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the moon that breaks the night

Chapter Text

The first time it happens, Rosaline calls the cops. Because there is a naked guy in her yard, and her eyes did not need to be assaulted this morning, thank you very much. The coyotes howled all night—or her neighbor’s Bluetick, more likely—and she’s too sleep deprived to deal with this bullshit.

The streaker is gone before the cops arrive. Good riddance to jacked rubbish.

 


 

The second time she lets herself look. Just for a second, between his yelp of surprise as the sprinklers come on and the moment he disappears into the woods behind her house. Her eyes trace the curve of his backside, musculature taut as he sprints across the yard, watching water paint pale tracks in the dirt covering his, well, everything.

Everything.

She’s only human after all, and he shouldn't have gotten naked in her yard if he didn’t want her to appreciate the view. Half the street probably saw everything there was to see before she even woke up.

And the realtor said this was a nice neighborhood.

 


 

The third time, he gives her a minor heart attack popping out of the bushes beside the porch. She’s immersed in a book, relishing the crisp October morning when he materializes with twigs in his hair and not a stitch of clothing.

She spills her coffee.

“What the hell?” she exclaims, shaking off her book and assessing its effectiveness as a projectile. It’s paperback, but at the right angle, the spine might do some damage . . .

Hot naked guy looks just as surprised to see her as she is to see him. His tongue darts out to lick his lips, eyes wide, showing off gold flecks in wild green irises. But he doesn’t duck back into the bushes as any rational person would. Edging forward, he licks his lips more slowly, eying the plate of warm cinnamon rolls on her knee.

“You’re not going to eat all those, are you?”

Rosaline bites the inside of her cheek and tears her eyes from his glistening mouth. “You’re asking for food? While trespassing naked in my yard?”

“Yeah.”

She chucks the plate at him. He ducks, avoiding the dish but not its contents, and she takes a minute to regret the loss of her pretty painted earthenware as a cinnamon roll oozes down his chest, stuck by the family frosting recipe. Snatching it before it can fall, he wolfs it down and licks his lips again.

She gapes at him. He looks like a naughty child, with icing in his hair and a guilty grin stealing across his face. But he’s not, she reminds herself. He’s a grown-ass man trespassing in her bushes and ruining an otherwise peaceful morning.

“Sorry, I’m just . . . hungry,” he finishes lamely. Catching a glob of frosting, he sucks it off his thumb, looking faintly embarrassed—but not, she notes, over the fact that more than his six-pack is on display. His stomach rumbles, drawing her attention inexorably down . . .

“I’m calling the cops,” she announces before she can do something about the fact that her mouth is watering, and not over cinnamon rolls.

“No, wait!”

That note of genuine fear stays her hand. Her thumb hovers over the keypad, ready to spring into action at the first wrong move.

“I know you don’t know me. And this,” he gestures vaguely at his lack of clothing, and her eyes follow the path he so kindly marks for her, “doesn’t exactly look good.”

Beg to differ, whispers the traitor in her head.

“But I swear, I didn’t end up here on purpose.” His jaw ticks and his voice turns defensive. “I haven’t figured out how all this works yet.”

“All this,” she repeats, incredulous.

He nods. His feet are planted in the flowerbed, mossy eyes fixed on her, but his muscles keep shifting unconsciously, like an antsy puppy ordered to stay.

“Let me clear it up for you.” Tossing her book onto the table, she stands. With the advantage of the porch, she looms over him. Her fingers curl around the railing, solidifying her stance.

“You got drunk. And naked. For the third time in as many months. I’m betting there was a girl involved—I don’t want to know,” she adds when he opens his mouth to speak, “but somehow your alcohol-addled mind has marked my yard as your personal hangover couch. Did I miss anything?”

“Only the part where I turn into a wolf.”

Chapter Text

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Benvolio pauses in the act of shucking his pants. He’s already ditched his shirt, tossed carelessly on the grass like he’s done this a hundred times instead of a few. It’s easy to pretend she was too surprised to stop it from happening—what, with the smooth muscles of his arms and abs so well defined by moonlight—but Rosaline draws the line at actual nudity. Or, well, she tries to.

