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You cannot live as I have lived (and not end up like this)

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He is born whining and snuffling, a tiny slip of a thing with barely any fur and eyes wide shut, and he whimpers when a warm tongue licks him off and nudges him softly with the wet tip of a nose. There's some time spent being cleaned off, and he cries through it, unsure of this new place (so cold, the warmth no longer surrounding him fully like from the before-place) and where they've ended up now.

 

Mother (not that he'll know this now, being just born, but mommommommyyyy will echo through his head once he learns the words later on) nudges him again, and another whine leaves his tiny mouth. The she-wolf makes a huffing sound that could be construed as a laugh, and the wet nose is suddenly replaced with warm but furless limbs, picking him up and pulling him close to a warm bosom.

 

“Hello.” She breathes, her warm breath falling on his head, and he noses closer to her chest for warmth. She laughs, a tired and exhausted but endlessly please sound, and the reverberations in her chest make him squall another little cry, but she's not worried.

 

 

 

Some time later, a small, hesitant face peers into the room, and a smile breaks on her face.

 

“Come here, Yancy.” At this invitation, Yancy carefully (at least, for a 3 year old) totters in, messy blond hair mussed up. He gets close, and suddenly becomes a barnacle at her side, peering at the new pup with unbridled curiosity. He's not sure what to make of this new small thing, smaller than he ever was, she thinks privately, but he's been so wildly excited for this prospective new sibling that he's not sure what to do now.

 

“Is it a boy or a girl?” He asks quietly, probably having been warned by his father to not raise his voice around the new pup (baby?); intriguing, she thinks, as he should be able to smell the difference. She peers at the pup, her own eyes softening when a small yawn escapes it. To her nose, the smell is just new, baby, pup, mine, without the telltale lingering traces of male or female set in yet. Usually, it's obvious at birth, but also not unheard for the parts to not match from human to wolf.

 

“It looks like we'll have to wait for this little one to take their first steps on human feet before we're sure of that.” She answers truthfully; it's impossible to tell from one form to another at this point, so she'll leave that for now.

 

“Kay.” Yancy cuddles into her side more, wanting to get a better view of his new sibling. “Whatcha gonna name 'em?” She's silent for a moment.

 

“I think Raleigh would be good.” She murmurs, pressing a soft kiss to her elder son's forehead, his giggle loud enough to make Raleigh squawk at the sound.

 

Raleigh is a good, unisex name, she thinks.

 

 

 

 

 

Yancy is a permanent fixture in his life, and Raleigh is always toddling after him, either on all fours or two unsteady feet. His mother tries to get him to stay in human form more, but he's atrociously stubborn, refusing most of the time to stay on four legs.

 

The first time he shifts, from wolf to human (rather, his mind supplies years later, from female to male), he's two years old, and his mother laughs and scoops him up in her arms, and his father quirks an eyebrow but says nothing else, a smile on his face as well. All his mother says is “Looks like I picked a good name for you after all,”, and he doesn't understand until he's well into his teens, and thinks, better than Yancy, definitely.

 

His coat goes from the uniform grey that pups always start with and billows into cotton soft white, something Yancy always makes fun of him for. Yancy stays with a grey speckled coat, and the two of them are always pouncing each other in the snow, yipping and barking at each other before dad calls them in for supper. The neighbors think they just have two incredibly bouncy puppies.

 

Nothing really changes when their sister is born, but it does make him aware of something he hadn't really put much stock in before.

 

“Where's her fur?” His expression wrinkles, a frown on his face as he peers down at her, pink and hairless and smelling so new.

 

His father laughs, ruffling his hair. “She's not born as a wolf, so she doesn't have any fur right now. She's born human, like me, and Yancy.” Raleigh's face scrunches up again.

 

Not like me.

 

“So will she get some later? Like how I got two paws later? Yancy's a wolf, though....” He still refers to his own two feet as paws, even with his parents trying to break him out of the habit, lest he say something embarrassing to the neighbors, but its been proving to be a trying experience.

