A whine from the bedroom got his attention, and he peeked his head in to see what all the fuss was about. Laughing, he shook his head at the sight in front of him
Sitting on their bed, Rey was half-dressed and red in the face. She slipped one arm of a gray blazer on, but the rest of the outfit sat limp behind her. Her arm was out of its sling, but she couldn’t reach to grab the other arm without hurting her shoulder more.
“Here,” he offered. “Let me-"
Finn pulled the other half of the blazer around and carefully helped Rey maneuver her arm through the sleeve without moving it too much. Then, when that was done, he helped her loop the sling back around her neck and got her arm situated. She had full use of her hand and arm, so he hoped for Rey’s sake that the injury would heal up enough soon so she could just wear a brace around her shoulder.
While she was out on leave from work, she normally just wore a tank top and a blanket around the house, but today was her uncle’s funeral and she wanted to look nice for that and stay warm out in the mid-December weather.
They counted their lucky stars they only ended up with a dislocated shoulder and marks that would likely scar after their encounter with Rey’s cousin. Ben Solo was no more, and in his place rose Kylo Ren, a feral werewolf with a small pack of his own. Finn was still learning all the werewolf lingo, but he knew as soon as he heard the term that feral wasn’t good.
A feral wolf was a danger to both humans and werewolves and it was becoming more common. Once, it only meant a werewolf that shifted into his wolf form and never transformed back into a human. Those individuals were literal lone wolfs and slowly they forgot what it was like to be human. Rey’s grandfather had become one after her grandmother died giving birth to her children, and he murdered countless humans and killed local livestock until his adult son put a stop to everything. Those twenty years had been nerve-wracking for the pack because they knew if they weren’t careful, Anakin Skywalker’s mistake could cost them their lives. They wanted to remain hidden from humans, choosing to reveal their heritage only to those they selected to be mates. If anyone made that secret known to the world, they didn’t trust that the rest of the humans wouldn’t hunt them down and slaughter them all. It had happened many times in the past and it could always happen again.
Now, there were packs of feral werewolves running around and creating chaos. Humans killed real wolves in mistake, thinking that the small number of gray wolves in the region were killing sheep and cattle. The werewolves just wanting to live their lives peacefully now lived in guilt and fear.
Kylo had been radicalized and no one in his family knew when exactly he first started down that road. Rey had her suspicions he might have gotten involved with a group online, either on Reddit or a forum. There were plenty of places where werewolves could talk to each other openly; most humans just assumed these spaces were for roleplay.
Most feral werewolf packs wanted to distance themselves from humans out of their hatred for them that stemmed from years of hiding and fear. Kylo went farther by declaring that it would be better that humans learned to fear the wolves, starting with those who had been the mates of the pack.
Finn was lucky that he got away. Han was not. How someone could kill their father when he had been nothing but kind and doting was beyond Finn. Rey was close to her uncle and between the attack and his death, she had become despondent most of the time she was awake, trying to distract herself with every auto magazine she could get her hands on in the shop beneath their apartment.
It was terrifying to take his first steps out of their apartment when he knew a werewolf could be waiting around to finish the job, but Rey and her family believed that he was safe in the city. It would be hard for a wolf to hide in a place so crowded. He wasn’t sure when Rey’s next Change would be because of her injury halting the process, but she told him she didn’t want him to go to the cabin with her until her family had found Kylo and killed him.
Feral wolves that attacked humans were sentenced to death by the pack. If Kylo went to another region, the pack reigning there would also uphold that. The family suspected that his feral pack was hiding in the southern region of the state where there were bigger forests to hide in without coming across a human often. That area also wasn’t claimed as another pack’s territory.
Finn adjusted his black jacket and waited for Rey to finish up with getting dressed. He went back to the kitchen to move a brunch casserole into a dish for travel and put that into a canvas bag. His shoulder ached from where Kylo bit him, but it hurt nowhere near what Rey was feeling. He could handle moving a dish for a funeral potluck.
The car ride over to the funeral home was silent. He didn’t know what to say to his girlfriend in that situation that would make anything better.
The first person to greet him when they arrived to the funeral was Poe Dameron, his best friend from his army days that also happened to be a werewolf in Rey's pack. The world felt so much smaller when he found out the guy he drank with on Friday nights also was his girlfriend's childhood babysitter and grew a tail on the night of the full moon.
"Buddy," he sighed as he pulled Finn into a loose hug, trying to be careful in case Finn was still hurt. They hadn't talked at all since the night of the incident. "Are you two all right?" Poe looked between Finn and Rey and his dark eyes widened at the sight of the sling over her. "Okay, not all right. God, he really is a beast now." Drawing a hand through his hair, Poe had never looked more terrified before.
Nodding, Rey quietly left the circle and went over to sit on chair in the corner of the main room of the funeral home. Glancing her way, Poe gave her a mournful look.
"Leia wants to see you," he whispered to Finn.
They turned into the direction of a crowd, where many of the direct family members stood. Senator Organa, petite but commanding stood in the center, surrounded by well-wishers wanting to give her their condolences. At times, it looked like she was the one comforting the mourners more than they were comforting her. The few times they had met, Finn found that he liked her. He thought a state senator would be harder to talk to or look down to someone like himself, instead, Leia only had been welcoming and warm. She had been the one to answer Finn's call for help the morning after the last full moon, making sure he and Rey got to the right hospital for treatment.
The moment he entered the crowd, she excused herself and approached him.
“How’s the shoulder?” The dark circles under her eyes made her face seem sunken. Finn wondered if she was sleeping well.
He shrugged, though regretted it when a twinge of slight pain shot through his arm. “It’s not too bad,” he insisted. “Maybe a little sore.”
“I’m sorry.” Her voice was weak, but she meant it. It was her son that did that.
“And I’m sorry for your loss.” He hadn’t known Han for long, but even in his grumpiness, he was a likeable guy.
Senator Organa glanced over at her niece, who was staring blankly at a vase of flowers in a corner. “How’s Rey?”
In most instances, Finn would have lied to save the added grief, but he knew that wouldn’t work. Senator Organa read people too well and her niece was standing nearby to prove that she wasn’t all right. He sighed.
“Not… great,” he decided to say. “She’s taking everything hard.”
“She and Han were very close,” observed Leia. She seemed to remember something. “We’re going to read the will next week. I know he’s left her a couple of things.”
“Chewie gonna still run the shop?” Finn asked as he craned his neck to see the large man with his wild hair and beard telling stories of his youth. He looked like a scary guy, but everyone knew he was a big softy, though Finn could barely understand a word he said. He had a thick, Eastern European accent and no one knew exactly where he was from.
