just making shit up, aren't you, Liam?"
Liam mimes zipping his lips shut innocently and Perrie laughs again. Maybe coming out tonight was a good idea after all.
"Fine," Zayn says, drawing it out like it's an effort. He puts a small white pill into her hand, clasps her fingers around it, gives her a shy kind of smile that she can't help but return. "You don't have to take it, obviously, but. It'll make the world go fizzy."
"Fizzy," Perrie repeats, and he nods encouragingly. She looks down at her hands, rubs her fingers together. She's not that into drugs, smokes the odd joint now and again if it's being passed around, but she's curious, and the part of her that's kind of worried about taking drugs from almost-strangers is easily hushed by the look on Zayn's face. "All right then," she says, and swallows the pill dry, watches him do the same with one of his own.
It does make the world go fizzy, but that's not all it does. Perrie sits cross-legged on the ground and stares up at the stars, watching them dance around the almost full moon until it makes her feel dizzy. She looks away, back at the fire, and watches it for a while instead, watches the flames flicker into faces, people she knows, people she doesn't. She mutters something at the faces that sounds incoherent even to her own ears, but it makes Zayn laugh beside her.
She turns and looks at him, surprised. She sort of forgot he was there, definitely doesn't remember him sitting down on the ground as well. Liam disappeared at some point, and Perrie doesn't remember that either.
"You've never done this before, have you?" he says, smiling lazily at her, and she wants to kiss him and she wants to run away from him and she's zigzagging between the two with no idea of what it is she really wants. People are hard to deal with, sometimes.
Perrie shakes her head. "I don't know if I like it," she confesses, more honest than she means to be, and sort of lapses into Zayn's side, resting her head on his shoulder. "Things keep getting... weird."
Zayn puts a cautious arm around her waist, but it steadies when she doesn't push him away. "I get that," he says quietly, giving her a gentle squeeze. "It kind of magnifies shit, makes things bigger and brighter. The stuff you see can get pretty weird."
Perrie nods, feels the fabric of Zayn's jacket brushing up and down her cheek. "It's cool, though," she says. "I feel like- like I'm bigger than just my body, kinda. It's cool."
"Good," Zayn says, and sounds like he means it.
Perrie does end up wandering over to the drinks table, though she decides against anything alcoholic since she's pretty sure mixing drugs is a terrible idea. She pours herself a glass of Coke, smiles at the boy she thought about talking to earlier, and leans against the table, watching the night twist itself into weird shapes.
The first few fireworks go off and Perrie is spellbound by them, by the shapes they make in the sky. She wanders a little further out to get a better look, shooting sheepish grins at the people she stumbles into on the way.
She stops in front of a friendly-looking tree and slides to the ground against it, pulling her knees into her chest. It's actually harder to see what's going on here, but it's quiet and peaceful and suddenly everything Perrie wants in the world. Everything sounds kind of muted now, and the faint ringing in her ears sounds kind of like birdsong.
Perrie doesn't know how long she sits there – her perception of time's gone all wibbly, but it can't have been too long because she can still see fireworks going off somewhere above the trees. At one point, she tries to sing to the stars but can't get the words to come out right, ends up just laughing at herself instead. She looks down, and there's a dog padding across the grass towards her, its head cocked to the side like it's curious.
"Hey, big guy," Perrie says, because it really is a big dog. It stops just in front of her and towers over her. It's beautiful, though, with thick, brown fur that looks really soft, and huge, soulful eyes.
It probably isn't as big as it seems to be, anyway. It kind of magnifies shit, Zayn had said, and Perrie doesn't think he meant it literally but, hey, maybe he did.
She reaches out a hand to stroke down the dog's side, and it feels even softer than it looks. Smiling, she strokes the top of its head, then behind its ears, then-
"Owwww, fuck," Perrie hisses, drawing her arm away, because the thing just fucking bit her. It stares back at her, unrepentant, and she sighs. "Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you or anything. I thought dogs liked being stroked."