 

“Maybe. We'll have to wait and see.” His father's unending patience is something that Raleigh will come to respect and miss in the future, but for now, at 4 years old, he's just confused.

 

Later, he remembers running to his mother, tears in his eyes, crying.

 

“Why am I different?” He doesn't understand the surprise in her eyes at first, or the hesitance, so he continues.

 

“Daddy said that Jazmine was born human, like him and Yancy, even though Yancy's a wolf. Why am I different?” And his mother's expression softens, realization dawning in her eyes as she leans down and pulls him close. He offers little resistance, and she thanks her lucky stars that he's not yet at that age where affection from parents becomes embarrassing and hard to stomach.

 

“It's okay to be different. I wasn't born human, and that's okay.” He frowns as she wipes away the tears still threatening to fall off of his cheeks.

 

“But why?” His expression is still morose; they've never hid the fact that he was born a wolf from him, as it would be hard to reinsure anyway.

 

She stills, unsure of what to say. It takes a moment for her to collect her thoughts before she answers him.

 

“You're like me, just like how Yancy is like daddy, you know? Sometimes it just happens that way. It doesn't mean anything bad.” She picks him up, balancing him on her right hip; he's not too big to carry this way yet, and even if he was she doubts that would stop her from trying to comfort her son.

 

Raleigh burrows into her shoulder not unlike the way he used to when he was a pup, and she smiles; cuddling is something they never really grow out of. Her hands comb through his soft hair, and he sniffs, the remains of his tears still apparent on her shoulder.

 

“It's okay to be different, Raleigh. It doesn't change who you are.”

 

 

Anchorage, 2002.

 

 

Raleigh doesn't know what his dad does for a living. He knows that his mommy is sometimes off doing pack stuff, and that daddy doesn't join her because he's not really a wolf, but one of his parents is usually always home for the kids to terrorize. Sometimes daddy goes away for a week or two, which makes them all whine after him to not go, but he always calls and sends stuff home.

 

Sometimes he and Yancy ask mom what dad does, and her answer is usually something along the lines of “He's making things better for us. All of us.” There are deeper implications there, but he's unsure of what they mean exactly. He thinks it has something to do with all the important people daddy sometimes has meetings with.

 

It's one of those weeks, where their father has left on a trip leaving him, Yancy, and Jaz to harass their mother into letting them tromp through the woods on four legs during a particularly nice day. It's Jaz's first real shift, her tiny paws unsteady as she yips after him, tumbling through the snow while he runs ahead and Yancy stays behind her, playing the role of dutiful older brother. Their home is isolated, perfect for running in the night without people seeing them or calling wild life patrol, but mom doesn't let them play alone without supervision.

 

Raleigh doesn't see his mother clearly, but he can feel her there, on the edge of his vision. She's a comforting black shape off in the distance, keeping a watchful eye on them. Behind him, Jaz squawks in surprise when she trips on her front paws, Yancy nearly stumbling over her with his bulk.

 

Probably the only point of contention between the two older Beckets cubs is that Yancy's always been bigger, and will probably always be bigger. No amount of growling and posturing will change that, and every time Raleigh thinks he's about to catch up, Yancy is still a towering mass of fur over him. It makes their play fighting depressingly one-sided and unfair, but maybe once Jaz gets a little older he can get her to tag team Yancy with him. It's probably because his wolf is a girl, and girls are smaller, but that doesn't mean girls are weaker, just look at mom, she's the strongest wolf ever, he thinks.

 

Yancy's a lot slower, though, and Raleigh trots back to them and nips at his heels, before moving over to Jaz and nudging her with his cold nose, to her delight. Yancy snorts in amusement, but his gait slows before stopping in his tracks, his head raised in what is either confusion or curiosity, Raleigh isn't sure. He takes an experimental sniff of the air; their noses aren't quite as sensitive as certain hunting dogs, but are still leaps and bounds over that of a human's.

