Actions

Work Header

Sing for Me

Chapter Text

If there was a God, Lena thought, he had a very nasty sense of humor. 

Not even a year ago, she'd have been thrilled by her current circumstances. Weekend camping trip, a quiet cabin out in the woods, alone with a gorgeous redhead? She'd have been in absolute heaven. 

Now? She was terrified. 

I have to get out of here, Lena thought to herself as she tried to sit absolutely still. Emily was curled next to her on the sofa and using her shoulder as a headrest. Emily had looped their arms togeather and started to cuddle while they watched a movie that Lena had stopped paying attention to the moment it was put on. Instead her attention rested on the aviator watch at her wrist. It was a custom piece that had cost her nearly five hundred pounds but was well worth it for the simple fact that it included not just a lunar phase – but a counter that indicated how long until the moon reached its apogee. 

I'm going to hurt her if I don't go now.  

Lena didn't trust herself to speak – her jaw was clenched so tight it ached but she knew relaxing it was out of the question. She couldn't risk trying to talk and end up succumbing to her primal urge to howl.  

Running was better. Running made sense – she could outrun Emily she was sure of that. Likely that would spell the end of their relationship but fuck it, as long as Emily was alive... 

As she rose Emily's grip on her arm tightened and Lena felt fear creep down her spine. 

"Let me go." Lena growled, fighting the urge to yank her arm free as her voice dipped into a guttural snarl.  

"Lena. Love. Look at me. Breathe." 

The smaller woman shook her head – the urge to turn was overwhelming now but she fought it back. Emily was too close, she would get hurt and Lena could not allow that.  

"You don't understand-

"I do, actually. You're a werewolf, Lena."  

Lena turned to face her and blinked twice. First because yes, Emily was unexpectedly correct, but also because she'd realized that Emily's eyes had changed from a stormy shade of grey to a brilliant green. 

"There's no one here you need to fear hurting, all right?" 

Shock and disbelief began to overwhelm her fear as she realized Emily had a beautiful set of furry ears rising from the top of her head – when had those shown up?  

Lena stared, unable to speak as she tried to fight her warring urges to run and to ask how she'd known as she watched Emily began to transform herself - taller, more powerful, and covered in a fine coat of roan fur.  

Emily seemed to tilt her head at her as if to ask what are you waiting for, and Lena felt herself stagger to the floor. Her desperate concentration had been shattered, and she could no longer fight back the urge to change. 


As the sun rose over the horizon, orange light filtered through the trees and leaves before finally falling over the two sleeping forms snuggled a few yards away from an awaiting cabin. Birds began to chirp and sing their merry tunes and the morning dew surrounding them began to feel uncomfortably cool compared to the warmth of the sun. Lena was slow to wake this morning – she couldn't explain why she felt so terribly comfortable and safe but she did and she wanted it to last.  

"Someone's happy this morning – if her tail is anything to go by..." 

Emily had meant the comment as a joke – not that it wasn't accurate since Lena's bushy brown tail had been wagging – but instead it resulted in Lena breaking out from her embrace and ending up several feet away with her back pressed up against a tree.  

Silence prevailed for a moment as brown eyes stared at grey- 

"What. The. Fuck." 

Emily's response to Lena's profanity was to merely sit up and get comfortable for what she was sure would be a hell of a ride.  

"What the fuck was that last night Em?! How did you know that I'm a werewolf?! And you're one too?!?"  

Emily stayed perfectly still as Lena began to pace back and forth. It pained the redhead to see Lena's tail tucked between her legs and fluffed up to twice its normal size - her ears on a near constant swivel as they twitched this way and that, the tips flopping around with each movement in response to every singing bird, rustling leaf, and snapped twig. As much as Emily wanted to offer her girlfriend some form of comfort, now was not the time – the best she could do was try to look as non-threatening as possible.  

"Why didn't you tell me?!? What else are you hiding from me?! Did..." Lena came to an abrupt stop as she turned to face Emily, all the color draining from her face as she absentmindedly brushed a hand over her right thigh – covering the barely visible scars from where she was bitten, "Are you the one who made me like this?!" 

"No," Emily said with a bit more force than intended, "I'm not. Whoever did this to you... Turned you and left you on your own... god if I ever find them I will sink my -" Emily forced herself to stop – She had wanted to stay quiet and let Lena vent a bit longer, but she could not and would not allow Lena to think... but letting herself get carried away right now was not something Lena needed right now. 

"I want to believe you Em, god I do – but... we've been dating for three months now and- what? You just didn't bother to tell me?!"  

"I didn't know at first-" 

"How couldn't you know?!" 

"I didn't know you were turned!" 

"You mean you weren't?!" 

"No - I was born like this." 

"What. The. Fuck. What the fucking fuck. Am I even awake right now? Maybe I'm still dreaming from last - oh my god. What the hell even happened last night?!" 

"Look, let's... Lena can you think back to last night and remember what we did after our transformation?" 

"I don't know! I can never remember!" 

"Then just tell me what you do remember and I'll fill in the gaps, okay? Why were you trying to run away from me last night?" 

Lena rolled her eyes and folded her arms across her chest, letting out a huff. "I knew I was going to change soon – that I couldn’t fight it for much longer and I was worried I might hurt you. Little did I know..."  

Emily ignored the jab and merely nodded, "And then what happened?" 

"Well, you bloody damn well stopped me – then your eyes... they changed colors and next thing I know you have ears coming out the top of your head and..." 

Lena paused, her brow knitting in thought as she returned to pacing, "I... we were outside- you were... I was... I just felt... I followed you?" 

Emily responded with a nod of encouragement when Lena glanced over at her. On her next turn Lena came to a stop again – this time to look closely at the forest around them before finally pointing off into a copse of trees. "We ran that way - there was river after a while and we... you caught me fish. I tried – but they were fast... then we - there was a open space? You caught rabbits and I caught a squirrel I think? I- next thing I remember we were back near the cabin and I was so full I just, I curled up I think, and then I woke up." 

"You fell asleep," Emily offered gently, "I was expecting it - its why I led you back here after making sure you ate. Pup- er... new werewolves aren't known for staying up the entire night." 

"But... why did I follow you? Why didn't I attack you? Why didn't you attack me?

"You followed me because I am an alpha," Emily began to explain as carefully as she could. She knew this was going to be a lot for Lena to take in, "And I would never attack you Lena - but as for why you didn't attack me? Well, that's something only you can answer – though I suspect it's got something to do with the fact that I'm your girlfriend...or at least I hope I still am..." Emily trailed off tentatively, causing Lena to look back towards her. 

Girlfriend  

The word seemed to make something click in Lena's head and all at once she realized that Emily was sitting on the ground before her, bare as the day she was born - and a glance down at her chest quickly confirmed that she was in a similar state.  

Emily seemed to notice Lena's sudden discomfort and quickly averted her eyes, scratching the back of her head... actually it was more scratching behind an ear then anything else – before offering, "Maybe we should continue this talk after we've changed... perhaps over breakfast?" 


Lena had been relieved to find her tail and the second set of furry ears had both disappeared to wherever they went after she'd finished as cold a shower as she could stand to help wake herself up, the slight ache in her lower back where the tail had sprouted the only proof it had existed. 

She'd pulled on a t-shirt and jeans before returning to the cabin's kitchen, while Emily had pulled on a top that left her collarbones and neck invitingly exposed and a modest length skirt that allowed her tail to continue swishing about as she worked to prepare some food. 

She found herself staring at the fluffy appendage as it twitched back and forth a bit. So this was really happening. She wasn't going crazy. Or at least no more than she already had...and, yes, Emily still had a second set of ears, too.  

Lena coughed and Emily turned to smile at her. "You didn't have to hide things away, you know. It's just us here." 

She wasn't really sure what to say to that, and after a moment Emily's eyes softened a bit. "Sorry, too much?" 

"I really don't...I don't know right now. I'm not even sure where to start!" 

Emily nodded, then gestured to the little round table where they'd had dinner before everything had gone completely off the rails last night. "Why don't you sit down, and I'll bring you something to eat?" 

Sitting down, Lena couldn't decide what she thought about the plate Emily brought over. Eggs in a nest was fine, but the strips of bacon... "You know I don't eat meat, Emily." 

"I know you've been trying to avoid eating meat, yes. But your body is different now, Lena." 

Lena looked up skeptically at her. "I had that talk in school, you know." 

"It's not so different, really." Emily took a bite of her own bacon, and Lena couldn't help but look back down at her plate. It did look tasty. Smelled fantastic too. Her mouth was watering despite herself, but the sudden recollection of her jaws snapping against something small and furry – a rabbit, she thought – made her stomach twist into knots. Biting back a sudden urge to vomit from the memory, she tore her eyes away from the plate, locking on to Emily instead. 

"I suppose the way to put it," Emily said after considering her reaction for a moment, "is that there's a different part of you, now. And it needs meat, not just trying to go with beans or vegetable protein. Haven't you noticed you're feeling a bit...off?" 

Lena gave a noncommittal grunt. She hadn't really felt at her best, no, but she had no idea what being a werewolf was supposed to feel like, honestly.  

"That was part of why I was confused at first," Emily admitted, "when I met you. I just thought you might have some other health problems, but after our first full moon – when I saw how you acted, I started to realize something was really wrong." 

Lena's brows knit. "Wait – back up. What was confusing you?" 

"Your smell. It was..." She pursed her lips. "Off. I...here. Come and smell me?" 

"What?!" 

"Smell me." Emily held out her arm. "It'll be easier than trying to explain in words." 

Cautiously, Lena stood and approached as if Emily might rise up and attack her at any moment. Leaning in, she sniffed a few times at Emily's arm and considered the scent. "Clean? Maybe a bit...hm. Spicy? A little bit like the woods? I always figured you were wearing perfume." 

"I do, sometimes, but this is me. You're noticing things because your nose is a lot more sensitive – or it should be. But when I smelled you for the first time...you smelled nice, but there was something under it. A smell like you might have been feeling a bit sick." 

"Sick." Lena went back to her food and took a few bites of her eggs. "I...OK. So why didn't you say anything?" 

"We were just getting to know each other," Emily explained, "and I didn't want to make you panic. I didn't think it would be a very good way to start things off."  

Lena snorted. "Because this all went so well?" 

"Well," Emily smiled at her, "after you let yourself relax last night, I thought we were both enjoying ourselves." 

"I..." Lena worried at her lip before she finally could ask one of the things that had been bothering her. "We didn't hurt anyone, did we?" 

"What?" Emily looked shocked. "No – Lena, god, no. I'd never. We went into the woods and we ran. We hunted. You wanted to play, once you followed me." 

"Ever since this started I've been so afraid... " Lena trailed off, and Emily stood, slowly walking over before kneeling down to give her a hug in her chair.  

"Oh, Lena. I'm so sorry. I did this – I wanted you to come with me – because I wanted you to know you weren't alone." Emily sat back, letting her legs slide out to her side. "I realized you didn't have any idea what was going on, and I went to find out if you'd ever registered -" 

"Registered?" Lena blinked. "There's a registry?" 

Emily nodded. "We use it to keep track of each other, basically – there's actually a fair bit of paperwork. Pack memberships, family lines, that sort of thing. But, anyway, when I checked and realized you weren't listed, I started to put two and two together, and...well. Here we are." 

Lena reached up without thinking to scratch the back of her head – not far from where she'd felt her own pair of wolf ears appear when the changes began to overtake her. "I...yeah." 

"I know you've probably got a lot of questions," Emily stood and went to settle back into her chair, taking care to leave the path to the door clear. "I want to try to answer as many as I can." 

Lena closed her eyes and tried to think of where to begin. "So...you said you were born this way." 

"Yes. Most of us – most weres – are born, not turned. It's inherited – generally both parents have the gift, and they pass it on. Occasionally it doesn't work out that way, but it's usually in a case where one of the parents is a were and the other is a regular human, and not terribly common. Someone being turned in this day and age is honestly very rare." 

"So why me, then?" 

Emily sighed. "I can't speak to why, but I might be able to answer how. Can you remember getting bitten by what you thought was a large dog, and then becoming ill within a day or two? Possibly even that night?" 

"Yeah," Lena leaned back, her hand coming down to rub at her scar through the material of her jeans, "I was working my route, doing deliveries when I got knocked over by a big dog – I thought he might have been some kind of a mutt, his coat was this odd mix of gold and greys – almost like silver. He got me with a pretty nasty bite on my thigh, and after I got back to my mail truck I called in for someone else to take over the rest of my route so I could take myself to the ER." 

Emily raised an eyebrow. "That didn't seem odd to you?"  

Lena shrugged. "You have any idea how often mail carriers get bitten by dogs? We've got a whole set of forms for it these days. I got stitched up, filed for my compensation, and got a cab ride home because I was starting to feel pretty miserable. I put it down to the rabies shot and the rest of the pills I had to take." 

"I suppose that is an occupational hazard," Emily admitted, "but obviously it wasn't a dog that bit you, it was someone like us. A person with lycanthropy who was shifted into that form." 

Lena went quiet for a moment while she took that on board. She really still wasn't that comfortable with the idea of 'someone like us'. But Emily wasn't...she'd never been anything but kind, had she? She liked her, dammit. Finally, Lena looked back to her. "So you said that what happened to me, being bitten like that, is pretty rare, then?" 

"Extremely," Emily confirmed, "and the way it was done, without your knowledge and without giving you any help...it's criminal, Lena. Absolutely against our laws and the traditions we follow. We don't just go around biting people at random. Attacking humans in any way is just as wrong as if I walked up to you on the street and punched you for no reason." 

"Huh." Lena considered that. "Well, that's good to know, I suppose." 

"If I can ask...how long ago did that happen?" 

Lena shrugged. "Year and a half? Ish? Obviously I'm paying attention to my calendar more now, but I didn't feel that out of sorts until the first time..." She cocked her head slightly as she realized Emily had gone even more pale than normal, her jaw dropping even as her ears had gone rigid. "What?" 

"A year and a half." Emily seemed absolutely astonished. "Oh my god, Lena. No wonder you seemed half starved. How are you even alive?" 

Lena rubbed the back of her neck as she looked back towards the floor. "...I eat right and get plenty of exercise?" 

"But you don't," Emily tried to explain, "that's half the problem. I..." She straightened up, her eyes flashing. "I need to get you to a doctor. Please?" 

"Uh." Lena blinked. "Like, a doctor-doctor? Or..." 

"Well," Emily admitted, "you might think of her as a veterinarian, too..."

Chapter Text

After Lena finished up her eggs and toast she offered her bacon to Emily, explaining she still couldn't quite manage it... not with last night still so fresh in her mind. Emily didn't push and instead helped herself, there was no sense in wasting food and Lena had agreed to go see a doctor with her later. She'd pick her battles for now.  

An hour after breakfast, they'd packed their bags back up and tossed them into the back of Emily's faded red Land Rover so they could head back to town. 

"Still a bit surprised you drive this thing," Lena admitted as she climbed in, "it has to be, what, thirty years old? Where did you even find it?" 

"Oliver? My dad bought him for me years ago. Very reliable if you're willing to do a bit of your own work, you know, and I mostly use him to drive out to the cabin or trips home." 

Lena stared as Emily cranked the engine over. "You named your car Oliver."  

She smiled fondly as the engine roared to life and she threw the vehicle into gear. "I decided he looked like an Oliver. Don't you think so?" 

Lena just shook her head. 

"The radio only gets AM band," Emily mentioned apologetically once they were out on the M4, "and we've got about two hours drive, so if you wanted to ask more questions?"  

Lena was obviously trying to relax but still seemed a bit out of sorts, so Emily decided to go with a different tack. "You could roll down the window and put your head out if you like." 

She caught Lena's disbelieving look out of the corner of her eye. "Werewolves...we...actually do that?" 

Emily smiled. "Some – usually in their wolf forms, but I know a few who just love the feeling of the wind in their hair." 

She'd thought that would get Lena to laugh, but instead she went quiet again for a second, looking down at her hands with a grimace.  

When Lena finally broke the silence again, she sounded curious, if a bit uncertain. "So...I'm supposed to be able to control it? Changing, I mean." 

Some of Lena's earlier behavior suddenly made perfect sense, and Emily wanted to kick herself for being so thick. "You...oh. Oh, I see, sorry. Yes, you can control it, but it's something that does take practice, and with everything you had to deal with..." 

Lena stuck out her tongue. "Hey, I think I was doing pretty well for not having any idea!" 

Emily grinned. "You were, you are, all things considered. Especially for being a vegetarian werewolf." Honestly, of all the ridiculous things... 

"Oi!" 

Emily relaxed just a bit as Lena finally started to laugh. She'd known that trying to let Lena know she didn't have to hide anymore would be tricky but she hadn't expected her to be so angry, at first. Now that she understood how long this had been going on, though...well. She'd expected Lena had been on her own for a few months, maybe six tops. That she'd made it on her own with no idea what to do for more than a year...it still left her flabbergasted. 

Well. Flabbergasted and incredibly furious. If she ever got her hands on the bastard who bitten Lena and never bothered to make sure she would be all right... 

Her hands tightened on the wheel, and Emily had to force herself to relax. None of this was Lena's fault, after all, and she certainly wasn't mad at her

Fortunately, Lena hadn't seemed to notice her brief moment of anger. "So...there are other werewolves." 

"Yes." 
 
"Like us." 

"Mmhmm."  

"Do they...do you...pee on things? To claim them as your own?" 

Emily needed a moment to keep herself from laughing or she might have lost control of the car. "Well. I don't, but I suppose I can't speak for all weres out there." 

Lena blinked. "You keep saying 'weres' like there's more than – wait, no." 

Emily grinned. "You've taken your first step into a larger world." 

"...that was from Star Wars." 

Emily winked.  

Lena rolled her eyes. "I guess it's good you're not really into that, though. I always thought watersports were a bit gross." 

Emily went quiet as she passed a lorry, then spared a moment to give Lena shy look. "So...does that mean you'd still like to be mine?" 

Lena blushed. "I think so. I'm still working on...all of this. But...yeah." 

Emily smiled over to her. "Good. I'd have wanted to help you either way, but...good. That's...that's good." 

Lena's hand snuck across the handbrake to squeeze hers, and Emily's heart might have skipped a beat or two while she squeezed back.  

"I've got a few more questions," Lena admitted after another mile or two had gone by, "like...you said you're an 'alpha'?" 

"Yes," Emily nodded, "that's right." 

"So what am I? And where'd that come from?" 

"Well..." Emily considered the best way to explain. "Honestly the terms we use these days mostly came into use in the last hundred years or so. When packs were relatively isolated it was just a matter of hierarchy, and everyone knew the score pretty much automatically. The more packs connected, though, and we started to organize ourselves a bit more, the idea of putting labels on various concepts came in. 

At first it was pretty basic – calling someone a 'leader' if they had a pack, calling others 'followers', that sort of thing. But there was a naturalist who published a series of papers where he described the wolves he was studying using the Greek letters - Alphas for the leaders, Betas for the stronger wolves supporting them, and Omegas for the weakest or most common types. The idea of using the terms for ourselves caught on, and it stuck." 

Lena sat there, taking that on board for a moment, but before she could ask another question Emily coughed. "Of course the one problem with that idea is that actual wolves don't work that way really...but I suppose he was only human." 

Lena frowned. "So why use those terms if it doesn't really work that way?" 

Emily shrugged. "It's a useful sort of shorthand. I mean, it's easier to say I'm an alpha to someone than it is to say 'I tend to be a natural leader who can take the initiative and tends to have a talent for forming strong relationships with the people around me' when introducing myself." 

Lena snorted. "OK, true. So...where do you think I fit?" 

"I think you're a beta – and a strong one, or at least you will be once you get a bit more experience and a better diet. If you were an alpha, there's a good chance you'd have been discovered by someone before now because they'd have seen you as encroaching on their territory." Emily paused, keeping her eyes focused on the road. "If you were an omega...they tend to have a strong urge to find others, and if you hadn't, I'm genuinely not sure you'd have survived for so long." 

"Oh." Lena went quiet again, and Emily could feel the slight awkwardness again until Lena brought up a new line of questions. 

"So," she asked cautiously, "your parents are..." 

Emily couldn't help her smile. "Happily married, live out in Berkshire. I just wasn't sure you would want to meet them right away."  

"Because they're both...like us?" 

Emily blushed. "Well...and it's a bit of a big step, bringing a girlfriend home. Didn't want to go too fast, you know. We hadn't...I...I liked you, I like you, but I didn't want to make you feel like I was trying to get too serious right away." 

"You know, it's cute when you get a little flustered," Lena admitted, "but I suppose it would have been. Still, you know what I'm getting at. Are they...?"  

Emily nodded as she pulled around another slower moving car. "They're both wolves, yes. Alphas – that's a bit unusual but they've always made it work." 

Lena considered that. "So are you an alpha because they're alphas?" 

"It's a little more complex than that, but the odds are a bit better. Parentage goes into it but it's as much about your personality as your genes. The only thing that's a little unique is that there's something in the way all of our brains are wired. Alphas can use some tricks with their tone of voice, posture, things like that, to give commands that beta and omega wolves are inclined to follow." 

Lena gave her a skeptical look. "What, like hypnotism? Snap your fingers and I cluck like a chicken?" 

Emily snorted. "Not quite so dramatic as that, but in a sense. I couldn't make you hurt yourself – or anyone else. But things like getting you to follow me when we started to run in the woods, or if I was giving orders while hunting or in a fight."  

Lena thought that over, worrying at the edge of her bottom lip. "When you asked me to come out with you this weekend – to visit your cabin – did you...did you use that on me? Influence me to say yes? Knowing the full moon was coming?" 

Emily understood why Lena had asked, when she put it like that, but it still hurt a little bit. "No," she shook her head, trying to keep the pain out of her voice, "absolutely not. I might have batted my eyelashes a little, but that was all." She took a deep breath and tried to keep her focus on the road. "I could tell when you were getting nervous about the idea a few times, and tried to ease off or take your mind off it, but I'd never...I'm not that sort of alpha, Lena. I'd never force you to do anything you didn't want to do of your own free will, I swear."  

Lena looked down at the floorboards. "Does that mean there's some out there who would?" 

"Unfortunately, yes. I won't lie and say all werewolves are innately perfect, but the ones that might generally don't last very long." Emily explained quietly, "Giving those kind of commands – it's most effective with someone who has been around you, that you have a connection with, and it's typically reserved for emergencies. Family members, packmates, anyone with regular contact. An alpha who is constantly demanding things or forcing the members of their pack to do things they'd rather not...it's a sign of poor leadership. Of weakness. The Council frowns on that kind of abuse of power, and they might encourage members of that pack to challenge and remove their leader – or possibly even nudge an outsider to do it, in particularly extreme cases." 

Lena's head came up. "Council?" 

"Sort of...hm." Emily considered how to put it in simple terms. "Kind of like a cross between parliament and, well, a city council. Respected pack leaders, elders, that sort of thing, who gather periodically to enforce laws and handle matters outside of more mundane authority. They maintain that registry I mentioned, for example." 

"Huh." Lena sat back, her eyes thoughtful. "Do I get to vote for my werewolf MP?" 

"Not exactly, but there tend to be regional gatherings, and when larger issues come up, the regional groups usually have one or two people who are nominated to represent us." 

"Got it, I think..." 

Lena went quiet as they reached London, but as they left the motorways for local traffic she perked up, watching the pedestrian traffic with increasing interest. "OK, so that guy on the bike." 
 
Emily looked over to where Lena was pointing. "Mm? What about him?" 

"Is he a werewolf?" 

She shook her head. "No." 

Lena hummed thoughtfully. "What about the lady there with the wooshy skirt? Bet you could hide a tail under that." 

"No, sorry." 

Lena gestured towards the other side of the street. "What about that bloke with the hat?" 

"Again, no. Oh – but the lady he's speaking to? She is." 

Lena gave her a skeptical look. "But she doesn't look like a werewolf." 

Emily couldn't help but laugh at that. "Lena, beautiful, when you're not in uniform do people think you look like a mail carrier?" 

Lena frowned as she sat back in her seat. "Well, no. Not as such..." 

Emily nodded. "So why should we be any different?" 

Lena gave a soft 'huh!', then looked back out the window. "How do you know? 

Emily shrugged. "Smell mostly - but there are other tells I will point out when I'm not driving." 

"Can you at least give me an example?" 

Emily couldn't repress a teasing smile. "Well, for one, most of the ones who live in our area are regulars at my pub." 

"But I'm a regular at your pub!" 

Emily took advantage of the red light to turn and give her a long suffering stare. 

Lena blinked, then flushed with embarrassment. "Oh that just sunk in." 

Emily huffed a little laugh before turning her attention to the last leg of their drive. "Good. Let's move on, please." 

A few minutes later Emily had pulled them into the parking lot of what looked like a perfectly ordinary urgent care clinic.  

"What, here?" Lena looked around with obvious disappointment as they left the car. "Really? It looks...boring." 

Emily shrugged. "What'd you expect? Something a bit more like Diagon Alley? Platform nine and three quarters?" 

Lena's shoulders hunched slightly. "Well...maybe a little." 

Emily reached out to ruffle her hair. "Trust me, pup," Emily said as casually as possible, though she kept a close eye out for Lena's reaction to the given pet name, "If we had something like that I'd have taken you there." 

Lena leaned into the touch with a happy little sigh. "OK, I guess I believe you, luv." 

Emily grinned, and gave her a quick kiss before they reached the door.  "Come on, you. Let's go see if you've got worms." 

Lena snorted with disbelief. "Oh, you are joking...aren't you?" 

Emily just winked as she opened the door for her. 


The interior of the clinic was just as mundane as the outside had been, Lena thought. There was a check in sheet, just like most doctor's offices, and a clipboard with new patient paperwork. 

"I can help with anything you don't know," Emily offered as they sat down, "just ask." 

Lena nodded as she uncapped the pen. The first part was easy. Name, address, national insurance number, phone number. She hesitated at emergency contact for a moment, then decided to list Emily's name and number.  

Flipping to the other side of the page, she tried to figure out the form for a moment, then had to admit defeat. "OK, I have no idea what any of these are." 

Emily leaned over. "That's fine. Let me see if I can help." 

Lena tapped her pen against the first field. "Birth pack?" 

"Since you were turned, you can just do "N/A" for that one." 

"What about 'pack ranking'?" 
 
"That's where you want to put Beta. It's not officially confirmed but it's good enough for now." 

"But..." Lena tapped the next field for 'Current Pack'. "I'm not actually in a pack, so how does that work?" 

"The term we use for a wolf who is out on her own, is a 'disperser'. Usually when you're old enough to leave home it's common to go out on your own for a while. Sometimes it just means you've decided to look at the options before you join an existing pack, or for an alpha it might mean you're looking to found a new pack eventually." Emily blushed just a little. "Technically that covers me, too. I'd moved to London because I wanted the chance to strike out on my own for a while." 

Lena's eyebrows rose, but she didn't press too much on that, and settled for just filling the box in as Emily suggested. "All right. So...resident territory. Is that London?" 

"Yes and no – most packs have specific areas, but in your case – there's a bit of neutral territory around the pub because it's a major gathering area, and your apartment is in that. You can just put neutral territory, or 'The Howl' if you want." 

Lena looked at the next field - 'Current Alpha(s)'. "Well, at least this one is easy." She'd begun to write Emily's name, then stopped in surprise when Emily reached out to take her hand away from the page. "But...aren't you, though?" 

Emily had gone red with embarrassment. "It's...I'm flattered, honesty, but for the purposes of these forms, it's different. Putting my name these implies a certain legal status. I'm an alpha, and I'm your girlfriend, but right now I'm not Your Alpha, if that makes sense?" 

It didn't entirely, but Lena could practically hear the capital letters when Emily had said 'Your Alpha', so she settled for crossing out what she'd written and left the rest of the field blank. "Is that ok?" 

"Yes, sorry, that's perfectly fine." Emily worried at her bottom lip for a moment, then made better eye contact. "After all this is taken care of and we handle getting your registration sorted out, I promise we'll talk more about this, alright?" 

Lena considered that, then nodded. "I guess that makes sense. I suppose I don't want to screw up any of my paperwork before it's filed."  

"Now," Emily tapped her thumb against the next field, "do you recall the date you transformed for the first time?" 

"Yeah – November 6th, 2014."  

"Good."  

Lena considered the next field - 'Breed'. "Huh. Well...I don't really know, and you said that I was turned, right? So I wouldn't really be, like, a purebred would I?" 

"Probably not," Emily hedged, "I haven't actually seen you in your wolf form, just when you transformed to your wereself, so it's hard to say."  

Lena had just finished writing 'Mutt', for lack of a better idea, when she heard Emily take a sharp breath. "What? I mean, seems reasonable to guess..." 

Emily coughed, clearly uncomfortable as she did her best to explain. "You're not wrong, necessarily, but that's...it's a very insulting term to use. If anyone were to call you that at the pub, I'd want you to tell me straight away. At the very least I'd be adding an asshole tax to their tab as a warning. In certain situations it could easily lead to a fight." 

Blinking with surprise, Lena tried to take that on board. "Oh.  Even if it's kind of true?" 

Emily shook her head. "Would you call someone who comes from a Pakistani family a Paki?" 

Lena went stiff with shock. "Of course not. That's racist as shi...oh." 

"Yes. Oh."  

Now Lena was the one flushing with embarrassment, staring down at the form as she crossed out what she'd written once again. "So...what's the best thing to put?" 

Emily considered that. "Mixed breed is a bit more...ah...publicly acceptable." 

"O...K." Lena frowned at the final field. "WRN? WIN? What do those stand for?" 

Emily relaxed a bit as the conversation moved on to a much easier topic. "Ah, WRN stands for Werecreatures Registry Number - or Werecreature Insurance Number. They changed the name a few years back but they keep both terms on the forms. You don't currently have either so you can leave it blank." 

Lena groaned. "Does that mean this visit is going to cost me something?" 

"Oh, no," Emily assured her, "don't worry about that, all registered packs pay dues to the Council based on number of members and approximate pack income to help cover everyone. That way Dispersers like ourselves are still covered. Once you have your number, the doctor will just update your paperwork and send the bill on to them." 

"Right." Lena filled in a few things under her medical history – no known allergies, scar on her thigh from where she'd been bitten, no recent surgeries or illnesses – then capped the pen. "Think I've got it, then. At least as best as we can." 

Emily nodded, taking the clipboard. "OK – I'll take this back up to the desk, and they'll probably be calling you back in a few minutes." 


Lena settled onto the exam room's table and stared up at the ceiling tiles, half tempted to start counting the dots. It would have been nice if they'd let Emily come in with her – she had no idea what this doctor was going to ask, but she had a feeling she'd be getting a lot of questions she didn't really know how to answer. 

After a moment she realized she could hear a woman's voice through the door – a bit muffled but she could catch high, clear tones and some kind of a continental accent. German, she thought, but she could be wrong – and then Emily's voice, similarly indistinct, but sounding apologetic.  

Maybe they'll let her in after all? 

She'd just had enough time to form that idea when it was knocked right out of her head by the doctor's voice rising in a clearly astonished shout. 

"What do you mean 'She isn't registered?!'"

Oh, hell. 

Chapter Text

The last time Emily had seen Doctor Angela Ziegler this angry she had been screaming at a young male alpha who had, on a dare, attempted to eat an entire bottle of apricot jam. He'd shown up at her clinic needing his stomach pumped and an antihistamine shot. Angela had taken care of him, but she'd also given him a verbal thrashing for his foolishness (Honestly, don't you KNOW that werewolves are deathly allergic to apricots??) before sending him on his way.  

Unfortunately this time, Angela's anger was directed at her

"What do you mean 'She isn't registered?!'

Had Angela been another Werewolf, Emily was certain that last sentence would have been uttered in an alpha voice strong enough to have sent her running for the hills. Fortunately, Angela lacked such an ability and instead Emily merely felt her ears drop down in a sign of apology and, perhaps, a tinge of submission.   

"Lena was turned against her will," Emily began, seeing Angela's eyebrows climbing higher and quickly added, "I don't know by whom, but it wasn't me." 

For a moment Angela said nothing – merely allowing her anger to simmer until she felt she was under control again.  

"Emily... you know how this looks, don't you?" 

"I do, yes, I know how this looks... but Angela, Lena needs help. You didn't see her last night during the full moon," Emily shook her head as the image of her underfed frame came to the forefront of her mind, "She's – god Angela she's been trying to live as a vegetarian." 

Angela's brow crinkled at that as she rechecked Lena's patient information sheet, "But it says here – she was turned in November of 2014. Are you sure-" 

"Yes," Emily nodded, "That whole time... I'm sure of it Angela." 

"Mein Gott."  

"You understand why I had to bring her here first, right?" 

"Yes- if what you say is true then you made the right decision... but Emily I will not be able to give you special privilege. I will have to follow procedure to the letter on this matter – you understand?" 

"Whatever you need to do, just – help her, Angela. Please." 

"I would never turn someone in need away," Angela offered gently.  

"I know. That's why I chose to come to you." 

Angela nodded once before sighing, "You will need to be kept separate from her – please follow me and do not attempt to leave the room I place you in... you may be waiting there for some time." 

Emily straightened and took a deep breath before letting it out in a sigh. "I understand, thank you." 


Lena sat perfectly still, straining her ears as she tried to hear the conversation going on, on the other side of the door. She could still make out Emily's voice, but not well enough to understand what she was saying.  

Blast her ears... wait. Her ears! 

"Maybe if I just..." Lena muttered to herself as she squinted hard at the doorway, trying to will her ears into existence.  

Nothing. 

"Arrgh, come on, there's gotta be some way! Emily said I'm supposed to be able to control it... Think Lena... think." 

So think she did, she focused and wriggled in place on the bed until... 

Lena let out a yelp of pain as she popped onto her feet. "Ow ow ow – tail tail tail—wait tail?!" 

Sure enough as Lena turned to examine her back she was met with a twitching brown tail – half of the bushy appendage pinned down by the waistline of her jeans while the other half was awkwardly curled up in an arch that tickled against the middle of her back.  

"Oh c'mon! I just want to hear what they are saying!" Lena whined as she was forced to unbutton the front of her jeans to allow enough room so as to maneuver her tail into a more comfortable position.  

Unfortunately freeing her tail from the confines of her jeans unleashed a beast Lena was not yet ready to conquer. The appendage began wagging of its own volition and promptly knocked the bed's small pillow to the ground. When Lena bent to retrieve it the brown renegade whipped around, knocking over a container of tongue depressors and a box of tissues before Lena could firmly grab it and try to steady it down.  

"What is wrong with you?! You can't just- ugh! Go back to... wherever you go and stop destroying everything!" 

"Ms. Oxton, is..." 

Lena jumped nearly right out of her skin, a pair of brown wolfish ears popping into existence on the top of her head as she froze in place before slowly turning her head to look over her shoulder and confirm that yes, the doctor was now, in fact, in.  

"Ah... Is everything alright?" 

"No! I- I mean yes? Argh! I'm... I'm so sorry I don't know how to control it." 

Angela watched as the young werewolf released her tail and it wrapped around her waist once like a belt- her ears folding flat as she avoided making direct eye contact with the doctor.  

Emily had certainly brought her an interesting patient if nothing else.  

"It's quite alright Ms. Oxton – these things happen. Would you care to take a seat before we begin?" 

Lena nodded and tried to make herself take up as little room as possible on the small bed while the blonde woman went to wash her hands.  

"I apologize for making you wait, Ms. Oxton. My name is Dr. Ziegler, or you can call me Angela if you're more comfortable." 

"Oh, all right - but uh, I'd prefer it if you called me Lena?" 

"Of course, Lena. Now, I understand you're not registered. Do you mind if I ask some questions about your medical history...?" 

"Go right ahead – though I'm not sure how much I'll be able to answer." 

The first ten minutes of her physical exam passed like every other one Lena had ever been given as a regular human. Angela took her blood pressure and got her pulse, turned the lights down and shined a flashlight into her eyes, had her open up her mouth and cough, listened to her breathing – even had her stand up and touch her toes.  

Angela eased her into asking more werewolf specific questions while she took a closer look at where the wolf ears had grown from the top of her head. 

"Any sensitivity when I touch them?" 

Lena shrugged. "Not really. I mean - I feel it? But it's not painful."  

Angela nodded, then gently examined the tips of her ears with a finger. "Mm. Have those always been folded down?"  

"What, my ears?"  

"Yes." 

"Uh." Lena considered that. She really tried not to focus on them, but... "I think so, yeah." 

"That's not unusual in younger weres - or regular wolf pups, for that matter, I just wanted to make certain you hadn't received any injury." Angela carefully lifted the tips so she could examine the inside of the ears with her light, then nodded. "No sign of mites, either. Good."  

Lena blinked. "That can happen?"  

"Mostly to weres who stay in a partially shifted form like this most of the time. Or weres who prefer to live in their wolf forms as much as possible."  

"Huh." Lena clucked her tongue softly. "Learn something every day, I guess." 

Of course – not all questions were quite so easy to answer. 

"Lena, have you ever had the urge to bite someone?" 

Lena grinned despite herself. "Well I mean, sometimes I wanna take a bite out of Emily's cute arse but –" The look on the doctor's face stopped her cold.  "Wait, you're serious?! No! No, never! Why?!" 

Angela gave her a careful look. "I need to make sure you aren't Feral." 

"What- like rabies or something?" 

The doctor shook her head. "Not quite, a Wereperson can sometimes lose themselves to the beast within  – as it were  – and when they do... well we've yet to find a way to bring their humanity back to them. A feral werewolf often attacks people and animals without reason - early symptoms often include desires to do so even while in human form." 

Lena shook her head firmly, feeling her ears flop just a bit as she did. "Nope  – nothing like that Doc, honest." 

That got a sigh of relief. "Good..." Angela took a few moments to jot down some notes before looking up at Lena once more, "Now I understand that you were on your own for over a year..." 

Lena nodded – her ears drooping once more as she got a good idea of what she was likely going to be asked next. 

"Lena, can you tell me how you were handling the full moons on your own?"  

"Not... Very well if I'm being honest here Doc," Lena sighed and stared resolutely at the ground, "I tried everything to keep myself from changing – I didn't want to hurt anyone and... I was scared"  

Angela looked at her sympathetically, her voice softening slightly. "I understand that – and for what it is worth I'm sorry you had to go through this alone – but I need you to be as specific as possible for what methods you tried in order to "keep yourself from changing."'  

She swallowed hard, her eyes drifting down towards the floor as she dragged up the painful, embarrassing memories. "First time it happened I didn't really know what was going on – at least not at first. The full moon came up two days after I was bitten. I was itchy and anxious all day and didn't know why. As it got dark I couldn't sleep, so I went out for a walk at the local park – next thing I know I'm waking up and... god there was so much blood. I think I killed an entire pack of rabbits – what do you call a group of rabbits anyway?" 

"A colony – but how did you know it belonged to rabbits?" 

"I sort of remembered chasing them – had a dream about them, least I thought it was a dream until I woke up and there was fur and bones and blood everywhere. I don't really remember much else – but I don't think I hurt anyone... not counting the rabbits. You don't think I..." 

"From what Emily told me about your night together - your... well the term typically used is 'wereself' but the proper term is-" Angela stops at the look on Lena's face and decides to forgo the teaching moment and just answer the question, "Emily says your wereself is still a puppy. Puppies are known for chewing on things but not generally being very aggressive."  

"But... what about the rabbits?"  

"You were hungry  – and London's rabbits are not accustomed to apex predators." 

"I... oh..." Lena muttered, still not looking very convinced. 

"I also have a system set in place so that I am notified whenever a person is attacked by a wild animal- while there have been a few during the time you've been active – all of them have come up as regular animal attacks – no Werepersons were ever involved." 

"But... then how did I slip through the cracks?" 

"I'm not entirely certain – but I will be looking into it. Likely it had something to do with your handling of the full moons – which we were just getting started on before the conversation got off track. You said you didn't handle the full moons very well?" 

"Er- yeah, I tried to fight it every time. Hold off on the change as long as possible... and for that supermoon – that was also a full moon? I think it was back on March 9th? I downed an entire bottle of "Sleep-EZ"." 

"And how did your wereself respond to that?" 

"About as well as you'd expect – I don't remember leaving the apartment but... well in the morning when I woke up there was a huge mess for me to clean up. Needless to say... I never tried that again." 

Angela winced. "I... see." She made a few notes on the chart, then looked back up. "And after that?" 

Lena rubbed the back of her head, feeling the slightly coarser fur of her ears contrasting with her hair. "After that, I generally tried to get out of town, or at least go to a park before dark. I figured out that I was ripping my clothes apart, so I'd get undressed and tie my clothes up in a bag. I still...I still tried to keep it from happening, but I mostly concentrated on making sure I stayed away from people." 

Angela hummed thoughtfully, then nodded. "I'd say you did your best to handle things responsibly, given your situation." Setting the chart down, she went to the cabinet above the exam room's sink. "I'll need to draw some blood and get a urine sample from you, and then I'll need you to put on a gown before we start the rest of your exam. Would you like to try using the bathroom before we take blood, or after?" 

Lena considered that. "Given how much tea I drank at breakfast, honestly a chance to visit the loo is sounding pretty good right now." 

"Well, then." Angela pulled a sterile cup and lid from the cabinet, then wrote Lena's name on the label. "Please fill this to the second line if you can – the bathroom is out the door and to your left. There's a cabinet in there which you can place the specimen container into once you're finished, then come back here and we'll move on." 

Her trip to the smallest room was nothing to write home about, but Lena did feel a bit better after relieving herself, and the slight whiff of what she now knew was Emily's scent that she caught before returning to the exam room also helped her jangling nerves a bit. 

"So," Angela asked as Lena sat back down, "would you prefer to change before we do the blood draw, or after?"  

"I'm not really a big fan of needles," Lena admitted as her ears flattened again, "might as well get it over with and then I can get into the gown, I guess." 

Angela was clearly a well practiced phlebotomist, but Lena's tail still whapped hard against her back at the pinch of the needle, and she did her best to look anywhere but at her arm while the doctor drew several vacuum tubes of her blood. 

"There," Angela reassured her as she drew the needle out and placed a piece of gauze over the site where she'd inserted the needle, "hold that in place for a minute, please, and I'll step outside. Just open the door and pop your head out when you've changed into the gown." 

Once she'd changed into the backless gown Lena had to admit her tail felt better being able to move around without hitting the waistband of her jeans. Maybe she'd have to consider a few skirts like Emily had been wearing. Or see if she could get tights that were cut low enough to be tolerable. 

"For the next part," Angela explained once she'd come back in, "I need to examine the scar from the bite that turned you. I'll also need to take some measurements and a picture or two, if that is all right. It might help to find who was responsible, eventually." 

"Right." Lena laid down on her belly, the paper cover of the exam table crackling as she shifted her weight. 

She heard the sound of the doctor snapping on a pair of latex gloves, and a moment later felt her fingers carefully tracing the edges of the raised scar.  "That looks like it went quite deep." 

"48 stitches," Lena confirmed, "but I didn't get a drop of blood on the mail. Still proud of that."  

"Oh, you're a letter carrier?"  

"Best and most trusted," Lena confirmed with a smile, "coming up on five years in." 

"That's lovely." Angela finished taking notes, then lightly tapped Lena's leg. "Could I have you roll onto your hip, facing away from me, so I can get a good picture of the bite?" 

Lena complied, and a few moments later she heard the sound of pictures being snapped.  

"While you're on your side, do you mind if I do a few other tests that will be a bit easier in that position? I'd like to check your tail and listen a bit closer to your heart."  

Lena shrugged. "Seems fine to me."  

"Good. We'll start with your heart, then. Just try to breathe normally, and when I ask you to hold your breath, please hold still." The cold metal of the stethoscope made her want to jump a little, but Lena did as instructed, and after a minute or so Angela had stepped back. "Thank you, Lena. Just try to relax and breathe normally - we're almost done."  

Lena nodded, closing her eyes as she felt Angela's gloved fingers run along her tail, then gently began to test where it had grown from the base of her spine.  

"Is that tender?"  

"A little," Lena admitted, "I figured it was because it popped out the way it did." 

Angela gave a noncommittal hum, and Lena heard her writing a few more notes. "Speaking of which," Angela asked, "I am assuming that since you said you have difficulty controlling your changes, you are not able to assume your wolf form at will?" 

"Yeah," Lena admitted "I know I did once or twice on accident – woke up that way once and scared the hell out of myself because I thought I couldn't get back." 

Angela nodded. "I won't ask you to try, then. We can do some of the specific examinations for your other forms at another time." Settling down on her stool, she rested the clipboard with Lena's chart against her leg. "I just have a few last general health questions." 

Lena nodded. "Sounds good to me." 

Angela cleared her throat. "I take it from the joke you made earlier that you are sexually active?" 

Lena blushed despite herself. "Yeah. Well. Generally. Emily and I haven't... uh... not yet." 

"I see." Angela kept her voice carefully clinical. "Have you had any other partners recently?"  

"Last girlfriend and I broke up about two months before I got bitten. No one else before Emily and I started to date." 

"Last STD test?" 

"Had one done after Ginny and I broke up – I found out she'd been cheating, so better safe than sorry. Came back all clean." 

"Good to hear – well, about the test results, at least." She checked another box on her paperwork."When was the last time you gave your breasts a self exam?" 

Lena coughed. "Um. Define 'exam'." 

Angela gave her an unamused look. "Checking for a lump or abnormality, not for pleasure." 

"Um... few months ago, I think? But I have noticed that every time I woke up from the full moon I had to shave my armpits again. Along with... other... places." 

"You'll be delighted to hear that's normal for weres," Angela answered dryly, "and that's really all I'd prefer to discuss on that subject for now unless you're having any issues with yeast infections or other problems down there." 

"No," Lena shook her head, "nothing like that at all." 

Angela performed a brief but careful breast exam, then closed the folder with Lena's chart after making a last set of notes. "If you'd like to get dressed, Lena, I need to run some tests and then we'll be ready to discuss a few things. I do have some concerns I'd like to go over with you, but I'd like to have the bloodwork and urinalysis finished so we can go everything." 

"Sure." Lena hopped down, grabbing the pile of her clothes. "Would it be OK if Emily came back to wait with me?" 

Angela paused, then looked back with a guilty expression. "Actually, no. I'm afraid she can't. Not until you've both spoken to the police." 

Lena was so shocked she didn't even notice her ears and tail disappearing.  

"Excuse me, what?"

Chapter Text

Detective Chief Inspector Fareeha Amari was not having a good day. 

It had started well enough, but any time she got a call from Ange – from Doctor Ziegler's clinic, she knew she was in for a rough time.  

Her normal day job was no different than any other officer – though she might not wear the uniform as some of her coworkers due to the assignments she was given, she held the same responsibilities as they did – to keep the public safe and uphold the law. However, as a member of the Werepersons Special Branch and one of the liaisons between the wereperson and human societies, her jobs typically involved coverups. Bailing out a wereperson who got caught transforming. Making sure any witnesses signed the appropriate non-disclosure forms or were in some other way convinced they hadn't seen what they thought they had seen.  

But it wasn't always as easy as scrubbing a security camera's footage - other times she was called in for more serious offenses; someone using their wereself for breaking and entering or that incident last month were an entire butcher's shop was picked clean of meats (she had been forced to talk with several different alphas regarding that one - still no leads) but this call had topped anything she'd dealt with before. A turned were showing up at Angela Ziegler's clinic with a possible turner? This was no joke, and Fareeha decided for the moment she would be more concerned with gathering the facts and possibly comforting the newly turned werewolf – she could worry about the paperwork later. 

The clinic seemed closed from the outside – in fact there was even a sign in the door stating that it was closed for the rest of the day and to phone in to reschedule appointments. That didn't bode well – Angela never closed her clinic early. 

Despite all signs pointing to the contrary, Fareeha found the clinic's door was still unlocked and she let herself in. The secretary seemed to be finishing up with a phone call but waved the officer in and pointed down the hall before holding up three fingers to indicate which exam room they were in.  

Fareeha nodded her thanks and continued on down the hall – stopping just outside the indicated room.  

She raised her hand to knock when- 

"...Not until you've both spoken to the police." 

"Excuse me, what?" 

Ah, so she was right on time then. 


Tap. Tap-tap. Rap-tap-tap 

Angela blinked once in surprise at the sound while Lena hastily made sure her gown was tied up correctly and she was presentable.  

"Ah, that would be the officer now. I'll let you get dressed and send them in to speak with you in a few minutes." 

Lena frowned and opened her mouth to say something but Angela had already slipped out the door and was closing it behind her.  

Angela was careful not to let out a sigh of relief – she might get away with it for her human patients, but the weres she saw tended to have better hearing. She'd considered soundproofing her clinic better to avoid any issues with eavesdropping, but patients were often unnerved by the absolute silence a soundproofed room gave off.  Her compromise had been a white noise machine out in the waiting room that muffled any conversations even the most sensitive ears would be able to pick up.   

Despite not actually making a sound, the doctor did allow her persona to slip for just a moment as she pinched the bridge of her nose. Fareeha said nothing about it and soon Angela returned to business mode. With a nod the two walked a bit further down the hall and stepped into Angela's office – though they kept the door open. 

"Thank you for coming so quickly Fa- DCI Amari. The victim's name is Lena Oxton – age twenty six. I'm still waiting on her blood and urine results, but there is no indication that she is Feral. Quite the opposite - but she's dangerously underfed for a younger werewolf, and there's several indications of severe anemia. From what I was told by Emily, Lena was a vegetarian before she was bitten and because she'd had no help adjusting until Emily found her..." 

Fareeha held up a hand. "Wait - Emily? As in Emily Oakley? The pub owner?" 

Angela nodded, "When she informed me of the situation I placed her into the nurse's lounge and locked her in with my master key. There's a security camera in there but no audio, and I can provide you with a copy if you need it. I know this can be seen as a matter of conflict of interest – not just for me but for you as well – so I'm doing everything by the book." 

Fareeha nodded and after a few more minutes she'd been caught up on the situation as Angela knew it... at least as much information as pertained to the case in question. "Alright, I'm going to go speak with the victim – I've already called the council and informed them we will be there later this evening, so please don't go anywhere. It's going to be a long day." 

Angela sighed as she looked wistfully up to her office's ceiling. "So much for dinner tonight. I'll put some coffee on for us while you speak to Ms. Oxton." 

Fareeha gave her the briefest of smiles and murmured thanks before gathering up her professional dignity again, then returned to exam room 3 and opened the door after giving her customary knock.  

Lena Oxton was dressed in street clothes again and the gown she'd been wearing had been tossed haphazardly into a bin at the corner of the room. Sitting on the exam table with her legs dangling over the side, at the moment neither her tail nor her ears were out and Fareeha found herself scanning for any signs of physical injury despite Angela's report stating the contrary.  

"Ms. Oxton. My name is Fareeha Amari and I'm a detective with the Metropolitan Police." Fareeha paused long enough to offer her badge for Lena to examine if she wanted it, then went on. "Please understand you are safe here. Ms. Oakley is being kept in a separate room and is not able to hear or see anything you say or do. This conversation is strictly between you and me. If you do not feel you can verbally answer any of my questions, I will accept a shake or nod of the head as an indication of no or yes accordingly." 

Oxton blinked at her as if the well practiced routine had come out in pig latin. "Why is this a police matter? Emily just said I needed to see a doctor and get checked out!" 

Fareeha frowned as she pulled up the stool Angela normally used while speaking to patients, then sat down. "What, if anything, did Ms. Oakley share with you regarding persons such as yourself who are turned against their will?" 

Lena chewed on the corner of her lip for a moment before she answered. "She – Emily said it was rare, that it was criminal, but... wait! You think Em's the one who bit me?!" 

Fareeha nodded gravely as she took out her interview book and a pen from one of the pockets of her coat. "It's a very serious crime, Ms. Oxton, and I have to treat it as one. Ms. Oakley is the only were you've had contact with, correct?"  

Lena shrugged. "Well. Yes, I guess...the only person I now know was one, anyway." 

Fareeha made a few notes, then looked carefully into Lena's eyes before asking her next question. "Then I have to ask, has Emily Oakley been mistreating you?" 

The young werewolf stared at her as if she'd just grown another head before she began to shake her head vigorously back and forth. "...mistreating? Oh my god, absolutely not!" 

Internally, Fareeha gave a sigh of relief, but kept her poker face up. She had to do this clean, for both Emily and Lena's sake. "For the record – you are claiming Emily Oakley did not turn you against your will? That she has not prevented you from consuming the necessary sustenance to maintain not just your human – but your wolf and wereself forms?" 

"No! Em's been trying to get me to eat more meat...I didn't know! She...dammit!" Lena sighed, rubbing a hand across her face, obviously  overwhelmed at all this. "Look... can we start over? Please? I was turned the better part of a year before I met her, and the "dog" that bit me looked...nothing like her." 

Fareeha raised an eyebrow. "Then I take it you have seen her in her wolf form?" 

Lena frowned. "Wolf, no but I saw her as a werewolf? Er... her wereself last night? They can't look too different can they?" 

Fareeha offered no indication as to whether or not Lena was correct in her assumption. She couldn't. Tapping her pen against the edge of the notebook, she cleared her throat before going on. "Can you describe what Ms. Oakley's fur and her wereself look like, as you remember them, then describe the wolf that attacked you?" 

Lena sat back, scratching at the back of her head and looking towards the ceiling - obvious tells of trying to recall memories.  "Her fur is fine. Silky looking. I...really want to touch it again. I buggered that up a bit." She coughed, then looked back down. "It's kind of a rusty brown - darker than her hair, but still reddish. When she was her wereself...she's taller. Leaner. Muscular. Her face gets more angular, and her tail's got a lot of ..um....floofiness? Is that a word?" 

Fareeha just took notes with a raised eyebrow.  

Lena swallowed hard before she spoke again. "The one who bit me...I mostly saw it running away, but his tail was different." 

Fareeha clucked her tongue as she wrote that down. "You believe the wolf who bit you was a male?" 

Lena shrugged. "I don't know for sure, just kind of had that feeling thinking back." 

Fareeha gave a thoughtful 'hm', then moved on. "And the fur?"  

Lena frowned, tilting her head slightly. "Coarse looking. Lots of yellows and greys. Silver, I think, too. I thought he was a lab and husky mix, maybe, back when I thought he was a dog." 

Fareeha nodded - jotting down the descriptions and making a note to ensure anyone reviewing her case files would be able to clearly tell which description was for Emily and which was for the unknown turner.  

"I see." She finished writing, then flipped the notebook to the next page.  "You said it took 'the a better part of a year' before you met Emily. Between the time you were Turned and the time you met Emily Oakley, were you contacted by any other werepersons, or people who you now may suspect were werepersons?" 
 
Lena took some time to think about that one. Had she met anyone else that might have been her Turner? No, it wasn't likely. She'd spent so much time alone after she'd realized what was happening – she'd avoided her friends to the point where most of them had stopped bothering to contact her all together... then with the move...  

"I don't think so. I kept to myself a lot after I was bitten – I had some paid leave from the Royal Mail to recover from my injury, and the first full moon was only two days after the attack. I avoided almost everyone – only went out to work and moved to a different apartment about five months ago so I'd have one on the ground level... I didn't want to turn into a werewolf and crash through the floor into the flat beneath mine."  

The detective took notes as Lena went on and had her next question ready when Lena had finished her thoughts. "How did you come to meet Ms. Oakley?" 

Lena leaned back, her body language relaxing. "After I moved into my new flat, I spent my first two months trying to keep to myself – go to work, handle my mail route, pick up takeaway or grab groceries to cook dinner, then go home and watch movies. A lot of movies..." She sighed. "I was going stir crazy and I decided it might be good to figure out what was around my neighborhood when I wasn't being a werewolf. I walked around, checking out a few spots, and went into this pub..." 

Fareeha nodded. "That pub would be the establishment called 'The Howl'?" 

"Right." Lena smiled a little despite the situation. "So I sat down at a table, let a couple lads know I wasn't interested in that kind of company, and then a few minutes later this gorgeous bird came up to my table with a couple of pints and dropped the worst pickup line that I'd ever heard." 

"And that was Ms. Oakley?" 

Lena's smile widened. "Yeah. We got to talking, and next thing I knew it was chucking out time. We traded numbers, and she asked me if I'd like to have dinner sometime. That was three months ago. We started seriously dating after the first few weeks." 

Fareeha clucked her tongue. "In that time, you never had any idea she was a wereperson?" 

"None at all." Lena shook her head again. "Not until she finally talked me into going up to the cabin and she changed in front of me – god, was that just last night? Feels like it's been a week already." 

Fareeha let herself relax a little. "I certainly can appreciate that this is a lot of information for you to take on in a very short time." Standing, she flipped the notebook shut, sliding it into her pocket in one smooth motion. "I think that's all the questions I have for you right now, thank you. There's just one last thing." 

Lena cocked her head slightly. "Oh?" 

Fareeha took a DNA swab kit and an evidence bag from her coat. "I need to take a DNA sample from you, please." 

Lena shrugged. "The doctor – Angela – took one already, but sure. Especially if it will help clear Emily's name." 

Once she'd finished taking the sample and sealing the bag, Fareeha tucked it away in her coat for safekeeping. "I need to speak to Ms. Oakley, but I'll let the doctor know that I've finished with my questions, and she can get you something to drink or eat." 

Lena sat back up straight, grimacing as she looked down at her stomach. "Right...guess it has been a while since breakfast."  

Fareeha nodded. "I appreciate your cooperation, Ms. Oxton. I promise we'll try to get this handled quickly for you." She'd just put her hand on the doorknob when Lena spoke up again. 

"...Detective Amari? How much trouble is Emily really in, right now?" 

Fareeha needed a moment to school her expression into neutrality again, then turned just enough to look at Lena through the corner of her eye. "I'm afraid that's not for me to decide – but I promise that I will be providing a complete report, and that your testimony will be a major part of that." 

She couldn't bear to tell Lena that her girlfriend was technically facing capital crime charges at the moment. 


Emily had told herself that things would be fine. She understood why Angela had kept her separated from Lena and she knew she'd done nothing wrong, after all. But as a half hour turned into an hour, and an hour turned to two, she felt more and more like a woman standing at the foot of a mountain, watching an avalanche steadily grow as it descended on her.  

She tried reading the same four magazines over again, but it wasn't any good, and the various medical charts around the room were worse, really, because each spoke of ailments and conditions that her imagination began to apply to Lena.  

Heartworm. Kidney failure. Lung disorders. Cancers. Chronic malnourishment.  

Well. That last one was certainly true, wasn't it? 

Had she acted in time? Why hadn't she figured this out months ago? How much pain could Lena have been saved? How much trouble could have been prevented? How much of the rock slide that was threatening to crash down upon her was her own damned fault? 

Near the two and a half hour mark something caught her attention long enough for the whirling crippling storm of self doubt and hate to pause.  

Emily's body reacted to it first - ears turning to face the closed door - her nose twitching as a scent drifted through the air.  

Lena.  

The alpha nearly called out to her, stopping herself just in time and instead produced only a soft whine.  

The scent faded as suddenly as it had appeared, but it had help settle her more than she'd cared to admit. 

At some point Emily had begun worrying at her nails systematically chewing at each one before it snapped and she was able to tear it off... then moving on to the next one. The process continued until all her nails were little more than nubs... then, she'd shift halfway into her wolf form and back again – the nails fully grown back in and ready to be chewed off once more. The nail clippings were added to an ever-growing pile at the bottom of a trash bin nearby.  

A knock at the door brought her attention back to it and Fareeha let herself in a moment later, raising an eyebrow at the contents of the bin.  

"Bad day, Ms. Oakley?" 

Emily flushed with embarrassment. "...I'm very worried about Lena, Detective Amari." 

Fareeha pulled a chair over to sit down in front of her. "And what about yourself?" 

Emily shrugged, making a point not to look away from Fareeha's gaze. "I haven't done anything wrong, but... I keep wondering if I could have done something more.

Fareeha gave no response other than to pull out her notebook and flip to a blank page. 

"I have some questions for you." 

Emily nodded, and took a deep breath in to focus on Fareeha's scent. There were traces of Angela and Lena there, a result of Fareeha's recent proximity to the both of them, and it helped to ground her.  "Whatever you need to know, just ask." 

"When did you meet Ms. Oxton?" 

"A little over three months ago. She walked into The Howl on my night off. A friend of mine passed the word along that she was more interested in the fairer sex and... well. I thought she was rather cute so I brought over a round of what she was having and turned on the charm." 

Fareeha took the appropriate notes, but had to play this as carefully by the book as she could. "By The Howl, you mean the pub which you are the owner of?" 

"Yes, I am the owner and the manager. I work behind the bar most nights, and the nights I don't work I usually end up at the pub as a patron." 

Fareeha nodded and finished jotting down her notes before moving on. 

"Were you aware that she was a turned were and not born when you met her?" 

"No," Emily said with a shake of her head, "not even for a moment. She was different and I got a sense that she was a younger were than me but that was it." 

"Different in what sense?" 

"Well, for one – she didn't immediately try to hit on me, an eligible alpha in neutral territory, when she came into my pub. For another – she came around for the first time by herself on a new moon. Most weres don't like going out at all during a new moon – and those that do tend to meet up and visit were-friendly pubs as a group. She wasn't waiting for anyone and didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with being a single beta out and about on a new moon night. At the time I thought it was a show of incredible confidence – and that was rather sexy." 

Fareeha considered that, making another note on her pad. "When did you begin to suspect that wasn't the case?" 

Emily sat back as she considered her answer. "When she declined to come out with me on the first full moon after we started to date, I thought she was just taking it slow. When she made some of the most ridiculous excuses to avoid the second...that set off alarm bells. Especially when I realized she wasn't eating meat at all on our dates, and that she was trying to hide her ears from me. She answered the door with a dustbin on her head one night, and that made me decide I needed to try to find out more." 

Fareeha appeared to consider her follow up question. "On the issue of Ms. Oxton's diet – did you, at any point, attempt to deny her food?" 

"Absolutely not," Emily insisted flatly, "if anything quite the opposite. I asked on several occasions if she wanted to share my food on dates, especially if she mentioned feeling a bit hungry, but she declined. When we were finally able to hunt together, last night, I gave her my first kill and made sure she had eaten until she was completely full." 

Fareeha nodded. "When you convinced her to join you – I understand you asked her to visit a cabin out of town?" 

"Yes, it's on land my family gifted to me when I chose to leave home. I like to visit there for full moons whenever I can, and I suggested we go up for a weekend getaway to the countryside." 

Fareeha's eyes narrowed slightly, and Emily felt her gut clench, knowing before the police officer spoke what her next question would be. 

"Did you use your abilities as an alpha to make her agree to that trip?" 

Emily tried to keep her voice level and even. "No, I did not." 

"Did you influence her to follow you at any time?" 

Emily shook her head. "Nothing more than a human woman would to try to get a date. I bought her those drinks I mentioned, we texted a bit, Lena asked me out for dinner the next time she came into the pub, and that was that." 

Fareeha frowned. "She mentioned trying to avoid most social contact after her first change. Why did she ask you out on a date?" 

Emily blushed. "Well, we had a pretty nice time just talking, you know. I liked her energy, she has a beautiful laugh. I had the feeling she felt the same way by the time she had to head home to get some sleep. Beyond that...she might not have consciously known I was a were, or an alpha, but subconsciously I think she might have realized I was safe to spend time with." 

"After you discovered that she was..." Fareeha considered the way to phrase her question for a moment. "Ignorant of were society, what did you do?" 

"Went to check the registry," Emily answered, "visited the local council office and couldn't find any record of her, or of any weres meeting her description. That's when I started putting two and two together. I honestly didn't believe it at first. I thought maybe she'd somehow been misregistered, but eventually I began to realize what must have happened." 

Fareeha made a little 'hm' before making eye contact again. "Once you realized that she had been turned, did you inform anyone?" 

"No, I didn't," Emily didn't hesitate despite the fact that the words felt like they were driving nails into her coffin. 

Fareeha leaned forward. "You realize that you had an obligation to do so." 

"I know, yes." 

"So why did you fail to report all of this?" 

"Because she was terrified!" Emily regretted letting a little of her frustration and worry slip into her voice, but it was too late for that now. "I realized that Lena was desperately trying to hide her condition – prevent herself from harming anyone – and that she was scared. I've been dating her for several months and she still nearly lost it when I tried to explain that she wasn't alone, that there were others out there. I was afraid that if you, a group from the council, or anyone else descended onto her head out of the blue that she might die of fright – or that she'd panic and someone might get hurt." 

"So you were trying to ease her into things before bringing her here?" 

"I'd originally planned to take her to the council directly when we came back to the city, but when Lena revealed she'd been on her own for so long...I was stunned. I had to bring her here before I did anything else.  I'd seen that she looked underfed when she finally changed, but honestly it's a wonder she didn't die of starvation." She paused. "Did...did Dr. Ziegler happen to mention anything to you about how she's doing? Will she be all right?" 

"I can't disclose that." Fareeha's eyes seemed to have a bit of sympathy, but not much else. "Even if you weren't a suspect, Emily, that's privileged medical information." 

Emily sighed, leaning back against the wall. "Right. Sorry." 

Fareeha straightened back up, her professional mask slamming back down. "For the record - you are confirming that you determined that Lena Oxton was a turned were, and still chose not to inform anyone at the council?" 

Emily winced at the flat, hard tone in the detective's voice. "That is correct." 

Fareeha's voice seemed to grow even colder. "How long did you keep this information to yourself?" 

Emily looked away. "Turned Weres are rare, you know that, and for a were to be turned and abandoned, it's...it's so ludicrous. For a while after we met It didn't even occur to me that it might be possible that Lena was anything but a natural born werewolf.  Yes,  some things didn't add up, but I always assumed there was a reasonable explanation."  

Emily sighed, closing her eyes tightly for a moment as the image of Lena's wereself came to the forefront of her mind again. On her own for nearly a year... "I know now I should have listened to my instincts." 

Fareeha cleared her throat sharply. "Ms. Oakley - you haven't answered my question. How long did you know Lena Oxton was an unregistered were?" 

Emily swallowed hard and tried to force her doubts away. "Two weeks. I finally realized it two weeks ago. I checked four different council registries, and when her name wasn't in any of them...that's when I knew." 

"I see." Fareeha made another note on her pad, then stood. "I have to report this. I have to report all of this. Do you understand what I am saying?" 

Emily nodded. "I do. I'm aware there will be consequences for my actions. But if it saves Lena's life...I will be able to live with that." 

Fareeha considered that, then nodded. "I'm going to speak to the doctor and then start making phone calls." 

Emily nodded. "Would it be possible for me to see Lena?" 

"I'll discuss it with the doctor." She paused. "Oh – one other thing. Did Angela take a cheek swab from you for DNA testing?" 

"Yes." 

"I'd like to take a second, so the council can do their own verification." 

Emily grimaced, but nodded and let Fareeha collect her evidence before the detective left the room.

Chapter Text

Lena had tried to wait patiently after the detective had left the exam room, but the look in her eyes when she'd asked how much trouble Emily was in had haunted her. It wasn't long before she started pacing, marking a tight loop from the cabinet of medical supplies at one side of the room to the far wall and back, occasionally alternating with a swing up to the door and back to the head of the exam table. 

She'd probably been going for a good ten minutes at least, when a knock at the door drew her attention. Stopping just past the exam table, she turned to face the door just as Dr. Ziegler stepped in with her chart. 

"Hello, Lena. I have your initial exam results. I'd like to go over a few things with you, and then I thought you might like something to eat." 

Lena hopped up on the exam table with a sigh. "Yeah, I guess I would. I suppose... Emily can't be here?" 

"She's still speaking to the detective, but once she's finished I will see what I can do, I promise." Angela sat down on her stool with an apologetic look. "I am sorry for not telling you I called the police, but I'm afraid I have a legal obligation to inform them – and the council – of any situations with someone who may have been turned against their will." 

Lena considered that, then nodded. "I get it. I've got some regs to follow at my job, too, if we suspect something. I'd be lying if I said I was happy, but I understand." 

Angela gave her a grateful smile. "Thank you. Since I'm one of the main were-friendly doctors in the area, I'd really prefer to not get off on the wrong foot with a potential patient." 

"Right." Lena coughed, trying to figure out a way to get things going again. "Um... so... I don't have worms, do I?" 

"No," Angela chuckled, "you are fine on that score, and your blood and urine show no signs of the factors that are often seen in Ferals, so I'm happy to tell you that is not an issue, either. But I am afraid there is some bad news." 

Lena ducked her head. "Yeah. My diet's been a problem, then?" 

"A very serious problem, I'm afraid. Your bloodwork and several other symptoms I observed indicate you're extremely anemic, and based on your numbers, I suspect your wereself is significantly underweight, even for a turned were who didn't have the same natural development curve as someone who was born with the were traits." Angela straightened up. "My greatest concern is that you have a slight heart murmur – that's not unusual in anemic patients, because your heart is being forced to work harder than it should. Correcting the anemia should bring everything back down to normal, but we want to keep it from becoming a more serious problem. Have you been experiencing any dizziness? Fainting? Chest pains?" 

Lena considered that, then shrugged. "I feel a bit dizzy when the full moon has forced me to change, but I think that's partly because I was fighting it. I usually blacked out as I changed and didn't remember much of anything else until I woke the next morning. No chest pains, though." 

Angela made a few notes on the chart. "Good. Any shortness of breath?" 

"No." Lena frowned. "So... What do I need to do to make sure this doesn't get any worse?" 

"I'm going to write you a prescription for iron supplements – 28mg a day. We normally use them for women suffering severe iron deficiency due to pregnancy, and your current symptoms are not so different. Beyond that the biggest thing that I have to emphasize is your diet." Angela seemed to consider what to say next. "Were you maintaining a vegetarian diet for religious or ideological reasons? There's nothing in your medical history or results that indicated a need to avoid animal protein." 

Lena shook her head. "Grew up without a lot of money. Didn't have much when I first started out on my own, either. Going veg was cheap and pretty easy for me, and I honestly enjoyed it. Especially the more I learned to cook for myself. I'll eat eggs and dairy, still, and fish on occasion but it was just... simpler. Until now." 

The doctor nodded thoughtfully. "Well. In your case, then, I would recommend starting slow – introduce more fish, followed by white meat – poultry or pork, your preference. Once you are comfortable with that, I recognize that beef is not the cheapest protein in this country, but lamb is an excellent source of iron and vitamin B12. Ideally you should be eating three to four pounds of animal protein daily, and as much game meat as you can catch on nights where you do shift into your were or wolf forms." 

Lena whistled. "'Cor... that's a lot."  

Angela smiled. "Don't feel like you need to start trying to consume that much tomorrow. Just start with a bit here and there, and work your way up. Now, with that said..." She reached into her lab coat, and pulled out a takeaway menu from a deli that Lena had noticed on their way into the clinic. "What would you like for lunch?" 

---- 

Emily had kept herself from chewing any more of her nails after Fareeha had left the nurses' lounge and locked her back in, but it was a near thing. She knew she'd pushed things by not immediately notifying the council about Lena, but having her nose rubbed in it wasn't terribly pleasant. 

She'd just about run her mind in a full circle around the decisions she'd made, trying to figure out if she really could have done anything differently, and reluctantly concluded that no, she couldn't have. Not without the benefit of hindsight, at least. 

Sighing, she wondered if the magazines would be any more interesting if she tried to read one for the eighth time when she heard the sound of a key in the door's lock. In that same moment, she realized that Lena's scent had become stronger, and she was on her feet and trying to look like a bit less of a mess when the door opened and Angela came inside with Lena, who was looking concerned, her eyes locking onto Emily as soon as she entered. 

Emily wasn't quite sure what to say, so she settled for a little wave, and Lena crossed her arms over her chest.  

"Emily." 

Emily could feel her tail flatten. Beta or not, Lena could glower with the best of them. Oh shit.  

Lena ignored Angela, who was now watching them with raised eyebrows, boring into her girlfriend's eyes. "Is there a reason why you didn't tell me you would be held as a suspect for bringing me to the doctors?!" 

Emily coughed. Right. "Well. For one, the fact that I'm innocent?" 

Lena frowned, but before she could object, Emily held up a hand to stop her, thinking for a moment before giving a more serious explanation. 

"If I had told you and you had already worked out what to say, it might have convinced the police that we'd worked things out in advance, which would have been worse. Better to just wait, and give genuine answers." 

Lena let her hands fall down to her sides. "When you put it like that... yeah. I can see that." She let her expression soften, the worry she'd been hiding coming into her eyes, and Emily wasn't sure if Lena crossed the room to hug her, or if she had met Lena in the middle, but they held each other tight, Emily burying her face in Lena's hair. 

"New rule," Lena murmured softly, "if you might get arrested, will you please tell me from now on?"  

Emily laughed, and gently raised Lena's chin before coming in for a gentle kiss. "OK, pup. I think I can manage that." She paused, then looked more seriously into Lena's eyes. "Though on that subject... the council." 

Lena's eyebrows rose. "Yeah?" 

Emily stepped back, gesturing towards the table, and they sat down before she continued her explanation. "You're going to be given some gentle handling. I'm probably not." 

Lena frowned. "Why? All you did was try to help me!" 

Emily sighed, grateful that Angela was keeping her own counsel for the moment. "The problem is that I didn't tell the council about you straight away once I realized you'd been turned, and that... bent the rules a bit." 

Lena's eyes flashed, her mouth settling into a frown again. "Bent." 

Emily nodded, looking up towards the ceiling. "You're supposed to report a suspected turned were immediately. But I realized that would have just scared the life out of you, and I didn't want to make it worse." 

Lena sighed as she sat back in the chair. "So... what exactly will happen?" 

"Honestly? I'm not entirely sure," Emily admitted, "this whole situation is unusual. I couldn't even find a case where someone had just...turned up like this in the last hundred years. I'll likely be called up to explain myself and my actions. If I was a member of a pack, the pack's leader would probably be called in and say a few words as well in my defense... but since I'm a disperser, and especially since I'm an alpha, my actions are my own." 

"So..." Lena leaned in slightly, her eyes filling with concern. "What's the worst thing that can happen?" 

"Well," Emily coughed, "if they couldn't prove that I wasn't the one who turned you? Death. Or worse, if I ran I'd be listed as a Feral and hunted down." She reached out to lightly stroke Lena's hand reassuringly. "Fortunately we both know I'm innocent. Angela's tests and Fareeha's DNA results will support that..." 

Lena raised an eyebrow. "You know the detective?" 

"She's not a were, but because of the work she does we're fairly familiar with each other. I'd swear she's been at the pub on a night where you visited, but you may not have noticed each other." 

Lena shrugged, and a moment later Angela's phone buzzed, grabbing their attention. 

"Ah!" Angela stood with a smile as she checked the message. "Lunch has arrived. I'll be back in a moment."  

Lena gave her a careful look as the doctor left. "OK. Seriously. Are you alright, luv?" 

"I will be," Emily promised, "especially once you're feeling better." 

"I have to start taking supplements," Lena admitted, "and... you were right about the meat, I guess." 

Emily nodded, then raised an eyebrow when Angela returned with a bag from the corner deli, pulling out sandwiches, bags of crisps, and bottles of water.  

"I hope you don't mind that Lena picked out a meal for you?" 

Emily smiled. "Not at all." Sniffing at the wrapped package, she opened it with a smile to find a roasted chicken sandwich. "Looks lovely, actually." Looking over, she raised an eyebrow at the pink flesh poking out from beneath the thick roll as Lena unwrapped her own meal, feeling just a bit of hope rising in her as she glanced from Lena to Angela. "Salmon?" 

"First of all luv, I've always eaten fish," Lena began, then gave her a wicked little smile, "I'm especially found of clams."  

Emily felt her cheeks warm, while Angela snorted and rolled her eyes before unwrapping her own meal (pastrami, by the looks of it.) 

Lena winked at her, then grew a bit more sincere. "It's baby steps. But it's a good a place to start as any." 

Angela nodded with approval as Lena took a healthy bite of the sandwich, then looked over to Emily. "Just to ease your mind a bit, Emily, Lena needs to address her diet and work to improve a few things, but I believe she'll be able to make a full recovery in the next few months as long as she sticks to the regimen I've prescribed. No permanent harm done." 

Emily gave the doctor a relieved smile, then picked up her own food. Now that her stomach wasn't twisting itself into knots, she was more aware of her stomach rumbling in hunger. 

They kept the conversation carefully light as they ate – Angela asking after a few mutual friends, Emily asking Lena if she'd like to go back up to the cabin and try things again in a few weeks, Lena telling a few amusing stories from various misadventures she'd had on her mail routes. She had just finished telling a very amusing story about a fellow letter carrier and a parrot when Fareeha appeared outside the lounge, rapping her knuckles against the open doorway.  

"I've finished giving my initial reports to the council. They'd like to see both of you – tonight." 

Emily looked over to Lena, gave her a brave smile, then took a deep breath and stood up. "I suppose it's just as well to get it over with." 

Fareeha took a length of brilliant white cotton rope from her coat. "I've been asked to bind your hands. You'll ride with me, and Ang... Dr. Ziegler can bring Ms. Oxton with her and follow me over." 

Emily raised her hands together, refusing to flinch as her hands were bound. The rope was wrapped around both wrists several times, then across the bight of the "cuffs" before being tied off in a firm knot. If she'd needed to, she could easily have broken free, but that wasn't the point. This wasn't a matter of strength or binding so much as it was of formality. So she would accept the symbolic restraint, and prepare to argue for Lena – and herself – in front of the council. 

Chapter Text

If there was one thing Emily knew for certain, it was that Lena Oxton was a truly remarkable woman. She had known it from the moment she had laid eyes on the beta alone at her pub on a night of a new moon. Honestly, even if it hadn't been for the reasons she'd originally thought, it was still one of the sexiest things Emily could think of. In the three month's they had been dating, Lena had shown her time and time again just how incredible and unpredictable she could be. Sometimes it was little things, a spontaneous kiss to the back of her hand when they went out, and other times it was big – like learning she had survived for over a year on her own as a turned werewolf.  

Emily had been worried that after everything they'd gone through, Lena might start having second thoughts about being together with her. She hadn't exactly lied to Lena when she brought her to see Angela – but she hadn't been up front with her either. Lena had been justifiably upset with her. Even though Lena had said she'd understood the reasons behind her actions, Emily had still felt a lingering fear that she'd permanently damaged their fledgling relationship – maybe even ended it. 

Fortunately, Lena had been able to take care of those doubts. 

Once they'd finished eating and all of the test results were completed and filed it was time for them to head for the council. Fareeha had been kind enough to drape a spare lab coat over her hands so that the rope binding them together wasn't immediately obvious as they left the clinic, Angela had locked up and they'd walked to the detective's car when Lena came up to speak with Fareeha. 

"Detective Amari?" 

"Yes?" 

"I need to do one thing before I'm ready to go." 

"Of course, what is it?" 

Before Emily knew what was happening Lena appeared in front of her with a smirk on her face, one that the alpha had already learned meant she better be ready for anything. She barely had a moment to process that thought before Lena's lips crashed against her own and strong hands came to rest at her hip and the small of her back to steady her.  

Then the world spun sideways as Lena turned her into a quick dip and deepened the kiss, swallowing her surprised gasp.  

Just as quickly as it had started it was over – Lena righting Emily and making sure she was steady before letting her go. 

Lena turned her attention back to the detective and the doctor with a grin, who were both standing there with matching expressions of surprise on their faces.  

"Well then, let's get going shall we?" 

Emily spent the car ride in a pleasant daze. The heat of the kiss and the warmth it had kindled inside of her had boosted Emily's flagging spirits, and she had found herself sinking into thoughts of the way Lena had looked at her, that cocky little smile she'd given, and that surprising moment of realization that she'd actually enjoyed feeling just a little helpless in her arms. She'd been embarrassed, but... that hadn't been so bad either, had it?  

"Ms. Oakley?" 

Fareeha's voice shook Emily from her thoughts and she suddenly realized they were nearly at their destination.  

The office building didn't look all that special, but that was mostly the point. It was easier to hide in plain sight than it was to try and come up with excuses to continue to use the ancient castles that were now often inconvenient for weres to visit and all too often crawling with tourists.  

"Yes?" 

"I just want you to know that once we get inside you will likely be handed off to the council's security detail..." Fareeha paused as she pulled into one of the visitor parking spaces near the door, Angela's white VW Beetle pulling up beside them. 

"...and I can't guarantee they will handle things with as much respect as I've been giving you."  

Emily nodded. "I understand. Thank you. I'll... try to be on my best behavior." 

Fareeha exited the vehicle and came around the front of the car to help Emily out and situate the lab coat over her bound hands before Angela called out to get their attention. 

"Detective Amari?" 

"Yes, Doctor?" 

"Do you happen to have your hat with you?" 

"Of course I do but why-" 

"Lena could use one." 

"Ah, of course – does she need anything else?" 

"No no, just the hat for now, though I'd suggest we hurry up and go in just to be on the safe side." 

If Emily wasn't about to walk into a trial – she'd have enjoyed the sight of Lena wearing Fareeha's hat. It was easily two sizes too big and kept slipping down over her eyes, but it covered her ears enough so as not to raise suspicion as they walked to the safety of the building.  

As they entered the office building's lobby, Emily's attention was drawn to the tall woman in a charcoal grey suit-skirt and narrow glasses who waited for them, her light brown hair pulled back into a ponytail aside from two long fetlocks that framed the sides of her face. 

"Brigitte," Emily greeted her with a weak smile, "haven't seen you down at the pub for a bit."  

"Ms. Oakley," Brigitte replied with a curt nod as two uniformed security guards came up to flank her, "I'll need you to please refrain from speaking until called upon, please."  

Emily grimaced, but nodded. 

Fareeha's gentle but firm hand on her shoulder was replaced by the guards larger hands gripping her on each bicep. 

"DCI Amari, Doctor Ziegler, I need you to scan your IDs," Brigitte continued before turning her attention to Lena, "Miss... Oxton I'm afraid you will have to be searched by our security before we take you before the council. If you would just step this way..." 

Lena shuffled forward and gave Emily a concerned look, but she tried to smile confidently back to her. It's fine, I'll be OK. Go on... 

The security guards waited until Lena's back was turned and Brigitte was offering easy explanations for how the female security guard would be patting her down before moving Emily silently through the lobby, down the hall, and into a nearby room where she was thoroughly searched and then told to wait for her summons. 

A quarter of an hour passed before Brigitte reappeared and the two security guards whom had been her silent shadows since she arrived escorted her to her final destination. 

Emily had visited the council building a few times since she'd moved to London, but this was her first time entering the Council's main conference room – and though her first thought was to find Lena, her second was that the room was huge.  

As the room was nearly empty, Lena was not that difficult to spot seated between Fareeha and Angela along the opposite wall and to her left. Their eyes met and Emily watched as the tension in Lena's shoulders lessened just a bit. The knowledge that her mere presence was enough to put the smaller woman at ease made Emily smile – but the joy was short lived as she was made to move further into the room where a peculiar looking table was situated.   

It reminded her strongly of a bar counter, if she was being honest, only instead of being set as a rectangle, this had been shaped into a what would have been a perfect circle if not for two gaps which left one small section detached from the rest. 

Emily was lead to the side of the room and offered a chair, the guards standing on either side of her, while Brigette settled into a chair near the "bottom" of the circular table, opening up a laptop so she could record the minutes of what was about to take place. For a moment the room was still and silent, but then at some unseen cue a door that lead deeper into the building opened.  

At first glance the men and women who entered looked like the sort of group who might attend a board meeting or some company's conference of senior management, but the illusion dissipated rapidly when you had a closer look. 

Many had long healed but still visible scars in one form or another. One had an obviously blinded eye, and the other wore an eyepatch. Even though they were all dressed in sober business attire of one form or another, something in the way each of them looked around the room gave them an air of power and the sense that they'd fought many battles in the past to reach their position – and in Emily's current mood, that brought more than a touch of danger to the procedings. 

Five went to seats at the "top" of the round table, evenly spaced around the largest and oldest member of the council for this impromptu meeting, while the sixth, a woman in an elegant dress and hijab, settled herself in the small wedge between the two gaps in the ring, picking up a steaming cup of tea that had been left on a saucer for her and taking a brief sip before the eldest rose to his feet to open the meeting. 

"I am Reinhardt Wilhelm, alpha and elder of Beowulfsohn. As the eldest member of the council able to be present," the massive man announced formally, "I am calling this meeting of the Council of Londinium to order. Given the... unusual situation, I think it would be best for us to introduce ourselves for the benefit of our guests, and then dispense with the usual formalities and get to business." 

"David Lewis, alpha of Ashlynfang.

"Aisla Carter, omega and elder of Brydnenbrooke." 

"Sunil Gowda, alpha of Stoneclaw.

"Euan Saunders, alpha of Irontooth.

"And of course," Reinhardt gestured to the woman at the isolated seat, "our distinguished guest and observer." Taking his seat, he swept the room with his one good eye, his face set in a formal mask despite his earlier words.  

Emily had met Reinhardt before – he'd visited the Howl on a few different occasions, especially when it had first opened to get a sense of the young woman running the pub, but he'd always had a cheerful, grandfatherly aspect to him then. A mobile face that grinned easily and quick to laughter – a bearing that despite his age and obvious power, could put you at ease. 

There was nothing of that in how he presented himself now.  

"We have been assembled to address a serious matter and grave injustice – a wolf turned against her will." He spared a quick glance down at a sheet of paper that had been placed at his seat, then focused his attention to where Lena had been asked to wait. "Lena Oxton, please come forward and present yourself to this Council." 

Lena stood a bit hesitantly, looking over to meet Emily's eyes, and she tried to offer an encouraging smile without getting either of them into further trouble. Go on, love. You can do this. 

She seemed to get the message and walked into the circle through the nearer of the two openings, coming into something like a loose attention. "I'm Lena Oxton." 

Reinhardt nodded, his voice softening. "Good evening. So – as we understand the matter, you were turned over a year ago, is that correct?" 

Lena nodded, and began to retell the story of what had happened to her, occasionally being stopped by the councilors to see if she could recall additional details or elaborate on her attempts to stay hidden – and Emily noticed more than a few of the questions for Lena were pointed towards finding out details of the were who turned her, with several of the councilors casting suspicious looks over to where she sat. 

When she had finished, leaving off just before she had come into the Howl for the first time,  Lena swallowed and took a half step back, waiting to see what happened next. 

The councilors drew together to speak for a moment, then Reinhardt rose again. 

"Ms. Oxton, you have had your life forever altered by one of our kind. It was not of your choosing, and it was done in a way that violated human laws and our own. For that, you have our sincerest apologies. To turn you and leave you ignorant of the society you are now a part of was doubly cruel, and cowardly."  

Lena shifted on her feet, slightly uncertain, and Reinhardt gave her a sympathetic look.  

"I fear that what has been done may not be undone – but we may at least try to give you a chance to understand who and what you are, now, and to help you adjust to your new life. Before we continue I must ask – does anyone know of your changed nature?" 

Lena shook her head, "No, at least I don't think so? I haven't told anyone and I've done my best to keep it hidden..." 

Reinhardt nodded. "The process for most werepersons to be permitted to inform a non-were of our world is traditionally lengthy – and most requests are denied. However, considering your circumstances the council is willing to accommodate any family you wish inform." 

"That's very considerate of you sir, but...there's no one to tell. I'm an orphan, I grew up in the foster care system and have been living on my own since I turned sixteen." Lena shifted a bit uncomfortably after that admission, and Emily gave her a sympathetic look. She knew Lena was not ashamed about the lot she'd been given in life. Rather, she'd explained on the night where she'd told Emily about her past, she disliked the way people tended to treat her if they found out that she had grown up without parents. Most looked at her with something like pity mixed with sympathy – and Lena neither asked for or wanted either, particularly from strangers. 

Reinhardt considered that information for a moment, then nodded. "That will make the proceedings go smoother – but please let us know at once if you change your mind in the future." Sitting back, his voice took on a slightly more businesslike tone. Now – we will be registering you properly tonight, and the council will make arrangements to compensate you for your experiences and to provide you with a proper education in your new life as a were."  

Lena blinked a few times as she tried to process Reinhardt's unusual reaction and all of the information he'd given her before she finally spoke. "Ah...thank you?" 

"It is the least we can do," Reinhardt assured her, "Brigette will take you outside for a few minutes to get pictures of your human appearance, and we will document your wolf form as well for the registry while you are here." 

Lena paled slightly, and Emily realized instantly that Lena wasn't sure she could actually shift herself into that form – and didn't feel she could object. 

"Wait!"  

Emily stood as every eye in the room turned to her, and swallowed hard to keep herself from fidgeting under their scrutiny – the Irontooth alpha in particular glared daggers at her for speaking out of turn. Both security guards clamped their hands on her shoulders, but she held her ground even as they attempted to push her back into the chair. "I claim my right as an alpha of the Wodewose pack to speak to the Eldest of the Council."  

Reinhardt raised an eyebrow, making a little gesture to the guards so they would release her. "You are under suspicion for a serious crime, alpha of Wodewose. You may not invoke that right simply to speak out of turn in your own defense."  

Emily shook her head. "I don't intend to, Eldest. I am speaking for her." 

That got looks of confusion or annoyance from most of the council, while Reinhardt raised a hand to stroke his beard. "You speak for her when she is not of your pack, then? That is...highly unusual."  

Emily couldn't resist the urge to laugh darkly. "It's been an unusual day." 

That got an amused snort from the 'observer', who hid her expression behind her teacup, and Reinhardt's eyes twinkled for just a moment before he became serious again. "I suppose it has. Speak for her, then."  

Emily gave Lena an apologetic look before she turned back to the council. "Lena does not yet have the control to change her form on her own. She..."  

The elder wolf held up his hand to stop her.  "I believe I understand. Ms Oxton... may I call you Lena?"  

Lena looked completely gobsmacked, but she straightened up to attention once again. "Yes, that's fine...ah...sir? Elder...est?" 

Reinhardt allowed himself to smile at her again. "Sir is fine, if you're more comfortable using it. Has anyone explained that alpha weres can call to your inner wolf? To command in battle or in the hunt?"  

Lena tilted her head slightly. "Oh. Yes. Em... Ms. Oakley did explain that."  

That answer drew more glares, but Emily did her best to act as if she hadn't noticed them, and Reinhardt simply chose to focus on Lena. "I can aid you in changing your form, using my Voice, but I would like your consent before I do so." 

Lena considered that, then glanced over to where Emily was standing before turning back to face the elder, her jaw setting with determination.  

"I'll consent - but only on one condition."  

Several of the elders drew back slightly at the sheer gall of Lena's actions, but Reinhardt just raised an eyebrow and leaned forward slightly. "You are not really in a position to make demands, little one." 

Lena didn't flinch before the elder's gaze, despite her earlier nervousness. "I think I am."  

It would have been hard to miss, but the old wolf smiled just slightly for a moment, then sat back, his amusement back behind a glowering mask. "Then what, exactly, would your condition be?"  

"You can make me change - but only if Emily is permitted to stand with me." 

Emily took a sharp breath. Lena, you are playing with fire. The councilors that had already been glaring at her now looked ready to snap Lena's head clean off if she stepped any further out of line, and Emily noticed Reinhardt's gaze flick over to where she stood, his normally expressive face becoming completely unreadable.  

"That is a very unorthodox request, given she is still under the suspicion of this council."  

Lena's ears flattened, but she didn't back down. "You've made it clear I'm a very unorthodox werewolf."  

The other councilors left their chairs and began to murmur in harsh whispers - very clearly against the idea - until everyone's attention was grabbed by a sharp laugh from the back of the room.  

Everyone's eyes were drawn back to the older woman sitting at the "bottom" seat of the table, who took a slow sip from her cup of tea before setting it down on her saucer. Giving the councilors a baleful glare from her visible eye, she spoke for the first time since the proceedings had begun. "Is this council truly so afraid of a half starved whelp and a bitch not even half their age that it needs to debate this? I thought you were supposed to be the wolves of this city, not a pack of toothless old hounds."  

Emily could feel the color draining from her face at those words - fights had started in the pub over far less – and from the corner of her eye she noticed Detective Amari grimace and put a hand to her head as though she'd just developed a splitting headache.  

Reinhardt gave her a stricken look. "An..." He coughed, as if catching himself in a mistake, then straightened up. "Ah - that is to say, you are a guest here, sayidaty. We welcome your input, but please do try to be mindful of decorum." 

She smiled sharply in response, her voice ringing with deadly politeness. "Oh, I'm sure I am." 

The room grew silent for a long moment, and Emily began considering how she might get to Lena to help protect her if a brawl did break out. 

The silence dragged on until one by one the councilors nodded to Reinhardt and returned to their seats, glaring daggers at their "guest" for her well calculated insult. 

"Your condition," Reinhardt noted with a faint tone of approval, "is accepted. If you will go outside and allow Brigette to take your picture, we will have Ms. Oakley's hands unbound so that she may join you when you return."  

Lena sagged slightly with relief, giving Emily a grin before she and Brigette left the room.  

Reinhardt nodded as the guards freed her, then left his place at the table so he could escort her over to the circle, where she could wait for Lena to rejoin her. "That was well done on both of your parts," he murmured to her as they walked over, "but I would suggest you have a care to avoid any more interruptions?" 

Emily nodded her understanding, and received a light pat on her shoulder before Reinhardt returned to his place, with Lena and Brigette returning from outside a moment later.  

Emily lifted her hands to demonstrate to Lena that she'd had the ropes removed, and Lena visibly relaxed as she came back into the circle to join her, meeting Emily's gaze for a long moment with an obvious question in her eyes. 

Are you OK? 

Emily smiled slightly to her, nodding, her reply just as clear. 

I am now. 

Lena squared her shoulders and looked back to the council,  Reinhardt and the woman seated to his right both giving them carefully appraising looks. "Right. So... wolf... right. Ah... may I ask one other question?"  

Reinhardt raised an eyebrow. "Yes, Lena...?" 

Lena's ears drooped slightly. "Is there anywhere I could get undressed first? I'd rather not ruin my favorite pair of jeans - again."  

Reinhardt blinked in confusion, obviously surprised by her request. "Ah... not precisely..."  

Emily saw Lena's ears flatten at the prospect of stripping in front of at least six total strangers, and decided it was worth one more gamble. "I think I can help with a solution to this problem. If I may...?"  

From the look in Reinhardt's eye, he'd caught the way Lena's ears had bounced back up when Emily had spoken, too.  

"Please do, Ms. Oakley."  

Emily reached out to give Lena's hand a quick squeeze, then stepped forward. "Eldest, may I please ask to borrow your jacket?" 

