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Oh, That Curse I Cannot Lift

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My mind has changed
my body's frame but god I like it
my heart's aflame
my body's strained but god I like it
TV on the Radio "Wolf Like Me"

36 hours before the full moon

Michelle takes Demi home with her, because where else is she going to go? Whoever she was before the program, whatever she was, doesn’t matter now. She’s marked, and she’ll be hunted, and she’ll have to find someplace safe to hole up until she can fight back.

They both need to lick their wounds.

There’s silver bullets in Demi’s belt, a silver core to the metal band around her throat. Michelle wonders if she knows, if she can smell the similarities between them. If she knows how she survived multiple trips through a windshield.

The silver worn so close, even if it never touches her skin, weakens her. It’s possible she has no idea what she is at all.

Michelle reaches out, telegraphing her movements. Demi watches her, wild eyed, suspicious, but doesn’t move away. Michelle can feel the burn of silver inside the metal; it makes her fingertips tingle, and sends a fine trembling down her arm. It takes the work of only a second for her to find the bit at the back and unlatch it. She lingers a moment, her thumb resting against the hollow of Demi’s throat. Michelle can feel her swallow, and the flutter of her pulse.

Then she pulls away, takes the metal band with her. Drops it onto the table. The space is so cavernous, so quiet, the sound of metal against metal rings in the air until even the minuscule echoes fade.

“What was his plan?” Demi asks, breaking the silence. She drops her face into her hands, then catches herself, straightens her back, squares her shoulders. “Setting me on your trail, you on mine, sending his jack-booted goons with me, to stop me -- what was the plan?”

Michelle shrugs. She doesn’t care so much for the plans of men, whether they include her or not.

“Shower’s upstairs,” she says. Her voice crackles in her throat. It’s been a long time since she had to speak regularly. “Towels in the box by the door.” The interior of the garage was retrofitted some time ago to have a half-finished second story. It’s open in the center, looking down at the shop floor. The metal stairs are rusted and noisy; the water runs cold ninety percent of the time.

It’s the best den she’s ever had.

Michelle leads her inside, then stops. “I’ll get you some clothes.” They’re about the same size. She doesn’t have much, but she can spare at least one pair of pants and a shirt. Some socks. Demi can wear her own boots, rinse out her underwear or go without.

Michelle’s mouth goes dry at that thought, Demi naked beneath Michelle’s clothes, their scents mingling.

She watches as Demi climbs the stairs, hips swaying. At the top, Demi looks down at her, and they stand like that a long moment, silent, still, staring. Demi looks away first, tucks her chin toward her shoulder, bares her throat.

Michelle doubts she knows what she’s done.

23 hours before the full moon

Demi sits on the picnic table, feet resting on the bench seat. She leans forward, rests her chin on her hand. She looks -- softer here, maybe. Not exactly relaxed, but less like she’s waiting for someone to drive through the wall and slap handcuffs on her again.

Michelle tosses steaks onto the propane grill, takes in their scent over and over to make sure she doesn’t cook them too long. She just wants to take the edge off, sear the outside a little, make the inside warm and red.

“I don’t really like steak,” Demi says. Stops. Inhales slow and steady. “But those smell delicious.”

The corner of Michelle’s mouth lifts. She turns away before Demi can see her grin.

There’s slightly stale bread to go with their meat, no other sides. It’s a weird meal for a human, but Demi doesn’t seem to notice, or if she does, she’s too busy tearing into her steak to say anything. She cuts it up, uses her fork, but still her fingers and lips get wet with its juices. Her lips are plump, luscious. Michelle wants to lunge across the table, kiss the taste from her mouth.

She grips her knife tight in one hand, her fork in the other. Chews fast and vicious. Stares Demi down.

After, Michelle turns off all the lights inside and outside the garage, and they loll on the table. Demi keeps looking up at the spill of stars overhead; in the darkness, the stars filled the sky.

“How long?” Michelle asks. Her voice is rough. She doesn’t often have to use her words.

Demi’s slow to look at her. Trusting, or too sated with food to be on edge. “How long what?” she asks. There’s a lilt to her words, not quite an accent, just a way that she speaks. Michelle likes it. She doesn’t really want to, but she does.

“How long were you locked up?” Michelle’s trying to get a feel for how long she’s been infected, of course, but there’s something about the way Demi can’t stop looking at the sky, the way when she’s not thinking about it, she pulls her arms and legs in tight, taking up as little space as possible. She's not yet relaxed, not really, and they have a few hours still. Michelle can let her have a little peace.