Leia nodded. “Probably. At least, I expect he would.”
“Rey might want to help with that. I don’t think she would quit her job though.”
“Han wouldn’t want her to. He was proud of her.” She patted Finn on the back. "I'll visit you two in a couple of days. It would be nice to see you without everyone else around." Then, she turned back to reenter the crowd.
Luke Skywalker, grizzled and just as tired-looking as his sister, caught Finn's eye. He nodded to acknowledge him but that was as far as their interaction went. Rey told her father she wanted him to leave her and Finn alone for a bit and it seemed like he was honoring that request. Luke might not have been in the mood to talk either. Kylo had challenged him to a fight that night, and by loosing, Luke failed to protect his family and keep the pack together. His arm was heavily bandaged. Likely, whatever was under those was proof of that defeat.
Finn returned to Rey's side to find that a pair of women who looked like siblings were sitting next to her, chatting. He'd never seen them before and wasn't sure if they were just friends of the family or part of the pack. He hadn't met any pack members with an Asian heritage before so he wasn't sure if he should be quiet about the werewolf thing or not. They might just be human friends of the family.
The oldest of the two looked up at him when he approached and stood up with her arm outstretched. "You must be Finn," she said with a smile. "I'm Paige, an old friend of Rey's."
He shook her hand, firmly. "Nice to meet you." He looked at the other woman curiously.
She also stood up. "I'm her sister, Rose. We're all old friends. Rey and I also work together." Looking a little nervous, she also held her hand out to shake his.
Now, that was a name he recalled Rey mentioning, he just figured he hadn't met all of her friends yet.
"That was a really brave thing you did," Paige continued.
"Uh..." Finn wasn't sure how to go about this conversation.
She smiled. "The whole pack knows. Not many humans would be able to fight Kylo like you did. Even us wolves don't want to pick a fight with him."
He still wasn't sure how to talk about this. "Thanks? I guess...?"
Paige laughed. "Don't worry, we won't keep embarrassing you."
"We're going to sit with Poe during the funeral," added Rose. "If you want to sit with us."
"Thank you," he accepted the offer, knowing he wouldn't be able to sit with Rey in the family part of the pews. Maybe one day, but he wasn't an official family member yet.
The funeral was a simple affair, though tons of people turned up to give their respects. There was no casket to look into. Han was not a religious man, and he wanted to be cremated before being laid to rest in a vault where his wife would one day be placed beside him. Even if he wanted a burial, they wouldn’t be able to show the body. Finn heard he looked bad after Kylo was done and the coroner couldn’t fix him up very well. The werewolves even had a special coroner to deal with them after death, this one signing off Han’s death as a heart-attack to not rouse the suspicions of the authorities. The pack didn’t need that and Senator Organa didn’t want the press on her doorstep hounding her about patricide.
He sat behind Rey’s family, where she was seated next to her father. Finn heard the whispers going around the pews. Ben Solo’s absence was noted by those that didn’t know what the family was. Most of the old women there tutted that Ben had been an ungrateful, spoiled child.
Finn would love to agree with them, if he didn’t bear the bite marks of the man on his shoulder.
When the service was over and Han was laid to rest, Finn and Rey politely spent time with her family and ate brunch with them until exhaustion had them both wanting to go home.
He talked to his mothers to tell them how the funeral was and avoided telling them about the injury. Because of the drama around Han’s sudden death and Rey’s injury blamed on an accident at work, he thought it would be best to avoid talking about his own shoulder. His moms didn’t want him to move halfway across the country to start with, the last thing he needed was them hounding him about moving back to the Midwest because he likely wouldn’t be mauled by wolves there.
Changing into sweats, he changed the bandage on his shoulder and inspected it. He didn’t think the marks would look too bad once they healed up, at least, they wouldn’t look as bad as the scar running down his spine. That was something he got back in when he was serving overseas and came back home to face months of physical and mental therapy. If there was one good thing about the scar though, it was that he wouldn’t have met Rey if he didn’t get it. He wouldn’t have needed anyone to hold the door open for him in class and she might not have ever spoken to him if he hadn’t.
In the other room, he could hear Rey crying.
He shuffled inside and, just as tired as she was, he settled down next to her on the bed. Placing his hand over her hip, he hoped that they could find some small comfort in each other and rest.
She couldn’t sleep at night, though she made sure not to rouse Finn as he slept next to her. He had learned how to deal with stress that came from the aftermath of such an event and he also had pills to help him sleep. Maybe in a few weeks, if she couldn’t work through it, she thought she would call her doctor to get something too. Her medical records now said she had suffered an accident at work, a fabricated story of how heavy equipment wasn’t stored properly and fell on her, but her doctor knew better.
Her mate being beside her made things a little easier. When she woke up frightened after seeing the snarling face of her cousin in her dreams, Rey could look over and remind herself that she protected Finn and that he was safe and right next to her. It would be odd to say that scent was comforting, but to a wolf, her mate’s scent was calming. Finn had his own unique musk that flooded her senses when they were in bed together, but she could also smell notes of old, musty books from the college library, the coffee he drank every morning, and the grass from the park blocks near the school.
As a human, Finn could not distinguish her scent the way she could, but Rey wondered what he would smell all the same.
Her tablet sat on her lap, backlight dimmed to not bother Finn. Browser open, she made searches for her cousin’s name and the name he went by now, only to find a dead end in what she was looking for. She couldn’t access his Facebook page, though she suspected that she could not find what she was looking for there either, and his Reddit username wasn’t giving her the results she wanted.
A thought came to her as she searched general topics revolving around her kind: her cousin might have another account that he used just to communicate with the feral wolves.
She knew her family would tell her it wouldn’t do to be obsessed with this, but the encounter with her cousin left her shaken and not only would she live better knowing he wasn’t out in the world anymore, she wanted to make sure that her mate was safe.
Reading subreddits in the werewolf topics made her feel uncomfortable, but she knew she had to understand why Kylo became so radicalized that he would murder his father. Well, actually, she probably would never understand that for as strained as her relationship with her own father was, she never thought about killing him.
The wolves on the website that seemed legit and not humans doing roleplay were all young and angry. Feeling isolated in their anger, they sought each other out, encouraging each other to leave the safety of the pack to break the mold. Werewolves, in their opinion, were the superior species and why should they forever be hiding in the shadows when the humans should be the ones afraid. They called half-wolves (which, ironically, made up the most of all werewolves) traitors to the species and insisted that breeding only be kept within their own kinds.