Reinhardt cocked his head slightly at the seeming non sequitur, then gave a soft 'ah!' of realization and stood so he could slip off his suit coat and hand it over.  

Once Emily stretched out the arms of the broad garment, it was almost like a changing room's curtain, and Lena relaxed as Emily positioned herself between Lena and the assembled council members.  

Lena gave her a grateful look, then began to unbuckle her belt and push down her jeans. "The doc already saw it all, I suppose..." 

Rather then watch her girlfriend undress, Emily turned her attention to the others in the room who were still in a position to see Lena in her birthday suit.  

Perhaps she came off as a bit challenging - at the very least Emily knew she was being protective... but she was relieved and grateful that each one of them seemed to be otherwise content to busy themselves with something. 

Brigitte appeared to be looking over the minutes on her laptop - likely ensuring everything was correct. The 'observer' was inspecting her tea cup as if she would suddenly find a flaw, and Fareeha had simply leaned back against the back wall and closed her eyes until it was safe for her to open them again. 

The only one watching Lena intently was Angela - but she had her doctor face on and Emily couldn't fault her for wanting to observe her new patient as much as possible.  

Once Lena was completely undressed, Angela helpfully stepped in to collect all of Lena's clothes, placing them on one of the empty chairs next to her so they would be kept out of the way.  

"Right." Lena took a deep breath, then looked around Emily's shoulder to make eye contact with the elder Alpha. "I suppose that I'm ready...Eldest." 

Reinhardt offered a kind smile. "Brave girl." Standing to his full height, he leveled his gaze on Lena and seemed to expand slightly before he spoke in a deep, resonating voice full of the authority of an elder alpha who had seen many, many years. 

"Take the form of the beast within you!" 

Lena stiffened, her eyes widening before she dropped to all fours, her mouth opening in a cry of surprise that turned to a young wolf's brief yip as she transformed herself at Reinhardt's command. 

What should have been something wonderful - exciting, even, since it was the first time Emily had ever seen Lena in her wolf form instead of human or wereself - quickly became shocking. Even without Lena actively fighting her body's urge to change, it was clearly a much more painful process than it should have been for her. When the young brown furred wolf took slow, uncertain steps around the border of the jacket for the first time, it became all too obvious how unhealthy Lena truly was.  

Her coat was dull and sported several tangled, matted areas, gums a pale pink instead of healthy red, and the edges of Lena's ribs clearly visible on her sides. As the assembled weres got a good look at her, the mood in the council room abruptly shifted, murmurs of concern and gaps of shock rising from around the room.  

Lena gave a soft, nervous whine as looked around the room, and Emily was seized by a powerful urge to hold her, to shelter her, and to make her know that she was safe and would be alright. When Emily glanced back for a moment, she was not surprised to see a look of sorrow in Reinhardt's eye, and she could hear Brigette fidgeting in her chair off to the side, the omega almost certainly seized with an urge to help the obviously struggling pup. 

Dropping to one knee, she let the suit jacket fall to the floor and gently ran a hand over Lena's back, lightly scratching against the coarse fur. "Shh. Easy, pup. I'm right here, ok?" Lena's bright blue eyes focused on her, and her tail gave a little twitch.  

"There," Emily cooed as she started to scratch lightly against Lena's ears, "that's it, just relax. Look at me, love. We'll take care of this, get you some more to eat, and we're going to make sure you get better, I swear..." She knew they were surrounded by the council and that her fate was still in their hands, but she couldn't let herself think of anything but the best outcome right now - take those positive thoughts and make sure to project that same confidence while Lena needed it from her. "You are going to be so beautiful..." 

Distantly Emily was aware Angela had spoken something - and that Reinhardt had said something to her in return. She couldn't spare the effort to follow along when all of her attention was already focused on the still shivering wolf before her.  

"I've got you Lena, I've got you." Emily found herself repeating the phrase over and over again like a mantra until Lena finally stopped shaking and instead scooted herself closer to place a tiny lick against Emily's cheek.  

The moment between them was broken as Angela gave a gentle cough a few feet away, drawing both the human and the wolf's attention. At some point while they had been absorbed in each other, the doctor had placed a bowl down and filled it with dog kibble - one Emily recognized from the bag as high in fat and nutrients essential for puppies. 

Emily half expected Lena to charge at the offered food and gobble it down -  instead she was surprised when blue eyes once again turned to meet hers, Lena's head tilting just slightly to one side.  

"Its okay pup, go on... eat your fill." 

And with those magic words Lena was off - head first into the bowl of offered kibble and getting it more on the floor then down her throat. 

Brigette came over as Lena ate and took a few pictures of the young wolf, but she barely registered the snap or the flash, looking away from the food after the first photo was taken for a moment, but quickly returning to happily crunching away. 

Emily vaguely registered Angela being called up to testify on her findings from Lena's medical exam and her test results, but her focus was entirely on Lena. Once she'd emptied most of the food that had been set out for her, the pup had made her way back over to where Emily sat, clearly hoping for more reassurance. 

"Hello, gorgeous." Emily reached out to give Lena a good ear scratching again, resisting the urge to laugh as the pup's tongue lolled out. She smiled and continued to gently scratch and stroke her coat, taking on a few of the more minor tangles and mats that she could remove or undo with just her fingernails.  

That task occupied the majority of her attention, but when Emily heard the words 'DNA results' she looked up, realizing that Fareeha had replaced Angela in the circle at some point during her work.  

Lena also seemed to realize the importance of what was going on as well, tilting her head upwards, one ear cocked towards where the police officer stood. 

"I examined the results Dr. Ziegler obtained from her tests," Fareeha reported to the assembled group, "and collected cheek swab samples from both Ms. Oakley and Ms. Oxton. Independent analysis and comparisons will take 48 hours to return their results." 

The Ashlynfang alpha leaned forward slightly in his seat. "As a trained officer, DCI Amari, how would you interpret the early results?" 

Fareeha straightened. "The result lines on the two samples had almost no similarities, from what I could determine. I do prefer to let the experts judge... but my conclusion is that the were who turned Lena Oxton was not Emily Oakley." 

Despite knowing that she was innocent and that the evidence would bear that out, Emily couldn't help but relax a bit at that pronouncement. Thank you, Fareeha. Lena seemed to feel the same, the young wolf's slight tension evaporating as she turned herself around before laying down against Emily's leg, her head settling in Emily's lap.  

Emily was suddenly struck with the realization of just how much she didn't want this moment to end. That wasn't to say she wanted the trial to last forever - but rather that if Lena chose in that instant that Emily's lap was the softest pillow... Emily would be willing to serve.  

The thought of being in such a position was incredibly foreign to her - as an alpha she was used to presenting herself in a certain way, and ensuring she was generally seen as in control of a situation, but with Lena she could begin to imagine herself letting go of that posturing for reasons other then necessity or formality. 

"Thank you," the councilor replied, "and when you interviewed both women, did you learn anything else we should be aware of?" 

Fareeha's eyes flicked over to Emily for the briefest instant, and then focused on the council again. "As she explained to the council, Ms. Oxton had some impression of the were who bit her, and also felt strongly that Ms. Oakley was not involved. But when I spoke to both women it became clear that they had been engaged in a relationship for several months – and for a significant time, Emily Oakley was aware that Lena Oxton was an unregistered turned were, but did not inform the council." 

Emily tried to focus on gently stroking Lena's fur rather than look up to meet what she knew would be displeased looks from the councilors.   

Reinhardt cleared his throat. "Rather than ask Detective Amari any further questions on that matter, I think it may be best for the council to address our questions to Ms. Oakley directly." He looked back to Fareeha. "Was there anything else you needed to report?" 

"Everything else has already been covered, either through my testimony or the information you've already received from Dr. Ziegler or Ms. Oxton herself." 

"Very well. Thank you for your assistance, Detective."  

Emily had planned to stand once Fareeha left the circle, but realized that somewhere in the last few moments Lena had gone from resting her head to actually sleeping, and she didn't have the heart to risk waking her. Instead, she just looked up to the head of the table, sitting up as straight as she could so that she could make eye contact with the councilors as needed.  

"If I can beg your pardon, but I don't wish to disturb her. As you can see..." Emily looked down, her voice becoming gentle as she caressed Lena's flank, "She's been through quite a lot." 

"No need for that," Reinhardt agreed, "you may remain seated."  

Before Lena had revealed her truly desperate condition, Emily suspected that would have drawn objections from the rest of the council. Now even the alpha who had been giving her the harshest glares was offering a look of concern for them instead – perhaps not totally forgiving her actions, but certainly more understanding of them. 

"In light of what we have learned – and seen – I do not feel that questioning you about Ms. Oxton's turning would be useful." Reinhardt sat back, considering them both. "However, while this council will happily pronounce you innocent of that crime...there is still a serious matter we must discuss. That you knew of an unregistered were – a turned were – and took it upon yourself to handle the matter without advising or consulting any member of this council." 

"I did." Emily looked up at them, unflinching. "When I realized the were I had been seeing was not only unregistered but turned...I came to understand how scared she was of her own nature. Of how isolated and desperate she was. I was afraid that if she was simply picked up by strangers and brought before this council and forced to explain herself it would be a painful and traumatic experience. So I made the decision, once I realized the depth of the situation a few weeks ago, to try bringing her to my private lands, away from public eyes, where I could reveal to her that she was not alone, and bring her into the council once she'd recovered from the shock." 

Reinhardt lightly tapped his fingertips against the tabletop. "Yet you made the decision to take her for medical treatment today instead of coming directly here."  

Emily nodded. "When I originally made my plans, I thought that Lena had been turned for perhaps a matter of months – certainly no more than six. After learning how long she had been hiding – been starving herself, even if it was by accident – I couldn't do otherwise. I knew she needed urgent medical attention, so I had to bring her to Ang-...to Doctor Ziegler first." 

"I cannot say you were wrong to do so," Reinhardt admitted, "given what you learned. But your actions must have consequences. You understand this?" 

Emily looked to each of the councilors, then finally locked eyes with Reinhardt again. "I do. I understand that I overstepped what little authority I have as a disperser who is not currently leading her own pack, and that I did violate the law. I will accept whatever punishment you see fit." 

"So be it." Reinhardt stood and gestured to the other council members. "We will need to discuss this matter briefly. If Ms. Oxton should wake, please let her know we will return shortly." 

As the council members filed out, Brigette left her seat and leaned over the table so she could whisper without being overheard.  

"I'm going to mark her documents in the registry as temporary. Once she's recovered properly, I'll take new pictures."  

Emily smiled gratefully and nodded, and Brigette looked down to smile at Lena's peacefully sleeping form before she collected her laptop and followed the council members out. 

There was a sound of footsteps, and when Emily looked towards them she realized the 'observer' had not left with the rest of the council, and that Fareeha had come up to stand next to her.  

"You pushed things too far." 

The older woman sipped at her tea. "I think not." 

Fareeha scowled. "You could have easily set off an all out brawl!

"That," she observed dryly, "would have required far more courage than any of them have ever mustered. Particularly with the old wolf on my side. I simply had to give them a swift kick to get the rest in line." 

Fareeha pinched at the bridge of her nose. "Ummi." 

"Relax, Fareeha. Everything is under control." The older woman's eye shifted to look down at where Emily sat. "Well. Nearly everything." 

Emily tried to understand what she meant when she felt Lena twitch – not the slight kicks or shifts she'd felt that had come from a pup dreaming, but a rippling sort of motion. Realizing that Lena was returning to her human form and still fast asleep, Emily snatched the suit jacket from where it had fallen on the floor, draping it over her body just before Lena's fur began to recede. 

A few moments later and Lena's cheek was resting on her thigh, her nose nearly pressed into Emily's hip as she shifted into a more comfortable position. She murmured as she settled down on her side, but never came to full wakefulness.   

Emily gently ran her hand along the side of Lena's head, trying to make some sense of her tousled hair, and found herself leaning down to brush a kiss against Lena's forehead without really thinking about it. Despite everything, Emily felt as if she was on a cloud when Lena's lips turned up into a little smile at the contact.  

I wanted to help you, no matter what... but I think I might just love you, Lena Oxton. 

 

Chapter Text

For the second day in a row, Lena Oxton realized that she'd woken up completely naked in an unfamiliar place.  

Well. At least I'm indoors this time. 

For the briefest moment she wondered if it had all been some odd dream, and perhaps everything – werewolves, a secret council, the last year might have just been some bizarre drug fueled fantasy from what she'd been shot up with at the hospital after the dog attack. But then Lena slowly sat up and realized she knew where she was. 

She'd seen the inside of Emily's bedroom once before, when she'd come over to have dinner and watch a couple of movies, but that time she'd just taken a quick look while Emily had grabbed her blanket so they could snuggle on the couch.  

But if this was Emily's bedroom, and she was in Emily's bed, where was... 

Oh. 

Emily had apparently tucked her in and then sat down on the foot of the bed to watch over her without even getting undressed – she looked almost exactly like she had when Lena had come into the cabin's kitchen after her shower, including the furry ears on her head, and the tail that had curled against her side. 

None of it was a dream, then. So you're still a werewolf, Oxton... and so's your girlfriend. 

More than that, Lena realized with a shock. Emily hadn't just tried to help her by revealing that she was another werewolf – she'd put her life on the line for her. Even when Emily hadn't been sure if Lena would want anything to do with her after their trip to the cabin, she'd gone through with her plan and made sure Lena would be safe regardless of the risk to herself. 

And then, apparently, after she'd gotten her home safely from the council, when Emily had to have been just as exhausted as she had been... she'd spent who knows how much of the night watching over her, making sure that she would be all right. 

Lena could feel a lump in her throat and tears welling in her eyes just thinking about everything that Emily had done. Tentatively, she reached out and began to stroke Emily's ears, feeling the contrast between fur and hair. Rewarded with a sleepy, happy murmur, Lena smiled down at Emily even as she let her tears fall. 

I love you so much. 

After a few minutes Emily began to stir, and Lena sat back, pulling her hands into her lap. 

"hey," Emily complained sleepily, "no stopping." 

Lena couldn't help but grin as she reached out to stroke Emily's ears again. "Morning, luv." 

"mmm..." Emily pressed into her touch for a few more strokes, then turned onto her side so she could look up, blinking the last of the sleep from her eyes. "Good morning, gorgeous..."  Focusing on Lena's face, Emily reached out to gently trace her fingers along the tracks of tears. "Lena, are you all right?" 

Lena answered by taking her hand and gently kissing the knuckles. "Happy tears, Em. I promise." 

Emily brought herself into a sitting position and drew Lena into her, holding her close and kissing her tenderly. "You'll have to let me know exactly what I did, so I can make sure to do it again." 

Lena reached up to scratch just beneath where the scalp ended and Emily's ear began. "I was just thinking about everything you did for me, even when I didn't realize it. But don't you dare go putting your life on the line like that again!" 

Sighing happily at Lena's touch, Emily closed her eyes and nodded. "I think we can both make that work, yes." 

Taking it slow or not, that deserved another kiss, and Lena slid back down against the mattress, bringing Emily in to snuggle against her.  

She had been about to close her eyes again and just enjoy the closeness when something suddenly occurred to her. "Oh shit. What time is it?" Lena knew she ought to be more worried about being terribly late for work, but after everything that had happened it barely registered. 

Emily coughed. "Oh. Well... I actually got into your phone and called you in sick." Flushing with embarrassment, she gave Lena an apologetic look. "I hope you don't mind. I know I sort of... overstepped again..." 

Lena leaned in and kissed Emily on the tip of her nose. "I really do love how cute you look when you're flustered." 

"So you're not mad, then?" 

Lena shook her head. "No, honestly, I'm not. I think I could use today to just... wrap my head around it all and let it sink in. Thank you." 

Emily smiled and curled back in with a little sigh of relief. "You're welcome." 

Lena kissed Emily's forehead. "Mmm. How about you show me your kitchen in a little bit, and I could make us some breakfast while you take a nice hot shower?" 

"Oh, that sounds lovely." Emily gestured out of the bedroom. "I forgot to mention, Angela grabbed your clothes and I tossed them in the laundry. I can lend you a few things, if you like. My closet is your closet." 

Lena raised an eyebrow. "Was that a lesbian joke?" 

Emily snorted and smacked her in the arm with a pillow.  

Giggling, Lena leaned in and gave Emily another kiss. "Just checking. Pancakes sound good?" 

"Fantastic, actually." 

"Perfect." Lena gave her one last kiss, then started to untangle herself. "Sounds like that's a plan then." 


When Emily emerged from the bedroom, she had to admit Lena had been right about the shower – the hot water and a fresh set of clothes had done her a world of good. Walking past the kitchen, she paused at the sight of Lena bouncing around in the kitchen in a Genesis t-shirt that was probably almost as old as she was, and hung halfway to her knees.  

She wasn't sure if Lena had realized her ears and tail were out again, but Emily was delighted to see how the fluffy appendage bounced and flicked as Lena sang along with the radio, wiggling her hips as she danced in front of the stove, using the spatula as her microphone. 

Oh baby when you talk like that 
You make a woman go mad 

So be wise (si) and keep on (si) 
Reading the signs of my body (uno, dos, tres, cuatro)  

And I'm on tonight you know my hips don't lie 
And I'm starting to feel it's right 

All the attraction, the tension 
Don't you see baby, this is perfection 

Hey Girl, I can see your body moving 
And it's driving me crazy 

And I didn't have the slightest idea 
Until I saw you dancing... 

Lena flipped a pancake out of the skillet and onto a plate, then spun on her heel and struck a pose on 'dancing', her eyes going wide and her ears stiffening in shock as she realized Emily was leaning against the mouth of the hallway, holding her hand against her mouth to hide her smile. "Aaaah! Haaa... ah... have a good shower?" 

Emily giggled. "It was lovely, thank you. Is that plate for me?" 

Lena looked over to the plate with a small stack of pancakes and a few strips of bacon on it as if surprised to find it there, then nodded. "Right, sorry, yes, that's yours!"  

"Thank you, sweet." Giving her a kiss on the cheek as she accepted the plate, Emily gestured with her head towards the kitchen table. "Come join me when you're ready?" 

Lena grinned, quickly recovering from her shock. "Be there in just a mo'." 

When Lena joined her, Emily noticed she'd given herself an extra pancake, but no bacon, and raised an eyebrow. 

"Angela said to work my way up," Lena defended herself, "and add white meat after I start eating more fish." 

Emily hummed thoughtfully. "I suppose, but you realize bacon is pork. That means it counts." 

Lena's ears twitched slightly, and Emily could practically see her gears turning. "Well..." She bit her lip a bit nervously. "You're sure...?" 
 
Emily wordlessly took one of the pieces of bacon off her plate, and set it atop Lena's pancakes.  

Lena took an experimental sniff. "It does smell really good..." 

Emily just smiled and took a bite of her pancake. 

Lena took the bacon in her fingertips and hesitantly brought it towards her mouth, staring at it for a good four or five seconds before she finally put it into her mouth and began to chew. A moment later her eyes went slightly wider and her ears straightened, her jaw working a few more times before she swallowed.  

"Oh. My. God.

Emily couldn't help but smirk slightly. 

"Emily." 

"Lena." 

Lena worried at her bottom lip before looking down at her pancakes. "I need more bacon." 

Emily lifted her fork to gesture towards the other side of the kitchen. "There's more in the fridge. Help yourself."  

Lena had reached the fridge and was pulling out the rest of the butcher paper wrapped meat when Emily coughed sharply to get her attention.  

"You might want to cook it first..." 

Lena froze with one raw piece of bacon millimeters from her lips. "OH... right... ok..." 

Twelve more strips of bacon and a shower later, they settled on the couch for some well deserved cuddling.  

"Sorry I fell asleep in the middle of the floor," Lena apologized, "some girlfriend I am, throwing you to the wol- ohmygod!

Emily couldn't help but laugh as Lena clapped her hands over her mouth, her cheeks burning. 

"I swear it just slipped out!" 

"Oh, I believe you. That's part of what makes it so cute. Well. That and how red your face is." 

Lena groaned.  "Is it possible to blush so hard your ears turn red? I think I can feel them getting hot." 

Emily reached up and touched a red furred ear. "I'm sure I have no idea." 

"I did it again." 

"Spectacularly, yes." 

Lena sighed and reached up to rub the back of her neck. "OK, before I make an even bigger fool of myself, can you tell me what happened after I fell asleep last night? I.... its really weird but I do remember some things after the... after..." She frowned as she tried to find quite the right word. "After I turned?" 

Emily straightened up a bit. "There's a few different words we generally use - 'turning' isn't wrong, really, but generally 'turning' is usually saved for someone becoming a were, like in your case. 'Shifting' or 'changing' is generally how we describe taking your other forms. It also works as a bit of shorthand – let's say we were out and you mentioned wanting to go home and 'change' before going out for a run that night. I'd know what you meant, but someone overhearing you would just assume you wanted to wear different clothes." 

Lena nodded as she took that on board. "OK – after I changed, then. My memories are sort of hazy. They're more... I don't know how to say it exactly. I try to think back and it's less thoughts, more feelings? But there's... flashes in there, too. I remember you petting my ears – which was really nice by the way – someone gave me food that tasted really good. Then I think there was something about Detective Amari and the DNA. She said... something... and after that I remember feeling really safe, but the rest is a blank until we woke up this morning." 

Emily nodded. "That's really not unusual when you're first in your wolf form. The whole point is it's more... primal, I suppose. But as you get more used to it you'll get more control – and memories tend to get clearer as well." 

"That's good to know," Lena admitted, "feeling like I've got big gaps where I don't really recall where I was or what I was doing isn't fun." 

"Mm. A born Were... our brains develop a bit differently than someone who was turned as an adult, like you were. You basically just have some catching up to do." Emily smiled over, and then cleared her throat. "That last bit you remember was Fareeha telling the council that she believed that I wasn't the were who turned you. Which we knew, obviously, but I think it was a relief to hear her tell that to the council for you. It certainly was for me." 

Lena smiled and relaxed back into Emily's side again. "Yeah. So... what else happened? What did I miss?" 

"Well..." 


When council readjurened Emily shook off the exhaustion she could feel setting in and triple checked that the jacket draped over Lena was secure and continued to preserve her modesty before finally sitting up as straight as she could manage with her girlfriend's head still in her lap.   

They had been gone for some twenty-odd minutes before finally returning, and Emily wasn't sure if the short deliberation was a good thing or not.  

Emily's eyes met with each of the council members briefly before setting her gaze on Reinharts good eye.  
The elder's face gave nothing away at first, though as he glanced down to see Lena's sleeping form Emily swore she could see a flicker of something but a blink later it was gone. 

Reinhart gently cleared his throat – perhaps testing to see just how asleep Lena was – before bringing the council back into session. 

"The council, after carefully reviewing the evidence presented to it and considering the testimonies of those called to speak – has finally come to a decision regarding the accusations directed towards one Emily Oakley." 

"Let the record state that the Council of Londinium reserves the right to reassess its decision should the DNA results from the lab differ with DCI Amari's initial findings..." Reinhardt paused and Emily watched as a small smile graced his lips before he continued, "But at this time the charges against Emily Oakley about being one Lena Oxton's turner, are deemed unfounded." 

Despite all her bravado and assurances to Lena that everything would work out in the end, Emily couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief on hearing those words.  

"However, on the charge of failing to report an unregistered were, Emily Oakley, this council finds you guilty. The council has heard your account and understands your reasoning for violating our laws, but you knowingly chose to ignore them, and for that you must be punished." 

Emily stiffened once more, and gave Reinhardt a small nod. Everything he said was the truth. She had known she was breaking the laws and was willing to expect any punishment they deemed appropriate. 

"Emily Oakley, alpha of Wodewose, the council has taken into account the... unique situation surrounding this case as well as the fact that this is the first time you have been brought before the court for an offense. Your punishment shall be two-fold. First, you will be required to pay a fine of a hundred pounds for each day that you neglected to inform the council about a possible unregistered were." 

Fourteen hundred pounds... Emily thought to herself, inwardly wincing as she began calculating exactly how she would come up with that money. Reinhardt seemed to notice her discomfort and decided to throw her a bone.  

"You will not be expected to pay it all in one installment – several payments made over the following months will be arranged by the weeks end... And second, Emily Oakley, you shall be held responsible for ensuring Lena Oxton learns the ways of our world and our people - and that she does not reveal her changed nature to the human world. Should Ms. Oxton decide to join up with a pack - you will not be free of your duties. Instead work with her new alpha and abide by their rules regarding how she learns about our world. If Ms. Oxton should oppose you being her guide - a different punishment will be found for you." 

"To prove that Ms Oxton has been given a satisfactory education, we will expect you to present her - and yourself - to this council in one year and a day. She will be evaluated and tested on her knowledge of our laws, our traditions, and control of herself and her abilities. Should she succeed, we will consider the matter closed and your punishment fulfilled. However...should she fail, her fate will be determined by the will of this Council, and your own rights and privileges as a member of this community shall be forfeit." 


"What does that mean?" Lena interrupted with a frown, "Your rights and privileges as a member of the community will be forfeit?' 

"It means I'm kicked out of the council's protection and marked as an Outcast." 

'Marked....?' 

"It's... a very serious crime and one that's punishment is still... outdated." 

"Emily," Lena said, tilting her head until her brown eyes met with Emily's grey, "What would they do to you if I failed their test?" 

I'd be marked," Emily tried again before sighing "Its... they would.... mark me."  

Emily frowned as she tried her best to figure out how to explain something almost all werepersons just understood. Her lack of sleep wasn't helping her to draw comparisons right now.  

"Scars carry over between our human, wolf, and wereselves... if you failed your exam in a year that would mean I have failed to teach you how to be a proper werewolf - as an Alpha that's already an insult to me, but as I am a member of the community and under the councils protection... it would be seen as an insult to them as well. They would mark me in a way that I'd be identifiable in any of my forms."  

"But how do they do that?"  

Oh Emily thought with a shake of her head, Of course...  

"Pure silver - they'd place the Council's seal on some part of my body so that everyone would know I have failed them and have been cast out of their community and protection... it would make joining another council almost impossible... and finding a pack to accept me just as hard." 

Emily shifted uncomfortablly as she was unable to read the look on Lena's face. It was somewhere between appalled and about to be sick... but then at once her features set into place, her mouth settling down into a thin line. 

"Where do I start? Is there a rule book I can read? Classes I can take?" 

"Lena... I wasn't planning on starting today

"I'm not going to let them brand you Emily! I know you've grown up in this world but that is so fucked up. What sort of... it's just wrong and you were only trying to help!" 

Emily let Lena fume for a few more moments before surprising the younger woman by taking her hand in both of her own. "Lena, I have every bit of confidence in you. I'm not the least bit worried that you won't learn and master everything in time... But I have a year to teach you so we have exactly that, time. Let's just make today a day to relax. Take it easy and I'll answer any questions you have and we can just... talk? I'm sure there's more you want to know." 

Lena opened her mouth to protest but Emily continued on before she could get a word out, "Besides? If I'm going to teach you I need to figure out the best way to do that - and I'll need at least a week to get some of the books you'll want to read up on and study..." 

Lena deflated a bit at the last point. It was a good one and she knew Emily likely had slept less than eight hours in the past two days. 

"Alright... yeah. But next week I want those books okay luv?" 

"I'll deliver them to you in person." 

"Funny. That's usually my job." 

"I could always let you try running the pub."  

"Oh, no, thank you!"  

"Hah." 

The pair settled into companionable silence for a while – Emily found herself staring intently down at Lena's hand still held between both of her own and let her fingers wander. Thumb rubbing gentle circles over knuckles while the others traced the lines along her palm. Lena's free hand worked its way back up to  explore Emily's scalp and ears – feather light brushes mixed with the occasional curious scritch that was quickly making Emily drowsy all over again. 

"Hey Em?" 

"Mhm?" 

"Would you wanna watch a movie or something and just... stay like this for a while?" 

Emily opened her eyes that she hadn't quite remembered closing and smiled when they met with Lena's, "That sounds lovely – did you want to watch The General again? You seemed to enjoy Buster Keaton." 

"Mm- No, I'd like to watch something new – and by new I mean one of your old films again, maybe? I wasn't lying when I said I'd spent the last year keeping to myself and watching a lot of movies but most of them were from the last ten years or so – I didn't branch out and I'm starting to think I should." 

Emily smiled at that and, with only a little bit of reluctance, let go of Lena's hand long enough to grab the TV remote and get the movie set up.  

As the opening credits for The Great Dictator began to roll, Emily once more looped their arms together and began to use Lena's shoulder as a headrest. It felt like a lifetime ago that they had last sat like this, but in reality it has only been the day before yesterday – at least this time Lena could actually pay attention to the movie on the screen. 

The same could not be said for Emily – whom promptly fell asleep some ten minutes in. This wasn't a problem of course, Lena was happy to be her girlfriends pillow, that is, right up until she realized she needed to pee. Again, this wouldn't have been a problem except that the movie Lena found genuinely funny and laughter on a full bladder...  

It was a tough two hours but Lena managed until the credits were rolling to gently roust her girlfriend and escape to the bathroom.  

It was close to four in the afternoon before the pair decided it was time to leave the apartment, but before they could head out Lena needed help getting her tail to go away

"Lena I want you to think of your tail like.... well I guess like any other appendage. It's like your arm or your leg.... only its more responsive to things without your input. I guess... oh! It's like your eyebrows - you don't think about moving them down or up when you're angry or surprised, you just do but you can also raise one brow if you think about it or wriggle them for added effect.' 

"Oh-kay... but I don't exactly know how to make my eyebrows disappear either?" 

"I know just... give me a moment. It's not something I've ever had to explain before... and it's been years since I had trouble. I asked my family when I was a pup, but it wasn't long before I controlled it..."

Emily's eyes grew a bit unfocused as she trailed off. Her voice slowed as she began to speak again as she worked to recall her past experiences. "It's a bit different for everyone... honestly the only one I really clearly remember was cousin Jeffrey. He told me it was like trying to will away an erection - he just thought of my uncle in a thong and poof - away it went."

Lena seemed to consider that for a moment a curious look on her face before suddenly her tail just... wasn't there anymore. "Splendid! Very well done Pup, that's such a good job already!"

Lena shifted for a moment with a soft chuckle reaching up to scratch behind her wolf ears which had also vanished. "Thanks..." 

"So what did it for you?" 

"Um... I'd rather not say?" 

"Ooo come on, it couldn't be all that bad now could it?" 

Lena shifted from foot to foot looking very uncomfortable.  

Emily was about to take back what she said, tell her girlfriend that she didn't have to share if she didn't want to when Lena spoke.

"I just- I thought to myself 'things I wouldn't want to see' and a picture of you from last night, your hands bound in rope came to mind – but this time it was because they were going to brand you since I mucked up my exam and I... I don't want that to happen?" 

"Awww c'mere pet," Emily said opening her arms and wrapping them around her girlfriend and dropping a kiss to the crown of her head for good measure. "It won't end up like that. We've got time for me to teach you and just look! I said we didn't have to start today but you've already just taken your first step to passing that exam with flying colors!" 

"If you say so..." 

"I know so. Now, come on – let's walk to the Howl and see what trouble they've gotten into without me there hm?" 

Chapter Text

Lena waited for Emily to finish locking up her apartment before linking their arms together and following the taller woman's lead as they began their walk to the pub. A comfortable silence settled between them for a few blocks as both took time to enjoy the late summer afternoon.  

As a few cars sped past them on the street a thought occurred to Lena. 

"Hey Em?" 

"Yes?" 

"I'd have wanted to walk to the pub with you anyway, on account of how nice it is and everything, but I just realized I didn't see Oliver parked anywhere and that got me thinking – how exactly did we get to your apartment last night?" 


It was close to midnight by the time Emily and Lena were free to go. Emily agreed to return in two days time, once the official DNA results had come in, to both sign some documents and finalize how she would be paying the council the money she owed.   

Though she had lost the feeling in her legs some time ago – Emily had refused to move into a more comfortable position for fear of disturbing Lena's much needed, and well deserved, rest. Even now that it was time to leave Emily loathed the idea of having to wake her. 

"Do you need some assistance, Miss Oakley?" 

Emily looked up in surprise to see Elder Windhelm had managed to approach without her noticing. Either she was more tired then she'd originally thought – or the old wolf was far lighter on his feet then his size would suggest.  

"No... Thank you elder but I think I've got her," Emily began before considering how she'd go about this, "But, I would appreciate it if you stayed close by. I don't want to wake her..." 

"Ah," Reinhardt interrupted gently with a smile that reached his eyes, "Say no more. I will ensure neither you nor her fall should you stumble." 

Emily nodded her thanks and shifted her legs slightly so that she could worm her right arm beneath Lena's neck to support her head. Her left arm reached awkwardly around until it was firmly situated beneath Lena's legs.  

Finally, with the strength brought about by years of lifting heavy kegs around Emily stood from her kneeling position, carefully shifting Lena into a bridal carry as she rose. 

As much as she would have loved to claim she hadn't needed any help – her legs were still half asleep and Reinhardt moved to help steady her as the pins and needles sensation worked their way up and down her body.  

As they left the room with Brigitte discretely at their heels, the Elder seemed to relax a bit, no longer having to carry the Council's authority on his shoulders. He seemed to lean in slightly and at first Emily thought it was just for balance until he began to speak, his voice a barely audible rumble that was for her and her alone.  

"Remember – you may have the responsibility for your young pup's education, but that does not mean you must do it alone. You have many resources available – including myself or Brigitte. Make use of them."  

Emily caught his eyes and smiled, nodding to make sure he knew she understood as he lead them to the front door, where Angela and Fareeha had both lingered. 


"…and after that, Fareeha helped me get you into the car, and Angela drove us back to the flat. I'll take a cab over to the clinic later and pick Oliver up." 

Lena wasn't quite sure how to respond to that so she elected to kiss the back of Emily's hand. "Thanks... I can hardly believe you worked so hard just not to wake me up..." 

Emily snorted. "Not that I don't appreciate your thanks, and I did want to be tender... but Lena, I'm fairly sure an air raid wouldn't have woken you up after all that." 

Lena giggled and let herself lean comfortably against Emily as they continued to walk. "Maybe, but still - thanks, luv." 

The pair continued on uninterrupted until they reached an intersection where they had to wait for the light to change and another question sprang unbridled to the front of Lena's mind. 

"Oh – who was that lady last night? Sa-da-something? The one everyone else seemed afraid of." 

Emily chuckled. "That was Sayidaty Amari –" 

Lena frowned. "Wait – Amari? Like the detective?" 

"Mm. Sayidaty Amari – Ana – is her mother." 

"But back at the clinic you said that the detective... that Fareeha is human..." 

"She is, yes. But her mother is a were. A cat, if you want to be exact." 

Lena blinked. "What, like...a housecat? I have a hard time imagining that whole room being scared of a little old moggy." 

Emily grinned. "No, a bit larger than that. A caracal, I think. I've not seen her in that form personally, but she has a ...certain reputation."  

Lena took that on board, then went back to the original subject. "I thought you said a werewolf having a non-werewolf child was rare. For her... are they different? Cats, I mean." 

Emily shook her head. "No, it is still fairly rare. I don't pretend to know all the details, but what I do know is Fareeha is the only human with a were parent that I've ever met." Emily considered the other part of Lena's original question. "As to being afraid... it's complicated. The council has always invited a few members from other were communities to act as observers for their proceedings. Ana is... very well respected." 

Before Lena had much time to consider that, they had arrived at The Howl. 

The establishment sat on the corner of an intersection that was busy – but by no means a main thoroughfare. Foot traffic was common as a few shops and restaurants dotted around the area around it. The building itself had two more floors of flats above the pub, and the first floor's windows had been filled with beautiful pebbled glass windows with stained accents, except for two large windowpanes that looked in on the pub's foyer. 

A wooden sign shaped like a squared shield hung above the entrance, decorated with the silhouette of a wolf howling and the words 'The Howl' painted in white. Lena had noticed the sign before, of course, but only now could she fully appreciate the utter lack of subtlety in Emily's name choice.  

"She's still standing at least." Emily said with a smile as she reached to open the door for them. 

Lena laughed. "You expected the place to burn down?" 

"It's not that I don't trust Jesse and the rest of the staff," Emily explained, "I just know them very, very well." 

As they entered the pub, nothing seemed terribly out of control to Lena. It was a bit too late for much of a lunch crowd, but a bit early for many people to be popping by for a pint after work, so the majority of the booths and tables she could see were unoccupied. A few of the serving staff were cleaning off tables, and a tall, bearded man working behind the long bar that Lena had seen there before a few times, wearing a cowboy hat. 

Lena had to admit that knowing the Howl was a werewolf (were-person?) bar explained a few things. Lena had originally thought it was a gay bar, but she'd learned that wasn't quite right on her first visit – even if Em had picked her up. But it had a little too much modern décor to be trading on being an old fashioned sort of place, and never seemed to quite fit any one theme. There were a few TVs, but nothing tuned to matches and news like you would expect for a sports bar, a very eclectic jukebox in the corner, a few billiards tables off to one side, darts... and the cowboy. 

Actually, the cowboy still didn't make any sense. 

Emily guided them to a booth, and a server wearing one of the bar's t-shirts stopped by with a pair of menus. "Afternoon, boss. I thought you were taking today off?" 

Emily smiled. "Oh, I still am – just in for lunch and to make sure everything was still in one piece after the weekend." 

The server snorted. "Somehow we managed. Usual for you?"  

"Please," Emily agreed, "and whatever she'd like, on my tab." Then, to Lena's surprise, Emily made a not-terribly-subtle show of scooting a little closer and putting her right hand over Lena's left. 

Lena gave her a sidelong look, but she wasn't complaining, really. Just a bit confused. Putting her attention back on the server, she offered a little smile. "Pint of bitter, please, and some water?" 

"Coming right up!" 

Lena watched the server go, then looked back to Emily. "So... is everyone who works here...?" 

"Oh, it's a bit of a mix," Emily grinned. "We can talk pretty freely right now, but... why don't you try to figure it out. Remember what I said about smell?" 

Lena considered that. "Am I going to be able to... I mean, right away?" 

"I'm sure it will take time, as you recover, but there's no reason not to start trying. See what you can do." 

Lena picked up one of the menus. "After I decide what to eat?" 

Emily chuckled and reached for the other. "Fair enough." 

Lena ended up settling on a grilled chicken salad as a good "easing in" option, while Emily ordered a hamburger and chips. She'd considered their server when she returned with their drinks, taking what she hoped was a not too horribly obvious sniff and trying to figure out if anything stood out to her. 

There was something a bit... earthy? She didn't think it was perfume. She waited for the server to head back to put in their lunch order, then took her guess. 

"She's one of us?" 

Emily's eyes danced. "Got it in one, pup! What do you think gave it away?" 

"I'll admit it was largely a guess – but the way she smelled... well it just didn't seem like something fully typical of a person? I don't want to say she smelt more like a dog or anything but..."  

Emily smiled and gave a understanding nod, "But there was something a bit more to it – I understand. That's how it works a lot of the time – once you get more used to it you'll even be able to make a good guess about what their ranking might be or if they're another type of Were, like Ana."  

A few minutes of idle conversation passed while the two of them waited for their meal and enjoyed their selected drinks. A different server stopped by to top up their water and Emily gave him a friendly smile and wave before he was off to take care of other duties, and to Lena's surprise she realized Emily was lightly stroking the side of her calf with her foot.  

She'd just started to giggle about that when their meals arrived, brought out to them by none other than the cowboy himself.  

"C'mon now Annie –  playing footsies under the table? Ain't that a bit much?"  

Lena blinked in surprise as, just with their first server, Emily scooted even closer and this time went so far as to wrap her arm around Lena's middle. "I'm not on the clock, which means my feet can do whatever they want – including finding themselves halfway up your arse, Jesse."  

Was that a growl Lena heard in her girlfriends voice?  

Enough was enough. She didn't push away, but she did straighten up just a bit. "Em."  

"Yes, pup?" Emily turned her head to face Lena but, but she could tell her girlfriend was keeping her eyes trained on the cowboy. And now that Lena was starting to get a good whiff of him... things were starting to make more sense.  

Lena reached up to lightly cup Emily's cheek. "There's nobody else in this pub who holds a candle to you, ok?"  

Emily's face flushed with embarrassment. "Sorry. After everything that happened I started feeling a little... protective." 

Lena smiled, trying to let her down easy. "I don't mind you showing me off a little, since I have the best girl in the pub, but I'm here with you, OK? Nothing to be afraid of. Just... trust me, yeah?"  

Emily took Lena's hand in her own, lightly kissing the knuckles before scooting back just a bit to let her have a little space. "Always. I promise."  

The cowboy – Jesse, apparently – didn't seem to mind. If anything, he seemed pretty impressed with how Lena had handled things, giving her a respectful nod. "That is just about the sweetest thing I ever did see." 

Emily rolled her eyes. "Yes, thank you, now may we please have our food?" 

"Oh," Jesse drawled as he set the plates down, "where are my manners. Speakin' of which." He doffed his hat, giving Lena a little bow - and for the briefest instant, yes, those were a set of ears hidden in his mop of dark hair, and she'd swear his smile got a bit more fang-y for just an instant before he put the hat back on. "Name's McCree – Jesse McCree, at your service." 

"Lena Oxton," she introduced herself, extending her hand so Jesse could shake it, "nice to meet you!"  

"Likewise. Heard a few things about you from Annie here. Nice to see you two around together." Jesse leaned in, his voice dropping just a bit. "You probably already figured this out, but I heard what happened to ya, and we ain't all like that. I'm sure Emily's told ya, but if we ever find that no good coward sonofabitch and you want some help holdin' his head underwater, plenty of us are ready and waitin' to help." 

Lena looked over to Emily. "Is he in trouble for not telling anyone else about me, too?"  

Emily winked. "Not if you don't tell anyone." She coughed. "More seriously – if I had been punished, I wanted Jesse to know what was going on in case he had to take over the pub and make sure everyone else was looked after."  

Lena gave a thoughtful "Huh", but otherwise let the rest go.  

"Fortunately," Jesse grinned, "That weren't necessary, so I can just get back to slingin' drinks and cookin' up grub in the kitchen."  

Emily nodded. "Which, since you are on the clock, you ought to go take care of."  

"Suppose I might just." Jesse gave Lena a broad wink, then another little bow to the table before he stepped away, turning to walk back behind the bar. 

"So," Emily said with a long suffering sort of smile, "That was Jesse..."  

"And why was he calling you 'Annie'?"  

"He thinks he's being clever. My last name's Oakley and Annie Oakley was the name of a red-headed sharpshooter who lived in the Wild West of the United States a hundred years ago or something like that." 

"Ohh – and with him being a cowboy and all..." 

Emily nodded and they left it at that and instead focused on the meals before them.  

Lena was about halfway through her salad when a thought sprang to the forefront of her mind and a sigh escaped her lips. Emily looked up – the noise having disturbed the quiet which had settled in between them as it often does when people are enjoying their meals quite a lot.  

"Something wrong?" Emily asked after a swallow of beer. 

"Oh – no, not really. I just – well I thought about how weird it's going to be when I head back into work tomorrow. The last three days have been pretty wild..."  

"Speaking of," Emily started with a slow nod, "Is it okay for you to tell me what streets you deliver mail too?" 

Lena's eyes widened a bit at that. It... well it wasn't something anyone had asked her before – and even though she knew the answer she wanted to hear Emily's reasoning behind the question first. 

"Before I answer, can you tell me why you want to know?" 

"I want to get into contact with the local... community leaders and ensure they are alright with you coming and going into their terri—communities." 

"Ah," Lena said, realizing what her girlfriend was getting at, "In that case, I'm afraid I can't tell you." 

From the look on Emily's face – this was not the answer she had been expecting.  

"Look Em," Lena began running a hand through her hair and down the back of her neck – her food forgotten for the moment, "It's a bunch of legal and safety stuff. If I told you where I delivered my mail – what communities I serviced, streets or apartments or offices I visit... it's like the same thing as telling you someone's personal address or full name. Especially if you're planning on trying to contact someone in those areas – to talk to them about me. I mean – if I told you I'd lose my job for sure. Besides, I've been walking my routes for months now – if there was going to be a problem surely it would have happened by now, right?" 

Now it was time for Emily to shake her head, "No – that's the entire reason why I want to find out what area's you have been visiting. Remember how I said you smelled a bit off? Not bad just... sickly? Well there's also a bit of a underlying smell of 'puppy' to you as well – but with time and a proper diet both of those things will go away and your smell will be stronger... and some... community leaders might not like that." 

"And they'll do... what exactly? Attack a government employee? I'm sure the Council would love figuring out that one." 

"Lena," Emily chided, "Please take this seriously..." 

"I'm trying, but surely this can't be that big of a deal? You can't possibly ask permission every time you go out for a long walk." 

"No, you're right on that account. We have to walk through one another's... communities all the time – or drive or take public transit. It's a fact of life living in a city like London, but it's still considered polite to give the community leaders a heads up if you will be coming and going with any regularity. Likely right now you've likely got most of them confused about your scent – but again, once that changes they might think you're trying to put pressure on their community... or possibly think you might want to become a member of it. Letting the leaders know ahead of time prevents mix-ups before they happen." 

Lena ate a bit of her salad while she turned that over. She took a pull of her beer, then looked around to make sure no one else was in earshot. "I can't be the only werewolf out there who works for some kind of government job like this, right? There have to be a few who are cops or EMTs or firefighters or whatever. How do they handle that? You said there's a registry – does the council do anything with that?" 

"That's... actually a very good idea." Emily grinned. "You're catching on fast. I tell you what – I have to visit Brigitte tomorrow to talk about paying my fine. Would you be all right with me discussing this with her?"  

Lena puffed a bit under her girlfriend's praise. "Well, I do try to think on my feet. That's fine – see what she can do, and shoot me a text, maybe?"  

Emily reached out to ruffle Lena's hair, scratching her scalp lightly with her fingernails. "I'll let you know what I find out." 

By the time they'd finished their food and another pint each, the after work crowd was starting to fill in. "Don't you still need to get your car, luv?" 

"Mm. Good point. Angela's probably locking up, and I shouldn't abuse her hospitality." Emily scooted out of the booth, then offered her hand. "Walk you home, gorgeous?"  

"Oo. How dashing!" Lena let Emily pull her up to her feet, and gave her a quick little peck on the lips. "I think I may just take you up on that." 


They were more than halfway back to Lena's apartment when something else Emily had said occurred to her.  "Say – about the... um... communities you were talking about earlier." 

"What about them?" 

"You said that coming around might be taken as wanting to join up. Is that how it always works? Like..." Lena decided to take a gamble, after making sure no one was too close. "After I get sorted, if we wanted to start one?" 

"Oh. Well... there are a few different ways, but that's one way to try to join up." Emily let her hand find Lena's and squeeze. "As to forming one of our own – it couldn't just be the two of us. The usual rules require at least three – ideally more. There's some paperwork and we'd have to go down to the Council building to file it, but if we were serious about it, it's not too difficult to take care of." 

Lena nodded. "Well. Good to know. So... did you want to get together again later this week to work on... stuff?" 

"We both need to get back to work, but if you're free on Friday night, maybe we could go back up to the cabin and spend Saturday working on a few things?" 

Lena nodded. "I might need to trade a shift, but I think I can pull that off."  

All too soon, they were at the door to her building, and Lena almost wanted to tell Emily to get her car in the morning, invite her up, and just... not let go for a little longer. Even if she did have to be up in the morning. "Well," she sighed reluctantly as she squeezed Emily's hand again, "here we are." 

Emily's eyes had a bit of the same reluctance. "We are. If we didn't both need to get to work tomorrow..."  

Lena nodded. "Yeah. So... text you tomorrow?"  

Emily leaned in and kissed her tenderly. "Promise." 

She watched her girlfriend reach the end of the street and hail a cab to carry her back to her waiting car, then let herself into her flat. It was a bit early to turn in, but she'd had a fairly eventful past few days. Lena knew it would be smart to make a bit of an early night of it, but still, she had an hour or two yet. 

She considered the TV and her still hungry Netflix queue, but that wasn't quite... 

Oh

Suddenly she knew exactly what to do.  

Walking into her bedroom, she slipped off the shirt she'd borrowed from Emily, then put her jeans on the top of her hamper before walking to the full length mirror next to her closet.  

"Right," Lena breathed as she set herself up square to the mirror and looked at her reflection. "Let's try this. Ears... out!" She waited for them to appear, then tried to will them away again as she'd practiced with Emily earlier. "And ears... in?" The ears – her ears – disappeared as they were supposed to, and she couldn't help but laugh. "OK! Let's try that again!" 

"Ears... out!" 

"Ears in!" 

"Ears out!" 

"Ears in!" 

"Tail... out?" 

"Tail... oi! Behave!"

Chapter Text

They were about halfway up to the cabin when Lena remembered something she'd wanted to ask Emily about. "So, how come I only can get drunk at your pub?"  

Emily glanced over from the driver's seat with a little smile. "Well, I think it's because you liked having me carry you home, and you're hoping I can do it again."  

Lena coughed. "NO! Well. I mean. Yes, though I wasn't awake for that, it was cute, I wouldn't mind..."  

Emily laughed. "It's ok, it's ok, sorry. I was teasing. Go on."  

Lena stuck her tongue out. "Well, what I mean is that when I've been to the pub and had drinks, I can feel it, you know? I get a bit tipsy, even if I haven't actually been trying to get drunk, but before..."  

Lena trailed off, and Emily made a soft encouraging noise.  

"Well. Back... before I knew about... all this. When I was still trying to find ways to make sure I wasn't going to hurt anyone, I thought 'Cor, that's it, I'll just get pissed and sleep it off.' I ended up downing a whole bottle of vodka and half a case of beers."  

Emily gave a soft 'ahh'. "Didn't work out, did it."  

"About all I got for my trouble was a full bladder - and found it it's really not fun turning into a werewolf when you have to pee."  

Emily laughed. "Sorry, I know it can't have been funny for you at the time but..." 

Lena smiled. "Yeah, well, hindsight. But seriously - I didn't feel a thing. So what's going on there?" 

"Well, we talked about how weres heal."  

Lena nodded. "Yeah..."  

Emily hummed for a moment as she tried to think of how to put it. "Well. You watched those Captain America movies, right?"  

"I watched every movie. And a bunch others."  

"So you remember he couldn't get drunk because his super-serum processed away the alcohol."  

"Yeah. Except for when Thor brought magic alcohol so he..." Lena blinked. "Wait. Or was that a fanfic?" Ignoring Emily's snort, she looked over. "Seriously, though - do you have magic beer?" 

"It's not magic, just... certain herbs like wolfsbane can slow our bodies down a bit. Lets the alcohol still affect us. So when we brew our own beer at the Howl, we mix those in at the same time we're adding hops and fermenting, and we make some human safe batches too. The bar staff knows which is which." 

"Huh." Lena sat back, tapping her fingers against the passenger door. "Oh – I forgot to ask, how did things go when you went back to the council?" 

"Well enough," Emily answered, "the fine is the real punishment, honestly. Elder Wilhelm knew I'd want to help with educating you no matter what. Really, that I'd already started. This just formalizes things" 

Lena frowned. "I still don't really like you getting punished for helping me. Is...would you like me to pay some of that? I want to help." 

"Oh, no, pup." Emily glanced over with a reassuring smile. "It's not fun but I can afford it, since I'm paying in a few installments. I could technically pay the whole thing up front if I raided the pub's business account, but I don't think it would be appropriate. Besides - I did break the law, even if it was for the right reasons." 

Lena sighed. "I suppose." Letting the matter drop, she decided to ask after the other question she'd had about Emily's visit. "Did you have a chance to ask about the territory thing, with my job at the mail?" 

"I did, yes!" Emily's voice lightened at the change in topic. "It turns out it's been a while since there was a registered Were with a job that crosses territories like that, but it's not unheard of. The council is going to send a written notice to every pack in London stating that any wereperson who is in their territory due to their employment or government business is not to be treated as a trespasser as long as they are in uniform or can prove there is a legitimate reason for their presence."  

"Brilliant! So no worries about compromising my confidentiality or theirs." 

"Just so."  

They settled into a pleasant silence that was very different from the half terrified awkwardness of Lena's first visit to the cabin, or the slowly thawing chill of the drive to Angela's clinic. Lena let herself relax, and she wasn't entirely surprised that she'd drifted off to sleep after a while. 

She felt Emily's hand on her shoulder gently shaking her awake, and blinked the sleep out of her eyes before getting out of the car. 

The cabin's rustic log construction gave it a timeless sort of look, with a mix of stone and brick forming the foundation and front patio, and a tall chimney on one side for the fireplace. It was the sort of place that could have been built a hundred years ago or ten, and despite all that had happened on her first visit, Lena had to admit she was already becoming very fond of it. 

Of course, she thought as Emily pulled their bags out of Oliver's boot, the company helps. 

"Could you grab the groceries, Lena? I'll get the door unlocked." 

"Coming right up!" 

Lena couldn't help but feel a bit nervous, knowing that part of the plan for the weekend was to spend time working on changing and doing more to embrace the new aspects of her life, but Emily seemed to recognize it, and didn't press.  

They had a nice dinner with spaghetti bolognese, salad and a few bottles of 'House Special' beer that Emily had brought up from the Howl, and settled into the couch by the cabin's fireplace, watching another old movie on Emily's laptop. 

"I never really appreciated the old black and white films before we started dating," Lena admitted as they watched The Four Feathers, "I watched a ton of movies when I was trying to stay out of the way, but it was mostly newer stuff. " 

"Mm." Emily let her hand slide a little further down Lena's side until it rested against her stomach. "My mother used to watch the old talkies with me when I was little – I always thought they were so glamorous. I wanted to be Claudette Colbert or June Duprez when I grew up – have the slinky gowns and the perfect hair and that amazing sense of grace." She giggled softly. "I had such a crush on Vivian Leigh." 

"Don't blame you one bit – she's gorgeous! That Hedy Lamarr, though... ooo, or Ginger Rogers." 

Emily smirked. "So you like gingers, hmm?"  

Lena turned so she could peck her on the lips. "Oh, one or two..." 

"Lucky me," Emily murmured happily as she gently returned the kiss. 


Lena woke the next morning to the smell of frying bacon, and light streaming into the cabin's lofted bedroom through the wide skylight.  Stretching as she got out of bed, she could feel her tail slowly moving back and forth beneath her nightshirt, and she realized her ears must be out when she could distinctly hear the sounds of the pans moving against the burners and the spatula flipping the bacon over in the pan.  

"Morning, luv!" 

Emily turned as she came down the stairs , her own ears rising adorably from her bedhead. "Morning, gorgeous. Hungry?" 

"Mm, starving. That smells amazing."  

Emily chuckled as she turned back to the stove. "You're turning into a bacon addict, Lena. How do pancakes sound?" 

"Fantastic!" Ignoring the addict crack (after all, she had to admit it was sort of true), she pulled plates and silverware out to set the table.  

"Wonderful. Did you want any coffee? Tea?" 

Lena considered that, then shook her head. "Just juice, I think. I'm nervous enough about today – I don't need any extra jitters." 

Emily gave her a sympathetic glance. "That's fine, pup. Remember – I'll be with you, ok?" 

Lena nodded. "I know you will, luv, I just... well. It was pretty frightening when I managed to do it by accident." 

Emily brought over the first stack of pancakes. "I think this will be a bit easier, but we'll take it slow, I promise." 

Lena smiled back at her. "I know – I trust you, Em." 

The blush that rose on Emily's freckled cheeks was almost as wonderful as her smile. "So – breakfast first, then we can get a shower and take it from there." 

"Sounds like a plan," Lena agreed, then sighed happily after her first bite of bacon. "That is so good. Where did you get this from? It seems familiar." 

Emily had an odd smile when she returned to the table with her own plate. "Well, I'm not too surprised. It's from a butcher's shop not far from your apartment. You ate most of their stock a little over a month ago." 

Lena froze with half a strip of bacon in her mouth, and had to force herself to chew and swallow. "What?!" 

Emily's smile turned a little sad. "It was one of the other reasons I realized I needed to try to help you. Fareeha came around the Howl after someone broke into a butcher's shop and ate pretty much everything that wasn't locked down, trying to find out if I knew of anyone who was new in town or if any pack leaders had been having problems with their younger members. She thought it might have been a prank that got out of hand. Once I looked it up and realized it was near your apartment..." Emily shrugged. "I had a decent idea of what might have happened." 

Lena frowned, trying to remember. "There was a night... the moon wasn't full but I felt the urge. Took me by surprise and I remember waking up feeling stuffed, but I wasn't near my usual spots."

Emily nodded. "There's a phenomenon called a 'supermoon'. Even if it isn't full, the moon's a lot closer to the Earth than normal, and we can be effected - especially when younger."

Lena frowned. "I'd heard about a supermoon that was also a full moon... I didn't realize it could be one without the other."

Emily shook her head. "No, the supermoons can occur in any phase. Regardless... I think one caught you."

Lena looked down at her plate, her stomach suddenly a cold ball of guilt as she thought about the shop and the damage she must have done. "...they had insurance, right? Please say they did."

Emily looked confused for a moment, then sat back with a soft 'ahhh' of realization. "The butcher's? Yes, they did, and Fareeha mentioned the Council was arranging for some compensation too, since claw marks were found near the doors. Beyond that, I've been making a point to buy from them – not too much of a burden, honestly, because the bacon and their lamb have been excellent." She reached out, lightly putting her hand over Lena's. "You didn't know, Lena, and you didn't have many options. Your wereself was starving and you needed to eat. You found a source of food, and without anyone getting hurt. It's all taken care of now, and you're going to learn how to take care of yourself, right?" 

Lena looked up, letting herself relax and trying to enjoy breakfast again. "Absolutely. I swear." 

Emily's eyes held nothing but love and pride for her. "There you are, then." 


After they finished breakfast and washed the dishes, they each grabbed a shower before Emily had lead Lena out of the cabin dressed in nothing but a towel, a thick picnic blanket under her arm. 

Lena wasn't sure if she was more nervous about trying to work on turning into a wolf, or about being basically starkers in the middle of the clearing that surrounded the cabin. 

Emily seemed to sense her increasing nerves as she laid out the blanket, giving her a reassuring smile. "Lena, I promise everything will be okay. I'll be right here the entire time. There's no one else around you need to worry about, and even if someone came up here uninvited, I would take care of it." 

Lena shifted from foot to foot, damp with the morning dew. "Right... I know, I know you would, luv. But... you'll be talking me through everything, right?" 

"Yes," Emily replied instantly, her face growing serious. Her bearing shifted a bit, a little more gravity coming into her words. Lena was starting to recognize it as a moment where a bit of her Alpha nature came through.  "Absolutely. I'll talk you through both going in and coming out. I would never leave you, Lena." 

Lena found herself staring into Emily's eyes for a long moment, growing calmer and feeling her nerves finally starting to settle with Emily's reassurance. "OK, so... you mind if I turn around?" 

Emily looked like she wanted to laugh a bit, but it was a good natured sort of amusement, not a mockery. "If it's easier for you. You know nudity doesn't bother me – particularly yours." 

Lena felt her cheeks burning as she turned around and dropped the towel. Not that she didn't want Emily to see her like this. God, but she did, but since Emily seemed to want to take things slow... and used to nudity or not, private property or not, Lena really didn't think of herself as much of an exhibitionist... "Right. So... how do you want to do this?" 

"Do you think you can let your tail out for me?"  

Lena nodded, closing her eyes and concentrating just like she'd been doing in front of her mirror every night this week. Taking a deep breath, she repeated the words Tail out, tail out, tail out in her head until she felt that flowing sensation that let her know it had developed, and felt the tip brushing against the still damp grass. 

Emily's voice was filled with delight, and Lena had to admit that gave her a little thrill. "Good Girl! That was very very good! Now the ears?" 

Lena could feel her tail start to wag back and forth, and despite her best efforts she couldn't get it to settle.  Glancing over her shoulder at Emily she gave her girlfriend a little mock pout. "You made it do that on purpose, didn't you?" 

Emily winked. "Maybe a little bit, but trust me when I say that it helps make this easier, pup. Now can you bring out those cute floppy ears of yours?" 

"The ears are the easy bit," Lena said with a smile, her ears appearing as if they had been on the top of her head this entire time.  

Emily grinned. "Someone's been practicing." 

"Maybe a little..." 

Emily stood up from where she'd spread out the blanket and walked the short distance that separated them to place a quick kiss just under one of her human ears, and Lena's resulting shiver had nothing to do with the cold. "Feeling a little better? Are you ready to do this?" 

Emily put another kiss on the back of her shoulder blade, and Lena couldn't help the slightly frustrated groan she let out. "Keep that up, and I am certainly going to want to do something." 

"Mmm. I know, sorry. Couldn't resist." She could hear the blades of grass crunch and bend beneath Emily's feet as she stepped back. "Lena..." Emily paused as she seemed to collect her thoughts, "For this next bit, I'll start giving you instructions, and some of them may seem a bit silly at first, but I promise I'm not trying to pull a prank or anything." 

Lena considered that for a moment before nodding. "I told you at breakfast, I trust you Em – and... I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be." 

She could hear the smile in Emily's voice. "Okay, then, pup. I need you to get down on your hands and knees for me." 

Lena snorted a bit skeptically, but did as told. "Are you sure you don't have a bit of an ulterior motive?"  

Emily walked around in front of her, the towel still wrapped around her chest as if to say 'business now, pleasure later.' "It's always easier to start changing when you are closer to the ground, that's not to say you can't change while standing up, obviously, but it's more complicated and typically not as comfortable. Especially when you're still learning." 

Lena considered that, and admitted it did make sense."Right then – what's next?" 

Emily's voice grew quiet. Not angry or stern, but making it clear that this was when the real instruction began."Close your eyes." 

Lena obeyed, letting herself focus on the sound of Emily's voice as she spoke again.  

"Think about how you are right now. Wiggle your fingers and your toes, listen through your human ears and feel the cold air on your bare skin. Remember this Lena – you are human. All weres are born as human, we just also have the ability – the gift – that allows us to take our other forms. I'm going to walk you through your first change, and when it is time for you shift back it will help if you remember who you are right now, in this moment. I don't want you to think about anything else. Not changing, not the council, not work, not what's for supper. Just this moment, and how you feel in it. Now, take as long as you need, and when you're ready to go on, I want you to nod to me." 

Lena did not respond right away. Focusing on herself, she thought of her body, just as Emily had said. Of the dew on her feet, and sun on her skin. She curled her fingers around soft blades of grass, and felt the chill settling into her toes as she dug them into the ground. She did her best to memorize the sensations – to capture the moment, just as Emily had said, and finally she nodded. 

Emily's voice was low and even, her cadence almost hypnotic. Her words didn't carry that strange compulsion she'd felt when Reinhardt had forced her to transform, but Lena felt as if the rest of the sounds around her were fading away as she focused entirely on her girlfriend's voice. "I want you to picture yourself running about the forest. Think of your paws striking the ground as you run, the sunlight as it comes through the woods,  the feeling of wind blowing through your fur." 

Lena almost could feel it, she realized. A vivid imagination, perhaps... or perhaps the memories of that other self that she'd tried so hard to repress finally letting themselves connect with her again. 

Emily's voice grew a little warmer. "There's a stream not far from here that's perfect for swimming and catching fish in - doesn't that sound fun?" 

It did. She could almost feel herself splashing through the running water, her fur getting a bit damp, her tail stretching tall to keep out of the wet as she leapt after the silver skinned fish swimming just beneath the surface. 

"Think about all the smells - everything is so alive out here - alive and waiting for you to explore it." 

Lena wasn't exactly sure when it happened, but at some point she had stopped hearing the world through her human ears and the chill she had felt all but disappeared. Everything smelt a bit more intense, and she could feel a bit of dirt and rock until the pads of her feet. Her fingers were no longer curled into the grass – she no longer had fingers – but her front paws dug into the ground, the claws turning up a bit of the earth.  She was no longer on  hands and knees, just resting on her feet - and without realizing it she shifted her back legs a bit, settling into a more comfortable position.  

Lena opened her eyes and suddenly knew she was no longer human, but for the first time that thought didn't terrify her. 

Emily was still there, some part of her realized, smiling down at her. "There you are, beautiful. How do you feel?" 

She didn't even think – just leapt forward for Emily, her paws coming up against the towel, covering her chin and  face with enthusiastic licks.  

Emily laughed. "I suppose that's an answer!" She let Lena carry on for a little longer, then stepped back. "All right, now – my turn, but I need you to pay attention."  

Lena didn't think that sounded nearly as fun. She wanted to play, not watch. She'd just begun to start forward when Emily gave her a firm look as she waved towards a spot in front of her on the ground. 

"Sit." 

She distantly recognized Emily's gesture as a hand signal before she found her body following the instruction without thinking. Blinking at how she'd obeyed so quickly, Lena tilted her head up at her in an unspoken question, making Emily laugh.  

"No, I didn't use my Voice, but I do have experience getting pups to follow my instructions." She put her hand to the towel, letting it drop to the ground. "Now, watch closely."  

Lena tilted her head to the other side as Emily shifted without preamble.  

Her body was lean, but powerful, with smooth muscle under sleek fur that blended from rust red to chestnut brown, with grey undertones and dark shadows around her brilliant green eyes and proud muzzle. She looked stunning, poised and confident even in this form, her tail swishing softly against the ground, her ears angling slightly as she listened to the sounds of the woods. 

She looked like she could run for hours and still be ready to hunt. She had an air of power and authority that radiated from her, and Lena felt like she could follow her anywhere Emily cared to take her. 

Lena was finding it hard to think critically in this form, but the part of her mind that was still firmly attuned to her humanity looked at Emily's wolf with a single thought: She's beautiful.  

At the same time, though, the puppy within her saw the wolf in front of her and was consumed with a single thought: PLAY! 

Lena bowed her front legs before jumping to the side - running for a few feet before turning around and offering a happy bark. 

Emily clearly understood what she wanted, and soon the two were off, running through the woods playing an impromptu game of tag mixed with an element of follow the leader.  

Emily lead them through the trees and down to the river as promised where Lena happily chased after fish - her teeth only ever clasping around mouthfuls of water as she splashed around. She was soaked from nose to tail before Emily's sharp woof drew her attention back to the shore where a few larger fish lay flopping in the grass.  

Food! 

Lena bounded for land and the waiting meal, slipping a bit on the uneven and moss covered rocks. For a moment the ground beneath her feet gave way completely and she found herself having to doggy paddle a few times before her toes found the river's bottom once more. 

Shaking herself off after she reached shore, she fell upon the waiting fish. They tasted sweet and clean in the most amazing way, and it wasn't long before she had devoured everything Emily had caught for her.  

She felt full and content, letting out a happy little whine as she curled up on the ground, and a moment later Emily was wrapped around her. Lena felt Emily's tongue drag through her coat as she licked and groomed her, and she twisted around to try returning the favor, licking at her muzzle before Emily gently nudged her back down so she could go after a tangled mat.  

Between her full belly and the comforting warmth around her, it wasn't long before she started to feel drowsy. A nap sounded so good. 

She felt Emily stand back up, and she looked over to see the larger wolf leaping back over the stream. She tilted her head, trying to see what Emily wanted. (Play?) 

Emily looked into her eyes, and Lena wasn't sure how she knew that the other wolf was amused, but something about her bearing communicated it to her. Then Emily settled back onto her haunches and let out a long clear howl to the morning sky.  A song of joy, of excitement, of happiness, and it made her heart sing. 

Lena's drowsiness was gone in an instant. Throwing her head back she tried to join in, but her voice was more of a squeak and a whining yip than Emily's clear tones. Still, she gave it her best, and Emily had an indulgent sort of look as they finished, as if to tell her she would get it eventually. 

Then Emily's tail was flicking as she turned back towards the direction that they had come, her long loping strides quickly accelerating to a run as Lena gave chase. 

Play! Playplayplayplay run run run run RUN! 

Emily lead her towards the clearing and the cabin, occasionally slowing enough to let Lena attempt to catch and tackle her before she was off again, finally ending on the blanket in a pile of limbs and fur and licks until Emily had curled around her again, placing her head down against Lena's neck as she snuggled against her. 

She wasn't sure how long they stayed in that position, warm and safe and happy and home, but eventually Emily uncurled herself, and Lena felt a pang of sadness as the beautiful wolf transformed herself back into a beaming redhead as the puppy side of herself realized that playtime was over. 

"That was a lot of fun, wasn't it?" 

Lena yipped happily in reply, and Emily reached out to scratch behind her ears, which felt amazing as her fingernails got in just the right spots.  

"Now – I know it's hard to focus on a lot of things for you right now, but I want you to pay attention to me. Listen to my voice and what I'm telling you." 

Lena sat up and tried, despite her urge to sniff around or run a bit more, to follow what she was being told. 

"Good. Very good, Lena. Now – do you remember that moment I asked you to remember? To hold on to for when it was time to come back?" 

Lena worked to remember as she'd been told. Feeling her toes in the dirt and the grass beneath her fingertips. Of the chill of the dew and goosebumps on her skin. 

"Think about your hands and your fingers. Think about toes and feet. About deep, slow breaths in and out through your nose. I want you to concentrate as hard as you can, and think about standing up. Think about straightening up and taking to your feet, and I want you to stand.

It was slow, nothing like the fairly rapid changes Emily had performed, and for a heart stopping moment she thought she might be stuck again – be trapped again – but beneath it all there was that same flowing, stretching sensation all through her body, and she found herself rising to her feet, her legs returning to their firm, toned shapes, her fingers and toes wiggling, back and spine rising until Lena opened her eyes and she was human again, Emily looking at her with undisguised pride. 

"I did it," Lena murmured, still feeling a bit of disbelief. "I... I did it! I DID IT!" Maybe it was a little bit of the puppy still at the front of her mind, or maybe just the sheer relief and exhilaration, but she found herself seizing Emily in a hug, peppering her face with little kisses. "Thank you, thank you so much!" 

Emily laughed as she returned a few of the kisses. "You did! You were wonderful, Lena!" A blush had risen on her cheeks and Lena was suddenly very, very aware of how close their bodies were. "How did it feel?" 

"Good," Lena answered as she tried to focus on Emily's face rather than go wandering. "I mean... slower, I think, than you did. But you have a lot more practice, and it didn't hurt. I was so afraid that even after working on it more..."  

Emily brought her in for another hug. "I understand – and I'm so glad, Lena. This... I know this life wasn't your choice, but it's supposed to be something beautiful, not a punishment or a curse. I was raised to embrace it, and I want you to feel the same." 

"I think I'm getting there." Lena leaned in to peck Emily on the lips again. "Might need a few more lessons, though." 

Emily nodded. "Actually, I was going to ask – there's still a lot of mats and tangles in your coat when you shift. Would you like me to try to help? I've got some brushes and combs back at the cabin." 

"I think I'd rather have you take a crack at it than get sent to the groomer." 


Emily was impressed. She'd talked Lena through another change after they'd gone inside, and she'd noticed Lena took slightly less time to shift than her first attempt. If she kept this up, Emily had a feeling that Lena would be well on her way to having as much control as she did by the end of her probationary year.  

She'd left Lena to have a nap on the cabin floor while she took a quick shower and dressed, then grabbed the small case of grooming tools from the spare bedroom.  

Lena still looked painfully underfed, but in just a week of finally eating a proper diet, her coat had begun to take on a healthier sheen, and her ribs didn't seem quite so sharply pronounced. The edges of her gums were still pinker than they should have been, but it was steps in the right direction.  

She saw Lena's tail twitching and her paws shift and couldn't help but smile. She almost hated to wake her up, but she knew it would be easier to comb and brush out Lena's coat if she was awake.  

"Lena? Lena, I'm back. Come on, pup, it's brushy-brushy time..." 

Lena's eyes slowly opened, and Emily held up a steel comb. "Sit up, and we'll see about getting those nasty mats out. You're going to feel so much better, I promise." 

She waited for Lena to get up, then began to slide the comb through her fur. "That's good, just like that...good! You're already looking healthier, you know." Emily could feel the younger wolf relaxing under her fingers as she worked, and couldn't help but smile as Lena's tongue lolled out. "That does feel good, doesn't it? Those tangles must have been driving you half mad."  

Lena yipped, then gave a whine as the comb caught on a particularly nasty mat.  

"Sorry, I know – here, I'm getting the brush. We'll see if we can brush this out, and if it's not going to cooperate we'll cut it out for you, all right? No sense in risking a rash."  

After a few good passes with the brush, all but the very worst mats had been broken up, and she was able to remove those with scissors, then comb out the fur around them.  

"There...better?" Lena turned to enthusiastically lick her face as Emily laughed. "Easy – I still need to get your belly!" Rubbing at her sides, Emily gently encouraged her to turn. "Go on – roll over for me!" 

As she started to brush through the fur on Lena's belly and the more sensitive skin, Emily couldn't help but feel pleased at how the wolf relaxed and melted under her hands.  "Yes... there we are... very good... that looks so much better, doesn't it?" 

Lena let out a low happy whine, flopping onto her side as Emily brushed out the rest of her tail.   

"Mmhmm. It's sort of like the best parts of having your hair done and getting a full body massage wrapped into one. You usually don't need to do a really hard brush and groom like this more than once or twice a month. Maybe after the next moon the two of us can trade off and take care of each other. I bet you'd have a lot of fun with that." 

Lena's answering yip was quite enthusiastic.  

"Well, that's about everything for now – do you want to try changing back again?" 

Lena huffed, but she turned herself over again and closed her eyes.  

"I can give you a back rub later if you behave," Emily promised, "now just like before, think about your human self. Focus on it. Think of standing up..." 

Lena's body began to ripple and shift, then stopped and settled again as her concentration waned, and Lena gave a little frustrated growl. 

"Easy. It's your second time today, it's OK if you need a moment. Try one more time, and if that doesn't work I'll give you a push." 

Lena closed her eyes again, and Emily put her hand comfortingly against her neck. "Don't rush. Relax. Just take your time. " 

The second time took longer, but when Lena finished shifting for the second time, Emily found herself with a blissfully smiling girlfriend leaning against her lap. 

"There we are. That's very good!" Emily let her fingers trace a lazy circle over Lena's bare shoulder. "How are you feeling?" 

Lena sighed happily as she opened her eyes. "Absolutely amazing. Like I just went to a spa for the afternoon or something." Her smile turned a bit sly. "Have to admit I enjoyed having your hands all over me for a while there." 

Emily grinned. "Well, I am looking forward to having you return the favor next time we're up here." 

Sitting up with a deliberate slowness, Lena's arms slipped around her waist, and Emily's breath caught at the heat in her gaze. "Mmm." Lena's lips brushed against her chin as her voice dipped into a throaty murmur. "Why wait?" 

A heartbeat later Lena's mouth was on hers, her lips soft and warm as the kiss quickly deepened. Her fingers ran up the back of her shirt and Emily groaned as her own fingers slid along Lena's belly before pulling her closer. Her scent was thick in Emily's nose, rich and fresh, with a sharp sweet tang of arousal under it that was making her blood race. Lena's hands were carding into her hair as she ran kisses against the edge of her neck and ear and she couldn't resist nipping the edge of Lena's shoulder. The little moan that escaped Lena was perfect and she wanted to hear every single noise she could tease out of her. 

Emily brought a hand up into Lena's hair, fingers tangling into it and tilting it back to bare her throat, and Lena's breathy gasp of her name had an undertone of need that made her lose her mind as she growled and put her lips against the beat of her pulse...and a sudden shock of realization that made her jerk back as if she'd been shot, almost throwing herself back and away from Lena to keep herself from completely losing control. 

Shit! 

Lena blinked at her, confusion and a bit of hurt in her eyes, and it made Emily feel like a heap of garbage.  

"Em? What happened? Did I do something wrong?" 

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she could try to answer, trying to calm everything that had suddenly been stirred up inside of her.  "No, god no, if anything you're doing far too much right... I just... give me a moment, please, and I'll try to explain, ok?" 

Lena frowned, but nodded. "OK. Do... um... do you want me to get dressed?" 

Emily winced. "As much as I really don't want to say yes... it might be a good idea." 

Lena stood. "Right – I'll be back. Meet you on the couch?" 

"Thank you." Emily sighed. "I'm sorry." 

"Just... let's talk in a minute, ok?" 


Lena wasn't really sure how she felt beyond 'emotional whiplash with a side of epic sexual frustration' when she'd finished dressing and come back down to meet Emily in the cabin's living room, but realizing how utterly miserable Emily looked drained what little anger she'd had out of her. 

"Hey, luv." 

Emily looked up, waving towards the opposite end of the couch. "Sorry." 

"You keep saying that," Lena sighed as she settled down on the cushion, "so... what happened?" 

"First..." Emily rubbed at her face before looking up to meet her eyes. "You did nothing wrong, ok? That was... really, really good, and that was kind of the problem." 

Lena frowned. "You said something like that before I got dressed." 

"I did..." Emily straightened up. "Originally, I wanted to wait and take things slow because I was concerned about your health – especially once I realized you weren't a born Were." 

"That makes sense. But... I'm getting better, right?" 

"You are, but you're not 100% yet. Remember how Angela said she had some concerns about your heart?" 

Lena blinked, then breathed in sharply. "Shit. Yeah, she did. Angela never said I couldn't have sex right now, but I didn't really talk to her much about dos and don'ts either." 

"That hit me," Emily admitted, "when I felt your pulse under my lips. But the more I thought about it, there's more to it." 

"OK, go on?" 

"It's not unusual," Emily explained, "for sex between weres to get very physical. Scratching, biting, nipping... and it's also not unheard of to sometimes shift things like claws or fangs in the heat of the moment." 

Lena frowned. "I don't think I've got enough practice to do that." 

"No," Emily agreed, "you probably don't – but I do... and if I were to start really marking you up, you might not have what you need to heal that properly right now – or to reply in kind if you wanted to." 

Lena held up a hand. "Wait. If – If – things were going out of hand, you'd stop if I told you to, right?" 

"Absolutely. Always. You say stop, I will always stop, I don't care what we're doing." 

"Right," Lena smiled, "just trying to make sure." 

Emily's smile had a bit of that flustered shyness that made her melt just a little each time she saw it. "No, it's all right. This is all a bit... it's an adjustment, sorry, and I didn't think." 

"So. Keeping in mind that I was enjoying myself quite a bit, tell more about why you're worried about getting a little rough?" 

Emily held up her hand. "Let's say we were making out again, and I were to scratch your back with my hand like this." 

Lena couldn't help herself. "Oo. Yes, please." 

Emily reached out to swat her foot. "Not helping, gorgeous." 

"Sorry, sorry." 

Emily's look told her exactly how true she thought that was, but it was a big improvement over the earlier trainwreck. "Anyway. If I were to do that, even if I gave you a deep scratch or cut, you'd heal it quickly. Minutes, maybe an hour or two at the worst." 

"OK, I think I follow." 

Emily's eyes took on a look of concentration (and that same greenish cast she'd noticed on the night of the full moon) and her arm rippled and shifted, fur covering the skin, her hand growing slightly larger, the nails thickening into claws.  "If I were to mark you with this, you'd be carrying the scratches for days – maybe weeks – and right now there's a very good chance I'd leave you with some permanent scars." 

Lena swallowed hard. "Oh." She had to admit that put a very different spin on things. She took a moment to think all of that over. "Thank you, Em. For stopping – for thinking of me." 

Emily sighed as her arm shifted back to normal, relief washing over her face. "Thank you for not being angry at me. It's not that I don't want to, Lena, please believe me because I do – oh, God, I do, but... I want to do it right, and I want us both to be ready." 

Lena scooted across the couch so she could give a proper hug. "That means a lot, Em. I want that, too. Not that I'm thrilled about my dry spell going on longer, but... I'll call the clinic and maybe we can get a list of dos and don'ts, yeah?" 

Emily stretched a bit against her so she could put a gentle kiss on her forehead, and Lena sighed as she settled against her. "I think that's a good idea. There's certainly plenty of ways we can make each other feel good, and I can show you a few tricks with your ears and tail..." 

Lena couldn’t help but giggle. "Werewolf sex ed?" 

"...yes, actually." Emily's voice became thoughtful. "There's a few other things you should know about, too." 

Lena's brows knit. "What, am I going to go into heat or something?" 

Emily coughed. "Well..." 

"Seriously?" Lena could feel the blood draining from her face as she sat up. "Look, I have to admit I googled that 'Alpha, Beta, Omega' thing and I found a lot of stuff out there. Are... are you going to magically grow a penis?" 

Emily blinked. "What?!"  

"Because I'm not necessarily opposed and you wouldn't be the first pretty girl I've swallowed for but I would really like to know rather than be taken by surprise-" 

"Lena!" Emily had started to laugh so hard that she was shaking. "No! I mean..." Emily had to take a deep breath before she could answer again. "What kind of websites were you reading?

Lena coughed, her ears burning. "Look, after I filtered out the Greek websites and the sororities I got curious about why I kept seeing it show up on fanfiction sites." 

That set Emily off again and she needed a moment to collect herself. "Right... let me see if I can explain..." She bit the corner of her lip, obviously trying to prevent a giggling fit. "As far as penises go, there are trans weres out there just like there are plenty of other trans people out there, but you've already seen my goods."  

Lena nodded. "But we do have some kind of heat?" 

"We do, but it's not like some kind of uncontrollable rut." Emily sat up as well, putting her back against the arm of the couch. "We still have our monthly cycle, and we ovulate, and we have our periods. But three or four times a year..." She trailed off as she considered her explanation. "Have you ever had a day where you were really, really turned on for no good reason, and pretty much everything you did made you think about sex?" 

"Yeah, I've had that day a few times." 

"Same idea," Emily explained, "but instead of feeling that way for a day, you'll basically have a week or so like that. Most of the time when mine hits I tend to get a bit more absentminded, and I've been told I get a bit flirty even when I didn't necessarily mean to, but it's not like you turn into a completely different person." 

Lena couldn't help but snort. "Oh, good, so I get to be sixteen again?" 

Emily grinned. "Well, I've no idea how much you were dating at sixteen, but at least now you've got a girlfriend who will be very interested in helping take care of you." 

"OK, yeah, there is that. But what about... y'know... others?" 

"Other weres can notice the scent, but perfume or really strong scented body wash or shampoo will help to cover it up. I usually have some rosemary and mint scented soap in the bathroom for that, and as far as anyone we know at the Howl... anyone who knows me will know we're dating, and if someone tries to give you trouble, let me know? Or just slap the bugger." 

Lena giggled. "That I can do."  

"I can think of a few other things you'll like to know about," Emily admitted, "but they're more... practical, and I don't want to get us both worked up again and not be able to finish the job."  

She couldn't help but sigh. "Yeah, maybe that's it for tonight as far as that goes..." 

"Did anything come up when we were running around earlier that you wanted to ask me about?" 

Lena considered that. "Oh – yeah actually. Your eyes!" 

Emily raised an eyebrow. "What about them?" 

"I noticed again today – they turn green? Is that normal?" 

"Fairly, yes. Well – that's not entirely true. The color varies. Green is a bit rare. But our birth eye color and the eye color of your wereself - or your wolf - are often different. As you change, the eyes are normally the first thing to shift." 

"Huh. What color are mine? Never tried to look at myself in a mirror when I was, y'know... different." 

Emily's cheeks colored just a bit. "Blue. That's fairly normal for pups – and from what I found out when I was researching, turned weres usually keep that color their entire lives. Yours are a very striking shade. They're quite beautiful." 

"Aw." Lena leaned over to kiss her cheek. "Thanks, luv. You make an awfully pretty wolf yourself." A thought struck her, and she coughed. "That's... not weird, right? I mean, for us?"

Emily returned Lena's kiss as a blush rose on her cheeks. "I think it was a rather lovely compliment, actually."

Chapter Text

Monday dawned with thick clouds over London, and while it wasn't raining yet, Lena wasn't entirely convinced it would stay that way. Something in the air seemed to promise that the skies could open up at any minute.  

She'd done her morning route and had almost finished her lunch break when her phone buzzed.   

~ EM ~ <3<3: 

11:41

Hello gorgeous. Are you free tonight to come over to the pub?  

hiya luv - I thought the pub was closed on Mondays? 

It is, but I usually go in to clean the taps and lines. 

Ah - so you're just using me for my body! I see how it is!   

Oh dear, I've been found out. 

But seriously, I would love your company, so can you come over? Say... around 6?  

Do I need to wear anything in particular?  

Just casual is fine.  

I'll be there! 

Wonderful! I'll leave the front unlocked for you in case I'm in the back. 


Lena arrived a few minutes early. The clouds from earlier in the day had grown darker, prompting her to bring an umbrella as a precaution. 

It was a little strange, seeing the pub all closed up - the windows dimmed and tables under the outdoor overhang empty.  

Sure enough, despite the closed sign, the front door was unlocked so Lena let herself in and found herself unable to see past the tip of her nose in the darkened bar.  She'd just started to fumble around the doorway for a light switch when there was a sudden roar of voices out of the shadows. 

"SURPRISE!!"  

Lena jumped with a startled 'yip' and brought her umbrella out in front of her like a makeshift weapon.  

"Jesse! You were supposed to turn on the lights!" 

"I did! These new fangled energy saving bulbs take.."  

Lena blinked as the entire pub suddenly came into view as the overhead lights came on all at once.  

"...a second." 

The crowd before her was small - but full of at least somewhat familiar faces; Angela, Brigitte, Fareeha - and to her surprise, next to a table covered in food, Ana Amari and Reinhardt. 

Lena lowered her umbrella as Emily came up and gave her a quick peck on the lips, "Um... I hate to mention this, but it's not my birthday?" 

Emily smiled and seemed about to answer, but was beaten to the punch by Reinhardt leaping forward and sweeping them both into a hug. 

"HAPPY FIRST MOON, LITTLE ONE!" 

"Put them down abībī," Ana admonished, "And let the little alpha explain what that means to the whelp." 

Reinhardt did as he was told and released his captives with a loud chuckle. "Forgive me my friends, it has been some time since I was invited to attend a celebration such as this!" 

"So... would someone like to explain to me exactly what this is?" Lena asked after she recovered from suddenly not being three feet higher in the air.  
 
Once again Emily opened her mouth to answer when Jesse cut in from behind the bar. 

"First moon's a tradition - after a pup has their first full change from the moon, their pack gets together to throw a big shindig. Gifts, food, the whole shebang. It's like the quinceanera or a sweet sixteen - recognizing you've come into all of yourself and celebratin'."  

Lena blinked. "So why now?"  

Jesse grinned. "Better late than never, right?" 

Emily turned to glower at him with hands on her hips. "You know, I am perfectly capable of speaking for myself, Jesse." 

The cowboy blinked, then blushed. "Oh... uh.... aw, shit. I'm sorry Annie. I thought the pussy-cat was talking about me.

"Most of you Alphas are all the same to me," Ana said with a shrug, "but in the future I'll do my best to refer to you as Tramp." 

"Mom," Fareeha groaned as Angela giggled beside her. 

"Put a darlin' in front of it and you can call me just about anything," Jesse said with a wink. 

Ana smirked. "Perhaps I shall refer to you as a 'Darling pile of shit' then," 

Jesse clutched at his chest as if he'd been shot and let out a theatrical gasp, "Do you clean your daughter with that mouth?!?" 

Ana rolled her eye. "Please - I have not given Fareeha a tongue bath in years. After she turned twenty it was much too hard to make her sit still." 

"MOTHER!" Fareeha's face had alternated between growing pale to a brick red, and she dropped her face into her hands as Jesse wordlessly slid a shot of whiskey across the bar to her.  

"Enough about little schön - It's the little one's time to shine!" Reinhardt reached over to a table where a few wrapped packages were gathered - plucking a white envelope with the council's wax seal keeping it shut.  

"Here Ms. Oxton - I took the liberty of bringing this to you in person. Please, open it." 

Lena took the offered envelope and took a moment to figure out how to break the wax seal before opening it to look over the contents. Curious – Lena pulled out a check first and balked at the numbers there.  

"This... This is almost as much as my regular paycheck! Is this supposed to be... are you giving me this every month?! I can't accept-" 

Reinhardt silenced her with the raise of his hand. 

"You were wronged by one of our kind Lena. The council owes you compensation if nothing else. Your turning should not have gone unnoticed for as long as it did and, while I am proud to have you as a fellow were, you never should have been turned against your will. You may use the stipend however you wish – so please, accept our apology and promise to do right by you in the future." 

Lena glanced around the room and found every head, including Ana's, nodding in agreement with Reinhardts words.  

"My bank account thanks you, then," Lena replied with a chuckle as she dug out the envelope's remaining item. 

Her fingers pinched around a thin rectangular object which felt like it was made of plastic.  

W.  I.  N. 

WIN #: AE 103-805-40 L 

Card holder: Lena Oxton 

Lena looked up a smile on her face, "Does this mean...?" 

Reinhardt nodded, "Yes, you have been officially registered into the council. Try not to lose it now!" 

Congratulations rang out around her as Lena turned the card over and soaked in the information the back. Everything seemed correct but... 

"Wait just a mo' - 'Apparent Age'? Is that some sort of misprint?" 

The question was met with absolute silence. Everyone seemed to turn as one to look at Emily and Lena found herself starting to panic. 

"C-Come on now, you're all joking right?" 

Emily stood perfectly still, her face a few shades paler than usual. 

"Emily... it's just a misprint – werewolves aren't immortal or anything right?" 

Perhaps it was the edge of fear creeping into Lena's voice that helped Emily find her own. 

"No..." Emily began softly, almost as if she were afraid Lena might break if she spoke too loudly. "No, of course we're not immortal... just... very long lived." 

"Long-lived?" Lena asked, her voice cracking on the last syllable. 

"Emily, I think Lena could do with some air," Brigitte offered. 

The alpha nodded her thanks before slowly moving herself and Lena back towards the pub entrance. The warmth of Emily's arm around her waist was familiar and grounding and likely one of the only things keeping Lena moving if she was being honest.  

Maybe she was overreacting – maybe long-lived meant she'd make it to a hundred, that wouldn't be so bad would it?  

But something about their reactions – about the scar marring Reinhardt's face and the patch covering Ana's missing eye – those weren't injuries people just got by accident. Not in this day and age. 

Distantly, Lena realized Emily was guiding her over towards one of the empty tables and softly asking her to sit down... but that would mean she'd have to let go. 

A small part of her screamed that she was being selfish – that she was being needed as she ignored Emily's suggestion and instead tucked herself closer into the alpha's personal space.  

"Hug," Lena asked, her voice barely above a whisper. 

Weak, some part of her mind shouted back – but none of it mattered the moment Emily's arms came around to hold her.  

Lena breathed deeply – taking in her girlfriends scent. It was warm and safe and everything Lena needed right now.  

Neither was quite certain how long they stayed like that – but eventually Lena felt more like herself and pulled back enough to look up at her girlfriend. 

"Are you okay?" Emily asked, and Lena could see the worry in those grey eyes. 

"Not really," Lena admitted glancing over to the table nearby, "but I think I'm alright to sit down now and talk." 

Emily nodded and the pair of them moved to sit down.  

"So..." Lena began, rubbing a thumb across the top of Emily's knuckles as she thought about where she might be most comfortable to start, "If its not a mistake... what's the 'apparent age' actually mean?" 

Emily seemed to think about that for a moment before replying with a question of her own. 

"Lena, how old do I look?" 

"Well, it's not exactly nice to assume that sort of thing... but I guess I've figured you were a bit older than me – so late twenties? Maybe thirty at the most?" 

"You're close – my WIN places me at about twenty eight for my apparent age..." 

Lena couldn't help herself, "How long have you been twenty-eight?" 

"Oh god," Emily groaned, "first fanfiction and now you're referencing Twilight?!" 

"I never said it was good... but seriously... how does this all work?" 

"In your case, I'm assuming Brigitte or Angela just set the age for you based on your birthday. In my case..." Emily reached into her pocket, bringing out her wallet and pulling her own card out so Lena could compare it with her own. "See the issue date?"  

Lena nodded. "January 4th, 2014."  

"You get a renewal notice for your card every five years. With the way we age... it's pretty normal until you get into your late teens, and as your body's regenerative powers start hitting their peak, things slow. The way my gran explained it to me... when you think about it, getting older is a lot like a bunch of tiny little injuries. Our bodies take a lot longer to really start showing the effects of age. So in my case..." Emily paused. "I've put my apparent age at somewhere between twenty five and twenty eight for the last ten years or so." She did her best to offer a smile. "Maybe when I renew in 2019, I'll ask you to tell me what to put down on the form." 

Lena didn't respond, her eyes glued to the card held in Emily's hand. 

"...Lena?"  

"Nineteen seventy."  

"...yes."  

"You are forty five years old."  

"Yes." 

"Emily is that... how is that... and you... you want me?"  

Emily blinked in confusion. "Why wouldn't I want you?" 

"Because I've been nothing but trouble for you! I just- you're forty five - how... how am I the pick of the litter?" 

"Lena, I swear, it wouldn't matter if I was forty five or four hundred, I would want to be with you."  

"...any other time that would be really romantic but now I am freaking out about the idea of you being four hundred years old." 

Emily offered another smile, "I'd likely look a bit older by then...." 

"… Exactly how long can we live for?" 

"Well... Reinhardt and Ana are around six-hundred..." 

Slowly Lena sat back in her chair, a faraway look in her eye as she tried, and failed, to process this new information.  

"Emily?" 

"Yes, Lena?" 

"I think I want to go back inside now." 

"...are you sure?" 

"I'm... I tried to wrap my head around it, Em, and I just can't, right now. I think I need a little time... and a drink." 

What little quiet conversation was going on back inside the pub quickly stopped as Lena and Emily came inside. All eyes came to rest on Lena and she did her best to ignore them as she crossed the room and stood at the bar. 

"Jesse?"  

"Yeah, darlin'?" 

"Mind if I have a pint?" 

The cowboy filled a glass for her, then slid it across the bar. Lena lifted the glass to her lips and took a long drink of her beer before turning back around to face the room at large. 

"So... I am probably going to need a few more of these," Lena admitted with a weak smile, "But... could we try all that again? I'm sorry for having to step out like that and..." 

"Nonsense," Reinhardt exclaimed, clapping his hands together with a thunderous crash that brought all eyes back to him - and for a moment Lena wondered if maybe he'd  done that on purpose.  

"Do not apologize for needing some time! You did not ask for any of this and yet you continue to charge on! It is to be commended! Speaking of which," Reinhardt cleared his throat and stood up to his full height, his head brushing against the ceiling but not quite bumping into it. "It is custom for gifts to be given at your 'First Moon' ceremony - it is, after all, a celebration that the moon has bestowed her gifts onto you!"  