There’s a long moment of silence. Michelle lets it drag on. She likes the quiet. Then, with a sigh, Demi tells her, “Almost thirteen months.” She stops again. Shifts her weight. “The last three, I was in solitary.”

Michelle raises her eyebrows. “That’s a long time.” Her tone is mild, but anger flickers to life inside her. Fury, really, and her wolf. To be caged is bad enough, but to be alone, stripped away from the pack, trapped in solitude, no voice to answer your howl --

She’s not pack, Michelle thinks as hard as she can at her wolf, and it’s not even strange anymore. Her wolf settles again, the fury fades, but there’s a grumble in the back of her throat that Michelle isn’t consciously making. She and the wolf, it seems, disagree.

Demi huffs out another long breath of air. “It was,” she agrees. She rubs her arm, and though it’s covered by the sleeve of her shirt, Michelle thinks she’s touching the brand. It itches when it heals. Sometimes, it itches still, and she wonders if there was silver laced into the red hot metal, not enough to do any damage, just enough to mark her further.

“He had me six months,” Michelle says. She doesn’t mean to say it until she’s in the middle of offering it up to Demi, something secret to share.

“Six months.”

Michelle can’t tell what Demi thinks about that.

“Six months,” Michelle says again. “Four in solitary. Two in the infirmary.”

She thinks she might have been his first test, or maybe his first successful test. The first one that didn’t tear themselves apart during their first full moon. Michelle survived her first shift. Barely. Her body had broken apart to become the wolf, broken apart again to be human, and somewhere in the middle, not all the pieces fit back together right. She’d been sick for weeks before her body finished healing.

The second month went better, for her. The second month, she tore through the prison. Three guards died, and the scientist-doctor who had been tracking her transformation.

Demi sucks in a sharp breath. “The infirmary.” Her voice shakes. Her body locks tight. The bitter smell of terror fills the air between them.

“You remember.” She means it as a question, but that’s not how it comes out. Demi shudders, presses her face into her hands.

“No,” she mumbles against her palms, and then, “Maybe. Yes. It’s like a dream.”

Nightmare, Michelle thinks, just as Demi says it.

She starts to ask if Demi knows what they did to her, then changes it before the words make it past the sharp click of her teeth. “What’d they do?”

Demi shakes her head. It’s a ragged movement, and she clutches at her face as she moves, digs her nails into her skin. Something builds inside her; Michelle can hear the rumble of it in her chest, the scratch at her throat. It bursts out as a wail cut off too fast.

“I don’t know.” She drops her hands, stares at Michelle. There are tiny marks of blood where her nails pierced flesh, like the memory of claws left an actual mark. The spots heal fast. Her eyes are wide, her mouth open. She sucks in a shaky breath. “Do you?”

Michelle does. Instead of answering, she asks, “How do you feel?”

“How do you think I feel?” Demi snaps. Shakes her head. Her hair falls into her face, and she flexes her fingers. She doesn’t know it, Michelle thinks, but she’s working the tension out of them, spreading her paws wide, digging claws into the ground. That’s the movement, at least, that moment before she leans her weight into it and runs. She shoves herself off the table. Her legs shake as she stands there.

Michelle shrugs, climbs off the table, waits.

“Hot,” Demi says eventually. She rubs her palms against her thighs. “Itchy. Like my skin’s too tight.”

“Angry?” Michelle offers.

“Yes.” Demi drags it out, and her stance changes, subtle but there. Her legs are wide, her center of balance lower, and her arms tense. Michelle doesn’t bother to hide the slow, vicious slide of a smile across her mouth, sets her weight, and waits.

It takes less than thirty seconds for Demi to start swinging. She’s strong and fast, but her punches are sloppy, loose and uncontrolled. There’s no grace to it, no economy of movement; she’s been trained somewhere along the way, but incompletely, or she’s lost most of it to the new power her body contains.

Michelle doesn’t break a sweat blocking her blows. She lets Demi work her rage out, until she’s warm and loose and panting, and then she grabs her fist with one hand, shoulder with the other, and slams her into the ground. Demi ends up face in the dirt, Michelle next to her, one knee in the small of her back, the other pressed hard against her neck.

“Feel better?” she asks.