Apparently, not this one. It kind of looks like it's glaring at her, which, whatever, Perrie is definitely too high for this. She leans back against her tree and closes her eyes, cradling her arm in her lap. It stings more than anything else, but it feels suddenly really heavy. As does the rest of her, actually.
Maybe she should have a nap, she thinks, just for a few minutes. She is kind of exhausted.
Perrie wakes to a splitting headache and the sound of people calling her name, distant but undeniably frantic. She has no idea how long she's been out, but she's pretty sure she's basically sober now, so probably a long time.
"Here," she yells, or tries to, anyway, but her voice cracks and it comes out more like a croak. "Guys, I'm here, I'm fine, guys!"
She gets to her feet, which is altogether more difficult than it has any right to be. Her limbs feel all loose and achey, hard to move. She starts back off through the trees, only to be met enroute by Jesy and Zayn, who look furious and panicked respectively.
"Thank fucking Christ you're okay," Jesy says, and pulls her into a fierce hug. Perrie realises it's not her Jesy's furious with when she pulls back to glare at Zayn. "I can't believe you got her high and then just let her wander off. Anything could've happened to her!"
"I said I was sorry," Zayn mutters, but that's definitely guilt worrying the corners of his eyes.
"He didn't get me high, Jesy," Perrie reassures her. "It wasn't like that, promise." At least, she's pretty sure it wasn't. It didn't seem like Zayn gave her the pill so he could take advantage of her or anything; he just wanted to show her a good time. "And, hey, I'm fine, really I am. I just fell asleep against a tree."
Jesy huffs, and hugs her again. "Just don't worry me like that again, okay? When I couldn't find you I was sure something terrible had happened."
Perrie hugs her back, bringing her arms up to rub Jesy's back, and Zayn's eyes suddenly go wide.
"Perrie," he says, and then, "Shit, you've got blood down your arm."
Perrie frowns, and lets go of Jesy to pull up her sleeve and see what he's talking about. "Oh," she says, realisation dawning. "There was a dog, before I fell asleep. I tried to pet it and it bit me."
Zayn's eyes get even wider, and he says, "Shit," again, his voice soft.
Perrie grimaces. "Yeah, it wasn't my best idea. It was a really big dog."
Jesy makes a sympathetic face, says, "You should probably get that looked at, babe."
Perrie shakes her head. "It's probably fine. After the fireworks are done I'll go home and put some Savlon on it or something."
"We sort of got through them all while you were asleep," Jesy says, looking apologetic, so Perrie bumps her side gently so she knows Perrie doesn't mind.
"A few of the guys went back to mine and Harry's, since our flat's pretty close and has actual heating," Zayn tells her, and Perrie's mouth drops open.
"You're kidding me," she says. "A student flat with actual heating? Be still my beating heart."
Zayn laughs. "It's Harry's fault. He does a lot of modelling for the art department, and apparently they pay you pretty well to sit around naked for a few hours." He bites his lip. "So, you up for it?"
Perrie kind of is, is the thing. She's not that tired – her impromptu nap sort of took care of that – and she's not feeling so weird about being around people any more. It's probably the come-down, she thinks. She feels... peaceful, right down to her bones. She doesn't even really hurt any more, the achiness gone, her headache gradually fading into the night.
"Jesy?" she says, and Jesy just shrugs. "Sure, then," Perrie says, smiling at Zayn. "Why not?"
Harry turns out to be Harry Styles from one of Perrie's seminar groups last year, who she still sits next to in lectures, sometimes, and he grins wide and bright when she comes through the door.
"Pezza!" he greets her, dragging her into a hug. "I didn't know you were here. I figured Zayn must've been talking about an entirely different Perrie."
"I didn't know you were here, either," Perrie says, squeezing him back. She also didn't know he did modelling for the art department, but since she now has a very vivid mental image of what he looks like naked, she decides against mentioning that. "I figured Zayn must've been talking about an entirely different Harry."
"Oh, so you're Zayn's Perrie," the Irish boy says, turning round to grin at her. He's sitting on the ground at Liam's feet, leaning against Liam's legs. Liam doesn't seem to mind, but he's also got Louis draped across his lap, so. "I'm Niall, by the way, the only person here who hasn't met you already."
