Claws In You
Author: Lily Zen
Notes: Pooch has talons tattooed on his shoulder. This is my take on why. Serious schmoop.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
The first time he saw Jolene shift, Pooch was seventeen and stoned out of his fucking mind. One minute he was laying on the hood of his crap car with his girl curled up against him, and she was whispering things about secrets and love in his ear. They were parked outside of town at one of those make-out spots teenagers seemed to have an innate instinct for finding, like the needles on their inner compasses pointed to places they could get laid. The stars were bright above their heads, the night cool as summer slipped away to autumn.
What little his mind could grasp and hold on to actually sounded pretty sexy and he was thinking about turning his head and kissing his way around the curve of her ear down to her jaw. Pooch loved Jolene’s lips. They were full and soft, balancing out her pointed little chin, and when they stretched into a smile that made her eyes sparkle, he thought of all the other things that mouth looked great doing.
“Lin,” Jolene’s voice was suddenly sharp, “Are you even listening?”
“What?” Pooch asked before he could stop himself, winced a little when Jolene pulled away from him to sit up so she could glare down at him. “I was listening, baby. You were talking about how much you love me and how glad you are that I don’t keep secrets from you.” He was shocked and relieved that he’d remembered that much. He tried his hand at a sheepish grin that usually worked for getting him out of trouble.
Jolene rolled her eyes, but he saw the smile begin at the curve of that wide mouth. Then she seemed to shake her head and regain her seriousness. “Lin, I want to show you something, okay?”
Pooch frowned, wondering what on earth Jolene could show him that he hadn’t already seen. That was compounded when she slid off the hood of the car and started stripping off her clothes; completely out in the open where anybody could see her if they pulled up the gravel drive to the hiking trail. “Jo?” he questioned, raising himself up on his elbows.
His girlfriend remained silent until she pushed her underwear down and let them pool on the ground. She stepped out of them, long legs shifting in a way that was wholly distracting to Pooch, and then she stretched. “Watch, baby, just watch,” she ordered him then.
A strange ripple seemed to grow over Jolene’s skin, like water settling after something was dropped in it. A horrible crack resounded and he saw his girlfriend’s leg buckle on one side. Her face flashed with pain, but she made no sound, closing her eyes and breathing through it. Other bones began to break and reform, shifting under her skin before his very eyes, sliding into different places. The sound of it reminded him of popcorn on the stove or maybe the time he’d rolled around on bubble wrap as a little kid, the procession moving at an ever-increasing rate.
Jolene seemed to be shrinking into herself, her body contorted into a grotesque shape. The first thing to go was her long legs. They curled in on her, and her feet grew slender, toes jutting out like spears and beginning to curve. Her nails lengthened and hardened while her torso rounded out and feathers began to sprout over her chest and abdomen. Next were her arms, thinning and lengthening, sprouting huge, dark feathers that matched those on her chest. They were, he realized, the same color as her hair.
…Her long, gorgeous hair that was attached to the skull that was growing smaller and molding itself into an entirely different shape. The sharp chin melted up into her mouth, which began to jut away from her face, and her nose shrank down to mere nostril slits at the top of a hard, long curve. The final touch was her eyes shrinking and moving closer together, and her beak and talons turning into a yellow hue.
Then with a graceful flap of wings, a huge Golden Eagle hopped up onto the hood of his car, landing with a screech of claw on metal, and cocked its head to the side. Her beak parted minutely and Pooch wondered if he was about to get eaten alive.
“Awk?” Jolene chirped.
To that day, she still teases Pooch about how he screeched like a girl and promptly fainted.
Five years later found Pooch in the Army. Jolene had also gone into the service, but a different branch. They both needed the money, Jolene so she could get an education and get out of the hood, and Pooch so that he could support Jolene. He had plans, dude.
He was going to marry Jolene and they were going to have a family, and goddammit, he was going to provide for his family, not like his fucking deadbeat of an old man.
So they spent a lot of time apart, which was hard as they’d been practically inseparable for half their lives, and it was causing problems in their relationship. Jolene was suddenly insecure about other women, and Pooch was trying to reassure her but he could tell that he was just making her more anxious with his assertions that she was the only one for him.
It was a tough time. After one of his early assignments with the Losers (not yet known as the Losers at that time), Pooch let Roque and Clay convince him that he needed a tattoo. So off he went with them, the three of them already drunk from blowing off leftover steam, to some rinky-dink tattoo parlor.
When Pooch saw Jolene two weeks later, it was mostly healed and didn’t impede in their reunion sex, and afterward his girl smiled absently while she traced the lines of the eagle talons on his shoulder. From the look in her eyes, he didn’t have to say a thing. Jolene knew Linwood Porteous better than anyone on the planet, and she knew that this was his way of showing her in no uncertain terms that he belonged to her. It was right there for anyone to see.