“Fuck!” Demi spits it into the asphalt, then laughs, her whole body shaking against Michelle’s. That’s a good feeling, and Michelle presses closer, wants to wrap her legs around Demi’s thigh and grind down. “Fuck!”

Michelle holds her in place. Keeps her own body still. Waits her out.

“They did something to me, didn’t they?” Demi mutters against the ground.

“Yeah.” Michelle pulls away, lets her up. “They did.”

Demi stays on her stomach for a moment, shuddering. Michelle can’t tell if she’s crying or just breathing hard; when she finally sits up, there are no tear tracks through the dirt on her cheeks, but her eyes are red rimmed and the sour scent of anger is tempered by something softer. Sadder.

“You know what it was.” This is not a question.

Michelle nods. “They did the same to me.” Or at least they did something similar. It could have been changed since they trapped her in their cage. Perfected, maybe.

“I’m changed.”

“Yeah.” Michelle sighs. “You are.”

Another long moment of charged silence. Demi stares down at her hands, her sprawled legs. Michelle watches her. Waits.

“What am I?” Demi asks. Her voice shakes, but she meets Michelle’s gaze straight on, doesn’t waver.

Michelle takes a deep breath, and tells her everything.

10 hours before the full moon

Demi spends a lot of time on her own after. Michelle lets her, doesn’t say anything. Goes about her work, replaces the windshield on the truck, changes the oil, makes sure the engine’s running smooth. Keeps her hands busy, though her thoughts linger on Demi. This close to the full moon, she doesn’t need much sleep, and all the hours drag at her.

Finally, Demi stops running and pacing and punching at shadows. She showers, comes downstairs to sit on one of Michelle’s workbenches. Michelle gives her a nod, but leaves her alone, keeps working on the truck. Once she’s satisfied that it’s done, that everything will run as well as possible, she wipes her hands on a rag, cleaning grease from between her fingers.

Demi watches her, hands resting just behind her on the table, and she’s leaning back on them just a little. “How long have you been a mechanic?” she asks.

Michelle shrugs. “Grew up around cars,” she says. “Whole neighborhood of kids, we all spent our afternoons, and evenings, and summers crowded into one garage or another. Picked it up along the way.”

“That’s cool.” Demi tilts her head, keeps watching her. “Useful. Never had a hobby like that.”

Michelle laughs. “You’re a good fighter. That’s useful.”

Something like sadness and frustration mixed together flit across Demi’s face, along with an expression she can’t make out.

“Not really a hobby,” Demi tells her. Her voice is light, but she’s clearly working hard to keep it that way. “Learned that inside.”

Huh. That’s unexpected. Michelle starts to ask her a bunch of questions about it, then stops. Demi’s been through a lot, accepted a lot. She can give her a few days to deal with what she is now, and what’s coming.

Michelle tosses the rag onto the hood of the truck and crosses the room. Her bottle of water is sitting on the edge of the table where Demi sits, and for the first time, she wonders if Demi chose that spot for a reason.

Demi watches her come, leans a little farther back onto her hands, and -- yes, it’s subtle, but there -- raises her eyebrows. It’s a challenge. It’s an invitation.

She doesn’t veer off course; she takes a long drink of her water, closes the bottle again, sets it aside. Then she turns to Demi, finds her still watching. Her breasts are pushed forward a little, and the way her shirt falls highlights them. Her legs are open, her eyes half closed, and the corners of her mouth turn up just a bit.

Michelle can’t stop looking at that shock of dark hair that falls across Demi’s eyes. Finally, she gives in and touches it; it slips through her fingers, silky soft even after everything she's been through. Demi’s breath catches in her throat, and the tip of her tongue flicks across her lower lip. It’s an unconscious response, and it sends a curl of desire through Michelle until it settles between her legs, hot and insistent.

Demi’s legs fall farther open, and she reaches out, hooks one finger into the top of Michelle’s leather pants. Michelle watches, eyes wide, shocked. She never expected such boldness, not here, not like this. Demi tugs her forward, that one finger enough to move Michelle into place between her legs.

Not like Michelle’s fighting that much; she wants to be right there.

Demi tilts her head up, opens her mouth just a little. Her lips are lightly damp, very inviting, plump and soft and tempting. Michelle lets out a sigh, then dips forward and kisses her; Demi’s ready for her, tongue slipping past Michelle’s teeth, hands settling on Michelle’s biceps.