 

After a moment, a familiar howl echoes through the woods. There are a number of different meanings to what it could mean, but this one is very particular in it's message: an urgent Come home now.

 

Raleigh's ears flatten in confusion, because they're still supposed to have more time outside, and Yancy howls back in response, communicating their return, before he bends his head down and scoops Jaz up by the scruff of her neck. She wriggles a little and responds with a high pitched whine, but quiets down after a moment and the three of them make their way back home.

 

It takes them slightly longer than usual due to Jaz's squirming and Yancy's inexperience with actually holding a pup by the scruff, and when they get back, the back door is wide open, signaling their mother's return, but there's a scent of wariness in the air. An unfamiliar human scent, separate from the mingled scent of mom and dad, and it's male, dusty, but there is another familiar scent mixed with it.

 

Another wolf, from far away. Perhaps this foreign human's mate?

 

“An accident?” The words float to them through the open door, and in their shuffling in they miss the next part. There's a conversation going on in the kitchen, and they're now only catching the tail end of it.

 

“-m sorry, Kiche.” A gruff, male voice finishes. Their mother is sitting at a chair at the kitchen table, wearing a loose fitting robe she likely grabbed right after shifting back, speaking to a man they've never seen in an unfamiliar military uniform. Her hands are shaking, seated in her lap in plain sight; it's meant to be a comforting gesture from a creature that could probably rip your throat out, but the man doesn't seem scared.

 

He smells like sorrow and regret, as if he doesn't want to be here delivering whatever information it is he's here for. Mom smells sad too, sadder than she's ever been. Jaz whines and mom and the man look towards the kitchen door, where the three of them are huddled together.

 

It's hard, Raleigh thinks, to not immediately shift and run to his mother, because he's never seen her this sad, with tear marks on her face, this strong, powerful she-wolf that's always taken care of and loved them. But something their parents have always instilled within them is the number one rule: don't shift in front of strangers.

 

“Kids, come here.” His mother's voice jolts him out of his reverie, and he quickly trots over to her, Yancy following him with claws skittering across the kitchen floor. Any other day and he knows she would be scolding them for doing such a thing, no paws on the tile.

 

The unfamiliar man is watching them now, his expression both surprised and softened by their appearance. A troubled look passes over his face, and for a moment, Raleigh wonders what his thoughts must look like now.

 

His mother's strong hands pull him up into her lap once he reaches her, as he's still small enough to do so. Jaz follows, when Yancy places her on his mother's lap, but he stays by her side, staring balefully up at this stranger in their home.

 

Her hands pull them close, and Jaz is pushed up against him; Raleigh can feel the tremors in his mother's hands, her arms trying to hold them close and seemingly not fall apart in that instant.

 

“My children, Hansen.” She murmurs into their fur, “Our children.” She says again, her voice heavy, and Raleigh feels something wet in his fur, realizing it's his mother's tears.

 

And in that moment, Raleigh knows something has been lost, and he suddenly wishes his father were here, with them and their mother, and he knows whatever this man has to say is not good, even though he doesn't want to hurt them.

 

 

 

 

Life goes on.

 

Hansen, Hercules, leaves their lives shortly after that but he stays in touch. He's got a wee tot at home with his girl, who may or may not be a wolf or a dingo or whatever lives in Australia, depending on what that scent was, but he's a kind man who worked with their father. Doing what, Raleigh still isn't sure, but later on he figures out it has something to do with human and werecreature relations. It's not that the world doesn't know, because werewolves in Alaska, werebears in Russia, what have you, are sort of like an open secret; people just pretend they don't exist.

 

Don't ask, don't tell, if you will.

 

Or something. It doesn't really matter, to be honest, because once giant lovecraftian monstrosities start rising out of the ocean and destroying the world, city by city, it seems kind of unimportant in comparison.