Reinhardt paused – and while Lena couldn't be certain, she had a feeling it was mostly for dramatic effect. 

"My gift to you is not a thing that can be placed into a box and tied up with a piece of string. No, instead I offer both you and Miss Oakley, a standing invitation to join as members of my pack. Your courage and determination are inspiring! Beowulfsohn would be honored to count you among our number – but please, do not feel you must accept my offer. I do not require an answer today – or ever. But I want you to know that should you ever need a place and pack to call home – mine will welcome you for as long as I lead it." 

As the others stared with surprised silence in response to Reinhardt's offer, there was a snort of laughter from where Ana stood next to him.  

"What he doesn't want to admit is that the Old Wolf is terrible at wrapping presents. So he keeps finding ways to give out ones that do not require it." Picking up a bundle that had been wrapped in blue and white paper, she tossed it underhand, and Lena caught it out of the air.  

"ooo. Thank you!" Opening the bundle, she laughed as she pulled out a large clear cellophane bag filled with bone shaped dog biscuits.  

"Bacon, with a bit of peanut butter mixed in. From what someone told me..." Ana looked up to Reinhardt, who grinned back to her. "They're supposed to be fairly tasty. Enjoy, child - and happy first moon." 

"Since we're on the subject of bacon," Fareeha chimed in glancing over to Angela who gave a small nod, "You might want to open our gift next." 

Lena raised a brow at that, sitting down her glass as she walked over to the three remaining gifts on the table. One was a simple card with her name written in a eloquent script far too nice to belong to anyone but Brigitte, the second was a collection of oddly lumpy items wrapped up in newspaper which was likely Jesse's doing. That likely meant the reasonably sized gift-bag covered in puppy paw-prints had come from the pair of them.  

Reaching in Lena pulled out a hardcover book that could easily double as a murder weapon.  

"One thousand and one... meats?" Lena asked, looking up a bit puzzled. 

"It’s a cookbook. I'm assuming most of what you know how to prepare is vegetarian based – and since you need to be eating more meat..." 

"Cor you're right! I've mostly been sticking to sandwiches and eating out – thanks Angela, this'll help a lot!"  

"There's a card in there too," Angela added. 

"Oh," Lena said running her hand through the side of the bag until she felt the waxy gloss of a greeting card, "Suppose I should have read this first then." 

The front of the card was simple – just silhouette of what was likely a wolf in mid howl against a white frame. Taped to the inside was a giftcard to the butcher's place near her apartment... the very one she'd apparently raided during the supermoon. Below the gift card there was a simple note: Everything's been handled. 

"I figured you'd need ingredients to cook with," Fareeha said with a knowing smile. 

"Y-yeah. Thanks, both of these will come in really handy." 

Lena moved on to the next gift – grabbing Brigitte's card and opening it to see that it was also a gift card, but to a store she'd never heard of before. 

"Estelle's Finery and Furs? That seems a bit... posh for me." 

"Oh, she sells more casual outfits too - but you have to be on her special client list," Brigitte explained, "I remember you said something about ruining your favorite jeans. Estelle will be able to help you with getting some new ones properly fitted." 

"Um... just to clarify – you mean she'll figure in my tail and everything? Right?" 

Brigitte laughed, "Yes – she'll be able to adjust for that. And put hidden flaps in to allow it to slip through without tearing anything." 

"Oh I am so looking forward to that. I hate having my tail pinched!" 

"Before ya head out to the tailor's I'd suggest you open up the gift I gotcha and make sure it fits right," Jesse chimed in with a wink, "If it don't I'm sure Miss Estelle will be able to help ya out."   

Curious, Lena turned to the remaining package wrapped in newspaper and an obscene amount of tape. It took a moment, but when she finally managed to unearth the gifts inside she had to laugh. 

As Lena held up the orange dog collar complete with a personalized tag Brigitte's face had gradually darkened. That was odd - she thought the "If lost, return to Emily" was pretty cute, but maybe it was some kind of Werewolf Faux pas?  

"Jesse."  

"Yes, Miss Brigitte?"  

"You didn't go to a pet shop for that, did you?"  

"Well..."  

"I would have made a better one than that! You should have asked!"  

Lena blinked. "You do collars?"  

Brigitte blushed. "Well. My job needs a lot of stress relief. Metalworking is something of a family trade, so I make things in my spare time... and there are times when it really helps to hit things with a hammer."  

"Ohh." 

Lena turned to ask Emily what she thought about the color, and her stomach sank when she realized she didn't see her in the room. 

"Here," Brigitte said gently as she stepped forward, "I'll help you put it on." 


Emily had been managing to hold things together until Angela had taken her arm and softly whispered an apology for not thinking to tell Lena about Werewolf lifespans while discussing the medical side of things. As if it had been Angela's responsibility. As if it had been Angela's fault, when they both knew that wasn't the case at all. 

She'd barely managed to whisper 'It's fine, really' back to her before she'd quietly backed away from the party and slipped through the Employees Only doors that lead down to the keg storage and coolers in the basement. 

Emily had thought she'd gotten away without being noticed until she heard Jesse coming down the stairs after her.  

"Y'know you're missing your girl tryin' on a perfectly good collar? Most folks need to pay money to see that sort of thing." 

Emily shook her head, trying to keep the tears in her eyes from falling. "Not funny. Not... not after how I keep mucking this up." 

Jesse's hand gently settled on her arm, his voice growing soft. "Come on now Annie, don't be makin a mountain out of a molehill." 

She forced herself to swallow against the lump in her throat. "A 'molehill'? Really? Because if being able to live seven times as long as an average human isn't a big deal to you I'm not sure I want to know what is. I'm supposed be helping her, Jesse... I want to help her, and every time I just find ways to make it worse! How did I forget to tell her that? How could I forget? It's... it's..." She threw up her hands with a frustrated growl. 

Jesse absentmindedly took his hat off, tapping it against the buttons of his shirt. "It just is. Always has been your whole life. It's not something you think about because you've grown up with it. You've been doing a great job of learnin' her up, but everyone has blind spots. You missed that one because you don't see Lena as a turned were, you just see her as the girl you're head over heels for." 

Emily nearly choked on her laugh. "I have a funny way of showing it. She's... Jesse, this was supposed to be something fun and I traumatized her!" 

"She seemed to be dealin' pretty well so far."  

Emily sighed. "That's... more about her knowing how to put on a good show than anything I managed to do. Some alpha I am..." 

"Hey, now. Don't you do that." Jesse's eyes flashed with concern. "You've been there for her and she knows that - which is why you're hurtin' her worse by not bein' upstairs right now."  

Emily felt six inches tall and miserable. He was right, and she knew that.  

"I just... I felt so stupid. I was afraid I'd bring the whole place down again if I didn't get away."  

"Sometimes you just gotta say you done fucked up, Annie."  

Emily nodded. "Well, that's certainly true."  

"So. Is standin' around with a bunch of empty kegs gonna fix anything?"  

She sighed and shook her head. "No, no, it won't."  

"So just get up off the mat. Go let her know you think she looks pretty as a picture, an' you give her that keyring I'm not supposed to notice in your pocket."  

Emily managed to smile with something that felt a little bit like hope. "You think she'd want to move in with me after all that? I hardly feel like it would be right to ask now."  

"So wait to ask that part." Jesse smiled. "There's gonna be a time. But I reckon she'll say yes when you do."  

Emily nodded and squared her shoulders. "I hope so. But... not tonight. Enough shocks for one evening." 

The cowboy chuckled as they began to climb back up the stairs. "Probably best, yeah."  

Emily paused as they reached the door to the pub's dining room. "Jesse?"  

"Mmmmhmm?"  

"Thanks." 

Jesse just smiled and gave her a little wink before he pushed open the door.

When they came back in, Lena had the collar snugged around her neck, and a much more relaxed smile on her face. Turning to look over at the door, her head turned just slightly to one side and Emily had to take a moment to just appreciate how cute she looked.  

Jesse mumbled something about going to pour himself another round, and Emily tried to smile as Lena slipped around Brigitte to cross the room to her.  

"Hey," Lena murmured softly as she came into earshot, "you ok?"  

"Not exactly," Emily admitted, "but I'm doing better. I'm sorry... about earlier, and just now."  

"Sh." Lena rocked forward on her toes so she could give her a quick peck on the lips. "I'm not angry, ok? I'm... still dealing, yeah, but I'm not angry - especially not at you."  

Emily closed her eyes and nodded, slipping an arm around her for a hug. "OK." 

Lena squeezed back, then slipped back and ran a finger along the edge of her collar. "So... what do you think? If it wasn't a new moon I'd have my ears out but..."  

She could feel the blush rising on her cheeks as she took her girlfriend in, particularly once she noticed the tag was marked If Lost, Return To EMILY. "I..." She coughed. I want to see you wearing nothing but that collar was honest, but it wasn't really the right moment for that, either. "The color suits you. It looks lovely against your skin, and if you're wearing it when you change the orange is going to stand out nicely against your fur."  

"Yeah?" There was a twinkle in Lena's eyes that said she knew just why Emily had hesitated to answer, and it made her stomach do a happy little flip.  

"Mmhm." Emily reached out and ran her own finger along the edge of the dyed leather. "Looks perfect on you, actually."  

"Well," Lena smiled mischievously, "maybe you'll have to take me out for walkies later, then. The other box had a matching leash." 

Emily would need to think about if she wanted to thank Jesse or murder him for that. 

Before they could go any further, Ana's voice brought them both swiftly back to Earth. "If the two lovebirds would care to join us, we do have a cake to eat."  

Lena giggled, and they walked hand in hand back over to join their friends. 


As the scent of the wilds filled her nose, Lena ran. She'd lost her quarry a few times, but she was certain she had it now. 

She felt the grass and dirt beneath the pads of her feet as she gave chase, her ears straining for the sound of the rest of her pack on the hunt.  

Emily's sharp breathing was coming from off to her side, a bit behind her. The other wolf assisting them for this hunt a bit further ahead, helping to herd the deer that they'd found wandering near the cabin towards their pursuit. 

As she grew closer, Lena followed the signs of the deer's passage from tracks on the ground and brush dislodged by its attempt to flee. She knew instinctively that she would have to be close to make the kill. The deer could run just as well as she could and almost as far.  

She began to catch glimpses of tan fur and sharp antlers, and her head dropped as she pushed herself to put on more speed.  

The buck had been trying to leap away from the herding wolf, and Lena had her opportunity to strike when it realized she was about to close the trap from behind, staggering as it attempted in vain to turn itself and dive for thicker brush.  

Lena pushed herself into a leap, her claws out, jaws open, ready to snap closed on her prey's neck when the memory of waking in a pile of bloodstained fur flashed through her mind, and she froze. Her leap carried her past the deer and into a heap on the ground, and she whined in pain at the rough landing as she rolled onto her side, freeing the paw that had been trapped awkwardly under her body.  

The deer dashed into the deeper brush, and Lena knew catching it would be out of the question.  

Frustrated and embarrassed, she lay on the ground until she heard the sound of human footsteps approaching, and closed her eyes with a dejected sigh.  

Emily's fingers ran through her fur and began to scratch at her neck – normally something she loved but that just made her feel worse. "Bad jump, pup?" 

Lena huffed out a sigh. She'd begun to concentrate so she could change when another set of footsteps grabbed her attention, breaking her out of the attempt. The branches rattled, and Brigitte came through the wood to join them, looking almost completely different with her long hair flowing out behind her compared to her usual buttoned up look. (To say nothing of the fact that she and Emily were both naked after changing from their wolf forms to human.) 

"Is Lena ok? I heard a crash and saw the buck get away. Did he catch her with an antler? Is she hurt?" Brigitte's face was filled with so much concern that Lena wanted to melt into the ground. 

"No," Emily shook her head, "I don't think so. Just a bad jump, maybe." She looked down with a gentle smile. "Bit hard to tell if you don't talk." 

Lena shook her head a bit, then backed up from Emily's hand before letting out another big huff of breath. She closed her eyes and focused on standing again, just as Emily had taught her, and finally she felt the change take hold, the sour churning of her stomach giving the experience an unpleasant edge.  

"I didn't..." Lena sighed as she stood, shaking her head at the other two women. "I'm not hurt." 

"Mm. I can see that now," Emily agreed. "Did the buck manage to get away from you when he turned? They can be tricky when they're scared." 

"I thought I had him worn down enough," Brigitte admitted apologetically, "but I'm not used to herding like that very often. It may have been my fault." 

"NO!" Lena flushed with shame as she gestured sharply at the thicket. "This...it wasn't your fault at all! I just..." Sighing, she let her hands flop down to her sides. "I couldn't do it. I jumped and I thought I was ready and then I just...I couldn't. I was back in the stupid park with the rabbits I tore apart on that first night I changed and..." Lena's voice broke off into a wordless growl of frustration.  

Emily reached out to gently stroke the side of her face. "Lena. Easy. You did well today, ok? Even if you didn't feel comfortable taking the deer, you did everything else well, especially getting back on the trail and coursing the buck as Brigitte brought him to you. I'm proud of you for that, alright? Those are skills you'll be tested on, too." 

Lena did her best to smile back to her. "Right. I just can't help but put a lot on this, you know? Not when I know how much is riding on it for both of us. If the person testing me decides you didn't do enough because I made a mistake...I wouldn't be able to live with that." 

"For what it's worth," Brigitte offered, "I think you're going to be fine. I can't say who will conduct the test – I don't actually know at this point – but I can say that the skills you're demonstrating should be more than enough to satisfy them. You've clearly been improving at shifting and changing, and there's no guarantee a hunt would end in finding prey. The point is to prove that you can work as part of a pack, and you've been doing that." 

Lena considered that and nodded, but couldn't help the little edge of concern she still felt. "But if we did find prey...I would be expected to take it down?" 

"If that's your role in the hunt," Brigitte admitted, "yes." 

Lena slumped a bit. "And I won't know what they'll ask me to do in advance." 

Emily reached out to take her hand and squeezed gently. "Don't borrow trouble, Lena. Right now, just do as best as you can." 

"Right. I'll try, I promise." 

"Good." Emily smiled at her, then gestured back towards the cabin. "Why don't we have a good run back, and we'll make lunch?" 

Once they had all showered and dressed, Emily put on a pot of lamb stew in the cabin's kitchen, while Brigitte and Lena sat a table, the more experienced werewolf holding a set of flash cards in her hand as she quizzed Lena on some of the laws and rules she'd been studying.  

"Ready for the next one?" 

Lena took a sip of her water, then nodded. "Fire away!" 

Brigitte shuffled the cards, then drew one from the middle of the pile. "What are the different types of Werewolf Councils?" 

Lena tapped her fingers against the table for a moment. "Ok...so...you have a local council that usually covers a major city or a rural area formed by representatives from each pack which has territory in the area?" 

"Good! Go on." 

"The next step...is regional councils that normally meet once or twice a year to discuss larger issues and set policies?" 

Brigitte nodded. "That's right – and how many members are normally involved?" 

"One from each local council...but if there's an even number of councils meeting an extra can be invited as a tiebreaker." 

Brigitte smiled. "And above that?" 

"There's a national council meeting every five years with one representative from each region." 

"And how do we determine who attends those?" 

Lena chewed on the inside of her lip as she tried to remember. "The eldest representative, normally, but if they decline the regional council members take a vote?" 

"Perfect," Brigitte praised, "very good, Lena!" 

Lena smiled. "Thanks – been trying to study on nights I'm not going over to Emily's or coming up here. Glad it's starting to pay off." She took another drink before tilting her head a bit. "While you're here, though – is there anything beyond the national council? Like a werewolf UN or something? The books Emily brought me were a bit vague about that." 

"There is a method for the national councils to request a meeting of other nations – sometimes even an entire continent's worth of representatives - often other types of weres are invited, too. Those are usually called Global Councils or Grand Councils, but they're very rare."   

Lena tilted her head thoughtfully. With what she'd learned about wereperson lifespans... "How rare is rare, exactly?" 

Brigitte frowned. "The last really major one was on the eve of World War Two – trying to keep the various groups of weres out of it. From what I understand...it wasn't very successful." 

Lena blinked, then ducked her head. "Oh." She straightened up slightly. "Is...is that why Reinhardt lives here in London now?" 

Brigitte blushed and looked away. "Well. That is complicated... you have to understand that I'm not supposed to know this, but my father and Reinhardt go back a very long way. It's part of the reason he offered me a place in his pack. He told me some stories about those days... We generally try to stay out of human politics for a lot of reasons, but my father said that Reinhardt tried to fight the rise of the Nazis, even when it was obvious that there wasn't any way to stop it. During the war, he became a spy for the Allies, among other things. When it was all over...well. It's best to say that he had a lot of reasons to leave."  

Lena coughed. "I suppose he must have. Sorry." 

Brigitte shrugged. "Not your fault – I brought it up." Shuffling the deck, she reached for another card. "Want to try another?" 

"Sure, why not?" 

"Right – what are the requirements for forming a pack?" 

"Um...at least three members...a defined territory, and a written constitution for their rules?" 

Brigitte shook her head. "Almost right – but you're forgetting one last thing." 

"What did I miss?" 

Emily laughed as she brought out steaming bowls of stew on a tray. "The pack needs a name, pup." 

After they had eaten, Lena was taking care of the dishes when she heard Brigitte clearing her throat from behind her.  

Lena turned with a grin. "More flash cards?" 

Brigitte shook her head. "Not exactly. Emily went outside to bring in some firewood. I thought I might mention something to you." 

Her brows knit with confusion as she frowned. "What, exactly?" 

"Alphas...betas...omegas...we all look at hunting in different ways. Different reasons. I thought you might appreciate another point of view, without Emily feeling like I'm criticizing her. She's been working very hard to teach you – I don't want her to think I disapprove." 

"Oh. That makes sense, I suppose." Lena put the dishrag down. "So what is the difference for you, then?" 

"When most omegas hunt – we don't hunt for our own needs. We're hunting for the ones too young to feed themselves. The ones too sick to join, and in some cases too old. To help provide for those who are in need. That can mean a lot of different things to different people...but I wondered if hearing that might help." 

Lena clicked her tongue against her teeth. "I'm not sure, if I'm honest...but I appreciate it, I really do." She sighed. "I'll keep trying, I promise. It's too important for me to give up. Emily is too important for me to give up. I won't let her down." 

Brigitte smiled as she reached out to gently squeeze Lena's shoulder. "We know – and we can all tell how strongly you both feel about each other. It's why we're all so certain you'll make it." 


After Brigitte had left to return to town the next morning, they'd barely noticed the darkening clouds that began to fill the sky as they'd gone back out to the woods for a run.  

Rain wasn't an issue - Lena was very used to trudging through the rain as a postal worker, and Emily knew that. The problem was the hairs-standing-up sensation that had come up without warning, and the rumble in the clouds that meant they needed to find shelter now. 

Everything about her new form was screaming danger and Lena looked to Emily with a frightened whine as the human part of her mind realized that there was no way they could get back to the cabin - not this far out into the woods. 

Emily seemed to know that too - and with a sharp 'woof' she took off deeper into the forest with Lena following closely behind. 

The first strike of lightning hit a tree - the crack of branches breaking sounding out before the clap of thunder overhead 

Lena did her best to ignore the rising panic and used it to run faster - the cold rain beating down around them making it hard to see very far ahead.... but Emily continued on with a purpose and Lena had to trust she knew where she was going. 

It felt like hours, though it had likely been only a few minutes, before Emily lead Lena down a small hole - just large enough for the two of them to squeeze through. Past the entrance, the space opened up considerably - well, enough for the two of them to hunker down together and change back into their human forms. 

The sounds of the storm raging outside was lessened thanks to the dirt and roots that surrounded them, and for a moment there was nothing but the sound of their ragged panting as they caught their breath from the frantic dash to safety. 

"Lena," Emily began the moment she changed back to her human form, "I'm sorry, are you alright? I checked the weather and there was a chance of rain but nothing about a storm like this-"  

Lena silenced her girlfriend with a few licks to the face before focusing on changing herself back. It was easier and faster now then when she first started - but it took her a bit longer than normal to find her center thanks to the adrenaline.   

"I'm okay Em," Lena assured once she finally found her voice, "But... we're safe down here right?"  

"We're as safe as we can be Pup - and I'm so sorr– " 

Lena silenced any further apology with a proper kiss. 

"Em - you found us shelter and I'm not hurt - I'm a bit cold and muddy and I'd love a hot bath about now - but I'm safe and I don't think I would have been if I'd been out on my own without you. So thanks." 

Emily nodded, her expression still a bit pensive as she turned to watch the water that trickled down around the entrance to their shelter. 

"So, what is this place, anyway?" 

"Oh," Emily looked over far enough to make eye contact, "my grandparents set up several shelter burrows like this for these kind of situations – so if anyone was caught out by a storm or what have you, they would have safe places to go if they couldn't make it back to the cabin in time." 

"That's pretty brilliant. You should show me some of the others, later." 

Emily nodded absently, then looked back out of the burrow. "Haven't used these in years...part of me is a little worried about the entrance holding up against a storm this strong. If the rain starts to really come in..." 

"Em." 

"I hate to make a break for it if the storm picks up but if it looks like the burrow might give way – " 

"Emily." 

"I keep making a mess of everything and I want to be a better alpha for you and it keeps going to shi– " 

"Emily!" Lena reached out and shook her shoulder until the redhead had turned completely to look at her. "I love you." 

Emily blinked, her expression full of disbelief. "...what?" 

Lena smiled and put her hands around Emily's neck. "I. Love. You." 

Emily's blush spread beautifully through her cheeks. "There's times I wonder how. I turned your whole life upside down." 

"You make it sound like that's a bad thing – but it's not. Emily Oakley, you are amazing. I know how hard you are trying to help me, I know you're doing everything you can..." Lena leaned in and gently let her lips brush against Emily's. "And you are much too hard on yourself." 

Emily laughed softly before she caught Lena's lips in a gentle kiss. "You're not the first person to mention that." 

Lena could feel pinpricks of tears in her eyes as she shook her head. "Maybe you should take that to heart." 

Emily's hands slipped around her sides so she could draw her in for a hug. "I promise I'll try, Lena...and I love you, too." 

Lena giggled as she let her head rest against the swell of Emily's breast. "I've been wanting to tell you that for...god...since the morning I woke up in your bedroom. I just was never sure it was the right time." 

"Now's good," Emily breathed softly. "Because I've been wanting to tell you the same thing for just as long. I love you, Lena. I love you so, so much." 

Emily's hand came up to gently stroke against the back of her neck and shoulders, and Lena closed her eyes with a happy sigh.  

They'd let the storm blow itself out, and make their way back to the cabin when it was clear.  

Until then, there was no better way to spend the time.

Chapter Text

When Jesse had offered to give her a hand with practicing the next time she visited the cabin, the last thing Lena had expected him to bring to help was a sack of plastic eggs. 

"Bit late for an Easter egg hunt, innit?" 

Jesse grinned. "Maybe I'm gonna dress up as the bunny for Halloween."  

Lena rolled her eyes. "Seriously, though, what did you bring them for?" 

Jesse put the bag on the ground and pulled out a bright green plastic egg, twisting it open to reveal both halves had been filled with wet dog food. "Hunting ain't just bringing down prey – it's findin' and trackin' it. So we're gonna start by playin' a bit of hide an' seek." 

"That doesn't seem too tough – even with all the leaves on the ground, those eggs are pretty brightly colored." 

The cowboy smirked. "Who said you'd be getting' to use your eyes?"  

She couldn't help but laugh as Jesse pulled a length of heavy black cloth from the bag. "Ask a stupid question." 

Once the blindfold was in place, she waited while Jesse distributed the eggs, trying to listen for the sound of his boots crunching against the autumn leaves on the ground.  

"So," Jesse's voice came from off to her left, "first run is pretty simple. All the eggs have that dog chow in 'em – and so does the one I'm holdin'. I'll hold it up so you can get a real good whiff, and then you get to find the rest." 

Lena nodded. "How many are there?" 

"Ten. Let's give you... say... half an hour to find 'em all." 

"So... follow my nose?"  

"You got it, Toucan Sam."  

She heard the sound of the egg snapping open, and the rich scent of the dog food filled her nostrils. "Is it weird that I actually get hungry when I smell dog food now?" 

Jesse's voice was filled with amusement. "Well, it beats having a hankering for some nice fresh roadkill." 

"...please tell me you're kidding." 

"Look, I ain't proud. Man does what he has to do to survive when times get lean, an' sometimes you just get a craving after..." 

Lena stuck out her tongue. "Yech. So, can we get on with the lesson?" 

"Heh. I suppose. So – you got that scent?" 

"Think so." 

"Good. Just keep that in your mind as you get movin'. You'll be able to feel it getting' stronger as you're on the right track." 

"So how do I tell one egg from another?" 

She could hear the grin in the cowboy's voice. "That's the trick now, ain't it?" 

Jesse began to walk off, and as she concentrated on smells around her, Lena could pick out the scent of his cigar and the polish on his boots.  

OK. Find that scent when I need to get back... and get to work on the rest.

The scents of the leaves and trees tended to blend together, but the more she walked she could catch whiffs of the dog food. She discovered her first egg as much by the sound of her shoe hitting the plastic as the scent, but each got a little easier as she worked. 

Twenty minutes later she made her way back to Jesse, barely able to hold on to the dozen eggs in her arms. "Thought you said there were ten eggs?" 

"Well," Jesse admitted as he began to take the eggs from her, "I suppose I might've miscounted." 

"Oh, piss off."  

The blindfold came off to reveal Jesse's wide grin. "Now that is just ungrateful – I was gonna offer you a snack after you get in your wolf." 

Lena rolled her eyes. "So you need me to change, then?" 

"Yeah, but hold up before you do that." Jesse held up the bag. "I'm gonna put more out while you get undressed and change. Same rules as last time, but you don't get a sniff test - and there's a catch." 

"Oh?" 

"Yup. This time it really is a dozen eggs – but I filled these different. Three with the dog food, three with peanut butter, three with coffee beans...and you notice how we got a bunch of oak an' ash trees round here?" 

"Yeah..." 

"Last three are filled with pine needles. So that'll be a fun little challenge! Once you find 'em, put each set of eggs into a pile, an' give me a howl." 

Lena considered that, then nodded. "Sounds tough, but I'll give it a go." 

"You go get yourself ready – I'll give you a howl to get started." 

Lena retreated to the covered car port behind the cabin, undressed, and let herself fall into her wolf.  

It was getting easier, and though part of her still felt a bit disjointed, mentally, she had to admit she did feel more in control than her early attempts.  

While she waited for Jesse's signal to get started, she paced around the grounds, sniffing at trees and leaves and grass to get a better idea of what scents she needed to follow, and which she could ignore.  

She had her nose deep in a pile of fallen leaves when Jesse's howl caught her attention. Sharper and somehow rougher than Emily's song, it made her ears perk and her tail bristle with the almost taunting challenge in his tone. (GO! Gogogogogogogo!

She ran for the pile of eggs she'd found before, sniffing at them to get the scent of the food, then start to run for the treeline when she realized the scent... led back to the pile of eggs. 

Pawing through the pile, she pushed them apart with her snout so she could try to count them. 3...6...9...12...15?  

I suppose he thinks that's funny. 

Shaking her head, Lena picked the three strongest smelling eggs and carried them far enough away to make it clear that she'd separated them deliberately, then loped back towards the woods, sniffing hard for the scent of peanut butter on the wind.  

It look her almost until sundown to find the last eggs – Jesse had scattered the ones holding the pine needles at different points along the stream, and the rushing water had made finding them even more difficult than she'd been expecting. When she'd finally collected them all and given her best howl to call him over, she'd been surprised to realize that Jesse's wolf form only had three legs – his left front leg ended in a stump just below the knee.  

The injury had the air of something long healed, and it added to the overall grizzled and hard worn look of the grey, brown, and black furred wolf who was carefully nosing around each pile of eggs, giving little grunts and huffs of approval as he checked each one, then padded over to lick the top of her forehead before tapping his front paw against her neck.  

The pup side of herself swelled with happiness (PLAY!), and they had a good wrestle before the larger wolf began to run towards the cabin, daring her to chase him.  


Lena was slowly getting more comfortable with the practice of casual nudity among the were community, but she appreciated that Jesse had walked over to the opposite side of Oliver before returning to his human form.  

Once she'd changed back into her clothes, she rounded the car just in time to watch him shrugging into a set of straps that stretched from the obviously artificial arm that he'd slipped over the stump at the end of his elbow, making sure they were properly seated across his chest and shoulder.  

"Forgot you ain't seen this before," Jesse admitted as he caught her staring at the plastic and metal limb, a flesh toned glove pulled down to just past his wrist. "Mind handin' me that shirt?"  

Lena nodded, picking the flannel up off the ground and handing it over. As if to prove a point, he plucked it from her fingers with the artificial hand, then slid it on before beginning to button it with his flesh and blood fingers. 

"Can I ask what happened?"  

Jesse grinned. "See what happens if you don't quit bitin' your nails?" 

Lena frowned, and Jesse held up a hand before she could say anything else. 

"Short version is dynamite and a tunnel collapse. Longer version is a story I ain't gonna tell without a bottle in front of me, and that is the God's honest truth." 

"Fair enough." Lena leaned back against the car. "So why all the tricks with the eggs?" 

"Made you think," Jesse explained with a smile, "kept you on your toes...and those are all things a live prey animal – or another were – might try to throw you off." 

Lena's blood ran a little cold. "You hunted other werewolves? Other people?"  

Jesse's eyes grew distant and more than a little sad. "Used to be a Hunter," he said, and Lena could hear the capital H in that word. "We're the ones responsible for trackin' and taking down Ferals. Sometimes they want to get caught. They know what's happening to 'em and they want to make sure they don't hurt anyone else. Others... well." He shook his head before he reached for where he'd left his hat. "Some are so far gone they don't even have much more than animal ken to reason with. And some... they get a taste for it. Not just attackin' others, but the hurtin' of them, and the killing. Those we have to bring down before they have a chance to do any more harm. It ain't pretty, and I never took any pleasure in it... but it needed done." 

"...oh."  

The silence after that stretched as they walked back to the cabin, until Lena finally found a way to try bringing things back to a more pleasant subject. 

"So, Jesse... why does your howl sound different them Emily's?" 

Jesse gave her a grateful look as he held open the cabin's door for her, then winked. "Well, girls are different than boys, sugar. Thought you figured that out a while back." 

Lena rolled her eyes as she passed him and settled down on the couch. "You know what I mean. There's something about it that's a lot... rougher, I suppose." 

Jesse chuckled. "Well, aside from the obvious - wolf's gonna howl the way it howls. You think I sound a little funny, but if you were down around Sonora or El Paso way, everyone would be askin' why you sing like that."  

"You... you're having me on. Howls have accents? You're saying you howl in American?" 

The cowboy tipped his hat as he pulled a can of beer from the six pack sitting on the table. "Sure do." 

Lena flopped back on the couch. "That is... my mind is a little blown." 

"Jesse," Emily called from the kitchen, "Please don't break my girlfriend! That's my job!" 

"Oh, thank you, luv." 

"You're welcome, pup!" 


The more she'd gotten used to her enhanced senses of smell and hearing, the more Lena found herself noticing things she'd missed before. The sweet undertones when she walked near bakeries. The scents of spices and cooking when she passed restaurants. The smells of oil and gasoline from the mail vans in the motorpool as she walked into the delivery office to clock in for the morning.  

But as she walked past the bins of mail being prepared for distribution that morning, she realized quickly that something smelled different.  

No, not just different...wrong. A harsh chemical smell, with a sickly sweetness beneath it that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up . 

Something in the bins, she thought, a package to go out?  Whatever it was, it was something she could detect as a werewolf, but a normal human would miss, which meant she couldn't just go in and ask the postmaster if he smelled something funny. So how did she handle this? 

Frowning, she ducked into the bathroom, locked herself into a stall, and pulled her phone out of her pocket.  

The phone rang once, twice, three times, and she was on the verge of fearing that she was going to hit voicemail when the line connected. 

"Detective Amari speaking." Fareeha's voice sounded fogged with sleep, and Lena winced at knowing she'd likely woken her. 

"Fareeha? It's Lena Oxton." 

"...Lena? Lena it's... oh god... five thirty in the morning." 

Lena sighed. "Sorry, I know, I know, but I need your help – it's urgent."  

Something in Fareeha's tone of voice shifted as she picked up Lena's concern. "What's going on?" 

"It's... I'm at my delivery office for work and there's something here. I can smell it. Something chemical – something wrong. I think it's in one of the packages we're supposed to deliver today but I don't know which van it's being loaded on, and I can't search for it without explaining how I found it..." 

There was a rustle of fabric and the sound of a mattress squeaking. "And if you can smell it but your coworkers can't, it means it's something a human can't pick up." Fareeha's earlier sleepiness was gone now, a little snap in the undertones of her words that reminded Lena of the way they'd met. "I need the address of your office.

Lena rattled it off, hearing the sound of a pen on paper, then blushed as she caught a second sleepy voice in the background that she was fairly sure she recognized, and Fareeha's half whispered apology.  

"(-have to go.) Right. Lena, just go about your day as normally as you can and I'll be there shortly – do me a favor and don't act like you know who I am." 

"OK, I think I can handle that." 

"Good. See you soon." 

Once she'd hung up the phone, Lena did her best to go about her morning routine, getting her van ready for her day. The smell she'd caught earlier hadn't been in the bins of mail and packages for her truck, which was frustrating. It would have been nice if she could have just separated it out and turned it over when Fareeha came to do... whatever she was doing.  

She'd just begun to wonder if the police officer was going to be able to stop deliveries from going out in time when she saw the rolling gates for the garage begin to close.  

She popped out and tried to put on her best confused face as the other carriers left their vans and began to mill around. 

"Sorry about the delay," the supervisor called to them as he came out of his office with Fareeha and two other uniformed cops in tow, "apparently there's been a tip about a suspicious package slipped through the Sorting Center and got tracked here." 

Fareeha nodded and raised her badge and ID so everyone could see it. "I need to check each of your vans and any mail still to be loaded to find the parcel. I'd appreciate any cooperation you can give me, and we'll have you on your way as soon as possible." 

The other carriers grumbled and muttered, but gave nods of agreement, and the supervisor turned and pointed at Lena. "Oxton? Give them a hand?" 

Lena couldn't quite believe her luck. "Righto – come with me, I'll take you over to the vans we have ready to go out." 

She was able to find the box again on the third van they checked, giving Fareeha a nod as she tapped the package.  

The detective carefully pulled on a pair of latex gloves, then withdrew it from the bin. "Looks pretty ordinary," she admitted, "but that's rather heavy for a box marked fragile." She leaned out of the van and whistled to one of the officers who had come with her, and he produced a heavy duty looking evidence bag from his vest as he walked over.  

"Was this the only one?" 

Lena nodded. "I'm a bit shocked you can't smell it – it's almost overwhelming to me being this close." 

Fareeha shrugged. "Lucky for us you were here, then. Thank you for calling me, Lena. Whatever is in here, I have a feeling it's nothing we want on the streets." 

"My pleasure." 

She was almost an hour behind her usual schedule when she was finally able to get started, but it was hard to feel too upset about the delay in light of what she'd been able to do – particularly when she received a text from Fareeha just before lunchtime. 

I owe you a drink. Meet me at the Howl tonight after work. 

Lena might have been whistling as she walked the rest of her route that afternoon. 

She'd run home and changed before heading to The Howl after work, and found Fareeha chatting at the bar with Jesse, a pair of pint glasses in front of her. 

"Well," Jesse drawled as Lena hopped up onto the barstool, "speak of the devil!" 

Lena grinned as Fareeha pushed the second pint glass towards her. "Only good things, I hope?" 

The detective nodded and raised her beer in salute. "Thanks to you, five kilos of cocaine won't be making it to the streets." 

Lena's eyebrows rose. "Seriously?!" 

"Seriously. That smell you noticed was the chemicals they had used to 'refine' the product – lab picked up traces of formaldehyde and gasoline. Street value of nearly half a million Euros." Fareeha shook her head.  "They had packaged it with a few pieces of active charcoal to absorb the smell and put drug dogs off the scent, but apparently you still had an edge." 

Lena took a deep pull off her beer, still trying to wrap her head around half a million Euros of cocaine as Jesse placed a shot of whisky in front of her. "Nice job, Sniff!" 

Lena glared. "Sniff?" 

Jesse gave her a wounded look . "What, you don't like that one?" 

She rolled her eyes as Fareeha struggled to contain a laugh. "Yeah, no, what else you got?" 

"How 'bout... Nosey?" 

"Absolutely not." 

Jesse scratched at his beard for a minute. "Pointer?" 

She considered that. "Better. Not sure it's quite right, though." 

The barman made a show of polishing a pint glass before he rendered his verdict. "Tracer!" 

"Tracer?" Lena turned the nickname over in her mind. "Yeah.... yeah, that'd do." 

After they'd finished the first round of beers, Jesse picked up the next to celebrate Lena's new nickname, and then Lena bought a round for Fareeha to thank her for dropping everything to help that morning (and apologize for waking her up).  

That lead to Fareeha buying the fourth round, and they began to trade stories as they drank. 

"You are kidding," Fareeha groaned, "Emily sent you a picture with her ears out after you started dating, and you asked her which snapchat filter she was using?" 

"How was I supposed to know?" Lena objected. "I mean, you've seen her sense of humor, I thought she was just havin' me on!" 

"That reminds me... when we first met, you said Emily gave you the worst pickup line you've ever heard?" 

Lena giggled at the memory. "Absolutely wretched." 

"So...?" Fareeha gestured with her glass. "Out with it." 

"OK, so..." Lena straightened up with a slight wobble and pointed towards the pool tables. "So I was at... that table. Mindin' my own business... and Emily comes up with a couple of pints and says: 'Hoooooooooooooooooowl's it going, gorgeous?'

Fareeha shook her head. "That is... really terrible." 

Lena grinned. "Right? I mean, even if she hadn't bought me a pint I had to give her a shot after that." 

"And you... what, thought she was making a pun out of the name of the pub?" 

Lena shrugged. "Well, yeah." 

Fareeha rolled her eyes. "I still can't believe you managed to walk into the biggest Were bar in London because you thought it was a gay bar." 

"I wasn't entirely wrong.

"And proceeded to get picked up by an unattached alpha because she thought you knew what was going on, but you thought she just had a cheesy sense of humor..." 

Lena grinned. "I wasn't really wrong about that either." 

Fareeha shook her head. "I cannot decide if this is one of the most hilarious things I've ever heard, or if you just have the worst 'were-dar' I have ever heard of." 

Lena rolled her eyes as she knocked off her own drink. "Well, at least my gaydar still works." 


The hunt was better, this time. Or maybe she'd finally reached some threshold – crossed some line where she was ready to do what her pack needed.  

She heard the calls as Jesse and Emily flushed a wild boar towards where she waited, and the brush rattled with the animal's passage. Closer...closer...there. 

The boar turned just as she went to snap at its throat, and her teeth raked into the soft fur and flesh of its belly instead. Hot coppery blood filled her mouth and the boar's painful squeal rang in her ears as it broke away from her. 

Lena set herself to charge, but something in the way the boar reacted made her hesitate to go for another strike. The boar was hurt, rather than being taken cleanly, and now it was angry. She wasn’t certain she could make a clean kill at this rate, even if she had managed to wound it. 

Dodging as the boar attempted to catch her with its tusks, Lena did her best to stay ahead of its desperate attempts to defend itself until Emily leapt into the fray from a fallen log, her fangs flashing as she fell on the animal. There was a crash as she knocked it to the ground, and the boar's cry of pain was ended in a wet choking sound as she tore the beast's throat open.  

She ought to feel excited. She'd gotten a good hit on the boar and kept it occupied until Emily could bring it down... yet part of her knew that she'd had the opportunity to end it's life properly – spare it unnecessary pain – and still hadn't managed to fulfil that task. 

Jesse and Emily were both looking at the boar carcass when Lena shifted back, still mulling that over. 

Jesse nodded to her, gesturing to the wounds she'd left on the belly and flank. "That wasn't bad - but they're almost certainly gonna want you to make the kill in that situation, not just tag 'em." He tapped the ragged wound that Emily had torn into the beast's neck. "You get the throat, make it clean, and you're all set." 

Lena nodded with a sigh. "I did try – he turned as I was going for the neck. Bad timing, I think..." 

Emily smiled to her. "You still made the first strike, and that's well done. Keeping his tusks off you wasn't easy, either." 

Lena shrugged. "I suppose. Not sure whoever is going to judge the test will feel the same, though." 

Neither of them really had an answer for that.  

Lena couldn't help it – even after she'd talked things over with Emily and Jesse the sting of another failed hunt was putting her into a real funk. She'd slipped out of the cabin after getting dressed, but even a long walk into the woods hadn't done much to brighten her mood. 

More than six months of this and she'd yet to actually make a clean kill in 'anger'. It was different when Emily was catching things or if she was just hungry and let herself go, and tracking a deer or a rabbit was getting almost effortless for her, but when the others hung back to allow her to make that kill – a kill she didn't actually need – she found a way to bugger it up, either from hesitation, inexperience, or pure rotten luck. 

"Some werewolf you are," she grumbled at herself as she picked up a rock from the side of the stream and tossed it into the water. "If you can't pass this test Emily is screwed! Why can't I get this right?" 

"You're still learning," Emily's voice answered from behind her, and Lena nearly jumped out of her skin from surprise. "Oops. Sorry, didn't mean to startle." 

Lena shook her head. "Still learning was a good excuse the first time. Or the second. This is... what, nine? Ten? I just... I don't understand it, Em."  

Emily settled onto the ground near the bank, her skirt pooling around her. "You're being harder on yourself than anyone else is, pup. I've seen you hunt for yourself, I know you can, and I know when the time is right, you'll be ready." 

"Wish I had your confidence, luv."  

Emily patted the ground beside her. "Come here. This will work out. You'll see." 

Lena walked back and plopped down with a grunt. "I almost... part of me wonders if I should make you force me. Do the thing, y'know? Order me and get it over with." 

"I think that would make it worse for you." Emily's arm wrapped around her side, and Lena let out a long sigh as she let herself get drawn in. "If there's a part of you that is reluctant to take a kill when it isn't for food – which is admirable in its' own way – forcing you to do it is just going to make that worse." 

"But we're running out of time." 

"You've got a few more months yet. Think of all the things you have gotten down in that time. You're not giving yourself enough credit." Emily's lips brushed against her forehead. "Here - I know what will cheer you up." 

Lena looked up. "Oh?" 

Emily grinned. "Mmhm. I want you to think of the silliest questions you can think of about werewolf sex, and ask me." 

Despite herself, Lena had to laugh. "Seriously?" 

"It's already working, isn't it?" 

"Ok, yeah," Lena giggled, "it's kind of hard to feel like a lump when you ask me that." 

"So. Go on, fire away." 

Lena took a moment to think of the most ridiculous thing she could. "Since you're an alpha and I'm a beta, does that mean you always have to be on top?" 

Emily grinned. "Well, I do enjoy the view, but it's not required." 

Lena snorted with reluctant amusement. "I'll keep that in mind. Next one... do you tend to prefer... y'know... doggy style?" 

"I suppose we'll have to find out just what we like best, but I have no particular need, no." Emily's fingers began to scratch the back of her head, and Lena leaned back into the touch. "Those were fairly tame. Give me something really good for the next one." 

"Oh, wait, got it!" Lena grinned. "So when one of us is in heat, and we take care of each other... are we going to have to worry about getting magically pregnant?" 

Emily rolled her eyes. "You've been reading the fanfic again."  

"Some of them are awfully detailed. I keep wondering if it's someone writing for an outlet." 

"I suppose it's possible," Emily chuckled, "but no, short of us deciding to find a sperm donor or a test tube, I am quite certain I can't get you pregnant no matter how hard we try." 

That got them both giggling, and when she'd finally calmed down Lena had to admit she was feeling a lot better. "That's good to know! And this... all this has helped, thanks." 

"Good. Why don't we head back? Jesse's making chili and cornbread for us." 

"Oo. That does sound good." Lena stood and offered Emily a hand up before letting her lead them back. "Oh, hey, last one. So what if we're... y'know... in the mood and it's a full moon? Does that happen? Can that happen?" 

"What, having sex while we're in our wereselves? Being in heat during a full moon?" Emily looked back with a smirk. "I guess you're just going to have to find out..." 

"Oh, that is a tease..." 


On weekends where they weren't visiting the cabin, Friday was one of Emily's 'late' days where she would be working the front of the house at the Howl through closing time. That meant she normally did her best to sleep until noon, head to work around three in the afternoon, and normally make it back home an hour or two after last call, once things had been cleaned and locked up for the night. 

Today Emily had found herself awake a little earlier than normal, which was a bit annoying, but she'd decided to make the best of it. Fixing herself a sandwich after she'd showered and dressed, Emily had been just about to take her first bite when something caught her attention. 

She put the food back on the plate and looked towards her front door a moment before she heard the sound of a key in her lock, and her brows knit with confusion. She wasn’t expecting anyone from the building's maintenance staff, and Lena would be out on her route this time of day. 

Then her nose twitched as she caught a faint whiff of something on the air, and her mind ground to a halt. 

It was Lena's scent, yes, but there was something more to it. Familiar, but more intense, like every little thing she'd noticed in her girlfriend's distinctive aroma had been turned up to eleven. 

Wait. Is that... is she...? 

Emily swallowed hard. Her mouth was still watering but it had nothing to do with the food in front of her. She stood and headed for the front door, arriving just before it swung open to reveal Lena wearing the cap from her mail carrier's uniform and her bright orange raincoat despite the cloudless sky, the slight ruffling near the bottom of the slicker the only hit that her tail was concealed beneath.  

“Lena, what... I mean... aren't you supposed to be working?" 

Lena's mouth quirked into a grin. "Called off." 

Emily felt as if her brain was out of gear, and she was frantically working the clutch to get it to re-engage. "...why?" 

"Because you're not going to work tonight, either." 

"What?" 

Reaching into the pocket of her jacket, Lena pulled out a neatly typed patient visit summary, and pointed to the paragraphs that had been picked out in yellow highlighter. 

Lena took a deep breath. "So... I woke up and felt good. Really, really, good... and I realized what might be going on, so called myself in and I went to the clinic to see Angela."  

Emily's eyes dropped to the highlighted section, and she began to read aloud. "Patient's EKG was normal and showed no sign of the heart murmur detected in her initial examination. Iron levels and red blood cell counts are in healthy ranges for a female were of her age and weight. Demonstrated recovery from the blood draw puncture consistent with normal regenerative properties.  

Based on these results, I am comfortable declaring her recovery complete and fully successful, and lifting all restrictions on her activity.

Emily tried to wrap her head around what all those things had to do with each other.  

It wasn't hard to figure out that Lena had entered her heat, but the part about 'restrictions on her activity' didn't fully click for another few seconds. "Ohhh. So we can..."  

Lena grinned as she gently pushed Emily backwards, letting the door shut behind them. "Yeah." 

The molten look in Lena's eyes made a shiver of anticipation run straight through her. "What do you mean I'm not working today, though?" 

Lena's lips were a whisper from the shell of her ear. "I mean I called Jesse, and I asked him a big a favor." 

Her breath was a warm tickle against the side of Emily's neck. "He's going to handle things at the pub, and you are not going to work today." 

Lena's fingertips were sliding across the sides of her hips, and Emily suddenly realized just how little distance separated them. "Because I."  

Lena's lips brushed gently over her throat. "Have two years."  

Her arms tightened around Emily's back.  "Of sexual frustration. That I would like to put to use. As soon as possible."  

Emily couldn't help the little growl that rose at the back of her throat any more than Lena could help the way she shivered in response. 

Reaching up, she pulled the hat from Lena's head and tossed it aside so she could run fingers through her hair and begin playing at the base of Lena's ears. "Tell me what you want, Lena." 

Lena shivered, then took a careful step back so she could look into her eyes. "I... look, this is going to sound horrible, but I want you, Emily. I don't care how, I don't care what... well. OK, it's been almost two years since I was in bed with another girl, so I do want that, a lot... but... right now, I just want you." 

"That is really incredibly sweet, and I think it's one of the most romantic things anyone has ever said to me, Lena." 

Lena's mouth quirked up into a grin. "I do try." 

Emily smiled back. "You do. But... I have to ask, why are you wearing a raincoat?"  

Lena's eyes flashed with mischief. "Because I'm not wearing anything under it." 

"Well, then..." 

Lena swallowed hard as Emily's entire demeanor shifted just slightly - her soft touches becoming just a little bit more firm as her hands lifted to undo the tie that held the jacket closed. Her grey eyes did not wander to the task her hands were occupied with, but remained trained on Lena's face - even now looking for any signs of hesitation or protest.   

She found none. 

The knot came undone and Emily stepped closer into Lena's space for a kiss that Lena had clearly expected to be hard and rough. Instead she teases her with barely a whisper of contact, drawing a desperate little whine from the beta as she pulled away 

Together they worked the jacket off of her shoulders - letting it fall into a heap on the floor where it was promptly forgotten. 

Emily stepped back, seeing the confusion in Lena's eyes as she tried to understand what she's looking for - what she's waiting for - as she drank in the sight of her. "Magnificent," Emily murmured before finally moving in, one hand coming up to cup Lena's cheek while the other slipped around her side. 

Lena gasped, a wordless sound of frustration and need rising from her throat, urging her for more until Emily answered her plea with a soft whisper in her ear. "Shh. Relax, pup. Easy, now... I'll take care of you."  

She gave into the urge she's had for so long to nibble on the tip of a floppy brown ear, and it was all Lena could do to hold on to Emily after that. 


Their first time, Emily had been exceptionally gentle, yet still managed to hit all the right spots.  

Their second time, they'd learned Emily's coffee table wasn't as sturdy as it looked. 

When they'd recovered enough for the third, Lena was getting increasingly frustrated at how Emily gently batted her hands away when she attempted to reciprocate, and though Lena had never been particularly quiet in bed, she was becoming a bit shocked by her new tendency to howl

After the fourth (which was briefly interrupted by Emily's upstairs neighbor banging on their floor with something that sounded like a cast iron pan), Emily had called Jesse to let him know she'd pay him a bonus to take care of things for the rest of the weekend, and Lena was grabbing the spare clothes she'd started leaving in Emily's flat for an impromptu trip up to the cabin.  

Lena had finally started to get a little of her own back with little touches and teases as Emily drove, until the alpha had made good on her threat to pull off the road... and Lena had learned that the Rover's covered cargo bed was not what anyone would call comfortable, but it could be adequate in a pinch. 

Clothes had started coming off and ears and tails coming out before they'd even made it inside the cabin, but to Lena's surprise after Emily had tossed their bags inside the front door, she'd kissed her fiercely and then started to run into the woods, giving her a look that quite clearly encouraged Lena to come and give chase. 

There was something a bit crazy about running naked through the woods after her girlfriend, but at the same time it was also very, very hot. Bodies washed in silver light by the rising moon, they had a good run through the woods that just seemed to heighten the experience, and when Lena finally caught Emily by leaping on her from behind, her delighted laugh was almost as good as the feel of their bodies pressing together as they tumbled along the ground.  

They'd ended up with Lena's back pressing against the thick trunk of an ash tree, the rough bark adding an unexpected edge to it all, when their attention was grabbed by the sound of a forlorn, almost desperate howl in the night air.  

Emily pulled back, her ears stiffening. "A ways off... must be someone passing through." Her eyes flashed as she looked back, her smile a little wicked. "And she sounds almost as bad off as you." Then, without further explanation, she threw her head back and let loose a howl of her own – anything but desperate. Proud, yes. Excited for sure. A fierceness in her voice that combined with Emily's bearing as she straddled her hips that was just... insanely hot.  

There was a moment of shock as Lena realized what Emily was doing and then it just felt right to join her, her cry into the night not quite as eloquent, touched with a few yips and yelps, particularly when Emily leaned down to nip at her shoulder and neck, but what it lacked in experience it made up for in raw enthusiasm. 

For a moment the forest was quiet except for the sound of their panting and ragged breathing, but before long a softer, almost more curious howl was carried back to them on the air and something in it almost felt like a blown kiss - wistful and wanting. 

Emily's eyes shone with excitement as she pressed Lena back against the tree. "Seems we have an audience Pup. Let's give her a show.


Several miles away, a large silver and grey wolf with golden eyes cocked her head as she listened to the replies to her song. The wolf was surprised to find her tail wagging for once - she had not had much cause for celebration in.... well, she wasn't sure how long. Still - as hopeful as she felt it was better for her to move. She'd given away her location and her location being a mystery was one of the few things that kept her safe. 

Turning away from the direction the songs had come from, she ran deeper into the woods. Perhaps another day she would risk coming closer to see who had been kind enough to call back, and thank them for their rather lovely songs.  

Perhaps not. 


Lena shivered as Emily pressed a kiss to the tender bite mark she'd left at the edge of her throat. "D'you think the Lady liked the show?" 

Emily groaned happily as Lena's fingers dug into the base of her tail. "Mmm... I hope so, maybe we'll get to ask her one day." 

Lena nodded, giving a soft little sigh as she curled against Emily in the grass.  

When she spoke again, Emily's voice was touched with concern. "Lena? You were okay with that right?"  

Lena grinned. "Yeah, I was. I nodded, didn't I? I can't remember. 'M okay with it here at least. When we're here, and It's private." She couldn't help the giggle that rose from her. "Wouldn't want to try that in the park, that's for sure." 

Emily shifted around to place a kiss on top of Lena's head, then stood and offered a hand up. "Just making sure. Cabin?" 

"Yeah," Lena agreed with a grin, "I'm going to be sore enough tomorrow." 

"Oh, I'm sure I can help with that..." 

Chapter Text

Lena had gotten into the habit of dropping by The Howl after work at least two or three times a week. Even if Emily was too busy to talk while she was on the clock, it was nice to hang out there and have a drink, or possibly get into a game of darts or pool with Angela, Jesse, or Fareeha if they happened to be there. 

She'd been eating dinner and talking to Emily about her day when she realized a young man - he barely looked old enough to drink - was standing expectantly by their table.  

Emily turned, her eyebrows raising. "Hello. Can I help you?"  

The man - god, he's just a boy really - nodded nervously. "I... I was told I should come talk to you. I need a key."  

Emily was suddenly sitting up a bit straighter. "Go on."  

"It's my dad - he's one of the alphas, and he doesn't...." The boy ducked his head slightly, and when he did a nasty looking bruise - one that had to have been a serious injury to still be so livid if this kid was a werewolf - could be seen on the side of his neck, running down beneath his shirt. "I got in trouble at school. He was... he didn't like it."  

"Can you tell me what kind of trouble it was?"  

"Snuck out of class to go see my boyfriend. Dad... he didn't like that either." 

Lena took in a sharp breath, anger flaring within her. Her emotions must have shown on her face as the boy angled himself away - but Emily merely reached out and took her hand, placing a kiss against the knuckles before addressing the boy once more.  

"You're not alone," Emily spoke, her voice gentle and quick to undo the scare Lena's change in demeanor had sparked, " Go see the man in the hat behind the bar. Tell him I said OK and to show you upstairs." 

The poor kid looked ready to pass out from sheer relief. "Thank you." 

Both kept an eye on the boy until he was safely under Jesse's care - the cowboy giving them both a nod to assure he had everything under control.  

"Been a while since we've taken in a rescue..." Emily sighed, rubbing her free hand down her face before turning to Lena, "I'm sure you have questions." 

"So we're calling Fareeha right?"  

"Of course we are... but I'm afraid there won't be much she can do."  

"What do you mean? Those bruises are pretty clear!"  

"I mean - human police and laws... while they are supposed to apply to weres... the truth of the matter is there's not much they can do to stop us. That's why the council is most often responsible for reprimanding other weres."  

"So we'll call Brigitte and she'll tell Reinhardt and he'll do something!" Lena cried, sounding more and more frustrated by the second. 

Emily sighed. "Reinhardt will do everything he can but... as much as I hate to say it - there's a real possibility that kid's family pack's laws will defend what his father did." 

Lena was aghast. "You mean beating up his son because he's gay is okay?!?"  

Emily shook her head. "Of course it isn't. What I mean is that some packs have clauses in their rules about who gets the final say in things, and who gets to decide punishments for their members. Their pack laws could very well state that his father's actions were within his rights." 

"That's.... that's horrible."  

"Yes - yes it is pup, but that's part of why I got this pub registered as a sanctuary." 

"You said once the area around the pub was neutral territory..." Lena recalled, her voice still tense with anger, but none of it was directed at Emily.  

Emily sat back. "When I set up this place, I invited all the pack leaders to an event here at the pub a few weeks before it opened. I sat them down and introduced myself - I'd only recently moved to the area so none of them knew me and I wanted to set things off on the right foot."  

Lena nodded. "Right. You talked about maybe doing something similar for me, before we worked that out." 

Emily nodded. "The thing is, that wasn't the only reason I asked them all to come. I... had a bit of an ulterior motive. Originally their territories all bordered one another. Your apartment complex fell under control of The Crescent Claws, the pub and the area around Angela's clinic technically belonged to Liulfr and there were two more pack territories that were close enough to warrant me calling them in as well. Once they were all here I did start off by introducing myself, and then I explained how I wanted The Howl to be a safe space for all werepersons, and that I'd applied for the building to be recognized as a Sanctuary to the council, though it was still pending review. I told them how I wanted the area around the pub to be safe for all to travel - even with a few drinks in them - and asked if maybe some of them wouldn't mind considering releasing some of their territories to the Council and establishing the area as a neutral zone." 

"And they went along with that plan?" 

"It took a bit of doing, but I was careful and did my best not to push. Fortunately the Alpha of Liulfr decided that my idea held merit and offered the immediate area around the pub as a neutral territory before the Howl opened. After that the others did the same - though not right away. Honestly I think most of them eventually yielded because their pack members kept coming here so often." 

Lena nodded slowly. "Ok. So...he's safe long as he says here?" 

"Yes. If his father came here and tried to force him to leave – or attacked anyone – it would be a major incident. He'd basically be declaring war on the council." Sitting back, Emily sighed. "Usually there are ways to work things out. This may be a bit nastier than most, though. I'll need to talk to our guest, and possibly reach out to his father.  There are a few packs I know who might take him in as a member, if his father will agree to allowing him to leave." 

Lena sighed. "Seems like that'd do. Certainly better than letting him walk back into that kind of abuse." 

Emily squeezed their linked hands a little tighter.  "I won't let that happen. I promise. At the very worst, he is old enough to declare that he's dispersing, but since he's still in school it could open up more problems on the human side of things. He might have to get help to have himself legally emancipated, but that's something the council would try to assist with, I think. Certainly nothing we can do on that score." 

Lena sighed. "Suppose not. Still - you'll do everything you can to help, right?"

"I promise."


Emily leaned back in her office chair and stretched, feeling her spine pop and letting out a groan. It had taken a few days and the last few hours spent on the phone - but Emily had finally arranged a place for their guest to go. The teen had mentioned an uncle who might be able to take him in, and after ensuring that everything was safe and accurate and arranged Emily finally felt like she could relax a bit.  

She pulled out her phone to check the time, rolling her shoulders to ease the some of the tension that had built up in them. She slumped back in her chair, lazily swiping through various app notifications until one caught her eye. 

New Snap from SlipstreamLook at this gorgeous French lady that decided to give me some company!  

Emily took a long look at the picture, then left her office with a grin as she came out to the bar. "Jesse?" 

Shaggy brown hair and a furry ear poked out from beneath the bartop. "Yeah, boss?" 

"Once you're done with that, come and help me with something?" 


Lena smiled as she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket.  She pulled it out, squinting and shielding it from the bright sun overhead.  

New Snap from HowlingBitch 

An unimpressed russet colored wolf stared out from her screen, with one eyebrow raised (how did she manage to do that?), with the caption "ARE YOU CHEATING ON ME?" 

Giggling, Lena knelt down and flipped her camera into selfie mode to send her reply. 


A loud bark from her phone had Emily grinning before she even checked Snapchat for Lena’s reply, but the sight of her girlfriend's slobber covered grinning face beside an adorable French bulldog brightened her mood even more. She took a moment to appreciate how cute Lena looked before looking at the caption: "Oh no! How'd you find out?

Emily laughed out loud, then saved the picture as her phone's wallpaper. 

A few minutes later her phone called for her attention again, and she unlocked it to see  a selfie of Lena kneeling with a Yorkshire Terrier standing on its hind legs curiously looking up at the camera.  "He kept asking to be in the picture!" 

The next one came about ten minutes later.  A beautiful golden lab with floppy ears perked up and head tilted to the side. "Lovely ears on this one!" 

When she had a chance to check her phone next, there was a message waiting with a brown and white long-haired collie sat with a tennis ball in her mouth, and Emily chuckled at the note Lena left under it: "Her eyes sort of remind me of Jesse's. Think they're related?" 

The final entries was a small series, the first of which just read "Puppies!!!!

The photo showed four Corgi pups in various states of running around a yard with their tired looking mother lounging in a dog bed.  

The next one had one of the Corgi puppies singled out for a photo: "THIS ONE'S NAME IS EMILY!" 

That was followed by a snap of her namesake corgi rolled over onto her belly looking for pets. "She's almost as cute as you are." 

The final snap was another selfie - this one staged so that Lena was clearly wiping some slobber off a cheek. "You're a better kisser though." 

After all the tension and frustration of the last few days, the warmth she felt from the pictures – from Lena going out of her way to cheer her up – was incredibly welcome. She saved the last picture as well, then pulled up her messenger. 

 

Looks like you had a very busy afternoon.  

Oh, just visiting the usual spots. How've you been doing today?  

Better now. Thank you, love.  

My pleasure. :D You getting out of there soon?  

Soon. I'll call you when I get home.

 

When Emily made it back to her flat an hour later, she was surprised to be greeted by the heady aromas of spices and baking bread.  

She followed her nose to the kitchen, and found Lena there, stirring one of the pans she had going on the stove.  

"What's all this, then?" 

Lena turned with a beaming smile, and Emily felt the lingering tensions from the last few days slip away. "Well, I knew you'd had a tough week, so I thought I'd come over and make you some dinner." 

It was just a little simple gesture, but Emily felt warm right down to her socks, and couldn't help but stand for a moment just appreciating it. She reached out to take Lena's hand and drew her in, hugging her and leaning down to kiss her. "Thank you. That is... it smells amazing and it's very sweet of you." 

Lena hummed happily. "I figured you were mostly eating at the pub or getting a lot of takeaway, so this would be a nice change." 

"You're not wrong," Emily admitted. "So what are you making?" 

Lena took her spatula and pointed to the pans in turn. "Chicken tikka, some dal, a bit of rice, and saag." 

Emily nodded. "That all sounds lovely. And I thought I smelled some bread?" 

"Yup – got a package of ready to bake naan in the oven. I need..." Lena checked the oven's timer. "Ten more minutes?" 

Emily nodded. "Why don't I set the table, then?" 

"Perfect!" 

The meal was fantastic, and reminded Emily that even if Lena had needed a bit to get used to cooking meat, her girlfriend was probably more comfortable in the kitchen than she was. 

"This is really lovely. Thank you so much for putting it on." 

Lena smiled. "My pleasure! Like I said – you had a hard week." 

Emily grinned back after finishing a bite of chicken. "I really appreciated the pictures, too. I know I said that already, but I really needed that today." 

"I just wanted to cheer you up. Were you able to get things taken care of?" 

Emily nodded, and Lena's shoulders sagged with relief, and they ate in silence for a bit, turning over their own thoughts. 

"Lena..." 

Lena looked up, her eyebrows rising. "Yeah?" 

Emily looked over to the kitchen, then back. "There was something I wanted to ask you – almost asked you before, in fact." 

Lena put her fork down and sat back. "Oh?" 

"Well. When I gave you those keys at your first moon party, I wanted you to know you were always welcome here or at the cabin – that you didn't need a special invitation." 

Lena nodded. "I remember. That meant a lot, honestly. I appreciated it." 

Emily's throat was suddenly a little dry. "When I came home and you were making dinner, that was really nice. I mean, I liked that you were here and after all that happened... and I want that. I want to come home and know you're here. I want to see you when I get home, or wake up. It's just..." She sighed. "I am so not good at this." 

Lena's smile wasn't quite the thousand watt beam she'd greeted her with, but it gave her a little more confidence after her verbal fumbling. "Go on..." 

"I guess what I want to ask is if you'd like to move in with me?" She saw Lena's smile fade, and ice started to wrap around her heart. "I mean I know we've been seeing each other for a while but if It's too fast I don't want you to feel pressured or that things have to change if you don't want..." 

Lena held up her hand. "I mean, we've been seeing each other more than a year, and I appreciate it. It's not too fast, and I do... I want all those things too, Emily. But I still have a few months on the lease for my flat." 

"Of course," Emily nodded, "I understand that. But when it comes up?" 

Lena's brows knit with a look of uncertainty. "You aren't afraid about... I mean... you really believe I'm going to pass the exam, then?" 

"Of course I believe in you, pup. Why wouldn't I?"  

Lena bit her lip. "Do you really want me to give an honest answer to that?"  

"Always, Lena. Please."  

Lena seemed to shrink a little and her gaze dropped to the table. "Because people leave, Em. My whole life, anyone I started to care about... when things got hard or I was getting moved around, no one really kept in touch or wanted to know how I was doing. They just... disappeared. And now this test, and the council's punishment still hanging over your head... I could ruin your whole life. How are you not scared?"  

Emily reached across the table and covered Lena's hands with her own. "I'm not going anywhere, Lena. I'm not scared because I believe in you. I know you'll pass with flying colors, and even if something did go wrong - and I don't think it will - I would still be there, right beside you."  

Lena blushed. "Because of me being a werewolf?"  

Emily shook her head. "No. Not because you're a werewolf, or because of the council, or because of anything else like that. I would be there with you because I love you, Lena. I don't ever need another reason."  

"Well..." Lena looked back up to her, and the light had come back into her eyes. "I guess we should figure out how much room I'll need in your closet, then." 

After they finished their meal and Emily was done doing the dishes, she walked over to Lena, hugging from behind and kissing the top of her head before nuzzling her nose into between Lena's wolf ears and breathing in her scent. 

"Mmm... hullo there." Lena sighed happily as she leaned back into the embrace, her hands coming up to rest against Emily's forearms. 

 An idea took hold, and as a smile spread on her face Emily disentangled herself with a light chuckle and a spring in her step as she went back into the living room. 

"Oi, wait, where are you off to?" 

Emily looked back over her shoulder. "Come help me and you'll see, pup. I'll need help with moving the table anyway so as not to scuff the floor." 

Lena seemed confused, but followed her lead as they moved the coffee table closer to the TV stand and  arranged a open patch in the middle of her living room before Emily made sure her curtains were drawn.   

"I know we'll have to be heading out to the cabin tomorrow, but I thought this might be something fun." Heading over to the closet she opened the door and brought out a cardboard box filled with an assortment of dog toys.  

Pulling her shirt off, Emily started to toss her clothes onto the couch to get ready to change, but almost before she turned around she realized Lena was already in her wolf, and going to pick up one of the rubber toys. 

Emily laughed, and reached down to scruff her ears. "I think that's the fastest I've seen you change yet! Maybe I should bring a few of these to your exam to help you relax." 

Lena looked dubiously up at her, and Emily chuckled as she finished undressing and joining her on the floor. 

They spent the better part of an hour playing with the different toys, fighting over a heavy rag, and finally in a wrestling match that ended with them shifting back to their human forms with their bodies intertwined, laughing and kissing and cuddling together before they made their way back to the bedroom. 


It was dangerous to be back here. Not just dangerous but foolish. She could have tried to find another area to spend the full moon. She knew the entire point of having a system was to follow it...but after so long, to hear a call back, to be welcomed... 

She told herself that she needed to spend the evening here because it was one of the safest places she'd found in some time, but she also knew that wasn't the entire truth. 

She'd been in her wolf form pursuing a squirrel as night began to fall, but she broke off the hunt as songs were carried to her on the wind, the voices the same pair who had answered her before. 

Hope blossomed once more along with a healthy dose of fear. Would they really accept her? Allow her in their territory? Or would she be run off and pushed away?   

You made your choice, she chided herself, there is no more time to doubt. 

The moon would be full soon. She needed to do this properly.  

Taking her human form once again, she stood beneath the moonlight, her raven locks blowing lightly in the wind as she knelt down into the grass, her eyes closing as she bowed her head. She could already feel the moon's pull upon her, and the urge to change beginning to grow in the pit of her stomach. 

"The moon's light shines down upon us," she began, a tremble of anticipation building in her voice as she spoke. "It grants us the power to change and protects us from harm. We shall honor the moon. We shall honor ourselves. We shall honor the land and that which we kill so that we may live." The change was almost on her now, and she could feel her body beginning to shift as she concentrated, willing herself to finish the prayer. "We are one with the beast, and the moon's light reveals us. We are one with the moon. We are one with the earth." 

When she stood, orange eyes flecked with gold looked up to the skies as she greeted the moon with her wereself. She heard the howling call again - an alpha, she was sure of it - and ran towards the source, barely resisting her own urge to call back.  

Despite all her attempts to remain hidden and alone, a wolf was a social creature, and in her wereself that instinct to find others - to belong - was too powerful to deny.  

When she found them, the smaller one was happily splashing through the stream, water dripping from her brown coat. The larger one had come to rest in a crouch on one of the larger rocks near the water, watching her play, and her head snapped up, ears stiffening, as she broke through the tree line.  

The younger one's head came up as well after a moment, but there was no snarl of warning or anger in her bright blue eyes. She seemed more excited and curious than anything else. 

Drawing herself up, she went still as the alpha approached, her green eyes thoughtful and interested. Even though she knew she was larger and likely stronger than the red furred alpha, something in her bearing made it clear that if she should attack either of them - particularly the younger one - she would have a difficult fight on her hands. 

The alpha's muzzle flared, taking in her scent and considering her, then gave a slight nod before she turned and bounded across the stream and up the hill, throwing back her head and letting out another hunting song.  

The younger were scrambled from the stream to join her, raising her own voice, and then both turned back to face her, their invitation clear.  

Come, and hunt.  

Come, and share the moon with us.  

Casting aside all her earlier caution she threw back her head and sang back. Sang for welcome, sang for the hunt, sang in thanks, sang for joy despite herself.  

She crossed the stream to join them, dropping down to all fours once she leapt across the water, and they ran together into the night. 


Emily felt the night's hunting had been quite delightful, once their guest had finally allowed herself to join them properly. She was quick and strong, able to course game and guide them to where Emily and Lena could help to bring them down, and she'd settled into a routine with them almost immediately. 

After they'd each eaten their fill of deer and smaller prey, they'd headed back towards the cabin out of habit, and to Emily's pleasure the silver and white furred were had come along, following them to the spot just inside of the treeline where they often bedded down after a full moon's night.  

Emily had settled down and rumbled happily as Lena curled in against her, and a few moments later the mysterious were had settled herself down on the other side, putting her arm over Lena's flank. As dawn broke a few hours later, they returned to their human forms as they slept, Emily with her arms around Lena's waist, Lena snuggled happily against the full breasts of the tall woman with raven hair who slept contentedly next to them.

Chapter Text

Amélie was slow to wake. She was warm and far more comfortable than she had been in some time. Perhaps it was in thanks to the lovely dreams she had experienced. Running beneath the moon in a pack once more - an alpha to lead and welcome her, and a younger beta who never seemed to tire out. 

 Sadly, no matter how hard she tried to cling to sleep she knew it was time for her to get up. 

"Remercier la lune pour la chasse et ceux qui ont perdu la vie pour la nourrir."  

She spoke the words by reflex, a long practiced ritual that had become habit. The resulting giggle, though, was decidedly not. 

She opened her eyes, then squinted as they adjusted quickly to the light of the sun. She turned her head, and focused in on the face of an unfamiliar woman.  

Startled, Amélie tried scooting back. Half panicked, she needed to put distance between herself and the stranger, but her body would not obey. She was stuck to the ground, her arms and legs entangled with those of a smaller body that clung tightly to her frame. 

Amélie felt as much as heard the muffled groan from the face nestled between her breasts, and looked down in confusion as the smaller woman tilted her head back slightly to blearily stare at her.  

"'M dreaming. These tits are too nice to be real."  

The resulting noise of a face flopping back into her chest brought a flush to Amélie's face and ears as she looked desperately to the red-headed stranger for some assistance. 

"You are very much awake, pup. Behave yourself - those nice tits are attached to our guest!"  

The smaller one gave a little gasp of surprise. Untangling herself, she scooted back with a beaming smile, her eyes shining with excitement. "Oooh, you're the Lady from last night, then? Nice to put a face to the...um...other face?" She put a hand to her chest, tilting her head slightly as if trying to remember something. "I'm Lena by the way. I'm a beta with...no pack designation?" She looked back to the redhead. "Did I finally get that right luv?"  

The redhead's smile was a bit cooler, but her eyes were filled with amusement. "Close enough, yes."  

Amélie blinked, trying to process all of the new information, then gave Lena a slow nod. "I am...similar."  

The redheaded alpha's eyes went a bit thoughtful at that, but Lena didn't seem to notice her hesitation. "Great! I haven't gotten to know a lot of other betas, yet.  Anyway, yeah - I'm Lena and this here is Emily!" 

Amélie gave Emily another nod, but before she could make an excuse to slip away, Lena had popped up to her feet and was offering a hand to help her up as well. 

"I don't know about the two of you, but I am starving! Oh, Lady you'll be wanting breakfast right? Or I guess it's brunch now. Come inside the cabin and have a bite with us? It's my turn to cook the bacon so how do you like yours?"  

Letting Lena help to pull her up to her feet, Amélie's shocked brain struggled to sort through the seemingly endless torrent of excited questions. "...how do I like?"  

Still holding her hand, Lena began to walk towards the cabin's door, half dragging Amélie along in the process, while Emily followed them, clearly struggling not to laugh. "Yeah, you know – some like theirs burnt to a crisp, others take theirs floppy and chewy, you can go for a nice golden brown... I'm more of a "just this side of raw" girl now myself, but I've learned how to cook it all sorts of ways."  

As Lena described the different techniques, Amélie's stomach rumbled. She had eaten her fill last night, but their night under the moon had also demanded a great deal from her body. A meal did sound quite nice. "...is eating it raw not an option?" 

Lena shrugged as she opened the cabin's door, gesturing into the kitchen. "Em?" 

Amélie turned, and Emily took her cue. "Lena is...still getting used to a full diet, so it's been best for her to cook it, but if raw is what you prefer, you're welcome to it." 

Amélie's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. What did she mean by a full diet? Lena had certainly been happy to partake in the hunt and the deer they'd taken...and she'd noticed Emily pointing the younger Beta to other small game as well, actually. How odd. 

She realized the other women were both waiting on her answer and tried to give a pleasant smile. "I will take mine the same way as yours, then." 

"Brilliant! Make yourself comfortable, Lady! I'll take care of the rest!" 

Emily cleared her throat sharply. "Apron." 

Lena rolled her eyes. "That only happened the once!" 

"Even so. No frying bacon in your altogether." Emily offered an indulgent smile as Lena made a show of taking an apron from a drawer in the kitchen and tying it on, then turned back to face Amélie. "If you'd like, I have some extra pajamas you could borrow, since you don't have any clothes here. They'll be a bit small on you, but I think they'll be comfortable enough." 

Amélie glanced back at the door for a moment. She could still run. Make an excuse. Slip away and get back to where she had stashed her clothes and her bag, using the stream to break up her scent to in case they gave chase. 

She should run. She knew that. 

And yet... 

"That is very kind of you. Merci.


Emily lead her up into the loft and dug into a dresser until she had found the pajamas she had promised, and offered her the bathroom, waiting for Amélie to have a brief shower and dress before quietly clearing her throat. 

The alpha had pulled on pajamas of her own and looked oddly nervous, wringing her hands as she sat on the bed. "Lena and I made some plans for the weekend...not expecting company." Her blush and cough made it clear just what those 'plans' entailed.  "But we had also talked about spending some more time in the forest today and watching a few movies later, and you're welcome to join us for that.... ah... for the woods and the movies, I mean."  

Amélie thought of the cries and howls of joy and pleasure she'd heard a few weeks ago, and could feel her ears burning as she tried to focus on what Emily had actually offered. "I would not be intruding?"  

Emily visibly relaxed and offered a surprisingly warm smile. "Lena could use more practice hunting in a pack, and as far as the movie, well, our couch is big enough, I think."  

As she tried to make sense of Emily's comment about Lena needing more practice, Amélie considered her options. It would be safer to decline the offer - to leave before breakfast was finished and slip back into the woods, find her backpack, change, and then leave the area never to return. She could maintain her life of solitude – ensure she would be safe once more – and cherish the last few hours when the ache of loneliness ate away at her. 

Yes. It would be best to leave. She had just opened her mouth to say as much when her stomach spoke for her, letting out a loud angry grumble that made Emily chuckle.  

Amélie looked down at her belly, then offered a weak smile. "Perhaps I will decide after breakfast." 

When they returned to the kitchen, Lena had left her ears and tail out, but had a long apron decorated with a Union Jack draped over her neck and tied around her middle as she worked, the smell of bacon and frying batter filling the air as she added a pancake to the pile on a serving platter beside her. 

"Almost ready! Em, do you want to show the Lady where we keep the plates?" 

By the time the breakfast table was set, Lena had made a sizable stack of pancakes, cooked the entire package of bacon, and scrambled up a dozen eggs. They took their seats, and Lena brought the serving platter around to distribute the food, starting with their guest. 

"Ok, here you are - ah..." Lena trailed off as she let a pancake fall onto the plate. "I'm so sorry - it just hit me that we introduced ourselves but never asked your name."  

Amélie considered lying, but letting herself be trapped that way would do more harm than good. "I'm Amélie." Thankfully neither of them had given her a last name...  

Lena looked from her to Emily. "Oh, that could get confusing... d'you mind if we keep calling you Lady, Amélie?"  

Amélie felt her cheeks warm as she looked down at the plate for a moment to collect herself, then gave them both what she hoped was a polite smile. "If you like."  

"Brilliant! Thanks, Lady!" 

Lena continued around the table and made a show of placing four strips of bacon on each plate – and then taking one from her plate and placing it on Emily's. 

"You were right," Lena sighed as Emily gave her a smug little smile, "and a deal is a deal." 
 
Amélie's brows knit as she watched Lena begin dishing out the eggs. "Quoi?" 
 
Lena's eyes darted over to her, and then back to the pan of eggs. "You... um... your howl. Emily told me something about your howl and I didn't believe her."  

Amélie stiffened. "Excuse me?" 

Lena blushed and Emily had such a bland expression that it veered into being comical. "We were talking about how howls – songs – have accents and Em claimed the other night that French wolves – that you – um..." Lena coughed. "Honhon." 

That was not what she had expected at all, and somehow it made her even more offended. "I beg your pardon?" 

Lena's face was so red she looked like she was about to pass out. "You... ah... you 'hon-hon' before you howl." 
 
"I do no such thing!" 
 
Lena's ears went flat, and her tail bristled with panic. "BUT YOU! I MEAN, NO! NONONO BUT DON'T WORRY! YOU SING REAL GOOD - ERM I  MEAN... IT COULD BE WORSE? NO UGH WHAT I MEAN IS I'M ABSOLUTE SHIT ABOUT HOWLING AND I COULD LISTEN TO YOU HOWL FOR  –" 
 
Lena began to wave her hands around frantically as she babbled until Emily stood up and held a strip of bacon under her nose. "That's quite enough Pup." 

Amélie watched them in complete bafflement, her breakfast forgotten as Lena's eyes locked on to the bacon and she took it from Emily, cramming it into her mouth and chewing anxiously, looking back over to where Amélie watched them with a plaintive little whine. 
 
"Lena. Relax." 
 
"'M srry," Lena mumbled around the bacon before she swallowed, "I'm just... still kinda terrible at some of the were... stuff." 
 
Amélie was even more confused by what was clearly supposed to have been an answer, desperately trying to make sense of what Lena had said as they returned to the table. 
 
Emily seemed to realize her bafflement, and offered a real explanation as she picked up her fork. "Lena was turned, not born." 
 
"Ah. C'est clair. Recently, then?" A bit surprising that Emily had gotten permission to turn the girl – such things had always been rare, in her experience... 
 
"In a sense," Emily demurred, "it's... a complicated story." 

Amélie watched as Lena shared a glance with Emily, a silent conversation taking place that she was not privy to. A beat later and a decision seemed to be made.  

"I've been a werewolf for two years – almost three now... but I didn't know I wasn't alone until last spring."  

Amélie frowned, already able to read between the lines. "You were abandoned?" What kind of animal would do such a cruel thing? 

Lena shrugged. "I suppose." She looked over to Emily and gave a shy smile. "Things have been looking up, though." 

"Be that as it may – the one who turned you..." Amélie paused, eyes widening as the full meaning of what she had been told took hold, "You survived for a year on your own? Not knowing what you were?"  

Lena nodded, "Well, I figured out I was a werewolf pretty quickly on but...yeah. I don't think I did too badly, though I know I might have made a few mistakes..." 

"Like being a vegetarian," Emily added with a fond smile. 

Amélie shook her head a bit in disbelief. "The moon must have been watching over you."  

"Uh. Well, honestly I was trying to avoid-"  

"That's not quite what she means..." Emily interrupted gently, giving Amélie a curious gaze, "I apologize. There are things I'm still teaching her."  

Lena frowned as she looked between them. "Ok, I really don't understand now." 

Amélie grimaced. "The fault is mine, I should not have assumed you were familiar with the Old Ways. Do not worry, I shall keep my views to myself from now on." 

Emily surprised her by reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder, and Amélie did her best not to stiffen in response. "No, please – feel free to practice openly while you are here. I have no strong feelings regarding the Old Ways but I am familiar with them. My Gran insisted we honor the moon for certain celebrations and I understand how important the connection to those ways can be." 

Amélie nodded her thanks before looking to Lena, obviously still lost but trying to follow the conversation, "What I meant before, was that you must have had someone watching over you. A guardian angel if you would prefer." 

Lena nodded in understanding though she still seemed curious about the topic. "So...these 'Old ways' you're both talking about. Is it like a religion?"  

Amélie took a moment to chew and swallow a bite of eggs to give herself a moment before she began to explain. "Some who practice the Old Ways would call it that - but to me it is more spiritual. The moon is not a god. It does not demand my worship. But it gives me comfort to believe that, as it gives us our ability to change - the gifts that make us who we are - perhaps the moon also looks down on us, and gives its' protection." 

Lena worked through half of her pancakes while she considered that, then gave them a shy little smile. "I think I like the sound of that." 

Later, while they were washing up the dishes from breakfast, Amélie kept noticing Lena glancing down at her arm each time she handed over a dish to be dried. After they'd finished three plates and the pan, she had lost her patience with it. "Just ask."  

Caught staring, Lena glanced up, a flush raising to her face. "What?" 

She held out her arm, turning it so the scars would be plain. "Please stop staring at me and just ask."  

"Sorry... it's just..." Lena gestured to the well healed but deep scars that ran from the edge of her wrist and up her forearm to the elbow. "I didn't think... that could happen?" 

"Mmm." Amélie considered how best to put it, "You are a turned were - is the skin where you were bitten not scarred?"  

Lena's hand dropped down to rest against a part of her hip that was hidden by her apron. "It.. it is yeah - but I assumed that was because it happened before I turned."  

"You are not wrong - scars inflicted upon us as children do stay - but besides silver... well. Only a diamond can cut a diamond." 

Lena's eyes widened in realization. "You mean..." 

"Yes." Amélie closed her eyes as the old wounds seemed to ache again. "I was... defending myself."  

Lena gave a low whistle. "I suppose I don't have to ask who won." 

Amélie looked down into her reflection in the soapy water. "There were no victors. Only victims." 


Amélie ran, zig-zagging her way between the trees while doing her best to keep the brown wolf in her sights. The red-hued wolf was out in front, cutting off the targets path. 

Lena was keeping up quite well behind the large badger - and for a moment Amélie was convinced she had it - but instead of clamping down on its hide quarters, she overtook it, nudging it with her snout and disrupting its stride so that it ended up running straight into Amélie's waiting fangs 

Even though she had the right to her fill as the one who brought the hunt to an end, this was not her place... and she knew it was an honor she did not truly deserve. Ripping away just enough to sate her slowly growing hunger, she placed the hindquarter in her jaws with a little growl of warning - reflexive after so long - and took it a few paces away before beginning to eat, while the others began to devour the carcass. 

Belly full, Amélie changed back into her human form, pushing her hair back and over one shoulder.  

"Well done Lena," She began as she watched the smaller Beta change, "You made that easy for me. All I had to do was bite down." Amélie had meant it as a compliment.  

Lena's responding sigh and mumbled "Yeah - real great hunter I am." was not what she had expected. 

This was becoming a trend. 

"I..." Amélie wondered what she could say - what she was trying to say. Finally, she turned away, so she could hide the hurt and frustration in her eyes. "It takes a great deal of skill to set up a packmate so, Lena. I meant nothing but a compliment. You did me a great honor." 

Amélie could hear Emily speaking to Lena in a low, soothing voice, but didn't really try to pay attention until the alpha raised her voice slightly.  

"Amélie... I apologize. You didn't know..."  

"Wait." Lena's voice was still rough with frustration and anger, but there was also an edge of melancholy to it. "Wait, no, Em... I buggered this up. I need to take my medicine."  

Amélie turned around slowly. Part of her wondered if she should simply take her leave. Perhaps... perhaps she had overstayed her welcome, after all. But what she found in Lena's eyes rooted her to the ground. She rarely saw so much pain and frustration without looking in a mirror. 

"I've been... shit. We didn't tell you about the exam."  

"Exam?"  

Lena looked behind her and found a felled tree she could settle down on, her tail wrapping around her knees. "Because of what happened to me... because of Em not telling the council I was a turned were the minute she found me... I have to take a test - prove that I know what the fuck I'm doing... or they'll punish her." Lena swallowed hard, and looked skywards, avoiding eye contact with the two of them. "I can't let that happen. I can't. But I keep buggering up the kills when I'm trying to hunt. I can bring things down if I'm hungry enough, but it's barely clean enough... and in situations like this, I just... fail." 

Amélie wrapped her arms around her chest and considered the sentence - and the threat it implied. "You were fortunate. The council that I was raised under was not so... forgiving."  

Amélie saw Lena hang her head, and though she was still a bit angry at the girl's initial reaction... it made a great deal more sense.  

"When I was young, hunting was difficult, at times, for many reasons. But I was always taught that if you could not make a clean kill, it was better to not kill at all. Things are different now, I suppose... but you have skill, Lena. I have seen it. What stops you is not your ability - it is your fear. Perhaps fear for your alpha... perhaps fear of what you are. I cannot say." 

Emily flushed. "I'm... not her alpha. We're both still... I'm..." Emily coughed. "I'm her girlfriend, but I'm a disperser, too."  

Amélie raised an eyebrow, but said nothing more. 

"You're right," Lena admitted after a moment of silence, "I am scared. When I'm like this - I can think clearly about it, I know I'm scared and I know what I have to do... but in the moment I don't know how to get over that fear."  

Amélie saw the pleading look in those brown eyes, staring at her like she might hold the key to solving all her problems. "Perhaps... you have been trying too hard."  

The statement caught even the alpha's attention, and Amélie fidgeted for a moment under their combined curiosity before she was able to ground herself.  

"If you practice a move many times, but you practice it wrong, it will be very difficult to break you of your habits. Perhaps you have gone in for the kill thinking 'I must kill' too many times now - and your body responds by failing you. It is not because you are hungry that you are able to kill - merely that when you are hungry you stop forgetting about having to kill and instead focus on working together to make the kill instead." 

Emily looked guiltily over at Lena, then sat down next to her. "I think the Lady may have a point, pup. I'm sorry – I should have thought more about that myself." 

Lena put her hand on Emily's knee, then looked out at the forest. "I keep asking other people why they hunt – why they've killed, or when they had to. None of it quite...I hear them, I do, but it doesn't really click, I suppose." 

Amélie settled back against a tree, following Lena's gaze out through the tree line. "No one will ever have the same reasons – and there are many who hunt for the wrong reasons. The hunt was never supposed to be about trophies or sport. It is about doing what is necessary, and filling a role." 

Lena cocked her head. "A role?" 

Amélie nodded. "Earlier – I took a squirrel, but I did not eat it." 

"I noticed that," Lena admitted, "and I saw you sort of...stop over it. I wasn't sure what was going on there. I figured that maybe it turned out to be sick." 

"No. It was because when I hunt, my first kill does not belong to me – or my pack. That kill belongs to the Moon and the land around us. By giving it up, I do not feed myself – but I do feed all of the creatures who might have need of it. Foxes, crows, and the like for food. Insects who lay their eggs in the carcass. The remains that eventually fall into the soil and nourish the trees and the plants." Amélie looked back and coughed to cover her embarrassment, her ears folding back. "Forgive me, I did not mean to carry on so." 

Emily shook her head. "No, it's quite all right. Helpful, actually." 

Lena nodded. "It's a bit crunchy granola...but I think I get it. So it's about helping to maintain things? Keeping a balance?" 

"Just so." Amélie smiled a bit nostalgically as she looked up towards the sky. "There was a...proverb, I suppose, that my mother taught me when I was a little girl.  'The moon reminds us we are both man and beast. Forget not the herb, root, and seed lest you wish to see no more prey.' We are not animals. We have a responsibility. It is how I have always tried to live my life." 


As they sat on the couch watching the movies Emily had brought along, a bowl of popcorn sitting where all three of them could reach it, Amélie was quiet for the first part of Roman Holiday, then smiled as Audrey Hepburn woke up in Gregory Peck's apartment. "I thought I remembered this one." 

Lena raised her head from Emily's shoulder. "Oh yeah?" 

Without thinking, she let down her guard a bit. "I saw it in the theatre, when it came out. It is funny...but also a bit sad." 

"Oh, right," Lena murmured softly, "sorry. I'm still not quite used to the aging thing." 

Amélie gave her a sympathetic smile. "I was fourteen when I saw it... it always made me think about... what might have been." 

Emily turned her head to look at her - her gaze studying but not critical.  

"You loved someone?"  

Amélie's face fell like a door slamming shut. You said too much. "I thought I was going to be happy, once. Then..." Her eyes fell to the floor, but she was not truly looking at the cabin's floor. "I learned that life is not so simple as that." 

Amélie did not expect a warm hand to worm its way into her own. The touch, while not unwelcome, was still surprising. Looking upward she found Lena's brown eyes were equally full of warmth and... understanding?  

"After realizing what happened to me," Lena began, her voice soft and the movie now completely forgotten, "I was so alone, Lady. I hid myself away so I wouldn't hurt anyone. I punished myself for something that was outside of my control. I told myself I wouldn't love again, that I was a monster - but then I met Emily and things got so so much better. I'm not sure who your Emily might be - but you can't give up." 

Tears began to prick at Amélie's eyes and she did nothing to stop them. "Some monsters are people, petit chiot. I..." She bit down on her lip to force herself to stop, her fingers tracing over the scars that marked her forearm. "Perhaps I could find love, one day, but that person... they never truly existed. It was all a pretty lie, to hide the rot beneath." 


Once they had packed up the next morning, Emily put her key into the ignition and started Oliver up with a slight stall before the engine settled into the loud clanky rumbling that was his norm. From the passenger seat, Lena was almost leaning out the window, waving goodbye to their guest like a loon. She was so earnest that Emily couldn't help but find it charming, and by the way Amélie was trying to fight back a smile, it seemed she was thinking along the same lines.  

"See you next full moon, Lady!" 

The way Lena said it was a bit surprising. Their new friend had never agreed to meet them again at the cabin next month. Emily had merely mentioned to Amélie at breakfast that if she happened to be in the area at the next moon, she was welcome to come stay with them. 

But Lena radiated confidence - this wasn't a matter of 'ifs' as far as she was concerned. 

Amélie said nothing, but there was a promising tilt to her head and a slight swish of her tail in reply.  

"Take care!" Emily added before putting Oliver into reverse and backing down the dirt path that lead back to the road. 

Lena continued to wave, turning in her seat when Emily finally made a three point turn so she could drive forwards, until the trees swallowed up the lone figure by the cabin. Slumping back into her seat, Lena let out a deep breath before she spoke again. 

"So... the Lady... that was her, wasn't it? The one we heard on the night where we... well... y'know."  

Emily chuckled. "The one we 'gave a show'? Yes, I am fairly sure she's one and the same."  

Lena's face was nearly as red as Oliver's paint. "God she's pretty and I'm really glad I didn't figure that out until we were almost out the door." 

Chapter Text

When Emily had explained to her that she'd likely experience a heat three or four times a year, Lena hadn't expected her second one to come within two months of the first. 

She wasn't feeling quite as desperate, mind you, thanks to Emily being quite happy to help her out and not having two years of pent up need powering it, but it still had moments of being a bit... inconvenient. Not to mention distracting.  

"Seriously," she griped to Angela as they sat a at table at The Howl,  "I figured I had a few more months, y'know?" 

Angela shrugged, giving her a sympathetic smile after she'd taken a drink of her vodka & cranberry. "Normally you should, but your situation is a bit unusual. Aside from being a turned were, which may have thrown your cycle off a bit, you had the issues with your development and maturity. Your body is finally healthy enough to - in theory - bear a child, and it's responding accordingly." 

Lena's eyes began to drift to where Emily was working behind the bar. A pleasant daydream of sticking around to chucking out time and just what they could do on that bar once everyone else had left began to form, and she had to pinch herself to snap out of it, dragging her attention back to what the doctor had actually said. "So.... I should smooth out, then? Get a little more regular?"  

"I should think, yes." 

Lena let out a muffled groan. "And until then?" 

 Angela quirked a brow, "Do you want my personal or my professional opinion?"  

"Ummm... both?" 

"Professionally, as your doctor, this is something that I'm afraid must be endured. You may find it helps to wear a bit more perfume or deodorant to help mask the scent, and breathable fabrics are good for you. My suspicion, however, is you will see your estrus cycles become more regular and spaced out over the next twelve months. If for some reason you do not, we can do some bloodwork and tests to see if there's a hormonal issue."  

Angela took a healthy slug of her vodka, then gave her a dry smile.  

"Personally - Emily works too hard and I suspect you have a great deal of vacation saved up. You have that cabin of Emily's for a romantic getaway, a hotel can also be a good change of scenery... and they sell water based lubricant by the gallon online." 

Lena smirked. "That sounds like the voice of experience." 