Well, Rey could only count a number of young werewolves that lived near her and all of them were either not interested in her or they were women. She didn’t know what her cousin’s preferences were, or if he even cared honestly, but he was the only young male around and incest wasn’t really her thing. That basically was why interbreeding was so common. There was about a twenty-five percent chance that someone half-human wouldn't be a werewolf and after facing extinction every couple of decades, there just weren’t a lot of them left.
She paused in her thoughts when she came across something promising.
The moment she saw a user named KnightOfRen lamenting his shame of being half-human, she knew she had found what she was looking for.
Staying at home while Rey went to be with her family for the reading of her uncle’s will, Finn invited Poe over to watch the latest soccer match – Poe insisted to call it football to be annoying. It was a topic of usual argumentation, a playful quip to get on each other’s nerves.
However, this game proved to be a boring one with not a lot of action. They were rooting for the home team, but this year they were good and stood a chance of winning each game. The other team, not so much.
“Can you tell me more about werewolf terms?” Finn finally asked when there was another lull in the game. “I just realized that most of the people in my life have turned out to be one, and I’d really like to know what they are talking about.”
Poe grinned and sat his beer down on the coffee table. “Sure.”
Deciding to get the big question out in the air, Finn took a deep breath. “What’s the difference between a boyfriend and a mate?”
His friend looked shocked. “Has Rey-?”
Nodding, Finn continued, “The morning after the attack. She told her family she was protecting her mate.”
Another grin spread across Poe’s face. He reached over to give Finn a playful, light punch on the arm. “We’ll be hearing wedding bells soon,” he joked.
Finn’s eyes went wide. “Seriously?” he asked.
“No, Finn. I was joking. That’s up to the two of you.”
“Oh,” he heaved a deep sigh. This hadn't cleared up anything. “So what’s the difference?”
Lacing his fingers together nervously, Poe took a moment to think about what he would say. “It’s more of an emotional bond kind of thing for wolves,” he started. “Like, even more so than getting married to someone.”
“I don’t understand,” said Finn.
“I wouldn’t expect a human to,” replied Poe with a smile as he leaned back against the couch. “Wolves pick a mate carefully, even a human. They’re the people we become so bonded to that we would die for them and die without them. That’s why we’re always debating how compatible wolves and humans are,” he added. “Humans can break up with someone and usually be able to get back to their lives quickly; for wolves, a breakup with a mate is devastating. It’s not uncommon to hear us say that someone died of a broken heart.”
Finn felt his heart speed up when he realized something. “Wait, so is Leia-?”
“She’ll be fine, I think,” Poe tried to assure him. “She’s hurting, but she still has things to live for. I don’t see her finding another mate later though – that can happen,” he said. “Sometimes, once separation in permanent, we can bond again with someone else.”
“No pressure or anything?” Finn raised his eyebrow.
Laughing, Poe patted his friend’s leg. “You’ll be fine,” he said. “If you didn’t walk out on Rey after that… night,” he frowned at the thought, “you’ll make it.” A different look struck Poe’s face. His mouth dropped, horrified. “God, how could Ben…?” he said this almost to himself.
“You knew him, didn’t you?”
Poe nodded and reached forward to grab his beer again. “Yeah, we grew up together.” He took a large gulp. “I mean, we weren’t close when we got older. At first, I thought he hated me when I came out of the closet, but then I realized it was probably more that we just grew apart. And now all this is happening-" Groaning, he tried to glance at the score again. “This game really sucks, huh?”
“Did he always hate humans?” It didn’t sound like it from Rey’s perspective, but sometimes people hid things from their family and not to their friends.
“That’s the thing, he never seemed to. None of us can figure it out except that we think he talked to people online, and that changed him.”
Rey seemed to think the same, but Finn was worried that she was obsessing over her cousin and hoped she wasn't focusing all her energy on figuring out when exactly he changed his attitude. Finn thought she was staying up late out of boredom and just surfing the web until she left her laptop open when she went to use the bathroom and he saw a tab open to an anti-human Reddit thread. It made him panic at first, until he realized that she wasn’t logged in and looked more like she was browsing. He didn’t mean to violate her privacy, but it was hard not to jump to conclusions considering what just happened.
It took another couple of days to realize that she was conducting her own investigation into the issue. Finn had no idea what she was up to, but it certainly wasn’t that she was having second-thoughts about humans. He hoped whatever came out of Han’s will was positive for her and would distract her from the social media.
But if Rey thought of him as his mate, then she saw him as something more than a short-term relationship and genuinely wanted to be with him. Already, she proved just how far she would go by attacking her cousin to get him away from Finn. The idea of someone being a mate almost seemed territorial, but it also didn’t bother him. He would have killed Kylo to protect her too.
He thought about this as he went back to his drink, trying to enjoy the game. But his thoughts of Rey led him to another question: if Kylo was still out there, would he eventually not care that Finn was hiding in a city and just show up at his doorstep one day to finish the job? Rey didn’t think so, but Finn wasn’t sure and it made him paranoid when he went out. Part of him was certain that if he didn't watch his back, he would find a wolf snapping at his neck again.
Then, there was still the issue of why Rey had brought a gun with silver bullets on their last trip for the Change.
Finn had his suspicions too, but he also reminded himself that Rey wanted to keep a weapon around for Finn in case anything bad were to happen. She may not have expected her own family to attack, but she knew the risks of werewolves becoming dangerous to humans. He accepted that fact, and she never hid that darker side of being lupine to him. Even then, he figured being attacked by a wolf was as likely as a human attacking him in his own home.
He just wondered now if the worst was truly over.
Waiting outside her workplace, Paige Tico fastened the last button on her coat, hoping to keep as much warmth it offered to herself. In winter, she often wished that she could live some place warmer, but then she reminded herself that this region didn’t get snowstorms like the rest of the country and counted her blessings for that. Besides, all the trees were beautiful and gave the pack a place to hide when they wanted to run in their wolfskin.
Her sister pulled up in her car and she jumped into the passenger’s seat. “’Bout time you got here,” she grunted as she pulled the seat belt across her body.
“Sorry,” Rose breathed. “Got stuck at that light up at the McDonald’s. You know how bad it gets around lunchtime.”
“I guess we should go up to the carts, then,” Paige suggested, "if we only got a half-hour."
Few people were willing to stand outside to get lunch at a food cart in freezing cold weather, so the carts lined up along the street were relatively uncrowded. They stood at the front of a cart painted green, serving some of the best Thai food in the area and looked over the menu.