They kiss like that, slow, deep, hands clutching at each other, bodies rocking together. Michelle leans into her, pushing her back, making her brace her hands again for balance. Demi spreads her legs wider still, lifts her hips until she's pressed against Michelle's body.

Michelle can smell her desire, pheromones and need; it’s a heady thing that leaves her dizzy and aching. She kisses her way down Demi’s throat, between her breasts, across her stomach, until she can set her teeth to the edge of her jeans.

“Please,” Demi begs, breathless. Michelle makes short work of the button fly. Demi holds herself up, angles her body until Michelle can work her pants down her legs; when they catch at her boots, she struggles to get the knots undone, but finally, finally Demi is bare before her.

She means to take it slow, but the smell is stronger now, and she’s overwhelmed. Demi leans farther back, raises her hips, opens her thighs, and Michelle practically dives into her, not even caring that she’s basically bent in half to reach her.

Michelle lowers her face to Demi’s cunt. She’s wet already, the tight dark curls soaked, and when she spreads her lips, her clit is already starting to stand up from its hood. All she does at first is hold her open and breathe her in, then blow warm air out across that sensitive bare skin.

Demi moans, tries to lift her hips, but Michelle pushes her shoulders into Demi’s thighs and holds her in place.

That moan turns into a shout when Michelle strokes the flat of her tongue along the length of Demi’s cunt. She sucks in air after, fast, and her hips give one sharp jerk before she settles, entire body quivering.

She’s slick beneath Michelle’s tongue, and delicious. Michelle curls her tongue around Demi’s clit without touching it, teasing, teasing, then licks down to her warm, wet entrance. She circles there, too, until Demi cries out again, a broken noise, then begs, “Please!”

Michelle pushes her tongue inside slowly, marveling at how wet she is, how tight, how good she tastes. Demi’s crying out continuously now, but Michelle can’t make out any of the actual words except, sometimes, her name.

She licks back up to Demi’s clit, presses her tongue just beneath it, and hesitates; sure enough, Demi’s hips start to lift almost immediately; Michelle twists until she can get her elbows against Demi’s thighs, too, pushing them even farther apart, holding her right where she wants her.

“Please!” Demi wails. “Fuck! Michelle, please.”

Michelle licks up over Demi’s clit in a long, wet stroke, and despite how far her legs are pushed open, Demi almost manages to slam a knee into the side of Michelle’s head.

She’s grinning against Demi’s lips, but does it again, licking up with slow strokes, pausing at the top, then pressing her tongue beneath her clit to start all over again. Demi shouts and tries to buck and gets wetter and wetter; Michelle is surrounded by the smell of her, drowning in the taste.

After many long minutes, Michelle speeds up, a little a time. The pause between each stroke of her tongue is shorter than the one before, until she’s licking up and down in fast, steady strokes, chin wet, nose buried in her curls.

Demi shudders and jerks, knocking her head against the metal racks behind her; her thighs clench and release, clench and release, and she’s sucking air like she’s run a marathon.

Michelle switches things up then, circling her clit, circling, and thrusts three fingers inside.

Demi thrusts up twice and comes, wailing, until all of Michelle’s senses are filled with nothing but her.

It takes her forever to come down from it. Michelle licks her through it, though she keeps her fingers still inside her, as Demi’s body clenches around her, and flutters of desire throb between Michelle’s legs. When her breath is finally steady, Michelle pulls away slow, eases Demi’s legs down, helps her sit up.

Her face is wet with Demi from her nose to her chin, her jaw is a little sore, her back aches from the angle -- and not a bit of it matters. Not with how Demi’s looking at her, sated and sexy as hell. Michelle licks her fingers clean, then wipes at her mouth, her cheeks, to no avail.

Demi takes a deep, slow breath, then grins at her. “Your turn,” she says, voice rough, and slides off the counter. Michelle has to brace her when her feet hit the floor, but there’s a wicked light to her eyes that promises good, good things.

Michelle has a bed upstairs and a raggedy couch shoved into the corner downstairs. They don’t make it to either.

moonrise

Demi staggers, drops to her knees. Her hands convulse against the ground, fingers scrabbling as she tries to dig them in, but there’s concrete under her, not the soft, loamy ground of the forest. Her back twists and jerks; her spine reshapes one vertebra at a time; her shoulders jut out at sharp, painful angles.

Her mouth opens, but her scream tangles in her throat; her jaw stretches into a muzzle, and a low, pained whine manages to slip between her sharpening teeth.