Angela chuckled. "I'm a doctor, not a nun."  

"That's very true." Fareeha had apparently been able to catch the last bit of their conversation as she approached from behind Angela's seat, leaning around and over her to give her a quick peck of a kiss. "Speaking of which..." She looked down at the mostly empty highball glass, then took a sniff. "I see you're planning on getting a ride home from someone." 

Angela gave Fareeha a teasing little smile. "Perhaps I am." 

Lena had been about to give Angela and Fareeha a little 'go on, then' gesture when she smelled someone unfamiliar coming up behind her. Someone who smelled a bit of peppercorns, lager, and something awfully sour. A heavy hand came down on her shoulder, and she bristled. 

"Heeeeeeey," a  man's drunken voice slurred. "Haven't noticed a pretty little thing like you in here before." 

Lena shrugged the hand off sharply, then turned around to get a look. Her 'were-dar', as Fareeha had put it, was getting better, and this guy pretty clearly was - something about his smell and his eyes. His pupils were wide and lazy from from drinking... and perhaps something else. "This was a private conversation, thanks." 

"Aw," the drunkard slurred, "don't be like that! Little omega like you - new in town? Looking for a friend to help you out?" 

"Not even a little," Lena scoffed, "and especially not from someone like you." She stood and turned with deliberate slowness. "I think I'm gonna grab another round, Angie. You want anything, 'Reeha?" 

Fareeha's eyes narrowed. "I think I'm good." 

Lena nodded, and began to walk towards the bar, making a beeline for where Emily was pulling a pint, when she felt his hand grab her elbow. 

"Hey! I'm just talkin'-" 

Lena's voice dipped into a guttural snarl. "Let go of me, right now.

His laugh had a disgusting oily edge. "I don't think so. Bet you like gettin' a little handling, aye? Little omega mutt likes a big strong alpha to give you what you nee-

Twisting sharply to free her arm, Lena spun completely around and put her momentum into a hard right cross, driving the blow with her hips.  Her knuckles struck his chin with a satisfying crack and he sprawled backwards, landing flat on his ass with a loud 'Ooof!' 

The entire pub seemed to screech to a halt the instant she'd decked the bastard, and for a moment the only sound was Lena's breath huffing angrily as she loomed over the drunk, silently daring him to stand up and try that again. 

"You..." the drunk sputtered, his eyes filled with more shock than pain, "you can't do that! This is a sanctuary!

Lena stiffened, suddenly nervous. Had she done something to get herself in trouble without realizing it? 

"It is a sanctuary," Emily said coolly as she stepped out from around the bar, making her way to them with a few quick strides. "But that means everyone has the right to enter safely. And the moment you grabbed her, you forfeited any right to protection." She stepped up next to Lena, but didn't make any move to coddle or comfort her. Emily was there to provide backup right now, and acting the role perfectly. "Get up, pay your tab, and get the hell out of my pub. If I see you back here again, I'll call the police." 

"You... you wouldn't dare!" 

"Oh, she would," Fareeha had stood up from the table and casually shifted her jacket so the drunk could see her badge. "As a matter of fact I'd be happy to ring you up for public drunkenness and assault right now. Trespassing's just a bonus." 

A few men who had been sitting at one of the tables near the dartboards stood and came over, shoulders hunched, heads down. The drunk's friends (or packmates, Lena supposed), all clearly ashamed of what he'd done.  

"Come on," one of them murmured as he reached out to pull the drunk to his feet, "pay up so we can get out of here." 

"You really put your foot in it this time," the other hissed. 

As if finally realizing he'd stepped over the line, the drunk's face went from flushed with booze to pale with fear.  

The one who had helped him up half walked, half marched him to the bar where Jesse was already pulling his tab, while the other looked over to Emily. "Sorry, he's not a bad guy but he -" 

"Save it," Emily snapped. Lena was shocked to realize that she'd actually used her alpha voice, but it had clearly worked, shutting him up as if a switch had been thrown. "Get him out of here and I don't want to see anyone from your pack in here for the next month - and he is never welcome here again. Clear?" 

"Crystal," the chastised man agreed with a wince, then went silent as his packmates returned from the bar, every eye in the pub watching them like hawks as they slunk out into the night. 

As the atmosphere in the pub slowly returned to normal, Lena finished her walk to the bar, where Jesse had a fresh pint and two fingers of bourbon waiting for her.  

She slugged down the whiskey, coughed sharply, and then slumped onto a barstool as Emily leaned across the bar, their foreheads not quite touching, her voice just barely above a murmur. "Are you OK, Lena?" 

Lena shook her head. "It's not the first time I had to say 'no means no', but... ugh." She took a pull of her beer and tried to get her breathing to even out, her nerves still jangling. 

Emily nodded sympathetically. "That was nice punch, by the way." 

Lena grinned. "Took a few classes. Good to know I still remember a few things." Once she'd drained half her glass, a thought occurred to her. "Em... why did he keep thinking I was an omega?" 

Emily sighed. "Omegas generally have smaller, slighter builds. Brigitte's an exception who proves the rule. He was too drunk to notice anything aside from the scent of your heat, so he couldn't pick up the cues there." 

"Lovely." 

Emily's eyes darkened, a hint of something possessive there. "He won't ever darken our door again. If he tries, I'll personally make him regret it." 

"...that's a little hot, honestly." 

Emily leaned across to peck her lightly on the lips. "So was you laying him out in one shot." 


Like most days, Amélie rose with the sun. This particular morning she also awoke to the sound of a woodpecker chipping away at the bark of a nearby tree. The noise was grating on her wolf ears - but growling at the bird proved useless.  

She had thought that changing into her human form would have scared it away - but the blasted thing merely paused to look at her before it continued hammering its beak into the wood. 

With a harrumph, Amélie got dressed, picking through her backpack and finding a bag of jerky she'd saved for breakfast.  

"You need to make your decision," Amélie muttered to herself as she chewed, "If you leave now you can still find another place to wait for the moon. You have already stayed for far too long. Nice as it is, it has long since been time to move on." 

Amélie looked in the direction she knew that cabin was in – her mind wandering back to the day she spent with Emily and Lena. 

She didn't just want to stay because they had been kind, though that was rare enough. She told herself it was not just because they'd been so welcoming - so accepting. After all, she'd fallen for such words before. She certainly wasn't going to stay because they were both pretty.  

Though they are.  

Shaking the thought away, Amélie focused on finishing her meal. She would go today. Leave before they arrived and not return again. It was for the best.  

After a quick brush of her teeth and comb of her hair she began packing her bag once again. As she worked on covering up her tracks, she thought of what she'd learned about Lena's life. How she had been turned, nearly starved to death, and still lived with a terrible risk looming over her until her council was satisfied.  

"To have been through so much... and still have so much goodwill." She shook her head. It was stunning, really. She certainly had not come through her trials so unscathed. Perhaps she wanted to stay because she simply wanted to know how Lena managed to keep such relentless optimism, and how Emily could live with such an accepting, unguarded heart despite her own life still hanging in the balance.  

Perhaps... 

Amélie's thoughts came to a grinding halt the moment her silver wolf ears began to twitch. The noise of a car's engine was faint, but steadily growing closer. With time now very much of the essence Amélie grabbed her pack and took off at a sprint, easily navigating through the trees and brush she had spent the last few weeks familiarizing herself with.  

Her destination was the base of a sturdy old oak tree a few hundred meters away from the clearing around the cabin. She paused for a moment to remove her pack to minimize the risk of it catching on anything before toeing off her shoes and socks.  

Climbing the trunk of the tree was not too difficult, but it took longer than Amélie would have liked. By the time she had finally found purchase on a thick enough branch to support her weight, the roar of the car's engine had passed and was nearing the cabin proper.  

She looked out from the tree, focusing on the figures in the distance, and as she concentrated they slowly took form until she could easily make out Lena and Emily moving around the car, Lena's face falling with obvious disappointment before Emily came up behind her in a half hug, saying something that seemed to be reassuring, judging by Lena's reaction. 

She felt a bit guilty for... well. Spying, really. There was no gentler word for it. But old habits died hard. She became so absorbed in the scene that she failed to notice the woodpecker landing on the branch just above her until it began to drill into the bark. 

Startled, Amélie snapped her head and growled at the direction of the perceived threat - before realizing it was likely the same bird responsible for her wakeup call.  

The growl got the bird to stop long enough to look at her.  

"Shhh."  

The bird fluffed up at the noise, and for a moment Amélie thought maybe he would fly away before-  

RAT-A-TATTATATATATATAATATATATAT  

"Et merde." 

Amélie nervously glanced back towards the cabin – hoping that the bird's hammering hadn't drawn their attention their way. As luck would have it – neither seemed to find the disturbance out of place and together the pair had begun unloading the car.  

She watched Lena close up the car and scan the tree line again, and the way her shoulders fell as she took the bag she was carrying into the cabin. Saw her turn again as she reached the door, as if she would find what was missing if she just looked one more time. 

It reminded her of the way she'd waited for her parents to return. For her packmates to return. The hope... and the disappointment. 

She closed her eyes and huffed out a sigh.  She'd tried to make excuses again and again... but the truth was painfully simple. She'd been lonely, and they'd welcomed her - shockingly and unexpectedly, they'd offered their hospitality... and they were hoping she would come back. 

She was tired of being alone. 

"Selfish," she murmured as she began to climb down, "so, so selfish..." 

She slipped on her shoes and grabbed her pack from where she'd left it beside the tree, settling it on her shoulders before she made her way towards the cabin. 


Lena couldn’t help it – she kept glancing out the window. Each time, though, there was nothing but the trees. 

Emily gave her an indulgent look, but didn't say more.  

She was trying to not to feel too disappointed, but it had been nice to make a new friend – god knew she didn't have all that many since she'd been turned.  She'd really thought that the lady had enjoyed spending time with them – as a wolf and as a human – and part of her had just...expected she'd be there.  

She knew Emily was right that not everyone took the bank holiday, and they had no idea where she'd come from or where she might be living.  

But she kept looking anyway. 

After lunch, she finally gave in to her frustrations and slipped her shoes back on. "Em? Gonna take a walk." 

"Sure," Emily smiled over to her, "want company?" 

Lena shook her head. "Thanks, but no. Got to... get out of my head a little."   

Emily nodded and took a book off the shelf. "I understand. Love you." 

She crossed to give her a quick kiss on the cheek before making her way to the door. "Love you, too." 

Lena had made her way into the trees and had just turned in the direction of the river, planning to go find her usual spot to sit and think, when her nose twitched. Just the faintest hint on the wind... a scent that reminded her of sweetgrass and sedge, with a hint of straw and something that made her think of lemons and lavender.  

She hadn't even realized her tail had come out until it started to wag. She followed the scent, a grin on her face as she began to hear the sound of someone moving through the woods, finally managing to catch sight of Amélie coming out of the woods and into the clearing.  

"Amélie!" Lena ran so she could meet her halfway to the cabin, wrapping her up in a hug. "We were hoping you'd join us again, Lady!" 

The hug must have taken her by surprise. She could feel Amélie tense for a moment, but once the shock had passed she'd relaxed and returned the hug. Sighing happily, Lena enjoyed the moment before she turned to wave at the cabin. "EM! LOOK WHO I FOUND!" 

"You were looking for me?"  

Lena blushed as she looked back, putting a hand up to the back of her neck. "Well... I mean... we said we'd see you here, right? For the next full moon and all... and I..." 

"What she means," Emily teased as she walked out to join them, "is that she was really looking forward to seeing you again." 

 A funny expression that Lena couldn't quite read crossed Amélie's face, and she had a bit of a sheepish look as she gave Emily a little wave of greeting. "Bonjour. I hope I am not..." She looked between each of them again. "Intruding?" 

Lena blinked. "No...? Like I said, we invited you."  

Emily nodded, a sneaky little smile on her face. "Not intruding at all. She's almost done, I think...and we do have a funny story about that." 

Lena suddenly realized that Amélie could smell that she'd been in heat, and the memories of howling into the night for her came to the front of Lena's mind, her face burning with a furious blush. "Oh. Right. Sorry. Yes. Fine. I'm Fine! I'm just fine, really....we've been...hey, are you hungry? Em made lunch. Lunch is good, right?" 

Amélie's hand had come up to her mouth, trying to hide her laugh, and Lena was about ready to die on the spot. "I had breakfast, but I haven't eaten since. Lunch would be very nice."  

"Great!" Lena turned, trying not to put her foot (or anything else) into her mouth any further than she already had as they walked the rest of the way to the cabin. Her eyes darted to Emily, who looked fit to burst with her own laughter, and she felt a pang of relief that she hadn't mucked anything up with her, at least. "Lunch. Right. Lunch we can do!" 


"...and that's when Lena spun around and swung on him!" Emily couldn't help her smile as she told the story of Lena's 'unfortunate encounter', especially when Lena groaned and put her head down in her hands.  

"It was the only thing I could think to do after he wouldn't take no for an answer!" Lena sighed as she sat back up, looking up at the skylight set into the cabin roof. "And then I thought I was in even more trouble." 

Amélie frowned. "More trouble?" 

Emily cleared her throat. "I'm telling the story, remember?" Lena stuck out her tongue and Emily winked, then turned her attention back to Amélie. "So the idiot is on the floor, right on his ass, and he looks up and her and says 'You can't DO that!' because of the pub being a sanctuary, and I had the very great pleasure of educating him otherwise." 

Amélie nodded, enlightened. "Ahh. He must have been very drunk – and very foolish – to mistake you for an omega." She raised a placating hand. "Not that there is anything wrong with being one – but you are so distinctly a beta that I cannot imagine you as anything else, Lena."  

"Aw. Thank you!"  

"So," Amélie looked over to Emily "you own this pub?" 

Emily nodded. "The Howl, yes. I set it up as a sanctuary when I opened it, not long after I moved to London." 

"It sounds fascinating. I can only imagine the complications." 

"You should visit sometime," Lena smiled. "If you get to London often, anyway."  

Amélie seemed to grow pensive. "Ah...perhaps. I do come to the city occasionally, in the course of my work." 

"So you travel, then?" Emily looked over, trying not to sound too probing. "I'd wondered if you might have been out here, before, because you were looking for a place out of the way." 

"Mm." Amélie shrugged. "I work in antiquities. Identifying and authenticating art, in particular. I have very...demanding clients. Sometimes I am going non-stop for weeks, and at others I have little to do until I get a call about a new job." 

"That sounds fascinating, honestly." Emily could feel her eyebrows almost up to her forehead. "Rather romantic, in fact. Do you mostly work in England, then?" 

Amélie shook her head. "I go where the work demands. In honesty, it is often quite boring. I spend a great deal of time in archives and libraries. These days, the internet is helpful, but I still spend most of my time doing research." She paused, a shadow of uncertainty passing over her face. "It...is possible I may not be back for a while, if I should be asked to meet a client. It can be difficult to predict." 

"Well," Emily smiled, "you're certainly welcome here when you can stop by." 

Amélie murmured her thanks, and Emily let the subject drop. "Would you care to go for a run later? The moon won't be full until fairly late tonight and we brought a few more movies, too." 

"Certainly," Amélie gave her a grateful look, and it wasn't long before they found themselves getting ready to head outside. 


As the credits to A Night at the Opera rolled to an end Emily stood up to put the VHS tape away and glanced at the clock.  

"Mmm, don't really have enough time to fit another one in – at least not without starting to get restless. Would you two be willing to turn a bit early?" 

"I do not mind, but I will need to get ready first," Amélie offered after watching Lena give a non-committal shrug.  

"Oh of course, how about we each get ready and meet in the clearing in say... five ?" 

Amélie nodded, and returned to the cabin's guest room to change out of her clothes and put on the spare bathrobe Emily had offered her before heading outside.  

The night was perfect – the songs of frogs from down near the river blending in with the melodies of the crickets. The air was cool but not to cold and the moon seemed to hang like a fixture in the sky. None of them may have any particular need to shift at this moment – but they could not deny the appeal behind it.  

She had been about to slip the robe from her shoulders and find a place to prepare herself when she heard Lena and Emily approaching. Emily was already naked, a folded blanket (the one they'd slept on that first night, she realized) tucked under one arm, while Lena had an oversized dress shirt on, the top buttons already opened.  

"Hello, Lady! Are you ready?"  

Amélie hesitated. "I would normally make... a prayer, I suppose. Before the change takes me. Since you did not practice, I was going to find a place to perform it privately."  

Lena stepped forward, a nervous blush rising on her cheeks. "Could... would it be OK if you let us join you? I'd like to see."  

Amélie looked over to Emily, raising her eyebrows in a silent question.  

"I'd like to join you, too. This... isn't really something I have experience with, but if Lena is interested in learning more, I'd enjoy being part of that." 

She gave them a grateful smile. Being told that Emily didn't mind her following the old ways was one thing. Being told she didn't have to conduct herself privately was the most she'd hoped for. To join her...no. She hadn't dared hope for that. "Then let us begin." 

She heard Lena's breath catching as her ears and tail flowed from her - the first time she'd let them see her this way, instead of fully shifted to her human, wolf, or wereself.  

Part of her felt shy and a bit hesitant at the reaction – it had been so long since she'd let anyone see her this way –  but she reminded herself that mostly sated or not, the beta was still in her heat. 

She likely finds everyone beautiful right now. Do not read too much into it.  

She let the robe slide from her shoulders, and raised her hands. "Come join me?" 

Emily moved to take Amélie's right hand and Lena removed her shirt before taking her left, completing their circle beneath the moon's glow. 

"The moon's light shines down upon us," Amélie began as she had so many times before, "It grants us the power to change and protects us from harm. We shall honor the moon. We shall honor ourselves. We shall honor the land and that which we kill so that we may live. We are one with the beast, and the moon's light reveals us. We are one with the moon. We are one with the earth... We are one with ourselves. We... are one." 

She gave herself over to the change, and together they ran into the night. 

Chapter Text

Amélie drifted slowly towards full wakefulness, savoring the feeling of warmth surrounding her.  

Just a little longer, she promised herself. I can enjoy this just a little longer, and then slip away later today. 

RAT-A-TATTATATATATATAATATATATAT! 

Amélie groaned at the sound of the woodpecker rattling the trees again. Opening her eyes, she sighed. "Don't you have anything better to do?" 

The bird sang happily in response, and then began to hammer at another tree.  

"Oh," Emily groaned from behind her, "what the hell is that noise?" 

Amélie sighed. "My personal tormentor." She looked down to where Lena had buried herself, again, during the night. "...how can she sleep through that?" 

Emily shook her head. "Remind me to tell you some stories." She reached across to run her fingers through Lena's hair, and Amélie tried not to think about how Emily was brushing against her. "So you've run into that bird before, then?" 

Amélie grimaced. She'd given herself away again. "I..." She considered trying to hide, to skirt the truth, and finally decided it wasn't worth it. "Yes, a few times, I think. He nearly startled me out of a tree, not so long ago." 

Emily was quiet for a few minutes, content to just toy with her lover's hair, while Amélie didn't dare breathe.  

"You know," Emily murmured softly, "I leave a spare key under the purple flowerpot. There's a bunch of old burrows my family set up for shelter on the land, too. Lena knows where a few of them are. I'm sure she'd be happy to show you." 

Tears stung her eyes. "You... trust me so much?" 

"We’ve hunted with you. We've dined with you." She could hear the little smile in Emily's voice. "We've slept with you – in the most literal sense of the word." Her voice grew softer. "I can tell there are things you'd prefer to keep private. I hope one day you'll share some of them. But both of us can tell you're a good person, Lady. So... yes. I trust you. We trust you. And if you're between jobs right now and need a place to stay safely, you can always come here." 

Amélie's heart was torn between elation and terror, and she finally managed to whisper "Merci beaucoup" just before Lena finally began to stir.  

"mmm... h'llo lovelies..." Lena nuzzled against the side of her breast, and Amélie flushed with an embarrassed cough. 

"Huh?" Lena opened her eyes, blinking a few times, then realized where she was. "Oh!" Blushing, she untangled herself, giving them both an apologetic look. "Sorry, Lady!" 

Emily chuckled as she sat up. "This is starting to become a habit, pup..." 

To her surprise, Lena flinched as if she'd been struck. "God, Em, I'm sorry... I... just..." She stood and had started to walk away when Emily took her hand.  

"Lena... sh." Emily gently wrapped her in a hug. "I was teasing. It was cold and she's warm, and frankly her breasts are rather fantastic. I was snuggled up with her, too. There's nothing to apologize for." 

Lena sighed as she returned the hug. "It just made me think... I know how it felt when I found out that Ginny had been going behind my back, and I don't ever want to make you feel like that." 

Emily gently kissed the top of her forehead, making her ears twitch. "I know you wouldn't, Lena, and I wasn't worried, or jealous, or angry. I promise, ok?" 

Lena nodded, Emily's fingers tangling in her hair as she lightly scratched along the back of her scalp. "I think we should talk more about this later, but I promise, Lena, I will never be upset about seeing you cuddling with someone after we've been out under the moon, and if I do feel like there's a problem, I swear I will talk to you about it straight away." 

Amélie felt like an intruder, not sure how or if she should react. She'd already embarrassed herself by flushing like a schoolgirl when Emily had complimented her body, and acting like a fool while the two of them clearly had some things to discuss would not help anything. 

When the moment seemed a bit less delicate, she finally gave a little cough so she would not startle ether of them by speaking. "I used to do the same, when I was a pup. Listening to the heart... it is comforting. Reassuring." She bit her lip, looking down at her chest. "I suppose the... extra padding... would make it a bit more pleasant." 

Emily actually snorted a laugh at that. "There, you see? Perfectly normal." 

Lena relaxed, managing a soft laugh. "I... yeah. Guess I'll go with that. Sorry." 

Amélie stood, glad her blush had faded. "You didn't offend me. It was..." She paused, looking for the right words. "A pleasant reminder." 


After breakfast the three decided to go out and enjoy the weather. Changing into her wolf form Amélie lounged out on the grass - enjoying the way the sun warmed her fur... until Lena pounced on top of her and the two began to wrestle. 

At some point Emily joined in and it became a bit of a free for all with light nips at tails and low growls and barks that often came about with a scuffle. By the end of it Lena lay on the bottom with Emily effectively sitting on her head and Amélie across her back. 

Though it was not hot, the wrestling match had left them all panting and Emily wordlessly lead them to the river to drink and cool off. Amélie sat off to the side near Emily and the two watched as Lena splashed and chased after fish - occasionally running over to give Emily a lick before bounding off again to play. She might not technically be a puppy any longer, but Lena was still filled with nearly endless energy in this form.  

Which was why when Lena came to a full stop, her nose sniffing at the air before turning her head west and taking off at a slow walk caught both of their attention. 

Amélie sniffed at the air but could not smell anything particularly of interest – and from the way Emily tilted her head to one side neither could she. 

Curious, the pair followed after the brown wolf. They kept their distance so as to not distract her, and after a while Amélie began to smell what it was Lena was after. It was faint, the trail somewhat old but getting sharper as they continued on. It wasn't long before Lena began to pick up speed – she'd found the scent and locked on somehow, and now the hunt was on.  

Knowing the target, Emily and Amélie fell into their roles quickly. Lena had selected the prey, had tracked it so that the others had caught onto its scent. Now it was Emily's job to wear it down and lead it back to where Amélie would be able to trap it in so that Lena could hopefully go in for the kill. 

Everything was going as planned – they'd found the fox a few minutes after the hunt had begun. It had taken some time to tire it down, but Emily had managed to get out in front of it enough to lead it where she wanted it to go.  

Lena saw her chance to strike and took it, but her timing was off by a few seconds and rather than catching the fox by the throat she caught it by the leg – its cry for once not disturbing her focus. However, that quickly changed when Emily rounded into view. 

Lena's grip loosened and the fox made a break for it - only for Amélie to quickly clamp down on its windpipe and shake the poor creature to death. Though it looked cruel, it was a relatively quick death.   

Tearing off her portion, Amélie wandered off a short ways before laying down to consume her meal. It did not take long for her to finish and when she was done she returned to join the others.  

As usual Emily had offered Lena the larger portion of what remained, something Amélie thought was more out of habit and the Alphas natural generosity then for any real need to give Lena the larger share. 

While observing the two of them, she noticed a bit of blood splatter along Emily's upper back leg and hip. Old habits took over without a conscious thought, and she walked around the carcass to start licking at the stained fur, grooming and cleaning the alpha's flank.  

It wasn't until Emily's tail hit the side of her head with that she realized what exactly she was doing, and she pulled away as if Emily's skin had suddenly burst into flames. She staggered back a few steps, her mind reeling with shock and embarrassment as she shifted back into her human form.  

Sitting on her knees, her ears folded back as far as they would go and tail curled around her waist tightly she began her apology in a rush, her face turning red and eyes glancing away. 

"Pardonne-moi -- There... there was some... l - I did not mean to overs-.'  

A warm tongue sliding up her chin, cheek, lips and finally ending at her nose effectively silenced any further rambling. 

It was as if Amélie had all at once ceased to function. What did this mean? She dared not hope that maybe possibly she was being granted permission. When was the last time she had groomed? When was the last time she had been groomed?  

Not since she had left her family.  

...At least it seemed she still remembered how. 

Lena's cold nose against her forearm accompanied by a few small licks brought her back to the present. Emily had started to walk back towards the cabin and Lena was encouraging Amélie to follow. 

By the time Amélie reached the clearing in front of the cabin Emily had pulled the bag of brushes and grooming combs out from the cupboard and was sitting besides them, her tail wagging in slowly from side to side.  

Amélie supposed the message couldn't have been made much clearer, especially not after Emily flopped down across her lap after she had sat down.  

She started with her fingers – working out the worst of the mats along Emily's stomach and pulling out clumps of loose fur to leave in a pile on the grass besides them. It was slow going and the alpha wasn't making it easy.  

Emily just would not sit still, shifting around in her lap, sometimes moving to lick at her hand or playfully snapping at Lena's tail.  

"Emily, if you wish for me to do this right you must not move so much," Amélie scolded gently, placing a hand on the alpha's hindquarters to stop it from squirming. When that didn't work Amélie reached a hand across Emily's belly, pressing gently beneath an armpit.  

Amélie smiled at the way the red wolf in her lap almost instantly turned to jelly, all her muscles relaxing and head slumping to the side letting out a pleased whine.  

"Ç'est mieux." 

Lena shifted back from her wolf form at the sound and wandered over offering a soft whistle.  

"Lady, you've got to show me how you did that!" 

Emily gave a happy little whimper which Amélie took as permission before offering a very simple explanation. Gently lifting Emily's foreleg up she began stroking the fur along her stomach and chest just beneath the crook of the arm. 

"There are points on the body in all our forms – that when pressed can help us relax or ease pain. This one is easy to find," Amélie paused and after a moment's hesitation reached out to gently take Lena's hand in her own.  

She did her best to ignore how small the hand actually was, how warm it felt in her own, and instead guided it to press in where the muscle was deepest. Emily groaned happily in response, and after ensuring Lena's hand was situated just right, she removed her own. 

"Do not hold it for too long – and release the pressure gently." 

Lena nodded, her attention fully upon the way Emily reacted to her touch and the position her hand was now in. Amélie was sure the younger woman would soon have it memorized. 

By the time Lena removed her hand Emily was practically asleep.  

"Good." Amélie smiled over to Lena, her voice full of quiet approval.  "Now the brushing can properly begin."   

"It works so well," Lena whispered – leaning into Amélie's side as she watched the older woman continue to work through tangles. 

"Mmm," Amélie hummed in agreement, most of her attention on a particularly bad knot. She'd nearly gotten it freed up when an unexpected sensation made her hands go still. 

Lena's fingers had begun to play with the tip of her tail, running through her fur and lightly massaging up and down the length. She didn't seem to realize she'd been doing it, focusing on how Emily was melting under Amélie's hands, until she noticed that she'd come to a halt. "Oh. Sorry. Was that not OK?" 

Amélie looked at the surprise in Lena's expression and the lack of any ulterior motive in her eyes. She hesitated a moment longer, then started to brush again. "It was unexpected...but you can go on, if you like." 

Lena settled against her with a smile, her fingers sliding through the fur again. "Brilliant. So...want us to return the favor when you've gotten Em taken care of?" 

Please, some part of Amélie shouted, yes! But uncertainty struck her again, washing it away.  

You should not get attached. You should not have stayed. This cannot last. 

She looked down at Emily, nearly comatose with bliss. 

"Perhaps...later." 


After the unexpected afternoon of grooming, Emily had claimed she needed a nap. Amélie's nerves had still been buzzing – just on the border of overstimulated, if she was honest with herself – and she'd decided to find a quiet spot to settle herself, eventually ending up near the shallow river where they'd 'met' on their first moon.  

The casual touches, the laughter, the gentle care they'd both taken in grooming her, the feeling of Emily's fur under her fingers, and Lena leaning against her side...it felt so much like having a pack again. Having a home again. 

It terrified her, and yet she kept getting closer.  

You are a moth and they are a flame. You cannot keep doing this! 

But it felt right.  

She let her gaze fall to the water, as if her reflection could offer her any better ideas. 

Amélie wasn't sure how long she'd stared into the river when she heard the sounds of someone approaching.  

"Lady? Are you there?" Lena stopped a respectful distance away. "Mind if I come over?" 

She gestured to the upturned log next to her, and nodded. 

Lena smiled as she settled down. "This is one of my favorite spots out here. Seems like I keep ending up down at the water whenever I want to think." 

"It is a lovely spot," Amélie agreed. "Is Emily with you?" 

Lena shook her head with a smile. "I think we tuckered her right out. She went out like a light after we went up into the bedroom."  

"Ah." 

"Actually," Lena blushed, "god, this sounds horrible... but while she's asleep, I wondered if I could talk to you? Privately?" 

Amélie raised an eyebrow. "About what, chérie?"  

Lena looked up towards the afternoon sky. "Last night... the thing we did, with the prayer? That was..." She stopped, and looked down at her feet. "I've... in the past, on the full moons, when I changed... it was always painful - excruciating really. I fought it for so long and even though I didn't know it, not eating meat made it all so much worse. I was terrified I might hurt someone and so each full moon was a battle that I'd lose kicking and screaming." 

She reached out and placed a hand on Lena's shoulder. She watched Lena work to put her thoughts in order and kept quiet, letting her explain at her own pace. 

Lena gave her a grateful look. "Please don't get me wrong - Emily's helped me a lot with the transformations since then. Starting earlier so I'm not fighting the urge - making sure I'm well fed before we go out - teaching me its easier with my ears and tail out ahead of time... but last night was the first time I was able to really slip into my wereself. Where that transformation was just... part of me." 

Amélie squeezed Lena's shoulder before she withdrew her hand.  "I am glad I was able to help you find that peace, Lena." And I am sorry you ever felt such pain. 

Lena's eyes softened. "I want to try to feel that again, and I was thinking that I might like to learn more about the Old Ways with you. I think knowing more about that might help me... strengthen that connection, I guess. Emily mentioned you might be staying around for a little while, so I thought maybe... if it's OK... I could come up on my own and visit?" 

"I... I would be honored to teach you but I am no priestess." 

Lena smiled. "You're close enough for me – certainly seem to know more than most I've met." She paused. "There's something else, too." 

Amélie tilted her head slightly. "Ah?" 

Lena coughed. "Well. I was thinking about some of the things you and Emily have said, and... I'd like to try hunting without Emily but not on my own." She straightened up and gave her a slightly nervous look. "I don't want you to think she's done anything wrong... but I think I'm putting stress on myself when she's on the hunt with me. Because I want to do it for her, and because of... well. Everything that's wrapped up in it." 

She considered that, then nodded. "I understand, Lena. I would be happy to help you. I saw there is a phone in the cabin?" 

"Answering machine, too. Positively ancient," Lena admitted with a little laugh, "but it works." 

"So. If you call, and leave a message, I will let you know if I am... available."  

Lena surprised her by almost lunging into a hug. "Thank you! You... this means so much to me, Lady, it really does."  

Amélie closed her eyes and returned the embrace, letting Lena's warmth push away her fears. "You are very welcome."  

A few moments later Lena had slipped back to where she'd been sitting and Amélie stood, brushing a bit of dirt off her trousers. "I think I will head back to the cabin – Emily may feel like dinner when she wakes." 

Lena smiled up at her. "Sounds lovely, Lady. I think I might sit a little longer, and then I'll be in." 

She nodded, and had started her walk back when she stopped and turned back towards the water. "Lena?" 

"Yeah?" 

"Your wereself is still you. It is nothing to be afraid of. Even though we become one with our beasts, your wereself still has your nature – your heart. You would never harm a stranger, unless you were forced to defend yourself. Your wereself is much the same. I cannot imagine you ever harming an innocent person." 

Lena ducked her head, relief washing over her face. "I think I'm starting to understand that now, but...thank you, Lady. Hearing that from you... it means a lot." 

 "Je t'en prie, chiot." 


Amélie groaned at the sound of the damned bird as it pecked at the windowsill. 

She'd spent her first night after Emily and Lena had left sleeping on the living room floor, ready to run if needed - if this, too, had turned out to be a trap. But her fears had been unfounded. No one had burst into the cabin looking for her. No one lurked outside expecting her to make a break. 

She'd considered sleeping in the guest bedroom the next evening, but the view of the moon and stars through the master bedroom's skylight had proven to be too tempting.  

(It certainly had nothing to do with the lingering scents of them on the pillows and comforter. No. She wouldn't say she had slept better thanks to that comfort. Of course not.) 

The woodpecker had started acting as her wake up call a few days later.  She wanted to believe that the bird was not maliciously stalking her, but for some reason it seemed to keep seeking her out. 

"If I bring you birdseed after I buy groceries, will you go away?" 

The bird cocked it's head at her as if considering the offer, then flew off. 

"I suppose I will take that as a yes." 

She boiled and ate a pair of eggs, considering the contents of the refrigerator. There was enough for another day or two - more, if she augmented it by hunting for a few meals - but it would probably be worth making the hike to the grocer she'd passed the first time she'd visited the area. A few kilometers away, but a easy enough run if she put a change of clothes in her harness bag. Finding the birdseed wouldn't be difficult, either.  

After she cleaned her dishes, she'd swept and dusted the living areas of the cabin, then gone out for a run as a wolf, paying careful attention to the scents and sounds of the woods.  

Nothing new. It all seemed too good to be true, but she had yet to find a catch.  

She'd found a few of the burrows Emily had described to her, and those were equally undisturbed - in fact, several of them seemed like they hadn't been used in decades. It made her wonder how many of Emily's birth pack had come here, once. It seemed as if a much larger family had once roamed these lands. Emily had said little about them - but perhaps striking out on her own had opened something of a rift, even if they had apparently allowed her to make these lands her territory. 

She chanced upon an unlucky hare on her way back to the cabin that became her lunch, and took a shower before settling down on the couch, pulling her phone out of her backpack to check her business emails.  

Two vaguely worded messages about possible work in a few weeks time. One thank you note from a client...and a message from her 'travel agent'. 

Working on a new set of IDs for you. Don't leave the UK for at least two weeks. Replacements will be sent to the usual PO box. 

-S. 

P.S. When are you visiting over here again? It's been too long, amiga. 

She set the phone back in her backpack with a little smile, then pulled out her sketchpad and a pencil, flipping through the book on her way to an untouched page. Some pages were nature scenes, a few with buildings or interesting cityscapes she'd found in her travels, but the majority were filled with the faces of her family and pack. Some as wolves, a few from the hazy memories of their wereselves, many as silhouettes of men and women whose faces she could no longer clearly recall, walking beneath the moon. 


They ran, and Lena felt free.  

She'd done her best to let go of the fear and anxieties building up about her test, about her fears for Emily, about herself, and just let herself enjoy running through the woods with Amélie. They weren't specifically out to hunt – Amélie had been very clear about that – but they would give chase if they found prey, and let things follow naturally. 

It was helping, Lena had to admit. She did feel a little guilt for having an easier time without Emily there, but once this was all over... well. She had a feeling everything would come a bit more naturally without that constant threat over their heads.  

A rustle and the scent of something musky caught her attention, and she began to change direction to follow, her back legs kicking up leaves and dirt as she picked up the pace. 

She could hear Amélie's breathing shift as she realized Lena had started a pursuit, and her scent grew stronger as the white and grey wolf came closer.  

Lena finally caught sight of a yearling deer that had been trying to conceal itself behind a small thicket, giving a short barking call as it ran to let Amélie know she was on her prey. 

The yearling was quick and fast, and nearly gave her the slip twice, but all the little tricks Lena had been learning helped her keep on it, waiting for it to tire or falter, to give her the opportunity she needed.  

The deer misjudged a jump, stumbling slightly as it landed, and Lena let herself just go.  

She hadn't entirely realized her teeth had clamped into the deer's neck until she felt a hard crash from Amélie slamming into it from the side, pinning it to the ground, and suddenly there was a wet tearing sound as she took the deer's throat, hot blood filling her mouth even as the yearling's final breath rattled out of the shredded larynx. 

It took her a moment to realize that she'd done it, that she'd finally ended a hunt by herself, just as she'd been working towards, and then it really hit her. 

She let the yearling's head fall to the ground and slowly stepped back from it. Amélie's eyes left the deer to watch her, her bearing full of confusion and concern, and it just became too much. 

Lena slipped back onto her haunches as triumph, regret, pride and disgust all boiled up inside her until she couldn't contain them any longer. Throwing back her head she howled them into the sky, unable to process it all. Arms wrapped around her in a hug, and she startled for a moment until she realized it was Amélie trying to comfort her, and she curled against her, letting out a low whine until she was finally able to shift back into her human form. 

"I'm sorry," Lena whispered as tears rolled down her face, but Amélie offered no judgement or rebuke, just held her a bit tighter, gently rocking her back and forth as she wept.

Chapter Text

Lena didn't remember getting back to the cabin, but when she opened her eyes, she was looking up at the skylight in the master bedroom, faint sounds of birdsong in her ears.  

Someone's arms were wrapped around her, but even though she could still faintly smell Emily on the bedsheets, there was something... someone else. Taller than Emily, softer... familiar. Strong arms wrapped protectively around her waist.  

Oh. 

She carefully turned enough to see the dark mass of Amélie's hair, and the starkly contrasting grey edged white fur of her ears.  

She must have brought me back here, Lena realized as she struggled to remember the night before. We were naked after shifting but I'm wearing one of Em's nightshirts... she must have helped me put it on.  

She thought of the conversation she and Emily had after the last full moon and blushed. Emily had said she wasn't jealous, or angry, or upset, but... well. Nothing had happened, but at the same time, what she'd been through with Lady after she'd finally made a kill had been... intimate, to say the least. Emotional. Confusing.  

But at the same time it seemed like Amélie had made a point of surrounding her with comforting reminders of Emily – the bedroom, her shirt, her scent.  

Lena sighed. Being a werewolf seemed to get a little easier and a lot harder every day.  

I should have a talk with Emily when I get home. 

Before her train of thought could run any further off the track, Amélie's arms tightened a bit, and Lena felt her stirring against her back. 

"Hey," she whispered, "good morning." 

"Bonjour," Amélie replied drowsily. "How are you?" 

"Better than last night, I guess." Amélie's arms loosened, and she turned over to face her properly. "Thanks." 

Amélie gave a one shouldered shrug. "I did not think you should be left alone last night – and I thought the scent of Emily in the sheets might be comforting." 

"It was, I think... it is." Amélie didn't need to know about her lingering doubts. "I'm sorry about... all of that." 

Amélie drew her back into a hug, her voice soft and reassuring. "You had nothing to apologize for. What you are facing... what you have done... it is difficult. You needed the release. I am glad I could be here to help you through the worst of it." 

Lena curled back into Amélie's arms, returning the embrace and letting herself be held just a little while longer. "Me, too." 

Amélie gave one last squeeze before letting go, then slipped out of the bed. "Would you like some breakfast before you need to head back to the city?" 

Sitting up, Lena rubbed at the back of her head. "Is it OK if we just make some bangers and eggs? I'm not really sure I'm up for another hunt today." 

"Of course."


Emily carefully shifted the bag of Chinese food she'd picked up to her off hand, then fished her keys out of her jacket pocket so she could let herself in. She wasn't sure what time Lena was getting back from the cabin, but orange chicken was just as good cold or reheated.  

To her surprise she caught Lena's scent immediately as she went inside, and when she reached the kitchen she found Lena sitting at the table, staring at a bottle of her homebrew beer as if she could get the cap to pop off through sheer force of will. 

"It's not really like you to drink alone, pup."  

Lena looked up, guilt flashing across her face. "Oh. I... I don't... I wasn't..." She sighed, shaking her head. "I was sort of thinking about some liquid courage. But maybe it's better we just talk." 

Emily's brows knit with concern as she walked over to sit down at the table, putting the bag down. "Want something to eat first?" 

Lena shook her head. "After, I think." 

Emily felt a bit of ice rolling in her guts at how flat and dull Lena's voice sounded. "Sure, this will keep. What's going on, pup? Did something happen when you went up to the cabin?" 

Lena's ears went flat and her shoulders dropped with obvious worry. "Ah... well..." Lena sighed and put the beer next to the bag. "Yeah. A few things happened." 

Emily bit her lip as she took in her body language, then gestured over to the living room. "Do you want to move over to the couch?" Lena nodded, but didn't move right away. Emily stepped a little closer and put her hand out. "Is a hug OK, pup?" 

Lena's answer came in the way she stood and seized her tightly, her arms so wrapped around her that Emily felt her ribs ache a bit. "I did it, Em... I... I killed a deer. Hunting. Took the throat." 

She brought a hand up to gently stroke Lena's back through her shirt. "I'm proud of you. I know this hasn't been easy, Lena. I swear after this is over I will never make you take a kill if you aren't comfortable with it." 

Lena nodded against her, then cleared her throat sharply, trying to blink back tears. "I... I felt good about it for a moment, and then I was just... awful. Everything sort of hit me all at once and I completely fell apart." 

Emily held her just a little closer as Lena's voice thickened with misery. Amélie was right, Lena had been putting so much pressure on herself, and when it finally came together it all just broke over her. She felt a bit of guilt for not finding more ways to help ease Lena's stress and fears as they practiced and trained for her test. Once Lena's grip loosened, she lead her over to the couch and sat down. "So. What happened after that?" 

Lena sighed as she settled on to the couch. "I don't remember a lot, honestly. I was just so overwhelmed that I pretty much shut down, but..." 

Emily took her hand, keeping her voice soft and reassuring. "But...?" 

Lena looked up into her eyes and then away as if she'd been shocked. "Lady. Amélie. She... took care of me. She made sure I got back to the cabin even though I'd been crying my heart out. I don't even remember it. She took me up to the loft and got one of your shirts out of the hamper so it would have your scent on it, put it on me, and tucked me into bed... and..." Lena flushed with what she thought was embarrassment at first, but suddenly Emily realized what was under all of Lena's nervousness: Fear. 

"She stayed with me. The whole night. I woke up and she was holding me... we didn't do anything, all she did was just... hold on. All night. But then I woke up and... it felt good. Like she was there for me. Keeping me safe." Tears were in Lena's eyes again. "I know the one morning you said you weren't mad, and you wouldn't be mad, but... it felt right and then I felt wretched because it wasn't you and I don't know... I don't know what's wrong with me because I love you and I don't want to fuck up and I still want you but I think... Emily I just sort of realized I was falling for her. That I was falling for Amélie."  

Tears were filling both their eyes now, and Lena was so pale, her hands starting to shake as she plowed on.  

"I still love you, Emily. I love you so much but she's been... she's helped me almost as much as you have, and I keep waking up naked with her and she understood and she hasn't ever made me feel like I'm asking stupid questions and all the stuff she's been teaching us with the prayer and the rituals has helped  so much and... Em I don't know what to do because I know you said you said but –"  

Her voice broke, degenerating into sobs and wordless gasps of misery. Now it was her turn to hug Lena close, one hand coming up to scratch comfortingly at her ears. "Oh, Lena... oh my sweet pup..." 

"...please don't hate me, Em. Please.

"Lena..." Emily leaned in and tenderly kissed her forehead. "Lena I could never hate you." She let Lena just quietly sit and absorb that for a moment, then gently leaned her back so she could gently brush tears away from her cheek.  

Lena sniffled, looking like she wanted to try to smile, but she didn't quite trust herself to manage it. "You're.... you're sure?" 

Emily nodded, "I really am. Now - here...you look a fright, and I'm sure I do too. Let's grab the tissues and we'll talk more about all of this, all right?" 

Lena stood, then looked over to the bag of food sitting on the table. "...is that from Golden Chopsticks?" 

Emily smiled. "Mmhmm. Got you orange chicken with fried rice." 

Lena shook her head, her expression turning to faint astonishment. "Every time I think I've gone and ruined everything, you somehow manage to make it all alright. How are you even real, luv?" 

"I could ask you the same thing, sometimes... you've done the same for me, you know." 

Lena snorted. "Plenty of times I feel like I'm just a trouble magnet..." 

Emily grinned. "I guess that's why I'm stuck on you, then." 

That got them both laughing, and this time when Lena hugged her close it felt so different, and so much better. "Could... do you mind if we eat now? I don't think I need the beer now, but food sounds pretty nice." 

"Absolutely." 

They'd both worked through about half of their entrees before Emily brought them back around to the earlier conversation. 

"So, do you remember I said we should talk more about you getting close to Amélie?" 

Lena set her chopsticks down on her plate and nodded. "Got busy... we never really did before..." She gestured. "All that." 

Emily nodded and considered where to start for a moment before she pushed her plate away. "I told you about my parents both being alphas, and that in a lot of ways I was raised as much by my pack – by my extended family – as I was by mum and dad." 

"Sure," Lena confirmed, "and you have a bunch of 'cousins' and 'aunts' and 'uncles', right?" 

"Right." Emily took a breath. "What I didn't tell you is that my parents weren't... aren't... exclusive with each other. So some of those 'cousins' are also my half brothers or sisters." 

Lena took a moment to consider that, gears obviously turning in her head. "...is that just a pack thing? Or because of going into heat?" 

She shook her head. "I can't speak for anyone except what I saw growing up, but in my parents' case, it was because they loved their other partners. They also happened to be packmates but I think there were a few cases where that wasn't true. Not all of those produced children, either." Emily leaned back into the couch. "As for going into heat... well, think about your heat – you didn't suddenly want to sleep with every person you saw, right?" 

Lena shook her head. "No, obviously - I mean you saw what I did to that one stupid bastard." 

Emily grinned. "Precisely. So – it's not like you have a need to sleep with just anyone. But if you already had feelings for someone and they felt the same... you'd probably be a lot more likely to do something. Attraction's going to feel a bit more... intense, I suppose, but that's about the limit." 

Lena sighed. "I guess I see what you're saying, but I never thought... I was never that sort of person, before. To get... to want two people like that, at the same time. Especially with..." She paused. "Well. What happened to me." 

"I don't want to say you're discovering these feelings just because you were turned, because I think that... doesn't give you or your heart enough credit. But I think our brains can be a little more... I don't know. Wired for that sort of thing, I suppose. Living for as long as we do... we've got a lot more time to fall in love. " Emily reached out to take her hand in hers. "But, what happened to you - being cheated on – that was wrong. Even if we were already talking about having another partner, I would never lie or try to hide things from you. There are so many reasons why that's unacceptable and unhealthy." She took a deep breath. "Which is why I have to admit that Amélie is very attractive, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy her touching and grooming me. It's meant a lot to me that she's been willing to help you and how she obviously cares about what happened to you, and believing it should be made right." 

Lena went very still. "So... you were... you are...?" 

"I'm certainly attracted to her – and the way we 'met' with those calls during your heat probably doesn't hurt either – but I would never act on it unless you were comfortable with it, and she reciprocated." She looked into Lena's eyes and squeezed her hand gently. "I love you. I've been in love with you almost since the day we met, Lena, and I never want to lose that, or risk hurting you. So if you decided the whole thing made you uncomfortable – and with your history I would understand that completely – anything I feel towards Amélie would never go beyond a friendship." 

Lena nodded. "I mean... I don't even know if she would feel the same way about either of us." 

Emily had a feeling she did know, based on how Amélie looked at them and acted on occasion, but decided that could be discussed later. "If it comes up, we could talk to her about it, if you'd like." 

"Can I think about that for a while? I'm glad you're not angry at me – and I'm relieved we're still... we're still us. But I need to really think about the rest." 

"Of course." Emily leaned over to deliver a gentle kiss. "As much time as you need, pup." Lena nodded, her body sagging with relief, and she decided that was enough on that topic for tonight. "So... did you want to talk about the deer at all?" 

Lena leaned back against the couch. "I think the strangest and scariest thing was that how happened so fast... how after all those struggles, it was easy. I got my teeth into his neck and then Lady pinned him. I bit down as he went to the ground and... that was it." She sighed. "I get that we're predators – the stuff Amélie explained about having a role in nature and how we follow it. But being a killer... I don't know. I'm still coming to grips with it all." 

Emily nodded. "I have to think about it to look at your perspective, with coming in without having grown up around all of this. But I promise I am trying - and I will keep trying. If I'm ever coming on too strong or with too much..." 

"I'll tell you, I promise." Lena shifted over so she could curl against her, and Emily let her arms wrap around her. "Love you, Em..." 

"Love you, pup." 


Amélie had just finished putting a mix of millet and sunflower seeds out for the woodpecker and a few other birds who had started to occasionally visit the cabin when she heard the phone began to ring.  

She decided to let it go to the answering machine while she tidied up and dusted, and once she'd finished what had become part of her normal routine she heated up water for the instant coffee she'd bought at the market. Emily and Lena kept a great deal of tea in the pantry, and some of it she did like, but sometimes you just wanted a café au lait 

Her mind began to wander as she finished the mug and washed it in the sink, almost forgetting the message until she had turned and seen the flashing light on the machine. 

She walked over and pressed the playback button, waiting for the tape to rewind. 

"You have – One new message." 

Beeeeep! 

"Hi, Lady, it's Lena! Wanted to call and let you know I needed to use some holiday time, so we were going to drive up later today, and our friend Brigitte who works at the council had asked if she could come up with us. She's been giving me tips and quizzing me on stuff for the exam and she thought we could do one last cram session before next month. We'll bring some extra groceries and sheets for the second spare bedroom so you don't need to worry about anything. Cheers!" 

By the time the answering machine had reached the end of the tape and begun to rewind again, she was already splashing through the river, running as fast as her paws could carry her. 

It might be a coincidence. 

She couldn't take the risk. 

She'd found one of the shelter burrows at what must have been the absolute far edge of the property a few days ago, disused for so long that part of the entrance had begun to collapse.  

If she hid there until nightfall, perhaps it would keep her safe. 


Emily had hardly brought Oliver to a full stop before Lena undid her seatbelt and popped out of the car, announcing their arrival with a cheerfully sung "Hullo, we're heeeere" as she ran up to the cabin. 

Brigitte giggled at the antics as she leaned forward from the backseat. "She knows we still have to unpack right?" 

"Oh, she hasn't forgotten," Emily assured despite the fact that her girlfriend had already disappeared inside the cabin, "Likely she's just going on ahead to greet her and then they'll both come out to help." 

Brigitte flashed her a cheeky grin. "I think the entire forest heard her first greeting." 

Emily had just opened up the boot of the truck when Lena appeared back on the cabin's front porch with a puzzled look on her face. "Hey Em? She's not inside." 

"Maybe she went for a run,"  Brigitte offered as she grabbed one of the bags of groceries they'd brought along. "It is a rather nice day out." 

"That's probably what happened," Emily agreed.  "Help us unload, pup, and then we can see about finding her." 

A half hour later they had everything put away properly, but there was still no sign of their missing guest. Lena had found her bag in the guest room, and her scent was strong enough in the cabin that Emily would almost swear she must have been there that morning, but there was nothing to explain where Amélie might have gone, or why she had disappeared so abruptly. 

Emily sighed as they walked outside. "Well, that's a shame. Our guest did mention she might have to meet with a client on short notice, but I think she'd have enjoyed getting to know you."  

Brigitte shrugged. "Life can be like that. I don't want to admit how many missed connections I've had chasing after Reinhardt."  

Emily chuckled. "I can imagine."  

Brigitte looked over. "Just out of curiosity - what's this mysterious guest's name?" 

Emily blinked. "Oh, sorry. Her name is Amélie - but to keep things from getting mixed up Lena usually just calls her Lady." Emily's smile softened. "When you do meet her...well. It fits."  

Brigitte grinned. "Oh, I see. So, does the Lady have a last name?" 

Emily stopped, tilting her head slightly in thought. "...actually, I don't think she's ever told us." 

Brigitte laughed. "Well, I suppose if I woke up with Lena asleep on me I would assume you were on a first name basis, too. Did she happen to mention her pack?"  

"Well..." Emily frowned. "She sort of...implied she was a disperser, and that she had some rough times in her past. I think she might have not left her pack on the best of terms." 

Brigitte sighed. "I wish it was the first time I'd heard that, but I'm sure it won't be the last, either." 

Emily nodded, lost in thought. Each thing individually wasn't so unusual, but when they all came together, she had to admit there were a lot of odd gaps. She'd simply assumed that Amélie might have been in some kind of temporary rough financial straights, or simply preferred isolation when she wasn't working in her field, but now...  

She tried to shove things to the back of her mind. She'd try looking into a few things, later.  

There was probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for it all.  

Probably. 


Amélie felt guilty about avoiding the cabin for several days. The sound of Lena calling for her, first as a woman and again as a wolf, had made her heart shatter. She'd nearly given in when she heard the aching sadness in her friend's song, but her fears held her fast in the burrow, her arms wrapped around herself as she tried to make herself as small and still as she could.  

Once she was sure Emily had left with Lena and their guest, she'd returned, making sure the cabin was clear. Finally, after another day she'd managed to assure herself that it was safe to return to the routine she'd slowly begun to form. 

Even with what they'd left in the cabin after visiting she would need to go back into town for more groceries soon, but perhaps if Lena visited again she could ask for a ride rather than backpack it, and buy a few things in bulk. 

She'd also begun considering adding some fresh herbs to plant in boxes at the windows, and was debating the merits of what might grow without needing a great deal of attention. 

This is not your home. Do you truly wish to do this? 

She slumped into the couch to debate the matter, then started as she recognized the rumble of Emily's car. 

Her heart racing, she did her best to appear calm as she stepped outside. She'd pulled on a blouse and loose trousers, but it was nothing she would be heartbroken about losing if she had to change into her wolf and flee. 

The red Rover ground up the hill and rumbled into the car port, and as it passed, Amélie  blinked as she realized Emily was visiting by herself.  

What is going on? 

Emily didn't seem angry or upset as she came up to the cabin. If anything she seemed...tired. Hints of bags darkened her eyes, and her shoulders slumped, as if she'd been carrying too much weight on them and it had finally begun to slip. 

"Oh," Emily said softly as she waved, "you're home. I'd hoped you might be." 

She nodded, trying not to blush at the way Emily had casually said home and how it reverberated against her earlier thoughts. "I am, yes. Is everything alright? Is Lena...?"  

Emily smiled. "Lena's doing as well as could be expected with the exam getting so close."  

Amélie was about to reply when the kettle she'd placed on the stove began its high-pitched whistling cry. 

"Ah, I was about to make myself some coffee –" Amélie explained as she turned around to put a stop to the grating noise, "But I can pour you a cup of hot water for tea if you'd like?" 

"Actually, I think I'll take the coffee – I need something a bit stronger than tea right now." 

Nodding Amélie headed into the kitchen and set about pouring two cups while Emily grabbed the sugar off the counter and a pair of spoons. They were all out of milk and Amélie wasn't particularly fond of flavored creams. 

The two sat in silence for a moment as Amélie added a spoonful of sugar to her cup. Emily surprised her by taking hers black – meaning the sugar had been entirely for her own benefit.  

"I'm...sorry I had to leave before you arrived." Amélie couldn't help herself from fidgeting, taking the spoon and stirring her coffee in an attempt to hide her shame. "Lena said a friend was coming to help her study? Did it go well?"  

"Brigitte, yes. She works on the local council as an assistant to one of the Elders. She's been a huge help with teaching Lena about councils and were government matters - such as they are." Emily looked down into her mug. "Lena was... rather distracted. Worried about you." Emily's eyes flicked up, but there was no accusation there. "Both of us were, honestly." 

Amélie wasn't quite sure what to say to that. She had known the question would come up eventually and had spent hours formulating and practicing a believable story about a job that had come up... but the mere thought of lying to Emily now made her stomach turn and her fidgeting worse.  

"Is that why you came back today?" Amélie asked at last, "To check to see if I'd come back because you were worried?" 

"I was hoping you'd be here, as I said before – but I also came here to just... get away from everything for a little while... Her exam is less than a month away and all the stress is finally getting to me," Emily sighed, placing her mug down on the table. "I suppose you could probably tell all that back when you started to groom me. That was the most relaxed I've been in... well, a good while. You really have a calming presence, you know." 

Amélie felt her face grow hot at the compliment. What was it about these two that made her act like a schoolgirl again?! "A-as I have told Lena, I am happy to be able to help you both when I can." You carry too many burdens as it is.  

She shook her head with a smile. "I don't know if you realize just how much you have helped us. How much you've helped me. It means a lot to us. Which is why... well. It's why I was hoping that maybe you'd come with us to Lena's exam, when it's time?" 

Emily's lips kept moving but Amélie could not make out the words over the sound of her own heart beating in her ears.  

This was bad. She needed to leave – god she should have left ages ago, she never should have been here in the first place! But no, she had ignored every rule she had made for herself about the dangers of staying in one place, the dangers of forming relationships and now... 

She was shocked out of her fugue when she felt Emily reach out, placing  a hand on her knee. "Lady? Are you all right?" 

Amélie jerked away from Emily's touch and stood. "I... forgot to check my work messages. Please excuse me." 

Too close. You are too close! 

She'd just reached the top of the ladder up to the master bedroom when she caught the sound of Emily's voice, a faint murmur of pain and concern that made her ears burn and her heart ache.  

"Lady, who hurt you?" 

Her stomach turned to lead, and she had no idea what to do. 


Emily had gone for a walk after the disaster that was her talk with Amélie. She had needed to clear her head and wanted to give the other woman some space after causing her such a fright.  

The problem was, even after spending the better part of an hour wandering through the forest thinking, Emily was still no closer to figuring out what exactly she'd done. It was becoming more and more clear to her that something had happened to Amélie in the past, and Emily couldn't help but think that whatever it was must have involved another alpha.  

Perhaps it had been her asking Amélie to go somewhere with her?  

If that was the case then why had Amélie been willing to follow her at all during their hunts or their first full moon? She'd surely known she was an alpha when she'd called her to hunt with them, so why be scared now...?  

With a sigh Emily decided to head back towards the cabin, her thoughts turning towards making something for a late lunch. 

She'd been halfway to the kitchen she noticed an short, messy stack of papers piled up on the coffee table. Curious, Emily walked over and gasped as she got a closer look, sitting down on the couch so she could carefully leaf through the pile. 

Each one of the pages was covered in black and white sketches at varying levels of completion. Some were landscapes of the river nearby, others were studies of birds (Emily thought she might recognize one woodpecker in particular), several depicted small forest creatures, but the one that really got her attention was the one placed off to the side from the others in the center of the table. 

The middle of the page was dominated by the outline of a wolf's head, one that looked an awful lot like hers did in that form. The border of the page was covered in smaller drawings of her wolf nose and ears - like Amélie had been practicing getting the shading and proportions just right before dedicating the center visage with their final forms. 

She heard a startled gasp, and when she looked up from the drawings Emily saw Amélie looking down at her from the loft, her expression breathtakingly vulnerable. When she met her gaze, she saw fear, embarrassment, and...hope.   

Without a single word being exchanged, Emily suddenly knew exactly what to do. Carefully placing the drawing back on the table, she stood and reached down to pull her shirt up and over her head, dropping it onto the couch, then stepped out of her pants.  

She could feel Amélie's eyes on her turning to a confused stare, and caught the sound of her breath hitching as she unclasped her bra and shucked her underwear before she let herself slip into her wolf.  

Flicking her tail slowly back and forth, she padded over to where she would be in a perfect position for someone to study her from the couch. She turned one lazy circle on cabin floor, then settled down on her belly with legs out in front of her, her tongue lolling out of her mouth.  

Emily held perfectly still, hoping Amélie would understand that she realized who the sketch was of and that she was trying to be a bit silly in offering Amélie a direction for the final piece to go in.  

This is beautiful and it means a great deal that you're thinking of me this way. I'm sorry if I hurt you. Let's try again. 

Amélie came down from the loft, and reached under the coffee table to bring out a set of charcoal pencils, placing them on the table.  

She sat on the couch and studied the waiting wolf for several minutes, her eyes drinking in every plane and line, and finally began to draw. 


After the impromptu drawing session, the mood in the cabin had improved considerably. Emily had dressed again after Amélie had finished the portrait, leaving her ears and tail out as she complimented the beautiful work. 

Emily still seemed to be carrying a great deal of weight on her shoulders, but she didn't feel like she'd actively added more to it, at least. 

She'd explained the need to pick up groceries, and Emily had happily driven her to the nearest Tesco so she could restock the house. To her surprise, Emily had insisted on paying for toilet paper, paper towels, and a few other staples that all of them would be likely to use. 

"I texted Lena," she explained as they drove back, "and let her know I'd come up, and that I was giving you a hand with shopping. I thought we might make dinner once we finished getting things sorted." 

Amélie frowned. "Don't you need to get back?" 

Emily laughed softly as she changed lanes. "I've been reminded by several people that the pub can run itself for a day or two, and I thought it would be better to just eat, have a drink, and get a good night's sleep than try driving home and stumbling into bed."  

"Ah." Amélie nodded. "In that case...it will be nice to have some unexpected company." 

She tried not to think about the bit of color that came to Emily's cheeks when she smiled at that. 

Since Emily had driven and paid for the majority of the groceries, Amélie insisted on making dinner. She made a fairly simple dish of roasted sausage and vegetables to go with some bread from the market, and they enjoyed a bit of wine with the meal before returning to the couch to relax a bit before bed. 

She'd decided to work on another drawing, and without fully realizing it, she found herself sketching the lines of Emily's profile as she read from a novel.  

Emily glanced over as she heard the sound of pencil against paper, and smiled. "How long have you been an artist?" 

Amélie shrugged. "I am not sure I would call myself one...but it is something I have enjoyed for many years." 

"I would. You've got a real talent, Amélie."  

She ducked her head and tried to focus on the paper. "You are always..." She shook her head. "You are very kind, Emily, and you flatter me." 

Emily just shook her head with a little smile. "Just being honest, that's all." 

They lapsed back into a comfortable silence, and she had nearly finished her drawing when Emily set her book down. "Time for bed, I think." 

She nodded, and started to put her papers away.  "You are probably right. If I can ask...did this help? Are you feeling better?" 

"Yes, very much." She hesitated. "I am sorry about earlier...but the rest...this was exactly what I needed. Thank you." 

She waited until Emily had gone up to the loft before getting ready for bed, turning out the lights and considering if she wished to sleep in the guest bedroom that she'd barely used or simply bed down as a wolf, when Emily's voice drifted down from the upper floor. 

"Amélie...?" 

"Yes?" 

"Lena said you stayed with her. The other night." 

She hesitated a moment, then climbed up to the bedroom. "I did, yes. She needed someone." 

Emily sat up in bed when she came upstairs. The moonlight coming through the skylight cast her skin in shades of ivory and silver, and let her see the worry that still lingered in her eyes when she spoke again, her voice just above a whisper. "Would you stay with me, tonight?" 

She silently slipped beneath the sheets, wrapping an arm comfortingly around Emily's waist as they settled down to sleep. As her eyes closed, Amélie felt a little pang in her chest as Emily's hand wrapped around hers, and when she breathed she could still catch hints of Lena's scent mingling with their own.  

I wish I could stay with you both every night.  


Emily had come home feeling relaxed and refreshed, ready to help Lena push herself into the last few weeks before her exam, but she also came home with more questions than she had answers.  

The holes in Amélie's background, the way she seemed to avoid other weres, her refusal to attend the exam, the fact that she'd obviously been badly hurt by someone in her past – seemingly another alpha, from some of the clues she'd picked up. She'd wondered if perhaps she'd left her birth pack on bad terms and had decided to spend some time making her way on her own, or if she'd been part of another pack and either left or was cast out by someone who had abused her...but neither quite fit.  

She desperately wanted to help her, to ease her pain and give Amélie a chance to live without having to be so afraid, but Emily needed to fill those gaps in her knowledge before she could even start to try. 

She finally realized there might be a way to learn more when Lena had let her know she'd be heading back up for one last visit to the cabin (and perhaps one more hunt) the week before her exam. 

She'd dropped her off to pick up a rental car with a kiss, and then taken Oliver over to the Council's offices. 

She knew Amélie's first name, had a rough idea of her age, and her description. It wasn't much, but with a little work in the registry and their archives, she thought it might be enough to at least learn her last name, and perhaps see if she could find any history of pack membership or home territory from there. 

It had been a good plan, on paper. 

The reality was proving to be rather more...frustrating.  

She'd been searching for hours, with out any success. She couldn't believe it. Her luck couldn't be this ridiculously wretched. Yet she couldn't figure out any other explanation. Somehow, for the second time in a year, she'd managed to meet a werewolf who wasn't in any registry. It was so impossible.  

How could Amélie not be in any of the UK registries if she was living and working in the area? Even if she was homeless, as Emily had suspected, someone would have a record of her presence, and the copies of the French registries the Council kept on hand had been similarly useless.  

Unless... She shook her head as she stood in the dusty room that held all of the hardcopy registry files. No. That isn't possible. There is no way that could be it. 

Emily bit her lip. It couldn't be possible... but unless Amélie was also a secretly turned were, which her knowledge of the old ways and her overall control strongly argued against...there was only one other explanation for her not to be registered.  

With a churning stomach, Emily put away the books she'd been reviewing and then opened another filing cabinet, pulling out a binder striped with black and silver tape. She opened the binder and flipped through the more recent entries. Nothing...until she turned the page to the last file, her heart shattering as she looked into a pair of hauntingly familiar golden eyes.  

AMÉLIE ORNE 

Alias Amélie Lacroix 

B.: 10/3/1939

Wanted for ASSAULT and ATTEMPTED MURDER  

Judged FERAL in absentia by order of the Council of Lutetia, 5 APRIL 1970 

Hunters are authorized to use lethal force in the apprehension of this criminal. 

Chapter Text

Emily drove back to the pub in a daze, barely managing to make it through her routine on autopilot. Once she'd gotten the orders for produce, meats, and brewing needs sent in, she sat at her desk for nearly an hour before she finally shook herself and told Jesse she was heading home.  

She said she wasn't really feeling well.  

She wasn't really lying. Her stomach had been a bubbling cauldron of lead and acid since she'd seen Amélie's face staring back at her out of the binder of Ferals known to be at large.  

She's been considered Feral almost as long as I've been alive, but it can't be possible. She doesn't act like she's out of control, she's probably one of the most self controlled people I've ever met.  

This explains why she was so scared, though. She wasn't afraid of the exam, or Brigitte, she was afraid of being recognized. 

It can't be. She can't be. 

But the council says she is. 

So what is really going on? 

She ended up on the couch, staring out the living room window and not really seeing anything until the sound of the key in the lock made her jump.  

Lena must have decided to leave before supper.  

For a moment, Lena had a relaxed, happy expression on her face, but the moment she came into the living room her brows knit with concern. "Luv, you look like you walked over your own grave. What's wrong?" 

Emily fidgeted as she tried to straighten up. I can't tell her this. Not with everything else on her plate and the exam so close. It wouldn't be right. "Nothing," she lied, "just feeling a bit peaky."  

Lena's expression darkened. She hadn't bought it for a moment. "Bullshit." 

She sat back, feeling unexpectedly defensive under Lena's harsh glare. "Lena..."  

Lena refused to be moved. "Em, don't you dare do this. Whatever is going on, tell me."  

"This could get us both in a lot of trouble. Especially since I'm technically still on a probation." She ran a hand over her face, as if she could make herself wake up from this bizarre nightmare. If they knew we'd harbored a Feral, even unknowingly, failing your exam would be the least of our worries. 

Lena knelt in front of her, taking her hands. "Whatever is going on, I'm not letting you face it alone." Her voice softened, the concern blending into her earlier steel. "Please. What's happened?" 

Emily finally relented with a sigh, and reached for the carefully folded piece of copy paper in her back pocket. "It's not me... it's Amélie."  

Lena tilted her head. "Lady? What about her?"  

Emily unfolded the copy she'd made of the Feral listing, and handed it over. "I went to look her up in the registry today. I was thinking I might learn... what made her so skittish. Maybe find who had hurt her so badly, so we could try to find a way to help her." She laughed bitterly. "I suppose I should have been more careful about what I wished for. According to the council, she's a Feral. A very, very dangerous one at that."  

Lena's face went white as she stared at the color copy, running her fingers along the words 'judged Feral' as if she could make the letters rearrange themselves. "No. What? No, no way! She's never been anything but nice and proper! I mean she's always been! Angie and Jesse both told me that Ferals were crazy. Out of control. That most of them didn't even remember being human after a while! That's not Amélie. Not one bit."  

Emily wasn't sure if Lena agreeing with her gut feelings made things better or worse. "I know. I've been thinking it over since I found out, and nothing about it makes sense. I think... something doesn't add up." And I'm desperately hoping that we're not just fooling ourselves because we've both been falling in love with her. 

Lena sat back on the floor, considering the paper in her hands before finally folding it up and handing it back to her. "So what are we going to do, then?"  

She tucked the paper back into her pocket with a sigh. "I have no fucking idea, pup." 

Lena stood, offering her hand. "Come on. I think I know where we start." 

Emily let Lena pull her up off the couch, feeling a little shock of excitement zip up her spine at the determined look on her face. "...you do?" 

Lena nodded, walking back to the front hallway to grab a jacket. "Give me your keys, luv, you don't seem to be in much shape to drive." 

As she numbly pulled her car keys from her jeans, Emily had to admit Lena was probably right. She wondered if Lena was doing better with processing the shell shock of it all because she'd gone through so many shocks and upsets that she'd finally become completely unflappable, or if she simply didn't have the deeply instilled fear of Ferals and all that ruling implied that Emily had received by being a werewolf from birth. "But where are we going, Lena?" 

"Isn't it obvious?" Lena gestured vaguely out to the East as they left the apartment. "We're going to go and hear her side of the story." 


The sound of Oliver's engine caught Amélie's attention as she finished watering the herbs she'd planted in the window box outside of the kitchen. Lena only left a few hours ago. Did she forget something? I hadn't noticed. 

She walked around to the front of the cabin and was surprised by Lena deciding to stop the bulky car in the driveway rather than pull around to the carport, but one look at her friends' faces in the early evening light explained everything.  

Emily looked like she had been broken apart, the warmth and gentle humor that usually marked her presence replaced with sorrow and uncertainty. Lena, who had been in such a good mood when they'd parted company, now ashen and almost desperate as she searched for something in her eyes. 

They know. 

There could be no doubt. The looks they gave her made it clear. Some way, somehow, they'd learned her secret, and now... now this lovely dream she'd allowed herself to escape into had come to and end. She'd known it could never truly last, but she'd hoped to at least see Lena fully accepted into the society she could never rejoin. Wanted to see Emily's beauty without the weight of two lives upon her shoulders. But she supposed her life was never one to allow such happiness.  

I am sorry I am not the Lady you named me... and now you know why. 

Part of her wanted to run, just as she always had. As she should have done months ago, rather than letting herself be seduced into her fantasy of being loved again – of having a pack again, accepting and embracing her. 

But instead of the anger she had expected when it finally came crashing down, the rage and accusations, they were... worried. Confused. Scared... not for themselves, she realized, but for her. 

Amélie suddenly felt so tired of running, and the guilt she still felt at hiding from them once before welled up inside of her. Lena's heartbreaking cries were in her ears again, and she knew she was done for. If this was the end, she would not insult what they'd had by trying to waste time.  

"So. You have learned the truth." 

Lena stepped forward, handing her a folded up piece of paper. Amélie opened it to see her own face staring back at her from so long ago. She hadn't seen the official notice of her status in some time. "Yes, but something doesn't add up. It... this isn't you, Lady. We'd like to hear your side of the story. Please?" 

Emily's voice was painfully controlled. "This... they say you tried to kill someone - that you attacked them and that were determined to be Feral." 

Amélie shrugged. "They are correct." 

"No offense Lady, but from where I'm standing - you don't look very feral to me.' 

"What I actually am does not matter. I must be thought of as feral." 

"So you really aren't Feral, are you? But you're taking a bullet for someone else!" 

The resulting chuckle was more tired than mirthless.  

"If only it were so simple."  

"We'd like to hear your side of the story, if you'd tell us..."  

Amélie felt every single one of her years in that moment, like lead weights dragging her down with every breath. "My side has never mattered. Besides, I doubt I would have time to finish telling it. At least not before the Hounds arrive to kill me." She hugged each of them, tears beginning to run down her cheeks. "Merci à vous deux..." Amélie's voice cracked on the last syllable, and she struggled to hold on to her composure for their sake. I would not ask you to remember me like this. "I... I will go wait in the carport. There will be less to clean up that way." 

"There isn't anyone else coming, Amélie." 

"Ah. I see." She turned and looked away. "You will make it clean, then? As my friends?" 

"What?! No!! Lady we don't want to kill you!" 

Amélie frowned at that, "Lena, you know hesitation only drags out the suffering and pain. If you do not think you can--" 

"What she means is that no one is here to kill you." 

"You... but... your Council..." 

"Amélie, fuck the council!" 

"You must not say such things!"  

"I will!" Lena bristled and for a moment Amélie wondered if her raging temper was going to carry Lena all the way into her wereself. "Fuck the council! Fuck the people who keep wanting to punish the people I care about for giving a damn and wanting to help me! Fuck the people who want to hunt down someone who's done nothing wrong! Fuck all of them for hurting the people I love!"  

Amélie stared, dumbstruck. "You... care about me?"  

"OF COURSE I DO YOU BLOODY IDIOT!" 

"We both do," Emily agreed. "You don't need to run from us, Lady. We..." Emily paused and shook her head slightly, as if she'd caught herself from saying something. "We want to help. So please, Amélie, tell us why?"  

Amélie looked into their eyes and saw so much there. Fear. Concern. Worry. Sympathy. Sadness. Love. She had no right to any of them, especially the last, but Emily and Lena both offered it so freely that it took her breath away. One last thought of running went through her mind, of pushing her way past them and doing everything she could to disappear into the night. But the longer they waited for her to speak, silent and expectant, the more Amélie knew in her heart that she could not do it. 

With a sigh, she gestured to the door. "It is a very long story. We should go inside." 


"When I was a little girl... there was a war. THE war. I was barely old enough to know what was going on when my parents entrusted me and most of our pack's children to some of those who would not or could not join the fight. La Resistance. For a while... we were safe." 

Amélie's arms closed around herself. "They found us. To this day I do not know how... though I have suspicions. Came for us in the night. Some fought. Some died. I was one of the youngest - a small group of us ran, and they carried me away, trying to keep me safe. We managed to make it to the Swiss border and I lived there as a refugee until several years after the war had ended." 

Lena barely felt she could breathe as she realized what Amélie was telling them. Some of the history that Emily and Brigitte had shown her - the 'unpublished' history - had talked about how the Nazis had worked hard to kill Weres of all kinds whenever they found them.  Emily nodded slowly, her eyes cloudy as she read between some of the lines, but neither of them dared to interrupt. 

"When I was... nine, I think, they held a Council of all the packs in France that had survived the war, and the few from my pack who remained were summoned to attend." Amélie's voice had taken on an almost robotic cadence. Divorcing herself from the facts so she could manage to tell the painful tale. "My mother had been the last alpha of the Damesblanches before the war. Because we had been so scattered and so few in number, I was told that even though I was a beta - and a child - I was considered to have inherited the leadership of the pack." She looked up, and her eyes were filled with ghosts almost eighty years old. "And then I was told that I would be put on trial for their crimes." 

Emily's face had gone even more pale than normal, and Lena wanted to scream. They'd put a girl who wasn't even ten on trial?  

Amélie didn't seem to notice. Like the Ancient Mariner, all she could do was recite her tale of woe. 

"They said they had been given records that proved my parents, my pack, my family, had been collaborators. That they had given the Vichy and the Nazis a copy of the registry they had helped create, in exchange for protection. When some of the other survivors tried to argue that we had been attacked as well... they claimed the fascists must have decided we had outlived our usefulness."  

Amélie put a hand to the side of her neck. "They were going to brand me. Mark me. A traitor for all time, to be shunned and hunted." She looked down at the floor. "There were... twelve left, besides myself. All older. The youngest was... fifteen, I think. All of them surrounded me. Refused to allow it. Told them they would rather receive the brand themselves than allow a child..." She broke off, a shudder running through her body. 

"They struck a terrible bargain. Our pack was outcast. No protection, no succor, no voice in the affairs of our people, ever again. I was... permitted... to be taken back to Switzerland. Just another war orphan left to make a life in another country. There was a doctor... he had sheltered us, before. I lived with his family for a time." She shook her head. "The rest were marked in my place. I was made to watch. To understand." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I will never forget that smell." 

Lena's breath caught, and her vision was red at the edges, her earlier fury back tenfold. "How dare they..." 

She hadn't even realized she'd spoken aloud until Amélie gave a broken, almost sobbing laugh. "They called it justice. After so many died... I suppose to them it was." 

Emily's hands were shaking, her voice soft and oddly flat. It took Lena a moment to realize her lover had not gone grey with disgust or nausea, but with rage. "If they were marked instead... how... why... were you declared Feral?" 

Some part of Lena's mind made a note to remember what Em sounded like when she was truly furious. 

"That... that came later. When I was older." Amélie looked back to Emily, her bearing wretched. "There was an alpha who had been at my trial. A few years older. He had made a name for himself and his pack fighting during the occupation, and afterwards. He would visit, now and then. Ask after me. After my family. When I was twenty... he asked if I would marry him. I thought him very charming and handsome, but I refused." She shook her head. "I thought I was poison, you see. Cursed. That anything I touched could only turn to ruin."  

Emily's eyes narrowed. "The one you talked about when we watched the movie. The one who lied to you." 

"Oui." Amélie wrung her hands together. "He asked again when I was twenty five. I refused. Then when I was thirty... he had grown in the world, over those years. Become the leader of his pack. Gained a seat on the council." She swallowed. "He told me that if my family was the concern... he could help them." Her face pinched with pain. "If I took his hand, accepted his ring... he would arrange for all who remained of the Damesblanches to be absorbed into his pack. To gain protection again. To wipe away our shame. It seemed the most romantic gesture. A relief, after so long outcast." She laughed bitterly. "It was a pretty pill. Beautiful candy that hid the poison inside." 

Lena wanted desperately to reach out and take her hand, hug her, to comfort her in whatever way Amélie would allow, but her body language was so closed and tight that she feared it would just provoke her to run after all - or worse. "What kind of poison?" She glanced to Emily, and saw the same question in her eyes. "What happened?

Amélie sighed. "Shortly after the formal engagement was celebrated - after my family had been granted permission to come into their new pack's territory and begin to put down roots again... I had gone into his study, looking for some papers we needed for planning the wedding. I noticed an office safe that was sitting open." She shook her head. "I was curious. I decided to take a look. I found letters. Notes. Orders. From my new fiancée to his "friends" in the occupation government, and military commanders. Making deals for targets he could strike to help establish his name... and the places where groups of resistance fighters and other weres could be found in exchange." 

Emily's gasp of horror had terrible, strangled edge to it. "He was the traitor." 

Amélie nodded. "And I had just delivered my family into his hands." 

"Oh," Lena murmured, "fuck.

Amélie gave her a jagged, crooked smile that held no mirth at all. "I recall saying something like that." She slumped back in her chair, exhausted from the act of retelling her story. "I had two choices. I could try to forget what I had seen. Become complicit in his lies, and let myself and my family remain his hostages for all time. Or..." 

They were barely breathing now, hanging on Amélie's every word. "Or?" 

"You must understand," Amélie said softly, "that he had planned this. Perhaps for years. Perhaps from the beginning, I do not know. He had spent decades gaining his power and securing his seat. A well liked, well respected man. A hero. If I had tried to take what I found... an outcast bitch, daughter of traitors, nothing and less than nothing until he had 'redeemed me' through his love and kindness..." She shook her head. "All he would have needed to do was claim I had faked the papers, and he would have been believed - and my family and I likely sentenced to death for our treachery. I could not let that happen... and I could not allow our necks to rest in the jaws of his trap." 

Emily gave a soft grunt of pained realization, a little 'Ah' that could just barely be heard even in the sudden still silence of the cabin. "So you... had to find a way to escape him, but also keep your family safe." 

Amélie nodded mournfully. "If I simply ran, he would have punished them. If I had broken the engagement, he would have been within his rights to eject them - or worse - from his territory as trespassers. But if I attacked him... if I appeared to have become sauvage... they could not be blamed. They would have been allowed to continue on. Refugees still, perhaps, but innocent of my 'crimes.'" Her hand came to rest on her other forearm, her fingers running over the old scars.  

"No victor," Lena recalled softly, "only victims..." 

Amélie nodded, unable to speak. 

"You attacked him," Emily concluded softly, "acted the part of a madwoman who had given in to her urges... fought... and ran." 

"And I have been running ever since." Amélie's tears had finally begun to fall. "I have been running my entire life, for one reason or another... until I met you." She shook her head. "I don't... I don't really understand why I stayed. Why I wanted to stay. Other than just..." She looked away. "When I was with you, for the first time in so long... I stopped feeling alone."

Chapter Text

When Amélie finished speaking, she seemed to collapse in on herself, as if finally telling her story to someone had taken everything she'd had left.  

Lena went to her as she crumpled, hugging her tightly, but Emily found herself rooted to the floor, as much as she wished to join them.  

The more her mind had turned it all over – understood all the implications of the things said and left unsaid – a terrible rage had grown inside of her. Not the fiery, passionate anger she'd felt when she'd learned about how Lena had been turned and the way she'd been abandoned, or the sick, frustrated feeling she'd had at the party when she'd turned on herself. 

This anger was cold, and hard. Like shards of jagged glass inside of her, ready to stab and tear anything she touched. Understanding that someone had set out to destroy Amélie at a fundamental level – her pack, her family – and then decided to court and claim her when she came of age like some sick trophy? It was beyond revolting, and she found herself dearly wishing she could stand face to face with the bastard some day and have the pleasure of tearing him apart. 

Lena looked over at her with questioning eyes, and she finally found it in herself to move. She slowly crossed the floor and just barely put a hand on Amélie's shoulder. "I need you to know," she said softly, "that right now I am not angry at you. I am angry for you, and all that you've had to go through. You are safe here, for as long as you wish to stay, and I promise I will do everything I can to help in any way you ask of me. But for right now... I need to go outside, and I need to calm down, because I love you and you have been through enough today. The last thing I want is to accidentally hurt either of you with a misplaced temper." 

Lena's eyes softened in understanding as she nodded, and a moment later Amélie managed to raise her head from Lena's shoulder and nod.  

"Thank you... for explaining." Amélie's voice was rough, and still heavy with what were likely decades of unshed tears. "It is already late. Will you..." She hesitated, then looked up at the loft. "Will you sleep here, tonight?" 

Emily lightly squeezed her shoulder. "You've been there for each of us. We'll be here for you, tonight. I won't be long, I promise."  

Amélie nodded, and let herself fold back into Lena's arms, and Emily lightly kissed Lena's temple before she began to undress, hoping a proper run would do her some good. 

I swear, Amélie, you are never going to be alone when you need someone. Not ever again. 


After Emily left, Lena had quietly guided Amélie over to the couch so they could sit comfortably together, and she had mutely accepted the offer, finally seeming to relax a bit as her ears and tail came out.  

She'd quietly started to just murmur "We're here" and "It'll be OK" into Amélie's hair, her hand making gentle, lazy circles over her back when Emily had returned, looking a bit damp but otherwise more like herself. 

"Better?" 

Emily nodded, picking up her clothes off the floor and putting them over her shoulder as she walked to the ladder. "Getting there, yes." 

"How did you get wet, exactly?" 

Emily gave her a sheepish little laugh. "I decided the best way to cool off was to jump into the stream."  

Lena blinked. "Isn't that freezing this time of year?" 

Emily shrugged. "It worked, though. Give me just a mo' - I'm going to towel off." 

Lena nodded. "You might want a blanket, too." 

Emily's hand paused on one of the last rungs of the ladder. "...that's a brilliant idea, actually." 

Lena didn't quite think it was worth that much of a reaction, but she let it be as she looked back to Amélie, who had just begun to stir at Emily's return.  

"Is she still angry?" Amélie's voice sounded so small. It made it all too easy to imagine the little girl who had her innocence ripped away as she was put on trial for things she couldn't possibly have understood. 

"No," Lena reassured softly, gently squeezing her shoulders, "and she was never angry at you. Don't even think that." 

"I'm trying," Amélie admitted, "but when I have been followed by so many troubles..."  

"Not today," she promised, "and not now. We just want to be here for you, all right? That's what friends do." Who might also be more than friends, but dear God I haven't had enough time to think about how I feel about that whole mess and it's the last thing you need dropped on your shoulders tonight.  

"Friends," Amélie murmured softly. "I haven't had many of those in a very long time."  

"Not even with folks you've met doing the antiques and such?"  

"Mm. A few, I suppose... one very annoying one overseas. A couple I would call more than acquaintances, but none who know who I truly am." 

"Well," Lena smiled, "there's two more, now." 

Amélie went quiet as she processed that. "I think I like that very much." 

The sound of something being dragged made them look up, and Emily's head poked over the border of the loft's floor. "Look out below, ladies!" Emily gave a grunt as she grabbed something, and a moment later the blanket and duvet from the master bed came spilling down to the floor, followed by a spare blanket from the closet, finally topped with all four of the pillows that had been on the bed.  

Emily followed a moment later, and Lena didn't quite understand what was going on until she pushed the coffee table and armchairs out of the way, then brought over a few of the chairs from the dining room table and arranged them in a loose rectangle. "Lena, would you help me with the blankets and the sofa?" 

"Ohhhhh!" Lena waited for Amélie to sit up, then grabbed the heavy duvet and put it in the middle of the chairs. "Brilliant idea!" 

Amélie watched them work for a few minutes, standing to the side so Lena could take the cushions out of the couch, while Emily had been carefully arranging a blanket over the tops of the chairs. "What on earth are you doing?" 

Lena turned, her jaw dropping. "You never saw a blanket fort before, Lady?" 

"...no?" 

"Oh, luv..." She walked over to take her hand and brought her to the mouth of the fort. "See, it's basically like a little cozy tent, now, with cushions and pillows and everything!" 

Amélie knelt down, giving it a skeptical look. "And... we sleep in this?" 

"Well, we could stay up all night talking about girls and painting our nails," Lena suggested, "but I think you've had quite a day. Bit of sleep ought to do you a world of good." 

Amélie seemed to be trying to figure out a retort when Emily walked up to her in her wolf, gently butting her head against Amélie's hand. 

"Oh, that's a good thought!" Lena started shrugging out of her shirt. "That'll be pretty much perfect for a little snuggle that way." Letting herself change, she joined Emily in giving Amélie's hand a couple of encouraging licks, then settled down against one of the pillows, silently offering for her to join them.  

Amélie gave them both a thoughtful look, then stepped away from the entrance. Lena could hear the sound of clothes hitting the floor and a murmur of something in French, and then the white and grey wolf was cautiously nosing inside, making sure she didn't bump the top blanket with her head before she turned herself around and settled in, facing the entrance. 

Lena scooted in against her side, gently licking the side of her muzzle as Amélie put her head down on her forepaws, and Emily tucked in behind, laying her head protectively over Amélie's neck.  

The lingering scents and the warmth of fur and blankets made for a dark, cozy den, and it wasn't long before Amélie's breathing slowed and became more regular as her eyes finally slipped shut. Lena didn't stay up long afterwards, the sight of Emily watching over them the last thing she saw before her eyelids drooped shut. 


Amélie woke slowly, and to her surprise, without the 'helpful' sound of a woodpecker hammering against the skylight.  

She felt oddly warm, but not uncomfortable, with a slight pressure across her shoulders and the feeling of fingers slowly stroking and dragging through her fur. She could hear soft breathing from a wolf against her, and the slightly higher, sharper sound of a woman's breath, their scents giving her a feeling of quiet security.  

She could almost believe that there was nothing to worry about. That she'd never been declared Feral, that she could simply hop in Emily's car and visit London with them tonight. Walk into the pub she'd heard so much about and find a table so she could watch Emily work, or see Lena interacting with some of the other friends they'd mentioned.  

To live without needing to be afraid.  

It was a very pleasant dream. 

Sighing, she stretched out her paws against the fabric beneath her, and gave a happy groan when Lena used a bit of the pressure point knowledge she'd imparted to her, leaving her boneless beneath Emily's comforting weight. 

She didn't really wish to move, not after reopening so many of the wounds she carried in her heart, but the ache in her bladder and the rumble in her stomach eventually convinced her it was time to leave the little den they'd created. Wiggling herself free, she slowly rose to her feet and carefully padded out of the blankets, assuming her human form again on her way to the bathroom. 

When she returned Lena was alone, wrapped in a blanket and rubbing the sleep from her eyes.  

"Morning, Lady. Em just stepped out to do a walk-around, make sure everything's the way it should be. I figured I'd get a start on breakfast while she goes about that, but you can lay down for a bit more if you'd like." 

Amélie considered her options for a moment. At first few more hours of sleep sounded wonderful, but the thought was far less appealing without company.  
 
"I think I might like you help you cook, if you could use an extra set of hands." 
 
Lena smiled and carefully extracted herself from the fort before standing and taking Amélie's hand in one of her own, "Can always use some of those! Let me find a second apron so Emily doesn't get on us both when she gets back, yeah?" 

Amélie had just finished helping to poach several eggs to go with the bacon and toast Lena was making when Emily returned, her hair a bit wild but looking quite satisfied.  

"All safe and sound. Not that I expected otherwise, but..." She looked over to Amélie with a smile. "I thought you might appreciate taking the time for a look around." 

"I do," she admitted. "It... all of this..." She shook her head. "It means much."  

Emily walked over, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder before she went to inspect Lena's work. "This looks lovely. You put the kettle on?"  

Lena leaned back against her with a nod. "Yeah. Lady mentioned she had coffee, wasn't sure which you'd like." Pausing, Lena gave Emily an odd look, her nose flaring. "...did you put on perfume?"  

Emily blinked at Lena in confusion. "Quite the opposite - I was going to grab a shower, honestly."  

"Huh." Lena shrugged. "Maybe you brushed up against something nice."  

Emily pecked her cheek. "Or someone's overactive imagination has finally gone too far." She gave Amélie a wink. "Did we ever tell you about some of Lena's more... interesting ideas that she got off the internet?"  

She raised an eyebrow, but before she could ask more they were all interrupted by the kettle's whistle announcing the water was ready.  

"Right!" Lena looked incredibly grateful for the save. "Breakfast is served!" 

It's strange, Amélie thought to herself as she sat down to eat, How normal everything feels right now.  

It was as if she hadn't said anything to either one of them at all. She had spent years picturing what it would be like for someone to learn her secret, what their reaction would be like. Anger, violence, horror – she had imagined every possible reaction but acceptance was not one of them. More so the utter... lack of acknowledgment on the entire issue was baffling to her.  

Her confusion must have shown on her face as Emily put down her mug of coffee and asked, "Something the matter?" 

Amélie finished her bite before replying, "Nothing is wrong, just... you both are taking this awfully well. I was expecting more..." 

Lena set her fork down. "Expecting more what, Lady?" 

"I was... expecting more questions." 

Lena shook her head. "You didn't need questions last night, you needed someone to give you a hug." She took a moment to devour more of her bacon. "I mean, yeah, I can think of a thousand questions, and I bet Emily's got just the same, but I figured you could use a break from talking about it." 

Emily nodded her agreement. "That's why Lena and I both called out for the rest of the week." 

Amélie didn't remember either one of them making phone calls before they'd settled in together, "...when?" 

"On our way up to the cabin last night." 

Amélie's eyes widened in surprise. "But that was before you had even..." 
 
Emily nodded. "Yes, but we knew something wasn't right and between everything we had learned, and Lena's exam so close... we figured it might be better this way."  


After such a late night, it was no surprise that they all just wanted to rest and recover a bit more after they'd finished taking care of the dishes from breakfast, with Amélie insisting she take on most of the cleaning. 

Lena had decided to just pull on one of the long sleepshirts she'd started buying rather than get showered and dressed, and curled up on one of the cushions inside the blanket fort rather than worry about putting the living room back together.  

Emily found her there after she'd finished her shower, and they relaxed into each other, Lena's hands idly playing with the ends of Emily's hair.  

"I hope that Lady doesn't think she has to take on all the chores while we're here as some way of... I don't know... paying her rent? We'd want her to be safe here regardless." 

Emily shook her head. "I don't think that's quite it. After all we stirred up... I think having a routine helps her. I noticed it the last time I visited. She's used to doing things a certain way and keeping herself occupied. I think it helps take her mind off the rest." 

"Suppose I can see that, yeah."  Lena sighed. "So... what are we going to do?" 

Emily lightly kissed the side of her neck. "I think the first thing is just... simple stuff. If all three of us are staying up here for the next few days, it wouldn't hurt to get more groceries. Maybe check to see if Amélie has anything she needs, too. After that..." She shrugged. "As much as I want to find a way to help, we should get you through your exam before we worry about much else. Better to get it out of the way, and have less to worry about." 

"You're probably right," Lena admitted, "but can I ask a favor?" 

"Sure, of course." 

"No hunting until the exam." Lena looked up at the blanket over their heads. "I know I can do it, now, and if we want to go out for a run or something I'm all for it... but I don't want to force myself to do anything. I want to just let whatever happens, happen, and be relaxed and ready. Is that OK?" 

Emily leaned up to kiss her tenderly. "Of course it is. This week... well. If things had been different, I would have suggested taking the last few days to relax and rest here anyway. Now... we're still going to do that, we're just also going to give Lady some dearly needed company as well." 

"Speaking of..." Lena toed the entrance of the blanket for up with her foot. "You can come in, you know!" 

Amélie reached in to lift the top of the blanket up so she could look inside. "Are you sure?" 

Emily nodded. "Of course we are. Come in, relax for a little bit, and we can all get dressed and go to pick up some things in town later." 