“Transformations can get kind of . . . violent.” His shoulders hitch in a shrug, as if it will distract her from the fear that steals across his eyes like mist over a marsh.

“Violent?” Her arms cross around a fistful of monkshood, forked over in double-wrapped plastic with Benvolio looking as green as his eyes. Like weeds will do her any good if things go south tonight. “So you figured you’d lure me into the middle of nowhere, where no one can hear me scream?”

Her words are sarcastic, but they shiver down her spine all the same. For all their non-existent personal boundaries, Benvolio is basically a stranger. Following him into the woods on the promise of some savage supernatural transformation wasn’t her most brilliant plan ever. Especially if the bits and pieces she remembers from Juliet's summer meltdown prove true after all.

She shifts, feeling the antique silver steak knife she’s rooted from a box in the attic tucked into the waistband of her jeans. The thought of using it makes her shudder, but if she’s faced with an angry werewolf, she’s sure that will go away.

He pauses, and somehow, the severity of his expression isn’t undermined by the fact that his thumbs are hooked into his belt loops. “I won’t hurt you, Rosaline. I promise.”

“That’s very reassuring. Except for the part where you have memory problems.”

Apparently, that’s unusual. Apparently, because Benvolio knows about as much about this whole werewolf business—alleged werewolf business—as she does.

“Not about this,” he insists. “I don’t know how I know, it’s just . . . instinct.” He pauses, looking faintly embarrassed for reasons she can’t fathom. He swallows, shrugs, smiles, and a heaviness she hasn’t noticed dissipates between them, like winter air rushing through an open door.

“But I can’t say the same for my clothes.” His pants hit the dirt. “I’m minimizing collateral damage.”

“Oh no, you’re not.” She grabs his wrist as he reaches for the waistband of his boxers. He grins at her, a little wolfish—damn it, she does not believe in this bullshit—and she realizes he’s just messing with her.

This time.

“I’ve seen you naked too many times already. If this whole—” She gestures from Benvolio to the moon. “—thing is the reason, then you’re not giving it a head start.”

“I like these boxers.”

“I like my eyes unassaulted.”

“You seemed to appreciate the view last time.”

“Last time,” she begins haughtily, if only because he’s right—but a howl pierces the night, and she stops talking abruptly.

It's probably a coyote. They’re rampant in Verona; always have been. But his shoulders curve and go tense, and she can practically see fur bristling on his smooth, moon-dappled skin.

“You can’t be here,” he says, crouching on the grass as if he can force the transformation.

Maybe he can. What the hell does she know?

“I thought you wanted to prove—”

“It’s not safe,” he snaps. “Not with him on the prowl.”

She shifts uneasily, and the bag with the wolfsbane crinkles in her hand. The silver knife, wrapped in a dishrag and secured with a hairband, feels heavy against her back.

“That was miles away. By the time whatever it was gets here—”

Another howl echoes through the glade, impossibly closer. It can’t be the same animal. It can’t.

It is.

“Rosaline, run!”

The beast is so close, she can hear its footsteps in the underbrush. Benvolio spins, baring his teeth at the darkness.

Rosaline runs.

 


 

By the time the sun crests the hill, bringing a high-pitched yelp and an echoing groan from outside, Rosaline has a decent grasp on the basics:

  • Do not approach a werewolf
  • Do not feed a werewolf
  • If you come across a werewolf in the wild, you’re probably screwed

If she hadn’t found Benvolio's explanation verbatim on a shady German website, she’d feel a whole lot better about this pet werewolf business.

 


 

“Okay, so it's true. That doesn’t explain how I got picked for the dubious honor of nannying the werewolf pup.” Nothing in her research led her to believe there’s anything normal about freshly bitten werewolves hibernating in humans’ rosebushes.

As if anything about that sentence could coexist with the word “normal”.

Benvolio makes no effort to hide his irritation—at her words or the floral henley she hands over with her ex’s gray sweatpants.