Michelle doesn’t say anything. There’s nothing she can say to make it better. All she can do is bear witness. She went through her first shift alone, and scared. She thought she was dying, and then, worse, because her body betrayed her, moved without her control, changed.

She remembers every horror-filled moment of that shift, and each one after.

Demi is panting now, chest heaving. Her skin quivers as if something moves beneath it, something inhuman. Michelle knows in a moment fur will burst from her flesh. She sits on her haunches, rests her arms on her knees, keeps her eyes wide open.

The whine becomes a howl. Demi’s head jerks up, and their gazes lock while her bones break, her skin stretches, and her body snaps with the violence of the change. Michelle watches, breathes in and out deep and slow. She makes a quiet noise in the back of her throat, not quite a growl.

Finally, it is done, and a giant wolf stands before her, dark fur and golden brown eyes. Her tongue lolls out as she breathes hard and fast.

“You did good,” Michelle murmurs. What she says isn’t as important as how she sounds, how she smells. She doesn’t reach for the wolf, not yet. Demi is inside there, who they are doesn’t quite go away, but at first, she’s buried beneath fear-rage, flight-or-fight. Michelle’s willing to bet touching her too fast will tip Demi right over into fight. She well remembers the first few months, how her body felt turned inside out, raw and painful.

Demi edges closer, one step at a time, placing each paw with obvious care. When she’s close enough, she pushes her head into Michelle’s hand; Michelle keeps her fingers light as she scratches at Demi’s scruff, then those soft spots behind her pointed ears.

When she draws back, Demi tries to follow, leaning into her. Michelle rubs the top of her head once more, then puts some space between them, lets her own transformation roll over her. It’s fast for her now, and easier, though nothing will erase the shock of bones breaking, skin bursting open, tendons and muscles snapping apart then rearranging.

The pain washes over her quickly, and she breathes through it. In just a moment more, she’ll be free, and she’ll run, and she’ll have pack with her at last.

She breathes in; this is her territory, and her scent is everywhere, deep into every piece of metal, ever bit of concrete, every bush and stone and tree. And now, threaded through it, she can smell the other wolf.

She can smell pack.

She can smell home.

Together beneath the full moon they run.

three hours after the full moon

Michelle wakes curled up against something warm and alive. She keeps her eyes closed as she breathes in deep. The air is crisp, the ground dew-dappled and slightly chilly, and she can taste Demi with every breath.

Demi makes a sleepy noise as she stretches, hands fisted, elbows drawn in against her sides still, feet flexed. She looks more like a cat now than a fierce wolf, and Michelle shakes with her restrained laughter.

“Morning,” Michelle says. Demi rolls until they lie face to face, breathing mingling. The smell of old blood is more pleasant this close to a shift than it would be if they’d been human longer. “How do you feel?”

“Like I went through an industrial press.” Demi’s smiling, though. “Or got run over by a truck.”

“Any sharp pains?” Michelle asks. General soreness is one thing, but if something didn’t slot into place as she shifted back -- that would be bad. Potentially deadly.

Demi moves her arms and legs tentatively, stretching again, this time pushing her hands as far overhead as she can, pointing each leg, each foot, each toe. When she’s done, she gives her whole body a little shake that would look more familiar with four legs and wet fur.

“No. Good workout sore, really.” She shoots Michelle a sly look, eyes hooded. “Good fight and fuck sore.”

Michelle laughs outright at the ridiculousness, but it doesn’t stop heat from slipping through her veins. She’s too relaxed from the run to really do anything about it except bask in the glow. She’s woken up like this dozens of times now, full moon drunk and worn out, but it’s never been as good as this, warm and cuddly and, finally, not alone.

“I feel good,” Demi says. “Worked over. Tired, even though I just woke up.” She licks her lips. “And,” her words are slow, her voice husky, “really fucking hungry.”

Laughter bubbles up again, spills out of Michelle’s throat. She surges forward, kisses Demi’s smirk. The kiss goes on and on; Demi licks into Michelle’s mouth, Michelle curls one hand along the back of her neck, tugs her closer. She nips at Demi’s lower lip, Demi nudges a knee between her legs.

Maybe she’s not too tired to fuck after all.