They scooted to make room, silently inviting her to come in and settle down between them. Amélie looked hesitantly at the space between them for a moment, then made her way in, laying back against a cushion and putting a pillow behind her head. "This is rather silly." 

Emily shrugged. "After last night, I think you deserve some silly things." 

Amélie went quiet as she considered that, but didn't object. 


Shopping had been fairly straightforward, but with their late start it was nearly dark when they left the store, and night had fully fallen by the time they'd unloaded Oliver and made dinner, so they'd made an early night of things after dinner and reluctantly disassembling the blanket fort so that Emily could remake the bed upstairs. 

The next day had been a bit more of the same, though Lena had noticed Amélie quietly seeking a bit of reassurance in the form of casual touches to their shoulders or hands. At one point she hadn't even attempted to be subtle, just sat down on the couch and leaned into Emily as if she didn't quite expect her to be real, and almost seemed startled when Emily had wrapped her into a hug. 

Emily, on the other hand, seemed to be in a mood herself, not really focusing on anything, and seeming to drift off into her own little world on a few occasions. 

She wasn't sure if Emily was just preoccupied with everything they'd learned (and she certainly couldn't blame her) or if something else was on her mind, so she made up her mind to ask as they worked to wash up the dishes from lunch. 

Well. She'd intended to, anyway, but Emily seemed to have something in mind to discuss. 

"I know Lady's basically just wearing a t-shirt and jeans but have you noticed how they hug her bum?" 

Lena's face went red. She had been looking, she'd admit, but she didn't think that topic, or anything else around it, was up for discussion at the moment. "Em!"  

Emily gave her a little smile from her side of the sink. "What? She's been looking at yours, it's only fair." 

"Em, it's not my bum she's checking out." She'd caught Amélie watching Emily as she'd walked through the supermarket, and Lena had to admit that it really was difficult not to stare when Emily was happily swishing her tail back and forth as she'd helped to tidy up the cabin. 

Emily's grin turned wicked. "Oh, come on, how could she not be looking at yours? I've seen it! Besides, it's just such a lovely little peach shap-" 

Lena leaned over to smack her on the shoulder. "Behave! What has gotten into you today? And I'm serious! I've noticed her checking you out a few times. Haven't you seen how she looks at you?" 

Emily shrugged. "I've been a bit scattered the last day or two, I suppose... and I've been enjoying the view, if I'm quite honest."  

Lena blushed, then suddenly flashed back to a conversation they'd had here at the cabin after the first time Emily had groomed her. 

"...I tend to feel a bit absentminded, and I've been told I tend to flirt a bit more even when I don't mean to." 

Oh. Oh... shit. 

"Em?" 

Emily half turned, raising an eyebrow. "Mm? What is it, pup?" 

Lena gave her a careful look, noting how Emily's pupils were a bit blown. "Are you going into your heat?" 

Emily paused, the dish she'd been drying forgotten. "Oh... I... yeah, I might do..." She looked over, blushing. "I did feel a bit... yeah. I think you're right, pup." 

Lena groaned. "Oh, bugger. I mean, not that I'm not interested... but... with Lady here..." 

Emily nodded. "I mean, technically she knows, but yes, that's... a bit awkward." 

Lena tried to consider the options. "So... um... do we want to maybe go for a walk later, or try to be really quiet? I mean I don't want to kick her out, especially after all that, but she might not really want to -" 

"She can hear you," Amélie called from the living room, a dry amusement in her voice, "and she can go for a walk herself if it will make you feel better." 

Lena felt her tail and ears bristle with surprise as she realized Amélie had probably heard the entire conversation. "...oops." 

Emily gave her a little wink, then put the dish into the drying rack. "If you wouldn't mind, that would be very kind of you!" 

They could hear Amélie picking a few things up from the coffee table. "I think I will go and draw in the woods. I'm sure it can keep me occupied for... some time." 

The cabin door had barely shut before Emily was pressing up against her, and for a little while, Lena had very little else to worry about. 


Amélie tried very hard to not think about the conversation she'd overheard. Tried not to focus on the lingering scents of the alpha coming into her heat. Tried not to remember the cries and calls she'd heard from Emily and Lena back when this had all began. Tried not to imagine what they were likely doing right now. Tried not to wonder about what the cabin was probably going to smell like when she got back... 

She shook her head, tutting at herself for her foolishness. Things were complicated enough that it was better to not say anything. She was still a danger to them, and Emily was right: Lena needed to complete her exam before anything else. Their friendship was more than she deserved, really. Her greedy heart would have to be satisfied with that. 

Amélie just tried to focus on the pad of paper and her charcoal as she sketched the riverbank, and if she turned the page after a moment and began drawing something that she was never going to show anyone else... for her own imagination's sake... well, that was between her conscience and the paper.

Chapter Text

They'd tried their best to be as respectful of her presence as they could, but Amélie had to admit she felt a bit more at ease after the first two days of Emily's heat.  

For the most part Emily was back to her normal self, and less absent minded, though perhaps she was flirting a bit more often with both of them. Lena's embarrassment at the entire situation had eased, though Amélie noticed she still tended to blush and get amusingly flustered at times. She'd done her best not to tease either of them too badly, and once that first awkward evening had passed all three of them had gotten back to something like the earlier quiet comfort. 

(She'd been very careful not to show Lena her latest work when she'd asked if she could see some of her sketches, though.) 

She'd been making dinner for them when her attention was grabbed by the sound of her phone ringing from the guest room. 

"Lena? Can you please watch this pot?" 

Lena came in, her ears bouncing as she jogged over to the stove. "Sure! Just toss the noodles in when it comes to a boil?" 

Amélie nodded. "Please, yes." 

"Right, got it!"  

She managed to grab her phone before the fourth ring, shutting the guest room door to make sure her conversation would be as private as possible. "Bonjour, c’est Amélie à l’appareil." 

"Good evening, Ms. Lacroix." She recognized the voice immediately – one of her clients in America.  

"Hello, Mr. Tonatelli. I hope you are well?"  

"Matter of fact, yes, but I've got something I'm hoping I can get your help with. We... ah... had a bit of a situation with a competitor. He's offered to make it right with a package of items – and I'd like you to come in to ensure what he's delivered is the real goods." 

She nodded to herself. "Reasonable. I assume you would like me to perform an in person evaluation?" 

"Exactly, yeah." Tonatelli's voice was filled with satisfaction. "I do appreciate a professional approach to these sort of things." 

"And how many items?" 

"Ten. Couple of books, some art, a few smaller items. Biggest one is what he claims is a genuine Canaletto." 

Her eyebrows rose. "There are... very few of his pieces unaccounted for. I am sure you are aware of that."  

"Hence my great interest in your services. Usual rate – but I need you out here as soon as possible." 

Amélie frowned. She'd hoped to hear about Lena's exam but... well. Tonatelli was the sort of man you didn't disappoint, unless you enjoyed having your fingers broken. "I assume you are covering travel arrangements and lodgings?"  

"Your tickets and reservations will be emailed through your broker tomorrow morning." 

"Very well, then. I'll look forward to seeing you in New York." 

"Fantastic."  

After they hung up, she sighed and pulled her backpack from the closet. She'd have to go to the storage unit, get her suitcase and a few business suits, possibly a dress. The clean passport and ID, a few of her tools for examination and authentication... 

The ping of an incoming email broke her train of thought. 

She checked the phone and wasn't surprised to see the message there. 

Told you I'd have some more work for you soon. Your IDs are ready to go. 

Give me a call while you're in NYC? I might come visit. 

-S. 

She couldn't help but snort as she sent a reply. 

I didn't think anything would get you out of your cave, but I will call you from the hotel. 

-A. 

With that done, she slipped the phone back into her pocket and returned to the kitchen, where Lena was still minding the pot as promised. "Hey Lady! Who was on the phone?" 

Amélie took the spoon from her to stir a separate pan full of meat and sauce, and tried to ignore the little jump she felt in her stomach when their fingers brushed together. "A client. I'm afraid he has a job for me, and wants me to fly to America the day after tomorrow." 

Emily frowned as she came in from the cabin's living room. "Oh. That means you'll miss the exam, then?" 

Amélie sighed. "I am afraid so. I'd hoped to have a chance to celebrate with you, once you succeed, but it cannot be helped." 

"Aw. Well, we can still have a party when you get back," Lena promised. Then, she had a sudden thought and looked over, nervousness filling her expression. "Um... that is... I mean... you're coming back, right?" 

Amélie stopped stirring. She could do it. She could take Tonatelli's payment after she had finished her work and just... go away. Stay in America, fly to a different part of Europe. Hide again. Hire a service to clean out her current storage unit for her and rent a new one. 

I could disappear, and they would never know what became of me. 

She turned around, leaving the pot to fend for itself as she looked at Lena, who seemed to be suddenly afraid, and Emily, who had come over and put a hand on Lena's shoulder, her eyes searching. 

You would both be better off without me.  

But... 

"Of course I will come back," she smiled at them, and the looks of relief they gave her were almost overwhelming. "If I do not, who would keep that bird from drilling through the walls looking for his birdseed?" 

Emily laughed softly. "Well, if that's your reason..." 

Amélie shrugged as she turned back to the stove, picking up the colander so she could drain the noodles and serve the beef bourguignon. "Perhaps I have a few others." She could feel a blush rising on her cheeks. "Two, in fact." 

She was grateful Emily and Lena waited for her to put the steaming noodles down on the counter before they sandwiched her in a hug. 


Lena helped to set the table with a skip in her step and an extra wag to her tail while Emily helped Amélie finish up in the kitchen. While she was disappointed Amélie wouldn't be around for her exam, something about knowing that Amélie would come back to them – that she had all but promised to return... well, it meant a lot. 

Soon enough all three of them were seated at the table and Lena was bringing a large fork full of beef and pasta into her mouth.  

The taste was amazing and Lena couldn't help the approving noises she made as she chewed.  

"God Lady, this," Lena said gesturing to her plate, "is fantastic. Where'd you learn to cook?"  

Amélie flushed at the compliment and seemed to be thinking about how best to answer while she ate. 

"After... everything," Amélie began with a quick sip from her drink, "I was sent back to Switzerland with a letter to hand to the doctor whom had helped care for me and my family while we were there. Though he was human, he knew of the were world and knew that I was a part of it. He and his wife found it in their hearts to take me in." 

Lena could hear the tightness in Amélie's voice melt away the more she spoke about the doctor. It was obvious the couple had meant a great deal to her.  

"I lived with them for several years and learned many things, including how to cook. His wife showed me the basics – How to handle a knife, how to crack an egg, I learned what you needed to do to make bread rise and other such things. I learned by watching and by doing," Amélie paused for a moment just to smile at a memory before continuing on, "When I was old enough to experience my first change, I began to spend more time with my family once more, learning to hunt and how to use nearly every part of a kill. I learned a few family recipes before..." 

Lena heard as much as saw the tightness returning to Amélie's entire demeanor and was quick to reach out to place her hand on her Lady's arm, offering a gentle reassuring squeeze. 

"Thank you," Emily said softly, "For sharing." 

Amélie shook her head slightly, as if to dispel any unwanted thoughts and offered a weak smile back to the both of them. 

"How about you Lena?" Amélie asked after she had seemed to collect herself, "Where did you learn to cook?" 

"Self-taught for the most part," Lena explained, taking another forkful of food and carrying on between bites. "I learned early on how to make food for myself, though I didn't always have a full pantry to work with and I could only use the microwave. Still, I like to think I got pretty good at making something edible using the bits and bobs I could find laying around." 

Lena thought back to some of her more... creative entrées and had to laugh, "God, some of them were downright awful though, never mix applesauce with ketchup, just trust me on that." 

The looks Amélie and Emily gave her were priceless and Lena wish she'd had a camera to capture the moment before continuing, "Anyway, I started to watch some cooking shows on the telly when I got older and Food Tech was a compulsory class for the first three years of Secondary School. I kept at it even when it wasn't though, since I knew I'd be living out on my own soon. The way I figured it, I would either learn to like cooking, or die of malnutrition... or possibly food poisoning. In any case, I was doing pretty well until my dietary rules change on me and didn't know any better." 

"A vegetarian werewolf," Emily said with a chuckle, "Only you could pull that off pup." 

"And now look at her," Amélie agreed, sounding much more like her usual self, "I believe the word 'bacon' could wake her from even the deepest sleep." 

Lena nearly spit out her drink at the quip and frantically grabbed for her napkin making the others laugh even harder.   

"Oh god, not while I'm drinking next time – I think that almost came out my nose." 

"Pardonnez-moi, je vais essayer plus fort la prochaine fois.

Lena wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but she knew the smile on Amélie's face was anything but sorry.  


Emily waited until they'd finished dinner and she'd helped Lena with the dishes before sitting down with Amélie.  

"I wanted to ask about your job, if you don't mind?" 

Amélie raised an eyebrow from where she'd settled on the couch, but nodded. "I have to protect my client's confidentiality, of course." 

"Oh, no, nothing like that." Emily shook her head. "I hadn't wanted to come off like that. Just... I assume you need to get to the airport?" 

"Ah." Amélie nodded. "I need to pick up a few things before I leave. I had planned to just call a car service and make arrangements for a driver." 

Emily frowned. "Why do that when I could give you a ride?" 

Amélie blinked in surprise. "I... you and Lena have her exam at the end of the week. I hadn't wished to impose." 

Emily smiled. "It's no trouble, honestly. If it makes you feel better, you can give me some money for the petrol, but I'm happy to help. When would you like to leave?" 

"I should be getting my flight information and tickets in the morning. If you don't mind, we could leave afterwards. I can give you directions to where I keep a few things, and from there to Gatwick." Amélie shifted a bit nervously. "If you are really sure..." 

"Of course I am. You need a ride, I have a car. Lena will probably want to stay here until it's time for us to appear for her exam, so there will be plenty of room for anything you want to bring for your trip."  

Amélie seemed like she might try to object again, then relented as a little blush spread across her cheeks. "I suppose I cannot say no, then." 

Emily nodded. "You'll let us know when you're coming home?" 

Amélie looked as if she hadn't quite thought of that. "I... yes. I suppose I should. But it may take a few days – possibly a week or two." 

"No trouble," Emily assured her, "we'll be looking forward to it." 


Amélie looked over the guest bedroom as she considered what, if anything, to take with her to New York.  

The phone was obvious. She'd wear comfortable clothes for the flight and change into business attire at the hotel. She had her keychain for the lock on her storage unit, but she actually felt better about leaving what few possessions she'd kept at the cabin here. If nothing else it would let them know she really did plan to return. 

After so long, it was strange to think of returning anywhere, really. To know that someone would be looking forward to her returning. To know that there were people concerned about her comings and goings... 

Suddenly she knew what she needed to do, and it had nothing to do packing. 

"Lena? Can you come here?" 

"Sure, one second!"  

Lena came in with curiosity written over her face. "Did you need help with something?" 

"Not exactly," Amélie explained, "but I wanted to ask if I could give you something, since I cannot be there for your exam." 

Lena's eyebrows rose. "Oh... that's really... I appreciate it, Lady, but I don't even know if I get to bring anything in with me."  

She shook her head. "It is nothing you need to carry, chérie. When I was young, my pack had a tradition, for those who were about to disperse, or would be separated from us for some time. It was thought to bring luck. With your permission... I wanted to share it with you." 

"With me?" Lena asked a bit surprised, "I mean... I'd love to! Really but... are you sure? I'm not really the best at the whole family thing and-"  

Amélie reached out to place a comforting hand on Lena's shoulder and offered a smile. "I would not have asked if I was not sure."  

"I... what... do you need me to do?" 

Amélie leaned down until their foreheads touched, "Close your eyes and breathe deeply with me." 

Lena smelled of lemon and sweetgrass with a bit of lilac and with every breath Amélie did her best to commit it to memory. 

"Though soon we part, I shall remember your scent so long as I still draw breath. May the moon watch over you while I cannot. May she guide your hunt and light your way, until we are reunited again beneath her sight." 

Though there were no more words to say, Amélie allowed herself a moment before starting to pull away, only to be pulled into a crushing hug. 

"Lena?" 

"Thank you, Amélie. I... I'm not sure if I was supposed to say anything back but," Lena released her hold, her face slightly flushed but expression resolute, "I... I won't forget your scent either – and I hope the moon watches over you and uhm... I hope we're reunited beneath her sooner than later." 

Amélie could feel her heart race, and knew her own cheeks were touched with color as well. "Thank you, Lena." It came out a bit softer than she'd intended, but no less heartfelt. "I will be back as soon as I can." 


The ride back to London had been quiet, until Amélie began giving Emily directions to reach the storage facility where she kept a small unit.  

Emily couldn't help but look around at the contents. A rugged looking suitcase. Several elegant looking dresses and nicely tailored business suits that hung in sealed dry cleaner's bags from a small wheeled clothing rack. A bookshelf, several shoeboxes, and a bag that Amélie opened to take out several magnifying glasses and tools, inspecting them carefully before returning them and zipping it back up.  

"Will you be packing those?" 

Amélie blinked at her, so caught up in her routine that she'd clearly forgotten Emily was there, blushing as she shook her head. "No, I carry these on to the plane with me. They are too delicate to risk." She picked several suits and a dress from the rack and packed them in the larger suitcase, which had already been packed with several pairs of underwear, a toilet kit, and some other supplies.  

When Amélie moved the suitcase, Emily realized there was a small safe that had been hidden towards the back of the unit. She turned her back as Amélie kneeled down to work the combination lock, and waited to hear the door being unlatched and opened before she turned back around.  

Amélie pulled out a passport and what Emily realized was a set of IDs, exchanging them for the ones she'd kept in her purse. I suppose that makes sense. It's not as if she can travel under her real name... 

She noticed other papers inside, and part of her wondered if they were some of the same ones that had started the strange, sad odyssey Amélie's life had become for the last forty odd years. Not her place to ask, really – for all she knew they were old family recipes – but something told her they were very, very significant. 

She waited for Amélie to lock up the safe, then cleared her throat. "Did you need any help?" 

Amélie considered the contents of her suitcase and the carry-on bag with her tools, then shook her head. "I think this is everything I need." She checked the watch she had strapped to her wrist. "I should have more than enough time to make it through customs." She closed up the suitcase, then gave Emily a thoughtful look. "Do you have your phone?" 

Emily nodded, pulling it out of her pocket. "Right here, yes." 

Amélie nodded. "I thought I would give you my phone number, and you could give me yours. I can let you know when I have details for my return flight."  

They exchanged numbers, but after Amélie finished saving the contact in her phone, she stared down at it for a long moment. "Emily..." 

There was an odd tension in Amélie's voice, and Emily felt her shoulders stiffen. "What is it?" 

Amélie walked over, and put a hand on her arm. "Please do not misunderstand me – I believe in Lena. I believe in you. But if anything should happen... if anything should go wrong... call me?" She swallowed nervously. "I would not let either of you stand alone." 

Emily's eyes watered, and she surged forward to seize her in a hug. Amélie's arms wrapped around her hesitantly, and she took a deep breath as they held each other before she finally stepped back to dry her eyes. "I... thank you. I'm sorry. I just..." She shook her head. "That means so much, Amélie." 

Amélie gave her a little smile, then reached up to lightly stroke her cheek. "You are welcome." Then, before Emily could say anything else, she stepped back in and gently touched their foreheads together. "May the moon watch over you while I cannot, Emily." 

They locked up the storage unit a few minutes later, and it wasn't long before she was pulling Oliver into the departures drop-off area at Gatwick, flicking her hazard lights on and getting out to help Amélie with her bags. 

Amélie hesitated, clearly not quite sure what to say, and Emily fixed the problem by giving her a gentle kiss on the cheek. "Have a safe flight. Let us know when you get in?" 

Amélie nodded, a blush rising on her cheeks, and Emily watched her disappear through the doors into the terminal before she got back into her car and began the drive back to the cabin. 

Come home soon, Lady.

Chapter Text

By the time Amélie reached her suite in the Essex House Hotel, she was ready to go home.  

The flight from London had been tolerable enough, but between delays reaching their gate, customs, and the traffic going into the heart of New York City, it had been an excessively long day. The suite itself was nice enough, with an impressive view out onto Central Park and Manhattan rising up in the distance, but all she really wanted to do was put away her things and try to sleep away her jet lag. 

She let out a groan of relief as she stepped out of her pumps, quickly combined with the ecstasy of unhooking her bra and sliding it away without removing her top, throwing it onto the top of the dresser. Amélie felt an aching urge to let out her tail and ears as she did her best to relax, but there was simply too much risk. Even if she had closed the curtains through the entire suite to block prying eyes from the outside, the possibility of her quarters being bugged was quite likely. None of her clients had an inkling that she was anything but a well educated and thorough expert who was willing to deal in art and antiquities that moved through the grey and black markets, and she had not survived this long by taking foolish risks. 

One more reason to look forward to returning to the cabin.  

With that thought in her mind, Amélie reached for her phone. 

Safely at my hotel in New York, she sent Emily, and after a moment followed it with Thinking of you both. 

Glad to hear you made it safely, Emily replied, Lena's exam is set for tomorrow afternoon. 

She considered if there was anything more to say that she had not already, and smiled to herself as she pulled up the alternate keyboards.  


Emily laughed softly at the emoji of a crescent moon Amélie had sent her, then put her phone back on the dresser. Turning back over in bed, she wrapped an arm around Lena's waist, and gently pressed a kiss to the back of her neck, smiling as Lena's ear flicked and twitched in response.  

"Mmhm..." Lena's eyes opened halfway as she stirred. "Was that Lady?" 

Emily nodded, then put another kiss on Lena's shoulder. "Yes. She's at her hotel. Wished you luck." 

"Thass good," Lena murmured, then groaned as Emily's teeth lightly pressed against the side of her neck. "Didn't you say I should get a good night's sleep?" 

"It's only midnight," Emily replied between little kisses down the back of Lena's shoulder blade, "and you don't need to be there until one in the afternoon. There's time...and I don't actually hear you saying stop." 

Lena sighed happily as Emily's fingers ran down her side. "Well...no, I haven't..." She turned over as much as she could, and Emily could see her smile in the moonlight. "I take it you're not a 'Never before the big match' type, then?" 

"I think that I'd rather have you feeling loved and relaxed before we show up for your big day than sexually frustrated and at the end of your rope – well rested or not."  

Lena giggled and let Emily pull her closer. "Well, when you put it that way..."  

Their lips met, and when they did sleep, neither of them felt afraid of what tomorrow might bring. 


The first surprise had come after breakfast, when Lena's phone rang with a number Lena didn't recognize. 

Lena frowned, then answered, putting the phone on speaker. "Hello?"  

"Good morning, Lena." Brigitte's voice was clear and warm, and Lena's shoulders relaxed just a bit. "I wanted to inform you of the venue for the exam. You'll be meeting the council and the representatives who will be handling the different trials for you at Woodcroft Castle." 

Emily sat next to her.  "We'll be coming from the cabin. Are we still expected at 1pm?"  

"Yes," Brigitte confirmed, "but if you're a bit late from the traffic it's understandable. Just do the best you can." 

Lena felt a little shiver of nervousness, and did her best not to let it show. "Right, thanks! We'll be looking forward to getting this done!" 

"I'm sure." Brigitte chuckled. "We'll see you this afternoon. Cheers!" 

"Bye!" Lena waited for the connection to go dead, then leaned into Emily's shoulder. "OK. I guess...going somewhere with a lot of land and privacy makes sense compared to doing it the heart of London, but...a castle?!

Emily smiled. "A bit much, but it's going to be fine, pup. You're ready, I know you are."  

Lena took a deep breath, then nodded. "Thanks, luv. I just...I know there's a lot more to do, and I want this over." 

Emily leaned over to kiss her forehead. "I know. Just try not to worry too much about Lady today. Focus on you, and just do your best." 

As she dressed in loose clothes that she'd be able to pull off easily and buckled into Oliver's passenger seat for the ride north, Lena tried to hang on to that advice. 


Emily had tried to keep a light conversation going as they drove, but the last thirty kilometers passed in a contemplative silence until they'd reached the drive that lead to the castle grounds, where a uniformed guard stood at the gatehouse.  

Emily stopped just short of the gate, lowering her window as the guard approached.  

"Good afternoon. I need to see your registration cards, please." 

Emily and Lena both pulled their registry cards out, handing them over. "I think we're expected." 

The guard reviewed them, checked a clipboard, and nodded as he handed them back. "You'll want to just follow the drive until you reach the main entrance – you'll be met there." 

"Thanks very much." 

The gate swung clear a few moments later, and Emily brought Oliver around until they reached the castle's imposing walls. A parking spot had been very clearly left open for them, and Brigitte was waiting by the front door, dressed in a suit very much like the one she'd worn the night they'd appeared in front of the council for the first time. 

"Ladies," Brigitte greeted them, "you look well. Are you ready, Lena?" 

Lena smiled gamely. "I suppose that's what we're here to see." 

Brigitte's professional mask slipped slightly as she gave Lena a reassuring look. "You'll do fine, don't worry." She gestured towards the door. "The council is waiting. Would you follow me?" 

The room they were lead into was really more of a hall, with woven banners lining the stone walls, long wooden benches along both sides, a large lectern, and curiously, a paneled changing screen set to one side. 

Emily recognized Reinhardt standing beside the lectern, chatting (relatively) quietly with several of the members who had presided over Lena's introduction, and she could see some councilors she'd met on other occasions and perhaps a dozen other people circulating through the room. 

Brigitte brought them to the center of the room, and at some unspoken cue everyone else moved to find seats before Reinhardt went to the lectern, his voice easily carrying through the room. 

"A year and one day ago - the turned were Lena Oxton was brought before the council. Though she had experienced her first change, the council had failed to learn of her presence in the City of London. Emily Oakley, an alpha born of the Wodewose pack, learned of Miss Oxton's status as an unregistered and turned werewolf, and delayed notifying the council. Instead, after a full moon spent together, she took it on herself to explain that other weres existed before bringing her before Us. Though the council understands Miss Oakley's reasoning, she confessed to knowingly and willingly violating one of our oldest laws. For that, the council has held her responsible for Miss Oxton's education, and charged her with ensuring that she would be able to demonstrate mastery of the gifts and skills she had been granted in her new life, and that she had everything needed to properly join our society." 

Reinhardt paused for effect, then fixed Lena with his gaze.  

"We are gathered here today to judge whether this pup's tutelage is complete, and meets the standards this council has set forth. Lena Oxton, are you prepared?" 

Lena took a step forward, and Emily's heart swelled with pride at her high, clear voice. "Elder, I am." 

Reinhardt gave her a smile, then turned his gaze to Emily. "Emily Oakley – are you prepared to accept the consequences should your charge fail to satisfy us today?" 

Emily stood tall and set her shoulders back as she nodded. "Elder, I am." 

 "Very well." Reinhardt paused for a moment, his face souring as he changed subjects. "It is with a heavy heart that I have news to report to you, Lena. Despite our best efforts, the council has failed to find the one responsible for the horrific crime of turning you against your will." There was a brief murmur through the hall, and the elder raised a hand to call for quiet once again. "Though the trail has gone cold, you have my word this matter is not settled. I will not rest until the beast whom wronged you so is found." 

Lena nodded, her eyes briefly filling with pain before they cleared again. "I understand. Thank you." 

Reinhardt nodded, his good eye turning kind as he turned back to business. "The schedule for today is rather strict in order to accommodate all of your tests. We will start with your transformation exam. Miss Oakley will be permitted to stay for this part if you wish, or we can have her sent – " 

Lena quickly held up a hand, not wanting to interrupt but wanting to make it clear she had something to say, drawing a chuckle from several of those who had been summoned to observe the tests. 

"Ah...yes?" 

Lena gestured to Emily. "I would like for her to stay and be able to watch for as long as she is allowed, Elder Wilhelm." 

Reinhardt met Emily's eyes and gave her a little smile before he grew serious again. "Very well. Miss Oakley, if you wish you may take a seat in the back. You may watch this portion of her exam, but for the rest of the day you will be escorted to where you must wait for the council's ruling – and I must remind you that you may not speak or otherwise interfere." 

Despite herself, Emily felt her stomach flip. "I understand Elder, thank you." She turned and walked to where she could sit and watch the proceedings, giving Brigitte a grateful smile when she settled down next to her. 

"I'm not allowed to get involved either," Brigitte whispered softly, "since I've worked with Lena too. It wouldn't be fair. I'll be with you until the end of the exam, but don't worry. Lena wouldn't dare let you down." 

Emily nodded in thanks as Reinhardt waited for the room to grow quiet now that she had been seated.  

"Miss Oxton, when you first came before us you were not able to call out your ears or tail and required my assistance to change into your wolf. As you know, all werepersons must do their part to keep our existence a secret from the rest of the world, and from those that would wish to do us harm. It is for this reason we will begin your exam by testing your transformation abilities." 

Reinhardt cleared his throat before leveling his gaze with Lena's, his look as grim as Emily had ever seen. 

"Do not change your form in any way until instructed. Is that clear?"  

Lena nodded, her face settling into a determined frown. "Yes, I underst-"  

BANG! 

Emily couldn't help but smile at the fact that Lena remained just as she was after someone had dropped a heavy book to the floor in an attempt to startle her – while several of the observers in the hall had been startled into letting their ears and tails out. 

Brigitte tutted softly and reached into her pocket to make notes on her phone. "They know better than that. I suspect we'll be giving a few 'reminders' before long." 

Reinhardt's chuckle drew Emily's attention back to the floor, where Lena was fixing him with an offended glare. "Well done, little one. Now – your ears, please." 

Lena's ears appeared a moment later, and Reinhardt nodded. 

"Good – though...your left ear, was it injured?" 

Lena blinked as she reached up to touch the ear that still remained flopped over, gently running a fingertip along it. "No, why?" 

Reinhardt gestured towards her right side. "Your right ear is standing up properly, now. Usually both should, unless you were injured, but occasionally it is a natural trait." 

Lena shrugged. "I suppose it must be."  

"Very well. You may let your tail out now." 

Lena demonstrated that skill as well, withdrawing both on request and bringing them out again a few times before Reinhardt pronounced himself satisfied. 

"Now...I recall you had some concerns about removing your clothes in front of the council before." He gestured to the changing screen. "Would you please take on your wolf form? Your clothes will be collected, and a robe will be provided when you are finished." 

Watching Lena pad back across the stone floor gave Emily a swell of pride for how far her love had come. She was no longer the underfed, ratty looking whelp they'd seen when she'd first transformed. Instead, her body was graceful and lithe, muscles moving smoothly under her fur, her eyes bright and her coat sleek and shining. Her eyes glittered as she came to a halt in front of Reinhardt, and settled onto her haunches in front of him, cocking her head slightly to the side as she waited for his next instructions. 

God, you're beautiful. 

"A great improvement, I must say." Reinhardt looked over to the other council members that had been observing her. "If there are no objections, I believe we can call this portion of your tests complete once you return to your human form – and you may leave your ears and tail out if you like." 

Emily noticed two of the councilors whispering back and forth, but after a moment one shook his head, and the other sat back rather than raise any other point.  

As Lena returned to the changing screen, Emily caught a glimpse of her pulling on a bathrobe before Brigitte stood, putting a hand on her shoulder. 

"Time for us to be going, I'm afraid." 

Emily sighed, standing up and turning back just once before she left to follow Brigitte to wherever they would be keeping her for the rest of the day. 

"Now," another councilor asked just before the door shut behind her, "Miss Oxton, can you please explain in your own words how the local council is organized?" 


Lena breathed a sigh of relief as she sat down with a bottle of water in hand. She'd passed the oral exam without too much trouble. There had been a few trick questions thrown in but Lena had expected that, and none of the questions asked involved things that Brigitte hadn't covered.  

I'll have to get her something nice, Lena thought to herself as she unscrewed the cap and downed half the bottle in one go. Her and Jesse both, it’s the least I can do. 

Lena tried to keep her mind busy by considering what might be a good gift for each of them during the few minutes reprieve she'd been given to rehydrate and use the facilities before they moved onto the final portion of her exam.  The one she'd been working hardest towards, and the one she was most worried about. 

The hunt.  

The bottle of water was nearly empty when one of the council members Lena recognized from her original hearing returned to the hall and approached her.  

Lena stood, quickly adjusting her robe before offering a polite smile. 

"Elder Lewis," Lena greeted pausing for a moment as she thought back to her flashcards, "Alpha of... Ashlynfang?

Lewis gave her a pleased smile. "Well met Miss Oxton. We're ready for you now, if you would follow me?" 

Lena drained the last of the water and tossed the bottle into a bin before she gave the elder a nod, and he began leading her onward. 

"I will be in the lead for this hunt," Elder Lewis explained as he began to navigate the maze of long hallways, his long strides forcing Lena into a trot to keep up. "I expect you to follow my lead and work with the rest of the pack," he continued before he came to a stop in front of a set of large double doors, his hands resting on the handles. "I don't expect you to stay by my side the whole time, of course, but there will be no running off on your own, is that understood?" 

Lena nodded once more, not trusting her voice to remain steady as the bundle of nerves coiled tighter in the pit of her stomach. 

With that, the doors were thrown open and Lena was lead out into the courtyard where a bunch of people were standing about. 

A bunch of naked people. A bunch of stark naked complete strangers, most of them with ears perked up and tails swishing around...and all of them turning around to stare at her. 

The bottom fell out of her stomach, and Lena had to shut her eyes and take a deep breath to keep herself from losing it.  

Its just like those visits to the nudist beach... only at a castle. You've got this.  

Lewis gave what was probably meant to be a polite cough. "Miss Oxton? Are you quite alright?" 

Lena opened her eyes to see Elder Lewis was already in the process of starting to undress. 

"Fine! Fine," Lena assured, averting her gaze and rubbing at the back of her head before she started to shrug out of the robe she'd been given. "Just... a little warning would have been appreciated." 

The elder seemed to consider that for a moment, then shrugged. "Ah. Yes, one forgets you weren't really raised around this sort of thing. I do apologize." 

He didn't exactly sound sincere, but Lena gave him a little nod anyway. 

Once he'd finished getting undressed, Lewis walked into the courtyard and cleared his throat, raising his voice as everyone's attention was directed to him. 

"Thank you for joining us today. As you know, you were drawn by lot from a group of volunteers to participate in this hunt. Follow my lead, and if we have some good luck, we'll be back here and celebrating before nightfall!" 

A few people applauded briefly, and Lewis shifted into his wolf, a rugged looking specimen with a coat that blended creams and shades of grey, and the others followed in his wake. 

When Lena opened her eyes in her wolf form, the smell of so many new and unfamiliar wolves around her was a fascinating experience, and it was all she could do to stay still and not go racing around to get a good whiff of some of the more interesting ones.  

Fortunately, several of them came up to sniff her, which helped her feel a bit more comfortable until the alpha gave a quick bark and began to lead them out of the courtyard and into the grounds beyond, heading for the tree line on the edge of the property.  

Lena followed somewhere in the middle of the pack, and while part of her loved the experience of running as part of a much larger pack, she couldn't help but grow more and more nervous the further away from the castle they got.  

Further away from Emily. 

Lewis slowed and turned as he came to the edge of the forest, letting the pack gather around him while he waited for the stragglers and those whom had wandered a little more astray to scout around for scents to track to rejoin them, but Lena found herself unable to sit still. 

This is it, Lena thought to herself, as she began to pace off to the side. This is everything. She thought of everything she'd been through with Emily. What their friends had given her to help her make it to this place. Angela. Brigitte. Fareeha. Jesse. 

Amélie

The alpha lifted his head back and howled, singing out his call to hunt.  

Those around him began to join, and after a moment Lena did too, a long clear howl that had nothing of the puppyish yips and yelps she'd struggled with before as she poured everything she had into the song, hoping that maybe Emily might be where she could hear her voice. 

I won't let you down. 


Amélie had to admit that one of her favorite things about visiting New York City was the food.  

She'd spent most of the morning cataloguing the items that she would be authenticating. The Canaletto was genuine, she thought, though she would perform her due diligence before making her verdict. Far more interesting, in her mind, was the small aquarelle pencil piece that had been "tossed in" with a few books and stolen items. If she was right, Mr. Tonatelli was going to be quite pleased that he'd just received a genuine Klee.  

Still, she had a great deal of work to do before she could make any pronouncements. She'd decided lunch would be best before beginning the real work, so she'd hailed a cab over to a deli that served some of the best pastrami cured salmon she'd ever had. 

The sandwich, bagels, and pickled vegetables left her pleasantly nostalgic for her childhood and the food her "guardians" had often kept in their home, and she let herself think of some of the better times as she began to eat...until an unexpected figure slid into the seat across from her. 

"Hey, girl. You're looking pretty good." 

Amélie put her fork down with a sigh. "You said that you might visit. Not interrupt my lunch on the first day on the job." 

Sombra laughed, flipping back her long purple dip-dyed hair. "I missed you too!" The server who had taken Amélie's order arrived, giving her 'agent' a skeptical look before Sombra grinned. "Sorry, she wasn't expecting me to make it in time for lunch. Give me a cream soda and the shtetl board with a bialy?" 

Amélie resisted the urge to sigh and gave the server a little nod. "Please." After all, Sombra would be putting it on her tab, she was sure. 

At least Sombra hadn't ordered the hundred dollar caviar brunch. 

She'd been about to say more when her phone began to buzz, and Amélie felt ice flooding her veins. The number of people who had her number could be counted on one hand, and one of them was sitting in front of her.  

Lunging for her pocketbook, Amélie's eyes widened at the caller ID. Her fingers shook slightly as she answered the call, and she ignored Sombra's perplexed look as the line connected. "What happened?!" 

She could hear Emily's surprise at how she'd answered over the line. "Nothing yet, sorry love, it's not like that. I don't...I just...She's still doing the test, and I'm a basket of nerves and a wreck and can you please just...talk to me about anything else?" 

Amélie took a deep breath as her heart began to beat again, and closed her eyes. "I'm sorry, Emily. I assumed..." 

Emily chuckled weakly. "No, no, it's all right. I completely understand." She sighed, and Amélie could imagine the look on her face as they spoke. "I'm just...I can't observe the hunt, obviously, and the waiting is driving me mad." 

"Lena passed the other tests, then?" 

"She handled the transformation tests perfectly, and I couldn't watch them quiz her on law and history, but they let me know she passed that about a couple of hours ago." 

Amélie smiled. "It sounds like it is going well then."  

"I think so," Emily admitted quietly, "but the longer I'm sitting and stewing, the more I just keep thinking about what could be going wrong and it all makes me want to scream." 

"Ah." Amélie suddenly realized how intently Sombra was watching her, an odd little smile on her face, and turned away in her chair. "It is good to hear your voice, though." She thought about what Emily had asked a few moments ago. "Would you care to hear about what I have been doing today?" 

"That would be amazing," Emily agreed, "thank you." 

"So far I've been cataloging the items in the new collection," she began to explain, "and I ended up running into a...professional acquaintance at lunch." 

"Oooo," Sombra whispered, "acquaintance, huh?" 

Amélie glanced over and flicked her fingers at Sombra before focusing on the phone.  

"Sounds fun," Emily said, and it seemed like she was relaxing just a bit "So what's your plan for after lunch?" 

"I need to start getting examples of signatures, brush strokes, and the like – there are also some non-destructive tests I can perform to verify the materials and the items are from the correct period of time and using the correct formulas for ink or paints. Once I do that, it will be comparisons and determining the chain of provenance..." 

She continued to go on for a few minutes, and had started to describe her hotel room when Emily made a loud 'ooof' sound, followed by a clatter and crash from the phone apparently being dropped. 

"Emily?! Emily, are you all right?" 

Amélie heard voices in the background, and had begun to fear for Emily's safety again when a new voice came over the line. 

"HI, LADY IT'S ME!" Lena's voice was filled with relief and delight, and Amélie had to hold the phone a bit away from her ear to keep from being deafened. "I did it!" 

Amélie's shoulders sagged as she relaxed back into her chair. "I never doubted you for a moment, Lena, but that is wonderful to hear."  

"I can't wait to tell you about it," Lena bubbled, "when will you be home?" 

"It's likely to be another week, at least," Amélie admitted regretfully. "But I will be looking forward to seeing you both." 

She'd been about to ask if Lena could put Emily back on when she heard a third voice in the background.  

"Miss Oakley, Miss Oxton! We are ready for you inside!" 

Could that possibly be...? 

Lena's voice was muffled as she replied – perhaps from putting her hand over the phone. "Coming, Elder Wilhelm!" 

Oh 'tain mais c'est lui! Qu'est ce qu'il vient faire en Angleterre? 

"Sorry, Lady – Em and I need to go!" 

Amélie forced herself back to reality. "Yes, of course – we can talk later. Congratulations again, Lena. You have earned this." 

"Thanks so much! Talk to you soon!" 

Putting her phone away, Amélie looked over to where Sombra was grinning at her like a cat who had caught the canary.  

"Soooo," Sombra drawled as she picked up a piece of fish from her plate, "Emily and Lena, huh?" 

Amélie knew she was blushing. "They're... friends." 

Sombra smirked. "Well, you can tell me all about them while we finish lunch – especially as you're buying." 

Amélie frowned. "I have to get back to work – and I was already buying." 

"Sure," Sombra agreed as she held up her phone, "but since I just saved you and your girlfriends a couple hundred Euros on international roaming charges, now you can pick up dessert!" 

"They're not my girlfriends," Amélie groaned, but she still ordered the honey cake when the server stopped back to check on them. 


Lena had barely ended the call before Emily's lips were locked with her own in a desperate kiss that she had no difficulty returning.  

Both of them could have stayed like that for hours, but knew that they weren't quite out of the woods just yet. As one they broke apart and Lena found herself keeping a hold of Emily's hand as they left to join the Elders in the grand hall.  

They'd expected this to be a formality – announcing she'd passed and that they were both free to go. What they found instead was an argument in full swing. 

"This is unnecessary!" Reinhardt seemed almost beside himself with annoyance. "It is not what we agreed. How can you claim she has not proven herself?" Lewis was standing next to him, looking disdainfully at four of the other elders, while most of the weres who had come to assist in the hunt were standing away from them, several shifting uncomfortably. 

One of the other council members – Saunders, if Lena remembered right, the one who had given Emily so much grief – was apparently the spokesman for the other side of the argument. "You and I both know what happened with the butcher's shop – and who was responsible! I think we should have proof she can control her wereself before we call this matter settled. What happens if she loses her grip in the middle of London again?" 

"She's clearly not starving herself anymore," Lewis replied with his arms crossed over his chest. "I rather doubt she'll be so desperate again now that she knows better. She had no problems during the hunt – and gave me the first bite, I might add." 

"I'd still prefer her to give us some concrete proof!" 

"That's not why we are here!" 

Emily's hand tightened on hers like a vice. "Politics." She gave a soft sigh. "It'll be OK, Lena. I have a feeling this isn't really even about you – just an excuse for a pissing contest." 

Lena squeezed back and then let go as Emily turned her attention to the argument. She couldn't believe this. More loopholes and tricks and bullshit just when they'd thought this was over! She felt anger growing in the pit of her stomach – what was this bloody council actually good for, anyway, aside from ruining people's lives?  

She breathed in deeply through her nose, holding the air in her lungs for a moment before letting it slowly out through her mouth as she tried to make herself calm down. Losing her temper wasn't going to help right now, especially with her nerves jangling around. 

Emily had said this wouldn't be part of the test, but this was important. This was for Emily, for their future. If there was even a chance that refusing to do this might call them into question or lead to Emily being punished on her behalf...no. That was not happening. She refused to allow it. 

You want to see me change? Fine! 

Unnoticed by the others, Lena took a few steps towards the middle of the hall, slowly opening and closing her hands as she tried to reach down inside to find that most primal part of herself, her mind moving to the prayer Amélie had taught her almost of its' own accord. 

"The moon's light shines down upon us..." Lena closed her eyes to try to help block out the argument as she whispered to herself, her brows furrowing with concentration. 

"It grants us the power to change and protects us from harm," Lena couldn't feel anything yet, but kept on as she tried to focus on the sensations of changing into the wereself – of how her body shifted and moved, growing taller and more powerful.  

"We shall honor the moon."  

Nothing.  

"We shall honor ourselves."  

Nothing.  

"We shall honor the land and that which we kill so that we may live..."  

She felt a tingle that she thought might have been her imagination for a moment, and distantly heard Emily calling her name in confusion as the sensation started to spread through her arms and legs. 

"We are one with the Beast and the moon's light reveals us," Lena's voice shook as she spoke the last few lines, a deeper, almost guttural undertone beneath every syllable. She felt like her whole body was stretching – not as comfortable as changing beneath the full moon at the cabin, but not as painful as when she'd struggled in her first months as a werewolf. 

"We are one with the moon. We are one with the earth. We...are...one...with ourselves." She could feel the fabric of the robe start to split, and she wasn't sure if she actually spoke the final words, or simply thought them.  

We. Are. One. 


It had taken a moment for Emily to realize what Lena was doing when she'd stepped away. At first she'd just thought she needed a moment to collect herself before she lost her temper. Emily had felt much the same.  

It was only when Lena had begun murmuring Amélie's prayer that she understood it, taking a step back and giving her room.  

The councilors and the remaining witnesses didn't pick up on what was happening until Lena's body had begun to grow and ripple, brown and tan fur rising from her skin as she growled out the last words, then stood, slowly blinking bright blue eyes as she adjusted to being taller.  

Reinhardt stared, his jaw dropping as all of the councilors went silent, then boomed out a ringing laugh. "HAH! There, you see?! That is how it is done!" Clapping his hands, he looked over to Saunders and his clique with a smile so polite it qualified as an insult. "Now - I think we can agree the matter is settled?" 

Saunders just gaped, as if he hadn't really expected Lena to be able to pull it off. 

Emily joined Lena at the center of the room, doing her best to pull off the tattered remnants of the robe before she took Lena's hand in her own. "That was brilliant, pup, but I think you can change back now." 

Lena made a little whine, her expression dubious, but after a moment she closed her eyes and bowed her head before she slowly began to change back again, a shiver running through her entire body as she slowly fell back into her human shape, her tail and ears drooping as Lena put her free hand to her head. "Are we done now?" Lena asked, her voice exhausted and strained as she recovered from the discomfort of an unaided change into her wereself and back.  

Emily seized her in a tight hug, her legs almost boneless from the combination of shock and relief. "Yes," she murmured into Lena's hair. "Promise."  

Emily had thought their exchange was too soft for anyone else to hear, but as Reinhardt clapped his hands together twice, demanding attention from all in the room it was clear he had overheard Lena's comment as well. 

"I do believe," Reinhardt began with a voice hard as steel, "that Miss Oxton has just gone above and beyond what was required of her to show she is fully immersed into the were society and is more than capable of following our laws and keeping our existence a secret. So, Saunders – would you agree that Miss Oxton has passed her transformation exam?" 

Saunders sputtered as he was put on the spot. "Well I-" 

"A simple yes or no will suffice." 

"Yes." 

Reinhardt nodded, "And we all witnessed her pass her oral exam, which leaves the Hunt. Elder Lewis – what do you have to report?" 

Lewis was clearly in no mood to waste time either. "Lena served her role well, and the hunt was a success. Pass." 

Emily reluctantly let Lena go and turned to face front, holding her breath as they waited for the verdict.  

Reinhardt drew himself up to his full height. "This council finds that the turned beta Lena Oxton has proven that she can function as a full member of our society, with sufficient knowledge and control to be considered a free and independent woman. We welcome you to our community, and wish you good hunting with whatever pack you choose. In light of this, the pending charges against Emily Oakley, alpha late of Wodewose, are dismissed and her debt is considered met. Congratulations to you both - and well done!" 

"Unless there is any other business," and Reinhardt's tone made it clear there had better not be, "I think we can call this council adjourned, and let these ladies get on with the rest of their day." 

Lena seized Emily in another hug that turned into a long kiss, and it took Brigitte clearing her throat to remind them that they weren't actually alone. 

"I thought you might appreciate a new robe," Brigitte explained as she offered it to Lena, who had begun to turn a deep red as she'd realized she'd been standing there naked after her transformation, "and I put your clothes back behind the screen." 

"Right..." Lena shrugged the robe on, loosely tying the sash. "Um... I'll just... right. Clothes. Clothes are good."  

Emily kissed her cheek. "I'll be right here when you're ready, and we can go home." 

Reinhardt approached after Lena had stepped behind the screen, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Very well done, young lady. I do apologize for the... unpleasantness... but both of you handled yourselves beautifully."  

Emily blushed at the compliment and ducked her head. "I appreciate that. We're both very happy to have this behind us, I must admit." 

"Certainly – and I am impressed by how thoroughly you worked to educate her!" Reinhardt's smile turned just a bit nostalgic and wistful. "It has been quite some time since I heard that prayer – especially from one so young. It was a pleasant surprise to learn you'd been showing her some of the old ways." 

Emily smiled over to Brigitte. "Well, I did have a lot of help – from Brigitte and several others." 

"Using your resources," Reinhardt grinned with approval, "just as I said! Still, you must not be so modest – you did very well." 

Emily took Lena's hand as she returned, dressed back in her street clothes. "Lena wanted to learn – and did most of the hard work herself." 

"Indeed!" Reinhardt gave Lena a bone jarring clap on the shoulder as well. "And now you should go, and celebrate your victory!" 


They'd decided on having a real party the next day – both of them just really wanted to get home after the long and trying afternoon.  

As Emily drove them back to the apartment, Lena found herself nodding off in her seat, half dozing until Emily's voice brought her back. 

"Sorry, luv, I missed that?" 

Emily reached over to take her hand, squeezing it with a little chuckle. "I was wondering about that last unexpected test." 

Lena blinked. "Oh?" 

"Well, I heard you use the prayer to help yourself change –  which was brilliant, by the way – but what about changing back? We never practiced... how did you do it?" 

Lena blushed. "Well... y'see..."  

Emily's eyebrow rose. "Yes?" 

"I tried to think about full moons and the end of the night, but I didn't want to sleep, obviously... but then I sort of... figured out something else to concentrate on. Something that's been part of coming back from it and being human again." 

Emily sounded fascinated. "So, what was it?" 

Lena coughed. "I... might have been thinking about curling up and snugglin' into Lady's tits." 

Emily blinked, and there was a terrible silent moment before she burst into laughter. "Oh." 

Chapter Text

Amélie's 9am flight from New York had her touching down in London at 7pm, but thanks to delays at the gate and a lengthy queue for customs, it was well after eight before she was able to collect her luggage and work her way out into the airport's international arrivals terminal.  

She was exhausted and could feel the beginnings of a headache forming between her eyes. Perhaps she ought to just stay the night at one of the hotels around the airport before trying to hire a car to take her back to the cabin. It would be a bit more money, but Tonatelli had paid her quite well for her efforts. She could get a good night's rest, and then she would be home and... 

"Lady!" 

Amélie had just enough time to reposition the bag full of her more fragile instruments out of the way before Emily collided with her in a tight hug. "Welcome home!" 

"Emily?!" Amélie had stiffened as she braced herself for the impact, but relaxed in Emily's arms after a moment and brought her free hand up to return the hug. "What are you doing here?" 

Emily smiled. "I got your message, of course. You didn't really think we'd let you get a cab, did you?" 

"My message?" Amélie had thought about letting them know when her flight would be getting in, but she knew Lena would have been working most of the day, and that Saturday was one of the nights Emily closed up at the pub. She didn't want to disrupt their routines any more than she already had. So how...? 

Sombra. It had to have been Sombra – trying to do her a 'favor' without considering what that would mean for Emily or Lena. How typical of the little busybody! 

Still...having someone here, waiting for her – someone who was glad to see her – that had been very nice. To feel welcomed... 

Emily's brows knit with concern. "Amélie? Is something wrong?" 

Amélie quickly shook her head as she reached over to grab her luggage. "No, no... nothing's wrong. Forgive me, it's been a very tiring day. I must have forgotten I'd sent you the message. I'm sorry I made you leave your work, Emily."  

Emily rolled her eyes. "It was no trouble. Besides, what's the point of owning the place if I can't leave early? Now – let's get you a bite to tide you over for the drive, and Lena will have dinner ready for us when we get back to the cabin." 

"D'accord.


Emily had been kind enough to let her nap for most of the drive, and though she was still tired, Amélie at least felt functional as she stepped out of the car, taking a deep breath of the scents of the forest and the country air.   

Emily smiled. "Good to be home, isn't it?" 

Amélie smiled back, glad that it was dark enough that Emily would not be able to see her blush. "Very."  

Emily nodded, then went to the back of the car so she could pull out her suitcase. "I'll get your bags, Lady. Go on in!" 

Giving Emily a grateful smile she walked to the cabin door, the smells of some kind of stew meeting her nose as she took a step inside. "Lena? I'm -" 

Before she could finish her sentence, she was interrupted by the scrabble of claws against the cabin floor, and a moment later Lena came charging out of the kitchen in her wolf, a bright orange collar around her neck.  

The brown furred wolf leapt up into her arms, enthusiastically licking at her face in greeting as Amélie fell back to the floor, laughing in surprise as she started to stroke and scratch at Lena's ears. "I missed you too, ma chiot." Running a finger along the collar, she raised an eyebrow. "This is new..."  

Emily chuckled as she closed the cabin door behind her, setting the suitcase and Amélie's carryon to the side. "She's had it for a while, actually. She wanted to get more used to wearing it now that she's done with the trial so I can take her around for walkies now and then...among other things." 

"Ahh." Amélie smiled as she read the inscription on the tag, then leaned in to lightly press her forehead against Lena's, taking a deep breath of her scent. "I see... but as much as I enjoy this, Lena, I have been traveling for most of the day. Would you please let me up so I may take a shower?" 

Lena gave one last lick to her chin then slipped back off of her, waking over to Emily to receive a good scruffing behind the ears with a happy little whine as Amélie got to her feet. 

"Why don't you use the shower upstairs," Emily suggested, "and we'll finish getting dinner ready." 

After a quick shower to help wash away the worst of the stiffness and sweat from sitting about on a plane surrounded by strangers for hours at a time (and perhaps a bit of slobber too), Amélie returned to the living room wearing a loose shirt and a comfortable pair of shorts, smiling at the sight of Emily and Lena sitting on either end of the couch with a bowl of stew and the third bowl that sat invitingly between them.  

Settling down on the couch, Amélie finally felt comfortable enough to let out her ears and tail with a long sigh of relief that caught both Emily and Lena's attention. 

"Been a bit since you could let your ears out then?" Emily asked sympathetically.  

"Oui," Amélie confirmed, "There are too many windows in New York - and even with the curtains drawn I have heard many stories of hidden cameras in hotel rooms. It is better to assume I am always being watched when I am on the job."  

Emily gave an understanding hum as she set her stew aside. "They must be terribly stiff. Would you like me to give them a rub?" 

"Oooh," Lena chimed in, her eyes bright with enthusiasm. "That's a great idea! Could I take one and Em gets the other, Lady?" 

Amélie's mouth suddenly felt a bit dry as she realized Lena had left her collar on when taking her human form again, and reached for a glass of water. Among other things, Emily had said? "I feel as if I am being spoiled." 

Emily shrugged. "You had a long day, we've missed you, and this is a way we can help you relax."  

Any thought of further objections vanished as Emily began gently stroking and rubbing at her ear, and when Lena joined in Amélie let herself sag back into the couch, letting out a soft groan as her eyes drooped closed, the tip of her tail tapping against the side of her leg. 

She'd nearly been lulled into sleep when she felt Emily's fingers slide down her neck and card through her hair before drawing away. "Better?" 

"Very much." Amélie opened her eyes as Lena sat back, and reached for her food again. "This is delicious, Lena, thank you." 

"Glad you like it!" Lena grinned. "I figured you'd need something nice and comforting after all that airline food." 

"It is better than it used to be," Amélie admitted, "but still not necessarily good." She concentrated on finishing her stew, then insisted on helping to wash the bowls, at least, before she returned to the couch. "So – I heard that you passed, obviously, but I would enjoy hearing a few more details..."  

Emily gave a mischievous grin. "Oh, as it happens we ran into one more thing after I called you, but Lena knew just what to do." 

"Oh?" Amélie looked over to Lena, who had started to blush furiously. "I would have thought the hunt was the end of your trial."  

Lena coughed. "Well... it should have been, but there was a bit of mucking about by some of the council members. But I figured you'd want to hear about the hunt, first..." 


As the call to hunt rang in her ears, Lena ran with the impromptu pack, keeping an eye on Lewis so she could follow the elder alpha's lead. 

She'd settled into the middle of the pack as they ran, taking long strides at a pace that she knew she could keep up all day if she had to. 

Lewis lead them in a long arcing path, seeking signs of prey, but they had little luck for quite some time. He began to gesture with his muzzle to send members of the pack off to widen the search, finally sending Lena off as they reached a small stream that ran across their path. 

Lena started to follow the course of the river, remembering the lessons she'd had with Jesse, and it wasn't long before she began to notice a new scent along the water. 

Deer. Got to be! 

Picking up from a trot to a run once again, she gave a quick barking yip to get the attention of the others, then set herself on the trail. 

She could hear the calls of the other wolves as they began to head her way, but Lena put her focus on the deer's scent, passing a few weaker trails and focusing on the strongest musk until she caught sight of a wide pair of antlers, almost passing them over as part of the brush.  

Giving a triumphant howl, she leapt over a deadfall, flushing the buck from his hiding place so she could give chase, but her excitement was tempered by an icy feeling of surprise. She'd expected a smaller fallow or roe buck – this was a red deer stag, and he was massive.  

He's a hundred fifty kilos at least. No chance I can bring him down alone! 

She heard more calls in response as Lewis lead the rest of the pack towards her, and the stag gave a roaring cry as it tried to turn away.  

Lena gave a warning growl as she came around, and knew what she needed to do as the stag began to dash away from her – and towards the rest of the pack.  

She let the stag run, keeping him close enough, and when she heard the pack howl again she waited for the stag to turn before she leapt forward into its path. Her fangs sank into the muscles of its leg as she bit down hard, tearing at the hamstring until she felt it snap.  

The stag bellowed in pain as it stumbled, trying to buck her off, but Lena held firm, digging her claws into the ground as it fell. The impact almost jarred her loose, but she put herself firmly across the deer's haunches, pinning it down just as Lewis burst through a bush, the lighter furred wolf going straight for the stag's throat and tearing it cleanly.  

Lena waited for the stag to still, then released her grip and backed away, bowing her head down and waiting as Lewis tore a healthy portion of meat from the carcass, taking several bites before swallowing and stepping away.  The alpha allowed a few of the others to come in to take their fill while he slowly walked a circle around Lena, finally coming to a halt in front of her before taking his human form again, his tail slowly swishing behind him as he looked at her with an expression she couldn't read.  

"Stand up, Oxton." 

Lena took her human form and came to a rough sort of attention, not even letting her ears and tail out. "Yes, sir!" 

Lewis gave her a curt nod. "You didn't go for the throat. You took the leg – explain." 

Lena licked her lips, trying to clear her dry mouth. "When I came across the stag, I honestly thought he was a smaller, younger buck until I got closer. Once I realized how big and powerful he was, I knew I didn't have good odds of being able to take the throat or make a clean kill by myself – it would have been too easy for him to get me with an antler or even get away. I made the decision that the best way to bring it down was to get him to turn towards the rest of the pack, and once you were close enough, going for his hamstring and pinning him down meant you could finish it easily and safely." 

Lewis kept silent as she explained herself, crossing his arms over his chest and tilting his head slightly until she finished.  

The elder was quiet for another moment as the other wolves began to gather around them, then finally gave her a little smile and a nod. "A rookie would have tried for the kill anyway – and might have lost an eye for their trouble. You gave up the kill – but made sure the rest of your pack was with you, and put us in a position to finish the hunt properly." He reached out, clapping her firmly on the shoulder. "Well done." 

Lena felt her knees go weak with relief, and it took an effort of will to remain on her feet and smile, giving Lewis a nod of thanks even as her brain jumped in circles from the sheer relief as Lewis shifted back, and lead the other wolves in a howl of victory. 

I did it, Lena silently chanted to herself as she fell back into her wolf and joined in the cry. I did it, I did it, I did it!  


Amélie smiled as Lena finished retelling the story of the hunt. "I am glad that the hunt was not as difficult as you feared it would be – and impressed at how well you handled yourself with the elder. You did a very good job, Lena." 

Emily nodded, radiating pride. "Quite." She looked over to Lena, her eyes sparkling. "But of course that wasn't the end of it..." 

Amélie raised an eyebrow as Lena started to blush again. "So you said. What happened afterwards?" 

Lena cleared her throat, shooting Emily a glance. "Council politics, I guess? One of the other elders started insisting I wasn't done because I hadn't demonstrated control of my wereself."  

Amélie's eyes widened. "That is quite a lot to ask for anyone who has been turned so recently – or a naturally born were a few years after her first change." 

Emily nodded. "Reinhardt – Elder Wilhelm – was furious. Lewis, who had handled the hunt, was on his side too, and it all turned into a shouting match until Lena solved it for them." 

"Solved it...?" Amélie blinked as she realized what Lena must have done, and turned to look at her with a new level of respect. "Unaided? In the middle of the council?" 

"Yeah..." Lena scrubbed at the back of her head. "Not sure I could have done it without your help, honestly. I used the prayer you taught us to help me focus – help me concentrate on that part of myself. I remembered what you said about how my wereself was still me, and...well. It all worked out." 

"Remarkable." Amélie smiled at her, feeling a little flutter in her belly as Lena began to blush again. "You should be very proud of all that you did, Lena. There's no need to feel embarrassed." 

Emily grinned. "I don't think that's it, actually..." She winked at Lena, and to Amélie's confusion, Lena began to fumble for her phone. "So we had a party here Lady lookatallthepictures and let's not talk about the rest ever again!" 

Amélie gave her friends a bemused look. "Lena, what on earth happened?" 

Lena groaned as Emily started giggling, burying her head in Amélie's shoulder. "OK, OK you tell her..." 

She raised her eyebrow as she met Emily's eyes. "Tell me...?" 

"Well," Emily drawled, "you see Lena obviously had to change back from her wereself." 

Amélie nodded. "Yes, of course. I'm sure it wasn't pleasant." 

Emily grinned. "Well... as it happens Lena found something to think of to help her change back." 

"I still don't see..." Amélie blinked as she suddenly put Lena's behavior and Emily's amusement together. "You thought of me?" 

Lena made a noise that was somewhere between a whine and a sigh. "Not exactly... I mean I was but..." 

"She was thinking about waking up after the full moon and getting an eyeful," Emily explained dryly. "So Lena was right – she really couldn't have done it without you." 

Amélie's cheeks were burning even as a laugh burst from her lips. "Mon dieu!


After they all had stopped laughing long enough to finish their meal and clean up, they settled in to show Amélie some photos and videos on their phones. 
 
"We knew you couldn't be there because you were away," Lena began as she loaded up the first video on her phone, "So between the two of us we I think we filmed or snapped photos of just about everything so you wouldn't miss out." 

Amélie was touched at the sentiment and admittedly curious to put some faces to the names she'd heard them speak of.  

Lena pressed play and handed her phone to Amélie as the video began.  

"I really wasn't sure I believed your stories about the cowboy," Amélie commented almost immediately as the screen showed the man tussling Lena's hair between her ears and laughing.  

Emily chuckled, "I'm not sure I could come up with a person quite like Jesse." 

As the video continued Lena and Emily took turns pointing out a few things here and there but Amélie had to press pause as the camera turned and a slightly tipsy looking blonde woman appeared on the screen. 

"The blonde...is that the 'Angela' you mentioned?"  

Emily grinned as she watched Angela drunkenly attempt to dance. "Yes, that's her. How did you know?"  

"Blonde hair, blue eyes..." Amélie smiled. "She looked the part." 

Emily laughed. "Yes, I suppose she does!"  

Amélie paused the video and looked at her thoughtfully. "She does not have ears or a tail out..."  

"Oh, no." Lena shook her head. "Angie's human."  

Amélie's eyebrows raised. "Really?"  

Emily nodded. "She's the doctor I took Lena to, after our first full moon together. She runs a clinic not far from The Howl. It's...something of a family tradition, from what I understand."  

Amélie would swear her heart skipped a beat as she looked more carefully at the still image of the doctor, laughing as a darker skinned woman in a button down shirt steadied her from behind. "I... see." She let her finger hover over the play button as she tried to keep her voice calm. "That's quite remarkable..."  

"I think you two would get along like a house on fire," Lena grinned. "She's a good one, Angie is." 

Amélie looked down at the phone again, nodding to Lena as she restarted the video, not trusting herself to speak. I would expect nothing less. 

The movie ended not too long after that and they switched to swiping through photos. Most featured Lena and Amélie realized Emily must have been the primary photographer, though there were a couple selfies thrown in with Emily and various others. 

One such photo towards the end took Amélie's breath away.  

"He looks... very distinguished, these days." 

Lena and Emily stood side by side, smiling happily while a proud looking Reinhardt stood behind them, beaming as he put his hands on their shoulders. There was a woman Amélie didn't recognize beside him with a blue headwrap, her eye twinkling with amusement at the camera. 

Lena raised a brow at that, "You know Reinhardt?"  

"We... met on a few occasions," Amélie answered softly. "The last time was just before..." She closed her eyes for a moment to help herself push away the painful memories, refusing to allow them to overshadow the pleasant evening. "He was... always very kind. I did not expect him to be in London, though. You said he was at your trial... is he truly part of the council here?" 

Emily nodded, "He's the head of it actually." 

"He stops by the Howl now and then to check in on us and relax," Lena added as if to help explain his presence at the party, "He even offered Em and I to join his pack if we wanted." 

"...you refused?!" Amélie was shocked. Beowulfsohn was an old, old pack. To be offered a place in it without ties of blood or marriage...  

Lena looked over to Emily. "Not... exactly? I thanked him for the offer but I wanted to concentrate on the exam... and I wouldn't have gone without Em, anyway."  

Emily leaned over to kiss Lena's temple. "I wouldn't do it without you, either, pup." She looked back to Amélie and gave a little shrug. "I'm not... necessarily opposed to the idea, but I left my parent's pack because I wanted a chance to be... to see who I was without thinking of myself as a member of a pack first, and an individual second. I'm still not quite sure I'm ready, honestly. It just... didn't quite feel like the right time." 

They settled into a contemplative silence after that for a little while until Amélie broke the silence with a yawn. Her body was still on American time, but it really was getting quite late. Her eyes fell on where Emily had left her suitcase, and remembered there was one more thing she wanted to do tonight. 

"I almost forgot," she explained as she stood, "I have..." She paused, suddenly seized by a flash of nervousness. "I brought gifts for each of you... I hope that was acceptable."  

She looked to see their reactions, unable to keep her tail from fidgeting. It's been years since she had even considered giving anyone a gift outside of professional courtesy, and part of her wondered if she'd overstepped as she took in their expressions of surprise. 

"Lady, you didn't have to do that!" Lena's eyes widened with surprise. "That's so nice of you!" 

Amélie knelt down next to her suitcase to open it in hopes of hiding her blush. "Perhaps you should see what I brought each of you before you decide that." Taking the packages from her bag, she handed a wrapped box to each of them before sitting back down to see their reactions, keeping one small parcel in her lap. 

Emily looked down at the box wrapped in elegant white paper with a wide black ribbon, running her fingertips along the bow. "You know... the only gift we were hoping for was for you to come back home to us, Amélie." 

The tenderness in the alpha's voice took her breath away, and Amélie found herself retreating into some of the manners she'd cultivated for her business dealings, her bearing stiffening and her voice growing tight. "Even so," she gestured to the package in Emily's lap, "please, open it." 

Emily gave her a searching look, then smiled as she undid the bow, putting the ribbon beside her before raising a seam on the wrapping paper and tearing it away. She lifted the lid of the box, gasping as she lifted out a shimmering green silk blouse.  

"Oh... Lady, this is beautiful!" Emily held the blouse against her chest, and Amélie was relieved to see it looked like it would fit quite well. She'd thought she remembered the sizes from the clothes Emily had lent her on her first visits to the cabin correctly, but she'd been nervous. After all, it wasn't as if they could return it to MM. LaFleur for an exchange without a transatlantic flight. 

"I saw it, and thought the shade matched your eyes."  

Emily gave her a shy little smile. "Well, part of the time, at least. Thank you so much, Amélie." 

Lena grinned. "It's absolutely gorgeous!" She looked down at the bundle in her lap. "So... guess I'm next?" Without waiting for confirmation, she began to undo the bow and unwrap the package, giving a little 'ooo' as she unfolded a long black apron made from a thick treated canvas material, with several pockets and a wide loop sewn into the side for towels or tongs. 

"Oh," Lena smiled as she stood, slipping her head through the neck loop, adjusting the metal buckle to take up the slack, and tying the apron around her waist, "this is fantastic!" 

Amélie smiled, her shoulders relaxing slightly with relief at how both of them had appreciated their gifts. "I'm glad you like it... especially since you seem to enjoy wearing little else while you cook."  

"Thoughtful and practical," Emily agreed. "It's quite lovely." 

Lena laughed, twirling back and forth before undoing the knot and slipping the apron off. "I'll just hang this up in the kitchen!" 

Amélie cleared her throat softly. "Before you do... I had something else for you." 

Lena turned back to her, raising her eyebrows in surprise. "Really?" 

Amélie nodded as she stood up, turning the final package over in her hands before offering it to Lena. "I did not know you when you had your first moon... but after you passed the exam your council placed over you, I thought that perhaps I could find something for you to mark both occasions." 

Lena handed Emily the apron, and Amélie's fingers trembled just slightly when they brushed together as she took the box. She smiled at the deep blue paper decorated with silver moons in different phases. "That is really cute!" The paper fell away to reveal a flat rectangular jewelry box, and Lena's jaw dropped as she lifted the lid. 

"What is it?" Emily stood and moved beside her, trying to get a better look at what was inside, and her eyebrows jumped into her hairline. "Oh my.

"I found it in a jeweler's shop near my hotel," Amélie explained as Lena carefully pulled the wide oval pendant from the box, marveling at the brilliant blue stone in the setting that almost seemed to glow with an inner light. A series of ring shaped links rose from the pendant in a 'V' shape, joining it to the long, elegant chain that spilled down Lena's fingers as she admired it. 

"The chain and links are made from stainless steel, and the pendant was carved from platinum."  

Lena nodded. "I almost wondered if it was silver for a moment, but I realized if it was, well..." She blushed. "Still getting used to that." Her finger ran over the polished face of the stone, tracing the veins of iridescent color that could be seen running through it. "What sort of stone is this? I don't recognize it." 

Now it was Amélie's turn to blush again. "Moonstone. Rainbow moonstone, specifically. It normally is used to represent growth, and strength. I... found it very appropriate." She looked at Lena as she held the pendant, watching as she turned it around in her hands, tension growing in her stomach as she waited for Lena's reaction. 

Lena carefully straightened out the chain, making sure there were no kinks or tangles, then slipped it over her head, letting the pendant settle just above the swell of her breasts.  

As the silent moment began to stretch towards awkwardness, Emily placed a hand on Lena's shoulder and Amélie began to worry that she'd made a mistake – that somehow her intentions had gone wrong. 

"Do you like it, Lena?" 

Lena looked up from where she'd been looking into the moonstone, tears starting to fill her eyes before she wrapped her arms around Amélie as tightly as she could. 

"I can't even begin... god, Lady... what this means to me," she whispered softly. "I love it." 

Amélie returned the hug, tears beginning to fill her own eyes as she felt Emily joining the embrace.

Je t'aime, Je t'aime, Je t'aime. 

Je suis .

Chapter Text

Fareeha reached out to touch the glittering surface of the moonstone pendant. "This is new. You're not usually a jewelry person." 

Lena blushed. "Well. I used to have helix piercings and a few other things, but it's a bitch to keep the channels open now. I've got my watch, though!"  

"Mm." The detective took a pull of her beer. "It's nice – suits you. Was it from Emily?" 

Lena scratched the back of her neck before draining the last of her pint. "No...ah...'s from a friend of ours, who was helping me with hunting up at the cabin." 

"Ahhh," Fareeha's eyes glittered. "The mysterious 'Lady' Brigitte mentioned? Who probably doesn't actually exist?" 

"What?!" Lena winced at the way her voice jumped an octave, and tried to rein herself back in. "She does too!" 

Fareeha started to tick points off on her fingers. "She has never shown up at the pub." 

"She travels a lot for her job!" 

"No one except for you and Emily has met her." 

"Brigitte was going to, and a client needed her to fly to New York for a job." 

"And you met her how, exactly?" 

"She was out for the moon near the cabin," Lena explained defensively. 

"Lena," Fareeha teased, "if you weren't already dating Emily I would swear you had a 'Canadian Girlfriend' - and that's rather impressive considering I am actually Canadian.

Lena blinked. "Wait, seriously?"  

"Well," Fareeha corrected herself, "half. My dad lives up in BC. I spent a lot of my childhood here, with my mother, but I'd fly out to Vancouver every summer and spend time with him to learn about his culture – our people."  

"Huh." Lena looked over to where Ana and Reinhardt sat at a table. "I guess I sort of assumed..." She shook her head. "God, sorry, I must be half pissed. I shouldn't pry." 

Fareeha followed Lena's gaze, and gave a little smile. "It's...complicated." She caught Emily's eye behind the bar and signaled for another round. "My mother and father like each other – care about each other –  but I wasn't planned. They each have their own lives, and between his responsibilities to the Laxgibuu council, and her...everything...I don't think they'd have ever been able to live together." 

Lena frowned. "Never heard of that council. Is he...?" 

Fareeha blinked, then laughed. "Oh! No, sorry..." She shook her head. "You see? Two different worlds. My father is a tribal elder in the Nisga'a nation. He's an artist, and he had an exhibition that brought him to London." Her eyes softened as she looked over at Ana. "I don't know the exact details, but I think she found him...interesting."  

Lena nodded slowly. "Does it ever bother you? Her age, and that she'll still outlive you?" 

"Sometimes." Fareeha gave her a sympathetic smile. "I have moments where it's breathtaking. Thinking about everything she's seen, that she's done...that there are parts of her that I will never understand. But even at our lowest points – and believe me, we had them – I knew how much she loved me. How much she would do for me. I've never had to question that." 

"Have you ever..." Lena mimed biting her own hand. "Y'know. Thought about asking her?" 

"I decided that if it was supposed to happen," Fareeha answered after a long pause, "that it would have, and I wasn't going to try to fight fate."  

Lena nodded, and went quiet until Emily appeared with their fresh drinks. 

"Sorry that took so long," Emily apologized, "we're a bit busier than I expected." 

"No worries," Lena assured her, "we're just chattin' bout...family history." 

"And imaginary friends," Fareeha fenced back. 

"Oi!"  

Emily gave them both an indulgent smile. "Sounds like a very interesting conversation." 

Fareeha looked like she was about to tease them both a bit more when she looked over Emily's shoulder, her brow knitting in confusion. "What's that about?" 

"Huh?" Lena followed her gaze. Jesse had been moving behind Emily with some food from the kitchen, but he'd come to a stop behind her and gave her an odd look before his eyes flicked to Lena, his head tilting to the side before he started moving again. "No idea..." 

Emily turned and caught Jesse's back disappearing around the corner. "Oh, he's always in a mood when we're shorthanded." She rolled her eyes. "He'll be fine after we get out of the weeds – and he tips out." 

Lena lifted herself up from her stool to give Emily a quick kiss. "Better let you get back to work then." She took a pull of her beer, enjoying the sight of Emily bustling off to take care of some other patrons before she let her gaze fall back on the table where Reinhardt was throwing his head back in a boisterous laugh at something Ana had said. 

"So..." She looked over at Fareeha. "Are they...?" 

Fareeha shrugged. "Sometimes. Sometimes not. Like I said, it's complicated." She smiled fondly at the old alpha wolf. "But I've known athi'b practically my whole life...and I've never doubted his love, either." 


Emily smiled as she drove towards the cabin. With Oliver's windows down, the Rover was filled with the smell of summer air, and she couldn't help but laugh at the sight of Lena napping against the widow frame, her hair flying in the breeze. 

Lena turned her head to smile back, her eyes still closed, then sat up with a yawn. "Almost there?" 

Emily nodded. "Nearly, yes." 

"I hope she doesn't mind we've been away for a bit," Lena admitted. "It must be lonely up here, sometimes." 

Emily raised an eyebrow. "What brought that on?" 

"Oh, some of the stuff I talked about with Fareeha the other week at the pub." Lena's hand went to the pendant Amélie had given her. "Thinking about how we're the only ones she sees, really, and there's plenty of weeks where we can't get away." 

"At least we can call her on the phone now and then...but you have a point." Emily sighed. "I know she's been alone for a long time, but it can't be easy, and I wish we could just...bring her home." She looked out at the road, signaling to get off the motorway as they approached the access road that would eventually lead to the cabin. "She'd love Angela, you're right, and if she used to know Reinhardt...I'm sure Brigitte and Jesse would make her feel welcome, too." 

"Bet Fareeha would be stunned to find out she wasn't imaginary." 

Emily grinned, recalling the conversation Lena had filled her in on. "And not even a little Canadian." 

They shared a laugh as Emily made the turn onto the trail road for the cabin, and it wasn't long before they were in the car port, Lena looking around with an odd expression. "Em? Can you smell that?" 

Emily shook her head. "No?" She wasn't jealous of her girlfriend's nose, really, but she would swear that there were times Lena could catch a whiff of something miles away while Emily was still struggling to get a bearing on her immediate surroundings. "What is it?" 

"I...don't quite know for sure," Lena admitted hesitantly, "but I think you might want to check on Lady." 

"Oh?" Emily stepped out of the carport and took a strong sniff of the air, letting her mouth open to see if she could figure out what Lena had caught on the wind. The smells of the wood, the hot metal and lingering exhaust as Oliver cooled, all as she would have expected. The sage and peppercorn scent that marked Amélie's presence was...rather strong...and as she took another deep sniff she caught the strong scent of orange peel, usually a much more subtle note in the other woman's fragrance.  

Oh. Well, that...makes things interesting. 

She didn't notice any other presence, so that likely meant that it had either just started very recently...or Amélie was a few days in and driving herself out of her mind.  

Emily looked back to Lena. "Well. We...might need to have that talk with her. Or at least ask if she's OK or if she'd prefer we leave. How're you feeling about that, Lena?" 

Lena had taken hold of the moonstone pendant, and rubbed a thumb over it for a moment before she spoke. "I...yeah. I think we should have that talk, but if she's not ready, I completely understand if we need to go. Why don't I wait here with the car, and you can see what she wants to do? That way it's no pressure, and if she wants to go, we go." 

Emily took a deep breath and squared her shoulders as she tried to settle the sudden flurry of butterflies in her stomach. 

Polite, discrete, respectful. You can do it, Emily... 

She gave Lena a quick kiss for luck, then turned to walk towards the cabin, mentally trying to compose a few words.  

Hi, Lady, we didn't mean to interrupt, but – Oh, god, no. Start over. 

Amélie, maybe we should come inside and talk, if you're willing? Ugh. That sounds like we want to kick her out.  

You were nice enough to offer to leave while I was in heat. Would you like us to come in? Oh, god, no, that just seems like a bad pick up line. 

You know that Lena and I both care a lot about you, and we both find you attractive. If you wanted...we could try to help you, right now, and then talk about what we all want afterwards? 

That sounded reasonably mature and adult, didn't it?  

Emily had just started to feel a bit more confident about the whole thing when she reached the door, planning to at least attempt courtesy by knocking. That plan, and everything else in the scenarios she'd been running through her head, went out the window when the door was flung open and Amélie stepped out to meet her. 

In contrast to her usual cool and collected presentation, even while naked and preparing to take on her wolf or wereself, the only word Emily could think of to describe Amélie was 'disheveled.' 

Her dark hair was loose and spilling down her back, the bangs wildly askew, and she'd grabbed one of Lena's bathrobes out of the closet that was struggling to stay closed against the loosely knotted sash, the hem just barely passing mid-thigh.  

The perfume of her musk and the smell of frustrated sex slapped Emily in the face, and the molten heat in Amélie's golden eyes took her breath away. 

"I..." Emily stammered as their eyes locked. "You, um. Lena – I mean we...ah...that is to say..."  

Amélie's eyes softened with an adoring tenderness for a moment, and then she was reaching out to grab a fistful of her blouse, pulling her in for a kiss that started gentle but rapidly escalated up to a frantic, almost desperate exchange. 

Emily rocked back on her heels slightly when Amélie released her shirt, her brain all short circuits and fireworks in the aftermath, half of her stunned and the other half screaming in delight that that had just happened. 

Amélie leaned back in to lightly kiss along the side of her cheek, bringing her lips to the shell of Emily's ear before she spoke, her voice a breathless growl. "Tell Lena to get out of the car, and both of you get in here and fuck me!" 

"Okay," Emily breathed as Amélie turned and walked back into the cabin, watching the bathrobe fall to the floor. "I...ah...OK!" She turned back towards the carport. "Yes, right! OK! LENA!" She started to wave to Lena, doing her best to signal hurry up and get here RIGHT NOW! "LENA?! YES!

Lena came trotting up from the car, a wicked grin on her face. "Sort of figured that one out when she started snogging you, luv!" 


Amélie had grown to hate her heats. Bad enough that she didn't have a partner to share them with, but with needing to keep her secrets safe in hiding it wasn't as if she could just pick up a one night stand. Her self-control was wrecked, her mind was constantly drifting, and nothing she could do helped to ease that aching, burning need inside of her, making for a miserable, frustrating, lonely week. 

Emily and Lena's 'introduction' to her had been the closest she'd gotten to real satisfaction in quite some time, and knowing them now – having let herself fall for them – made it even worse. It wasn't as if she could call and ask them. Not like this.  

But then as she'd been lying in bed, desperately attempting to take the edge off, she'd heard the rumble of an approaching car. Her heart turned a somersault as she watched Emily's Rover pull into the carport, and she frantically grabbed the first item of clothing she could find to cover herself before she climbed down from the bedroom, relieved that her secret prayers had been answered. 

Emily's stumbling and blushing had been almost too sweet to stand, and that first kiss would be a treasured memory.  

But now, as she watched Lena join Emily and they had a brief conversation before coming inside, she felt as if she was standing there aflame, her tail flicking this way and that in agitated need. 

She barely kept herself still as they came inside, Emily shutting the door behind her, and then she was crossing the floor to Lena, gently stroking her cheek and looking into her eyes with a silent question: Is this what you want, too? 

Lena's eyes widened with surprise before she nodded and gave an answer of her own, reaching up to put arms around her neck as Amélie bent to meet her.  Lena's lips were soft and sweet as she leaned down to kiss her, and she wanted nothing more than to deepen it when she felt another pair of hands sliding over her back, and the warm press of Emily's body as they sandwiched her between them. 

She softly moaned her need into Lena's mouth, her voice turning to a confused whine when Lena pulled back, her eyes searching for something, and she felt Emily slow her own attentions in response. 

Lena's hand came up to gently caress the side of her face, an almost overwhelming concern in her eyes, and it took Amélie's breath away when she realized the concern was for her. "Lady...Amélie...we're going to need to talk about this later."  

Lena was right, and the part of her mind that was still fairly rational agreed. She nodded, bringing her free hand up to stroke the back of Lena's neck as she looked into her warm brown eyes, trying to show her how much that concern and the tenderness they were both offering to her meant.  

"We will. I promise. But... please...j'ai besoin de vous.

Lena gave her a little smile, and her eyes fluttered shut as they kissed again, almost coming apart from the sudden closeness as Emily gently pressed against her, steering them all towards the ladder up to the bedroom. 

"We're going to want the larger bed." 

Yes, Amélie sang inside, oh God, please, yes! 

For safety's sake they took the ladder up in turns, and Amélie found herself sitting on the edge of the bed as if in a dream as she watched Emily and Lena quickly undress, holding a silent conversation as they considered what to do next. She watched Emily give Lena a gentle kiss, then hold up a hand as if to ask her to stay on the bed before she crossed the floor, ears out, tail flowing lazily behind her – one of her fantasies brought to life.  

Emily settled behind her on the bed and began to gently kiss her shoulders and neck, hands wrapping supportively around her waist.  

Lena knelt down on the floor in front of her, hands slowly sliding up her legs, the light caresses almost overwhelming and at the same time not nearly enough. 

"Beautiful," Emily whispered into her ear before she nibbled against the shell. 

"Lovely," Lena agreed as she rose up to kiss her, then let her lips mark a trail downwards until they reached her breast. "So lovely." She took the nipple into her mouth, and Amélie couldn't help the moaning cry that rose from her as she arched, feeling Emily's breath on the back of her neck as the alpha's fingers began to wander. 

Amélie spoke three languages fluently and was comfortable holding a simple conversation in several more, but in this moment her capacity for speech had left her entirely. Lena placed one final kiss on the nipple she had been lavishing, then began to nibble and lick at the underside of the breast she'd left unattended. Lena's teasing drew another moan from her that turned into a sharply hitched breath as Emily's hand continued to play her like an instrument, finding new notes in her gasps, whines, and moans as fingers trailed across her skin like tongues of flame. 

Amélie could feel herself rising, the pressure between her legs building despite the lack of attention there. When Emily's thumb brushed over the skin at the base of her tail, Amélie felt her legs start to give and her core begin to ache. She felt as if her body wanted to collapse back onto the bed, but her lovers would not let her fall. They seemed to know what was happening without any need for words as Emily sat up slightly and Lena drew closer, leaving her body sandwiched between them all skin and sweat and love and heat. 

"More," Amélie cried, uncertain what language she was using, or perhaps it was all of them at once. She was so desperate for their touch that Amélie wasn't even sure she was using words at all as she urged them on. "More. More. Please I ne-" Her (beautiful, kind, sweet, strong, incredible) lovers moved as one at her plea, Lena's thumb tenderly brushing over where she so desperately needed to be touched, while two of Emily's fingers found absolutely no resistance as they entered her completely.  

The flames rising from her belly consumed her, and Amélie threw her head back in a howling song of almost painful ecstasy as she let herself come apart beneath their loving hands. 


Remembering her experiences with her first heat, Lena wasn't surprised that Amélie had been in dire need, but also needed some time to recover afterwards. She'd been overwhelmed to the point of almost passing out from a two year dry spell – including one year as a werewolf. She didn't even want to think about how long it had been since Amélie had truly been able to satisfy herself.  

They'd all settled down for a brief nap once the immediate crisis had been met, but even though they'd started with Amélie between them, somehow when Lena woke it was much like getting up after a full moon's night, her face resting against Amélie's chest and Emily's arms snugged about her middle. 

That meant it took a little doing for her to slip out without waking either of them but Lena managed with a little ingenuity, then padded over to the bathroom to take care of her business.  

When she came back, Emily had cuddled closer to Amélie with a little smile on her face, and Lena took a moment to look at them in the late afternoon sunlight, trying to really take stock of how she felt about this sudden change. 

Well, she admitted to herself, a sudden change that was almost three months in the making.  

Still, as she looked at them, she didn't feel cheap, or dirty, or jealous. There was none of the sick squirm in her gut that she'd felt when she'd come home to find Ginny in their bed with another woman that she'd been assured was 'just a friend, no one important.'  

She didn't feel unnecessary. Far from it, and when she saw them together, she felt...warm. Happy. Like this had been a loop they'd finally been able to close.  

She settled back on the bed, taking advantage of a rare chance to be Emily's big spoon, and was rewarded by a happy little groan as Emily pressed back into her.  

"Hey," Lena whispered softly, lightly kissing the side of her neck. 

"Hey yourself," Emily replied before she carefully turned over, doing her best not to disturb Amélie. "How're you feeling?" 

"Good," Lena assured her quietly. "Good. I still want to talk about all this...what we want, where we go...but I feel really, really good right now – and not just because of the sex." 

Emily smiled. "I'm glad." She drew a little closer and lightly kissed her way up Lena's chin before capturing her lips in a slow, soft kiss. "Though I noticed you were very patient...and didn't actually do much for yourself.

Lena groaned softly as Emily's hands began to wander. "What she needed...wasn't about me. Not like that, anyway. We were taking care of her."  She smirked just a bit cheekily. "I'm starting to see why you wouldn't let me touch you the first couple of rounds when we had our first time, though. That was awfully good fun." 

Emily chuckled throatily. "Yes, well...better to give than to receive, mm?" She winked. "Mostly, anyway." Her fingers lingered over a faint mark where Lena's collarbone met her neck. "Speaking of..." Her eyes flicked up to Lena's with a little sparkle. "Care for a fresh one?" 

Lena considered that. She'd never had an issue with biting or hickeys before, but after Emily had explained the slightly greater significance (and trust involved) for weres, they hadn't put a lot of visible marks on each other until fairly recently. The last had been here, when Emily had been in her heat before the exam, and it had been charged with that extra intensity.  

"mmm..." Lena ran her fingers through Emily's hair, taking a moment to scratch and play with her wolf ears. "Could do," she admitted with a smile, "but do you think Lady will mind?" 

"I shouldn't think so," Emily answered after giving it a moment's thought, "but there is an easy solution to that problem."  

Lena wasn't entirely sure if Emily meant having Amélie mark her, too, or that Emily would give Amélie a mark of her own, but she realized after a moment that both options sounded rather exciting, actually. "When you put it that way..." She smiled and scooted up towards the head of the bed just a bit. "Same spot?" 

Emily nodded. "If you like."  

Lena relaxed against the headboard as Emily straddled her hips, but it seemed she was in no rush. Leaning in for a slowly deepening kiss, Emily ran her hands slowly over Lena's sides and the edges of her back, dragging her nails down just enough to add a little zing to everything. 

Lena sighed happily as Emily trailed kisses from her ear to the base of her neck, and shivered when Emily traced a little design into the sensitive skin with her tongue.  

She left the tiniest bite over the nearly healed mark, as if to leave a little preview, then closed her lips so she could suck against the skin, making Lena cry out from the sensation.  

She glanced over to where Amélie had been sleeping, intending to apologize if she'd woken her, but instead found her propped up on her side and watching intently, and though Lena could see a number of emotions swirling in her eyes, none of them were anger or jealousy. 

She saw excitement. Happiness. Interest. Appreciation. Want.  

It added an entirely new layer to what was already an emotional and erotic moment, and it made Lena's entire body feel electrified as Emily's lips traveled up to her shoulder and back.  

She felt Emily's teeth graze the still blooming hickey, and her breath hitched. Lena felt her lips move more than she heard her voice as Emily softly murmured 'mine', and then felt Emily stop herself, realizing they were being watched.  

Lena could almost feel the triangle of eye contact between the three of them, watched and watching, before Emily turned her head just slightly, and lovingly whispered 'Ours' into Lena's skin before sinking her teeth into the teased and tender flesh. 

Lena cried out again, turning to a soft whining groan as Emily closed her jaw, letting Lena get used to the pain before giving a reassuring hum, her voice so low it was nearly a growl. 

Lena's hand came up to stroke at Emily's back to signal she was OK without moving her head or neck, and Emily responded by putting just a little more pressure into the mark before releasing her, shifting off of her hips and letting Lena relax back down into the bed. 

"Good?" Emily's voice was full of care and concern, her fingertips gently brushing the side of her face. 

Lena gave a happy little sigh as she turned to kiss Emily's fingertips. "God, yes." 

"Lovely." She looked over to Amélie with a crooked little smile. "Care to give me a helping hand with the aftercare?" 

Amélie reached out to run a hand along Lena's leg. "I would like nothing better."  


After helping to tend to Lena, they'd both expressed their appreciation to Emily and before long all three of them needed a break again, the light through the skylight fading as twilight turned to night.  

Amélie found herself lying flat on the bed, sweat covering her naked body and hair splayed wildly about and sticking to her face as Lena giggled from where she sat at her side. She closed her eyes as Lena's free hand reached out to brush the hair obscuring her face, smiling at the affection in the gesture and her voice. "Don't have this problem with hair as short as mine." 

Amélie merely hummed in response, her voice still a bit lost at times from the pleasurable haze of warmth she found herself in...and perhaps it was also the fact that Emily was still languidly exploring her body, her touches light and gentle but no less appreciated.  

Amélie knew the touching would stop if she asked, that they both had pulled away and let her settle each time that she'd been on the verge of becoming overwhelmed. 

Words failed to describe just how much that meant to her.  

Her body had been sated, for now, but a different need was building in her – one that Amélie wasn't sure how to ask for, exactly, but once the thought had surfaced while she'd watched Emily mark Lena's neck she had been unable to rid it from her mind. There was no rush, and she knew that, but still Emily as always managed to pick up on it.  

Lena seemed content to watch as Emily slowly kissed her way up her stomach, pausing to give attention to each breast in turn before working her way up to the base of Amélie's neck, making her breath catch as she momentarily went completely still. 

Nervously, she tilted her head back, her heart rate speeding up as she bared her throat for Emily - hoping her actions would speak for her as her words still struggled to come. Remembering the last time she'd allowed herself to be marked...except she had not allowed it. Not really. 

The last time she'd been marked by another, she'd felt pressured and obligated into enduring it, and now...how striking the difference was to actually desire it.  

Emily picked up on the change in her posture right away, puling back as grey eyes locked with amber.  

"Are you sure? If it's too soon, you can say no." 

Amélie knew what she wanted to say, she wanted to scream it, howl it out, sing for the both of them to know just how badly she wanted it, but instead all she could muster was a soft and desperate "Oui." 

Emily nodded before leaning down to kiss her once more.  

Amélie had expected her request to be met with an instant, forceful action, but as always Emily seemed content to take her time.  

Lena scooted to the side, perhaps sensing that this was a moment between the two of them - one that she was a part of but not necessarily a participant in just yet.  

Emily worked slowly, kissing her lips, her nose, her eyelids as they fluttered closed, her forehead and cheeks. She nibbled at the white ears atop her head, drawing a needy whine from her before kissing her on the top of the head and whispering "Sit up for me, please."  

Amélie did as she was told, and Emily scooted around until she was sitting against the headboard, her body pressed flush against Amélie's back. Her legs spread apart as Amélie settled between them, and Amélie felt as if she could sense the intimate heat radiating from Emily as she pressed just between the base of her tail and her bottom.  

Her tail found itself rolled across Emily's left thigh, the tip twitching in a lazy wag as Emily's arms wrapped around her, and Amélie relaxed into her touch.  

"You can tell me to stop at any time and I will, my Lady," Emily explained as her hands began to stroke and fondle her, taking care to avoid anything too sensitive. "And if you cant speak I want you to tap my knee three times to tell me to stop, do you understand?"  