"Why hello there, Niall-the-only-person-here-who-hasn't-met-me-already," she says, grinning at him.
"You missed all my fireworks," Louis says, lifting his head to pout ridiculously at her. Perrie pouts right back, because nobody can pout better than she can.
"I saw some of the first ones, and they were amazing," she tells him, very seriously, which makes Louis grin, say, "They fucking were, weren't they?"
Everyone starts talking about the fireworks, and as much as Perrie enjoys being the centre of attention, she's grateful that they've found something else to talk about. She takes the opportunity to sit down, curl up next to Jesy on the sofa Jesy's commandeered for them both. She wraps an arm around Perrie's waist without even pausing in her rendition of the fireworks she let off herself. Perrie listens to her voice more than what she's actually saying and feels herself relax, contented.
Then Zayn's gruff voice breaks through the haze, and Perrie blinks. "What?"
"Savlon," Zayn repeats, passing the little tube to her. "For your bite."
"Oh, thank you," Perrie says, smiling. "You didn't have to, I really was going to get some as soon as I got home."
Zayn shrugs. "It was lying around."
That's such a blatant lie she almost calls him on it, but she just smiles a little wider and repeats, "Thank you."
Leigh-Anne, predictably, fusses over the bite the next morning. "You should go to the walk-in and get it seen to," she tells Perrie.
"That's what I said," Jesy calls out triumphantly, from her perch on one of the kitchen counters.
Perrie very womanfully ignores her. "It's fine," she says. "It looks better already."
And it does, is the thing. It's pretty much all healed up, and were it not for the slight bruising, you'd barely know it was there. Perrie even wore a long-sleeved shirt to cover it, but Jesy brought it up while they were all – minus Jade – having breakfast together, because she is a terrible, terrible friend.
"You pronounced excellent wrong," Jesy says when Perrie voices this sentiment, and Perrie rolls her eyes hard to cover the smile on her face.
"Anyone want eggs?" she asks. "I think I'm gonna make eggs."
Leigh-Anne frowns. "We just had breakfast," she says, confused, and Perrie shrugs.
"I'm hungry," she says, and gets the eggs out of the fridge. They gave up on buying their own food about two weeks after they moved in together, and now they just all chip in for groceries and stuff. It's easier, and it wasn't like they didn't just eat each others' food to start with, anyway.
Perrie starts cracking eggs and emptying them into a mixing bowl, and Jesy slowly slides off the counter.
"Perrie," she says, as Perrie starts beating the eggs, "there were twelve eggs in that carton. You just used all of them."
"I'm hungry," Perrie repeats, a little more defensive than she means to be. If she wants to eat twelve eggs then she can fucking eat twelve eggs; they have rules about this. They don't shame each other about food, ever.
"Okay then," Jesy says, clearly trying to placate her. "I'm going down to the shops to get more eggs, since we're all out now."
"I'll come with you," Leigh-Anne says, grabbing her jacket, "there's a few other things we need," and they both yell goodbyes over their shoulders as they leave. Perrie pouts at their retreating backs in answer.
"I can eat twelve eggs if I want to," she mutters to herself, and goes to turn on the oven. She must be angrier than she realises, because she nearly rips the dial clean off the stove when she turns it. "Fuck," she says on an exhale, and makes sure to breathe deeply a few times before trying again.
The day doesn't get any less weird after that. Perrie doesn't have any more random bouts of anger, but while she waits for Leigh-Anne and Jesy to come back, she sits down on the sofa and turns on the TV. It's so loud it makes her head feel like it's going to explode and she punches the off button on the remote so hard she breaks it. A hand goes up to cover her mouth, the one that isn't holding the pieces of plastic and electrical wiring.
Dazed, she gets up and writes new remote on the shopping list pinned up on the fridge, before trudging to her room and curling up in her bed. It smells familiar and right and home, and it calms her pounding heart, soothes away her sudden unease. Some part of her is confused, pretty sure that it's never smelt this strongly before, but it's not that weird, given her newly reassessed standards. She's too wired to sleep, or even nap, and she's wary of putting on music in case that's too loud as well, so she just sort of lies there, breathing in the quiet.