“I have some news,” Paige whispered to her sister.
Rose's interest piqued. “Work or-?”
Nodding, Paige said, “I’ll tell you someplace more private.”
They grabbed their lunches the moment it was placed out on the window for pickup and walked over to an undercover area reserved just for those eating at the carts. The cold air made their noses feel numb, but they didn't have a lot of time to eat to drive back to someplace warm.
“So what’s the news?” Rose asked, excitedly.
Glancing around to make sure no one could overhear (there was only one other group in the area and on the other side of the tables), Paige decided it was safe enough to talk. “I might have found a slight difference in our genes. The one we think triggers the Change.”
Rose waited, expectantly. Paige knew that hearing this would be important to her.
“It’s not a huge difference, and I haven’t been able to sample other genes between siblings to feel more confident about it, but if I’m right, you carry a gene with a slight alteration to it.”
Staring down at her box of Pad Thai, her sister remained silent for a moment. “So that’s why I'm different?”
“Possibly,” Paige answered with a shrug, though she felt confident that this was more of a probability. “I haven’t been able to look at the genes of other wolf siblings, so I can’t prove it yet.” She was already taking a risk as it was using her work equipment on a personal project. If anyone found the samples and realized they belonged to humans with an extra set of chromosomes that weren’t very human… The pack would throw a fit.
Paige had a theory, but that’s all it was. A theory with no hard evidence.
But now that she had found this one difference in genes, she felt like she had reached a breakthrough, not that she could tell anyone. She wasn’t sure if she could get samples from other wolf siblings in a situation like her and Rose either. It might forever be a theory, shared only between sisters.
She bit into her salad roll, staring at her sister as she poked at her lunch with her fork.
“Do you think Kylo will go after me?” Rose asked, quietly, startling Paige out of her thoughts.
As much as she wanted to relieve her sister of her fears, she knew she couldn’t be sure of anything and that thought frightened her. The feral wolves of today were more anti-human than some of the generations of the past, and largely, the wolves alive today had never experienced the true horrors that their ancestors had. Children like Rose were defective to them. She had seen the Reddit and 8chan forums, she knew how terrible they were.
“I don’t know,” she replied with honesty.
Wordlessly, Rose gulped her mouthful of food.
Lying on the couch, Rey stared ahead of her, not really seeing anything except a vague consciousness of the bumped pattern along the walls. Sometimes out of boredom she would stare at the ceiling and see if she could see shapes in the molding. There was a duck in the bedroom she and Finn shared, but when she looked at the wall, she couldn't think beyond what was running through her mind.
She was in an odd spot between deep thought and thinking nothing at all. One moment she was contemplating the last couple of days only to find moments later that she had forgotten what she was just thinking of. Her shoulder ached and she wasn't supposed to rely on the pain medication anymore. Even days at work when she was running on little sleep, she didn’t have this problem.
Han had left her his share of the auto shop, leaving it to be ran mainly by Chewie. In his will, he told her that he didn’t expect her to leave her job and that if she didn’t want to run the shop, he wouldn’t be disappointed. He didn’t think someone with an engineering degree would want to work at an old repair shop.
But Rey kind of wanted to. She had fond memories of the shop and knew how to do the repairs… it wouldn’t be a bad place to be and Han and Chewie had many loyal customers that returned over and over and brought other people in. Maybe she wouldn’t leave her job cold turkey just yet, but she would try working weekends to see the overall state of the shop before she decided anything. She didn’t think Chewie would mind.
At least this new development took her thoughts away from her cousin’s online activity. Now that she knew his Reddit username, she figured she might track him to other sites. The stuff he posted to those threads made her feel sick to her stomach. It was another side he hid from the rest of the family for years.
However, she was not sure what Finn would think about all of this. Their own trauma had caught up with them, leaving them exhausted. Finn wasn't sure if counseling would be an option again now that he was in school, but at least he could afford his medications to calm his general day-to-day anxiety. Any moment now, he would return from getting takeout at the taco place a few blocks away, and she would have to figure out what to tell him. She wasn’t sure why she was uncomfortable telling him that her uncle left her a share of his business, but she was nonetheless.
The warm smell of meat and spices filled her nostrils and signaled Finn’s return. She stood up, eagerly awaiting the food and momentarily forgot her earlier thoughts.
“I’m starving and I could just kiss you,” she told him.
He laughed. “I'll take it as payment for being forced to walk out in the cold.”
She leaned in to press her lips to his. “It smells good. I was almost about to go hunt myself.”
“Is this the wolf in you speaking?” Finn teased.
Rolling her eyes, she helped him unpack the box of food and get a pair of plates from the cupboard. As she could tell by the smell, the tacos were delicious and almost made her mouth water by taste alone.
“How was the reading?”
“Han left me his shares of the shop,” she blurted out. Her eyes started to water.
Finn paused to look at her. “Woah, that was more than you were expecting.”
He observed her reaction. “And this is… okay with you?” Reaching out, he touched her face gently, thumbing at the wet streak running down her cheek. There were days she felt like she had cried herself out, but then there was always something that could make her tears flow again.
Rey shrugged. “I guess so,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind running the place, but I’m going to give it some time to think it over. Leia said I shouldn’t rush to make a decision.”
The pair went quiet for a moment.
“I asked Poe about a couple of wolf things,” Finn finally brought up. She was thankful he wanted to change the subject.
It was her turn for curious stares. “What kinds of things?”
She shifted a little in her seat at the couch, but then she realized that Finn was not mirroring this discomfort. It had not been something she had brought up after the morning of the attack, but she knew Finn had a good memory and could tell when something was of significance.
“And… how do you feel about that?” Her voice faltered.
Slowly, he covered her hand with his. “I think it’s wonderful.”
Then, he leaned over and kissed her.
Smiling into it, Rey told herself that she would never allow Kylo to take this away from her.
Rose and Paige's story in this is what made me feel like this story needed a lot of editing. I know a thing or two about genetics, but normally you have to keep things simple for them to make sense, especially when it comes to fantastical science like here.
The pack called a meeting two weeks after Han’s funeral. Now on high alert, there was worry that the actions of a few badly behaved wolves would threaten their own existance. There was some talk of splitting up and moving to safer areas, but the Skywalker siblings wanted to wait before making a choice. Kylo hadn’t killed anyone that didn’t have a connection to the pack yet, and they were able to cover Han’s death as a heart attack.