Amélie nodded, her heart thudding so hard in her chest she was sure Emily could feel it.  

"Good," Emily said kissing the back of her neck, "Very good... but can you show me? 

Amélie lightly tapped Emily's knee once, twice, three times and her reward was a hand on her stomach, the thumb circling her bellybutton idly before slowly traveling further down in an intimate caress.  

"Good girl," Emily murmured into her skin, and it made Amélie go so weak in her hands. "Such a beautiful Lady..."  

Just as with Lena, Emily gently teased and prepared her to be marked, kissing and licking around her shoulder and neck, taking the time to put her hair back over her shoulder and taking a deep breath, as if her sweaty, musky, exhausted scent was the finest perfume Emily had ever encountered.  

The little puff of breath on her skin as she felt Emily murmur 'Ours' made Amélie's entire body shudder, and the sudden sensation of teeth on the back and side of her neck brought her up short. Gasping as she froze, a part of her mind couldn't help but compare her experiences again. 

He hadn't spent any time on easing her in or ensuring her comfort, and the mark he'd left had been high on her throat, where it had been impossible for her to hide it. He'd claimed it was to show they were committed to the betrothal, and to ensure no one would question her place at his side...but it was really about showing ownership, and even then she'd known that. 

Emily, though...her mark was going to be obvious enough – but also easy to conceal, if needed, and would be invisible under a shirt with the right collar. A display of love and intimacy, of the bond they'd formed, but one that was for them, and them alone.  

For a long moment they sat there, utterly still, and Amélie found herself looking to where Lena lay on her stomach, watching them with rapt attention, her eyes filled with a brilliant understanding - as if watching the act unfold had been a revelation for her. Amélie wanted to smile, to wink, to say something to show she'd felt the same as she'd watched them earlier, but it was simply too much for her to communicate in that moment.  

Finally, Emily began to bite down as Amélie cried out from the sunbursts of pain and pleasure that coursed through her, body going taut beneath Emily's mouth and hands. It was so good, so incredibly perfect that it took her breath away. She was sure she'd just peaked a few seconds ago, but she felt herself teetering on the edge again. Emily's body was impossibly solid behind her and vision started to grow hazy around the edges as Emily growled, low and deep. She could feel the vibrations as they traveled through her neck, running straight down her spine as she unraveled and then she was falling, falling, falling as the air rushed from her lungs.  

Everything went white for a moment and then Emily was there with her, a life preserver thrown out to her as she recovered, gasping and sputtering for air.  

"Beautiful," Emily whispered softly, punctuating it with a kiss on the unmarked base of her neck. "So beautiful, Amélie. Perfect. Thank you." 

She didn't even realize she'd begun to cry until Lena began to tenderly wipe the tears away with her thumb, a bottle of water in her other hand. 

"Shh. Don't worry, Lady. We're here. We've got you." 

"I know," Amélie husked softly, her throat sore and scratchy. "I know. They are not tears of sadness, ma chiot. Just...release." 

Lena smiled with understanding, and offered the water. "Thought we all might need this. Did you eat much of anything today?" 

She couldn't help but give a wicked chuckle. "Aside from you?" 

"That's a no," Emily drawled, gently running her fingertips over the bite she'd left. "Not too deep?" 

"It's perfect," Amélie assured her.  

"Good." Emily looked over at the clock beside the bed. "I could cook, or we could put some clothes on and I could drive us to the Old Plough." 

Lena looked thoughtfully at both of them, then shook her head. "You look almost as wiped out as she does, Em. I think I've got enough of a second wind to throw something in the pan." 

Amélie looked over, and had to agree with Lena. Emily had happily and enthusiastically given everything to them – but hadn't taken much rest for herself, either. So perhaps there was another way to help her to relax. "I do not think I would like to put on any more clothes than I have to." 

Lena caught her eye with a wink, then nodded. "Dinner on me, then. You two just take it easy, maybe come down and sit on the couch while I break that new apron in properly?" 

"Well," Emily conceded, "as long as that doesn't mean setting yourself on fire." 

Lena didn't even dignify that with a response. 


As the morning's light began to stream through the skylight, Emily enjoyed the warmth and the softness of the body beneath her, breathing in that scent that was so essentially Amélie before she looked up and saw golden eyes shining down at her. "I think I understand why Lena keeps waking up like this a bit better, now."  

Amélie laughed softly, and she felt Lena stirring before her head poked up from where she'd snuggled against Amélie's back. "You can't blame me, really." 

"No, no indeed..." Emily snuggled back in as Amélie ran a hand along her back, and sighed happily. "Any objections to just staying like this for a little while?" 

"None," Amélie assured her. 

"I like that plan," Lena agreed, "but...we were going to talk a bit." There was a nervous edge in her voice that made Emily look up, moving more towards the headboard so they could talk a bit easier.  

"Lady..." Lena paused, wetting her lips nervously. "Emily...this was a lot more than just one night, or because you were in heat, right? We're all a bit past 'just friends' now, aren't we?" She turned to look up at Amélie. "I mean...that is...if you want to be."  

Amélie reached out with the hand that was not already occupied and tenderly stroked the side of Lena's face. "There is a part of me that began falling in love with you the night you told me not to give up on my heart...and Emily from the moment I saw how kind she was, and how open." She leaned towards Lena, giving her a gentle kiss. "Yes. I want." 

Emily lightly kissed Amélie on her cheek. "So do we." A thought struck her, bringing a wave of sadness with it as she turned to tuck herself into Amélie's side, her arm wrapping tightly around her. "But you know this is just going to keep getting harder. We'll keep leaving you. I know you've been alone, and I know you can get by...but please, let us try to help? You deserve so much more than to keep hiding." 

Lena's arm brushed against hers as she hugged Amélie as well. "If you say no, we won't stop caring about you - we won't stop wanting to be with you...but...Em's right. You shouldn't have to feel like you're our dirty little secret." 

Amélie had gone almost completely still, even the slow rise and fall of her breathing barely noticeable as she closed her eyes. "I told you once that my side has never mattered...but when you hold me like this...when you tell me how you want to fight for me..." She couldn't really move much with the pair of them holding her tight, but the look in her eyes as she opened them spoke volumes for how she was feeling in that moment. "I start to believe that it can change. And when you say I deserve more...I start to think that perhaps I could." 

Emily barely felt able to breathe. "Then...yes?" 

Amélie gave them a sad smile, but for the first time in so long her eyes were filled with hope. "Oui."

Chapter Text

As they discussed different ways to try and fight Amélie's Feral ruling, they came to two core problems:  

1) It would require the help of at least one person connected to the council, if not more, and asking would immediately make them an accessory to the crime.  

2) It would require medical tests and testimony that only Angela could provide - and the doctor would be legally obligated to report all of them if they asked for her help.  

"I can't just take blood samples or ask you to pee into a bottle and walk into her clinic." Emily shook her head. "Angela's a good friend, but god, that would be too far." 

Amélie considered that for a moment. "You are right. You cannot ask her that...but perhaps I can."  

Emily blinked. "What?"  

Rather than answer directly, Amélie pulled her sketchpad from beneath the coffee table and flipped to a blank page, then wrote on it before tearing the page out and folding the paper into its own envelope with Angela Ziegler written in painstakingly neat handwriting on the front. "Please give her this, and then ask her to come to the cabin."  

Emily blinked. "...are you sure about this?"  

Amélie nodded as she closed her sketchbook with a soft sigh. "Oui."  

Emily looked down at the envelope, then back up, her eyes narrowing. "Amélie...we never told you Angela's last name."  

"No," she admitted softly, "you did not."  

"Then how -"  

Amélie looked up at her, and Emily was struck by the pain in her eyes. "I promise I will tell you...but I must speak to her first. Some secrets are not mine to give away."  

Emily considered that, then nodded as she slipped the envelope into her pocket. "I'll hold you to that."  


After Emily left the cabin to drive back to London, Amélie had tried to calm her nerves over how Dr. Ziegler would react to the letter by asking Lena to join her for a run in the woods. 

They'd made a long circuit of the land around the cabin, including a brief chase up and along the streambed, then found themselves wrestling and playing together in the grass of the cabin's front lawn. 

Even in her wolf form Lena was quick and flexible, but Amélie had strength and size on her side, and it wasn't long before she had Lena solidly pinned. Licking at her muzzle and putting a little play bite at the side of her throat, she gave a pleased wurf as Lena whined softly beneath her jaw. 

Breathing heavily as she let herself reassume her human form, Amélie waited for Lena to shift as well, then leaned down to kiss her softly.  

She didn't feel the burning need that had slowly been slaked over the last few days, but the lingering effects of her heat made Amélie very aware of Lena's scent, of the smooth firmness of muscle beneath her fingertips, and the little hitch in her breathing. 

Lena's eyes were shining when the kiss broke, fingers slipping down to rest at her hips. "Fancy a shower, Lady?" 

"Perhaps," Amélie admitted as her eyes drifted to the lingering mark Emily had left against Lena's neck. "Would you be joining me?" 

"Sure." Lena winked, then tightened her arms around them and rolled hard to the side until she had landed on top, Amélie giving a surprised cry as she ended up pinned beneath her. "If you can catch up!"  

Lena scrambled to her feet and ran for the cabin, Amélie following the trail of giggling laughter as they went inside. 

After their shower and a nap, Amélie had decided to stay in bed while Lena went to grab them some water, but mischief was dancing in her eyes when she returned.  

Lena smiled to her as she placed a pair of bottles on the nightstand, her voice deceptively bland. "Hey, Lady, could I try something?"  

Amélie sat up in bed, raising an eyebrow. "What, exactly?"  

"I wanted to see if I can change out of my wolf if I'm not sitting or lying down."  

Amélie blinked. "Very well. But what do you need my permission for?"  

Rather than answering, Lena knelt down on the floor, and a moment later bounded up in her wolf, curling into Amélie's lap atop the sheets, then put her forepaws against Amélie's shoulders, her body rippling and changing until Lena grinned at her, arms laced around her neck and straddling her lap.  

"Because I've been wanting to try that for ages!


Despite how badly Emily wanted to just drive straight to Angela Ziegler's clinic and beg, borrow, or steal her away to have a look at Amélie, there were still things that needed doing at The Howl, particularly ordering supplies for the brewery and kitchen.  

She'd finished most of the ordering and was working on her office computer with her back to the door, getting ready to start approving time sheets and running payroll when she heard the sharp click of the her door being locked, and the thump of cowboy boots hitting her desk. 

"I don't know if I'm supposed to say 'Congratulations' or 'What the HELL', Annie." 

Emily sighed with irritation as she turned around. "Boots off my desk, please?"  

Jesse smirked as he tipped back his hat. "Not until you tell me which one I ought to use."  

"I suppose 'congratulations' would be the most appropriate." Emily straightened up in her char, leaning forward just a bit. "What gave me away?"  

Jesse slid his boots off the desk as promised, leaning back in the chair until it threatened to tip over. "Aside from that little bow in your walk when you came in? I'd noticed another scent on you the last few times you went up to your cabin...then it went away for a few weeks before comin' back again. Like you'd been meeting someone who went out of town, maybe, or had to take a trip?"  

Emily nodded, gesturing for him to go on. 

Jesse's eyes were thoughtful, but free of accusation. "I knew you'd never fool around on Lena. You two mean too much to each other. But I started thinking that maybe something else was going on. Tracer mentioned she had another friend who helped her out with how to hunt, but never used a name - just kept calling her 'Lady'. So I started putting things together..." His mouth turned up into a knowing smirk."...and now I can smell both of 'em on you so thick I could cut it with a knife." 

Emily sighed, smiling despite the way her gut had clenched when Jesse had laid out his case. "You've got the general idea, at least."  

Jesse nodded, letting the legs of his chair come back to the floor. "So, why ain't you brought this Lady around? Worried we'd scare her off?"  

Emily shook her head with a regretful sigh. "No, honestly, I would love to have her come in... but it's a bit... complicated."  

The smile disappeared off Jesse's face. "Exactly how complicated are we talkin' about?"  

Emily slumped back in her chair, pinching the bridge of her nose. "She makes Lena's situation look painfully straightforward."  

"...aw, shit." Jesse looked up from beneath the brim of his hat. "How bad?" 

Emily's mouth felt like it was full of sand, and she needed to swallow twice before she could try to speak. "When you were a Hunter, did you ever hear of a pack called the Dameblanche?

"Dameblanche?" Jesse's eyes had gone wide, the color draining from his face. "The DameblancheAre you seriously tellin' me...?" 

Emily couldn't help the nervous giggle that slipped from her lips, or the way her voice wavered. "That's our Lady." 

"Oh, shitfire," Jesse drawled, his voice still full of disbelief. "Annie, she's a ghost! Every Hunter gets set on her trail as an initiation because nobody can find her. Most expect she's been dead for thirty years!" 

Emily sighed. "I can assure you, she's very much alive." 

"Emily..." Jesse straightened in his chair, and for once he actually looked the part of an experienced alpha and Hunter, rather than the affable, easygoing 'aw-shucks' bartender. "You realize you just signed your own death warrant? Yours, hers, and Lena's."  

Emily felt herself sitting just a bit taller in an instinctive response to his challenge, keeping her gaze locked and level with his. "I signed it the moment I didn't walk out of the Council archives and tell everyone I could find about where to find her. I signed it the moment I decided that protecting Lena was more important than reporting her for being turned. I signed it every day I've spent since, and I am still here. Because it was the right thing to do then, and it is the right thing to do now - and when I prove that she is innocent and give Amélie her life back, I will take both of them home and do everything I can to keep them safe and happy, but we can't let her keep living like a ghost, constantly one step from disaster. Even if I didn't love her, and I - we - do, no one should have to live like that." 

Emily realized she'd risen half way out of her chair as she spoke, and she forced herself to relax and sit back down, looking away taking a deep breath to help herself calm down. "If you want to walk out of here and report me - report her - I can't stop you. If you want to forget this conversation ever happened and go on as before, I will honor that." She met Jesse's eyes again, and reached out her hand. "But if you still trust me - if you believe in me...you're one of the first and dearest friends I made when I left home, and I could use your help." 

Jesse looked into her eyes, silently testing her resolve, and then slid back into the chair, letting out a huffing breath. "You are either the bravest woman I ever met, or the absolute batshit craziest." Emily couldn't help but smile at that, catching the twinkle in his eyes. "An' I guess I'm crazy too, because I'm gonna put my ass on the line right there with ya. Again."  

Emily left her chair to seize him in a hug, nearly sending them both flying as the chair threatened to tip over. "Thank you, Jesse. Thank you so much."  

Jesse pushed himself out of the chair as he returned the hug, standing them both up to make sure they wouldn't fall. "Hell, Emily, it ain't like you didn't take a chance on me." He gave her one more good squeeze, then let her go with a little grin. "So - seein' as we're both neck deep in shit now, you got a plan to start wadin' our way out?"  

Emily giggled from the sheer relief. "We need to prove, medically, that Amélie's not - and never has been - Feral. After I get done with making sure you lot won't burn the place down while I'm busy, my next stop is Angela's clinic."  

Jesse considered that. "Makes sense...but why is she gonna help instead of lockin' you up in her office and callin' Ree to come arrest your ass? Again."  

Emily smiled. "I have a letter of introduction."  

"...excuse me?" 


Angela decided to give herself the luxury of a nice hot cup of coffee before her last appointment of the day.  

It really hadn't been a bad start to her week, all things considered. Two prenatal visits, a few vaccinations, a few patients in need of nothing more than antibiotics or allergy prescriptions, and nothing grave or life threatening.  

It wasn't quite the life she'd planned for herself when she'd decided to go to medical school, but it had been a very satisfying one. Particularly when she got to see patients recovering and going home happy and healthy.  

She sighed blissfully as she finished the last of her cup, then walked down the hall, reaching for the patient file her nurse had placed outside of the exam room. 

Oakley, Emilia Margaret 

That was a bit unexpected. As far as she knew Emily was in perfect health – especially now that they'd finished Lena's exam.  

She flipped open the file, her eyes darting to the note that had been stuck on the top page. Patient called to request consult, asked for confidentiality when I asked for reason. 

She didn't really like walking into an appointment blind, but there didn't seem to be any reason for alarm in any of the basic vitals that had been gathered this afternoon, so Angela closed the file, put on her best 'friendly neighborhood doctor' smile, and rapped on the exam room door before stepping inside. 

"Good afternoon, Emily!" 

Emily stood, offering a hand. "Hello, Angela. How are you?" 

Angela chuckled as she waved Emily to one of the seats next to the exam table, then pulled over her stool. "That's usually my line, but I'm doing very well, thank you." 

"Good, good." Emily sat back, but Angela couldn't help but notice the slightly nervous look in her eyes. "Thank you for squeezing me in today." 

"No trouble," she assured her. "So – you needed a consultation? Is something the matter?" 

Emily seemed be looking for the right way to explain why she had come in, so Angela sat back and waited for her rather than trying to push or rush. "I came in because I have a situation that I may need your help with." 

Angela's eyebrows rose as she straightened up. "It's not anything with Lena, is it? Her last checkup went quite well." 

"No, no," Emily shook her head. "Lena's wonderful. We're doing very well, in fact." 

"Oh, good." Angela leaned forward with a smile. "So – are you taking in strays again?" 

Emily coughed nervously. "Well. Something like that." She reached into her pocketbook, and drew out a paper envelope, handing it over to her. "I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but I would like you to take a look at this before I explain." 

Angela took the letter and turned it over in her hands, running her thumb over where it had been addressed to her. The handwriting was unfamiliar, and she was confused who would ask Emily to deliver a letter to her. Everyone they had in common would have just come themselves if there was an issue that required her attention. 

She turned it over in her hands again before she unfolded the letter with a frown, then gasped as she saw the neatly written names that she had revealed.  

Simon Josef ben Eli Ziegler.  

Anna Lucie bat Sara Ziegler.  

Yonathan Eli ben Simon Ziegler.  

22/3/1948 - A. O. 

Angela's hands shook as she read the names again, but they hadn't changed, and her voice was barely a whisper when she spoke. "Who gave you this?" 

"A... friend." Emily coughed nervously, but Angela barely noticed. "She's been staying at my cabin, and she needs your help." 

Angela looked up from the paper and into Emily's eyes. "Your friend has black hair, fair skin, and hazel eyes. When she shifts, her fur is white, and her eyes are gold." 

Emily's eyes widened in shock. "How did you know that?" 

Angela held the letter up instead of giving Emily an answer. "She wrote this?"  

Emily nodded. "I watched her do it." 

"Why?" 

Emily shifted from side to side in the chair. "She's afraid of being recognized if she came to the clinic herself, and I wasn't sure if I could ask for you to come to the cabin with me without an explanation."  

Angela frowned as she considered that, her eyes falling back to the letter again. "She needs my help?" 

Emily's voice was as certain as she had ever heard. "Yes." 

Angela smoothed the paper again, folding it into quarters before putting it into her pocket. "Then we need to go." 

Emily stood. "Can you bring your bag? And everything you'd need to perform the same blood, urine, and DNA tests you used to show that Lena wasn't Feral?" 

Angela's eyes widened, and for a moment she wanted to ask if Emily could possibly be serious, but she stopped herself before she asked a foolish question. "I'll need a few minutes to get a few things together." 


Fari - I have to see a patient who needs a house call because she's not up to driving. Can I get a rain check on dinner? 

Angela read the message over again, biting her bottom lip as she debated whether she should add anything else before hitting send. She trusted Emily, and despite the risk she would give her the benefit of the doubt. If she claimed 'Lady' wasn't Feral...Angela was going to trust that judgement.  

The phone buzzed in her hand, and she looked down at the reply. 

That's fine – things have been a bit hectic here, too. Everything OK? 

Nothing fatal, Angela replied, but probably time consuming. Tests... 

Fareeha's reply came back almost immediately. Oh, one of those. >_< Good luck... 

Angela slipped the phone back into her pocket with a sigh, eyes glancing to the side as Emily turned the wheel to take the offramp and begin the final leg of their journey to the cabin on the country roads.  

Emily had spent the first half hour or so of their trip explaining how Lena and she had met 'Lady' at her cabin, sharing stories about some of their experiences together and keeping the topic light before she'd lapsed into silence to focus on the roads. 

Angela could tell Emily was leaving things out of her explanation, but decided not to press. It was likely better for all of them in the end. Being able to claim she was unaware of the full situation, that she had just been called on to help a woman in need... well, if worst came to worst, not knowing might just save her from the backlash.      

Not to mention, Angela thought to herself with a tired smile, that going in cold allows me to form my own impartial opinion on the matter.  

But of course she wasn't going in cold at all, really. 

Angela could tell Emily wanted to know how she'd known some of the details of this woman she had never met, but she couldn't explain that secret yet. 

Not until she'd spoken with Amélie, and made certain it was truly her. 

When Emily pulled up to the cabin, Lena and a taller woman were standing by the cabin's front door, waiting for them.  

"If you want to get out and grab your bag," Emily suggested, "and then I can park in the carport while they show you in?" 

Angela nodded, then stepped out, collecting her 'bag' (really it was more like a toolbox) and heading towards the cabin. 

Both women were dressed fairly casually. Lena in a baggy T-shirt that had likely been Emily's originally over a pair of shorts, while the other woman was in a pair of capri pants and a sleeveless blouse, her dark hair collected into a ponytail that spilled down her shoulder, and unlike Lena her ears and tail were hidden.  

She's older, obviously, but the eyes...the shape of her jaw...I think it's really her.  

Despite the letter, part of her hadn't quite believed it could possibly be true, but Angela had to accept the evidence of her own eyes, no matter how unexpected it was. 

"So," Lena asked as Angela came closer, "do you two want some privacy?" 

"I think that would be best," Angela agreed. "Is there a room I could use to perform the examination?" 

"The guest bedroom has a door," Amélie replied. "I do not mind if Emily and Lena wait in the living room." 

Angela considered that, then nodded. "Lena, would you please explain to Emily that the two of you cannot come in until I finish speaking with my patient?" 

"Yeah," Lena agreed, "OK..." 

Angela gestured towards the door with her free hand, trying to keep her nervousness out of her voice. "Lead on, please." I hope that I'm not making an incredible mistake. 

Amélie went quiet again as she lead the way inside and to the guest room, waiting for Angela to put her medical kit on the bed and unpack a few things before she said anything else. 

Angela had just finished arranging the instruments and notepad she'd need for the initial history and exam to her satisfaction when Amélie finally spoke, and her soft words hit Angela like a sledgehammer. 

"You have your grandfather's eyes."  

Chapter Text

Angela felt her heart skip as she was compared to her grandfather, and it was only thanks to her years of experience as a doctor that she was able to keep her composure, though it was a moment before she trusted herself to speak. 

"Thank you. I... inherited most of his notes and private files from my parents, after their deaths."  

Amélie nodded as she sat down on the edge of the guest bed, "I had hoped you might... your grandfather took very good notes, though he had to keep them locked up. Your father was just beginning to study medicine, the last time I saw him. Your grandparents...your father...I owe your family a great deal." 

Angela smiled to Amélie as she took a pen from her pocket and picked up her notebook. "From what I learned, his papers on your childhood and adolescent years was the first real modern medical study of its kind with a young were."  

Amélie nodded. "He never made it a condition of staying there, but I felt it was a way I could help. To give something back." Her face fell as her voice grew quiet. "I am sorry I was not there to mourn with your parents when he passed. That I was not there for you... I had no idea Yonathan had a daughter."  

Angela was struck by the pain and guilt in Amélie's eyes. "I don't hold it against you, Amélie. I... I didn't even know you were real until I read the journals. I thought you were a bedtime story my grandfather had invented. 'The little wolf princess'..." She shook her head. "I still have a hard time believing I am here speaking with you, if I'm honest." 

Amélie laughed softly. "I was never a princess... but I feel just as strange, if it helps." 

"It does," Angela smiled before clearing her throat and turning to a blank page, "So. I want to gather some basic information...can you tell me when you last had a proper physical?"  

"1968..." Amélie offered after a moment's thought. "I think." 

Angela's eyes went wide, "That's... oh, we are going to give you a complete workup." 


Angela spent almost an hour and a half collecting the rest of her medical history from the time she'd left the Zieglers to the modern day, keeping her questions carefully professional.  

Amélie appreciated that care, even if it lead to occasionally awkward moments. 

"I have to ask about the scars on your arm." Angela reached out to carefully run a finger over the long-healed wounds, jotting down a few notes to describe their location and appearance, "Can you tell me what happened?" 

Amélie fought the urge to tuck her arms together to conceal the scarring. "I fought with the man who was to be my husband. At one point, I had my hand around his neck and was pinning him to the wall. Choking him. He clawed at my arm, trying to make me release him, but I hung on until I was certain he had passed out...and then I ran." 

Angela stared at the gouges in her arm, clearly imagining the fight and its aftermath. "You ran like that? In your wolf form?" 

Amélie nodded. "For several hours." 

Angela sighed. "I don't suppose you did any kind of wound care." 

She shrugged. "I did my best to keep it clean, and I bandaged it as best I could, later." I had other priorities at the time...and a feral would not have treated it at all. 

Angela glowered at her before she slipped back into her medical training, her voice clipped and businesslike. "Have you suffered any loss of functionality? Is there any discomfort? Was there infection?" 

"Nothing significant now," Amélie answered, "but I did have some pain and numbness for a time. It healed well enough, and there was no infection." 

"You and I have very different versions of well enough," Angela grumbled, "but I am glad it has healed...and I am sorry about the cause."  

Amélie looked away from her, unable to face those all too familiar eyes until she could take a moment to settle her painful memories. "Thank you."  

"So..." Angela put her pad down. "I would normally ask questions about common Feral symptoms, now, but given the circumstances I would rather leave those for the end of your exam. Am I reasonable to suspect you have been sexually active of late?" 

Amélie could feel the tips of her ears burning. "Yes, that is correct."  

Angela's eyes flicked to the door. "One, or both of them?" 

"Both," Amélie admitted with a hint of a smile as she reached up to lightly touch the mark at the back of her neck. "Yes." 

Angela pinched the bridge of her nose with exasperation. "I don't know if I want to congratulate you or kick them."  

Amélie couldn't help her laugh. "I understand Emily is...something of a headache for you in that regard." 

"She is my friend," Angela said primly, "and she's done a great deal for many who needed a safe place and a kind ear. But I do occasionally wish she would slow down." Angela shook her head, then stood and went to pick up a vacuum sample tube and a small cup with a screw on lid. "Moving along, would you prefer to start with a urine sample, or blood...?" 

Amélie considered that for a moment before answering the question with one of her own. "Do you mind if I take a moment to speak with them?" 

Angela shook her head. "No, that's fine." 

Amélie reached for the urine sample cup. "I have not told them about your family. I wished to ask your permission first." 

"I appreciate that. But if you would like to tell Emily and Lena I can hardly object." Angela seemed to look straight through her, and it made a shiver run up her spine. "You've trusted them so much already...and as I said before, they're my friends too." 

Amélie nodded, leaving the door open as she walked back to the living room. Lena was sitting on the couch, staring at a book that sat open on the coffee table, while Emily had gone into the kitchen to work on something for dinner. 

Lena's head snapped up as she entered the living room, her eyes flicking past her to look for Angela. "All done?" 

"No," Amélie shook her head and held up the specimen cup, "but I need to give her a urine sample. I thought I would let you both know she'll be drawing blood, afterwards." 

Lena's ears drooped. "Right. I almost forgot about that, first time she saw me." She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, obviously trying to settle on what to ask. "How's it going in there?" 

"Well enough." Amélie walked to the couch and sat down, putting the cup on the coffee table. "How is it going out here?" 

Lena shrugged as she slumped against her. "Nervous, honestly. This is the right thing – I know it is – but so much could go wrong..." 

"This, at least, will be fine." Amélie lightly kissed the top of Lena's head, running her cheek against the floppy tipped ear. "I have nothing to fear from any of these tests, or from Doctor Ziegler." 

"So you've said." Emily had come out of the kitchen, and when Amélie tipped her head back to look at her, she leaned down to offer a kiss. "I heard you mention having to give her a sample. Need anything to drink?" 

Amélie considered the offer, then dismissed it with a shrug. "I do not think I will need the help, but I appreciate the thought."  

"OK," Emily murmured, reaching out to run her hand through Lena's hair. "I put a chicken stew on. It'll keep until you're ready – and I thought we could at least offer Angela dinner after all this." 

"Very thoughtful of you, ma belle." Amélie paid each of her lovers another kiss, then gently extracted herself from Lena and picked the cup back off the table. "I think we will be done soon – with this, at least." 

Emily nodded. "I don't know if she can actually get tests results here – I'm assuming not – but Lena and I can take her back, and then call you when we know more."  

Amélie disappeared into the bathroom, and before she turned on the fan so she could have a bit more privacy as she attempted to fill the container, she caught Emily asking Lena for a hand cleaning up the kitchen. 

Then she took a breath, and did her best to concentrate on the task at hand. 


Angela held out a bag for Amélie to place her sample container in, then carefully sealed it before writing "PATIENT O." on the label. "Good. We'll need to do your blood draw, I'd like to inspect you in your wolf form, and we'll finish with the interview questions." 

Amélie nodded. "Emily is making dinner - it will be ready when we're finished." 

"That's very nice of her." Angela opened the sterile package for the winged blood draw set and vacutainers. "Do you prefer your left or right arm for the blood draw?" 

"Right, please." Amélie extended her arm, and within a few moments Angela had found a vein and inserted the needle, filling several color coded tubes for the labs and panels she would need to run. 

"That...will do it." Angela carefully removed the needle, resisting the urge to cover the draw site with gauze so she could confirm Amélie's body healed as it should, then bagged all of the blood samples appropriately and put the sharps waste into another baggie that she could dispose of properly back at the clinic. "Normally I'd also recommend you get plenty of meat and fluids tonight, but in the case of a were patient that's rather redundant." 

Amélie laughed softly, conceding the point before she stood and began to undress. "I suppose so." 

Once Amélie had finished changing into her wolf, Angela did a careful examination of her skin and coat, then moved to taking notes on the health of her ears, eyes, teeth, and gums.  

"Everything looks good," Angela smiled down to her waiting patient, "I just need to listen to your heart and examine the pads of your feet. Would you like to get up on the bed for that?" 

Amélie nodded with a bob of her muzzle, then bounded up onto the bed before plopping down onto her side.  

"Very good, thank you!" Angela finished the final practical areas of the exam, then flipped back to the questions she'd normally ask to help check for Feral symptoms before she turned away from the bed for politeness' sake. "You can get dressed again, now." 

Once Amélie had slipped her clothes back on, Angela settled on the edge of the bed. "I'm going to finish with a few questions. Please keep in mind that these are all a standard form, and that I would ask them of any new patient regardless of concerns over their status." 

Amélie nodded, closing her eyes before taking a deep breath. "I understand, doctor. Please go on." 

Angela clicked her pen. "Have you ever felt the urge to bite another were or human, outside of a mating display?" 

"No." 

"Have you ever attacked a human without provocation?" 

"No." 

"Have you ever attacked another Were without provocation?" 

Amélie swallowed hard, and her eyes fluttered as she attempted to control her expression. "Yes." 

Angela could swear she felt the air thicken at that word. "I'm going to need you to explain that, please." 

Amélie had one hand around her wrist, and she looked down to stare at her fingers as she spoke. "After I escaped my fiancée, he went to the council to declare that I had become feral. Because I was attempting to...I was..." Amélie had to stop and take a shuddering breath before she could try to speak again. "I knew that appearing to be feral would give my pack - my family - their best chance to survive, and not be punished for my actions. So when they sent Hunters after me...when members of my own pack tried to find me...I did not wait for them to attack first. I did not let them attempt to speak with me. I did not try to kill or maim...but I did attack them, and I did hurt them." 

Angela shivered. "I...see."  She put her notepad away, and gave Amélie a long look. "I can only imagine how difficult and traumatic that was. But given the circumstances...as you said, it was a conscious choice, and not an easy one. I do not believe it would be considered symptomatic by anyone who understood the full situation." 

Amélie bit her lip and looked away. "Thank you, Angela. It...I am not proud of what I did." 

"I wish I could give you some absolution...but I can't, really. All I can tell you is that you were doing everything you could to survive, Amélie...and you are still here." 

"Merci," Amélie whispered, then turned back as she dashed a few tears away. "Was there anything else you needed to ask?" 

Angela shook her head, and started to repack her kit. "You have already answered any questions I might have. The rest is just a matter of running the labs when I get back." 

For a few minutes, the only sound was the soft rattle and clink as she finished packing. 

Finally, Amélie rounded the bed and reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. "Would you like to eat before you go back to town?" 

Angela smiled as best as she could, the weight of the situation starting to press down on her shoulders. "That sounds lovely." 


Amélie was impressed at how Emily and Lena kept conversation moving as they ate around the cabin's dinner table, never quite touching the heavy subjects lurked around them. 

"...and Jesse just gives me this ridiculous smile and says 'I suppose I might have miscounted!'" 

Angela laughed at the image of a furious Lena standing around with an armful of plastic eggs. "Oh, that does sound like him." 

Emily nodded. "He's very clever. It's a good thing he's such a good bartender, or I'd be more than a bit tempted to strangle him, some days..." 

"It does seem that he has his moments," Amélie agreed. "But from what you have told me, he also seems to be a very loyal friend." 

"One of the best." Emily finished her bowl and set it aside. "So – speaking of loyal friends..." 

Angela raised her eyebrow as she looked over to Amélie. "Are we friends, now?" 

"I hope we will be." Amélie felt a flutter of nerves in her stomach, and tried to answer Angela's dry amusement in kind. "After all, you've seen me naked twice today." 

When they had all finished laughing, Amélie grew more serious. "It is a...complicated story. I had never actually met Angela before today, but...I knew her grandparents very, very well." 

Lena took a sharp breath as a realization hit her. "OhhhYou said that after your family was attacked...you stayed with a doctor, during and after the war. Was that...?" 

Angela nodded. "My grandfather helped many refugees who reached Switzerland during the war. I don't know how he became familiar with weres, but he and his wife took Amélie in at the request of the woman who brought her to their home." 

Amélie took up the thread again. "Simon and Anna did not have any children at the time – your father wasn't born until much later – so they treated me like their own. Even after I began to return to my pack to learn our ways and master my gifts, they were like my second family."  

Emily looked at Angela as if she'd never seen her before. "Did they know about....what happened to you?" 

Amélie shrugged. "They knew of what my pack was accused of, but never believed it. Anna...passed away before I was engaged, and by the time I discovered the truth about him, I had already moved back to France." 

Angela nodded. "My grandfather wrote journals about his experiences in the war and with helping to raise Amélie, but the last entry about her was about receiving a letter where you said you were concerned about getting married." She looked over, and Amélie felt a pang at the concern in her eyes, as if Simon was looking at her through his descendant. "He hoped that one way or another, you would find happiness." 

Amélie looked over at Emily, then Lena and reached out to take their hands. "...I think, at last, I have." 

Once they put their dishes away, Emily went to bring Oliver around to drive Angela and Lena back with her, while Angela ducked into the bedroom to get her kit, and Amélie followed her in, closing the door behind her. 

Angela turned as the door shut, her expression shifting from surprise to concern. "Was there something else, Amélie?" 

Amélie nodded. "I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry for dragging you into this Angela - I wish I did not have to depend once more on your family's kindness and skills, but...."  

Angela shook her head. "Anyone you asked for aid would have likely called the council and then spend your exam delaying your exit until the hunters arrived," Angela sighed as she snapped the latches on her kit shut. "By asking me, at least you can get your results and avoid being reported."  

Amélie nodded in agreement, "You are correct, except for one thing."  

Angela turned to face her with a frown. "I'm not sure I understand."  

"I want you to report me."  

Chapter Text

Lena couldn't help a yawn as she walked into work. Normally getting up early was easy for her, but with everything going on of late, sleep was a bit of a luxury. Getting up at 4am to slip out of a warm bed with Emily was a real challenge, and with worries about Amélie on her mind, too... 

She shook her head as she went to make herself a strong cup of tea. Even if she wasn't completely awake yet, getting her van ready and taking care of her morning route was second nature to her by now. Her body could stumble along until her brain caught up.

"Oi, Oxton! Boss wants to see you!" 

Or not... 

"Right," Lena called back as she grabbed her tea. "Be there in a second!" 

Her stomach flipped as she headed for the office. Was something wrong? Did someone put in a complaint? She couldn't imagine anyone on her route being upset but maybe she'd done something wrong? She was always careful with her letters and parcels... 

Lena came to the open door of the supervisor's office and knocked on the doorframe. "You needed to see me?" 

"Oh, good, yes." Her supervisor sat up at his desk and gestured her to come in. "Shut the door behind you?" 

Lena closed the door behind her and settled into the chair facing the desk, trying not to look too nervous. "Is something wrong, sir?" 

Her supervisor adjusted his glasses and sat up a little straighter, concern in his eyes. "Actually, Lena, that's what I wanted to ask you." 

Lena blinked. "I'm sorry?" 

The supervisor tilted his head slightly. "I've noticed you've been using more of your vacation lately - taking quite a bit of personal time." 

Oh. Lena coughed. "Well, I mean, I am entitled to it...." 

"Of course, yes," her boss agreed. "It's just that you've never taken so much time off before. For most people this isn't too unusual, but you almost never take holidays. In the five years I've been in charge of this office, I think I could count the amount of days you'd requested off on one hand, and now you've requested at least a few days or traded shifts for a free weekend almost every month." He leaned forward, his brow crinkling. "So...I really thought I should ask if everything is OK?" 

Lena almost wanted to laugh, but she knew that wouldn't be the right way to handle things. Well, you see, I've been a werewolf for half of that time, and I finally found out that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, got a girlfriend, proved I could control myself to other werewolves, and then we met Lady and you would not believe her story if I told you... 

She took a sip of her tea to give herself a chance to calm down her racing thoughts, and then decided to go with the simplest explanation. "Well...the long and short of it is that I've been in a relationship that's been getting pretty serious over the last year, and we've been wanting to spend more time together."  

The supervisor sat back with a knowing smile. "Ahhh, I see. Who's the lucky girl?"  

Lena grinned. "Her name's Emily. She owns a pub not far from my apartment - I wandered in one night and we hit it off straight away. She's smart, charming, and has a huge heart. Loves to go camping with a couple of our other friends." Like our other girlfriend, but I think I'd better keep that under wraps.  

"That explains some of those requests then. Still - keep in mind that even with all of your banked time there's limits to how much you can take off." 

Lena reached up to scratch at the back of her neck. "Actually, on that subject...I had thought about possibly stepping back to part time - maybe twenty five or thirty hours a week, possibly even twenty. Emily's been asking if we might do a bit of traveling soon, and that would make it a bit easier for everyone involved."  

The supervisor considered that for a moment, then nodded. "I hate to lose you as a full timer, but you deserve to live a little, Lena. You're young, you're in love...and you only live once, eh?" 

Lena grinned. "So they tell me." 

"Right – I'll draw up the paperwork and we can adjust your schedule starting next week." 


Angela's stomach flipped as she settled into her office chair, opening up the envelope to review the results from the labs she'd sent out for analysis. She didn't really expect the results to differ from what she'd received from the ones she'd run in her own office, but she had to have independent confirmation – there was no room for error. 

She pulled the results from the envelope, closed her eyes for a moment in a silent prayer, then let herself start reading the cover letter. 

  

Lab Ref: 569113 

Patient: Doe, Jane 

Ordering Physician: Ziegler, Angela 

 

Summary of results:  

CBC, Platelet, No Differential....No Abnormalities Found 

Fe-Factor ….Negative 

F-Reactive Protein....Negative 

ALT SGPT....Normal 

Creatinine (Serum)….Normal 

Urinalysis ....No Abnormalities Found 

Angela let out a relieved sigh, then flipped through the more detailed results, making sure everything looked good and reviewing the exact ranges for some of Amélie's results, then dropped the papers back down to her desk before unlocking the drawer she'd placed her 'Patient O' file into, placing it on her desk beside the independent labs. 

"Well," Angela sighed, "I suppose that means it's time."  

She stared at the phone on her desk, her mind wandering back to the cabin. 


Angela stared at Amélie in disbelief. "Excuse me?" 

Amélie reached out to take her hand. "I cannot ask you to lie for me, Angela." 

"But if I report you..." Angela swallowed at the sudden lump in her throat. To unexpectedly be given a connection to the family she had lost, and then to hear this... "Amélie, if I report you, there's a real risk that you could be killed." 

"Forcing you to cover up your involvement would be just as dangerous," Amélie countered. "Perhaps even more, because you are not a were, Angela, and the council is not stupid." 

Angela grimaced, but she knew Amélie had a point.  

"If you were caught in a lie over this, your career would be over – and quite possibly your life. Lena may think the rulings she has seen from the London Council are harsh, but we both know they have the power to do far worse." Amélie shook her head. "I could not do this to you." 

"Emily and Lena..." 

"Have risked enough," Amélie said softly. "And they know what I am asking you." 

"So...you have a plan?" Angela moved her kit so she could sit on the bed. "If that's the case...what do you want me to do? Run to the council as soon as I have your results?" 

Amélie tilted her head slightly. "How long will your tests take?" 

"A day for my own results. Perhaps four if I send samples out for verification." 

Amélie nodded. "A week, then. So...one week, and then I would ask you to speak to one council member in particular." 


Angela bit her lip. Even knowing that Amélie had a plan...even knowing that Emily and Lena had agreed to go along with it, this could go wrong so easily. But she had made a promise...and she had a duty. Amélie was right about that. 

She picked up the phone, and dialed. 

"Londinium Exchange," a woman answered after the second ring, "how may I direct your call?" 

"Good afternoon, I need to speak with Mr. Wilhelm." Angela was amazed at how calm she sounded. 

"May I ask who is calling?" 

"Doctor Angela Ziegler." 

"Of course, one moment." 

Cheerfully bland hold music played for a few bars, and then cut out as the line was picked up. "Mr. Wilhelm's office - this is Brigitte." 

Angela looked down at the files on her desk, then spoke. "Hello, Brigitte. I need to speak to Elder Wilhelm as soon as possible." 

 She'd swear there was a bit of surprise in the assistant's voice, but she covered it well with her usual professionalism. "Of course. I can get you in at...3:30?" 

Angela pulled out her phone, checked her calendar, and then sent a text message with her appointment time. "That would be fine." 


Emily checked her phone, then looked over to where Amélie was kneeling on the floor of her storage unit, loading up her suitcase. "We've got a time. Are you absolutely certain about this, love?" 

Amélie stopped, a blouse in her hands. "Even if I was not, there is no going back now." 

"I suppose that's so..." Emily knelt behind her, and reached out to wrap her in a hug. "Lena's going to meet us as soon as she gets out of work."  

Amélie leaned back into the embrace. "Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for believing in me." 

Emily chuckled as she pressed a kiss against her neck. "Thank you for letting us help." 

"Your friend will meet us there?" 

Emily nodded. "Mm. He'd already guessed...well. Not about your, ah....problem, but that we'd gotten involved with you."  

Amélie tensed under her arms. "Did you tell him...?" 

Emily kept her voice soft and reassuring. "I had to, but he's on board. I told him there's more to it than what meets the eye." 

"I'm almost finished here."  Amélie did her best to relax, and Emily squeezed her just a little tighter. "We should go, then?" 

"When you're ready." 

Amélie laughed softly. "I don't know if I am ready for any of this...but we should go." 

They shared one last kiss, and then Emily stood so Amélie could finish her packing. "OK." 


3:30 came all too soon. 

Angela had decided on a cup of herbal tea instead of her usual after lunch coffee, but her nerves were still jangling as she stepped out of her car and walked into the council's offices.  

Brigitte was waiting for her inside, and after a short exchange of pleasantries and a quick trip through the security desk, Angela found herself in Reinhardt's office, politely declining a cup of coffee or tea before Brigitte left the room, closing the door behind her. 

"This is unexpected," Reinhardt observed as he considered her from behind his antique desk. "I'm happy to see you Doctor, but what can I do for you this afternoon?" 

Angela had taken a seat, but kept herself carefully straight in the chair. "I need to report contact with a were who has been accused of being Feral - and that medically, I feel this accusation was unfounded." 

Reinhardt's eyebrows rose in surprise, and for a moment it seemed like everything seemed to stop, even the faint noises from the outer office going silent before the elder werewolf slowly leaned forward. "I...see. I appreciate that you came here to notify me Doctor." He brought his hands together atop the desk. "When you say medically unfounded...I take it you have examined them?" 

Angela nodded. "I performed a full physical, ran my own blood and urine tests, and provided samples to an independent lab to verify." 

Reinhardt nodded thoughtfully. "All negative, I assume." 

Angela felt a rush of relief that she wasn't being questioned about the time needed to get those results. "That is correct, yes." 

"We have not found it necessary to declare a were Feral in several years," Reinhardt said slowly, "and I am not aware of anyone making a formal accusation recently." 

Angela brought her hands together to keep them from betraying her nervousness. "The patient who contacted me was accused under another council's jurisdiction, but has been living near London – which is why I am coming to you." 

Reinhardt considered her for a long moment. "Ordinarily, this would be a matter for a Hunter, but given what you have told me..." He trailed off, then settled back in his chair. "I take it you are in contact with your patient, so as their doctor, how do you think it best for me to proceed?" 

 Angela smiled. "If you are willing, I can make arrangements to have them meet you in an established sanctuary." 

 Reinhardt's smile was guarded, but the warmth in his intact eye was genuine. "Your clinic, I presume?" 

"No," Angela shook her head. "I would like to have you meet them at The Howl." 

Reinhardt gave her a raised eyebrow, his expression turning slightly suspicious. "They are normally closed today." 

Angela stood up, gesturing to the door. "That is why I would like you to go there with me now." 

"Doctor," Reinhardt rumbled as he stood, "I am beginning to feel a bit maneuvered." 

Angela shrugged, conceding the point. "I don't think my patient would object to Brigitte coming with you, if you like, but given the situation, I am sure you can understand why I felt it best to make as many arrangements in advance as I could." 

"I suppose I can, yes." Opening the door to his office, Reinhardt gestured for Angela to precede him. "In that case, we'll gather Brigitte, and be on our way." 


Amélie wished she could enjoy this more.  

She'd finally made it into The Howl, surprised to find that it wasn't terribly far from the storage facility, and the pub was as charming as she'd imagined from Emily and Lena's stories.  

Even with the business closed it wasn't hard to imagine the tables occupied and the sounds of conversations filling the room. She looked over to where the dart boards and billiards tables sat, and smiled at the idea of watching Lena playing while she had a drink.  

Then she thought of how much would have to go right to allow that, and let out a soft sigh as her stomach fell. There is no point in getting your hopes up so quickly. 

"It's gonna be alright," Jesse interrupted her melancholy, his voice making her start. 

Amélie turned to face the bar, her hands clenching reflexively at her sides before she forced them to relax.  

"Sorry," Jesse held up his hands. "Didn't mean to spook ya." He gestured to a pint glass he'd set on the bar. "Figured you might want some water, and then I saw you frettin'. You'll be back here again." 

Amélie gave the bartender a rueful look as she reached for the glass. "I thought Emily had hired a cowboy, not a mind reader." 

Jesse smiled kindly. "Wasn't hard to figure out. I saw how you were lookin' around the place, and how your eyes got tight each time you looked over at the door or spots like the pool tables. You started to get excited, an' then told yourself you shouldn't." 

Amélie looked down into the glass, embarrassed at being so transparent. "Am I so obvious?" 

Jesse shrugged, picking up a glass so he could clean it. "Ain't a matter of being obvious, darlin'. You've had hope yanked out from under you too many damn times. Under the circumstances I don't blame you one bit...but that's also why it's good to have someone to remind you things can be better." 

Amélie looked up at him with thoughtful eyes. "Emily mentioned...you knew who I was." 

Jesse nodded. "Long time ago...I got told to try my hand at findin' the Ghost Wolf. Spent a few years at it and took a look through a lot of old reports. Some reliable, some not so much." 

Amélie considered that as she drained her water. "You never found me." 

Jesse nodded as he put the glass down. "That's true...but I think I learned a few things." 

"Such as...?" 

Jesse doffed his hat, tapping it against his chest. "First was that you hid like no Feral I ever heard of. Most figured you were probably dead, because someone should have found you by then. Second was that when you did get cornered, you didn't try to kill. You didn't try to go after a human. You just did what you needed to get the hell out of there...and disappeared again." 

Amélie looked down at the bar. "I did not want to kill anyone...but I was not always left with a choice." 

"Even so," Jesse said quietly, "you did everything you could - and I never heard of a Feral that would care, especially after bein' gone for so long. So after a time, I let them know there was no sign of the Ghost. Because I figured if you were still out there, you deserved to be left alone." 

Amélie looked into Jesse's eyes, then gave him a grateful nod. "I...appreciate your kindness." 

Jesse returned his hat to his head, and tipped down the brim with one finger. "You're welcome. Now, just try to relax, and don't you worry about a thing." 

"I am not sure I can manage that," Amélie admitted, "but...I will do my best to remember that I am not alone." 

As if to underscore the thought, Emily came out from the back of the pub, with Lena a few steps behind.  

"They're on the way." 

Amélie nodded, and looked around the pub. "Should I stay at the bar, or...?" 

Emily considered that, then took her hand. "Why don't you wait at one of the booths over here? Lena and I can be at the table across from you, just in case." 

Amélie considered that, and nodded. "And if something does go wrong...you could claim to simply be here with Lena to protect your business." 

Emily sighed. "I want to believe that this is going to work – but, yes, you're probably right."  

They settled in to wait, and Amélie's nerves began to build up again. Lena blew a kiss to her, doing her best to look reassuring. Amélie tried to smile back, but the sound of the door opening caught her attention. 

She heard footsteps, but Amélie suddenly felt frozen to the spot, unable to look towards the front of the pub. 

"Hello, Jesse." Angela sounded calm – that had to be a positive sign, didn't it? "Are they here?" 

"Sure are," Jesse replied. "Angie. Sir. Ma'am. She's waiting over at the booths. Doc, maybe you and Miss Brigitte could wait here and I can grab you both something to wet your whistle?" 

She didn't hear the women reply in words, but she heard the sound of stools moving around, and slow, regular footsteps approaching where she was sitting. 

Amélie finally found the strength to stand and turn to face Reinhardt as he approached, feeling her ears flatten as she resisted the urge to run. She had come so far, but it was still a struggle to keep her head high and meet the elder's gaze. 

Reinhardt's expression was confused at first, but as recognition set in he took a sharp breath, his nostrils flaring and eyebrows raising with surprise before he finally spoke, his hushed voice filled with disbelief. "Amélie...Amélie Orne...is it truly you, child?"  

Amélie swallowed hard, her body tense, her bearing stiff as she nodded to him. "Bonjour, Aîné Wilhelm."  

Reinhardt took a final step towards her, then fell to one knee, bowing his head. "I had never dared to hope that I would see you again, or that I could ask for your forgiveness for how we failed you."

Chapter Text

Emily felt as if she could barely breathe.  She thought she'd figured out almost every likely outcome from revealing Amélie's presence to the elder wolf, ranging from an immediate battle to his enthusiastic agreement to help remove Amélie's Feral status, but she had never even considered the idea of Reinhardt bending a knee and asking for her forgiveness. 

Amélie walked forward to him and slowly sank down onto her knees, putting her hands on his broad shoulders. "No. You do not have my forgiveness, because there is nothing to forgive. You did everything you could, that day. What happened...what followed...none of it was your fault." 

Reinhardt closed his eyes and shook his head. "Dear girl... You are too kind to an old fool." 

Amélie bowed her head and murmured something that Emily couldn't catch in what she realized must have been German, and there was silence for a long moment before someone finally spoke.  

"Elder," Brigitte said softly as she stepped forward, "Reinhardt...what are you doing? This woman...she is a Feral. One of the most notorious Ferals in the last century!"  

Reinhardt opened his eyes, and turned his head until he could look at his assistant with his good eye. "Brigitte..." The warning in his voice made Emily stiffen, but the omega wasn't deterred. 

"You can not seriously be considering harboring a criminal! She's wanted by another council! To help her... if you were proven to have helped her escape, it would end your leadership at the council at the very least and at the very worst it might be the death of you!" Brigitte shook her head, her ears poking through her hair, and Emily suddenly realized that Brigitte wasn't angry, she was scared. "For all we know, this is the were who turned Lena. We never caught her attacker. If this woman was willing to attack others without provocation – why not a human?!" 

Emily heard Lena gasp at the accusation as Amélie stiffened, her ears rigid with shock, but before any of them could speak in her defense, Reinhardt stood, drawing himself up to his full and imposing height. 

"Brigitte, you speak out of turn." 

"I have to!" Brigitte strode up to him, placing her hand against his chest. "Father made me promise to keep you from doing anything foolish. This city needs you! Your friends need you! Beowulfsohn needs you! need you! You are my Alpha, and I would defend you with my life if I have to...but is this one woman worth risking everything? Your pack? The city? Your life?

Reinhardt's face slowly softened from a glower to a touched, tender sort of look as Brigitte spoke, and as she slowly wound down, he reached out to put a hand on her shoulder, silently drawing her focus back to him. "Perhaps one woman is not worth risking my life, or the lives of others in this city. But this is not just about Amélie, Brigitte. This is a matter of honor." 

Brigitte bowed her head with obvious reluctance, taking off her glasses so she could dash tears away from her eyes. "I still think it is foolish...but I understand. Forgive me for my rudeness, Elder." 

"Brave girl." Reinhardt leaned down to place a grandfatherly kiss on the top of her forehead. "Your father would be proud of you, tonight." He huffed a soft laugh. "And likely rather angry with me, but that is how it has always been between us." Turning, he extended a hand to Amélie so she could rise. "You placed your life in our hands twice before, and to my shame, you were abandoned. Please give me the chance to restore the faith that was left broken." 

Amélie stood, holding his meaty hand in both of hers, and bowed her head. "I am not here to run, Elder. I am here to surrender myself to you – and to ask for your help in clearing my name." 

Reinhardt nodded, and gestured to one of the larger tables in the pub proper. "Then come and sit. We will discuss your case – and what may yet be done." His eye shifted to look directly at Emily, and she found herself sitting up a bit straighter in response. "Miss Oakley...if we could trouble you for a round of drinks? I have a feeling we will all need one before we've finished tonight." 

Brigitte rolled her eyes,  regaining a bit of her normal aplomb. "Soft drinks, please. We should save anything else for after we've finished discussing what we are going to do." 

Emily chuckled at the wounded look Reinhardt gave his assistant, and stood up from the booth to head over to the bar. "I'll bring a few pitchers of water to start, and we'll figure out the rest." 

A few minutes later they had all settled at one of The Howl's larger tables, an expectant feeling in the air as looks were exchanged back and forth.  

Finally, Lena cleared her throat. "So...I suppose the first thing to ask is can a Feral ruling be reversed? That's not something that really came up when I was studying." 

Brigitte frowned as she read through the test results and medical records that Angela had brought with her for Reinhardt to review. "Before medical technology gave us ways to properly test and recognize Ferals, rather than waiting for signs to show through behavior or illness, it would have been unheard of."  She held up the summary sheets that showed Amélie's results were clean. "Now...if someone had come to us with an accusation, we'd have ordered these tests and they would have been taken into account – possibly been enough to throw it out had all parties appeared before the council and demonstrated good faith." 

Amélie sighed. "But I did not appear, obviously. The trial was conducted without me." 

Brigitte nodded. "I've heard of a few cases where someone was judged without being present, and the ruling reversed later based on evidence...but unfortunately they were all as a result of posthumous medical testing and autopsy." 

"A solution I should prefer to avoid," Amélie said dryly, but Emily felt her reach for their hands under the table, and when Emily took it, Amélie squeezed tight. 

Reinhardt chuckled. "I quite agree." Turning serious, he stroked his bearded chin. "In this case, we are obviously setting a precedent, and it is possible that we will only be able to have the reversal acknowledged by our council – but I will use what influence I can to have it accepted by others." He looked over to Amélie with concern. "Isengrim is still well respected in Lutetia. He will make it difficult, but if we present this as a fait accompli...he may have no choice but to accept, even if it wounds his pride." 

Emily couldn't help but feel a bit of a chill at those words. 

"I have spent most of my life as a refugee, in one form or another." Amélie looked around the table, a little smile on her face. "If I can live openly in England alone, at least I will be surrounded by my friends." 

Brigitte coughed. "It will take some maneuvering, regardless." She looked over to Reinhardt. "You will need to inform the others you have a suspected Feral in custody. They may ask why you did not involve a Hunter."  

Jesse cleared his throat. "Beggin' your pardon, but given that I'm here...seems to be that y'all did."  

"A technicality," Reinhardt agreed, "but it should suffice." 

Brigitte looked over to Emily and Lena. "We will also need an explanation of just how the two of you are involved..." She blinked in sudden realization. "Wait. She's your 'Lady'?" 

Amélie blushed and nodded, while Lena gave a nervous little laugh. "Well...yeah." 

Brigitte sighed, glowering at Emily. "How do you keep ending up in these situations?!"  

Emily shrugged. "In my defense, we didn't know she was supposedly Feral until well after your visit."  

Lena nodded. "And once we did, well, we started working on how to get things taken care of." 

Reinhardt gave them a speculative look, but thankfully he didn't press on that subject. "Our best course, then, is to take advantage of the 'hard evidence', as they say. Doctor Ziegler's tests, perhaps testimony from McCree, and your own behavior, Amélie." 

That got a round of nods around the table, but Emily had to bring up one other point. "I hate to ask this, but...what if they ask about why Amélie originally attacked her accuser?" She looked to her lover and squeezed her hand tightly. "How much are you comfortable explaining to them?" 

Amélie frowned. "I...will need to consider that." She looked over to Reinhardt. "There are old, old wounds there...and I fear what would happen should they be reopened." 

The elder's eyebrows rose. "Truly?" 

Amélie nodded, and Reinhardt gave her a long look before he spoke again. "I may wish to speak to you about it, privately, but for now...I will consider what options we have."  

"Seein' as that's the case," Jesse spoke up, "ya'll want me to pour a few drinks now?" 

Angela nodded. "I'd certainly appreciate one – my nerves were shot by the time we made it here." 

That got agreement from around the table, and once everyone had a little time to enjoy their beverage of preference, things settled into something close to a pleasant conversation. There was still an underlying tension –  the danger they faced was still real – but reaching at least the beginnings of a plan allowed for all of them to relax a bit, and for things to settle into a bit more casual mode.  

"So...seeing as Lady is technically in custody," Lena asked Reinhardt after she'd drained most of her lager, "can we keep her at the apartment? Like a sort of house arrest? Or do we take her back to the cabin until you give us the OK?" 

Reinhardt shook his head. "I'm sure your intentions are good, little one, but we must be careful about appearances." He looked over to where Amélie was speaking quietly to Angela as she sipped a glass of wine. "I will take your Lady back to my home, and she will stay there as my guest – and under my protection. Even if someone should discover her presence, I have that right. Then, once we have everything prepared... we will produce her for the Council, and give her what justice we can." 

Emily had expected there would be some kind of arrangement like that, but it still gave her a pang of regret, and from the way Lena's face fell, she was sure her girlfriend was having the same thought.  

Reinhardt saw the younger were's reaction and chuckled, leaning to pat her on the shoulder. "Don't worry. As I said - she will be my guest, not my prisoner, and she is welcome to have any visitors she likes." 

Lena beamed. "Well. Guess I'll have to bring groceries over to cook dinner for four, then." She winked Reinhardt. "Or maybe six. Something tells me you have a healthy appetite, Elder Reinhardt." 

Reinhardt slugged back the last of his mug of pilsner and let out a booming laugh. "Hah! It's not me you need to worry about!" He grinned as he clapped Brigitte on the shoulder with his free hand. "This one, now, she could out-devour Logi himself after a day at her forge!" 

Brigitte gave her Elder a long suffering look. "I ate all your weisswurst one time. One! You'll never let me live that down, will you?" 

 Reinhardt just smiled, and as he signaled for Jesse to provide him with a refill, Emily decided to take advantage of an opportunity as she slid a bit closer to Brigitte.  

 "I have to ask," Emily murmured just loud enough for the omega to hear her, "why you backed down after Reinhardt told you it was a matter of honor? Not that I don't appreciate it, but you were...very determined." 

Brigitte sighed. "Someone has to be, when he sets his eyes on a crusade...but one of the oldest and firmest laws of our pack has always been 'Honor Above All Else'. If he feels it is worth risking himself and his status to uphold his honor, I am bound to respect that - and do everything I can to help." She looked down into her glass of water. "I am sorry for some of what I said. If Reinhardt believes Amélie is innocent, and that she did not turn Lena...I owe her an apology." 

"Probably," Emily admitted, "but I think she'll understand where it all came from - and why." She looked over to Amélie and smiled at the sight of her slowly relaxing and becoming more comfortable in the pub, despite everything that swirled around them. "She may have been on the run for a long time, but she would still do anything to protect a packmate." 

Brigitte nodded thoughtfully. "I'll keep that in mind." 


Amélie had to admit that she'd felt a small pang of fear when she'd left the pub without Emily or Lena. Reinhardt had been a perfect gentleman as he escorted her to the back of his Maybach and opened the door for her, but the part of her which had been molded into a constant state of hypervigilance by her years on the run was screaming about the dangerous risk she was taking.  

She had nothing to worry about, of course, and she knew it, but she'd still had difficulty getting comfortable in the luxurious sedan, particularly since Brigitte settled into the other passenger seat while Reinhardt took the wheel.  

They rode in silence much of the way to Limehouse, finally broken by Reinhardt clearing his throat. "I have several guest rooms, but I will need a little time to make one ready for you. It's been some time since I had a visitor who needed to use one. In the meantime, you're welcome to anything you like in my kitchen, or you can wait in the study." 

Amélie nodded. "That is very gracious of you. I will visit the study. I do not...wish to be any trouble." 

She didn't miss Brigitte muttering something under her breath, but she chose to ignore it. The assistant was quite capable of blowing things wide open if she wished to, but seemed willing to support her Alpha, even if she didn't approve of his action. As long as that was the case, Brigitte was welcome to grumble all she liked. 

They finally arrived at a tall old red brick house that stood apart a short distance from its neighbors, with a low wall around the property that stretched back around the garden until it eventually met the winding shore of the canal.  

"There won't be a moonrise for two weeks," Brigitte spoke up as they left the car. "With luck this will be settled by then, but should you need to change, the garden is secure, and there's a gate down to the water – the canal is actually very pleasant to walk along."  

Amélie nodded. "I'm surprised there is...sufficient privacy, this deep into the city." 

Brigitte smiled. "Our neighbors value their privacy. Sir Ian McKellen lives three doors down." 

Amélie blinked. She really had no idea what to say to that, and her surprise must have been obvious from Reinhardt's quiet chuckle.  

The elder stepped to his front door, fishing out keys to unlock it, then pushed the door open to gesture her inside. "The study is upstairs on the second floor, the second door on the left. Feel free to help yourself to anything you like – my home is yours, Amélie, and I swear on my honor and my life that you will be safe here." 

Amélie bowed her head. "Thank you, Elder, for your gracious hospitality and kindness." 

Reinhardt put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "We will speak more later, after you are settled. For now, please, just try to make yourself comfortable, and do not worry about your bag – Brigitte will bring it to your room." 

Amélie needed to make an effort not to give Brigitte a wary look, but she managed. She nodded to Reinhardt, walked to the stairwell, and found the door to the study just where it was supposed to be. She turned the handle, pushed open the door, and froze a few steps into the room when she realized the room was occupied. 

The study was much like one would expect for a house of this age and style, with walls of dark wood paneling, several bookshelves filled with leather-bound volumes, overstuffed furniture, ornate rugs, and an old stone and brick fireplace that had a warm blaze cracking and popping in the hearth.  A few hurricane lanterns which had been converted into electric light fixtures were the one nod to modernity, and the gentle illumination they cast allowed Amélie to see the massive animal sprawled atop the wide stone mantelpiece.  

It was clearly feline, with rich, coppery-brown fur, tufts of dark fur at the tips of the long, pointed ears, a wide, blunt nose and a slightly lighter colored bushy tail that added perhaps another foot to the cat's already considerable length.  

The cat's front legs were stretched out over the edge of the mantel, and firelight danced over the surface of a heavy looking metal stein that the cat had obviously knocked to the floor when it (He? She?) had decided to stretch out. 

The cat turned its head to look at her, and Amélie realized that one eye was shut, with signs of a well healed scar beneath the dark stripe of fur that surrounded it, while the other examined her with such piercing intelligence that Amélie knew she had to be in the presence of another were. 

Slowly, the cat gathered its paws under itself and stood, stretching and giving a low grumbling sound before leaping down to the floor.  

The cat took two steps towards her, jaw opening as it took in more of her scent and showing off an impressive set of sharp fangs, then rippled and shifted until she had taken the form of a woman with smooth, well toned muscles despite her obvious age, her silver hair falling over her absent eye. 

She held her gaze on Amélie for more than a minute, never saying a word, and then silently sauntered past her and left the room. 

Amélie stood, baffled, for another moment before she walked over to the fallen stein and picked it up, examining it to ensure it hadn't been damaged, then returned it to the mantlepiece before she settled into an armchair and tried to make sense of what she'd just seen.  

Despite not having a great deal of success with that task, the warmth and light of the fire had begun to lull her towards sleep when a woman's annoyed tch snapped her eyes open. 

"That isn't supposed to go on the mantel, and he knows it."  

Amélie stood, her ears rising from her head and her tail bristling in shock, to face the same woman who had surprised her earlier, now wearing a loose, flowing cream colored dress, blue hijab, and a patch over her eye.  

"I'm sorry?" 

The woman pointed to the stein, her mouth set in a scowl. "That is supposed to go on one of the bookshelves. He thinks leaving it on the mantelpiece makes it more impressive, somehow." The woman snorted. "I watched him steal that mug from a beer hall while we were being thrown out. It wasn't even a good beer hall. Sentimental old fool." 

Amélie considered what she knew of Reinhardt and shrugged, a smile tugging at her lips. "I suppose he must be, considering why I am here." 

"Yes," the old woman said dryly. "That would be my other question." She gave Amélie a sidelong look. "Why are you here, child? I can smell Emily and her little foundling on you, but that doesn't explain why you are under his protection." 

Amélie frowned. "It...is a very complicated story. And a very long one." 

The old woman chuckled. "Then come with me to the kitchen, and I will make you some tea." 

Chapter Text

Amélie followed the woman she'd encountered in the study until they reached a well appointed kitchen.  

"Why don't you sit down?" The woman's voice was pleasant, but also made it clear that wasn't really a request.  

She settled into a chair as she was told, watching as her apparent hostess put a kettle on, then walked to a cupboard and picked out a pair of teacups.  

"So," the woman said as she put teabags into each cup, "what is your name, dear?" 

"Amélie," she answered. She did her best to keep her voice level. "Amélie Orne." 

The woman put her hand on the countertop and looked over, her eye thoughtful. "I've heard that name before." 

Amélie bowed her head. "You are not the first to say so, tonight." 

"Mm." The electric kettle began to whistle, and the woman busied herself pouring hot water into the teacups. "I'm Ana, by the way." 

"It's nice to meet you." Amélie thought back to some of the pictures from Lena's party. "You are...involved with Elder Wilhelm?" 

Ana laughed. "You might say that." She brought the teacups over, and Amélie noticed the herbal blend had a pleasantly sweet aroma. "Give that a moment to steep." She smiled as she took a seat across from her, but Amélie couldn't help but fidget slightly under Ana's scrutiny. "So. You had a story to tell." 

Amélie looked down at her tea, watching the liquid's color slowly deepen. "How long have you known him?" 

"Many years," Ana said softly, "and many lifetimes." When Amélie looked at her, she realized Ana's gaze had gone distant. "We met on the opposing sides of a battle. It was common enough in those days." Her smile was nostalgic. "He was fighting for honor and glory in the Levant. I was just trying to protect my home. I didn't even realize he was a wolf until I got close enough to smell him – I just saw a giant of a man in heavy armor, swinging a warhammer like it was a baton." Ana sighed wistfully. "He was so beautiful when he took off that helmet.  It annoyed me to no end." 

"While you," Reinhardt's voice came from the kitchen doorway, "captivated me from the moment you brought your sword down on my head." 

Ana snorted with amusement. "Is that why I was able to get inside your guard, old wolf?" 

Reinhardt walked to the table and leaned in to kiss Ana before he went to get a teacup for himself. "My dear, you have always disarmed me. But - I see you have met my guest?" 

Ana nodded. "I was waiting for you in the study. We were just starting to have a conversation about why she is here." 

"Ahhh." Reinhardt settled into another seat at the table, and gave a gracious wave. "Forgive me for interrupting, then." 

Amélie nodded. "I was born just before the second world war, in France. We..." She considered her explanation. "When the war began, my pack attempted to keep their children safe while those who could fight and resist the occupation did so. But we were pursued, and eventually I was taken to Switzerland and lived there through the end of the war as a refugee." 

 Ana nodded. "Your parents? Your pack?" 

"Gone, or nearly so." Amélie's lips pursed at the painful memories. "I had no idea how few survived until after the war. I was sent a letter telling me that there was to be a grand council – a meeting of every pack in France – and that I was to attend." 

Ana sighed as she picked up her tea. "Many weres fell with them – of all kinds. Far too many." She looked to Reinhardt. "You tried hard to keep us out of their battles, but for many, there was no choice...and no chance."  

Reinhardt's shoulders fell as he bowed his head. "After the first war, I believed there was no honor in such indiscriminate slaughter. I still do not. But as much as I tried to keep our kind out of those battles – to keep our secrets and leave mankind to make their own mistakes...I should have done more. I still wonder what might have been if we had done things differently." 

"What's done is done." Ana placed a hand over his, her voice gentler than her words. "I cannot give you back your eye, can I? No matter how I might wish my blow was un-struck. You did what you felt was right, and you fought the evils in your home as best as you could." She looked over to Amélie. "But we are getting in the way of your story. Forgive us our ramblings...its a symptom of getting old." 

Reinhardt smiled, turning his hand so he could squeeze Ana's. "But that is where our stories began to intertwine. I was 'invited' to the same council to be judged for just those things...to answer for myself and if I had done enough to try to protect our people from the monsters who set the world aflame." He looked to Amélie and she was struck by the pain and regret in his eyes. "I was judged worthy to continue standing among my peers...and then they called for the last of the Dameblanches to be brought before us." Reinhardt shook his head. "You were so young. You had yet to see your first moon...your hair in little braids and a dress that was too big for you. You were in awe as they brought you forward, and I recall how you stared at how many packs had gathered there." He sighed wearily, closing his eyes at the painful memory. "You had no idea it was to be your trial." 

Ana gave a soft hiss through her teeth. "They dared?" She tilted her head sharply as she considered Amélie's face. "You would have been a toddler when the war began – or younger." 

Amélie nodded, and looked to Reinhardt. "So he argued. He defended me when no one else would, and challenged the other packs...nearly came to blows at one point...but they wanted justice above all else." 

Reihardt scowled. "No. Justice would have meant they absolved you, dear girl and released you from your burdens. What they wanted was vengeance. A pound of flesh...and they were determined to have it, one way or another." 

Amélie sighed as she looked down into her tea. "The few who survived from my family paid the price for my parents alleged crimes...and I was exiled once again."  

Ana took a sip of her tea before she could speak. "As I told him, what is done is done...but that does not make it right." Her eye narrowed slightly. "I find it interesting you say your parents crimes were alleged. You believe otherwise?" 

Amélie straightened, and nodded. "I believed them innocent when I was a child because I could not imagine my family helping the boches destroy our home and hunt our people...and I know they are innocent now, because I have seen proof." 

Reinhardt took a sharp breath, his face stricken. 

"Forgive me for my language," Amélie apologized with a sudden flush of shame. "I did not think..." 

"No, no..." Reinhardt waved away her apology. "They were as you called them, and worse. But...you have proof?"  

Amélie nodded. "As I said at The Howl...old wounds, and dangerous to reopen."  

"Please," Reinhardt rumbled softly, "tell me. I must know." 

"Letters," Amélie answered with a sigh, "papers, from the occupation forces and the Vichy. Agreements. Plans...and an altered copy of the registry my mother had helped to create before the war began. One with Isengrim and several other packs removed." 

"Traitors," Reinhardt growled, his face darkening with anger. "Honorless bastards. How many stood there condemning you for their crimes?"  

"Enough," Amélie murmured sadly. Even though she knew the elder's anger was not meant for her, she could not help but curl in a bit defensively.  

Ana's voice was like a bucket of water on Reinhardt's rising temper. "Regardless, it was certainly not your fault, child...and there is no one here tonight who deserves your rage, geliebte.

"Yes," Reinhardt looked down at the table, embarrassment washing over his face. "Yes, of course. Forgive me, dear girl." 

Amélie gave him as much of a smile as she could muster. "You keep asking forgiveness when you have always been one of the few to help me." 

"Even so," Reinhardt shook his head. "I could not stop them that day...and the next time we met in person I knew something was wrong, but I was not able to speak." 

Ana tilted her head slightly. "Oh? I've rarely known you to hold your tongue." 

Reinhardt shrugged. "I was a guest, and it was...delicate." 

"Hmm."  

Amélie picked up her teacup and drained the last of it before she attempted to explain. "I was to be married...to the very man who I later learned had arranged for my family's downfall. He held a celebration to announce our engagement – and that the last of my pack would be united with his." She sighed. "I thought it would be our day, but I found myself...presented. Paraded. I was his, and he wished everyone to know." 

Reinhardt took her hand, and she was struck by the tender care in his gesture. "The moment I saw how he held your arm, how he kept you near, I knew there was very little love there. I would have given you an apology and an offer of my help that night, but I had no chance to speak with you alone." He shook his head regretfully. "Had I known..." 

Amélie shook her head. "I did not know what he truly was, by that day, but I was starting to see he was not the charming, kind man I had believed would be my husband." She let her head fall again, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath as she reminded herself that she was safe here. "I would have endured marrying a cruel man if it meant my family could rejoin the society they had been cast out of. But once I knew the truth..." 

Ana nodded firmly. "Of course not. You never deserved such a thing even if he had simply been a poor husband, but now..." Her eye narrowed. "You came to Reinhardt to seek justice?" 

"I came..." Amélie trailed off, not quite sure what to say. "I came because the moon lead me to those who could fill my heart with something more than fear and shame. I came because even if I cannot have justice for my pack and my family, perhaps I can at least take my own life back so that I can share it with the ones I love." 

"Ahh." Ana smiled. "I think I understand." She looked over to Reinhardt. "You have a plan, then?" 

Reinhardt chuckled softly. "The beginnings of one, at least, but when have you ever known me to hesitate when there is a chance to right a wrong?" 

Ana smiled lovingly at him, her eye twinkling. "Sentimental fool." 

"Have no fear," Reinhardt smiled back at her. "Brigitte will keep me out of too much trouble...and I am sure you will offer your own guidance." 

"Mm. We'll speak about that later," Ana agreed. "For now...your guest should have a chance to sleep. You look exhausted, little one." 

Amélie wanted to bristle at the mothering tone, but it was comforting in its own way. Besides, Ana was right. She was tired, physically and emotionally. "Perhaps, yes." 

Reinhardt stood, offering her his hand. "Of course." 

The guest bedroom he lead her to had been furnished in the same style as the rest of the house, with a downy four poster bed which had been turned down for her, and her suitcases set in the corner as promised.  

"There is a bathroom and shower across the hall," Reinhardt explained, "and do not hesitate to find me should you need anything else." 

Amélie nodded in thanks, and after a moment of hesitation, she stepped forward to hug him, putting her head against his broad chest. "I know you see it as your duty, but you have always been there for me. Thank you, Reinhardt...thank you for everything you have done since that first meeting." 

Reinhardt returned the embrace, then gently kissed the top of her head. "Always, dear girl. Always. Now – please, rest. We will speak more tomorrow." 

Amélie sighed as she stepped back. "I will do my best." Reinhardt gave her another smile before he took his leave, and she wondered if this is what having grandparents might have been like. Another experience stolen from her. 

She heard voices outside as she began to undress, and Amélie couldn't help but stop to listen. 

"So." Ana's voice – firm and determined. 

She heard Reinhardt blow out a deep sigh. "So." 

"I think I understand a bit better, now. You never told me her name before, you old fool." 

"I thought she was truly lost - or dead. A debt I could never repay." 

"Hmm. And now?" 

"Irontooth owes me a great deal because of his earlier missteps. I will tell him I consider the debt paid if he supports my decision. Bryndenbrooke will follow him. Ashlynfang will need the full explanation, I fear, but once Lewis knows he will agree." 

Ana grunted. "could bring him in line if he does not." 

Reinhardt laughed darkly. "Much as I might enjoy your work, habibtithat is a card I would keep in reserve. Once I have their agreement, the rest will follow."  

Ana was quiet for a long moment, and Amélie could barely breathe until she spoke again. "For now, we'll do it your way. But if they try any more foolish games with that girl's life..." 

"You will have free reign, I promise, and they shall rue the day." 

Ana snorted dismissively. "They should count themselves lucky I was not at her first trial – or yours. Had I been, several of those packs might have found themselves needing new leadership...and Fareeha would have an older sister."  

Amélie found that thought curiously comforting as she drifted off to sleep. 


Amélie had gotten used to sleeping in the cabin, either in Emily's bedroom or the guest bed, and getting comfortable in a city again was a bit more difficult than she had expected.  

In New York, her suite had been insulated enough from the noise and hustle of Manhattan that she could almost pretend she was back in the woods - and she'd been smart enough to steal one of the pillowcases from the master bed so she could have Emily and Lena's comforting scents with her. 

This time she had not had so much foresight, and Reinhardt's home was charming, but the old brick house was not all that soundproof. She could hear the sounds of cars on the roads, boats in the canal, and the occasional siren. 

Amélie tried to just turn over and go back to sleep the first two times she woke, but after the third she decided to kick away the covers and shift into her wolf, curling in on herself until she finally felt comfortable enough to stay asleep until morning. 

She took the time for a long shower to help make up for the lost sleep, and when she made her way back to the kitchen she was surprised to find Brigitte waiting for her.  

"Good morning." Instead of the formal, buttoned down look that seemed to define the younger woman, Brigitte was wearing heavy canvas trousers and a tank top, a pair of dark lensed goggles hanging around her neck. "Care for some breakfast?" 

"Good morning..." Amélie didn't really know how to ask why Brigitte was there, or why she was dressed like that, so she fell back on her manners. "That would be very kind of you." 

Brigitte nodded. "We have eggs, ham, sausages, bacon, toast...depending on your preferences I believe there's also some yogurt and fruit in the fridge." 

Amélie considered that. "Eggs and ham would be lovely, and I would not mind toast." 

Brigitte nodded as she started to gather ingredients. "Coffee?" 

"Yes, thank you." 

She sat and watched Brigitte prepare her breakfast in an odd sort of silence, broken only by basic questions about how she took her coffee and if she liked cheese in her omelet. (She did.) Amélie finally broke her silence after receiving her breakfast with a nod. "I did not expect someone would be waiting for me this morning. Am I being watched?" 

Brigitte looked as if she wanted to object, then stopped herself. "Only in the sense that we are looking out for you, to ensure you'll be safe here. Not trying to make you feel that you're a prisoner." Brigitte chuckled as she sat down at the table with a glass of water. "Besides, you'd never make heads or tails of the cabinets here. Half the time buy his groceries and Reinhardt will still manage not to put anything in the same place twice." 

Amélie smiled at the image. "I will keep that in mind." She busied herself with half of the ham before she spoke again, trying to keep her voice light. "You mentioned buying groceries...do you live with him, then? Here?" 

Brigitte laughed softly. "It does feel that way sometimes, but I do have my own flat. But I have been known to sleep in one of the other guest rooms if pack or council business has kept us late. Mostly, though, I come over to work at my forge out in the shed." 

Amélie blinked. "You have a forge?" At least that explained the outfit, she supposed. 

Brigitte nodded. "It's not something I can really keep in an apartment, and Reinhardt has more than enough space for it. Emily and Lena didn't tell you?" 

She shook her head. "They only mentioned you in passing, really." Amélie recalled the lonely, terrified night in the cave, and looked down at her plate. She pushed a few bits of egg around before she finally spoke again. "I am sorry for running from you, when you visited the cabin. It was not about you, personally. I was terrified of being recognized. I..." She sighed, shaking her head. "I was happy. I didn't want it to end. I didn't want them to be hurt." 

Brigitte sat back in her chair and gave her a chagrined look. "I was actually planning to apologize to you this morning. The things I said back at The Howl...I spoke out of concern for my alpha, but some of the things I accused you of were out of line."  

Amélie tilted her head slightly. "You did not – could not – have known my history. As far as you knew I was a violent, infamous Feral, and no one knows who turned Lena. It... was an understandable suspicion." 

"Part of why I recognized you was that I'd been checking on the records of any Ferals who might be at large or traveling through the London area to help with trying to find Lena's attacker." Brigitte shook her head. "Nothing. Whoever did it managed to disappear, somehow." A thought struck her, and Brigitte gave a dark little laugh. "It just occurred to me that if you had turned her, it would make this easier. Lena's not Feral, so obviously you couldn't be either." 

Amélie considered that, then shrugged. "I am not certain Angela would agree...but in any case, I am glad you are...open to helping us." 

Brigitte tilted her head in a reluctant nod. "I would support Reinhardt no matter what...but I can see how much this means to Angela, to Emily, to Lena...and after learning your story, I agree that you deserve justice." Brigitte gave a low sigh, a hand coming up to fidget with one of her long bangs. "I don't really know if I can call myself your friend right now, Amélie. Not with all the danger you've brought to my city and the people I care about...but I don't have to be your enemy, and I don't want to be." 

"That is fair, and you have good reason for your concerns," Amélie admitted. "I still appreciate you keeping as open a mind as you can." She finished the rest of her eggs, and set her fork down on the plate. "It was obvious how much you care for Reinhardt as your pack leader. I am glad that I will not come between the two of you." 

Brigitte nodded gratefully. "Well. With all that said – would you care to see my workshop? If nothing else you could take a walk around the garden if you aren't interested in blacksmithing. It's a lovely morning, and I'm planning to spend it hitting things." 

Amélie rose from her seat with a smile. "Please, lead on." 

Chapter Text

Fareeha power walked into the council offices, giving an acknowledging nod to the assistant at the front desk as they nodded her past security.  The call she'd gotten had asked her to come to Reinhardt's office on a matter of 'urgent importance', and it had set her mind spinning with possibilities. 

She noticed Brigitte was not at her usual desk in the outer office, and her concern deepened. There were only a few things which would demand an urgent, private meeting.  

Knocking on the door to the inner office, Fareeha shifted nervously from foot to foot until she heard Reinhardt's reply a moment later. 

"Come in!" 

The sight of Angela standing next to Reinhardt's desk, and the sober, almost somber look on his face made icy fingers grip her heart as she slowly walked inside, pulling the door shut behind her. "Angela...Reinhardt...what's happened?" She swallowed hard, meeting Reinhardt's gaze. "Has...is it my mother?" 

Reinhardt blinked in surprise and stood. "Oh, my dear...no, no. Your mother is fine, she arrived back from her travels yesterday. Ana didn't call you?" 

Fareeha shook her head as she tried to remember how to breathe again. "Half the time she just shows up. I never know what's going on when she decides she needs to disappear on an errand." She tried to keep the bitterness out of her voice, but it was impossible to hold all of it back. "But – if this isn't about my mother, why did you ask me to come see you?" 

Angela looked down at her hands, and Fareeha frowned as she noticed her wincing. That was usually one of her 'I did something you won't like' tells. "Do you recall about a week ago, when I told you I needed to make a housecall on a patient?" 

Fareeha nodded slowly. "Yes, I do. You didn't really tell me much about it at the time, just that you needed to run some tests." 

Angela sat up and reached for a folder that she'd placed on the desk. "Yes..." She flipped the folder open, then turned it so Fareeha could read the contents. "The patient was accused of being Feral." 

Fareeha's eyebrows shot up. "And you saw them?! Alone!?"  

"Not...exactly." Angela sighed. "It's complicated."  

"Not exactly?" Fareeha's voice rose with her disbelief. "Angela, what...?"  

Fareeha had almost forgotten that Reinhardt was still in the room until his hand settled on her shoulder.  

"Fareeha, please..." Reinhardt's voice was a soft, concerned rumble. Not the exuberant man who could tell stories at the bar all night, or the restrained dignity he attempted to use for Council business, but the old wolf who had been her friend and surrogate father for so much of her childhood. "Sit, and let us explain." 

Fareeha closed her eyes, counted to ten, and opened them again. "OK...I'll listen, I promise." She gave Angela a guilty look as she settled into a chair. "I'm sorry I started to shout." 

Angela shrugged, opening her hand in a little wave. "If you'd told me you'd gone to meet a suspected Feral with no context, I probably would have been upset too, but this isn't a very normal situation."  

Fareeha tilted her head slightly. "OK. So... explain?" 

Angela seemed to be considering where to start.  "I told you a bit about my grandfather, and the stories he told me."  

Fareeha could feel her brows knitting. "The princess stories? What does that have to do with this?" 

"She is the one who was accused of being Feral." 

Fareeha blinked several times as she tried to process that. "That...seriously?" 

Angela reached for her purse, and pulled out a neatly folded piece of what looked like drawing paper, opening it up before she handed it over. "She sent me this note, through Emily Oakley." 

Fareeha frowned as she tried to figure out how Emily was involved, but the neatly printed note arrested her train of thought. "These names..." 

"My grandfather," Angela confirmed, "my grandmother, and my father. The date at the bottom was the day she returned to Switzerland after her pack was exiled, and came to live with them. I confirmed it from grandfather's journal." 

"Wow." Fareeha handed back the paper, shaking her head. "That's...I don't even know what to say." She picked up the folder and started to read the cover letter for the exam results. "If I'm reading this correctly, all the tests came back negative?" 

Angela nodded. "Yes. But we can't just clear her based on this." 

Fareeha blinked. "No? The forensic evidence is pretty clear cut."  

Reinhardt opened his desk, and drew out a wanted poster. "Unfortunately, she was already ruled Feral by another council...more than forty years ago." 

"She's your princess?" Fareeha stared. "Amélie Orne? The most wanted Feral in Europe?" 

"She had her reasons for running," Reinhardt said mournfully, "but I assure you she is innocent...and quite sane." 

Fareeha looked into Reinhardt's eyes, then Angela's, and sighed. "OK. So why is she suddenly here now? Why tell me this? And how is Emily involved?" 

Angela's eyes flicked to Reinhardt, silently asking his permission to explain. "We're telling you because she surrendered herself to Reinhardt last night, asking that the Council hold a trial to reverse her Feral ruling, and she will be staying at his home under house arrest until that time. As to why, and why now... Amélie came to me – to us –  because of Emily, and Lena. Because they convinced her to come in and clear her name." 

Fareeha's eyes widened as she was hit with a sudden flash of insight. "The Canadian girlfriend. Lena's 'Lady'. It's her, isn't it?" 

Angela nodded. "Yes, she is. They...didn't know, until very recently." 

Fareeha looked up sharply. "How recent is 'recently'?" 

Reinhardt waved a hand. "Do not worry about that. I was informed, and I consider the matter settled." 

Fareeha grunted at that. "If you say so..." She thumbed through the rest of the medical records Angela had assembled, then dropped the folder back onto the desk. "This is a real mess." 

"Yes," Reinhardt agreed, "it is. But I've given Amélie my word that I will help her in any way I can. So – please consider yourself informed of this matter, and if anyone should ask, let them know that I have things in hand for the time being." 

Fareeha sat back with a sigh. "Fine. But you're both taking a real risk here. If this whole thing backfires, what happens to her? What happens to the two of you?" 

Angela shrugged. "We will have done the right thing...no matter the cost." 


Group Message 

21:22 

Emily 

Hello, lovely. We were wondering how you were holding up. 

 

Well enough. Reinhardt has been kind. Brigitte has stopped by twice. 

I met a woman named Ana. She is...interesting. 

 

Lena 

Oh, she is neat. Kind of scary, but neat! 

Can we bring you anything, Lady? 

 

Just yourselves. 

Je pense à vous deux. 

Emily 

We miss you, too.  

Lena 

I'm still going to make dinner for you! 

That would be nice.  

Reinhardt seems...very fond of  currywurst . 

Perhaps too fond. 

Lena 

OK, no sausages or curry. I think I can work with that. 

Depending on what time you arrive we could take a walk in the garden . It isn't the same as being at the cabin, but it is very pretty. 

 

Lena 

Sounds like maybe we should bring a picnic. : )  

 

Amélie had been sleeping a bit easier the longer she'd been Reinhardt's guest, but she'd become a light sleeper out of years of habit, and that was not likely to change any time soon. 

Which meant that when her door opened, and she heard the sound of footsteps coming into her room, her eyes snapped open. Amélie had just started to turn her head to see who was coming in when the intruder leapt into the air. 

"Hi Lady, I'm here!" Lena's voice was filled with playful excitement before she landed on the bed with a loud thump after Amélie rolled far enough to the side to keep herself from being flattened.  

"Lena," Amélie groaned, "was that really necessary?"  

Lena just giggled before answering her with a kiss. "Good morning." 

"It is morning," Amélie agreed once they had come up for air. "I am not certain about good, yet." She frowned as a thought occurred to her. "Why are you here, and not at work?" 

"Off today. New schedule – four days on, three off. Worked it out with the boss." Lena nestled against her, and Amélie's arm settled around her waist. "So – today, I'm here. Brought a few things for lunch, later, and we'll go from there." 

Amélie considered that, then nodded. "Is Emily with you?" 

Lena gave an affirmative hum. "Reinhardt asked if he could talk with her for a minute..." 


Emily had a feeling why Reinhardt wanted to speak with her privately, but it didn't do much to ease her nerves as the older alpha ushered her into his study.  Part of her wished she'd gone with Lena to see Amélie, but she knew the request for Reinhardt to have 'a moment of her time' was not to be taken lightly. 

"Would you care for anything to drink? Coffee? Tea?" 

Emily shook her head as she settled into one of the overstuffed armchairs. "That's very gracious of you, but I'm fine." 

Reinhardt nodded, then took a seat across from her, his voice soft and serious. "I do not wish to say anything which might later come back to haunt me, but so far the moon has favored us." He leaned forward, speaking as much with his hands as his voice. "I have informed a select group within the council that a woman who has been unjustly accused of being Feral has surrendered herself to me, and the matter is being kept very close. Brigitte, Fareeha Amari, and four council members know the full situation. The rest and their aides simply know that I have requested the council assemble for a full session... and I wanted to inform you personally that Amélie's trial shall begin next Monday." 

Emily's eyes widened at the news. "That's not much time..." 

"No, it is not," Reinhardt admitted, "But I felt it was best not to delay. Amélie has waited long enough and the councilors were not pleased to learn a Feral – even a falsely accused one – had been hiding for so long in and around London." Reinhardt's hand went up before Emily could even begin to protest, "All of them agreed to the trial, rather than demanding a Hunter. She is safe, I assure you, but given the charges against her even my influence could not hold them at bay indefinitely. It is better it be done quickly, and bring this sad business to an end." 

Logically, Emily knew Reinhardt was right and that this was for the best. Still... "If you haven't already done so, I would like to be the one to tell Amelie." 

"Of course, of course..." Reinhardt nodded and leaned forward a bit in his chair, "but before you go I have one other thing to ask." 

Emily straightened in her chair. "Yes?" 

"I fear that even if all goes according to plan Amélie may find returning to a normal life...more difficult than most," Reinhardt began slowly, his voice warming as he spoke. "That is not to say that she would be unable to handle it...she has endured far worse. But socially, politically...without the protection and influence of a pack behind her I fear there are those who will never fully trust her." 

Emily nodded, biting the inside of her lip and trying to ignore the way her stomach churned. "It's...something I had considered. But I can't imagine an established pack being willing to take her in, given the circumstances." And I'm not sure she would be willing to join a pack of strangers.  

Reinhardt gave her a careful look, and for a moment Emily felt as if his blinded eye could see straight through her heart. "That is not necessarily true."  His hands came together, and Emily noticed the way he began to fidget with his fingers. "I had wondered...if you and Lena had discussed the offer I made to you on her First Moon any further." 

Emily blinked. "You mean...to become part of Beowulfsohn?" 

Reinhardt nodded. "Indeed." He paused, seeming to consider his next words. "Please do not misunderstand me. I would do anything in my power to help Amélie out of my debt to her, and my aid is not conditional in any way. But, if you both wished to join our numbers, I see no reason why that offer could not be extended to include her, as well." 

Emily looked down at the table, closing her eyes and trying to keep her breathing steady. She couldn't explain why her first instinct was to say no. It was a kind, generous offer. An incredibly meaningful one, even. Beowulfsohn rarely invited dispersers to join who were not connected to them by blood or marriage, and becoming part of their pack would mean they would join a long and storied history...but it still felt wrong

She raised her head, and managed to keep her voice even when she answered him. "Lena and I haven't...it really hasn't come up, Elder. I mean no disrespect – we're both honored that you considered us worthy of the invitation – but we've had so many other concerns that joining a pack has not really been a priority." 

Reinhardt didn't seem surprised, but Emily still felt a bit guilty at the sadness that she could feel underneath his words. "I can certainly understand that, Emily." He looked past her to the door of the study for a moment before turning to focus on her again. "If it is not too forward for me to ask...it is obvious how much Amelie and Lena mean to you, and you to them. Have you considered that your destiny might lie in leading a pack, rather than joining one?" 

Emily felt a ball of ice form in her stomach. She'd been dreading that question.  

"All my life, I grew up seeing my Gran and my parents leading Wodewose, and the silent expectation that one day they would step aside and I would take their place...and it never felt right. I tried to picture myself as the Alpha of our pack, of being in their shoes, and I could never make it fit." 

Emily shook her head, standing and pacing as she spoke.  "It wasn't...it wasn't me. After I left school, I thought that maybe it was a sign I wasn't really in the right place. I left my family and I came to London, hoping I might find where I was supposed to be –  what I was supposed to be doing! I opened the pub and helped to establish the sanctuary there, and I started to think that maybe it was enough. That I was there to offer others who felt the same a way to feel safe." 

She sighed and turned to face Reinhardt, who was cupping his chin thoughtfully as he listened. "I used to think that maybe I just wasn't cut out to be part of a pack, either leading or following.  But then I met Lena...and Amélie...and I would be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind, but I don't really know if I can. If I could be worthy of the trust they would be putting in me." 

