cover art by akamine_chan
The night is alive.
She points her muzzle into the air and breathes, scenting damp soil, a racoon, humans. She howls, her voice rising and falling, and her ears prick up when she hears a distant response. She paces the perimeter of the clearing impatiently, awaiting her pack. She's distracted by the sudden zig-zag of a rabbit through the leaves; she gives chase, but loses it in the underbrush. She snaps her teeth in frustration.
The moonlight is bright as her pack slinks into the clearing, mated pairs and singletons. Her hackles rise, lip curling as she catches scent of the other wolves, the ones that are hoping to join her pack.
It's an effort to remember, to think about anything beyond food, pack, mate, but she does. She sits back on her haunches, waits as the first of the strange wolves approaches her, careful and deferential. A female, grey and white-masked, The wolf sits still as she gets to her feet, nosing along her body, smelling her strength, her honesty, the way she already seems like pack and home. She shoulders the stranger, who gracefully drops and rolls, exposing belly and throat. She opens her jaws and closes them around the stranger's throat, presses carefully before letting go. The grey wolf scrambles back to her feet and joins the rest of the pack standing at the edges of the clearing.
The second wolf approaches, mostly white, reddish shading, and her lip curls in distaste. This wolf, strong and sleek, yellow eyes glowing with intelligence, smells wrong. Smells like not-pack, and she can't help the low, threatening growl that reverberates in her chest, and through the night air. The wolf freezes, and dips her head submissively before slowly backing away. When the white wolf reaches the edge of the clearing, the pack parts to let her leave.
She doesn't calm until the white wolf is out of sight, and down wind. And even then, she still feels unnerved. One of the betas approaches, licks her muzzle, bumps shoulders until the fur on her back settles. She paws at her nose, sneezes once, twice.
The third wolf approaches, a small male. He's black, with a white patch on his chest.
She tenses, because males can be difficult sometimes, but this one seems respectful. and well-mannered. She lets him approach, and when he's close enough, she inhales deeply.
She whimpers, and while his eyes are downcast, his tail thumps against the ground hopefully. She moves closer, nuzzling at his neck, his ear, because he smells delicious, smells like pack. She howls, head lifted to the sky, giving her happiness a voice, because her blood is singing mate mate mate and she wants to mark this one, rub herself all over him, claim him as her own, tear apart any wolf that tries to take him from her.
He ducks his head and she bumps against him with the whole weight of her body. He rolls onto his back, and she licks at his muzzle, nips at him, pokes his belly with her nose until he squirms away, wagging his tail.
She howls again, singing her happiness to the moon, and her pack joins her, their voices tangling and echoing in the night sky.
The morning after is always difficult.
Jamia wakes with a low throbbing headache, and muscles sore in weird places. It's a lot like having a hangover, without the getting drunk part, which she feels is totally unfair.
She'd spent the night with the dark wolf, playing tag through the woods, chasing each other, bowling over pack members, and generally making nuisances of themselves. Jamia rarely lets go like that, she’s had too many responsibilities on her shoulders. Eventually they'd collapsed, exhausted, into a pile of packmates, and Jamia remembers falling asleep with the wolf's scent surrounding her, comforting her.
She spots a young man at the other end of the clearing, clearly ill at ease, standing with his hands in the pockets of his jeans, hunched in a worn hoodie, staring down at his feet. He's small and dark, and even now, Jamia feels a strong connection to him.
He looks up suddenly, like he feels the weight of Jamia's gaze, and she catches her breath. He's gorgeous, pointy-chinned and hazel-eyed, and she takes an unconscious step forward. There's the glint of a ring in his lip, and she sees the shadow of a tattoo high on his neck.
He frowns, shrugging a little in his hoodie before looking away, a blush appearing high on his cheeks.
Jamia abruptly realizes that she's still naked, and sighs at herself. She finds her clothes and shrugs them on: jeans and tee shirt, sweatshirt to ward away the early morning chill. She pushes her feet into her worn Chucks and heads across the clearing.
He's nervous; if she were in her wolf-body, she'd be able to smell it on him. Instead, she sees it in the way he plays with his lip ring, flicking it with his tongue.
She waits for him to look at her. "Hi," she says, when he finally meets her gaze.
"Hi," he echoes, and Jamia likes his voice, the way it strokes across her skin, like a physical touch. She reaches out, tucks a bit of silky hair behind his ear, lets her fingers brush lightly against his cheek. "My name is Jamia."
There's a bare movement of his shoulders. "Frank." Frank. It's a solid name, one that fits him, somehow. "Ma'am," he adds belatedly, with a strange little half bob of his head.
She smiles, because the 'ma'am' is clearly his way of pushing back against her authority. She snorts, and Frank looks up at her from beneath his lashes. "You're a troublemaker, aren't you?" and she doesn't expect an answer, but he grins. Frank is going to be a handful, outwardly toeing the line, but full of subtle defiance. He's going to keep her busy.
Jamia likes a challenge.
"C'mon, Frank, let's go get some breakfast."
It's awkward, bonding as wolves, and then to wake up as humans, knowing nothing about each other. It's hard, and a lot of pairings don't get over the initial difficulties. Jamia doesn't think that's going to be a problem for them.
Jamia leans in, pressing her mouth to Frank's, ignoring the wolf whistles coming from the pack. She licks at Frank's lip ring, traces the line of his mouth, coaxing patiently. She's rewarded when he sighs softly and opens for her, letting her in. She slips her tongue in for a taste, and she can't keep from making a tiny, needy sound.
Reluctantly, she pulls away. "Breakfast. I want to know everything about you." Jamia holds out her hand and waits. Frank looks at her, and whatever he see suits him; he slips his fingers into her hand. They're icy, and Jamia can see the that he's shivering in the cold. She wants to wrap him in blankets, keep him safe, protected.
"C'mon," she repeats, leading him out of the clearing, and into the wider world.