Demi’s skin is warm and soft, and she smells delicious. Michelle kisses along her jaw down to her throat; Demi tips back her head and cries out, breathless, needy. She still manages to work her hands between them until she can curl her fingers inside Michelle. She doesn’t hesitate, just thrusts three inside, filling her up. It burns, a little, but Michelle’s already wet from the smell of Demi’s desire, the closeness of her body, and after a second, pleasure follows the pain. She sucks love bites into Demi’s throat that will fade as soon as she kisses a new spot, rocks her hips forward, driving Demi deeper still. Her thumb settles on Michelle’s clit, rubbing circles across it, just this side of too much.

It takes no time at all until she’s coming. There’s no one around for miles, she’d smell them if there were, but she stifles her shout against Demi’s shoulder anyway.

She shudders, flops onto her back, struggles to catch her breath. Can’t stop grinning.

Demi licks her fingers clean, and a new spark of desire rockets through Michelle. It burns brighter when Demi slides her hand down between her own legs, immediately starts working at her clit with the pad of her middle finger.

She rolls her hips ups, squirms, then cuts her eyes toward Michelle. “You just gonna watch?” she asks. Her lips curl. “I can put on a show.”

This girl is going to kill her. Michelle feigns indifference, props her head on her fist. “Show me what you’ve got,” she says. “Maybe it’ll catch my interest.”

Demi’s laugh rumbles through her chest. “Like I can’t smell your interest,” she says. That shoots heat straight through Michelle. She’s used to being the one who can smell desire, the one who knows more about her partner because she can smell and hear and taste beyond anything a human can handle.

This makes her feel bare, all her secrets exposed. It makes her feel seen.

She rolls into Demi, crushes their mouths together, pushes her hand between Demi’s legs. Demi’s warm and wet, and there’s almost no friction as she shoves her fingers inside, two, then three, then four. Demi wails, clenches down, and rides Michelle’s hand until she comes.

Her shout of pleasure echos around them. Michelle’s surrounded by the smell of sex and sated packmate and her own comfort.

Then Demi, still panting, sticky with sweat and come, lifts her head. “Now I’m starving,” she says. Michelle tips back her head, face to the sun, and laughs until she can’t breathe.

12 hours after the full moon

Demi’s wearing her shirt sleeves shoved up to her elbows. She touches the brand on the inside of her arm. It’s completely healed now, after shifting. Michelle doesn’t ask if she can feel it still, if it itches ever so slightly. She’s pretty sure it does. Fire laced with silver, and they’ll wear it the rest of their lives.

“Are there others?” Demi asks. She doesn’t need to elaborate on what others she means.

Michelle touches her own mark. “I don’t know.” Then, because there’s more to it than that, and she wants to give Demi anything she can. “I suspect there are.”

“How many?”

Michelle shrugs. The truck is warm where she rests her arms on the hood. She tips her face into the sun, closes her eyes behind her sunglasses. Basks in the feel of light on her bare skin, and the scent of Demi beside her.

“Do you.” Demi stops. Michelle listens to her breathe, to her heart beat, light and fast, to the sound of her clothes rubbing together as she shifts her weight. Finally, she tries again. “Do you think they’re like us?”

Branded, Michelle thinks, but then she realizes, no. Or not just.

“I don’t know,” she says again. Until Demi, she hadn’t thought there were any others like her out there. Whatever they’d done to make her, no one else had survived. Or maybe they’d fought and died, buried somewhere secret, unmarked graves hiding bodies from the bright face of the full moon.

The thought that others are out there, like them, fighting maybe, or hiding, and, always, trying to survive, makes her skin prickle.

“We should find them.” Demi’s voice is steady, and when Michelle finally looks over, her shoulders are squared and her chin juts forward, a hard line.

Michelle very quickly thinks a lot of things: leaving her territory, sleeping in the truck, body curled around Demi’s, how it felt to be fighting alone for so very long. Demi watches her; Michelle’s not sure what she can see in her expression.

“Yeah, okay,” she says, and tension she didn’t even notice fades from Demi’s stance. She leans closer, pliant and warm; Michelle presses her face against Demi’s throat for a moment, feels soft hair against her cheeks, breathes in the smell of wolf and woman, distinguishable and yet inseparable.

“Maybe he was cocky enough he left files in that old building,” Demi suggests.

“Got the attitude right,” Michelle says, and puts her arm around Demi’s waist.

Demi’s grin is sly, and the next thing Michelle knows, they’re kissing, mouths open and warm. When Demi pulls away, breathing hard, Michelle tips her head back again, face to the sky.

It feels just like howling to their moon.