“I told you. I don’t know how this works. I don’t have a pack to explain things.”

“So find one.”

He rolls his eyes, struggling into the shirt that is, to be fair, about three sizes too small. “Because it’s just that easy.”

“What happened to your old pack?”

His body jerks as he shoves his arms through the sleeves. She imagines that behind the floral fabric, his expression is affronted.

“Come on,” she presses, “every werewolf has one. I found that website you get all your information from, so don’t think you can—”

When his head pops out of the neck hole, his jaw is tight and his eyes are wet.

She backtracks hastily. “You know what? Nevermind.”

But his emotions have flared, making the words as unstoppable as his monthly transformations. “They’re dead. Is that what you want to hear? I didn’t save them, and now you’re stuck with me.”

They stare at each other across her cramped kitchen, as his impromptu appearances in her yard take on a whole new light.

“I’m sorry.” The words feel inadequate, but she hopes he can tell how much she means them. Losing your closest friends—your family, really . . . “I know what that’s like.”

He doesn’t ask, and she’s grateful. She returns the favor, and somehow, in the stillness that follows, she knows he’s grateful too.

Chapter Text

The wolf snaps and Rosaline jerks her hand back, wondering what the hell she’s doing. He circles her, sniffing curiously, but his hackles rise whenever she gets too close. Her sneakers squeak on the snow as she backs away. She thinks of the monkshood, stuffed in a junk drawer and forgotten, and curses herself for caving to her curiosity.

“Nice wolf,” she coos, taking another step back. He mirrors her movements, head cocked to the side with almost human intelligence in his luminous eyes. Not that he’ll remember in the morning. Probably.

He’s working on it.

“Seriously, Ben, if you bite me, you’re not getting breakfast.”

He nips the air, playful if not for the glint of his canines in the moonlight. Finding no alternative, she shakes out the blanket and tosses it at him. He snaps at the fringe as it floats to the ground, then pounces, worrying it with his teeth.

She throws up her hands. By morning, the damn thing will be a mess of strings, and Benvolio will be as naked as ever.

“I don’t want another naked guy in my yard!” she yells at the night sky. The moon preens with satisfaction over ruining her night. Stalking back to the house, she pauses to snatch up a scrap of cloth that might have been a sweater before the moon decided to moon her again. Turning, she chucks it at him, catching his shoulder by chance more than anything.

And he changes, snout morphing into a nose and cheekbones, eyes fading from gold to green, fur shrinking back like those plants that close when you touch them, retracting teeth and tail and claws until it’s Benvolio crouched before her in all his naked glory.

The tattered shirt drops to his lap a second too late. Rosaline’s cheeks heat as her eyes fix on his face, thanking her lucky stars he’s too flummoxed to start peacocking.

“Neat trick.” His voice is hoarse, almost a growl, as if the transformation hasn’t quite settled. “Wish you’d learned it before I ruined my favorite sweater.”

His tone should rankle, wry and surprised and a little admiring, like she found an unlikely solution to an everyday problem. Like all this is normal, and so is her part in it.

But really, isn’t it?

“Go home and pack a bag," she tells him. "You’re getting a drawer.”

Chapter Text

The second she realizes Rosaline isn’t hiding Juliet in the pantry, Aunt Giuliana’s stiff smile shatters.

“Don’t play coy with me,” she snaps, fed up with Rosaline’s rebuffs. “You know where my daughter is, and you’re going to tell me.”

As if that’s what Juliet needs right now: her mother’s gentle insistence that Juliet shut up and do as she’s told.

“She’s not here.” And it’ll stay that way if Rosaline has anything to say about it. They’re officially moving Ladies Night off the premises. “If you want to know where she went, ask her yourself.”

“She won’t pick up her phone,” her aunt says carefully, as if to prove she’s the reasonable one, the person in control.

“Then she doesn’t want you to know where she is.”

Her aunt bristles. “Even you must see this has gone on too long. I know she’s upset, but that boy—” Her mouth curls around the words, grinding down the blip of motherly concern. “—wasn’t right for her. It’s time for her to think about her future.”