 

Hansen, please, call me Herc, gives their mom a call every so often, maybe because he feels responsible in some way, seeing her at her most vulnerable with her pups in her arms as she broke down, and once in a while even rings up one of them. Raleigh doesn't spend much time talking to him over the years, but he knows Yancy has always been the more polite of the three of them, having more patience than probably himself and Jaz combined. He grows older, puberty sucks, both as a male human and a female wolf, and him and Yancy have resolved to never speak of it ever again.

 

Of course, because he's still a teenager, he acts like a total brat to Hansen every time they speak. The latest call might be the final one, though, with the way things are. But he takes pity on him this time, because not only does Hansen have literal monsters to be fighting, but he's also got a 12 year old who's now determined to be a Jaeger pilot, of all things.

 

“How's that pup of yours? Still no tail?” Even now, Raleigh still uses terms and colloquialisms that he's sure make Hansen roll his eyes, but it's smalltalk regardless. He'd been right about Hansen's girl back home being some sort of Were, but it seemed that the gene had skipped this particular generation. Lil' baby Hansen remains furless to this day, much to Hansen's relief. Not that the guy dislike Weres (he married one, after all) but having to handle saving the world and a baby were-whatever would probably drive the guy to homicide.

 

Driving me up the wall, that's what he's doing. And don't even joke about that, I wouldn't even know where to start if he suddenly sprouted ears and a tail.” A smile graces his lips, because as emotionally constipated as Hansen may be, he loves that boy of his. A tired sigh echoes through the other end of the phone following that, sounding tinny in the receiver.

 

The truth of the matter is, I'm not sure how we're gonna do this, kid. We don't have the stamina of you lot, and there are only so many people who qualify for the program to begin with. The only thing we have right now is hope.”

 

“And giant robots.” Raleigh quips.

 

Don't get too cheeky with me, brat.”

 

The conversation idles for a little longer, before Hansen is on call and says his goodbyes, leaving Raleigh to stew over what he's been debating for a while.

 

It sounds like an overall bad idea, because they're not humans, they're wolves, and fuck it all, they're supposed to share a mind with someone else? How is that even supposed to work? But he knows there's some merit to Hansen's words; because of what they are, they have a better chance of surviving. It's not even that them being wolves would be the deal breaker, because Raleigh knows that there's a Were on one of the Russian teams. Plus, he doubts his mother will ever forgive him if he went off and got himself killed fighting in giant robots.

 

In the end, however, Raleigh doesn't get much choice in the matter, because Yancy grips him by the arm and pushes him out the door, Hansen's final words echoing through his mind.

 

You were born a hunter. Now go do something about it.”

 

 

 

By some freak chance, the two of them qualify as drift compatible, and there's a moment of relief where they realize there will be no awkward explanation of why yes I am a werewolf to a prospective co-pilot.

 

To be fair, they do pretty well. Fighting giant monsters, that is.

 

“Mom still not talking to you?”

 

“And she's talking to you?”

 

Yancy grimaces at him, “I spent my leave time trying to coax her out of the woods and into a home more inland, you can't blame me for that.” Honestly, though, Raleigh knows that alone was a feat in of itself. Him and mom were always too similar, and too stubborn, to ever agree on anything, so if anyone were able to convince her of anything, it would be Yancy. Getting her to leave Alaska was hard enough, but with her family split, her pack gone, Raleigh would take not talking to her and her being safe over her being fucking dead.

 

Yamarashi goes down in Los Angeles, and the next two in San Diego and Puerto Rico follow suite. It's not until they're deployed to Manila, with 3 Jaegers pit against a Category IV, that they come face to face with Hercules Hansen again.

 

Despite keeping touch over the years, Raleigh jolts with the realization that it's been over 15 years since the last time they saw one another in person, and in that time, Hansen had somehow been raising a son on his own while also fighting this war.

 

Still, there's a real smile on Hansen's face when he sees them, far cries from the whimpering pups they were then and now grown men, eye level with him when he pulls them in for what Raleigh can only describe as a manly hug.