Reinhardt stood, and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Emily, I would not presume to question how your parents or your august great grandmother have lead Wodewose in their time, but a pack is more than simply a leader and followers. A pack is a bond. It is more than hunting or fighting. It is the promises you keep between each other, and knowing that if one should fall, the others will carry them. That they know that if you are supporting them, they can do anything." Reinhardt paused, letting that sink in. "Do you understand? About how each depends on the other?" 

Emily closed her eyes and bowed her head once again. "I'm not sure I did before, but now..." 

Reinhardt gave her a gentle pat, then let her go. "Perhaps you should consider your options, then. But for now – I have kept you away for long enough. Go, and we can speak of this again another time." 


Ana smiled as she took a bite from the chicken she'd taken out of the picnic lunch that Lena had prepared. It had been nice of the girls to bring enough for everyone, but once she and Reinhardt had assembled plates for themselves, she'd quietly suggested they give Amélie and her lovers a bit of space. 

They'd settled down on one of the wrought iron benches in the garden, watching as the younger women sat on a blanket that Emily had spread out for them, ate, and talked. 

It wasn't hard to figure out when Emily must have shared the news of Amélie's trial date being set. Lena's face growing somber and Amélie's shoulders rising and falling with a sigh before she nodded, and the three of them huddled together into a hug.  

"She's a strong one," Ana murmured. "I can see why you would bring her into your pack." 

Reinhardt made questioning noise, swallowed the mouthful of potato salad he'd been chewing, and looked over to her. "Ahh, but which one do you mean?" 

"All of them," Ana replied with a smile, and they shared a laugh before Ana leaned back against his broad chest, his arm coming down to settle against her hip. 

"That is true – each in their own way. But I had a suspicion that their destiny lay elsewhere even as I offered the gift." Reinhardt gave a wistful sigh, his fingers gently tracing the patterns in her dress in a lazy circle. "A shame, though. They would bring much honor to us." 

They lapsed into a comfortable silence as Ana let her head rest against the steady rise and fall of the old wolf's breast, watching Lena pull a bag of combs and brushes from the picnic basket before Emily stood, walked behind one of the hedge rows, and a few moments later returned in her wolf form as Amélie cleared a space on the blanket for her to sit.  

It was good to see them trying to relax and enjoy themselves, grabbing a little chunk of normalcy for themselves. She had no doubt the trial would end in their favor – she and Reinhardt would see to that no matter what – but that did not mean it would be easy. They would need the reminder of better days to help see them through the harder times. 

The sound of Lena's bright laughter seemed to fill the garden as she shook her head at Emily's attempts to squirm away from Amélie's grasp as she battled with a particularly thick tangle in her coat. 

"You talked to Emily about ensuring Amélie will have a place prepared for her?" 

Reinhardt nodded, taking a sip from a bottle of kolsch that he'd brought to go with his lunch. "Mm. That young lady is a stubborn one...I could tell she was upset at the idea of Amélie or Lena joining another pack, but she was far too polite to say so. But I don't think she's quite ready to declare a pack of her own. Not yet." 

Ana smirked as Amélie reached down to massage one of the pressure points on Emily's side, making the red furred wolf melt into a boneless puddle before Amélie and Lena both leaned down to kiss the top of her forehead. It was hard to miss the warmth in Amélie's eyes as Emily finally relaxed and allowed herself to be groomed, or the naked affection in Lena's body language. "Soon enough, then." 

Reinhardt tilted his head slightly. "Perhaps. She still has some doubts." 

"That's because Emily still thinks that she would be leading a pack, and she hasn't realized that what they all want is a family."

Chapter Text

Amélie shifted uncomfortably, uncrossing her legs and crossing them again. The steel links of her handcuffs jingling against one another made the guard standing by the door glance over at her, but once he realized she was simply trying to get comfortable he gave her a little nod and then turned away to let her be. 

She knew it had probably only been about an hour since she'd arrived at Woodcroft castle in the back of Fareeha's squad car and taken through security, but it felt three times longer, especially without any clocks in the room to help her keep track of the time. Her guard seemed to be a bit anxious – perhaps even restless. Was he afraid of her? Anticipating someone relieving him at shift change? Or was he simply hungry and looking forward to his lunch? It wasn't much for her to think about, but it gave her something to do, at least. 

Not so long ago she'd gone months at a time with no one else's company but her own, but she'd had work to occupy her or things which needed done to help keep her mind busy and boredom at bay. Even this would have been easier with a deck of cards or her sketchbook, but as she had neither (and with her hands bound wouldn't be able to make use of them even if she did)she found herself going back over the events of the morning so far. 


Lena and Emily had arrived around noon the previous day and helped to make a large meal for everyone to enjoy before taking her to bed. Sleep came in fits and starts for all three of them, but waking up every so often to arms wrapped around her middle and a tail across her waist, the sound of slow even breathing from Lena with hushed reassurances that they were still there from Emily and their combined sent surrounding her, was more than enough to lull her back to a dreamless sleep. 

Together they rose well before the sun to take turns showering and eating a light breakfast. After they had eaten, Amélie returned to her room to get changed into one of her favorite suits she wore when meeting with clients. It was simple without being plain, consisting of a blue pinstripe blouse with three-quarter sleeves which she tucked into a pair of perfectly tailored black slacks. A light application of makeup and a humble pair of one-inch black pumps which complemented her attire. 

"You look good," Lena complimented her with a smile as she came out into the study. "Very classy, luv." 

Emily nodded. "Professional, and well put together without coming off as arrogant or attempting to intimidate anyone. I think it was a good choice." 

Amélie nodded and took a deep breath, then looked to the door as Reinhardt entered, dressed in a sleek grey suit and a deep red tie. "Is it time?" 

Reinhardt nodded. "Fareeha is on her way. The detective will be escorting you, and we will follow behind." 

"D'accord," Amélie tried to push away her nerves as she walked into the vestibule where her black suit jacket had been hung up to keep it from getting wrinkled as she finished her preparations. As she reached out to take her jacket, though, she was seized with the realization that this was it 

This was the final piece of her ensemble, the last thing she needed to do before she would be off to face her fate. There was no turning back now and by day's end she would either be free or... 

No, Amélie thought with a shake of her head, Reinhardt gave me his word, he will do everything in his power to ensure this all turns out in my favor. 

But he has failed that test before, a part of her whispered. What if the council decided Reinhardt was wrongThat in spite of all the evidence that she was Feral in their eyes and too dangerous to live? What if all of those who had helped her up until this point were found guilty of-- 

Amélie jumped as warm arms wrapped around her stomach and pulled her back into a hug.  

"It'll be okay," Emily's voice was barely more than a whisper, the comment meant to be shared between just the two of them.  

It took a moment for Amélie to allow herself to lean back into the embrace, closing her eyes and letting her lover's familiar scent help to ease her mind. "How can you be so sure?

"Because," Lena's voice joined in before she stepped into Amélie's view to take the jacket off its hook, "You won't be alone.

Emily released her hold and took the jacket from Lena, holding it open so Amélie could slip her arms through the sleeves while Lena moved in to adjust her collar until it was straight. When her jacket was finally in place Amélie leaned forward, capturing Lena's lips in a gentle kiss before releasing her and turning to do the same to Emily.  

"Merci," Amélie offered as she reached out to take both of them by the hand. "May the moon watch over us. May her rays bring the truth to light." 

Lena smiled, giving her hand a squeeze, but Emily looked as if she had realized there was something she wanted to say. Before she had the chance, though, Ana walked in, followed a moment later by the chime of the doorbell. "That would be Fareeha. Are you ready?" 

Emily raised a hand before Amélie could answer. "Just a moment, please." She waited for Ana to retreat, then gave Lena a nervous look, receiving an encouraging smile before she turned back and started to speak. "There's something we haven't said, through all this. I know it really hasn't been that long since we really started to think of ourselves as together, but we..." Emily stopped, swallowed nervously, and tried to start again. "Amélie, I...."  

Amélie gently placed a hand on Emily's cheek, silencing her with a soft 'Shh' before she leaned into tenderly kiss her. "I know. And I feel the same for you, and Lena. But now... now is not the time to say such things."  

Emily turned that over, then nodded, an embarrassed flush rising on her cheeks. "No... no, I suppose you're right." Emily turned her head to place a kiss on the inside of her outstretched wrist, lips turned up into a little smile, hope shining in her eyes. "After, then. When this is over, and you've won."  

It was such a perfect moment that Amélie wished it could last forever, but she settled on just trying to commit every detail she could to memory. "After, yes."  

She just hoped that "after" would truly come. 

Fareeha had apologetically placed her in handcuffs before helping her to carefully settle into the back seat of her car. They had driven north to Woodcroft Castle in silence, the only sound coming from soft music playing on Fareeha's stereo and the occasional jingle of the handcuffs' chain when the car went over an uneven patch of road. 

Intellectually Amélie knew the others were following behind, and she caught glimpses of Reinhardt and Emily's cars occasionally if she turned to look out the back window, but she could not help a feeling of isolation as the trip went on, particularly once they had reached the castle and a pair of the council's private security guards had arrived in the parking lot to escort her inside. 

"You'll be held here," one of them explained as she was ushered into what was probably supposed to have been a small meeting room, "until the council has convened and they call for you. A guard will be in the room with you at all times, and there will be another immediately outside should you cause any problems." 

All Amélie could do was settle into one of the chairs around the table at the center of the room, and wait. 

Some time later, there came a knock at the door before Brigitte entered, her back straight as a rod, her bearing painfully stiff and professional. "Miss Orne? The Council will see you now." 

Amélie rose, and with her head held high she left to meet her destiny. 


Angela had been to Council proceedings many times, either for medical testimony or to provide her input on policy discussions, but never quite like this. 

As she sat next to Fareeha in the gallery that had been set up for the few observers being permitted to attend, there was an air of tension through the entire proceedings - even the night Lena had gone before the council for the first time hadn't felt quite so intense.  

The councilors were assembled at the front of the room, save for Reinhardt, who sat at a table that had been set up before them like a defense attorney, with space clearly set aside for Amélie. Ana had been given a small desk a few feet away, in deference to her observer status, and Brigitte sat at a side table with her laptop, taking notes like a court recorder.  

There was a rustle of movement, and she turned to see a man in a black suit that settling down next to her that she almost didn't recognize as Jesse until she had a good look at his face. The hunter had trimmed his beard and moustache neatly, combed and parted his dark brown hair, and for the first time she could remember, he wasn't wearing a hat. The only nod to his usual style was the bolo tie he wore, a black and red enameled pendant at his neck holding the narrow black cord in place. 

"Sorry I'm late," Jesse murmured. "Traffic was hell." 

Emily reached out from behind him and gave his shoulder a silence squeeze of thanks, but before anyone else could speak, the councilor at the center of their formation stood from his chair. 

"Thank you all for coming today. I am Euan Saunders, alpha of Irontooth, and I call this special session to order." Saunders waited a moment to make sure he had everyone's attention, then went on. "As our colleague from Beowulfsohn has recused himself from these proceedings so he may act as an advocate to the accused, I have been asked to act as chair in his stead." 

One of the councilors who must have been outside of the small group Reinhardt had personally briefed stood. "Yes, Irontooth, and what exactly are these proceedings? Why the special session? And who has been accused of what?" 

Saunders gave the other council member a glare. "I was just coming to that, Kempenwulf." He waited for the other man to sit back down, then leaned forward slightly. "We are here to deal with a situation that is nearly unprecedented in my experience. This council recently learned that a were who was – she claims – falsely accused of being Feral by another Council has been hiding in our territory for some time." 

That pronouncement set the room buzzing, and it was quickly obvious to Angela who were in the know. A handful seemed to have no reaction to this news, while the others had expressions of shock or outrage, several of them leaning in to whisper urgently back and forth.  

Saunders gave them a moment to get it out of their systems, and then cleared his throat to regain their attention, pitching his voice a bit louder to overpower the few who continued to talk amongst themselves. "Once she was approached by a Hunter and a member of our Council, she willingly surrendered to them so she could stand before us today, seeking our Justice and to prove that she is in full control of herself, and no danger to others." 

Angela noticed that Lewis, the Ashlynfang alpha, had been one of the ones who seemed to know why they were here. With a look of someone playing out a script, he stood and rapped his knuckles on the tabletop to call attention to himself before he spoke. "If she was judged by another council, why is she here? Ship her home with the Hunters and make them handle this." 

Reinhardt stood, and cleared his throat. "Due to the nature of the accusation – and the fact that her accuser sits on that very council – she did not feel she could receive a fair trial there. As such, she felt – and I agree – that it is better to let our council address this matter, since she wishes to continue living in our territory once the matter is settled." 

For some reason that explanation seemed to take Saunders by surprise – Angela noticed his eyes widen slightly even though he kept a decent poker face. Odd. Hadn't he understood what he was getting into? It wasn't as if Amélie would be leaving London when this was finished. Did he expect she'd say thank you, collect a new Registration card, and fly to Paris to rub it in her ex-fiancée's face? 

Another councilor spoke up after Reinhardt and Lewis had both taken their seats again. "So how are we supposed to go about this? We cannot just take her word for it! What if this is all a trick?" 

Saunders glared at the councilor who had spoken out of turn, but it came off as fairly weak – like a teenager trying to order his parents around. "We will question her, but we also have the benefit of medical examination, and several expert witnesses who can speak to her history, the original ruling, and her character. We will hear from all of them in turn, and once the council feels we have enough information to make a proper judgement, we will render our own verdict." 

That got a round of nods and some noises of agreement, and Saunders offered a tight little smile. "So – with that said, ladies and gentlemen, shall we begin?" 

At the general rumble of agreement that went around the room, Brigitte rose from her seat and disappeared through one of the side doors, reappearing a few minutes later. Almost as soon as she'd taken her seat, the door swung open and one of the council's security guards came through, holding the door for Amélie, who walked with careful, shuffling steps to compensate for the leg irons that had been secured to her ankles.  

She kept her head up and her gaze locked straight ahead, obviously trying to tune out the shocked whispers as several of the councilors recognized her.  

When she reached the seat that had been prepared for her, one of the guards carefully removed the ankle restraints so she would be able to sit comfortably, but her wrists were left bound.  

Reinhardt gave her an encouraging smile and placed a hand on her shoulder, then stood. "My colleagues and fellow members of the council, I present Amélie Orne, beta born of the Damesblanches, who has come to seek justice from us today." 

Saunders waited for the rumbles of discussion to fade, then cleared his throat again. "In preparation for this hearing, I reviewed the record of Miss Orne's original Feral ruling, which was issued without her present." He brought out a few sheets of paper, and began to read from them. 

"The first charge stemmed from her decision to attack her fiancée without cause, seriously injuring him. The second, that she had demonstrated antisocial behavior and refused to participate in normal were gatherings and society. Third, that she attacked other weres, including Hunters, without provocation when they were sent to bring her to answer to these charges, and finally that she had clearly lost touch with her ability to think and reason, given that she would not attend to defend herself." Saunders set the paper down, and looked to Amélie. "Miss Orne, how do you answer these charges?" 

Amélie's voice was cool, collected, and calm as she spoke: "I would answer that these charges are unfounded - and that I clearly have the ability to think, or I should not be able to reply." 

That got a brief ripple of laughter from a few of the council members. Angela spared a glance over at Emily and Lena, and wasn't surprised to see them both smiling in response to that. 

Saunders' voice was dry as he nodded to Amélie. "Perhaps so. Regardless, the other questions must be answered." He drew another paper from the pile. "In hopes of gathering more information I reached out to the council of Lutetia to ask for the whereabouts of your birth pack, in hopes that we might be able to ask some of them to testify on your behalf, and to determine if you had ever shown any signs of feral behavior." 

Reinhardt had stiffened with surprise when Saunders mentioned contacting the French council, his face turning to an almost expressionless mask, while Amélie's eyes had widened in surprise. The sudden hope of perhaps being reunited with some of her birth family that flashed through her eyes was almost painful in its intensity, and Angela felt a pang of sympathy that quickly turned to horror as Saunders continued to speak.  

"Unfortunately, it does not appear that there are any other members of the Damesblanches pack still alive save for yourself, Miss Orne – but I was able to locate a former associate of yours who offered to testify before us today."  

Saunders had gestured to one of the guards to go bring in this 'associate', but Angela's focus (and that of nearly every observer in the gallery) was on Amélie, who had gone so pale that her skin was as white as the fur of her ears. In the space of seconds she had gone from confident to crushed, and tears threatened to overflow from her eyes as she visibly struggled to keep control of herself.  

The man the security guards lead in from another waiting area seemed utterly unremarkable. Lean, swarthy, and a bit on the short side. He was nearly dressed in dark slacks, a white dress shirt with a high collar, black tie, and a muted green suit coat. He had a pencil thin moustache, neatly trimmed and waxed to subtle points, and his short dark hair had been slicked back and styled with a bit of product to highlight the dashes of silver that had started to form at his temples. 

He walked to the center of the room and bowed to the assembled council, then drew himself up with an easy smile that made his dark eyes twinkle, his warm voice filling the room. 

"Gérard Lacroix, Alpha and Elder of Isengrim. I came in response to the inquiry sent to the Council of Lutetita and to represent my council in these proceedings."

Chapter Text

From the moment Saunders had announced that her pack – her family – was gone, Amélie felt as if she was in a nightmare. The room seemed to shrink and contract around her until she was in a bubble of total isolation, while her blouse and suit jacket had transformed from the comfortable, familiar clothes she'd chosen into a stifling straight jacket, strangling her as it trapped her in place. 

She heard Reinhardt's deep voice rumble softly next to her, but she couldn't register any of his words, and then... 

That voice.  

A wave of panic crashed through her as she realized that he was here. That against all odds and expectations, he had managed to find her, and Gérard was here.  

The urge to run was almost overwhelming, but some tiny piece of her managed to hold Amélie in place, though she could hear the soft jingle from the chain of her cuffs as her hands shook. 

If you attempt to escape you will play right into his hands, and everyone else will suffer for it. He wants you to run. You must be strong. You HAVE to be... 

A deep rumbling growl brought Amélie's focus back to the courtroom."Isengrim," Reinhardt ground out, rising to his full height with a smile that was anything but happy, "I was not aware you were joining us." 

Amélie couldn't bring herself to look, but she could hear the dry amusement in Gérard's voice, and it was all too easy to imagine the sardonic smile on his face. "An oversight, I'm sure." 

Reinhardt fixed Saunders with an icy stare. "If I could ask for a brief recess to speak with the council about this...development? Without our unexpected guest?" 

"Ah...yes, I suppose we could," Saunders hemmed before he looked over to one of the guards. "If you would give us a moment, Monsieur Lacroix?" 

"Oh," Gérard purred, his voice like silk wrapped around a straight razor. "but of course. I would be happy to wait on your pleasure." 

The sound of a door being shut announced Gérard's removal, and an instant later Reinhardt advanced towards where Saunders sat, his face nearly as red as his tie with rage as his voice rose to a roar. "You damned fool, what have you done?! She came here because she wanted a fair trial - and YOU invite the very man who ACCUSED her?!" 

Saunders stared, his jaw dropping. "...the complaint merely mentioned the victim was her fiancée, and the name was redacted for their privacy. I merely thought it would be best to be thorough...to ensure it was all done properly so there would be no question of her innocence if she was found to have been falsely accused." 

The cords in Reinhardt's neck jumped, and he seemed to expand within his suit, as if he was about to burst out of it in his fury. "Properly?! I will show you properly!"  

The entire room seemed frozen in the horrible moment, and Amélie realized that it would be all too easy for everything to come apart. Slowly, as if in a dream, she found herself moving across the floor. None attempted to stop her – everyone's focus was on the two alphas on the verge of violence. 

As she came to Reinhardt's side, her voice was barely a whisper as she placed a hand on his forearm. "Hier gibt es keine ehre."  

Amélie was not sure if it was the words she spoke or the pain they carried, but the effect was almost immediate. Reinhardt looked to her, his expression softening from rage to a slowly dawning horror as he realized how he had acted. 

His other hand came up to cover hers, and he let out a long sigh that was nearly a sob. "Forgive me, child...you are right." Looking to the council, he gave Saunders a look to make it clear this would not be forgotten, but restrained himself to the matter at hand. "Given the complexity of the situation, I would like to request a recess so we may discuss how our 'guest' will affect the proceedings." 

Saunders was still foundering, but Lewis rose to his feet. "I second the motion, given the decision to involve another council without consulting the rest of us. If security would escort Miss Orne to a holding area – away from our colleague from Isengrim, please?" 

Amélie bowed her head, silently thanking the elder before she allowed the guards to lead her away. 


Angela stood as the guards led Amélie away, and had started to make her way towards the end of the gallery when she felt a hand on her wrist. 

"Angela," Fareeha whispered softly, "what are you doing?" 

"I have to go to her," Angela whispered back. 

"Emily and Lena -" Fareeha began, but Angela cut her off with a sharp shake of her head. 

"Emily and Lena are not doctors. I can at least claim to be giving her an exam to make sure she is able to continue." 

Fareeha's voice softened with concern. "Ange..." 

Angela turned so she could look her in the eyes, keeping her voice low. "Fari, I'm the only family she has left." 

That struck home. Fareeha closed her eyes as she took her hand away, and nodded. 

She managed not to run out of the room, but it was a very near thing as she slipped through the door the guards had left through and made her way down the hall until she found them standing outside a door.  

"I'm a doctor," she explained before they could even ask why she was there, "and I want to see to Miss Orne." Her voice brooked no argument and to her relief, they opened the door and let her inside. 

Amélie was sitting on the floor on her knees, not really looking at anything. Her face was almost perfectly expressionless, but Angela could see it was a mask of shock, not a true lack of feeling. 

"Amélie?" Angela approached her slowly, opening her arms. "Amélie, I'm here." 

At first Amélie didn't seem to notice, but then she spoke so softly that Angela had to strain to hear her. "They're gone." Two words, but her mournful tone and the pain beneath them was breathtaking. 

Angela sank down and gently wrapped her arms around her. "I know..." She closed her eyes, the memory of a night where the doorbell rang and she had found a pair of strangers in uniform standing at her door suddenly fresh in her mind. "I know.

Amélie reached out as much as her restraints would allow, grabbing fistfuls of Angela's shirt and tugging her closer. Her entire body shook as she was wracked with silent sobs, her grief too overwhelming to allow words.  

Angela rocked her back and forth, feeling hot tears starting to soak into her blouse, and began to murmur in prayer as she did her best to comfort her friend. "Al molay rachamimshochayn bam’romim, ham-tzay m’nucha n’chona, al kanfay Hash’china..." 

The noise Amélie made was more of a whine than a wail or moan, long and low, until she finally managed to draw a deep breath and shuddered against her. "Es duet mr leid." 

"Shh," Angela hugged her just a bit tighter. "You are allowed to feel this. You are allowed to have this. Emily and Lena would be telling you the same if they could be here." 

"He's here," Amélie rasped.  

"I know," Angela murmured. "I know. But he cannot see you right now, and you can have this." 

Amélie nodded, letting her tears fall again. "I... I will have to face him." 

Angela gently ran a hand over her back. "Yes. But you won't be facing him alone. Reinhardt, Emily, Lena, Ana, Jesse, Fareeha...we're here. We're all here, OK?" 

"OK," Amélie finally agreed, bobbing her head in a nod. "OK..." 

Angela opened her purse and took out some makeup wipes. "Here, you look a fright. Let me help." 

Amélie stared at her as if she was insane for a moment, and then let out a broken, wet laugh. "I...D'accord.

Angela smiled as she carefully cleaned up the streaked eyeliner and mascara. "I know it seems like a silly thing...but you can control this. You can use this...and it lets me help."  

Amélie swallowed as best as she could, and tried to blink the last tears from her eyes. "I suppose...it is a place to start." 


When Angela returned a few minutes later, a few more people she didn't recognize had joined the small gallery, sitting as far away from the rest of them as possible. Doing her best to ignore them she made her way back to her seat. 

Emily leaned in, her soft voice warring between concern and anger. "How is she?" 

Angela shrugged. "About how you might expect...but she'll be ready when they call her back out." 

Emily put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed lightly. "Thank you. It's tearing me up that we can't go to her right now." 

Angela reached up and patted her hand gently. "She understands...now, what have I missed out here?" 

Emily pointed to a second small desk that had been moved across the room from where Reinhardt and Amélie had been seated earlier. "It looks like he'll be treated as something between a devil's advocate and a prosecutor. Allowed to ask questions when he isn't testifying, but I don't think they're going to allow him a vote on Amélie's status." 

Angela gave a soft grunt of acknowledgement. That wasn't as good as the council deciding to send Gérard packing, but it was probably the best that could be hoped for, under the circumstances. She took a look at her friends as they waited. Where they'd been concerned but hopeful when the day began, their moods had all shifted with the unexpected twists. Jesse's face was a grave sort of calm, but his eyes smoldered with anger. Fareeha sitting up straight and square, but the lines at her eyes and the set of her jaw betrayed her tension. She could tell Emily had been worrying at her nails again, and Lena leaned against her for comfort, her eyes wet with unshed tears. 

The sounds of the council members retaking their places caught her attention, and it was clear things were about to resume when one guard escorted Gérard to his seat. He was still smiling, but some of the smugness was gone, and there was a faint air of irritation about him. He obviously wasn't happy about having been told he wouldn't have a vote in the trial's results, though Angela would admit he was doing a good job of trying to hide it. 

Another guard led Amélie back in to sit with Reinhardt. She kept her head up, the touch ups Angela had performed on her makeup hiding most of the evidence of her earlier tears. Her eyes flicked to where Emily and Lena sat, some silent communication passing between them, and a faint smile appeared on her face before she took her seat, leaning in to speak quietly to Reinhardt before Saunders called the council back to order. 

"Before we begin," Reinhardt asked as he stood, "I would ask for some clarification on one of the remarks made before the recess began." He turned and gave Gérard a guarded look. "I was under the impression that the surviving members of the pack known as the Damesblanches had become part of Isengrim. But according to the information you provided, none outside of Miss Orne have survived...?" 

"Unfortunately," Gérard said mournfully, "the Elder of Irontooth is correct." He shook his head, then looked over to Amélie. "So very few were left after your...departure. A few, I think, died of lingering hurts they suffered through the war. Others...simple misadventures. A tragic reality for those outcast from our people." His eyes hardened almost imperceptibly, and Angela caught the way Amélie's entire body stiffened in response. "The last was your Aunt Giselle. I fear it was so close to the anniversary of your exile that some wondered if she had died of shame." 

Lena started to rise, her face like a thundercloud, but Emily yanked her back down with an urgent whisper of "Not here." 

Fortunately, Ana seemed perfectly willing to take up the gauntlet that the visitor had thrown down. Putting her teacup down on the saucer, she fixed Gérard with a look that could have melted steel. "That seems rather odd to me, wolf. Even the weakest of us are far hardier and stronger than ordinary humans. For an entire pack to disappear in a mere forty years...especially a pack that was supposed to be under your protection...how very peculiar.

Gérard gave her a guarded look. "Life for outcasts and traitors is rarely easy." 

"No," Ana said with undisguised loathing. "I suppose not." 

Saunders cleared his throat. "What exactly are you implying of our guestSayidaty Amari?" 

Ana's smile added an entirely new level to her insults. "I'm sure I don't know, Elder." 

For the second time that morning, it was one of the other Council members who dragged things back to the matter at hand. "If, perhaps, we could continue...?" 

The council returned to business, starting with the dry, mundane notes of the previous trial before moving on to the present.  

One of the council members Angela didn't recognize tapped a hand on the tabletop after they'd finished going over the notes. "Miss Orne...were you informed that a trial was to be held over your...accusation?" 

Amélie straightened in her chair. "No, I was not." 

Elder Lewis tilted his head slightly. "Would you have attended, if you had been notified properly?" 

Amélie hesitated, glancing over at where Gérard sat. "I...do not know. My former fiancée had a great deal of influence, even then. A fair trial would have been difficult." 

"Mm." Lewis pursed his lips in thought before he spoke again, his eye flicking to where Gérard sat. "I suppose it might at that." 

Saunders gave Lewis a warning look. "I think it may be best if we move to some of the expert testimony. I'd prefer not to ask Miss Orne questions out of turn, since we will be giving her a chance to speak in her defense later." 

There were some grumblings about that, but Lewis nodded to concede the point, and before long Angela found herself standing in the open part of the room as she was called to testify on her findings. 

She had just finished explaining the DNA results when Gérard rose from his seat and turned to address Saunders. 

"Excuse the interruption, but I would like to ask the Doctor a few questions to clarify her earlier statements, if I may?" 

 Saunders nodded, waving in Angela's direction. "Please. We do want to make sure everything is settled properly." 

"Merci," Gérard offered before turning to face her, the grin on his face positively predatory. "So, you are the Doctor Miss Orne approached, yes?" 

Angela tried to keep her voice carefully neutral as she answered. "That is correct." 

Gérard tilted his head slightly. "I'm curious why she would have chosen to approach you?" 

"I'm fairly well known in the London were community." Angela met his curious look with a firm stare of her own. "My clinic is in neutral territory and considered to be under the same terms of sanctuary as The Howl nearby. I would imagine she felt that she could be seen there without having to fear for her immediate safety." 

Gérard gave a little hum before he changed his approach. "And I understand you are a human doctor, is that correct?" 

Angela shrugged. "I am a doctor who practices both on persons with and without were genes, yes." 

"Excuse me," Gérard held up a hand. "I believe you misunderstand. I mean that you, yourself, are not a were?" 

"No," Angela replied with a frown, "I am not a were, but I fail to see what that-" 

Gérard interrupted her sharply, disbelief ringing in his voice "You, a non-were who is allowed to practice medicine in our community, were approached by a woman whom was among the most wanted, if not the most wanted weres in Europe. A woman suspected to be Feral at that, and you just.... welcomed her in? Did you not know who and what she was?" 

Angela drew herself up a bit taller. "As a doctor, I have an obligation to treat any patient to comes to me seeking assistance. That includes wanted individuals and those the council has suspected of being feral." 

Gerard nodded along as she spoke, but his voice was still thick with condescension when he replied.  "Quite an admirable stance, doctor. But given situation, you did not think to call for the council to aid you?" He paused to let that sink in, his eyes sweeping over the council."She could very well have been Feral and bitten you, turned you against your will or killed you, and yet you sent for no aid?" 

Angela felt her stomach flutter nervously. She could see the trap being placed around her, and she needed to answer carefully if she wished to escape it. "I apprised Elder Wilhelm of the situation as soon as I was able to do so."  

Gérard put on a show of mock illumination. "Ahhh. Yes, I see. Which absolved you of any other responsibility, I suppose."  

Reinhardt raised a hand. "I would remind our guest that Doctor Ziegler is not the woman on trial today - and that her actions were quite correct." 

"Of course," Gérard said with a smile that made her stomach turn, "I am merely asking the doctor if she was alone when she saw Miss Orne. Surely there had to be someone else at the clinic, a secretary perhaps? Someone who would have recognized her and thought to call the council immediately for the Doctors safety? For all we know you could have tampered with the samples, or perhaps Miss Orne forced you to use results from another were, one who wasn't feral?" 

Anger boiled up in her as Gérard questioned her professional behavior and qualifications. "I have standards, Mister Lacroix, and if that is not sufficient, I would be happy to provide you with the results from the independent evaluation done on Miss Orne's blood and urine." 

Gérard raised an eyebrow, and Angela couldn't help but feel his face was badly in need of a fist. "You sent samples to another lab? Don't such tests take a great deal of time?" 

"The lab I worked with needed about four business days to process them," Angela confirmed. "You can review the results in the report that was prepared for the council, and see that the sample results and markers were identical. Short of drawing blood from Miss Orne in front of you, I am afraid I will need to ask you – and the council - to trust in my professional ethics."  

Saunders cleared his throat. "Wilhelm is correct that Dr. Ziegler is not on trial here today." 

Gérard smiled. "Of course, my apologies. But if I may ask...do you know where Miss Orne was, while you waited for those results?" 

Angela's eyes flicked to where Emily sat as the redhead stiffened, then over to Reinhardt. "I understand that Elder Wilhelm was keeping her in custody prior to the trial." 

"Ahh. Yes." Gérard nodded, and made a dismissive wave. "That will be all." 

Reinhardt stood and raised a hand before Angela could return to her seat. "I should like to ask the doctor a question, if I may." 

Angela turned to face him, trying to let herself relax. "Yes, Elder?" 

"The samples from Miss Orne all showed no trace of the blood and urine compounds found in feral weres, correct?" 

"Yes," Angela confirmed. "Her samples were free of any sign of feral traits." 

Reinhard nodded, stroking his beard before he asked his follow up question. "To the best of your knowledge, has there ever been a case where a Feral were failed to show those traits? Or where those traits faded over time?" 

"The tests have only been in widespread use for about thirty years," Angela explained, "but in that time I am not aware of any cases where a demonstrably feral were failed to show those factors when their blood and urine were analyzed, regardless of how young or old they were." 

"Thank you, doctor." 

Angela gave Reinhardt a smile and nod, then made her way back to the gallery just as Jesse was coming down to take her place in the witness box. She managed to find her way back to her seat next to Fareeha without breaking her poker face, but when Fareeha's hand found hers and squeezed tight, Angela slumped a bit, letting out a sigh as she closed her eyes. She hadn't lied, but she'd told a very carefully worded version of the truth to protect her friends, and she didn't relish the idea of fencing with Gérard again if he found a way to expose the truth.  

She zoned out through much of Jesse's testimony, but the sound of Gérard's voice caught her attention. 

"So, Mister McCree, you were a Hunter?" 

Jesse nodded, casually resting his flesh and blood hand over his prosthetic. "Yes, sir. Did a stint informally in the late 1800's out West, and when I ended up in London I signed on for another hitch. Ended up being active about thirty years before I stepped back down." 

"An illustrious career," Gérard observed. "Why did you stop?" 

Jesse shrugged. "You might say I lost my taste for it. Decided I wanted a simpler life." 

Gérard tapped a finger against his chin. "And yet you assisted with taking Miss Orne into custody?" 

"The Elder asked for my assistance seeing as I was familiar with the original case," Jesse explained calmly. "Under the circumstances I felt it I ought to be there." 

Gérard nodded, giving him a thin smile. "So – as a Hunter, you are aware that Miss Orne attacked several of your comrades without cause?" 

Jesse's hand started to come up before he remembered he wasn't wearing a hat to tip back. "Well, it depends on how you define 'without cause', I'd say. Once she knew she was being hunted, and that you –  excuse me, your council – made it clear they considered bringing her in dead just as good as alive? That change things a might bit." 

"So that was sufficient reason for her to attack those who attempted to find her? I'm sure that's comforting to the family of the hunter she killed." Gérard's voice dripped with acid. "I would have expected you to be more concerned for the lives of your colleagues." 

Jesse stayed cool under Gérard's scrutiny. "I'm sayin' that she had reasons for her actions, Sir." 

Gérard looked over to where Amélie sat. "Are you implying she had 'reasons' for what was determined to be an unprovoked attack on me, then?" 

Jesse met Gérard with a thousand yard stare. "I don't know, sir. Did she?" 

Gérard's olive skin flushed a deep red as Reinhardt rose to take advantage of him being thrown so spectacularly off his game.  

"Mister McCree – as a Hunter, can you tell me if any other Ferals evaded capture for such a long period of time?" 

Jesse shook his head. "No, sir. Outside of Miss Orne, the longest time a Feral evaded capture was about nine years, and modern life being what it is, that's gotten even harder as time's done on." 

Reinhardt nodded with satisfaction. "So her ability to remain hidden for so long is quite atypical, then." 

"Your average Feral," Jesse explained, "runs towards prey - and threats, for that matter. More often than not, there's a point where they just want to engage. Some are more cunning, but more often than not they're still more concerned with attack than defense." 

Reinhardt looked to Amélie, placing a hand on her shoulder. "And Miss Orne?" 

Jesse grew serious. "Miss Orne fought to escape and evade, on the rare occasions where she was cornered. She was at large for forty years, as the gentleman from France said, and to the best of my knowledge she used lethal force once.

"And what conclusion would you draw from that?" 

"I'm not a doctor," Jesse said coolly, "but in my opinion...Amélie Orne ain't Feral, and she never was." 

That got a rumble of conversation among the council members, and more than a few gave Amélie and Gérard some searching looks in the wake of that statement.  

Finally, Saunders stood and waited for the room to go quiet before he spoke. "Our original plan was to question Miss Orne today, and to render a verdict on her status. Given the complexities which arose and the need to take some unplanned breaks in the proceedings, I think it would be best for us to adjourn for the afternoon, and resume in the morning. It's already three in the afternoon and I suspect we could all use the chance to get matters in order before Miss Orne is asked to testify." 

"I second the motion," the Bryndenbrooke councilor agreed, and before long the rest were nodding along. 

Reinhardt cleared his throat before they could complete the motion. "May I ask if I will be permitted to take Miss Orne back to my home, in that case?" 

Saunders considered that, and then shook his head. "I think it would be best if she remained a guest here, under protective guard, for her own safety. DCI Amari? Seeing as you are already here..." 

Fareeha stood and nodded. "I would be happy to assist, yes." 

Angela could tell Reinhardt wanted to object, but the suggestion of Fareeha acting as Amélie's guard seemed to ease his mind. He conceded to the point and as the council adjourned she watched Fareeha lean in to murmur in Amélie's ear before she led her out of the room, Gérard staring daggers at both of their backs as they disappeared through a side door. 

Keep her safe, Fari, for all our sakes. 

Chapter Text

Emily's stomach was churning as she left the hall that had been used for the Council meeting, Lena close behind.  

She felt Lena's fingers clamp down on her hand, and let herself be dragged off to the side, Lena looking around to make sure they were out of earshot before she spoke.

"Em, what are we going to do?"

Emily sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose with her free hand. "I'm not sure, pup."

Lena was half frantic as she leaned in. "Is Lady going to be safe here tonight? What if he tries something? What he said about her family..."

Emily brought Lena close and lightly touched their foreheads together. "I know. I know..." She took a deep breath, centering herself as she let Lena's scent fill her nose. "It's not what we wanted, and it's not what we hoped for, but Fareeha will keep her safe tonight. If he did try anything it would be as good as admitting he's trying to hide something. As far as I can tell, Gérard is utter filth, but he isn't stupid. As for us..." Emily trailed off as she was hit with a sudden burst of inspiration, then leaned in and gave Lena a kiss. "Go to the hotel like we planned, and get checked in – Angela can give you a ride."

Lena blinked as she tried to catch up to the sudden shift in the conversation. "I...OK? But where are you going?"  

Emily fished out her keys and gestured towards the general direction of the parking lot. "I need to go to the cabin. I just realized there is something we can do to help."

Lena was still clearly confused, but she nodded. "Right – explain when you get back, then?"

Emily smiled to her and blew a kiss before she started to head for the doors. "Promise – I'll be quick as I can!"

It took an effort for Emily to keep her focus on the road as she drove, but she managed to make it to the cabin without incident, leaving Oliver by the front door and letting herself inside.

After having the cabin almost constantly occupied for most of the last six months, it felt strange to walk in to a dark, empty space, but Emily didn't let herself think about that. Crossing to the living room, she rummaged under the coffee table until she found Amélie's sketchbook and the pouch of charcoals and pencils.  

She'd been about to turn and leave when another thought struck her. Putting the art supplies down on the table, she crossed to the guest bedroom where Amélie had left most of her clothes, and grabbed a pair of blouses and another pair of pants for her. Since she couldn't go back to Reinhardt's for her suitcase, this would at least give her the ability to freshen up for the second day instead of having to wear the same clothes two days in a row.

Collecting the art supplies on her way back to the car, Emily put her cargo in the passenger seat, cranked the Rover's engine over, and mashed the accelerator to the floor as she turned to head back to Woodcroft Castle.


Fareeha had been confused when one of the council's guards had asked if she could come to the gate, but the sight of Emily standing next to the gatehouse with her arms full of clothes and a few smaller items clarified things a bit.  

"I know I can't see her," Emily murmured quietly as she offered a thick pad of paper, "but...she needs this. Can you please take this to her?"

Fareeha took the pad and opened it to a few different pages. Dancing figures, naturescapes, a wolf that she realized had to have been Lena, judging by the ears. "I think I can do that. We're getting some food delivered here soon, too. Are those clothes for her as well?"

Emily nodded, and began to hand things over. It took a moment for Fareeha to arrange the hangers and the other items Emily had brought so she could carry it all, but she sorted it out after a few minutes.  

"I shouldn't technically do this," Fareeha admitted, "but is there anything you'd like me to tell her?"

Emily bit her lip as she considered that. "Just...let her know we're still here."

Fareeha nodded and offered what she hoped was a reassuring smile before she went back inside, climbing the stairs up to the second floor where one of the restored castle's bedroom suites had been turned over for their use tonight.  

The drawing room was empty, so she went to the bedroom and knocked at the door. "Miss Orne?" After a moment with no reply, she tried again. "Amélie?"

When Amélie opened the door, it was obvious she'd been crying. She'd removed her makeup in the bathroom, but her eyes were still red and puffy, and Fareeha could see the tracks of tears. "I'm sorry," she explained in a scratchy voice. "I was on the toilet."

Fareeha nodded, letting what she suspected was at least a partial lie go. "That's not a problem. I have a few things for you, and I arranged for some food to be sent up that should be here soon."

Amélie's eyes widened in surprise as she took the clothes, carrying them over and putting them by the bed before she came back for the sketchbook, her hands trembling slightly as she clutched the pouch of pencils to her chest. "How...?"

"Emily." Fareeha smiled to her. "She said to tell you 'we're still here'."

Amélie let out a shuddering breath, and followed Fareeha back out into the drawing room. "Thank you...Detective."

"Under the circumstances, I think you can call me Fareeha."

Amélie nodded and sat down, flipping through the drawing pad until she reached a blank page, but when she pulled a pencil from the bag and put it to the paper, she seemed oddly hesitant. She dragged the pencil across the paper a few times, then stopped with a frown. Then tried again only to give a sigh of frustration and reach for an eraser. Then again, and again, seemingly never satisfied with her attempts.

A knock at the door signaled the arrival of their dinner before Fareeha could say anything.  

"I realize that delivery kebabs aren't much," Fareeha admitted as she brought the bags of takeaway over, "but I figured it was a bit better than ordering pizza."

"No," Amélie shook her head as she put the pad down and accepted a container of lamb and doner kebabs, "thank you, this is very kind."

"I know this isn't what...you really wanted," Fareeha admitted awkwardly. She didn't think the room would be bugged, but she wanted to be careful with how much she said, just to be safe. "I can't imagine how difficult this must be for you."

Amélie must have been starving, given they'd missed lunch, but she barely seemed able to eat the chunks of beef and lamb. "I don't even know what to say, really...I am sorry."

"It's fine. You've had to deal with a lot today." Fareeha concentrated on finishing her food, and put the container to the side. "I'll probably be making some coffee later. Let me know if you need some."

Amélie nodded absently and continued to pick at her food for a while before she went back to trying to draw, and Fareeha walked to the small window set into the stone wall, doing her best to stay vigilant without making her presence feel too oppressive.

The sound of paper being torn got her attention, and Fareeha looked out of the corner of her eye to see Amélie crumpling a sheet from the sketchbook and tossing it in the general direction of the wastebasket before she put her head into her hands and silently began to weep again.  

She didn't want to make the moment even more uncomfortable by staring. The fact that she barely knew this woman, despite her connections to her not-exactly-a-girlfriend and several of her other friends, was all too obvious right now. She didn't even know if Amélie would accept attempts at consolation from her, so she busied herself with picking up the discarded paper so she could throw it away properly.

She didn't deliberately try to smooth the paper out, but as Fareeha picked it up she couldn't help but notice the angry, accusing looking eyes on one of the less damaged parts of the page, or the rough lines of a jaw set in a frown.  

Fareeha balled it up a little tighter and put it into the trash, then stepped out, locking the door behind her, and walked down to the little kitchenette so she could start a pot of coffee and give Amélie what privacy she could.


Amélie dried her tears after she realized she was alone, and tried to make herself eat. She'd been trying to make an effort to remember her Aunt's face, or any of the others she'd lost, and had been left with nothing but frustration and pain until it all had become too much again.

She managed to finish a kebab, but couldn't bring herself to try to consume another. Logically she knew that she should, but it could have been perfectly prepared foie gras or a thick rare steak and she would have been just as disinterested. Food simply held nothing for her, at the moment.

After she closed up the takeaway box, she picked up her pencil again and didn't really think of anyone. She just let her hand move of its own accord, and when she realized she recognized some of the lines and planes she'd begun to create, she let herself follow them.

She became so engrossed that she hadn't even realized that Fareeha had returned until she heard the detective's voice coming from behind her. "Is that Angela's grandfather?"

Amélie glanced up and nodded before returning to her drawing.

"I'd seen his picture a few times," Fareeha said as she settled down in the seat across from her again, "but he was older. Was this what he looked like when you first met him?"

"When I came back," Amélie answered. "When I came to stay."

Fareeha gave a soft 'ah' and sipped at her coffee. "Angela got his nose."

Amélie was surprised to find herself smiling just a little. "I think he would have said that it looks better on her." When she was satisfied with the drawing she looked up at the clock. A quarter to ten and she felt no urge to sleep at all. She looked back to the paper and ran a finger along the side of the page. It was a good likeness, she thought. Simon looked thoughtful, his eyes as kind as always.  

She turned to a fresh page, and somehow wasn't surprised to find herself sketching Angela next. She had those same eyes and nose, yes, but there was a bit of her own pain there, underlying her care, and that little sarcastic twist to her lips. After that, she found herself drawing Emily, her mouth set in a determined line, jaw firm and her shoulders back.  

Fareeha set out a cup of coffee for her, and she drank absently from it before starting on her next portrait – Lena, her eyes full of concern, the moonstone pendant hanging from her neck. When Amélie looked up at the clock, it was well past midnight, but she didn't feel as if she could stop. It was as if each page she filled was drawing some of the grief and pain out of her, replacing it with the strength she needed to help her face the council again.   

She drew Reinhardt's face twisted in fury as he'd challenged Saunders, and Ana's skeptical frown as she questioned Gérard.  

Between the coffee and her second wind, she barely noticed the first rays of dawn as she finished filling the final page of her sketchbook, until she finally put her pencils away.  

She took one last look at her work and smiled before she stood to go shower and dress for the day, leaving book open to her own profile in silhouette against the rising moon.


When Emily woke up in the hotel room with Lena curled against her, it was hard for it to not feel a little bittersweet.  They'd booked a room in Peterborough expecting that Amélie's trial would be finished the night before, with plans to spend the night nearby rather than deal with driving back to London or the cabin. Emily had picked a room with a King-sized bed to give them plenty of room, but the extra space with just the two of them served as a reminder of how everything had gone pear shaped.

Breakfast was a subdued affair, and she could tell Lena was in a bit of a funk too as they made their way back to the castle.

To their relief, Amélie was sitting at the table with Reinhardt when they arrived, giving them a little smile and a subtle wave despite her bound hands.

Lena gave a little sigh, and Emily reached out to take her and squeeze it tightly before leading her up to their seats next to Angela and a very tired looking Fareeha, who was sipping from a paper cup of coffee.

"Oh, you look a wreck." Lena gave Fareeha a seated hug, mindful of her coffee. "Were you up all night?"

"Basically, yes." Fareeha swallowed a yawn, and her shoulders slumped when Angela lightly ran a hand over her back. "I had a nap when Reinhardt came to take her to breakfast...and coffee. And then I had some coffee...and then an Angel brought me coffee."

Emily chuckled before she let her voice dip into a quieter register. "So... how did it go, really?"

"Things were fairly quiet," Fareeha reported. "And I have to admit, if I had any doubts about your...friend...I wouldn't any longer."

Emily raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

Fareeha finished her coffee and put the cup down next to her foot. "I haven't seen many Ferals, but from everything I've seen, everything I've read...a real Feral would have been going crazy after being cooped up in there all night." She shook her head. "Hell, almost anyone would have. But Amélie...she had a few rough moments, but she stayed calm. Spent most of the night drawing – that sketchbook you brought her meant a lot."

Emily sighed and bowed her head. "Oh, good. I hoped..." She smiled to Fareeha and shook her head. "Well. Thank you, Fareeha. For being there, and for trusting her."

Fareeha had been about to reply when the sound of voices and shuffling feet drew everyone's attention back to the floor as the Council returned.  

Gérard was the last to return, settling into his desk with a faint expression of annoyance as he took some papers from his briefcase and read through them, then set them back on the table in front of him. He looked like he hadn't slept that well, and though he was still wearing a nicely cut suit and had his hair just so, Emily thought his eyes looked a little bloodshot.

Good.  

Saunders rose from his seat. "Good morning. We want to move ahead, but I was asked if we could have some testimony from yesterday clarified before we ask Miss Orne to speak in her defense." His eyes scanned the gallery, and then he pointed to where Angela sat. "Doctor Ziegler, if you would please come here."

Emily looked over to Angela with a frown, but she didn't give anything away. Lightly squeezing Fareeha's knee before she stood up, Angela made her way back to the witness box and gave Saunders a respectful nod. "Of course. Good morning."

It became clear just who had asked for 'clarification' when Gérard stood up and locked eyes with Angela, staring her down, but not asking anything.

The silence stretched until Saunders finally cleared his throat with an air of confusion, "Is there something wrong, Isengrim?"

"There is," Gérard said gravely, his eyes never leaving Angela, "but forgive me, I was lost in my thoughts. Doctor, do you recall what day it was when you got the second set of Miss Orne's lab results back?"

"Three days ago," Angela replied without hesitation, but Emily felt icy fingers running up her spine.  

Gérard seemed to check his notes, jotting something down before looking back to Angela. "I see. Now, how long did it you say it takes for the lab to process those tests?"

Angela frowned, clearly not sure where he was going with this line of questioning. "It takes about a week, normally."

Gérard tapped his pen against his chin. "Could you be a little more specific, doctor? How long did these results take?"

Angela gave a little sigh as she tried to think back. "I believe it was five days."

Gérard wrote that down on his pad as well. "Then it was approximately eight days ago when you, supposedly encountered Miss Orne for the first time, am I correct?"

Angela shrugged. "Yes... that would seem to be the case."

Gérard's voice grew hushed, and Emily would swear the temperature in the room dropped by several degrees. "Then I am afraid we have a problem, doctor."

Reinhardt stood, his face flushing. "I would remind my friend from Isengrim that we have already covered the fact that Doctor Ziegler is not on trial."

Gérard turned, raising an eyebrow. "Is she not?" Before Reinhardt could reply, Gérard fished through his notes and pulled out a copy of the second lab results. "I obtained these after the council adjourned last night as I had arrived late to the proceedings. I spent my evening reading over all the documents and I believe there is something of note here on page four. In the summary of the secondary lab results, they make note of when the lab samples arrived. It's dated the 17th. Eleven days ago."

He paused to let that sink in, then turned to look back to Angela, whose face had begun to drain of color. "How could that be possible, if you only met her just over a week ago?"

A murmur rose from the councilors as they began to lean back and forth, whispering to each other, and Gérard played the moment for all it was worth, staring Angela down until sweat began to bead on her forehead. "So, Doctor Ziegler, could you please tell us when you really met Miss Orne?"

Emily felt her stomach clench and tasted bile in her throat as she watched the jaws of Gérard's trap close around Angela. Damn, damn, damn, damn!

When Angela didn't answer immediately, Gérard took a step closer to where she stood. "I am not a member of this Council, but I have no doubt their penalties for lying to them are just as harsh as those of my own. I would strongly suggest you consider that before you answer my question."

Angela's eyes flicked up to meet Emily's, a silent apology on her face before she straightened up and told the truth. "I received a letter at my clinic from Miss Orne asking me to meet her at a private residence outside of London on the evening of the 15th. I examined her there and obtained blood, urine, and DNA samples from her there. Once that was done, I returned to London the following morning, used half of the samples I collected for my own tests, and posted the remaining samples to the lab by overnight mail for their analysis."

Gérard smiled coldly, clearly pleased to have caught Angela in her attempt to lie. "I see. And when did you actually inform Elder Wilhelm of this Feral's presence?"

Angela swallowed hard. "I received the confirmation from the lab and informed him on the afternoon of the 21st - and arranged for him to take Miss Orne into custody that same day."

"Ahh. C'est clair. Then I must ask - why lie about the timing? Where was Miss Orne during that time?"

Angela hesitated again, but before Gérard could press her again, Emily stood, trying to ignore the gasps of surprise and alarm that came from Lena and several others.

"She was with me."

Lena's hissed "Oh Hell " faded into the background as Emily felt the entire council – the entire room – turn their focus to her.

Gérard raised an eyebrow. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure..."

Emily did her best to keep her voice level and her tongue civil, instead of saying something like And you never will, you murdering git. "My name is Emily Oakley. Miss Orne was staying in a cabin I own when Doctor Ziegler examined her."

"I see." Gérard walked back to his desk, leaving his papers there. "May I ask exactly what your relationship to Miss Orne is?"

Emily had to swallow another sarcastic reply, taking a deep breath before she answered. "I'm the person who convinced her to turn herself in."

"So," Gérard said slowly, "you harbored a Feral, then?"

"No," Emily fenced back. "She was accused of being Feral, but as you can clearly see she is not . Therefore, I did nothing but give a friend a safe place to stay."

Lewis rose to his feet. "Miss Oakley is not on trial here, either. I suggest we get back to the reason we are actually here, and stop playing games."

Gérard turned and gave a little nod. "Very well. That will be all, Doctor Ziegler."

Emily remained standing until Angela came back to her seat, then slowly sank back down.

"I'm sorry, Emily," Angela whispered softly. "I tried to keep you and Lena both out of this."

Emily shook her head. "We shouldn't have put you in the position...we'll work it out."

Lena had gone quiet, and Emily looked over to her. "You OK, pup?"

"Of course I'm not." Lena looked at her, her face a mask of misery. "You just got out of the crosshairs and now both of you are right back in danger. What happens if we lose, Em? What happens if I..."

Emily put am arm around her, and Lena tucked in against her with a soft sob. "Sh. We are not going to lose this. It's going to be OK, Lena. I'm not going anywhere, and neither is Lady."

Lena shook her head. "You don't know that yet."

"I believe in Amélie," Emily murmured into her hair. "And Reinhardt, and Jesse, and Angela, and Fareeha...and you. We will get through this and we will be OK."

Lena sniffled, then leaned into her for a quick kiss. "I love you."

"I love you too." Emily gave Lena one last squeeze before turning her attention back to the floor. Gérard had his arms crossed as he sat at his table, his mouth set in a frown as Lewis spoke.

"Given the circumstances and your former...involvement, it would be quite inappropriate to let you testify and cross examine her. You can be her advocate or her prosecutor, Isengrim , but not both."

"Very well," Gérard conceded. "In that case, I would have Amélie stand and answer for her actions. You have repeatedly said you wished to question her - do it!"

Saunders turned to look at Amélie and Reinhardt. "If there are no objections from Beowulfsohn ..."

Reinhardt gave Amélie a questioning look, then nodded to her. "Miss Orne has intended to speak in her own defense from the beginning, but I would request she be unchained while she does so."

Gérard shot to his feet. "Is that truly safe? This woman has attacked others before."

Ana made a show of taking a sip from her teacup. "One would hope that in that unlikely event a roomful of elders and security guards would be sufficient defense against one woman...unless you are suggesting that you think you cannot stop her."

Gérard's lips curled, but Saunders brought a hand down on his desk with a sharp slap of flesh on wood. "I think that's enough, thank you. Sayidaty Amari is quite correct – there is no reason to be timid." He gestured to one of the guards, who approached and unlocked Amélie's restraints.

Emily's breath caught as Amélie rose from her seat and walked to the center of the room, rubbing lightly at her wrists before she uncuffed the sleeves of her blouse and rolled them up to her elbows, exposing the scars that ran down her right arm.

It was a subtle message, but Emily heard it loud and clear - and by the look on his face, so did Gérard. I survived.

Saunders cleared his throat. "Miss Orne, as you may recall from yesterday's proceedings, you were originally ruled Feral based on four charges. In the case of the fourth charge – that you no longer had the capability to reason – we agree with your statement that your presence here today says otherwise. But the other three charges must be answered."

Amélie nodded, her eyes carefully locked on the other council members. "Thank you, Elder. I understand."

One of the other council members leaned forward in her seat. "Yesterday you stated that you were concerned about your ability to receive a fair hearing at the time of the original...incident. But I would like to know why you ran in the first place? Why did you refuse to explain this at the time?"

Amélie's eyes darted to Reinhardt before she spoke. "I am not certain how familiar you are with the history of my family, but as a young girl my birth pack was accused of collaborating with the Germans during the second world war. After the war, every adult member was branded and outcast. Made refugees in our own home." She looked over at Gérard, her eyes flashing with anger. "When I was older, my fiancée promised that he would take them in, if I married him. It was to be part of his gift to me as his bride. I feared that after we had fought, they might suffer for my actions. I ran because I hoped that it might keep them safe."

Emily watched Lewis give Gérard a probing look. "A fear that seems unfortunately well founded, given what we learned yesterday." Before Gérard could object, the elder addressed Amélie directly. "In the cases that were brought up yesterday where you were accused of attacking Hunters who were attempting to apprehend you, was that a factor?"

Amélie rubbed a hand lightly over her scars. "In some cases. Especially once I knew I had been declared Feral. I did my best to just stay in hiding, but in some cases...I had little choice. Particularly the ones who made it clear they had no plans of attempting to bring me in alive."

Gérard stood, his expression apparently concerned, but Emily could see the bitterness beneath. "Then how do you explain the Hunter you murdered? What possible reason could have justified that?"

Amélie stared down Gérard. "I tried to get away from him, but it was late at night, and I was exhausted from running. He cornered me in a parking garage, and broke my leg." She took a deep breath, then looked over at Saunders. "He told me 'Scream as much as you like, but no one will hear you.' That was when I knew I couldn't hold back any longer."

The room went quiet, and Emily thought that even Gérard was a bit taken aback by that.  

"Given the circumstances," Saunders finally croaked, his face a bit pale, "I believe we can consider that closed, then."

Reinhardt rose from his seat. "In the case of the second remaining charge, that Miss Orne refused to participate in normal Were society, I should like to point out that because of her family history and how she was ostracized as a young woman, Miss Orne was not being deliberately antisocial or aloof – rather, I would suggest that our society deliberately held her apart for much of her life."

Lewis nodded in agreement. "Perhaps the better question is – what would you do now, Miss Orne? If this Council rules that your Feral ruling was in error, and you could return to a more normal life. Where would you go? What would you do?"

Amélie seemed relieved to have a happier topic. "While I have been outside of Were society, I have still needed a way to support myself. I've trained extensively to work in authenticating and appraising art and antiques. I would continue my career, and likely move permanently into London rather than moving between cities every few years."  

Saunders straightened in his seat. "You've been working among humans professionally and without incident? Can you prove this?"

Amélie nodded confidently. "While many of my clients have requested confidentiality, particularly when I am working with items from private collections, I can provide documentation for airline travel, hotel visits, receipts, and the like."

"While fascinating, that answers the question of how you function in human society," Lewis observed. "Not ours."

Amélie tilted her head slightly. "I suppose so, but one does not exist without the other. As I have no pack and no family, I would likely be considered a disperser. I understand there is some neutral territory in the city and a sanctuary that is often welcoming to those who are not part of a pack." She looked up to Emily, and they shared a little smile. "I would enjoy spending some time there while I accustomed myself."

Lewis gave a gruff little grunt. "And if a pack expressed interest in having you join them? Would you be open to the idea?"

Gérard scoffed. "As if one would offer? Feral or not, her reputation would proceed her."

"Given that you rejected her, Isengrim, and that she has no plans to return to France," Reinhardt countered with an air of mock cordiality, "I would say that is no longer any of your concern."

Saunders coughed. "I think Miss Orne should be allowed to answer the question."

Amélie kept her tone mild, but Emily didn't miss the way she looked up to meet her eyes again.  "I would not presume to believe I would be in great demand...but if I were invited, and felt that I was loved and valued there, I would be honored to accept a place among them."

Emily bit the side of her cheek, and looked over to Lena, who had clearly been reading between the lines just as much as Emily had.  

Lena took her hand and squeezed it tight, nodding in answer to Emily's silent question, and Emily squeezed back.

Emily still wasn't sure she was really ready...but both of them wanted this. Both of them wanted her . Not just as a lover or a friend but as their pack leader, as their Alpha.

Maybe...just maybe...you ought to listen to them, and not your fears.

The sound of Saunders speaking again made Emily focus back on the trial again.  

"With that said, there is still one final charge we must address: That you attacked your fiancée, Gérard Lacroix, alpha of Isengrim, and attempted to murder him - seemingly without cause."

"I was attacked," Gérard objected. "That is not an allegation, that is fact."

"So you say," Lewis drawled.  

Gérard scowled and undid his necktie in quick, angry motions before he undid the high collar of his dress shirt, revealing the scars where Amélie's claws had dug into his neck. "So I can prove, Ashlynfang."

Saunders gave the scars a careful look. "You have proven that you were harmed, Isengrim, and Miss Orne has not disputed that...but it strikes me she has the right to explain If there was cause - and her intent."

"There was cause," Amélie said so softly that Emily almost had to strain to hear. "A matter between the two of us. But out of respect for my ex-fiancée, I would prefer not to elaborate on it."

Gérard seemed to be weighing the unspoken offer. Amélie would allow his crimes to stay secret, even after all he had done, if he backed down. Emily could also see the wheels turning in his head as the alpha slowly redid his tie.

Reinhardt tapped a finger against the table, taking Gérard's silence as tacit agreement. "In any event, I should point out that by Isengrim 's own laws and charter, the Alpha is expected to be able to defend themselves from a challenge to their leadership at any time. Up to and including an attack by a lesser ranking member of the pack."

"In which case," Ana observed dryly, "Perhaps the better question is not why she attacked you, Monsieur Lacroix, but why you were not able to stop her."

"A challenge," Gérard replied defensively, "would be declared."

"The wording of your pack's charter does not require that," Reinhardt pointed out. "If I may quote: 'Un Alpha doit être prêt à faire face à un défi à toutes les heures du jour et de la nuit, avec ou sans avertissement.'" He fixed Gérard with a steady gaze. "With or without warning. By your own words she was within her rights."

Lewis stood, one hand against the table top. "You had announced your engagement by that point. Since she had been a disperser, that meant Miss Orne was under the laws of her new pack from the point she agreed to marry you. Which means the only question left is her intent." Leaving Gérard to stew in that, he turned to face Amélie. "So, Miss Orne...when you attacked your fiancée, did you wish to kill him?"

All eyes were on Amélie as she shook her head, a tear running down her face. "No, I did not wish to kill him."

Saunders gestured to where Gérard sat. "Can you explain how he came by his wounds, then?"

Amélie slowly clenched and unclenched her hands. "We fought, and I pinned him to the wall. My hand was around his neck, but I did not try to break or crush his neck. He passed out, and I let him fall to the floor. He was still breathing when I left the room, and I knew that none of the injuries he had suffered were mortal." She swallowed hard. "I had bested him. It was enough."

"Very well." Saunders stood, raising his voice slightly to carry through the room. "Thank you, Miss Orne...I think that will be all." His eyes swept over the other councilors, receiving nods from each before he spoke again. "We will take a brief recess while the Council reviews everything we have learned." He gestured to the guards to lead Amélie out to await her fate, but Emily noticed that he did not insist that she be restrained again.

Emily slumped forward, groaning as Lena started to rub circles into her back.

"I don't want to jinx it," Lena said softly, "but it felt like things went our way at the end."

Emily nodded as she sat back up. "I think so. I think so..."  

Angela tapped her on the shoulder, then gestured down towards the other end of the gallery. "Who is Gérard talking to?"

Emily frowned. "I don't recognize them, offhand. Packmates, maybe? Other 'observers' from his council? Not locals, but past that I've no idea."

Angela hummed thoughtfully. "They don't look happy."

Emily snorted. "I find myself struggling to give half a shit."

Lena looked over nervously. "Do you think he'll keep causing more trouble?"

"I wish I could say no," Emily admitted. "But if the council votes in Lady's favor I think he knows there's only so far he can push it. Getting ejected or his pack formally censured would be pretty serious stuff. He might have a lot of influence back in France, but they're not going to look kindly on him causing a diplomatic incident."

Lena considered that for a moment, and then nodded. "I just hope he knows that..."

Chapter Text

Amélie found herself wishing she'd gotten some sleep after all by the time she'd been returned to the room where she had waited for the trial to begin the day before. She'd held strong in the face of Gérard's insinuations, the council's questions, and her own painful memories, but it had all come at a cost. She felt an aching fatigue down to her bones, but it had been tempered a bit by the pride she felt at having faced down her demons. 

She'd finally just started to get comfortable in a chair, her eyes slipping shut when the sound of the door opening made her sit upright again.  

Amélie had just begun to rise when Reinhardt entered and gestured her to sit. "No, no, dear girl. Don't get up. Fareeha told me you were up all night." 

"I couldn't sleep," Amélie confirmed as she sat back down, "and then I didn't want to." 

Reinhardt nodded. "With everything you've had to face, I understand." He gave her a kindly smile, and Amélie felt herself relax just a bit more. "I hesitate to make promises in matters like this, but I think the moon is shining on you, even with the...unexpected interference." 

Amélie sighed softly. "I hope so. I want this to be over. I want..." She swallowed, not quite sure how to put it. She wanted everything, really, but more than anything else... "I want to be free. Free to live again, after so long..." 

"You deserve the chance to finally have a life that you choose," Reinhardt agreed, his eye twinkling. "When this is done, I look forward to celebrating with you and your new pack." 

Amélie could feel her cheeks burning. "We aren't...we haven't..."  

Reinhardt reached out and gently squeezed her shoulder. "My dear girl, I may be old, but that does not mean I am blind." He lightly touched the old scar that crossed his blinded eye and laughed at himself. "Well, not entirely." 

Amélie laughed with him, her lips turning up in a hopeful smile. "Well...perhaps, then. But I can wait for Emily and Lena to be ready." She looked towards the door, wishing they could be here with her. "As long as we are happy..." 

"Of course." Reinhardt looked as if he might say more, but the door handle turned, and a moment later Brigitte entered with a sigh of relief.  

"Oh, good. I was hoping you were both in here." 

Reinhardt stood, smoothing down the front of his suit. "They are ready?" 

Brigitte nodded and gestured towards the door. "Yes. The council would like you to return, please." 

Amélie closed her eyes and offered up one last silent prayer before she took Reinhardt's offered hand. "We should not keep them waiting, then." 

She took her place at the desk next to Reinhardt and chose to remain standing as the Council assembled in front of her, doing her best to appear calm even as her heart pounded against her ribs. 

Saunders waited for everyone to enter and settle before he rose to speak. "This Council was convened to perform a virtually unprecedented task – to examine a woman declared Feral by our peers, and determine if that judgement had been in error. A task not taken lightly, even with the aid of modern medical technology and the benefit of nearly fifty years of evidence and hindsight to consider." 

Amélie couldn't help the little shiver that ran up her spine at his words. Saunders might have been a relatively ineffective councilor, from what she had seen, but he certainly had a strong sense of drama, and knew how to work a room. 

"The issue was complicated by the elements of this case that were clearly shaped by the relationships between the accused and her accuser, and the issues between them which came to violence, but it is not this Council's place to pry into such matters. Our judgement was to determine if Amélie Orne, beta born of the Damesblanches, is Feral...and it is the unanimous decision of the Council of Londinium that she is not." 

Anything else he might have said was interrupted by a heartfelt cheer from the group in the visitor's gallery, and Amélie let her tears fall, finally, as she embraced Reinhardt.  

Finally.  

Saunders cleared his throat after the happy cries died down, smiling at Amélie as she dabbed at her eyes and turned back to face him. "I believe you have already met Miss Lindholm – she'll handle creating a new registry entry for you, and having your Feral ruling officially rescinded. Any Hunters operating in and around the City of London will be informed that you are no longer under any suspicion, and the matter will be considered closed with our sincere apologies for what you suffered, Miss Orne, and our hopes that your future will be a kinder one." 

Still overwhelmed by it all, it took Amélie a moment to find her words. "You, and the council, have my sincere thanks, Elder Saunders. May the moon's light shine down on you all." 

She'd just started to smile and return to her seat when Gérard's voice made her heart freeze.  

"Forgive me, but I must object to one of your statements, Elder. There is one matter in this case which is not closed – and a very serious one at that." 

Saunders frowned as he turned to look at Gérard, confusion and more than a bit of irritation in his eyes. "I do beg your pardon? What matter do you feel is still unresolved, Isengrim?" 

Gérard turned, and gestured to where Emily sat. "I speak of the were who openly admitted to this council that she harbored a Were who had been declared Feral – even if in error – and refused to report her presence. By her own words, Emily Oakley shirked that responsibility – that duty – and let it fall to the shoulders of a human who never should have been in that position in the first place."  

Reinhardt's face clouded over with anger once again. "Are we truly going to debate this? By this point it should be clear that since Miss Orne was not Feral, there was no crime in aiding her." 

Gérard turned, his voice barely containing his anger. "A technicality, at best – a loophole that Miss Oakley clearly intended to use to avoid the consequences of her actions." His voice dripped contempt as he gestured towards where Lena sat, and it was all Amélie could do to restrain herself from marching over to slap him. "Something which, I am given to understand, Miss Oakley has done before." 

Reinhardt took a step towards Gérard, gesturing to the gallery. "The circumstances in Lena Oxton's case were totally different!" 

"It is the same!" Gérard snapped, slamming a hand down on the desk in front of him for emphasis. "It is the very same! Miss Oakley decided she could make a better decision than the wisdom of this council and the laws of our people, so she ignored it! She found ways to exploit and twist the laws, and encouraged others to conceal her involvement! It is exactly the same, and as a representative of my Council, who issued the edict that she so cavalierly flaunted, I demand she answer for it!" 

Saunders had the air of a man who was very, very tired. "If you truly insist on dragging this out, we can discuss a fine or punishment for Emily Oakley at another time." 

Gérard shook his head sharply, and Amélie blinked at the sight of the blonde furred ears that rose from his head in agitation, one stiff with emotion and the other struggling to straighten up. "Unacceptable. You may find such weak acts acceptable here, but it was our law she violated, and I demand that Emily Oakley answer as our law demands: Jugement de la Lune!" 

"Isengrim," Reinhardt snarled, "you forget yourself. This is not Lutetita and we are not here for your vendetta." 

"Are you so afraid that you would stand for her, Beowulfsohn?" Gérard's eyes locked on to Amélie's, and his lips twisted into a smirk. "Or perhaps we should ask Miss Orne to fight in her place, since all of this was done in her name." 

Amélie could feel her nails thickening and lengthening as they pressed painfully into her palms. Her heart was pounding once more, sharp and hard like the beat of a war drum, and her vision was suffused with red. "If you would dare face me again," she hissed, "I would fight for her if she so wished." 

"No." Emily's voice was like a whipcrack across the chamber, sharp and fierce as she shrugged off Lena's hand and leapt over the seats in front of her to advance on Gérard like a rising storm. "I can fight for myself, Monsieur Lacroix, and I refuse to let you terrorize anyone else. You want to face me? Here I am.

"Here and now, then." Gérard's voice was silky and calm once again, and Amélie realized with a sick feeling that his entire performance had been just that – an act for the purpose of provoking Emily into accepting his challenge. "Unfortunately, as the representative of my Council I may not engage in the trial directly, but my packmate..." He gestured to the gallery, and one of the strangers who had been observing the trial apart from everyone else stood and began to approach the floor. "He will serve as champion in my stead." 

Amélie thought she recognized the were who approached. Patrice, if she remembered correctly. He was nearly twenty centimeters taller than Emily, and built like a barrel, his broad chest and thick legs more muscle than fat.  

He had been one of Gérard's friends even then, but not seemed particularly close. She remembered a rough sounding laugh and crude jokes, and a tendency to drink cheap calvados by the bottle. An old bruiser, with only a were's metabolism keeping him from going to fat. 

"So," Gérard said smugly, "here you are – and my champion as well. Shall we ask the council to clear their seats and allow you to begin?" 

"Absolutely not," Elder Lewis snapped, the rest of the council making affirmative noises behind him. "If you are going to demand this, it will at least be done outside in the courtyard, where there is proper room." 

Gérard tipped his head in a little nod. "I suppose that is reasonable enough. Please, lead the way." 

The council began to head for one of the doors, and Gérard followed. Emily lingered, letting Lena come down to join her, and Amélie crossed to join them, her emotions swirling between pride, fear, uncertainty, love, and rage.  

"Emily," she asked as she came into earshot, "what are you doing?!" 

Emily turned and wrapped her in a tight hug. "Putting an end to this," she promised.  

"I don't understand," Lena said softly. "I put what he said into google on my phone – judgement of the moon? But I don't understand what that means. Emily, Lady, both of you, what the hell is going on?" 

Amélie sighed as she turned and pulled Lena into the embrace, holding her there for a moment before she spoke. "It is an old, old tradition. One that is almost never used in modern times, which is why it would not have been discussed in your test." 

Lena gave a sort of snuffling noise, half sob and half sigh as she pressed to her side. "OK, so what's involved, then?" 

"It's a trial by combat," Emily explained. "Called for in the most serious crimes. I don't even think I've heard of one taking place in England in my lifetime. The victor was considered to have the moon's favor, and the loser..."  

Amélie shuddered. "The loser was often dead. It is supposed to be fought until one cannot continue, but in those days..." 

Lena stiffened, her eyes wide with alarm. "Can't the Council stop it, though, before it comes to that?" 

"I would hope," Emily answered, but there was no conviction behind her words.  

Lena looked back and forth between them, and then seized Emily in a tight hug. "Don't you dare lose, Emily Oakley." 

Emily wrapped her arms around Lena and gently kissed her forehead. "I won't," she promised, then looked up to meet Amélie's eyes. "I won't." 

Twilight was just starting to fall as they reached the courtyard, giving everything a vaguely surreal, otherworldly feel.  

Amélie watched as the council members formed a rough ring around the area, while Gérard and Patrice waited at the rough center of the courtyard, the latter now shirtless and stretching a bit to loosen himself up.  

She looked over to Emily and gave her a concerned frown. "Can you fight in the clothes you are wearing?" 

Emily looked down at the blouse and jeans she was wearing, and shrugged. "I can move well enough." After a moment's thought, she kicked off her shoes, then reached in to pull the phone, wallet, and a few small items out of her pockets to hand to Lena. "Just to be safe." 

Amélie gave her a skeptical look. "If you need to change..."  

Emily shrugged. "If they get ruined because I tear them apart taking my wereself or they're ruined because they're covered in mud and blood, they're still ruined." 

"True enough..." 

Emily gave them a smile that was probably meant to be reassuring, then turned to head into the circle where Gérard waited. 

"Emily!" Amélie ran towards her after calling her back, lowering her voice so she would not be overheard. "The one you will fight, Patrice – he is a brawler. Tough, but not smart. Do you understand?" 

Emily looked back to Gérard and Patrice, then back to her. "I... yes. Yes, I think I do." Her eyes were thoughtful, and Amélie could see her sizing up her opponent in a new light. "Thank you, Lady." 

Amélie reached out and ran a hand over her shoulder. "I know what you told Lena, but..." She tried to put her feelings into words, and failed.  

Emily seemed to understand, and pulled her into a hug. "This is for all of us. For today, for tomorrow...I won't let that bastard win, for all our sakes." 

Amélie returned her embrace, then stepped back and let Emily head into the circle while her stomach tied itself into knots. She didn't even realize that Lena had come up to join her until she took her hand, squeezing it tightly.  

Amélie squeezed back, and when she looked around, realized that Angela, Reinhardt, and the others had come to join her.  

Gérard raised his hands when Emily came to a stop a few paces away, pitching his voice so it would carry through the courtyard. "We have come to place this matter in the hands of the moon! For her to shine down upon the victors, and put the right in the hands of the strong." 

Gérard turned to look at Patrice. "Are you prepared?"  

The bruiser answered with a chuckle and a grunt, drawing himself up to his full height and closing his hands into fists.  

Gérard looked back to Emily with a sneer. "And you?" 

Emily nodded coolly, and shifted her weight from one foot to another. "I am." 

"Very well." Gérard stepped back, heading for the edge of the courtyard. "When I leave the circle, battle is joined. Good luck..." He turned enough to give Emily a scathing look a few steps from the perimeter that had been formed. "But not too much of it." 

"Do not attempt to cross the circle," Reinhardt murmured under his breath, and Amélie thought it was as much for Angela and Fareeha's benefit as Lena's. "Once they begin, anyone attempting to enter, or to help either combatant before there is a clear victor, would forfeit the trial to their opponent." 

There was no verbal signal to begin, but the moment Gérard stepped out of the circle Patrice was moving, swinging a haymaker punch at Emily's head.  

Emily ducked, twisting herself out of the way before she tried to deliver a quick rabbit punch to the larger man's kidney, but his sheer bulk seemed to deaden the blow.  

Patrice grunted from the hit but seemed otherwise unaffected as he kicked Emily in the thigh hard enough to stagger her backwards. He surged forward with surprising speed, looking to follow the strike with another powerful blow so he could knock her to the ground. 

Emily let herself fall, rather than waste time trying to right herself. Rolling out of the way of Patrice's charge, she pushed herself up onto all fours, giving a growl deep in her throat that made lightning run down Amélie's spine.  

"Is it weird," Lena murmured under her breath as they watched Emily throw herself forward, tagging Patrice in the head with an elbow as she passed, "to find her growling like that really hot?" 

"Please don't make me laugh right now," Amélie whispered back, then bit her lip. Their lover, fighting for them, snarling defiance at an opponent from another pack? It wasn't odd at all to find that very attractive...and terrifying.  

Patrice stumbled and Emily turned, trying to put a good kick into his back, but he turned enough to keep the blow from hitting his spine. With a surprisingly high-pitched snarl his body began to ripple as he shifted into his wereself, his pants splitting as his thighs thickened and his legs extended, grey and black fur spreading over his body. 

Amélie half expected Emily to shift into her wereself as well, but instead she tore at her shirt as she backpedaled, opening up space before she fell to the ground in her wolf. Patrice made a scoffing sort of sound as he tore across the courtyard, his jaws snapping as he lunged for her, but Emily passed between his legs, her own teeth digging into the muscle of his leg as she passed.  

If she'd been trying to get his hamstring or Achilles Emily had missed, but it was clear the wound had been felt from the way Patrice yowled in pain and the limp as he chased after Emily, the fur around the wound starting to darken with blood. 

Emily was doing a good job of keeping ahead of him, and Amélie thought she could see the plan. Tire him out, let the blood loss weaken him, and then bring him down...somehow. Unfortunately, even though she would not call Patrice smart, he had a certain level of cunning in a fight, and seemed to recognize he needed to take control of the battle before Emily ran him into the ground.  

Patrice leapt into Emily's path, and she had either misread his body language or simply couldn't get out of the way. Slammed hard into the ground, Emily gave a cry of pain as claws raked her shoulder, and Amélie had to clamp down hard on Lena's hand to keep her from running to help. 

"Remember," she hissed, "if we enter, she loses." 

Lena gave a frustrated grunt, but nodded as she bit at her lip. "Sorry..." 

"Don't be," Amélie whispered as they watched Emily squirm free, biting at Patrice's hands to get him to release her before she scrambled away. "I wanted to go, too." 

Emily wasn't limping, thankfully, but her breathing seemed a bit more labored as she moved. The wound looked shallow, but Amélie knew all too well how it could hurt.  

Patrice got two more good blows in, including a kick that had sent Emily flying several feet, but they were bursts of effort that had clearly cost more than his body had to give.  The larger were was stumbling and huffing like a mad bull now, with flecks of spittle around his muzzle and the leg that Emily had mauled almost completely useless.  

Emily was just as obviously hurting, but she had been able to keep ahead of Patrice for several passes now, and when she was able to sink her fangs into his leg again and drive him to one knee, it was the opportunity she'd been looking for. She sprang up onto his back, her claws leaving scratches in his back and shoulders before she shifted – first into her human form, so she could lock her arms tightly around Patrice's thick neck as he turned and thrashed in an attempt to shake her off, and then into her Wereself, her muscles thickening and her weight dragging his head back as her arms tightly squeezed around his windpipe. 

Patrice stumbled, attempting to throw Emily over his shoulder, but she hung on grimly, snarling and grunting through it all. The black furred were's dark eyes had bugged out as he panted desperately for breath, his thrashing movements becoming slower and more uncoordinated by the moment.  

His final gambit, it seemed, was to simply fall backwards and roll around, attempting to squash her, but Emily refused to be dislodged, keeping her stranglehold in place until Patrice finally went limp as he passed out. 

Amélie had expected Emily to simply push him off and rise, but she seemed to be struggling under the dead weight, her breath ragged and shallow as she grunted and pushed, trying to shift him off of her. 

Reinhardt began to push past them until Ana seized his shoulder and yanked him back sharply. "The rules apply to you as well! You are not acting as a council member right now – the clever little bastard would happily use it as an excuse." 

Reinhardt grumbled under his breath, but stepped back, silently acknowledging her point. 

Emily had finally gotten her other arm free when Saunders trotted out to her and helped to roll Patrice out of the way, then carefully examined the unconscious were's eyes as Emily slowly receded back into her human form. 

"The champion you appointed," Saunders called to Gérard, "cannot continue. The Moon has made her judgement! Emily Oakley stands victorious." 

Gérard looked like he'd stepped in something incredibly foul, but he gave a grudging nod to acknowledge the decision, and began walking towards his fallen packmate, who had resumed his human form in his sleep and was now snoring on the flagstones. 

Lena made it to Emily just as Brigitte arrived with a robe she could throw on, hugging her tight, and Amélie was only a few steps behind, doing her best to put her arms around both of them, tears of relief in her eyes. 

In all the excitement, Amélie hadn't noticed that Ana had followed them until she saw Ana kneel down next to Patrice for a moment before she made her way over to Gérard with an air of unquestioned authority. 

"I trust," Ana intoned in a voice that made it clear she was instructing, not asking, "that you can find your way back to France? Tonight, preferably." 

Gérard sneered, but a little bit of fear had come into his eyes. "I will leave when my packmate is healthy enough to travel." 

"How considerate." Ana turned on her heel, clearly dismissing him as she made her way back to where Amélie was carefully helping Emily into the robe. "Come with me, dear. I think I have something that will help with those cuts." Her tone was kinder, but it was still clear that was not a request, either. 

Emily winced as the fabric scraped over some of cuts, but put up a hand before Ana could try physically dragging her away. "Wait, please." Her voice had an edge of exhaustion to it, but Emily belted the robe closed as Ana raised an eyebrow and took a few steps towards where Saunders and a few of the other councilors were speaking in hushed voices. "Elders, I have faced my foe under the light of the moon, and proven my cause was just. Is this matter concluded?" 

Saunders and several of the other Council members gave Gérard a look, challenging him to say anything else. When he refused to rise to the bait and stayed silent, Saunders nodded to Emily. "Yes, Miss Oakley, this council stands adjourned. You, Miss Orne, and everyone else are free to go." 

Emily nodded with satisfaction, then drew herself up to her full height. "Fine. Then I have one last thing to say." Her eyes shining in the last light of day as everyone's attention was drawn to her, Emily took a deep breath, and then spoke with the full weight of her Voice behind her.  

"I claim my right as an Alpha to form my pack!"  

Chapter Text

Emily hissed softly as Ana rubbed some kind of foul smelling liniment into her aching ribs, the compound making her scrapes and scratches burn even as her body worked to close the wounds. 

"Stop whinging," Ana chided her. "This will help. You're lucky that brute was too slow and stupid to really hurt you." 

Emily wrinkled her nose. "Why do you even carry that stuff with you? It smells like rotting mint and olive oil mixed with cheap vodka." 

"It's good for muscles and aches," Ana explained as she carefully examined some of the scratches and cuts that Patrice had left in Emily's shoulders, her fingers somehow managing to poke and prod at every spot just where it would be as painful as possible.  "It may be meant for horses but it will work just fine on a wolf." 

"I think that all things considered," Emily gasped after Ana hit a particularly sore spot on her back, "I'm just as happy to wait for Angela." 

"Too bad," Ana said blithely. "She decided she had to be noble and insisted on examining the one you knocked out, since she is the only doctor present at the moment. The only nice thing about her gesture was how angry it made that cowardly fop." 

Emily shrugged, even though the gesture made her wince. "I wasn't trying to kill him. It's just as well Angela makes sure there was no permanent harm." 

Ana shook her head as she closed the jar and put it back into her purse. "Children today are too kind. When was your age, I'd have slapped him down and broken his neck for good measure." 

Emily gave Ana a dry look. "I believe I was trying to end this, not start a war." 

Ana was deeply unconcerned. "The best thing about a dead enemy is you know he cannot return to trouble you again." She snapped her purse closed and fixed Emily with a serious look in her eye. "He was not attempting to be so courteous. Keep that in mind." 

"Yes," Emily sighed, "I understand. Believe me, I have no doubt that if our roles were reversed right now I would be far worse off...but I did win, and I did it cleanly. It's enough." 

Ana was clearly unconvinced, but she settled for just giving a little hum before changing the subject. "So, what are you calling your pack?" 

Emily stared at Ana and realized she hadn't actually thought of that. "I... don't know, actually. It sort of just... happened. I suppose we could just call ourselves the Howlers. Like the pub." 

Ana snorted with dark amusement. "I think 'Howling Bitches' seems more apt." 

Emily groaned and put her head in her hands. "Oh God, no, absolutely not." 

Ana chuckled, then straightened up as she looked to the door of the little meeting room that Ana had turned into an impromptu clinic. "Well, perhaps you three can discuss it before anyone tries to make you write anything down." 

Emily gingerly pulled the robe back on before she scooted around to face the door, where Amélie and Lena had apparently been waiting for Ana to finish her work.  

Lena looked over to Ana, her face shifting between excitement, anger, concern, and nervousness so quickly that Emily could barely follow it. "Everything taken care of?" 

Ana laughed dryly. "I think she's going to live, little one." Smiling as Lena flushed, Ana gave Emily one last nod, then headed towards the door. "I think the three of you have a few things to discuss. I'll make sure you have some privacy for a few minutes."  

Lena waited for Ana to leave and the door to shut behind her before she crossed the room in three quick strides, winding up for a slap that cracked like thunder as Emily's head jerked sharply to the side, then grabbed the lapels of the bathrobe and pulled Emily in for a desperate kiss that left her head spinning as she gasped for air when they finally broke away. "Don't you ever do that to us again!"  

"OK," Emily whispered softly, reaching out to draw Lena in for a hug. "OK, pup. I promise." She gently ran a hand along Lena's back. "All done now." 

Lena nodded, a few tears finally running down her cheeks as she stepped back. "You scared the life out of me – of us! We couldn't help and it was miserable." 

Emily nodded again, wincing slightly at the bit of pain that caused. "I'm sorry, I just...I couldn't make anyone else fight for me. Not after all that. Not after Lady had gone so far – done so much to be free of that bastard. It had to be me." 

She looked up at Amélie and saw the understanding in her eyes, and then down at the floor again. "I had the same kind of impulsive thing when I went and declared we'd form a pack, and I'm sorry about that. I know I didn't ask really but my blood was up and I wasn't thinking, I just knew I wanted to keep you both safe and..." 

She'd started to ramble when Amélie reached out and gently put a finger against her lips. "Shh. I am not upset, ma chérie.

Lena nodded, coming up to loop a hand around Amélie's waist. "Neither am I – not about that, at least." She smiled. "I mean...with what we are to each other, what we want...why not?" 

Emily found herself smiling. "No hesitation, then?" 

Lena shook her head. "None at all, luv. This...it feels right." 

Emily nodded, then gave Amélie a look as she saw her golden eyes dancing with self-satisfaction."...don't say it." 

Amélie just smirked. "I'm sure I don't have to." 

Emily gave a little groan as Amélie stepped closer. "I recognize that look. It's the 'I told you so look.'" 

Amélie chuckled softly as she put her arms around her neck, her voice dropping to a pleased murmur. "I wasn't going to say it..." 

Emily sighed and let her head fall against her chest. "But you did." 

Reaching out, Amélie took Lena's hand and brought her into the hug, the two of them very carefully cradling Emily's bruised and battered body between them. Emily sighed happily at the warmth of their comforting embrace, melting between them as Amélie tucked her head in and gently brushed her lips over Emily's forehead.  

When Amélie spoke again, her tender whisper was meant only for the three of them. "Our Alpha.


Amélie still needed to have her picture taken and to provide some details to Brigitte for her registry documents, but Reinhardt had been quite insistent that anything else could wait a day or two, and that everyone involved deserved a little time to recover before they dealt with any more paperwork. 

After retrieving the items that Amélie had left in the rooms where she had been detained overnight, they had settled into Oliver for the trip back to London, stopping at Reinhardt's for a few minutes to retrieve the last of Amélie's possessions.  

"I suppose I could empty out my storage unit," Amélie mused as they got back into the Rover. "I might even need to shop for a few more things." 

Emily didn't look away from the road, but her smile was easy to spot in the rear-view mirror. "I think that could be fun. Maybe take a few days to decide what you'd like to look for, and we could go to the shops on Lena's next day off?" 

"Mm." Amélie nodded absently, still turning over the pleasant idea of a home. "Should I keep a few things at the cabin?" 

Lena shrugged. "I don't see why not – I pack a bag sometimes, but I've left a few things there too, and you've seen how much Em has in those closets." 

"In my defense," Emily replied, "I just left a few things here, a few things there, and they all piled up." 

Amélie laughed softly, slipping into silence as they neared the apartment building where Emily and Lena lived, feeling more than a bit of excitement tinged with a bit of nervousness. She'd made a space for herself in the cabin, of course, but the cabin was by definition a much larger place than an apartment would be. A little nagging doubt in the back of her mind worried about if the three of them could really live together there and be comfortable. If she could come into the home that Emily and Lena had made for themselves and find a way to fit. 

When she'd gotten out of the Rover and pulled her bags out of the back, Emily and Lena were standing together with looks of slightly skittish excitement as she came back around the car, and for a moment Amélie wondered if she'd accidentally spoken her worries aloud.  

There was a moment of silence, and then Lena grinned before nudging Emily with her elbow. "Well, go on..." 

Emily gave Lena a little look before wincing theatrically. "I'm going, pup. No need to break my other ribs." 

Lena huffed and stuck out her tongue as Emily walked over, putting one hand in her pocket before she drew it back out with something in her closed fist. 

"When you started staying at the cabin," Emily said softly, "I gave you the spare key, and it sort of became yours over time.  But we thought...you're coming into the city, and we want you to feel like this is your home too, and you're not just a guest, so..." Emily extended her hand, opening it to reveal a brass colored key. "This is your key."  

Amélie reached out to take the key and found herself holding it in front of her, slowly turning it over in her hand, watching the play of light over the metal. She tried to put things into words, but when she opened her mouth, nothing seemed to come together. "I...you...this..." 

The feeling of arms wrapping around her made warmth spread through her belly, and as her feet began to move automatically she realized Emily and Lena were leading her out of the garage and towards the door to the flat.  

Lena grinned as she nodded at the door. "Care to do the honors?" 

The key slid home into the deadbolt, making a little scraping sound as it turned, but the door handle turned quite smoothly as Amélie opened the door. 

Emily grinned as she stepped around her into the foyer, making a sweeping gesture towards the rooms within. "Welcome home. Would you care for a tour?" 

Lena followed, slipping off the light coat she'd been wearing and hanging it on a hook before Amélie collected her key and finally walked in after them, slowly sweeping her gaze around the foyer before she pushed the door shut and turned the deadbolt.  

"Oui," she stated as she turned back to Emily, and she felt a little thrill at the way both of her lovers straightened up and focused on her in response to her tone and choice of languages. "We can start in the bedroom, and not go anywhere else for...quite some time." 

So that was exactly what they did. 


After a very emotional few days (and nights), lack of sleep all around, and the fact that Emily had fought a battle to the death earlier in the evening, all three of them wanted to revel in physical comfort, but also desperately needed to actually sleep. There had been tender kisses and a great deal of care and attention – particularly since Amélie and Lena took advantage of Emily needing their help to undress while her wounds finished healing – but all of them had understood that night was for recovery, not passion. 

When sunlight began to stream into the bedroom, Amélie began to stir. For a moment she forgot where she was, and the unfamiliar ceiling and bed confused her. The familiar scents of Emily and Lena's bodies around her kept her from panicking, but it took a few moments for her to remember where she was. 

Lena had curled against her back, an arm around her waist, while she had slept with her body against the worst of the still healing wounds - the deep gash Patrice's claws had put into Emily's shoulder and back.  

To her relief, Emily's back was nearly entirely healed when she woke, the fresh scars still stark against her pale skin, but those would fade in time.  

Amélie gently pressed a kiss to the raised skin, then slid carefully out of Lena's embrace so she could use the bathroom. When she finished, part of her simply wanted to crawl back into bed and enjoy the warmth there, but she was struck by a sudden idea, and the more Amélie considered it, the more tempted she became. 

When she emerged from the bathroom in her wolf, Amélie began to slowly investigate the bedroom, her nose flaring as she took in every little smell and scent. The stronger odors of the laundry pile. The way Emily's scent was a bit stronger around the left side of the closet, and Lena's by the dresser.  

When she padded into the kitchen she wasn't surprised that Lena's scent was the stronger one here. Emily wasn't a bad cook at all, but when she wasn't brewing she was in her office doing paperwork, and when she wasn't doing paperwork she was working at the bar. Cooking was the last thing on her mind when she got home. 

Amélie took a lap through the living room, nosing open the closet door and finding the box of dog toys. Judging by the scents and teeth marks Emily preferred the heavy rubber squeaking toys, while Lena seemed to have a kong toy she preferred. 

A thick nylabone stick was a bit too tempting for Amélie to pass up playing with it, but after she'd gnawed on it for a few minutes she realized that actual food was a very good idea. Impishly, she trotted back into the kitchen and examined the refrigerator door for a moment before carefully closing her jaw around the handle and tugging backwards until the door swung open for her, and she gracefully dropped back to the floor and began to sniff at the shelves until she found a package wrapped in white butcher paper, redolent with the aromas of smoke and curing salts: DBL SMK BACON 1.5KG  

She tore through the paper with a satisfied yip and had just begun chewing on a healthy mouthful of the uncooked meat when the sound of a camera lens snapping made Amélie freeze, her eyes bugging out a bit as her tail and ears stiffened in surprise. 