As if Juliet is some lovestruck teenager mourning a boy who left her of his own free will.

Rosaline stares at her aunt, wondering if she can really be that blind. “Maybe if you treated her like a daughter instead of a doll, she would trust you enough—”

The slap explodes on her cheek, leaving the stinging imprint of her aunt’s hand. Pain sparks and skips and dies like a firework spinning on asphalt, but the bang echoes in her ears as if she’s standing outside herself, watching it on repeat as her anger catches fire.

“How dare you.” Rosaline’s voice is low and dangerous.

Her aunt makes to retreat, then catches her pride. “How dare I?” she repeats, high and faint. Affront comes rushing in. She grips the edges of the island, arms wide and shoulders locked. Her voice hisses through the kitchen. “How dare you, Rosaline. How dare you keep my daughter from me. How dare you pretend to have any idea what danger she’s—”

A howl breaks the night. They both go silent, staring out the window at the clear night sky. The moon winks back, a slim crescent through the curtains. Nowhere close to powerful enough to force a transformation.

But it was Benvolio. Rosaline knows it with a bone-deep certainty that scares and exhilarates her like she’s a little kid buying into her mom’s monster stories again.

Aunt Giuliana reaches into her pocket, fist curling around her pepper spray.

“If you see Juliet,” she says stiffly, “tell her her Mom is worried.”

Rosaline watches her hurry out to the car, lock the doors, and punch a number into her phone, idling in the driveway while exhaust poisons the night.

Well, if she wants to drive herself batshit, that’s her business. Rosaline has a naked guy to deal with at dawn. She curls up by the back door with a book and a pillow, waiting for the scratch of claws that never comes.

 


 

There’s a weight on her stomach, driving a sharp corner of her book into her bellybutton. She groans, turning her face into the pillow. “Benvolio, stop, I’m trying to sleep.”

He ignores her, padding up her chest with paws that are far too heavy for his tiny puppy body, and nudges her chin with a cold, wet nose as if to say, “Wake up.”

She swipes at him and misses, even though he’s right there. He nudges her again, whining.

“Stop it,” she mutters, scrubbing at the cold spot. It lingers just to irritate her, she’s sure.

He curls up on her collarbone, muzzle pressed against her throat. A long, low whine echoes up her vocal chords, building in intensity until she can almost taste a word on her tongue.

Rosaline jerks awake. His cry feels stuck in her mouth. She opens it, and a low, keening sound escapes. It echoes back to her, muffled by distance and the sturdy walls of her house.

Scrambling to her feet, she throws open the door. A hundred warnings echo through her brain about what happens to idiots who confront supernatural forces, and if she wasn’t so frantic, she might have stopped to listen. But his cries are louder now, and she steps off the porch in bare feet, searching through shadows.

What I wouldn’t give for a little night vision right now.

And there he is, hunkered in the tree line. Benvolio. He’s so big that she almost mistakes him for a shrub, wild and overgrown, but the glint of gold in the gloom gives him away. The wolf pup in her dreams seems laughable now, with his tiny, tripping paws and bright blue eyes.

He lets out a low whine and she quickens her pace. Icy sludge squelches between her bare toes, clinging to the pads of her feet. That’s where the stains on his fur came from, she thinks. Hopes.

“What have you gotten into?” she mutters, throat tight.

His whine cuts off abruptly, overtaken by a warning growl that rumbles through the night and takes refuge behind her sternum. She’s so close now that she can see the flare of his nostrils, exhaling clouds of moisture that swirl across the distance to kiss her face. She should be afraid. Petrified. He looms over her, all glinting teeth and sharp eyes and bristling fur. A hulking figure straight from her childhood nightmares.

“Benvolio,” she says softly, firmly, “get your ass over here so I can help.”

She takes another step. His hackles rise, ears flattening against his skull. His tongue flicks out between his fangs and her breath sticks in the catch of her heart.

Swallowing hard, she extends her hand, palm up. “C’mere.”