Luke had asked Rey to come alone, afraid that Finn’s presence would make things more tense. Fearing that not including him would put him out even more than he already was, Rey decided not to tell him that as her mate, he would normally be invited to these meetings. If he asked later, she would just say that this had been private pack business and leave it at that. She hated lying to him, but she didn’t want to hurt his feelings or make him suspicious that he was in more danger than she let on. He wasn’t, but she knew he would still wonder.
“Settle down,” Leia ordered when the meeting was called.
Curled up against a couch in the corner, Rey watched alone, wanting to distance herself from everyone else to avoid questions and obvious stares. Sometimes, she’d glance at Poe or Rose across the room, hoping to catch their eye and guess what they were thinking.
The chattering didn’t die down though.
Visibly annoyed, Leia growled, “Quiet!”
The room went immediately silent.
Looking pleased, she began, “We have a problem with some of our young people leaving, going feral.”
“Yeah, your spawn,” spat one of the newcomers in the group that Rey was unfamiliar with. She couldn’t recall a name, and could only remember that he had three children of his own.
Her aunt recoiled at the comment, but kept her composure. “I don’t know why Ben did what he did,” she confessed. “I know just as little as everyone else.”
Rey bit her lower lip as she curled up further. The deeper she got into her cousin’s anonymous online accounts, the more she saw into the darkest corners of his mind. She didn’t understand it herself, the extreme hate for humans, but it existed and it wasn’t a small matter that would go away. In the last few years, the movement for wolves to go feral expanded, and she had linked a couple of other accounts to friends of her cousin. She wasn’t sure how foreigners like Armitage Hux and Phasma (no one knew her real name) settled in the United States when there were feral packs in their home country, but that didn’t matter either. They were here, and both were dangerous in their own way.
Her father stood up. “Much of the blame is to be put on me,” he said, hoarsely. “When Ben challenged me that night, he was not strong enough to defeat me, but I was also not strong enough to put a stop to him.”
“Then perhaps you too weak to be our leader,” growled Rose’s father, which shocked Rey. Since they arrived and join the pack years ago, he had always been supportive of Luke.
“Perhaps,” Luke replied quietly, "it might be time to let younger blood lead the pack.”
She felt eyes shift to her and moved uncomfortably. Rey knew a few of the pack would expect her to take up the challenge and become the next leader. She was strong enough, but she wasn’t sure if she was smart enough. Her father had his sister to help him make choices; who did she have?
Finn, she thought. But even she knew that Finn wouldn’t be able to help her with the affairs of the pack. He didn’t know most of the rituals and rules as it was. Once, she would have expected her cousin to fill the role of leadership and seek her help when needed, or even the opposite had she been the victor. Not only did he betray his family, but he also let her down.
“Are you suggesting we do a trial?” Poe spoke out. He seemed interested in the idea, and looking around, Rey could not think of a better replacement for her father. Poe might not be as strong as some of the other males in the group, but he was crafty and got himself out of tight spots before. Finn told her of stories back in the army when he encountered the air force captain and knew just what to do to help get a group of trapped soldiers out of enemy lines by making distractions. Poe had the skills to move up to be a commander, but he ultimately decided that it was time for him to finish up his career there. Rey was just glad they both came home alive.
If Poe rose to the challenge and made it out of the trial victorious, Rey would support him. She would gladly fight in her father’s place for family honor, but as she was with her shoulder, she would have to stand down. If whoever was the victor was someone she did not support, she could always challenge them later.
She glanced around the room to size up the potential pack leaders in the room. Most of the pack was either too old or too young, but there was formidable potential in their group. At least three-fourths of the mates in this group were human too. However, not all the wolves seemed like they had both brains and brawn on their side, which was an important quality to have.
There were only six real contenders in the room: Vi Moradi, Jarek Yeager, Amilyn Holdo, Poe Dameron, Freya Fenris, and Hype Fazon. Doing a quick observation, she wasn’t sure if Moradi or Yeager would be interested in going through the trial, and Rey wouldn’t put her support behind Hype because he was more interested in glory than keeping the pack together and stable.
Poe would be her first choice, followed by Fenris and Holdo. Freya Fenris was strong physically, but she might not decide what was best for the pack and Holdo was Leia’s best friend but she also might not be strong enough on her own.
If Kylo were here, he would wipe the floor with all of them.
Her father spoke up again, after a moment of thought. “If I have challengers, I will be glad to call a trial.” Luke then paused. “But,” he added, “I would like to wait for a month or two while we try to sort out the feral pack.”
That was when the shouting began.
The younger, more eager pack members were the loudest. Angry and feeling betrayed, they had not yet learned that an older pack leader might be weak physically, but still had years of wisdom and experience to pass down. If it was another person, Rey might have felt the same way, but this was her father and his reaction to his nephew’s turn had surprised her. She thought he would leave the pack like he did when her mother died, ignoring her and everyone else around him while the family picked up the pieces. This time, Luke wanted to face things head-on.
She never quite forgave her father for abandoning her in a time of great distress, but at least he was trying to make amends both with her and the pack.
“Quiet!” Leia howled.
If there was one person in the pack that no one wanted to anger, it was Leia Organa. Everyone settled down, though there were still a few frustrated murmurs audible.
She stood up. “We have concerns that selecting a new leader in a time like this might create further complications.” Which, was true. Who was to say that a new leader wouldn’t further divide the pack? “Luke and I are in agreement that it would be better to deal with this problem first. After that, he and I will step down without a fuss.”
This seemed to appease many of the younger pack members for now.
Her honored not-uncle stood up. Getting on in years, he walked with a cane, but nothing stopped Lando Calrissian from being his charming self.
“So, is it plan time?” he asked, grinning.
Leia rolled her eyes. “Lando, it’s not going to be like when we were all young and strong,” she said.
He shrugged. “Maybe not for us, but we’ve got a few young people in this group that will gladly take up the fight.”
Shifting uncomfortably in his place, Luke looked solemn. “I don’t want anyone else to get hurt,” he whispered, but everyone in the room listening carefully would be able to hear him. He looked at Rey’s shoulder pointedly.
Something within her compelled her to stand up. “But if we don’t fight,” she countered, “more of us will get hurt.”
“Rey,” Luke growled, “not now.”
“Dad, I might know where he is.”
The room fell silent. All eyes were on her now.
Her aunt glared at her. “What are you talking about?”
Hesitation filled her. She looked around and realized that in the back of the room, she couldn’t ignore the faces craning their necks to look at her. If she didn’t answer now, there would be a lot of pestering questions later.
“I found Kylo’s social media accounts; the ones he uses to contact his feral friends. They’re hiding out in the south, where all the forests are. Probably near the border of Cali.”