 

“You look... grizzled.” Is the only thing Raleigh says, a grin pulling on the edge of his lips. Yancy shoots him a long suffering look, but Hansen just waves him off and chuckles, the happiness in his eyes at seeing them clear enough. Something about it makes Raleigh's throat close up, and his heart feels heavy in his chest. Hansen's scent is almost... proud. Of them, maybe, but he doesn't spend too long on that thought process, because otherwise it'll cause his chest to completely bury his heart.

 

“Funny coming from you, you overgrown pomeranian.” Yancy laughs at this, and Raleigh cuffs him across the head. If it were anyone else, it would have likely left a sizable bruise, but the Becket boys played rough with each other. Mostly because no one else could.

 

There's some more fond chatter before they have to go their separate ways, and Raleigh spends a moment looking up at the 3 Jaegers towering over them. Horizon Brave's crew has already departed, but Striker and Gipsy are silent sentinels, pillars holding up the sky above them and keeping the monsters away.

 

Hansen lays a hand on his shoulder as him and Yancy make to leave, and the look on his face when Raleigh turns to him is fond.

 

“Kid, what you and your brother are doing here... you've done good. Your dad would be proud of you both.” The healed scar that is any mention of their father aches when he hears this, but he just nods, a real smile on his face. Yancy, a little farther away, stiffens, but Raleigh can sense a smile forming on his lips as well.

 

“Thanks, Herc. Take care of that boy of yours.” Hansen... Herc raises a brow at this, but beams back at him, and Raleigh realizes it's the first time he's ever called the man by his first name.

 

Raleigh will think back to this moment sometimes, years later; the last moment where he was truly content for a short time, and his heart will constrict in his chest.

 

 

 

Of course, because life is awful, their next battle with a Kaiju is Yancy's last, and Raleigh's heart is cleaved in two, because he's lost another piece of his family. His pack.

 

 

 

He refuses any and all treatments, and he knows they have him on suicide watch, but he can't bring himself to care. It's not usual for only one pilot to survive. If the Kaiju takes down the Jaeger, it usually takes down both pilots with it.

 

He lasts a week at the Shatterdome, but every night of that week is sheer torture, because he can still hear Yancy howling in his head, I'm here, I'm here, come back, come back home.

 

He's sitting on his bunk, staring up at the one above him, where Yancy used to sleep. Used to. Jesus christ. He can hear people wandering about at night, listens to voices murmuring about anything and everything, anything to get Yancy's screaming out of his head, out of his heart. There's a familiar set of shoes making their way down to his room, and he already knows instinctively what conversation he's about to have.

 

When Tendo opens the door, Raleigh has all of his sentimental trinkets gathered in a duffel bag, and admittedly it's not much. A couple of Yancy's shirts, a stack of photos held together by a rubber band, and... that's it. He holds the bag, seeming so small, out to Tendo.

 

“Rals...”

 

“I know this is a lot to ask, but could you... hold onto these for me?” Whether or not I come back is another story is left unsaid, but Tendo, amazing, smart, loveable Tendo, who Yancy dreamed about sometimes (and that twists the knife in his heart just a little deeper now), just nods, a solemn look on his face. He doesn't question it, just takes the bag, which seems so regretfully light, despite having what Raleigh considers the last bits of his humanity in it. Maybe that's why it's so light. He wasn't born human, after all.

 

His human skin is no longer able to contain him, and after handing in his resignation and a bag of mementos to a silent, apologetic Tendo, he takes off into the wilderness. He cuts himself off from society, and his skin ripples with the impatience of the wolf wanting to get out, to run and run and run as far as it can, away from the Jaegers, away from the Kaiju, away from the specter of Yancy whispering apologies into his ears.

 

He loses himself in the shift, a white ghost lost to the snow, and lets out a lone, mourning howl. There's no response, as the few wolves left in Alaska have run off to greener pastures, and he's not sure why he even expected on in the first place. The scars from the dive suit remain a vague impression under his fur, a tattoo upon his skin to remind him of what he's done and what he's lost.

 

It's 2020, and Raleigh Becket has disappeared, and no one knows where he's gone.