For one mad second, she thinks he might bite her, cursing her to a life of ruined clothes and loneliness. Then he obliges with short, stilted steps. He’s limping, favoring his back leg, so she reaches out to close the distance. He snuffles at her palm, nosing into her hand, and then it's not a muzzle and fur, but a warm chin and rough stubble cupped in her hand.

Benvolio breathes her name like a prayer. She wants to shrink back from the sound, to smack him for giving her a heart attack, to bury her face in his neck, warming the cold patch she can still feel on her chin. She runs a shaking hand over his chest, down his arms, checking for injuries she can’t see.

“How . . .?” she demands, but there’s a gash across his nose and a smear on his ear, matted hair glinting red in the cresting dawn, and how doesn’t matter.

His mouth quirks in a rueful grimace. “Should’ve known you’d be the one to force the issue*.”

Her thumb skates across his cheek, just shy of his nose, and Benvolio shivers. His eyes flare gold again like a thousand tiny stars.

She fights a shiver of her own. “Let’s get you inside before you freeze to death. Don’t you know it’s the middle of winter?”

Chapter Text

Her phone buzzes on the table, a discreet app badge alerting her that it’s two days out. Rosaline digs through her purse for the Aleve.

“Take three,” she says, and Benvolio stretches out his hand without question.

She drops them into his palm, wondering if he’s really warmer than usual, or if it’s a childhood of werewolf movies screwing with her head. He squints at the Aleve, then through the window, abnormally attuned to the moon, which is nearly invisible against the afternoon sky.

“How do you do that?” he asks, dry swallowing the pills before heading to the sink to lap at the tap. When he straightens, droplets drip from his chin and chase the curve of his neck. He licks the water from his lips, while Rosaline relishes and regrets how much worse his oral fixation gets this time of the month.

She busies herself with her phone, deliberately not mentioning that her latest research suggested muscle warm-ups might help him control the transformation. She does not need the temptation today, thank you.

Benvolio comes up to read over her shoulder, radiating heat and raw energy, and completely ruining her mental mandate not to think about what he could do with all that pre-full moon intensity.

“Cycle tracker?” His confusion is so palpable it’s almost cute. “Romeo never told me there’s an app for that.”

“Don’t you know any female werewolves?”

He huffs. “You know I don’t—”

A fresh wave of heat hits her back as the realization strikes home.

Rosaline hides her smile, taking pleasure in acting completely nonplussed as he regains his footing. “The muscle cramps are getting worse again,” she says, flipping through the notes on her phone. “I think it has to do with when you were turned.” They’re coming up on the anniversary. His transformations got easier as he learned to control them, but now they seem to be making up for lost time. “Expect a night or two of bad sleep and an increased libido.”

“You’re tracking my libido?”

She can’t tell if his flush comes from embarrassment or desire, but it radiates into her all the same, flaming up the back of her neck to heat her cheeks. The truth leaps free before she can stop it.

“Not on purpose.”

She should’ve known he’d jump on that like a rawhide bone.

“You’ve been paying attention,” he says with relish.

She throws a wry look over her shoulder. “You’ve been panting.”

His jaw snaps shut as if she means right now.

“Download the app, and I won’t have to track it anymore.” Not that she won’t. He really does pant sometimes, when the moon is high and her jeans dip low. But at least this way she won’t have a record of it to taunt her.

Benvolio shakes his head and steals the phone from her hand. “I’d forget,” he says, swiping through his list of monthly symptoms.

"True." How he manages to get within two days of a full moon . . .

She steals back her phone, angling it so he can see. “Hit this button and you can compare cycles. We met here—” She clicks back. “—when your transformations were stronger. They’ve gotten better since that night you ran wild under a crescent moon—” Which he still refuses to talk about, apart from a cryptic warning to stay inside if she hears him howl. “—but the headaches and muscle cramps are acting up again.”

He tucks his chin onto her shoulder, his weight warm and familiar. Rosaline hums deep in her throat as he settles in to watch her work.