Leia’s eyes slanted into a glare. “What friends?” she demanded.
“Armitage Hux and Phasma, specifically,” Rey answered.
A couple of people turned to whisper to whoever was closest to him, not refusing to help themselves to gossip. Not much was known about Phasma except that the silver wolf’s survival instinct borderlined insanity. There wasn’t much she wouldn’t do to stay alive and few would challenge her in either human or wolf skin. Rey had heard rumors she was born to a feral pack up in Canada and that after they were hunted by humans – to be fair, they murdered a few hikers and farmers - she traveled down to America to find a new home.
Armitage Hux, on the other hand, was a bigger worry than a renegade feral lone wolf.
His father had led a feral pack over in Britain decades ago, taking over for Brendol Hux when the old man finally met a violent end. Whispers were that Armitage murdered his own father and used his wits to halt any other threats to his leadership, but it didn’t matter much in the end. The pack split and some went back to hiding as humans again; it wasn’t like there were wild wolves in Britain anymore and that made it too hard to hide and blend in.
So Hux ended up trying again in America. Rey had only met him once when her cousin brought him over to introduce him, and she didn’t like him one bit. This was two years before she had met Finn, but she had dated other humans and the things Hux said to her about interbreeding made her uneasy. She wasn’t sure if Kylo had liked him either, but they got along well enough and Rey kept her nose out of his business.
Maybe she should have made it her business, but she also wasn’t sure if that would have changed anything.
“There are others in the group,” she ended, “but I don’t know their real names.”
“How many?” asked Luke.
She shrugged. “At least nine." She admitted, “I’m not positive, but I know the pack is growing. This is just my estimations from surveying his accounts.”
There were more mummers among the pack and Rey took her seat again. She didn’t have any more information to give them.
“Thank you, Rey,” Leia announced. “You’ve done enough now.”
She knew that was a warning to not get more involved. Not that her family didn’t appreciate the insight, but it was more that they didn’t want her to get roped into more trouble. Kylo likely wasn’t smart enough to figure out she was anonymously tracking him, but if he did… well, she didn’t want to put Finn in danger again.
Her mate was her first priority, she reminded herself. No matter what the pack or Kylo did, Rey would always put Finn first.
The rest of the pack spent the evening discussing what to do. In the end, it was decided that it would be best to send someone to get as close to the feral pack’s territory as possible, using scent markers to figure out the perimeter of the area without entering it.
That wouldn’t work for long before the pack sensed the outsider, but everyone knew that. What was important was that they at least confirmed an established territory and figured out what to do from there.
Vi Moradi volunteered for the job. Out of all the wolves in the group, she was best suited for spying. Her old pack had been distrustful of outsiders and before she decided to leave, she would infiltrate nearby packs and bring her own back information about them. The problem was that with her kind of work, wolves caught on to what she was up to quickly. Vi quit that work and find a new home with a pack that would take her. Luke and Leia heard her out and decided that this time, she wasn’t lying.
And now here she was, helping her new family in their hour of need.
Rey wondered how all of this would play out.
Silent, swift footsteps brought him near his prey. Quiet as a summer breeze, quick as death.
The wolf instincts took over and since he had abandoned the humans for this life, Kylo found that he had never been happier. Here, in this forest, he was free to run and hunt as he pleased. No one told him to control himself or remind him that his real form was human. Now that he was here, he was doubted that was true. There was a lot he doubted about his old life.
In front of him, the doe nibbled peacefully on the foliage, unaware of the danger looming behind her.
He prepared himself for the kill, lowering to the ground to ready for a running start. The moment he began was the moment he couldn’t turn back or make corrections to his route. She would hear him before she saw him and run away. Kylo was fast, but he knew the deer could be faster when her life was on the line.
“The Supreme Leader is looking for you,” a cool voice came behind him.
The sudden snap of a nearby branch on the ground startled him, and Kylo turned to see the deer had already vanished.
Kylo turned to who interrupted his hunt, barring his teeth at the slender red wolf. “Dammit, Hux. That was mine!”
Despite the threat, Hux paid Kylo no mind. “Phasma will catch her,” he assured her and just as he said this, they heard a snarl in the distance. “Well, look, now you’re free to speak to the Supreme Leader.”
Growling, Kylo swiped a massive paw near the other wolf to show his annoyance before he wandered through the woods. It didn’t take him long to get to the small, clear lake hidden by dense trees. Few humans knew about this place and few would venture this far out.
And few wolves came here knowing who claimed this spot for himself.
He crept towards the water’s edge, lapping up its contents to quench his own thirst. In the lake's reflection, he could see himself clearly, matted black fur and the deep scar running down his face.
Rey did that to him. His own family betrayed him. Once, Kylo believed that his cousin might have been sympathetic to the feral pack’s plight, but her involvement with that human had obviously swayed her. She was smart, but love made her stupid. There were plenty of males in this pack from her to choose from.
She made it known where her loyalties lay the moment she lunged for him when he asked her to leave the pack and the human. Kylo had hoped she would have agreed and come quietly, instead they tried to kill each other. Rey had smelled strongly of that human and when Kylo realized that she wasn’t alone in that cabin, his anger boiled further and he vowed to kill the man inside. Vengeance, perhaps, but more of a desire to protect what was his. He almost succeeded, but he underestimated the strength of the human, forgetting he had once been a soldier, and the man got away only for Rey to return to the fight.
That was when she bit his face and ran back to her human. Staggering, Kylo made it to the woods and waited there until Hux and Phasma found him. Back in their human forms, they took him to a vet that knew how to care for werewolves and they got him stitched up. The scar ached, and he had to be careful until it fully healed, but Kylo knew that this encounter would only serve to strengthen him.
“Good, you're here,” a rasping voice interrupted his thoughts.
Kylo turned around to see the ancient face of the Supreme Leader. Face scarred and reconstructed, Snoke might have easily been mistaken for an ugly, feral mutt than a wolf and Kylo had underestimated this too. It was hard to believe that a wolf as old and physically weak as this one was one of the most brilliant minds around.
“You wanted to see me?” Kylo wasn’t one for small talk but neither was Snoke.
The old wolf lay down in the shade of a tree. Kylo had no idea how old he was, but it had to be unusually old for a lone feral wolf. Arthritic and easily tired, Snoke couldn’t hunt or run far.
Finally, he answered. “You rose to the biggest challenge of your life and met it,” he began. “Now, I have another test for you.”
Wanting to huff in annoyance, Kylo opted to listen. Snoke was wise, but his tests were becoming a nuisance. Was killing his father not enough? For most, that would be the ultimate proof of unwavering allegiance.