And then it isn't quiet any more, because she can hear Jesy and Leigh-Anne's voices, talking about the essay Jesy has to cobble together by the end of next week. Perrie gets up to greet them in the hallway, but when she pushes open the door, they're nowhere to be seen. Perrie frowns. They must already be in the kitchen. She must've been so distracted by everything that she didn't hear them come in.
She glances down the other end of the hall just in case, just to make sure they're not hovering by the front door, and catches her reflection in the mirror. For a moment, just a moment, she sees fur instead of skin, a snout instead of a nose, and she looks just like the dog she saw last night.
And then she blinks. Her own face blinks back at her.
She strides to the kitchen and pushes open the door and says, "Hey, how long have you guys been- oh," and that's when she starts to panic, because Jesy and Leigh-Anne aren't in the kitchen.
Perrie collapses onto the ground, her shoulders shaking, wondering if she's still high, wondering if she's still asleep, wondering if she's going crazy. Wondering if maybe this is real, and what the fuck that would even mean.
That's how Jesy and Leigh-Anne find her when they finally do come back what can only be a few minutes later, rocking back and forth. Leigh-Anne drops to the ground immediately and wraps her arms around Perrie, holds her tight, holds her still, and Perrie buries her face into Leigh-Anne's neck and inhales. Leigh-Anne doesn't smell like Perrie's room but she does still smell like home, and that's enough to calm Perrie down.
"Perrie?" Jesy says tentatively. "What happened?"
Perrie shakes her head, because she doesn't know how to explain this. She knows they would believe her because they're her best friends and they know her, but she just... doesn't know how to explain this.
"I'm sorry," she says, disentangling herself from Leigh-Anne's grip so she can get up. "I'm just going to go to bed, I think." She gives them both a watery smile which she can tell doesn't convince either of them. "I'll be all right in the morning."
At least, she hopes she will. She doesn't know what she'll do if she isn't.
Perrie wakes up and Perrie doesn't feel better at all, Perrie feels worse. Her head feels like it's about to come apart, like it did when she woke up in the forest, and-
And speaking of the forest, that's where she is right now. She's surrounded on all sides by trees, looming over her, and the ground is rough on her bare skin. How did she get from her bed to the forest? And when did she take off all her clothes?
"Maybe I'm not awake after all," Perrie mumbles, and tries to get up, except her limbs are heavy and aching and it just feels like too much effort to bother, right now. She lies back down on the ground and lets her eyes slide closed, and hopes, prays, that this is all just a really vivid dream.
The next time Perrie wakes up, it's in a bed, and Perrie would sigh with relief except it isn't her bed, and she's wearing somebody else's pyjamas. Everything smells wrong, doesn't smell like home, and that's because this isn't her bed.
Perrie sits up very slowly, and thinks about screaming. She can't remember anything about the past few hours, except for vague memories of Leigh-Anne and Jesy's worried voices and the dark trees of the forest and the bright, bright moon.
None of that bodes well.
Then she inhales slowly, deeply, is hit by the smell of the room again, and she realises that she knows that smell, knows where she must be. Relief crashes over her and washes away her sudden burst of adrenalin, and she has to lie back down again. She feels exhausted right down to her bones, like she's been running around all night, but she's too tired to actually sleep. It's the worst feeling.
In lieu of anything else to do, Perrie takes the chance to look around Zayn's room. It's actually tidier than she would've thought, only a few clothes strewn across the floor. He has shelves and shelves of comic books and a poster of Beyoncé on the wall behind his bed and above his desk is a corkboard covered in doodles, ticket stubs, postcards, print-outs of pictures, photos of Zayn with people. Perrie smiles despite herself.
Her head jerks up. She doesn't know how, but she can feel someone approaching, and one quick sniff at the air lets her know it's Zayn. That... doesn't really make her relax, honestly.