With a guilty little whine as she finished chewing and swallowing, Amélie turned to see Emily smirking at her, wiggling her phone in her hand while Lena shook with barely contained laughter, her hand over her mouth.  

"Well," Emily said slyly as she tucked her phone into her dressing gown's pocket, "I suppose we did tell you to make yourself comfortable." 


After everyone had gotten a shower and Lena cooked a proper breakfast, they had ended up in the living room while Emily pulled her laptop from beneath the coffee table and flipped it open. "I don't plan to do anything too strenuous today, but if we're going to visit the council in the next day or two so Brigitte can take care of your papers, Lady, I thought we might as well have everything we'll need to register our pack, too." 

Lena straightened up on the couch. "Oh, right. Any idea what kind of territory we're going to have?" 

Emily gave her a sly smile. "It so happens there's a large area of unclaimed territory right here." 

Lena blinked in confusion for a moment, then frowned. "What, the whole neutral area? Would they let you do that?" 

"Well..." Emily thought about her answer a moment. "I intend The Howl to remain a sanctuary, and Angela's clinic, too. But I would like the block or two between the pub and our building, and to formally note the land around the cabin is ours. At just three members, that's enough territory to be respectable but not overwhelming, I think." 

Amélie cleared her throat. "If you think there could be controversy, better to make your claim now, while the trial is still fresh in their minds. The council saw you fight for me - for us - and not only demonstrate your physical prowess, but your cunning. Knowing you can defeat a powerful opponent in combat will give anyone who might object pause." 

"Huh." Lena considered that, then nodded. "It's a bit macho, honestly, but I can see it." 

Emily ducked her head. "Not that I want to find myself in single combat again any time soon, but if it keeps them quiet, I'll take it." 

"Well, that's sorted then." Lena tapped her fingers. "So how about the name?" 

Emily blushed. "I sort of like The Howlers. And honestly I don't know if I can think of a better one." 

"What," Lena grinned. "Howling Bitches didn't work for you?" 

"I am not putting 'Alpha of the Howling Bitches' on every piece of paperwork I fill out for the rest of my life," Emily replied dryly.

"No," Amélie agreed with a little smirk. "Though in private..." 

"Keep that up and that could be arranged, Lady." 

"Ooo, is that a promise, Em?" 

Emily chuckled. "Focus, pup." Emily tapped at her laptop. "Now...last thing they'll want to see is our bylaws. I still have a copy of the Wodewose charter, but I don't want to just dump it all into one document and change the names." 

"No reason we can't start from there and make it ours, though." Lena looked over to Amélie, who nodded in agreement, then held out her hand. "So, give us a look?" 

Emily grinned as she turned the laptop around. "Exactly what I was hoping you'd say." 

Going over the pack bylaws ended up taking the rest of the morning and past lunch, but once they had finished they were all pleased with the results.  

Emily printed out a copy, saved another on a flash drive, and they all signed the hard copy and dated it for the Council before Emily put it into a heavy manila envelope and sealed it up.  "There. All sorted. Oh – Jesse texted me. He was wondering if we wanted to have a 'victory party' at the Pub tonight?" 

Lena hummed. "I like the idea, but would tomorrow be OK?" She looked over at them and blushed. "I sort of want a little more time to just...get used to it all. Just us." 

Amélie settled on the couch with her, and gently drew her into a hug. "I think that sounds perfect, chérie." 

Lena sighed happily, relaxing into the embrace, and then shivered as she felt Emily's lips brush the back of her neck.  

"I quite agree...and as your Alpha, frankly, I am very greedy and would like a little more time with the two of you all to myself." 

Lena chuckled as she melted into the increasingly bold touches, and in her opinion things were going extremely well when there came a sudden banging on their balcony door, followed by a stream of very angry Spanish.  

"What the – I thought you were dying, I get on the fucking whore red eye, have to hunt like crazy to find your stupid phone because the network here is worth fucked, and I find you getting double-teamed on the fucking couch?!"  

Amélie had gone rigid beneath her hands, and Emily's head had come up with her ears sticking up like fenceposts, a growl rumbling from her throat.  

Lena slowly pushed herself up to look out the widow, grabbing her shirt off the floor in an attempt to cover herself, then looked back down at where Amélie's face had gone from pale with shock to burning with embarrassment. "Lady? Why is there a very angry Spanish lady on our balcony?" 

The purple clad woman stiffened and banged her palm sharply against the glass. 

"WHAT?! Span- NO! ¡Soy Mexicana!" 

Chapter Text

"So... she's a friend of yours, then?"  

After recovering from her momentary shock and embarrassment - Amélie nodded to Emily, trying to gather her dignity around her even if she didn't have any clothes. "Yes. I told you about her once. She is my friend from America. The one who surprised me in New York for lunch." 

Emily gave another little frustrated growl, pulling her ears and tail back in as she knotted the belt at the waist of her dressing gown again before giving Sombra a very skeptical look. "But what is she doing here?

Lena cleared her throat, making them both turn to look at her as she smoothed down her nightshirt. "She said something about thinking that Lady was dying – and that she was tracking your phone." 

"Dying?" Emily shook her head, then sighed. "Well. We're not getting anywhere with her on the bloody balcony, are we." She walked to the sliding door and unlatched it. "Here – I'm reasonably decent, so I'll keep an eye on our unexpected guest while the two of you get dressed." Sliding the door open, Emily snapped her fingers at Sombra and then pointed sharply at the couch. "You – sit."  

Sombra bristled at Emily's commanding tone. "I'm not one of your girls, loba, and I saw what you were doing on that couch." 

"Fine," Emily spat, "you can sit in the chair while they get dressed, and then you owe us one hell of an explanation." 

Sombra sat in a huff, pulling up the hood of the plum colored sweatshirt she was wearing. "Yeah, whatever."  

Amélie winced at the reaction, still feeling quite a bit of emotional whiplash as she let Lena reluctantly lead her back to the bedroom. 

"I am sorry," she sighed as she opened up her suitcase and pulled out a few things to wear. "I am not sure what happened, exactly, but I feel as if I caused this..." 

Lena shook her head as she came around the bed, pulling her into a hug. "Oh, luv, no. No, this is not your fault, ok? You didn't make her decide to try breaking into the flat instead of just ringing the bell, and it's not your fault that Em got a bit...overprotective...either." After Amélie brought her arms up to return the hug, Lena gave a little sigh of frustration. "I thought she'd gotten over that, honestly. I haven't seen her get all prickly like that since the first time we went to the Howl together." 

Amélie pursed her lips in thought. "She was startled by Sombra, but I do not think Emily was really seeing her at the window. Not at first, at least." 

"Ohh. You think she was afraid that Gérard was bangin' on our door?" Lena considered that, then nodded. "I can see why she'd be on edge, especially with everything that happened yesterday." 

"Mm. Still... Sombra has a gift for being abrasive when she wants to be. We should finish and let Emily come back to dress." 

Lena nodded. "Here – actually, let me get these jeans on and I'll see if I can get her to come back, and you try calming her down a little? Maybe I can try to get your friend to relax a bit, too."  

"I think that is a good idea, chérie." Amélie busied herself with getting her underwear on while Lena went out to the living room, then pulled on a loose sweater and a pair of black tights. She had just finished putting her hair up in a ponytail when she caught Emily coming back into the bedroom out of the corner of her eye. 

Before Emily could say anything, Amélie took two long steps and pulled her into a tight hug. "We are here, ma belle. You are here. We are safe." 

Emily was rigid for a moment before relaxing into her embrace, a little shiver running through her. "I'm sorry, I didn't...I fucked things up again, didn't I?" 

"No," Amélie murmured into her hair, then gently kissed her forehead. "You haven't done anything wrong – or at least anything that was not understandable. If anything, I made the mistake if Sombra thought she had to come here to 'save' me. But this can be fixed." 

Emily nodded, taking a deep breath and letting herself be held for a little longer before she went to the closet. "Right. Time to get started fixing it, then." 

When they returned to the living room, Sombra had at least pulled her hood back down, but she wasn't talking. Amélie genuinely wasn't certain if that was a good sign, but Lena seemed to be fairly calm from where she sat on the couch.  

Emily cleared her throat, her arms crossed over her t-shirt. "Well. I think first off...I told you that you owed us an explanation, but I owe you an apology. I didn't handle any of that well, and I am sorry." 

Sombra gave Emily a blank look for a long moment, then laughed. "I guess if I was trying to get my freak on and some crazy lady showed up screaming in my window I wouldn't "handle" it – I'd lose my shit." 

Emily chuckled, and Amélie relaxed a bit more as the mood in the room lightened. Leaning forward, she met Sombra's eyes, trying to get a good read on her rather frustrating friend. "Why did you tell Lena you thought I was dying?" 

Sombra's eyebrows rose incredulously. "Seriously?! You send me that email and wonder why I got my ass on a plane?" 

Emily blinked. "Email? What email?" 

Sombra held up a finger to pacify Emily while she dug into her pocket for her phone, unlocking it with a swipe of her thumb. Clearing her throat as she opened her email, Sombra gave Amélie a look before starting to read in what she had to admit was a decent imitation of her voice: 

" Sombra, I am facing some...complicated legal matters, related to the package I entrusted to you a few years ago. I do not believe I will need to produce it, but should things go in an unexpected direction, I am leaving instructions for Emily Oakley on how to contact you and retrieve it." 

Sombra paused long enough to glance at Emily, who Amélie noticed had uncrossed her arms and was looking at the hacker in a new light.  

"You left me instructions?" 

Amélie coughed. "I posted a letter to you from Reinhardt's home before we left. In the event that I did not return, the letter would arrive tomorrow, most likely. I assumed that if I survived, I could explain then, and shred it." 

Emily gave her a raised eyebrow, but motioned for Sombra to go on. 

" If all goes well I will be permanently moving to London soon, and will let you know my new address once I am settled. If it does not...I know I often pretend otherwise, but you have always been my friend - one of the best and dearest I have had in a very long time - and I want you to know that has meant a great deal to me. Merci beaucoup, ma amie.  

-Amélie." 

Sombra's deep blue eyes looked up from her device to give Amélie a reproachful look. "That last part was touching -  but next time you could tell me that I'm your amiga without the life or death situation." 

Amélie looked away with a grumbling attempt to keep her normal cool attitude, but her poker face crumbled when Lena wrapped around her in a seated hug. "Aw. I thought it was awfully sweet - and the rest is a work in progress, honest." 

Sombra snorted. "Yeah, well, good luck. Anyway, the point is I wake up and read this it's not like I'm gonna roll over and go back to sleep! I thought I'd have to break you out of some stupid werewolf jail!" 

Amélie's head snapped up as several things Sombra had said - or not said, came together for her. "Wait."  

Sombra blinked at her and sat up a little straighter, tucking her phone back into the front pocket of her hoodie. "Yeah, what is it?"  

Amélie stood and let her ears out, gesturing at them with one hand. "You knew?!"  

Sombra slumped back into the chair and put her feet up on the coffee table. "Please, of course I did."  

Amélie groaned as she paced back in forth in front of the couch. "Sombra, what.

"Look, you never brought it up," Sombra breezed, "but I know what a wolf smells like. You think you're the only one out there?" 

"Even if she hadn't figured it out," Lena mused reluctantly, "she did see us with tails and ears out." 

Emily sighed. "Well, you already trusted her with your secrets, Lady, so I suppose it could be worse." 

Lena sniffed at the air thoughtfully. "Besides, it's not like you're a regular human, is it?" 

Sombra had been watching them with a little smirk that had grown wider and wider, and now she hopped up off the chair before giving them a little bow. "Nice catch. ¡Hola! Yo soy el chupacabra.

There was a long silence before Lena spoke. "Shouldn't that be La chupacabra?" 

Sombra groaned as she shook her head. "There's a six month long edit war on Wikipedia that says otherwise, and I got tired of fighting it." 

Emily was visibly struggling. "But that's...those are an urban legend. Explaining coyote attacks and the like, not real." 

"Says the werewolf," Sombra snarked. 

Amélie had to admit she was a bit skeptical too, but she still had to laugh as she acknowledged the point. "Will you stay in London, now that you know I am safe? Or will you slither back into your cave once again?" 

"What," Sombra grinned, "no offer for me to join up with your pack?" 

Emily rolled her eyes. "I haven't even dropped the paperwork off yet - we're not taking anyone else on board. That's not even how it really works."  

"OK," Sombra admitted. "Still, I hear you've got a pretty nice bar. And some rooms to rent?" 

"You tried to break into our home, and now you'd like me to put you up?" 

"She does that," Amélie observed dryly.  

"I'll pay rent," Sombra promised. "If it makes you feel better I'll even give you a month up front!" 

Emily looked over to make eye contact with Amélie, and she gave a little shrug. She means well. Emily's own little roll of her eyes was an equally clear I'm sure before she turned back to Sombra. "That won't necessary – you did come here because Lady trusts you, and you wanted to help. I'll send a text to Jesse, he'll be behind the bar. Go see him and ask for a key, and he'll take care of you." 

Sombra gave her a little nod. "Think you could walk me to the front door, Lady? I'll go settle in, and let the rest of you...get back to whatever you were doing." 

Amélie stood, trying not to blush too much, and lead Sombra to the foyer. "It must be remarkable for you to actually leave through the front door." 

"Funny," Sombra said dryly. "But I am sorry I interrupted. Even if I didn't want to see that, you looked like you were having a pretty good time. I mean, the tail on your redhead -" 

Amélie pinched the bridge of her nose as she stopped Sombra from going any further on that train of thought. "Please tell me you mean her actual tail?" 

"Probably," Sombra winked. "But – hey, if I'm staying at your girl's bar anyway, come down there later so we can have a drink?" 

"We were going to meet there tomorrow with a few others to celebrate my Feral ruling being rescinded," Amélie noted. "If you haven't managed to get yourself into trouble by then..." 

"I'll see you there," Sombra promised. 

"D'accord," Amélie reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. "And... thank you." 

Sombra pulled her into a quick hug. "Hey, what are friends for?" 

Amélie nodded, returning the hug before she stepped back and closed the door with a sigh of relief. As much as it meant to her that Sombra had come running to her 'rescue', she was an exhausting presence to be around even under the best circumstances. Amélie hadn't even left home that day and she still... 

Amélie's thoughts came to an abrupt halt as she turned around to look at her surroundings. She had been here less than a day and was already thinking of this place as a home.  

No... that wasn't quite right. The walls were still unfamiliar, the contents of cabinets still a mystery - it was less about the space, and more about the people.  

Emily and Lena... they were why she felt at home at the cabin, and why she felt at home here.  

With that thought in mind Amélie returned to the living room where Emily and Lena had returned to the couch to cuddle, Lena running a hand gently along Emily's back. She caught the tail end of Lena murmuring to Emily about 'taking care of it later' - perhaps taking the pack documents to Brigitte, perhaps what to make for lunch, she wasn't really certain. Amélie found she couldn't really care less, though, as she came around the front of the sofa and knelt down in front of them. 

Emily and Lena stopped, each giving her a confused look as to why she was down on the floor rather than joining them on the sofa. In fact, Emily was just opening her mouth to say something when Amélie finally found the words to explain. The same words she hadn't been ready to say earlier, and that she should have been saying to them the entire time. 

"Je t'aime," Amelie breathed, and took Emily's hand so she could brush a kiss over her knuckles, and then repeated the act with Lena's hand before looking up to meet their eyes. "Je t'ame touts les deux.

Chapter Text

Lena woke slowly, her awareness of the world at first only extending to the warmth of the body in front of her as she snuggled a bit closer with a happy little sigh. When she finally opened her eyes, Lena wasn't at all surprised to see Emily still fast asleep. Amélie had followed up her declaration of love with some very enthusiastic actions that had quickly taken them from the living room back to the bedroom, and hadn't really left for the rest of the day. 

Besides, Lena thought, she may not want to admit it, but we both know she's still recovering from that fight. 

Before Lena had a chance to wonder where Amélie might have gotten to, she found her nose beginning to twitch of its own volition. Lena's nostrils flared as her brain registered the scent of toasting bread in the air, and her stomach gave a little rumble.  

"Lady must have decided to make breakfast," Lena whispered to herself. She considered joining her, but the bed was soft and Emily was warm. The prospect of leaving either just yet didn't really appeal to her, even if she did probably need to eat something soon. 

To her delight, Amélie solved the problem for them a few minutes later when she came into the room with a serving tray loaded with several steaming mugs, a plate of toast, and a jar of blackcurrant jam.  

"Oooo," Lena grinned as she sat up in bed and scooted back against the headboard. "You didn't have to do that, luv!"  

Amélie shrugged as she set the tray down on the nightstand. "I enjoyed the opportunity to spoil you both." 

Emily finally began to stir, apparently roused by their voices and the scent of coffee, her voice still fuzzed with sleep. "Mm... felt plenty spoiled last night, but this is a lovely surprise." 

"Bonjour, ma belle." Amélie leaned in for a quick kiss, then handed Emily her mug of coffee. "If I am honest, I wanted to make more than toast, but I could not find the pans to cook eggs or sausages." 

Lena made a little objecting noise before she swallowed the mouthful of toast she had been chewing. "This was really sweet, though! Nothing wrong with it at all." Emily nodded as well, making a little hum of agreement as she sipped at her coffee.  

Amélie gave them a little smile before taking a piece of toast so she could cover it with jam."Then I am glad you are enjoying it." 

After all the fear, headaches, and uncertainties of the last few weeks, it took a moment for Lena to really appreciate that this was going to be normal now. Waking up (schedules and work and everything else aside) with the people she loved, having breakfast, going about their day.  

Yeah, Lena thought with a smile as she watched Emily finish her coffee and Amélie take a bite of her toast, I think I can get used to this. 

After they'd eaten, showered, and gotten ready for the day, Emily gave a thoughtful little hum as she gave their paperwork for the council one last going over. Something in her eyes made Lena think she was thinking about more than just turning things in later in the afternoon. 

Apparently Amélie had the same impression. "You are thinking, Emily." 

Emily blinked as she looked up from the papers. "Sorry?" 

Amélie gave her a little smile. "Something is on your mind." 

"Oh." Emily gave a shake of her head as she put the papers down on the coffee table. "Nothing major, really. I was just thinking about the ideas we worked out for the pack and started wondering if we needed some rules now that we'll all be living together. " Emily gave a self-conscious little cough as she realized how that might sound. "Not that I think we'll have problems, just...  figuring out who gets to do what around the house. Who needs the shower first in the mornings. Grocery shopping. Stuff that wasn't really an issue with one or the other of us at the cabin while the others were here in town." 

"Thats not a bad idea at all," Lena agreed. "We've never had all of us under the same roof for more than a few days before. We don't want to step on your toes, Lady." 

 Amélie tapped a finger thoughtfully against her lips. "I do not wish to step on yours, either. Perhaps we should go around and each name some of our...'pet peeves'?" 

"If you clog it, you unclog it," Emily chimed in immediately. "This goes for the tub and our hair just as much as it does the toilet." 

Lena raised an eyebrow. "I didn't think I was that bad?" 

"Oh," Emily chuckled, "It's as much for me as anyone - though Lady's hair is fairly long too. Really, I've had that one since I was in Uni. Some of my old roommates..." 

"Ahhh." Lena grinned, then considered one for her. "If you see a dirty knife set off to the side by the sink on a paper napkin, don't wash it. It means I'm thinking about another sandwich and I don't want to dirty another dish if I don't have to." 

Amélie gave her a deeply skeptical look but nodded before she turned a bit more serious. "If I am in the bathroom or bed, and the door is shut, please knock." 

They both nodded agreement, and suggested a few other ideas before Emily put her next rule down: "No paws on the couch." 

Lena pouted. "Aw. Em, it's really comfortable!" 

"It is," Emily agreed with a smile. "Which is why I would like to keep it in good shape." 

"We could purchase a dog bed," Amélie admitted reluctantly. "Perhaps I will go to a pet store later." 

Emily tapped the pack documents. "We do need to drop these off, and we were going to meet the others later." 

Lena grinned. "I wouldn't mind a shopping trip before going back to work tomorrow." 

Amélie stood with a matching smile. "Then it seems we have a plan for our afternoon." 


The three of them piled into Oliver with Emily driving, Lena in the passenger seat, and Amélie situated in the middle seat in the row just behind them with the paperwork in her lap. Their trip was filled with idle chatter as Lena pointed out places along the way. 

"Oh – that's Little Dragons. They deliver, which is nice, but the lady who used to run it decided to retire month before last and the folks who took over just aren't the same." 

Emily made a little hum of agreement. "I miss the green curry duck. They told us it was the same recipe, last time we ordered, but..." 

"Thai Jasmine is pretty good though." Lena noticed one of the shops coming up on the street, and felt her cheeks burn. "That's the butcher's. Where we get the bacon, among other things...they're good! Really good!" 

Amélie made a questioning noise. "The bacon is good, but why are you blushing, ma chiot?"  

Emily gave a wicked little laugh, and Lena's shoulders hunched as she tried to make herself smaller. "Ah. Well..." 

"It's a story for later," Emily promised with a little glint in her eye. "Possibly after Lena's had a drink or two." 

"Ahhhh, c'est clair. One of those." 

"Oi!" Lena sputtered, but didn't have much defense other than to go silent and hope Lady forgot to ask later. 

The way Amélie reached up to gently pat her on the head suggested that would be unlikely, though. 

"Here we are," Emily announced a few minutes later as they pulled into the council's lot. "I'll be honest – I'm not sure what to expect, so it's probably for the best if we all go in, just in case they have any questions." 

Lena nodded in agreement but when she looked back she saw the uncertainty in Amélie's eyes as she stared at the building before them. 

"Something wrong, Lady?" 

Amélie took a moment to respond, "It is a strange feeling to think that all of this is real. That I can now walk freely into a building such as this and not be..." She paused, shaking her head as if to dismiss that train of thought, "I think the fact that this is actually happening may have finally just hit me. That is all." 

Lena nodded, "I remember thinking something like that when I first came here, after Em told me I wasn't alone. Honestly, sometimes I still think it's all some crazy dream. Obviously, this isn't the same but it's okay if it takes a while for you to adjust." 

"And we'll be with you no matter what," Emily added softly. 

Amélie closed her eyes and Lena watched as she took a deep breath in through her nose, held it, and let it back out through her mouth – the tension in her body lessening as she exhaled. Opening her eyes, she offered Emily the documents they were about to submit.      

"Merci. Let's go in - I am ready now." 

The three walked hand in hand into the building. There was a small delay for getting Amélie through security, sicne she did not have her new registry card yet, but the security guard on duty sorted it out and they made their way to the registry office. After a few minutes of waiting in the queue, one of the clerks accepted their packet paperwork, and directed them to where they could wait while it was processed and given an initial review. 

Perhaps ten minutes had passed when Brigitte appeared from around a corner and waved them all to follow her into her office. "Just a few things we need to go over," she explained when Amélie's eyes flicked to Reinhardt's door just beyond her desk. "Nothing too serious - he's not even in today." 

"Oh?" Emily raised an eyebrow. "Is everything alright?" 

Brigitte coughed. "I believe he was...encouraged...to take the week off. And Ana mentioned I shouldn't stop by to use the forge for a few days." 

That got a round of 'ahhhs' and a couple of sympathetic looks for Brigitte before she picked up the paperwork. "Most of this is in order – all of it, really –  but I wanted to ask about your request for the territory between your apartment and the pub, Emily. You do still plan to keep the pub's sanctuary status?" 

"Yes," Emily nodded immediately, "of course. I planned to endorse keeping the neutral ground around Angela's clinic, too." 

Brigitte smiled as she pulled a stamp from her desk and marked the top of the packet. "Good. I will warn you that you'll be likely to get some pushback for taking some of the territory you originally convinced several packs to give up, but I think we can keep the blowback to a minimum – especially given how you formed your pack in the first place." 

Lena couldn't help but smile a bit at Amélie's smug little grin, and Emily's little shrug as she conceded the point.  

"So," Emily asked once Brigitte put the paperwork away, "how long for that to be official, anyway?" 

"We'll send notices out to the pack leaders in the bordering areas. Normally we give a 48 hour period for objections to be lodged with the council but since it is technically unclaimed territory it's effectively done." Brigitte smiled to them. "I'm going to have you sign the acknowledgement of the remaining neutral territory and sanctuaries, just so it's on paper, but you may consider yourselves a formally recognized pack, ladies. Congratulations!" 

Lena found Emily's hand and gave it a tight squeeze, while Amélie leaned in from her chair to put a little kiss on Emily's cheek. 

"Well, then." Emily grinned back to Brigitte as she picked up a pen. "I think we're having an unofficially official party at the Howl later. Will we see you there?" 

"I wouldn't miss it for the world." 


Emily rolled her eyes as they parked in the little lot behind The Howl. "I can't believe we're going to be late for our own party." 

Amélie hummed thoughtfully. "We did not actually schedule anything. We told Brigitte it would be later. We told Sombra we would come by in the afternoon. So we are not late." She glanced down at her phone, which had buzzed for what seemed like the 30th time in the last five minutes. "No matter what Sombra says." 

Lena snorted with amusement as they got out of the car. "For someone claiming to be half reptile, she's not terribly patient." 

The Howl was doing decent business for a weekday afternoon, with the late lunch crowd filling out and transitioning into those looking for a quick happy hour drink or a snack and a pint before dinner.  

As they'd expected, Sombra was at the bar, but instead of giving them a glare as they came out of the employees only door or gazing pointedly at her watch, she was engaged in an animated conversation with Jesse, one hand waving through the air as she told what Lena realized with a blush was the story of how she'd landed on their balcony the previous day. 

"Seriously," Sombra emphasized with a wave of her hand, "on the couch, and then they asked me to sit on it!" 

Jesse was doubled over, his chest shaking with laughter as he grabbed onto the bar to steady himself. "Oh, do Jesus! Stop. Stop! I didn't need that much detail!"  

"Oh, like you haven't been caught doing worse," Sombra drawled. "I seem to remember one time in Chiapas..." 

"Whoa!" Jesse straightened, his eyes widening with alarm. "That was – I mean – I thought we agreed that whole week never happened." 

Sombra made a show of studying her nails. "Well, maybe...if you get me a refill." 

Emily sighed as she stepped up to the bar. "Do I even want to know how much of my alcohol you've gotten comped?" 

Sombra turned with a smirk. "Just a beer and a shot from a friend."  

Lena tilted her head slightly. "You two know each other?" 

Jesse coughed lightly as he returned with a fresh pint of lager. "Yeah, we...met, y'might say, back home." 

Sombra grinned. "He used to be so cute, but then he got all old and scruffy." She shook her head. "So sad. Who's gonna distract all the tellers next time I need to rob a bank?" 

Emily groaned, putting her head in her hands. "Jesse, you didn't."  

"Hey, now!" Jesse put his hands up defensively, taking a few steps back from his boss. "That was a long time ago, promise. I'm all up on the straight and narrow these days Annie, I swear." 

"That's disappointing," Lena teased. "I mean, who doesn't want to be part of at least one heist? Right, Lady?" 

Unfortunately, when she looked back, it didn't seem that Amélie was really paying attention. Instead, her head was nearly on a swivel, looking between the tables full of people, the TVs, and the small crowds around the dartboards and pool tables.  

Oh. Lena mentally kicked herself a bit. Sure, she'd been to The Howl once already...but on a day where the pub was closed and it was basically empty. Even when they'd gone to the Council she'd been kept separated from nearly everyone. Now she was in a bar full of other people (including quite a few werewolves), openly, and not trying to hide herself. No wonder she was nervous, really.  

She reached out and took Amélie's hand, squeezing lightly to gently draw her attention back. "Hey," Lena smiled reassuringly. "You want to get a table instead of standing around the bar?" 

Amélie focused on her, took a breath, and nodded. "Yes...I think that would be best."  

Emily read both of their expressions and then pointed over to a corner booth that stood empty. "Here – that one's a bit out of the way. Why don't you two go sit and I'll bring some drinks over for us?" 

It took a little time (and wine that had been infused with some of the same wolfsbane as the beer), but Amélie began to relax as they sat and talked.  

Sombra was a big help, Lena had to admit. As boisterous as Amélie tended to be reserved, the Latina was happy to talk you in circles until you had no idea where you were or how you had ended up there.  

"I just don't really know about being a criminal," Lena mused as they sat at the table, finishing off her third (or was it fifth?) pint of bitter. 

"It's not so bad," Sombra grinned, pointing a thumb at Amélie. "I mean, hey, look at your girl here." 

"That's different," Lena insisted. "She didn't get a choice." 

"Most don't," Sombra argued back. "Look, you grew up watching all the Robin Hood movies, right?" Her grin turned a little wicked. "Bet you look at the Disney one a whole different way now." 

Lena rolled her eyes. "No comment, but yeah, OK, I did. But Robin Hood's a hero!" 

Sombra shrugged and knocked back the shot of mezcal she'd ordered. "Still a criminal. You can be a criminal and be a hero. Don't even have to go back that far – how many people did you see wearing Ché shirts when you were in college, huh? And don't...even...get..." Sombra trailed off as she turned towards the bar, having intended to signal for a refill.  

Her attention had been arrested, for lack of a better term, but Lena couldn't figure out why. Jesse was still at the bar, and somewhere in there it seemed Brigitte had arrived. She'd changed out of the blazer and skirt she'd been wearing at the Council offices, dressing down to a grey, silky looking top and a pair of black pants, her hair down for once and framing the sides of her face as she ordered a drink.  

"Who," Sombra breathed, "is that?" 

Lena blinked. "What, Brigitte? She's part of Reinhardt's pack. Works at the council. She's nice." 

"Nice, huh?" Sombra looked over at Amélie, who had taken a sudden interest in her wineglass, though a little smirk was starting to tug at the corner of her mouth. "Ami." 

"Oui, ombre?"  

Sombra looked over with big sad eyes, the almost violet blue of her irises shining in the pub's lighting. "I need a wingman." 

Amélie made a show of examining her fingernails for some sudden flaw, and then shook her head. "Mmm...no." 

Lena knew she really shouldn't have giggled at Sombra's devastated expression, but she did anyway. 

"Come onnn. Please? I helped you out when you were freaking out at the restaurant thanks to your redhead's phone call." Sombra put her hands together. "You're my friend, and I can't not hit that. Just a little help – an introduction, maybe drop a couple hints about how cool I am?" 

"I do not need to," Amélie said with just a little bit of wicked satisfaction in her voice. "She's already standing behind you." 

"Que pedo?!" Sombra nearly fell off her chair spinning around, and looked up to Brigitte with a dark blush on her cheeks. "Uh. Hey." 

Brigitte, for her part, had a very bland expression, but Lena noticed a bit of amusement in her eyes before she tipped her head back just enough for the glare of the lights to reflect off the lenses of her glasses. "Hello." Her lips turned up into a dry smile. "So, I understand you're supposed to be cool?" 

"Ooooooo," Emily whispered, "ouch." 

Sombra did her best to recover her aplomb, but even if she wasn't a werewolf, it seemed that the doctored alcohol was catching up to her all the same. "I'm as cool as you are pretty, chava."  

"Hmmm." Brigitte's smile widened just slightly, but she let Sombra off the hook without further comment. "Friend of yours?"  

Amélie nodded, giving Sombra a fondly exasperated look. "We work together, on occasion. She decided to visit London because she was...concerned about my absence."  

"Interesting," Brigitte observed, then turned her attention back to the rest of the table. "I know I already said it, but congratulations all the same." 

"Thank you again," Emily smiled as she shook Brigitte's hand. "Will Reinhardt be here later?"  

Brigitte nodded. "I thought he would be here already, actually, but I think he was...delayed." 

Lena giggled as she read between the lines. "I guess that means that Ana will be coming too, then." 

Emily gave a sharp cough, her cheeks burning. "Phrasing, pup..." 

That got another laugh that managed to sweep Amélie and Brigitte into it as well, and Lena couldn't help but think that things were going rather well from that point on. 

As promised, Ana and Reinhardt arrived together a short while later, and the party grew a little larger when Angela stopped in after she closed up the clinic, with Fareeha expected to stop by for a while as well.  

They hadn't said anything publicly about the new pack – Lena didn't even know if there was supposed to be a formal announcement or anything like that – but Reinhardt was not terribly quiet in his congratulations, and before long some of the bar regulars and people that Lena had recognized from her trial and the council meetings she'd attended were stopping by in ones and twos to offer their own well wishes.  

Lena had been a bit concerned at how Amélie was going to handle that, but the more she realized that she was just being treated as a member of a new pack, and not as "Amélie Orne, dangerous Feral", the more she'd relaxed and graciously accepted their congratulations with quiet thanks. 

It didn't really seem like it could have gone better, until there was some movement near the bar, and Amélie went stiff and still as stone. 

"Lady...?" Lena looked over, trying to figure out what the trouble was, and her breath escaped with a sharp hiss when she realized that Gérard was standing at the bar, his arms crossed over his chest in annoyance as he stared down Jesse. "Shit." 

Chapter Text

Fareeha had finally finished up at her office back at the precinct only to find herself stuck in London's all too common traffic. Her plan had been to get a quick shower at her flat and change before heading to the unofficial party for Amélie and her new pack, but everything changed when her phone began to buzz and vibrate with incoming messages. 

Normally Fareeha would have never checked her phone while she was behind the wheel, but something about the barrage of alerts gave her a bad feeling. She took a look around, confirmed the traffic around her hadn't moved more than a few yards over the last few minutes, and took the risk of reaching into her pocket for the device. 

A swipe of her thumb unlocked the device, and her stomach dropped as she began to read. 

 

ANGELA 

19:04  

Gérard is here. 

At the Howl.  

Don't try to call anyone, just hurry. 

 

19:12 

Oh god. I just realized there are people here who don't know. The bouncers weren't keeping non-weres out tonight. He came in here knowing that.  

We're all hostages, and half the pub doesn't even realize they're in danger. 

Your mother is furious. Reinhardt is keeping her from doing anything foolish but we both know that won't last. 

Emily is trying to do what she can but Amélie is white as a sheet.  

 

19:17 

This is terrifying.  

Please hurry, Fari. I don't know how long this can last. 

 

Fareeha dropped her phone onto the seat, flipped on her car's siren, and rolled down her window to place the emergency light up onto the roof. She counted to five, waited for the traffic to begin to open a lane for her, and then mashed the accelerator down to the floor. 

Fifteen minutes later, Fareeha shut off the blues and twos as she pulled onto the street leading her to the Howl. If the pub was still in a silent standoff, she didn't want to topple things over. She found a spot to park, surveying the street as she considered what to do next. There was no sign of anything untoward outside the building, but Fareeha still didn't want to think about the amount of damage that could have been done during that time.  

She took a deep breath, steadying herself as she shut off the car. Angela would be safe – her mother and Reinhardt and the others would see to that. The lack of any new text messages likely meant that the stalemate was still going on. If the situation had improved, she was certain Angela would let her know - and if things had deteriorated there was a good chance the fight would have spread to the street. 

She selected another key from her ring and opened the glovebox, drawing out a flat box with a multiple dial combination lock on the top, sliding it into her pocket as she stepped out of the car and opened the boot.  

She slotted the key for the lockbox that held her service pistol, drawing the weapon and ejecting the magazine, then racking the slide to eject the round from the chamber and confirming the weapon was cleared before setting the gun on the floor of the trunk and pulling the box she'd taken from the car back out of her pocket. 

The click of each dial as she input the combination felt terribly final, and the hollow sounding pop as the lid opened made her stomach churn. She pulled out the two specially loaded magazines and inspected each, the silver jackets on the shell at the top of each clip twinkling as it caught the light.  

Fareeha dropped one magazine into her jacket pocket, then picked up her pistol. She slapped the magazine into place, dropped the slide, set the safety, and slipped the pistol into the concealed holster at her back. The very small group of Special Branch officers who worked on Were cases all carried silver tipped hollowpoint ammo for matters of last resort, but loading and carrying it was a decision she did not make lightly.  

She breathed a silent prayer that she wouldn't have to draw her weapon in anger tonight, and let the lid drop closed.  

There was another buzz, and the message that came up wasn't from a number she recognized. 

 

55 52 0766 272 

19:30 

Hurry the fuck up! 

 

Fareeha wasn't quite running when she reached The Howl, but she wasn't far off either.  

The bouncers must have been given instructions to keep anyone else out, judging by the disappointed looks of people being turned away at the door.  

"Sorry," one of the bouncers apologized when she came up to the door, "we've got a problem inside with the gas. Closing early tonight."  

Fareeha drew her badge from her jacket, opening it edge on so it wouldn't be too obvious to anyone passing by. "I understand there's a situation inside." 

The bouncer's shoulders sagged with relief. "Shit, I've been hoping that someone called the cops." 

"Can you take me in through the back without alerting the men causing the problem?" 

"Right this way." 

The pub seemed normal at first glance, but the more Fareeha looked around after slipping in through the employee entrance, she could see the tense knots of patrons scattered around the bar, each one radiating unease. 

If those are all weres, that still leaves about half the patrons in the dark. 

Most of the tables that stood out to her were on the periphery of the dining area or near the billiards tables, except one at the center where she recognized Gérard's profile, the unwelcome guest very slowly nursing a pint of beer while glaring daggers at where Jesse stood behind the bar. 

She walked over to the bar, keeping her body language as casual as possible. "Jesse, get me some water and tell me what the hell is going on." 

Jesse gave her a quick nod as he pulled a glass out and began to fill it. "Greasy little shit showed up with a couple of his buddies and ordered a round. I told him that he wasn't welcome and he pulled the sanctuary card." 

"So as long as he doesn't overtly break the rules, he's allowed entry." Fareeha gave a grunt as she took the glass and lifted it to her lips. "Did Emily try anything?" 

Jesse's eyes flicked to the table where Emily and the rest of their friends were waiting, the pub owner looking just shy of furious. "Yup. She told him that she only has to give him one drink – and after that she can refuse service. So he's been drinkin' the same damn beer ever since." 

"How's everyone doing?" 

Jesse shook his head. "Even the ones who don't know what went down at the trial can tell there's some bad blood here, and he ain't done much to make friends." 

Fareeha looked over at Emily's table again. "What about Amélie?" 

"I don't think she's doin' great," Jesse admitted, "but she ain't letting him see her sweat, either." 

"Good. I was concerned someone might have done something stupid while I was on my way over." 

"Not yet, but be careful 'Ree." Jesse's eyes flicked back to where Gérard and his packmates sat. "Something ain't right about that one - and this whole thing stinks." 


 

Lena wished she could tell what Jesse and Fareeha were discussing at the bar. She'd felt some relief at the police officer arriving, but it wasn't clear to her what, if anything, she could do to make Gérard and his pack leave. 

Amélie continued to stare at one of the televisions just past the bar, as if she could ignore the entire side of the building into nonexistence.  Her back was as rigid as a steel beam, and it make Lena's heart ache to look at her.  

She watched as Fareeha drained a glass of what looked like water, set it down on the bar, and began walking over to where the Isengrim pack were sitting.  

"Oh," Lena murmured, "here we go..." 

"Lena," Emily's voice was a measured calm as she rose from her seat, her hand coming down to rest gently on Amélie's shoulder despite her eyes never leaving Gérard, "Stay here with Lady, I'll take care of this." 

Lena looked over to where Ana, Angela, and Reinhardt were sitting, then held a silent conversation with Sombra, who gave her a firm nod and scooted her chair a bit closer to Amélie. That done, she stood up with a toss of her head. "Sorry, luv, but I'm not letting you do this alone." 

Emily turned back to her with a frown, her voice low with concern. "Fareeha -" 

"Fareeha's not part of our pack," Lena interrupted her. "She's good, but you're my Alpha. I'm still learning what that means, but I know part of it is we don't let each other face danger alone. The others are going to look after Amélie...I've got your back." 

Emily stared, her eyes wide, and Lena could see her throat working before she spoke again. "If that absolute bastard wasn't here, I would be giving you such a kiss right now." 

Lena grinned and put a hand on her shoulder. "I'll hold you to that. Now c'mon, let's go help out." 

Emily took a deep breath, put on her most serious expression, and turned to lead the way, Lena following a few steps behind. 

Gérard had turned in his seat to face where Fareeha was standing with one hand on her hip, his lips curled in a sardonic little smile. "I fail to see why this is any of your concern, detective.

"Don't you?" Fareeha was being very careful about her body language, leaning in slightly without quite encroaching on Gérard's personal space. "The owner of this establishment expressed concerns over how your presence. She's asked you to finish and leave, and you've been delaying." Her expression hardened. "Not to mention I was under the impression you had been asked to leave the country." 

"We will leave when my...associate is well enough to travel," Gérard countered coolly.  

Emily rolled her eyes. "How considerate of you." 

Gérard's smirk made Lena's skin crawl. "Is it not? I have always striven to be a very considerate leader to my fellows." His eyes flicked to where Amélie still sat. "I am sure my dear Amélie would have told you this." 

Emily stiffened, and Lena stepped up before she let slip anything about just how much Amélie had told them about his sordid history.  

"Leave her out of this. You made your point. We can't get rid of you so easily. Isn't that enough?" 

Gérard looked over at one of his other packmates. "Did you hear something?" 

The packmate, a lean and rather weasel-y looking blonde, gave his alpha a smarmy grin, putting a hand to his ear. "It sounds like the yapping of a little mutt." 

Fareeha tensed as Emily took a step forward, her face darkening, and Lena caught a few of the other tables with weres at them reacting as well, several standing up and approaching to see how they responded to the insult.  

Emily's voice was pitched low when she spoke, with a distinct growling undertone to it, her eyes as hard as emeralds. "I'm bound by operating a sanctuary to allow you to enter, and to offer you a meal and a drink." She gestured at the beers at their table, and a small pile of empty dishes. "You had them. As a business owner, I have the right to refuse further service – and now that you've decided to be insulting to my patrons and my pack, I can boot you out of here on both levels. I'm offering you one last chance to leave here on your own." 

Gérard unfolded himself from the booth, stepping forward to meet Emily head on. "And if I do not take it?" 

Emily made brief eye contact with Fareeha, who nodded, then locked onto Gérard, ignoring that several others had started to approach their little confrontation. "The detective would be happy to escort you to a cell for the rest of the night for trespassing, for starters." 

Gérard didn't bother to disguise his contempt. "Her laws have little bearing here." 

"I think you might learn otherwise," Fareeha promised. "Especially if your ex-fiancée swears out a statement that you've been harassing her. Our judges take a rather dim view of that." 

"That is the best threat you can offer?" Gérard snorted, his packmates laughing at the very idea. "Please." 

"You want a better threat?" Emily stepped closer, nearly nose to nose with him. "Fine. This pub is still a sanctuary, but as of this afternoon the surrounding block is now Howlers territory. My territory, and you are not welcome in it. You can leave, Isengrim, and take your bastard packmates with you, or I will tear your throat out and leave you for the crows if you so much as breathe near this place again!" 

Despite his earlier bravado, Gérard took a step back in the face of Emily's quiet fury. "You wouldn't dare. Not when your pack is barely a day old!" 

Now it was Emily's turn to offer a cold little smile. "Try me." 

"Arrogant little child,"  Gérard seethed, "you defy your council, you defy our laws. What is next, mm? You have an Orphan and an Outcast, now. Are you so arrogant that you think you could be the Herald?" 

Lena didn't understand what he was on about, but she could tell that must have been something significant from the way Emily's shoulders set.  

"I have better things to do than chase after fairy tales," Emily answered coldly. "And so does the rest of my pack." 

Gérard took a look around, and Lena did the same out of reflex. Pretty much everyone standing in earshot now was a were – even Reinhardt and Brigitte had come a bit closer. "Ah, of course.  Why waste your time on old stories when you could be stealing neutral territory out from under everyone else's noses instead, yes?"  

That remark made pain flash through Emily's eyes, and Lena realized that several of the other werewolves who had been congratulating them earlier were now looking at Emily with expressions of concern and suspicion as Gérard took a few more steps away from Emily, the other Isengrim members turning to head for the front door.  

"We will leave your territory, as you so politely requested, petite alpha. But do not think you can get away with your schemes forever." 

Emily's cheeks darkened as she flushed with anger, but Lena was able to grab her by the shoulder before she could take a step towards Gérard's retreating back.  

"Don't give him the satisfaction, luv. He's not worth it, Emily." 

Emily nodded, reaching up to take her hand and squeeze it tightly. She kept still and silent, watching Gérard until the door had shut behind him, and then sagged slightly as the fury drained out of her. "Fuck."  

"Easy," Lena murmured. "Easy. It's OK – you did great, Em." 

"Not sure that's true," Emily murmured back, and Lena realized that several of the more senior pack leaders who had been in the pub had surrounded them. 

"OK, Oakley," one of them asked with a suspicious look at the door, "what the hell was he on about, talking about stealing territory?" 

Lena was close enough that she heard Emily give a little sigh, and she backed off so Emily could talk. 

"He's a piece of shit who came to harass one of my new packmates – she's his ex-girlfriend, and he flew from France to give her grief." That got a few nods, and it seemed like Emily at least had made a few of them consider Gérard's words in a new light. "As to the rest, the Howl is still a sanctuary, and so is most of the surrounding area – we've only claimed the blocks between the pub and the apartment building where we live..." 

Lena let Emily start to explain, watching as Fareeha let the hand that had been at her hip drop, then took a look back at where Amélie had been, and realized with a start that the table she'd been sitting at with Angela and Sombra was now empty. 


 

Almost the instant that The Howl's doors had closed on Gérard's back, Amélie had shot to her feet and made a beeline for the door that lead into the back of the pub, with Angela and Sombra almost running to keep up.  

They both called out her as she disappeared into the back, but she did not respond or slow her pace until she reached the walk-in cooler that held the kegs for the bar's draft lines, falling to the concrete floor as the heavy steel door slammed behind her. 

When Angela and Sombra found her, she was curled into a tight ball, her arms wrapped around herself, but the cold had nothing to do with why she was shivering.  

"Hey," Sombra said softly as she joined her on the floor, "you're ok now. He's gone. You're ok." 

Amélie shuddered, shaking her head as she tried to clear it. Her mind felt like bowl filled with broken glass, sharp edges and painful cracks that slid and chipped and scratched at each other. All the grief she had pushed away had engulfed her, combined with the fear that had spiked through her at Gérard's arrival, her rage that even now he continued to haunt her and threaten the people she loved, and the overwhelming urge to run. "I am not," she whispered as she shut her eyes. "I am not ok at all." 

"Give her some room," Angela said gently. "Just try to breathe, Amélie. Slow, deep breaths." 

Amélie did her best to slow her breathing down, letting her body uncurl itself but keeping her eyes closed. 

"That's good," Angela murmured softly to her. "Just keep breathing with me. In...out. In...out. You are safe here. We are not going to let anything happen to you." 

The sound of the door opening again a few minutes later brought her head up, and something in her eased when she saw Emily and Lena both coming in.  

"He's gone," Emily promised, "and he's not coming back. Reinhardt spoke to some of his friends on the Paris council – they're telling him and the rest of his pack to leave London immediately. Reinhardt made it clear that if Isengrim did anything else to provoke us it would be considered an act of war, and that Beowulfsohn and the rest of the London council would respond in kind." 

"I don't want a war," Amélie murmured miserably. "I just want him to leave us alone."  

"With any luck this will rein him in. Give us some peace." Emily held out her hand, her eyes wet with unshed tears of her own now that the crisis had passed. "Let's get you up off the floor, Lady. It's freezing in here." 

She took Emily's hand and let herself be helped up. "I don't even feel the cold, right now." She looked at the others and sighed. "I am sorry, this was supposed to be a celebration." 

Lena frowned as she came close. "Don't you dare, Lady. This is his fault, not yours. You didn't do anything wrong. Matter of fact, you were perfect. You didn't let that bastard win today." She stopped a few steps away, opening her arms. "Is a hug ok?" 

Amélie considered that quietly, trying to sort through years of her own fears versus the words of her lovers. "I...am not sure I am ready to be touched. Desoléema chiot.

Lena nodded, her eyes full of understanding. "Nothing to be sorry about, luv. Is there anything that we can do right now?" 

"I wanted to run," Amélie explained. "The entire time, from the moment he walked in, all I wanted to do was just...run. It was so hard to keep still. I knew he was waiting for me to break. I think...I think I need to move. It is not safe to change here, is it?" 

"Not at the moment," Emily said slowly, "but I think we know just the place." 

They left the Howl on foot, just the three of them. Sombra had promised to call later, while Fareeha had taken Angela with her, their hands linked tightly as they said their goodbyes. Lena lead the way, while Emily followed a few paces behind – close enough that Amélie knew that each of them were there and that they were supporting her, but giving her the space she had asked for. 

Amélie wasn't certain where they were going, but it started to become clear when Lena stopped in front of a low brick wall next to a locked wrought-iron gate.  

"Park closes at dark," Lena explained as she checked to make sure they weren't being watched by anyone, then boosted herself over the wall.  

Amélie followed, a soft 'ahhh' of realization on her lips as she looked around the park, and the thick copse of trees Lena was heading for. "This is where you went for the moons, isn't it? Before you met Emily." 

"Mmmmhmm." Lena pointed to a stout oak tree that still had a few branches low enough to be reached from the ground. "That's where I'd hang the bag with my clothes." Then, with a smile she pulled a few of the plastic bags that The Howl used for takeaway and leftovers from her pocket. "So – care to get changed?" 

Anyone who passed by would have been quite surprised to see a white furred wolf running through the small park's trails, a slightly smaller pair of brown and red furred wolves following close behind. After the better part of an hour Amélie finally was able to calm down and begin to enjoy it, and if Lena and Emily had carried her clothes back to the flat and allowed her to make her own way back, it was no one's business but their own. 

Chapter Text

"So," Sombra asked over her cup of coffee, "did you want to start working again?" 

Amélie considered that question as she took a drink from her own mug. She hadn't actually invited Sombra over to discuss that. Technically, she hadn't invited Sombra at all, but given the mishaps that occurred during Sombra's first two attempts to 'catch up', Amélie didn't want to turn her away again. 

Besides, it was a good question. 

"Not yet," Amélie finally answered, "but soon. Perhaps you could let a few of my clients know I expect to be based permanently in London for the foreseeable future?" 

"Sure," Sombra agreed. She looked around the living room and then dropped her voice just a bit even though Emily and Lena were both at work. "I think I know the answer to this, but...you happy, Ami?" 

Amélie let out a long sigh as she put her mug down on a coaster. "Oui. Very, very happy. Happier than I thought I could be, even if Gérard is still a threat." 

Brigitte had sent them pictures of Gérard and his packmates – even a battered and bleary looking Patrice – being 'escorted' onto a flight to Paris, and a few hours later she had forwarded on pictures from one of her counterparts in France of several men from the Council of Lutetia meeting them on arrival and ushering them into a waiting car.  

Gérard had been censured, they'd learned. Not only for his 'disgraceful' conduct in London, but for overstepping his authority. It turned out that he did not have permission to actually represent his council's interests, but was only to act as a witness. Several of the French councilors hadn't even realized Gérard was even in England, and it seemed they were rather unhappy with the news.  

Gérard and the Isengrim pack as a whole had been ordered to stay out of London for the next six months, and it had been implied that if any of them set foot in England at all during that time they would need to provide damned good reason. 

It was a reprieve, Amélie knew, and Gérard would likely be looking for an excuse to soothe his bruised ego as soon as that six months came to an end, but it was nice to know they had peace – and that the law, for once, was on her side. 

"That's the other reason I wanted to drop by," Sombra offered as she leaned in conspiratorially. "Remember that package you mentioned in your email...?" 

Amélie's eyebrow's rose almost to her hairline. "You brought it with you?" 

"Mmhmm. Stashed in a safe place, just in case." She looked out the window, her eyes going thoughtful. "Seems like it might be useful if someone doesn't take a fucking hint." 

Amélie's lips quirked up in a smile that she knew wasn't terribly cheerful. "Perhaps it might." 

They had moved from coffee and some biscuits to wine and a plate of charcuterie when Emily returned. 

Amélie rose to greet her, welcoming her back with a kiss. "You're home early. I expected Lena, first."  

"I think I've done my job a bit too well." Emily laughed, but Amélie's head tilted slightly as she caught some of the genuine pain behind those words. "Things have been running without me so regularly that all the staff really needed me to do was review the paperwork and send in orders." 

Amélie wrapped her in a hug, then lightly kissed her cheek before murmuring softly into her ear. "We will always need you, ma belle.

Emily nodded, her smile growing a bit stronger. "Thank you, Lady." She realized they had a guest as they came into the living room and gave a little cough of surprise. "Oh, hello. I didn't realize we had company over." 

Sombra waved from the chair, sitting up a bit straighter. "We finally had a chance to catch up a bit – but I wanted to talk to you, too. Got a few minutes?" 

"Talk to me?" Emily sat down on the couch, her surprise obvious as Amélie settled down next to her. "Is there a problem with your room back at the pub?" 

"Nah," Sombra waved dismissively, "the room is fine, if you don't count the fact that it only has six outlets." 

Emily rolled her eyes. "Yes, I heard you blew a few breakers. Shall I buy you a generator? Jesse said you had half the floor covered in cables." 

"I wouldn't mind," Sombra admitted, "but I did upgrade your Wi-Fi and all your TVs have 4k now." 

Emily nodded, conceding the point with a little hum. 

Sombra put her hands on her knees, her eyes flashing. "Speaking of which, loba, I've been meaning to ask if I could do a few other upgrades around your place." 

Amélie put a little growl of warning in her tone. "Sombra..." 

Sombra laughed, waving a hand to dismiss her concerns. "Relax, Ami, these are all on the up and up, honest!" 

Emily raised an eyebrow, trying to hide her obvious interest. "What kind of upgrades did you have in mind?" 

Sombra leaned in with the confidence of a fisherman who knows they have set their hook. "Cameras, for one thing." 

Emily frowned. "But I already – " 

Sombra snorted as she raised her hand to interrupt. "Those models you have installed are six years old. They're practically fossilized! You're covering the bare minimums, but you've got blind spots all over the place and I can make those go away." She paused for a moment, her expression softening, and Amélie was pleased to see her friend show one of her rare displays of tact. "He knows where you work. There's a good chance he knows where you live, too. I can make sure you've got the best setup in this city, so it can help keep all of you safe." 

Emily's hand found Amélie's as she turned that over, squeezing it tightly before she sat up straight. "I hate to do something out of fear, but being forewarned is forearmed." 

"Better a reasonable precaution than an overreaction." Amélie looked over at Sombra, making sure she got the message, and relaxed a bit at her nod. She was firmly in favor of preparation, but she had no wish to succumb to paranoia again. She had spent far too much of her life in its grip. 

"Yeah," Sombra agreed readily. "I can do reasonable...long as you say it's OK, Emily." 

Emily seemed to realize what a concession it was for Sombra to actually use her name, and gave her an equally serious nod. "Yes, please do - but have Jesse give you a hand. That way he can help with the heavy lifting." 

Sombra raised her wineglass with a wink. "I knew there was a reason I liked you right away." 


By the time Lena arrived home, Sombra was off to get a start on her self-appointed mission and the fragrant aroma of roasting chicken and vegetables had filled the apartment.  

"Lady, is that you in the kitchen? It smells fantastic!" 

Amélie turned, exchanging a smile with Emily before she returned to working on dishes.  

"Yes and no, pup!" Emily's spirits had lifted with giving Sombra the OK to improve the security around the Howl and their apartment, and Amélie had been pleased to see her volunteer to make dinner. 

Lena grinned as she came in, collecting a kiss from each of them. "Special treat tonight, then!" 

Emily blushed, biting her lip. "Just roasted chicken, potatoes, and veg." 

"Still sounds lovely," Lena insisted, "still a nice surprise." 

She leaned in to kiss Emily's cheek, trading a wink with Amélie before she walked towards the hall. "Think I'll grab a shower." Lena turned and gave Emily a significant look over her shoulder. "Think I could get some help washing my back?" 

Before Emily could argue the chicken still needed to be taken out of the oven, Amélie gave her a smile and a little look, silently gesturing for Emily to go after her. I have this. Go. 

Emily gave a grateful smile, nodded and made her way back to the bedroom while Amélie turned back to finish rinsing the wineglasses and putting them up to dry, a warm feeling of satisfaction in her heart.  

You are there for us, my love, but we are there for you as well. 

Dinner was a relaxed and somewhat giggly affair at times, with Lena giving Amélie a comedically exaggerated wink as she sat down.  

"That is a delicious bird," Lena praised as Emily joined them at the table, "and the chicken looks tasty, too!" 

Amélie smirked, enjoying Lena's flirting and Emily's silly little grin, giving their lover a sly look as she brought the food to the table. "I quite agree." 

The conversation eventually turned to Lena sharing a few anecdotes from her day, and Emily mentioned that Sombra would be helping to tune up the security around the pub - and why she had volunteered her services. 

Amélie was concerned that the mention of Gérard might taint the pleasant mood of the evening, but Lena looked more thoughtful than upset as she finished a mouthful of chicken.  

"Actually, I'd been meaning to ask you about something he said that night back at the pub." 

Emily pushed back her plate and straightened up slightly, curiosity plain on her face. "Oh?" 

"How did he know I was an orphan? And why does it matter? I could practically hear the capital letters in his voice." Lena frowned as she put her fork down on the plate. "I suppose he might have looked my records up, since he tried to use my trial against you. That's creepy enough that I could believe it, but it seemed like there was more to it - what did he mean about an outcast and a herald?" 

Amélie swallowed hard. "He said that? He used those words?" She felt a bit of ice in her stomach threatening to sour the meal she'd just eaten.  

Emily nodded. "He did – though honestly even if he found out you were turned, Lena, he shouldn't have been able to learn you're really an orphan from the registry. The more I think about it, I ought to tell Brigitte about that. She might have a problem with someone in the council giving out information they shouldn't." 

Lena gave a little hum. "OK, but still. What does it all mean?" 

Emily seemed like she was about to speak, then stopped herself. "Tell you what - let's clean up and go into the living room, and we'll tell you a story." 


Lena settled onto the couch with Amélie, leaning against her as Emily took the chair so she could face them. 

"I'm trying to think of the best way to start," Emily explained after a moment. "Do you remember the conversation we had back when we woke up with Lady for the first time? About the Old Ways being a lot of different traditions and beliefs?" 

Lena nodded. "Yeah, a bit – and a few of the things from my exam, too." 

"This goes back even before that, in a way." Emily's voice was a bit distant and her eyes slightly unfocused, as if she was having to dig down into old, old memories. "You see, with werewolves – and other types of weres – coming from every part of the world, it means that almost every culture has a different myth or explanation about where we came from, and why." 

"Ooo..." Lena couldn't help but be fascinated by all this. Without the pressure of the exam hanging over her head, learning new things about being a werewolf was really rather fun. "So that stuff he was talking about ties into that?" 

"Some of them, at least." Emily paused again, and Lena noticed her eyes flick to Amélie for a moment. "You should feel free to interrupt." 

Amélie just smiled. "You are doing very well. Please – go on." 

"Right." Emily smiled. "One of the stories my gran liked to tell me was that long ago, when the world was young, the gods themselves hunted and rode through the world for their sport, and the wolves hunted with them. The best and the strongest – the smartest and bravest – were asked to remain in the world when the time came for the gods to depart, and the goddess of the moon offered them the gift to become men, so they could walk on two legs. To join mankind and protect and serve them just as they had the gods." 

Lena smiled. "I think I like that. Goes pretty well with what you talked about, Lady – about how we're there to help preserve balance and all that." 

"It does," Amélie agreed, her hand wrapping around Lena's waist. "The two stories are not so different at all." 

Emily's cheeks turned a bit pink at the praise, and Lena was torn between being extremely comfortable on the couch with one girlfriend and very much wanting to get up and kiss the other.  

"Now," Emily continued, "in these old stories, the God of the Hunt had many names. But the one that appears most often was Herne, and it was said he carried a bow that could strike a bird from the sky from miles away, an axe that could fell the mightiest opponent in one swing...and a horn." 

That made Lena straighten up a bit. "That's what he was talking about, wasn't it? He said something about trying to find the horn, right?" 

Emily nodded, and Lena could feel Amélie fidget a bit beside her as she went on with her explanation. "In some legends, Herne and his Hunt didn't just ride to hunt for sport or to feed themselves. They rode to punish the wicked and the unjust, or fools who trifled with the gods and paid the price." 

Something about her words made a shiver run right up Lena's spine. "Ooo. That's a bit scary." 

Amélie nodded. "Such legends often are. Particularly when they are trying to discourage others from doing something foolish." 

"Herne carried a horn," Emily continued, "that he used to summon the Hunt. When he blew it, every wolf for miles, Were or not, could hear him calling to them. They would run to his side and follow where he led." 

"In some versions of the tale," Amélie added quietly, "they would even attack friends or their packmates, if Herne commanded. Some claim it was his power as the god of the hunt that compelled them – but others say that power was within the horn itself." 

Lena gasped at the very idea. The thought of someone forcing her to attack either of them, or one of their other friends, was disgusting. "That's...that's terrible!"  

"In a lot of the stories," Emily reassured her, "it was something that happened for a reason. Herne didn't just show up and demand people fight each other. His hunts were only called when there was good cause, and if the hunt was called against you it was because you'd done something truly vile." 

"That is a bit better, I suppose..." Lena shook her head, trying to get the image of herself fighting someone she loved out of her mind. "So people think this horn is still around?" 

"There's a lot of arguments about that." Emily leaned back in her chair, stretching a bit. "Some think it's a very old myth that explains how the Alpha Voice developed. Others treat it a bit like the legends of Excalibur or the Holy Grail. Some even think a few of those legends are one and the same. But there is an old poem – or part of one, at least – that is supposed to explain where the Horn was left." 

"And that's where that bit about the Orphan comes in?" 

Emily nodded, clearing her throat before she began to recite the poem, and to Lena's surprise after the first few words Amélie joined in as well: 

Where wolves of man do meet,  
to sing beneath the Nights Sun,  
The Herald shall call to The Outcast and The Orphan 
That they shall sing together as One. 

Word that holds over beast,  
Folksong turns from friend to foe  
Power great does legend foreshadow, 
Hidden deep in Herne’s Hollow. 

There was something a bit eerie about it, and Lena couldn't help a lingering feeling that she'd heard those words before - and that something was missing

"I suppose I can see the bit about an outcast and an orphan now," Lena admitted after she'd turned it over for a moment. "Almost sounds like us. But why a herald?" 

Emily shrugged. "Some people think that if this Herald really exists, and they find the horn, it's a signal that the Hunt would return - and the gods with them." 

Amélie seemed less convinced of that. "There are others who think that the Herald is whomever should find and use the horn's power for good or ill." From her tone, it didn't sound like she expected the Herald to do much of the former. 

"Personally," Emily said with a smile, "I think It's all just stories at this point – even if someone kept a horn hidden away that was supposed to be the real thing, it's probably crumbled to dust by now." 

"Sure," Lena agreed with a smile. "Unless it's really magic."  

"I'd say there's no such thing," Emily replied dryly, "but Sombra had a point about that argument not carrying a lot of weight when it comes from a werewolf." 

Their laughter pushed the last of that little chill out of the room, and Emily moved over to join them on the couch. 

"Got any other good stories? Werewolf fairy tales I ought to know?" 

"I can probably think of a few," Emily said after considering that for a moment. "How about you, Lady?" 

"One or two...but I do not think this is quite the right setting." She turned a bit so she could look around the room. "Is there enough room to make one of your blanket forts?" 

Emily grinned as she stood, walking to the closet, and Lena hopped off the couch so they could push it back to help make room on the floor.  

"There is always enough room for a blanket fort." 


Rearranging the room didn't take long, but the decision to change for bed so they could just cuddle and sleep in the fort if they decided to meant that it was a few minutes before they were together again, this time with Emily in the middle and Amélie scratching at her wolf ears while Lena played a bit with her tail. 

"This is lovely," Emily sighed happily, "but I thought we were going to tell more stories." 

Amélie leaned over to kiss her forehead. "Fortunately, I can do both." She sat up a bit, her voice touched with a bit of nostalgia. "This is a story I was told when I was very, very little – before the war, and I was ever in hiding. A story from long ago, when there were gods and faeries and even the oldest packs were young." 

Emily and Lena were quiet, hanging on her every word, and Amélie seemed to take a bit of strength from that, keeping the memories pleasant without touching on the pain that followed.  

"My pack carried the name of the damesblanches for a very long time, but it was not always so. Back in that time, our pack had no name. All wolves were part of the Pack, even if we did not always travel together." 

"The first wolf who would be called a dameblanche was born in those days, with fur as dark as night, and eyes that shined like polished amber. She was young and small, but showed a gift for caring for her packmates even at a young age. In modern times, I suspect she would have been called an omega for that." 

Amélie paused, making sure she had their attention before she went on.  "Hunting was often good in those times, but one year a harsh winter set in, freezing the lakes and streams even as it covered the forests in snow.  

Her pack sought shelter in caves and hollows, turning to their human forms so they could make fires and warm each other. Food became scarcer as predators and prey both starved and froze, and there were fears that some might not survive to the turning of the seasons and the spring thaw.  

When the elders of the pack agreed that the oldest and sickest would go without food so the youngest might live, that black furred wolf refused to believe it was the only way to survive. She left the caves in the dead of night, journeying out to hunt on her own – not for herself, but to feed the others." 

Lena snuggled closer to Emily as they listened, swearing she could almost feel the chill herself. 

"The snow was so deep that she tunneled as much as she walked through it, and the longer she traveled in search of food the more she felt the cold seep into her bones. She had been hunting for days, her own hunger growing inside of her, when she finally caught sight of a hare running atop a snowdrift. 

It was barely grown - perhaps not even enough to sate her own hunger, let alone another's, but she gave chase knowing that she needed to bring something back to her home. She managed to take the hare, snapping its neck with her jaws, and found the strength inside of her to resist devouring it then and then, carrying it back the way she had come when she heard the sound of a human's voice crying for help." 

She paused, and Lena knew a cue for the audience when she heard one. "What happened then, Lady?" 

Amélie gave her a little grin of thanks for playing her part. "She ran towards the sound, the hare still in her jaws, and she found a man who had been trapped beneath a snowfall, weak with hunger and exhausted. 

'Help,' the man begged her. 'I tried to hunt to feed my family, but now they will starve because I cannot free myself.' 

She was torn – terribly torn! The man had been on the same quest, but as much as she needed to help her own pack, she could not ignore his pleas. 

The wolf dropped the hare to the ground before him and then found where his legs had been trapped, using her strong claws to dig through the snow and ice until he was free, and offered him the hare once again. 

'Feed your family,' she told him before she left once again, 'and I will hunt for my pack.'" 

"That can't be the end of the story," Emily said sleepily. "Please, Lady – tell us the rest?" 

Amélie chuckled indulgently, leaning over to give each of them another kiss. "You are right - it is not the end. Not yet." 

Lena couldn't help her grin. Amélie was really good at this.  

"The wolf went into the woods again, hoping to find more food, when an owl landed on a branch above her, its face white and body so dark it seemed to be made of shadows. It stared down at her as she watched, curious, and finally the owl swooped down, landing upon the snow. 

'You gave the man your food,' the owl said, 'though you knew you might not find more for yourself.' 

The wolf bowed her head with a soft whine, but there was no shame in her words when she spoke: 'The man was wounded, and his family needed him. The hare will feed them, and I am still strong enough to hunt for my pack. Denying him and leaving him to die would have been cruel, both to him and his family.' 

The owl used its talons to scratch a mark upon the ground, and pointed with its beak. 'Dig, little wolf.' 

The wolf was not sure what she would find, but she did as the owl asked. The snow rained down on her as she dug deeper and deeper through the drifts, and then to her surprise, she began to smell meat - fresh as if she had just made the kill herself. A deer, somehow preserved beneath the snow and ice, so big she struggled to carry it because she was so small and young.  

'Thank you, friend owl,' the wolf said, 'but how can I carry this home?' 

The owl laughed, and rose with a great flap of his wings. 'You are stronger than you know, little wolf. Follow me with your prize, and I will show you the way.' 

She put the deer's carcass across her shoulders and dragged it as best as she could, following as the owl flew across the snow and ice. They must have run for days, but the little wolf no longer felt hungry, and her burden seemed to grow lighter with every step even as the snow continued to cover her." 

Amélie smiled at them, her eyes shining as she came to the climax of her tale. "When the wolf recognized the dens that her pack had claimed for shelter she howled with relief and delight at being home, and the owl landed in a tree beside her. 

'I leave you here, little wolf. Take the deer as my gift to you, in honor of your kindness.' 

The wolf bowed to the owl once again, and took up her burden for the final leg of her journey home, but when she returned her pack looked at her as if she was a stranger. 

'Who are you' they asked, 'and how did you find this place?' 

The wolf lay the deer out in front of her, and looked at them in confusion. 'This is my home. I was born in these caves. You are my pack – I left to hunt for food for our old and our young.' 

'The wolf who left us was black, and her eyes were dark. Your fur is white as the snow, and your eyes shine bright even in the darkness!' 

The wolf shook herself, thinking she was simply covered in snow, but even after the snow sloughed off of her, they swore they did not know her. She walked to a patch of ice and looked at herself, yelping in shock at what she saw, for her eyes now shone with gold, and her fur was white from tip to root, pure as the fresh snow that she had journeyed through.  

'I do not know how this happened,' she told them, 'but I am of your pack.'  

She stood, then, turning to her human shape even as she shivered against the cold, and though her hair had changed from raven black to shining white, they finally knew her face and rejoiced in her return.  

The deer fed her pack through the worst of the winter, and when she hunted her snow-white fur let her hide among the drifts and snowflakes, helping her provide for them until the spring finally came at last." 

Amélie smiled as she lay back down, curling against Emily, who had finally closed her eyes. "From that day on she was the Dame Blanche – the white woman – and all her children carried her name from that day forth, along with the 'gift' of her white pelt and bright eyes, for that was the true gift the owl offered her...who some say was not an owl at all, but the Winter's King himself." 

"Wow," Lena breathed. "That's...that's a beautiful story, luv. How much of it do you think is true?" 

Amélie shrugged against the cushion as she settled in, her arm draping across Emily's side and finding Lena's hand. "Perhaps some. Perhaps none at all. But even when most wolves lose their winter coats, ours remain white, and perhaps dappled with a bit of light grey, and from what little I remember of my pack's elders before the war, those related by blood all had white hair as they aged, not silver or grey. Perhaps a genetic quirk or a recessive trait...and perhaps not."  

She squeezed Lena's hand and gave one last soft laugh. "I think that in the end, it is a good story. So perhaps it does not matter if it is true." 

"Yeah," Lena agreed with a smile as she closed her eyes. "I think I see what you mean." 

Chapter Text

Emily felt the vibrations from Lena's alarm more than she heard them, groaning softly as she turned over and gave Lena a sleepy kiss before she closed her eyes again. She half listened to the sounds of Lena showering and getting dressed, heard the quiet murmurs of conversation from the kitchen, and was just drifting off when she heard the soft thump of the door. 

Not long after she felt the warmth of a body snuggling against her, and gave a happy sigh as an arm slipped around her waist as she went back to sleep. 

It was amazing how easily things became a routine. 

Amélie was a relatively light sleeper, so she often found herself waking up when Lena got up to head to the post office on days she was working, sharing a small bite of breakfast with her, and then return to bed until Emily's alarm woke up at a much more reasonable hour to shower, dress, and have breakfast together. 

Within a few weeks of living together, it had become automatic for all three of them, and by the end of their second month Emily even found herself getting up for a few of the pre-dawn breakfasts if she hadn't been up too late with business at the pub.  

There had been a few other changes, but most were rather subtle. A new bottle of shampoo in the shower. A few new towels, some books on the shelves.  

The most notable sign, aside from Amélie's physical presence, was the pantry, where Amélie had been diligently replacing several of their staples with larger bags or containers, stocked a selection of several different jams for Lena to have with her morning toast, and acquired a 'very respectable' selection of wine to go with Emily's beer. 

They'd hit a few rough spots and worked through them, and there had been some pushback about their pack's new territory, but for the most part things were working. More than that – if she was honest it was the happiest Emily had been in a long time. 

Despite that, though, Emily had a feeling there was something missing - something undone which was gently nagging at her mind. 

She was sitting on the couch on a Thursday afternoon, enjoying a book on one of her days off, when the sound of her cell phone's ringtone caught her attention. Emily rarely received actual phone calls on the device, but a quick look at the name on the screen had her wincing before she even picked up as that something missing suddenly became perfectly clear. 

"Hello," she answered the phone as she braced herself. 

"So," her father said dryly, "I understand you have a pack now, Emilia." 

Emily groaned softly and let her head fall back on the arm of the couch. "Not wasting any time, then?" 

Her father's tone was more than a bit hurt. "I just wanted to point out that It might have been nice to hear that from you directly instead of getting the news from the council in London." 

Emily sighed as her ears flattened back. "Yes, I am sorry. You're right, I should have told you and mum about it. There was a lot going on and I've been spending quite a lot of time getting everything squared away. You did teach me that an Alpha's first duty is always to her pack." 

"I'm glad you listened to that at least." Her father gave a sigh. "I recognize you wanted to get out on your own," he went on in a gentler tone, "but this is rather a change...I seem to recall being told you had no interest at all in leading our pack..." 

Emily took a deep breath, preparing herself for an argument when she was saved by the voice of an angel.  

"Stuart! Is that little Emily?! Here – give me the phone!"  

Emily sighed with relief as she heard the muffled sounds of a conversation, then smiled as she heard her great-grandmother take the phone. 

"Emily darling, it's been ages. How are you? Is your new pack doing well?" 

"Hullo, Gran." Emily could feel her tail twitch happily as she smiled. "We had a rough start, honestly, but it's much better now." She lifted her head and could see Amélie looking on with concern from the kitchen, and silently mouthed It's OK before she turned her attention back to the phone. "We've got a little room for ourselves, and we're all settling in." 

Gran gave a happy sigh. "Oh, that's so wonderful to hear. I'm so proud of you, dear. We all are – even if your father is having his usual difficulty actually expressing that."  

Emily couldn't help but giggle at the sound of her father's painful yelp in the background, a feeling of warmth spreading through her as Gran blithely continued on.  

"So! This pack of yours – who are they? Are they nice? Do you think you might be able to visit for the Hunter's Moon or Christmas? Actually, no, don't worry about that just yet. It's your first Christmas as a pack together, that's important. But when you're ready we would love to meet them..." 

Emily coughed as she tried to keep up with her Gran's enthusiastic barrage, finally grabbing at the conversational life preserver. "We've actually been making some plans for the Hunter's Moon - we thought we would have a bit of a party at the cabin with some of the friends who have been supporting us. For Lena especially – she's a Turned wolf. It will be her first real proper celebration." 

"Turned?" Gran's voice took on an air of something close to awed surprise. "My goodness. This is the same Lena you mentioned meeting at your pub? The little one?"  

"Yes, Gran," Emily smiled. "I didn't realize that at the time, of course."  

"Certainly. Certainly. My word." Emily had a feeling that her great-grandmother was shaking her head. "So – obviously she worked out, didn't she? I had a feeling, the way you were talking about her. But who else is in your pack? Don't keep an old woman in suspense." 

"Just one other," Emily answered as she blew Amélie a kiss. "Amélie - but we usually call her Lady." 

"Oh, how adorable. She must be very special. I can hear how happy you are just from the way you say her name." Gran gave a happy little sigh. "Well. I should let you get on with your day, but I would love to hear more – and of course we'd all like a chance to meet them. Perhaps you could bring them home for Midsummer?" 

Emily hummed thoughtfully, trying to not to acknowledge the little flutter of nervousness in her belly at the idea. "I think we might just be able to do that. I'll talk to them about it and let you know." 

"Lovely - do let us know, and I'll make sure there's a few extra places at the table for you and your pups." 

"Gran," Emily groaned. "Lady is not a pup." 

"Emily," Gran assured her breezily, "you are all pups to me. Now – you go take care of your girls and remember to give us a call later – your father and your mum do miss you." 

"I will," Emily promised. "Love you, Gran." 

"Love you too, dearheart." 

She slipped her phone back into her pocket with a sigh. "Well. That went better than I had expected." 

"I believe this is the first time I have heard you speak to your family," Amélie admitted as she came to sit beside her on the couch. Emily let out a happy hum as an arm wrapped itself around her shoulder. 

"That's likely because it is," Emily agreed a bit sheepishly, "I hadn't realized it had been so long since I'd phoned home last." 

Amélie gave her a questioning look. "I find it hard to believe you forgot to talk to them for over a year Emily. You are much more considerate than that. What was the true reason?" 

Emily sighed and leaned a bit deeper into the embrace as she thought about how to respond.  

"Part of why I left was needing to see who I could be. Not 'Emily Oakley of Wodewose.' Not 'Stuart and Doris Oakley's daughter'. Not even 'Little Emily.' I wanted to be my own person and make my own way. So, as I got my feet under me in London I stuck mostly to writing letters and I phoned home for the holidays more often than not." 

Amélie hummed thoughtfully. "I think I can understand. But still – you have come far, mon amour. You had already made a name for yourself and the Howl before you met either of us." 

Emily gave a noncommittal sort of shrug. "You have to understand... going home to visit my family felt like I'd gone back to how I was before I'd left home. Please don't misunderstand - I love my family but Dad and I especially, I don't think he wanted to accept that I wasn't his little girl anymore. Or that I wanted a different path for my life."  

She shook her head and let out a long sigh. "As far back as I can remember, my father insisted I had to learn to be the best alpha possible. Even though I have plenty of cousins and there are some wonderful men and women in his pack, he decided I'd be the natural successor to lead Wodewose when he was ready to step down." 

"That must have been very hard, when you were so young."  

"At first, I just worked as hard as I could to live up to what he asked of me." Emily murmured. "What girl doesn't want to please her father? But as I got older, I started to realize it wasn't what wanted. That was when things got hard. I was still trying, but..." She trailed off, and let Amélie draw her own conclusions.  

"Mum, my gran, a lot of the others...they understood. My cousin Jeremy offered to take on some of the things Dad was trying to push to me. But it was still a struggle at times." Emily tried to keep her pain out of her voice, but some seeped through. "When I told them that I was going to move to London after I went to Uni, Dad was all for it because 'you ought to get it out of your system, and whenever you're ready you can come home." 

Amélie made a little growl at the back of her throat, and Emily ran a hand over her back. "Please don't get me wrong - he does love me. I know that. He cares and he wants the best for me, in his own way. It's just that what I feel is best and what he thinks is best don't always line up – and we tend to end up at loggerheads because of it." 

"So you were avoiding bringing up the issue," Amélie asked softly, "to keep peace in the house?" 

"Something like that." Emily pulled out of Amélie's embrace enough to look her in the eyes properly, "One of the last calls I made back home was shortly after meeting Lena. I didn't know she was a turned wolf at the time, we'd only just started dating, but I called home and told my Mum and Gran all about her and they were excited for me. But then..." 

"You learned the truth," Amélie offered. 

Emily nodded with a grimace. "Once I learned what happened to Lena, I couldn't very well talk to my parents about it first. I already knew I was going to be stretching and breaking some of the Council's rules and I didn't want to get my family involved... and once that was over I didn't want to worry them about the trial. I've no idea what my Gran or my parents would have done if they'd known, but I didn't want it to seem like I was running back to them because I was in trouble. My actions were my own and I needed to face the consequences myself, or I would have been letting everyone down." Emily gave a soft laugh at her own foolishness. "When I say it out loud...I know it doesn't make much sense, but there you are." 

"It makes sense to me." Amélie reassured her before leaning in for a quick kiss, "I could tell how much you wanted to be strong for Lena - to make sure she would be prepared. And I remember how much weight you carried on your shoulders because of it. When you came to the cabin after Lena made her first kill, all I wanted to do was ease your mind. To repay the kindness you and Lena had shown me."  

Emily felt a bit of warmth spread through her, and reached out to gently stroke the side of her Lady's face. "You did - when we weren't managing to step on each other's toes. But that does mean the world to me, you know."   

"Mm." Amélie turned to lightly press a kiss into her palm. "I am sure my... situation did not help when it came to keeping things from your family. " 

"No," Emily admitted, "but that's not your fault either - and once it was settled...I ought to have called them. Maybe even visited. I'd love you both to meet my family, honestly. Gran will love you, I'm sure she will." 

Amélie reached out to pull her close again, and Emily let herself melt into her body. "Then we will make the time. We love you, Emily, and they are important to you. Perhaps midsummer, as you said – perhaps before, if the time is right." 

"Thank you for understanding, Amélie. For everything." 

Amélie smiled as she gently pressed a kiss to the crown of her head. "That is what we are here for." 


Angela was delighted to be leaving London for the weekend for several reasons, but the fact that she was making a trip to visit Emily Oakley's cabin without an ongoing emergency or secret medical crisis was near the top of her list. 

The fact that Fareeha was driving and they had an entire weekend free was also quite lovely, and then there was the reason they had been invited. 

"I'm surprised you're so excited about this," Fareeha admitted as she pulled off the motorway. "I mean, yes, it's nice for Emily to invite us out for their first real celebration as a pack, but..." She trailed off, looking for the right words. "Is this really a new experience for you?" 

"Believe it or not," Angela smiled. "I didn't grow up with this world – not the way you did, or some of our other friends. And most of my patients...well. Our relationships are - and should be – strictly professional. Emily is, in her own way, an exception."  

Fareeha chuckled. "And Amélie is a very special case of her own." 

"Lena, too." 

That got a laugh out of Fareeha. "Lena seems like she's an exception to everything."  

Angela grinned. "That's very true." She looked back to the road and sighed happily as she sat back. "But – yes, this is the first time I've been invited to a Hunter's Moon. I know some packs celebrate it and some don't. Was it anything your mother ever celebrated with you, since she and Reinhardt are...close?" 

"Once or twice, when I was younger. It wasn't that different from a regular full moon, though. I remember making corn dolls one year, and being taken fishing a few times and giving our first catch away." Fareeha gave a little shrug as she turned off the main road, following the directions Emily had given them. "I ended up in bed before moonrise – I didn't figure out until I was a bit older that the 'moon punch' Reinhardt gave me was wheat beer with raspberry syrup mixed in to help make sure I would be asleep before they started to change." 

"That's rather adorable." Angela grinned as she looked over. "I'm imagining a drunken little Fari, getting tucked into bed by her mother." 

Fareeha gave that idea a dismissive snort. "I'm just glad that there was no such thing as cell phone videos then. But my mother did have a polaroid for the longest time. She probably has a few pictures somewhere." 

"So – what about when you were older? How often did you stay up to see what happened?" She didn't catch Fareeha in the mood to talk about some of those childhood memories that often, and Angela was going to take full advantage. 

"Oh, at first, I stayed up every night for as long as I could. Sometimes I even tried to sneak out and follow them." Fareeha shook her head slightly as she kept her eyes on the road. "My mother wasn't that pleased, but after the third or fourth time she started to take me outside with her, as long as I promised to stay where I was told. When I was a teenager, though...I tried to act like I'd grown out of that." 

Angela's eyebrows rose. "Had you?" 

"In some ways. I'd started to realize I wasn't going to be the same – wasn't going to ever change like they did. For a while I was angry. Then I accepted it, but I didn't always want the reminder." Fareeha's eyes flicked down for just a moment, then back to the road. "Now...I don't know. I think I appreciate it all a bit differently." 

Angela gave a soft 'ah', and let the subject go. She didn't want to drag up painful memories on what was supposed to be a happy weekend. 

When they reached the cabin, Lena was waiting for them, giving an enthusiastic wave as she directed them to a spot where they could park. 

"Hey! Good to see you both!"  

"Nice to see you too." Fareeha looked around at the clearing, taking in a deep breath. "This is nice!" She gave Lena a dry little smile. "I see why you three are always disappearing here, now." 

Lena coughed, rubbing the back of her head as Angela winked at her. "Well, sort of. There was a lot going on, honestly..."  

"Are we staying inside," Angela asked, "or will we need to use the tent we brought with us?" 

"Honestly, if you don't mind the tent that would be great." Lena gave her an appreciative look for the save. "We didn't expect Reinhardt, your mum, Brigitte, and Sombra to all say yes. I mean, not that most of us will be sleeping tonight exactly, but..." 

"It's fine," Fareeha assured her. "We'll probably stay up for a while, and enjoy the night." 

By the time they had their tent set up and their bags put away inside of it, the other guests had arrived, and the inside of the cabin was a scene of barely controlled chaos.  

"I see what Lena meant about it getting cramped," Fareeha murmured as she looked around the cabin's living room. 

"When it was four of us," Angela agreed, "it was rather nice, but with ten..."  

As if summoned, Emily appeared by them with a basket of nuts and pine cones, a harried smile on her face. "You should see it with another half dozen kids running around. But we'll be moving outside soon anyway."  

Fareeha nodded to her. "Is there anything we can do to help?" 

Emily gave that serious consideration. "Actually...do you have any interest in building a fire?" 

"In the fire pit outside?" Fareeha grinned. "I think I could handle that." 

"Oh," Emily sagged a bit in relief, "that would be a huge help."  

Angela put a hand on Fareeha's arm. "Why don't you get started and I'll join you in a minute?" 

"Right." Fareeha turned to head back out. "I think I saw a wood pile by the carport – is there kindling there too?" 

"Yes," Emily confirmed with an eager nod. "Thank you so much."  

Angela waited for Fareeha to slip back out the door, then turned back to Emily. "Is Amélie around?"  

Emily took a quick look around. "Kitchen, I think." 

Angela made her way through, giving a nod to Brigitte and a smile to Reinhardt before she found herself in the kitchen. Amélie was there, but so was Ana, the older woman sipping a cup of tea.  

Doing her best to tamp down the nerves that she always felt around the elder Amari, Angela smiled to Amélie and cleared her throat. "Do you have a moment? I hoped to speak to you before things got underway." 

Amélie's eyebrows rose in surprise, but she nodded. "Yes, of course." She turned her head just slightly to give Ana her full attention. "I'm pleased you enjoyed the tea – perhaps we could finish our discussion later?" 

"Of course," Ana assured her as she turned to head back into the cabin's living room. Meeting Angela's eyes as she passed, it felt as if she was seeing straight through her, and Angela was proud that she didn't shiver. 

Amélie gave her a little smile. "She likes you, you know. You do not need to be so terrified of her." 

Angela shook her head as she fixed herself a glass of water, since it would be rude to just grab a bottle of wine. "I'm not terrified. Just...cautious. We both care for Fareeha in our own ways, and their relationship is...complex." Laughing at her own understatement, she turned away from the sink. "Anyways - that wasn't why I wanted to see you." 

"No, of course." Amélie smiled. "So – what is on your mind?" 

"Well..." Angela took a sip of her water, gathering her composure again. "It means a great deal to me that you invited us to this, and I wanted to return the favor. I was wondering if you would like to join me for Rosh Hashanah? Emily and Lena are welcome too of course." 

"I... haven't celebrated it in some time," Amélie admitted hesitantly.  

Angela chuckled. "Honestly...neither have I. But the more I've thought about you coming into my life, and your connections to my grandparents, it's a tradition I want to start again."  

"Then I would be honored," Amélie murmured. "Thank you, Angela." 

"Thank you," Angela breathed before she stepped up to give her a quick hug. "Now! Since I have never actually attended a Hunter's Moon...can you tell me what I need to know so I don't make a fool of myself?" 

Amélie chuckled as she reached for glass of her own. "Don't worry - it is fairly straight forward..." 

Chapter Text

It hadn't taken Fareeha long to gather the wood and kindling that had been neatly stacked in the carport and bring it over to the pit, but it had taken her a few minutes to get the logs settled into a pyramid shape before getting them to light. Soon enough, though, the pit was crackling with a low burning flame and Fareeha found herself stepping back away from the smoke with a smile. Their tent would be close enough to enjoy the warmth but not too close, and with the way she had set up the wood, it ought to burn all through the night. 

The sun would be setting soon, which meant it wouldn't be long for the festivities to get underway. Still, there was a bit of daylight and more work to be done. Fareeha worked with Jesse to set up a pair of folding tables, and as the cabin's lights turned on Sombra and Lena brought several plates of food for everyone to share by the fire.  

She had just finished cleaning a bit of dirt and dust from her hands when Angela found her, offering a steaming mug. "Everything looks wonderful." 

"Thanks." Fareeha took a sip from her mug and offered an appreciative hum. "That's good cider." Lowering her voice slightly, she leaned in a bit closer. "How did your chat with Amélie go?" 

"It went very well," Angela said with a smile, "She's looking forward to celebrating with me next month, I think." 

Fareeha nodded as she led them back over to one of the heavy logs that had been placed near the fire as a rough bench. "You know...I wouldn't mind joining you either, if you like." 

Angela's eyes widened. "I wasn't sure if you'd want to join us. I didn't want to assume..." 

"This is important to you," Fareeha corrected her gently. "Of course I do. Though I admit I'm probably going to ask a lot of questions, since I have no idea how it works." 

Angela chuckled as she took a sip from her own mug. "It's been some time for Amélie, too. Don't worry – we'll figure things out." 

Fareeha grinned. "Just like tonight?" 

Angela ducked her head. "Yes, I suppose so. Amélie was happy to explain a few things to me - and to tell me I didn't need to worry about anything."  

She reached over to put her hand on Angela's waist, drawing her into a sideways hug before she lightly kissed her temple. "Good." 


After everyone had emerged from the cabin, they formed a loose semicircle around the fire, while Amélie stood on the other side of the fire pit, her face illuminated by the dancing firelight as the twilight darkened into night. 

"As you all know," Amélie began, "tonight is the first full moon since the autumn equinox. Humans and Weres alike both celebrate this time of year as one that signals the end of the harvest. A sign that winter is coming and we should be thankful for the food we have stored, and hopeful that it will be enough to see us through to spring." 

Fareeha recalled her father saying something similar when she was a girl and it always amazed her how the two worlds she was a part of seemed to mesh in ways such as this. She knew as well as anyone that revealing the existence of weres to humans would end badly, but there were times she couldn't help but wonder what it would be like if the truth came out. How it would shape communities and families and people. Particularly when they often had more in common than they realized. 

"This time of year is also often thought of as one in which the spirits of the afterlife walk among us. Perhaps human, perhaps faeries, perhaps demonic. Your stories may vary, but we all agree that there is something more in this season." 

Fareeha watched as Jesse and Sombra both nodded in response to that and she wondered if perhaps there was a story there. She filed that information away for later and returned her attention to Amélie as she began to speak again 

"Among our kind, this is traditionally a time where those who follow the Old Ways gather together with those they love. Not just as a pack, but those they consider friends and family." Amélie paused to look around at everyone gathered around the fire and smiled warmly at them all as she opened her hands to encompass them. "Their kin – gathered together on this full moon to thank the earth for their harvest, to ask the moon to watch over them through the harsh months to come, for good hunting in these last days of autumn... and to see each other for what may be the last time." 

Fareeha couldn't remember hearing that point before, and she noticed a few surprised looks from some of the younger ones there, but Reinhardt and her mother both nodded gravely. 

Amélie's voice grew softer. "In years past, many knew that the sick, old, and injured might not last to see spring come - so they took this moon as an opportunity to live. A chance to share stories, to make memories. That is what I wish for all of us gathered here tonight. For just this one night, I ask you to forget your worries about the future, and leave behind the pains from your past." Amélie paused a moment to clear her throat, unshed tears gathering in her eyes as she raised her hands to the night sky. "Tonight, we will live in the moment. We gather to celebrate together, to run beneath the moon as we should strive to live every night: Happy, grateful, loved, and free." 


They ate, drank, and laughed together for almost two hours before the weres began to slip back to the cabin (or in Jesse's case, his tent) to prepare for the moon to reach its peak.  

To Fareeha's surprise, Sombra remained at the fire with them, holding a plate piled high with food.  

Angela seemed just as confused as she cleared her throat. "Forgive me for asking, but...you're not joining them tonight? I was under the impression..." She trailed off, not quite sure how to say what she was thinking.  

Sombra gave her a sly little smile, clearly understanding what she was trying to learn. "That I was like them?" At Angela's nod, Sombra picked up her beer and took a long swig. "I am. But I'm also not. My kind...don't change on the full moon like they do. I can't." She looked to the cabin, where Amélie had come back outside in a loose robe, with Lena not far behind her. "But it meant a lot for her to invite me to this, so I wanted to be here." 

Fareeha grinned. "From what I've heard, it probably didn't hurt that Brigitte was going to be here tonight." 

Sombra shrugged as she picked up a piece of cured sausage from her plate, taking a big bite rather than answering the question.  

It was interesting to see how the others returned. Like Amélie, Lena and Emily both had loose bathrobes on, while Jesse just had a towel wrapped around his waist, his prosthetic arm left behind. Fareeha wasn't surprised that her mother and Reinhardt hadn't bothered with any covering, but it was interesting that Brigitte hadn't either – and that Sombra suddenly made a point of looking at her plate until Brigitte had joined the loose circle a short distance from the fire, with Amélie at the center so she could lead them in another short prayer. 

Rather than join them, they sat with their backs to the fire, watching as Amélie spoke in soft, reverent tones. Despite being all too used to seeing weres change, Fareeha had to admit she felt a pang of something close to jealousy as she put her arm around Angela's waist, trying to focus on her fascination at the sight of their friends changing from their human forms instead. 

It had been a while since she'd seen so many shift at once and it was interesting to see how easily her mother and Reinhardt slipped into their other forms, the transformation so instinctive and comfortable that it was almost too fast to follow. 

Amélie and Jesse took a few moments longer but their transformations were almost as smooth as the elders, flowing from one form to the other, while Brigitte and Emily seemed a bit more methodical, and Lena the last to finish her change, her nostrils flaring as she sniffed at the air.  

Angela straightened up in her arms and Fareeha loved the look of wonder in the doctor's eyes as she took in the differences between each of them. "They're all so beautiful..." 

Sombra also looked interested as she stood up, her gaze wandering through the crowd until finally lingering on Brigitte as she padded slowly around the circle, keeping close to Reinhardt's side as she waited for someone to take the lead. 

Fareeha was just about to gently tease Sombra about her lack of subtlety when Angela suddenly reached out to clasp their hands together, her grip almost painfully tight.  Her head snapped around to see what the matter was, and Fareeha realized her mother was making her way towards them on all fours, her tail held high. 

"Don't worry," Fareeha quickly assured Angela, then gave her hand a quick squeeze before turning to face her mother properly. "Ummi.