Even he had struggled to kill Han. It would have been easy if he had hated his father, and though he was disgusted by his human heritage, Kylo never felt that and looked back on his childhood fondly. Han had been nothing but a good father to him.
His resolved wavered when he barred his teeth at his father and Han did nothing to stop him besides offering help.
Kylo’s victory over his own conscious had pleased Snoke and cemented his ties to this pack. It was where he belonged.
“Tell me, young Kylo,” Snoke crooned, “what do you sense around us?”
He closed his eyes, concentrating as he named the things familiar to him. “The trees, the lake… you… me…the pack’s scent markers…”
Snoke grew impatient. “Concentrate,” he ordered. “There is something else here.”
Trying again, Kylo closed his eyes and listened, smelled. Largely, it was all the same awareness as before, but then he finally heard something else.
Footsteps. So far away that from this distance it was almost impossible to hear them. The rhythmic thump, thump came in patterns that only a creature on two legs would make.
“A human is here,” Kylo announced.
Snoke nodded his head. “Good. And you know what to do to humans that stray into our lands.”
Growling, Kylo faced the direction of the intruder. He could smell the human now and his lips curled at the thought of a human intruding on this sacred place. They came here to get away from humans, and here they were, walking on land they arrogantly believed belonged to them like they did everything else.
This would be a far better hunt than the doe.
They lived for rainy weekend afternoons.
Finn tried not to jostle her shoulder too much, but now that Rey could wear a brace instead of a sling, it became a lot easier to forget that she still felt sore. The bite marks on his shoulder had healed, though he could still see the faint outline etched into his skin.
She kept touching the mark once the skin had healed over, he noticed. Whenever his shoulder was bare to her, she would reach out and gently touch the area. Rey’s eyes, normally bright and inquisitive, would darken into something soft and regretting. He hoped she didn’t regret their time together because it had given him so much joy in his life.
This is what she was doing now. Leaning against his side, her fingers ghosted his shoulder. It almost tickled, but Finn wasn’t very ticklish, which sometimes seemed to disappoint her. Their play fighting often served to be just that - playing - and she acted similar to her playful side as a wolf too.
Outside, the rain pattered against the bedroom window. Finn had been no stranger to rain when he moved here, but at first, the consistent gray skies throughout winter and spring made him feel just as bland on the inside. It took him a couple of months to appreciate the weather, when he realized that the rain and mild climate brought with it lush plants and vibrant flowers when life was renewed with the seasons. Rey’s recollection of her childhood made him realize that the region wasn’t getting as much rain each year as it used to, resulting in fears of drought each summer and little snow on the mountaintops some years stopped winter tourism. He realized that the weather now might be a happier median than what they could get.
The sound of the rain was relaxing. The room was quiet except for the raindrops outside and Rey’s light breaths against his skin. They had talked about finding something to stream, but so far, neither had attempted to switch on the television, content as they were.
Rey put her face up against his neck. She inhaled deeply and breathed out a sigh. This was something she did often, but he hadn’t really realized this until recently. When she was in her wolf form, she would put her snout in the same spot.
“What’s with you and my neck?” he teased.
He felt her smile against him before she lightly nipped at him.
“Hey!” he laughed, turning over in the bed so they faced each other on their sides.
Smiling, she pecked him on the lips. “You smell good,” she answered.
“That a wolf thing?” he teased her.
She paused, looking pleasantly pensive. “It’s a wolf and a human thing. Humans can smell an individual’s scent too, you know. Especially their spouse’s or child’s.”
Finn had never thought about it before, but he noticed Rey had her own specific scent. He never thought of anyone else’s unless it was particularly noticeable and not very pleasant. There was no particular word he could think of to explain her scent except that it was her own and it was Rey. Wolves, obviously, would be able to distinguish scents better; pick them apart into individual notes. Rey certainly could when they cooked at home.
“Bet it's amazing to have a sense of smell like a wolf,” he whispered.
Rey wrinkled her nose. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” she countered. “Remember, everything smells twice as strong, at least.”
“So you’re saying,” Finn teased, “that garbage doesn’t smell good as a wolf either?”
Playfully, she shoved his side. “Thanks.”
“Well, I really wish I had a better-than-human sniffer,” he said again.
She sat up and shook her hair out. “You know, sometimes couples like to do this thing where the human selects a perfume for the wolf to wear. Like a signature scent.”
He perked up. “Sounds like fun,” Finn said. “Maybe we could stop by the mall today…” He was trying to think of things to do so that they didn't spend the entire weekend inside their apartment.
Poking him gently on the nose, Rey laughed. “It’s supposed to be a surprise, you know.”
“Ah…” he hummed. “Really?”
“Really,” she replied. “So..." she leaned over to kiss him, "surprise me.”
Finn wondered what kind of scent he would select for her. There really wasn’t one way to describe Rey. Perhaps the best thing to do to choose one would be to simply find a perfume he liked the most. The mall was only a few blocks over from the university, he could squeeze time in to stop at one of the stores.
He was feeling excited about this now. Maybe he could check online first.
“What should we do this morning?” he asked, grinning.
Rey grinned. “Not get up, to start,” she laughed.
Weekends passed too quickly in his opinion, and he quickly found himself back on campus the following Monday morning. Winters always felt gray and dead to him, but maybe it was because the trees were bare and the sky was gloomy.
His bus let him off a couple of blocks away from the center of campus, which he preferred, because normally this stop had a small waiting line and he was more likely to get a seat. The next stop was so crowded that most people that got on had to stand in the aisle. It wasn’t uncommon for a bus to skip stops because it was full. Besides, this block had a couple nice cafes and delis to sit at if he had to wait.
Today, he found himself walking into a student protest.
This wasn’t an unusual thing. Most days, there was something going on in the park blocks around the school. The students here were pretty active politically. Just a few years ago, many of them occupied park spaces to protest Wall Street, though the movement fell apart over a few months. It damaged a lot of public spaces and property and Finn wasn’t sure if that was the best way to protest. He was rather quiet with his own political opinions, but he knew when to take a stand when needed. If someone needed him to show up, he would.
In order to get into the student union building, Finn would have to brave the crowd and squeeze through. He caught glimpses of the few signs in the group, but the name of the person being protested wasn’t familiar to him.
Except, one face in the crowd was familiar.
Finn tried to place a name to a face, but found he had forgotten. He knew he met her at Han’s funeral; one of Rey’s packmates.
“Oh, hey!” he greeted.