"What the fuck is happening to me," Perrie says flatly when Zayn steps through the door.
Zayn doesn't look confused, or ask what she's talking about. He just bites his lip and perches on the end of his bed.
Perrie exhales slowly. So he does know. She doesn't know how to feel about the fact that her suspicion was correct.
"I texted Jesy to let her know you're here and you're okay," he says. "She was worried about you. You ran off on her again."
"Zayn," Perrie says quietly. "That isn't an answer."
"I wanted to tell you yesterday," he says, "but Jesy was there, and I wasn't sure, and you wouldn't have believed me anyway, not then."
"Zayn," Perrie repeats, and this time her voice cracks.
"You're a werewolf," he tells her, not quite looking her in the eye, and Perrie- well. Perrie looks down at the pyjamas she's wearing, stares hard at the little robots on them.
"You're right," she says eventually. "I wouldn't have believed you." She looks up at him, and knows her smile is horrible. "But it does make sense."
"Perrie," Zayn says, and Perrie doesn't even know this guy, not really, so she absolutely cannot break down crying in front of him.
"So I get super-strength and super-senses," she says brusquely. "And I turn into a furry ball of fun on a full moon, and also the days around it," she adds, thinking of the dog that bit her yesterday. Wolf. Werewolf. Dog. Whatever. She wonders if it was anyone she knows, and wonders if that would matter. "What else is there? Impervious to all but silver, my kryptonite?"
Zayn shakes his head. "You can be killed the same way any wolf can be killed," he says, "far as I can tell. You're just a bit stronger than they are." Perrie doesn't like the way he says you instead of werewolves, even though she knows there's no difference now. It's not like her brain's having a hard time accepting the concept or anything. Like she said, it makes a horrible kind of sense. She just... doesn't like it. "Silver will only kill you if someone bashes you over the head with a big block of it."
"Right," Perrie says. "And you know all this how, exactly? Don't tell me, you're a werewolf hunter, and now you have to kill me." She smiles blandly at him. "And we were getting along so well."
Zayn doesn't snap at her, even though she's being a dick and he has every right to. "One of Harry's exes was a werewolf," he says. "Caroline." His lips twist into a wry smile. "I picked up kind of a lot while they were dating, way more than I was comfortable knowing."
Perrie smiles back at him, and feels some of her anger melt away. "I'm sorry I snapped at you," she says. "You don't deserve that."
"It's okay," Zayn says easily. "Caroline said the first time you shift is always disconcerting, and she wasn't even alone for hers. I get it." He grimaces. "I mean, I don't get it, obviously, but it's okay."
Perrie nods. "I still don't know how I ended up here, though."
"Well, me neither," Zayn says, and Perrie knows he isn't lying. She could smell it if he were, which is- a disconcerting thing to know about herself, but she'll deal with that later. "You just kind of turned up on my doorstep all naked and wolf-y, it was sort of unexpected."
Perrie blushes furiously. "Fuck," she says. "I have no idea why I came here all of places. I'm so sorry."
"Hey, it's okay," Zayn reassures her, and bites his lip like he was going to say something else, but thought better of it. "Harry helped me carry you up and get you in the shower. So he knows as well, but I won't tell anyone else. That's your call, of course."
"Thanks," Perrie mumbles, and then, "Fuck," again. "You've seen me naked."
Zayn cracks a smile. "We can even the score, if you like," he offers, and she's mostly sure he's joking. "I promise I wasn't creepy about it. I tried not to look more than I had to, and got you into some clothes and then under the covers as soon as I could."
Still not lying, and Perrie smiles. "Appreciated," she says. "Though I really need to figure out something else for tomorrow, fuck. I can't believe I wandered round town naked."
"You were still transforming when you ended up here," Zayn reassures her. "I'm pretty sure no one saw you."
"Let's hope," Perrie mutters.
"And according to Caroline, you don't have to change every time," he says. "The pull is strongest on the full moon, but you only really change on other days if you want to. And there are ways to stop yourself transforming even then, but she never really talked about them."
"This Caroline," Perrie says, "can you give me her number?"