“Hey.” She smiled.
He grinned back, embarrassed. “I know we’ve met, but I can’t remember your name,” he admitted.
“Rose,” she told him. “And you’re Finn. The Finn.”
This time, she looked sheepish. “You’re the talk of the pack.”
He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Not sure what to think of when learning that people were talking about him behind his back, he changed the subject. “What is everyone protesting?”
Her face flipped into a frown. “The University President is resigning and taking a two-hundred-thousand dollar severance pay with him. Meanwhile, the board is talking about raising tuition again.”
Finn frowned. He didn’t like hearing of another tuition hike when it was already costly, and he recalled that just a couple of years ago, the university administrators got in trouble for pocketing more money under the excuse of bonuses when the teachers in the university were seeing severe pay cuts. This new university president had only been in office for a few months too and if he remembered correctly, the school’s student newspaper had written an exciting article about a former engineering professor taking on the job hoping the STEM fields would benefit.
“Ugh, that’s nasty,” he replied, before something jotted his memory. “Don’t you work with Rey?”
“Yeah, part-time,” said Rose. “I’m getting my master’s. What are you studying?”
“Oh, that’s cool!”
He thought it would be nice to see Rose more on campus. It would be good to get to know some of Rey’s friends and her pack and she seemed like a sweet person, if maybe a little excitable.
But he glanced at his phone and realized the time. “Crap, I’m gonna be late if I don’t hurry up.”
She moved out of the way. “See you later, maybe!”
Pacing through the hallways and up a flight of stairs, Finn made it to his classroom with one minute to spare. He hoped he would run into Rose on campus again.
Rey bit her straw nervously, glad that the thick plastic prevented her from breaking it. She sipped tiny amounts of her milk tea at a time while she stared almost blankly at her phone.
Her father had never been one to bother her with texts while she was at work, knowing she probably wouldn’t see it until a lot later, but sometimes he emailed her. Personal emails were fine at her job as long as it didn’t distract her too much. Lately, what really distracted her was her thoughts jumping back and forth between her tasks, Han’s shop, and the pack.
But this was probably just going to ruin her day.
She stared at the news article her father linked her to. Hiker Found Dead – Animal May Be to Blame.
The local investigation of this hiker’s death was thought to be from a cougar. It wasn’t unheard of for humans to get attacked out on trails by the big cat - it happened just a year before, sadly – but as she glanced at the article, she understood her father’s fears from what he said in the email.
The attack happened in the area Kylo’s pack was thought to be.
Her father explained that he called back Vi Moradi from her search. If a human was killed by a feral wolf, it wouldn’t be safe for her to walk around in any form. Anyone that lived in the area would likely be on high alert and might try to kill her on accident, or the feral pack might sense her and pursue her. No one else needed to be put in danger.
Rey’s stomach churned as she read the article. Random attacks by feral wolves was never a good thing. They didn’t just threaten the existence of the feral pack, but any werewolves that lived nearby. The southern forests were over six hours away, but her home could easily feel the effects if anyone was accidently spotted in their wolf skin. More and more wild animals were wandering into urban neighborhoods and getting killed for it. Rey didn’t like how humans usually treated wildlife, finding that killing them when they were obviously just looking for food after humans took over their territory distasteful. She could understand that contempt for humans.
But werewolves had laws, and those laws were clear: a werewolf that attacked humans was a threat to the pack. The sentence for murdering humans as a wolf was death.
She failed to kill her cousin when she had the chance, and though she was not sure if this was his doing, Kylo killed his human father. Part of her felt responsible for this continuing. Leaning back in her chair, she sighed as she thought about what should be done and only thought of one thing.
If you want something to be done right, you had to do it yourself.
Sorry guys! I meant to publish this last week, but I got a bad cold and fell behind on schedule!
Healing felt like it took too long. Three months minimum was a long time and Rey’s doctors were certain that her injury would take longer. The werewolf genes weren’t hurrying that process up. All that it was doing was helping her heal by preventing herself from Changing at each full moon. The body could be remarkable in how it helped itself heal, but sometimes it felt like time just didn’t move fast enough.
There hadn’t been another attack on a human since the hiker was found. Leia and Luke speculated that when a group of humans searched the area for predators, the feral pack went into hiding. They would lie low for a bit. Even they weren’t stupid enough to keep at killing humans that wandered into their territory; their pack was too small to be a threat to a group of hunters with guns.
Despite that, the inaction of her pack made Rey restless. She did not doubt her aunt and father’s leadership, but she wondered if Kylo’s involvement swayed them from getting involved. No one wanted to fight their family, let alone a son or a nephew. Rey was broken-hearted over Han’s death and Ben’s betrayal, but that sadness flipped to rage the moment Kylo turned on her and went after Finn. She had been considering the possibility of calling Finn her mate for months before the attack, but in that forest, fangs barred at her cousin, she couldn’t think of him as anything but.
But she worried if nothing was done, the feral pack would just get bigger and more powerful. They might be small now, but no one could say that it would remain that way. More and more young wolves were getting sucked into the idea of a feral pack and, as anger and frustration with the world grew, more might find the idea appealing. If the pack and the ideal weren’t snuffed out soon, it could lead to more trouble.
Rey didn’t like to think of a world where she and her family could be in danger, even if they weren’t the ones doing wrong. They just wanted to live their lives as normally as possible, living like humans and alongside humans without threat of being hunted down like in the past. Surely anyone that meant no harm deserved that?
She wasn’t the only one that grew uneasy with how the pack was taking care of things. Some of the young adults were discussing moving away to join other packs or create their own in a more affordable city. As much as the idea appealed to Rey, she considered here her home and with Finn’s schooling, she was not sure if he would be willing to move. Their work allowed them to scrape together rent each month for a nice studio, but that apartment certainly wasn’t a forever home for two people thinking about spending the rest of their lives together. She’d be willing to wait until he graduated, but at the same time, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to leave either.
Poe’s instant messages with her back and forth told her he was thinking the same thing. He grew up in Florida and didn’t think he’d like the Pacific Northwest, only to find that it’s greenery and charm kept him there. He thought it would be a nice place to live a life.
Though she wanted to bring up the possibility of him leading the pack after everything settled down, Rey hadn’t found the courage to talk to him. Poe never said he wanted to before, but she knew someone who wanted to lead when she saw one, and he wouldn’t be a bad leader. He might be small on the physical side and maybe not as strong as Ben would have been, but Poe had a sense of justice that Ben did not and he cared about the pack. Never one to back down, he wouldn’t allow another feral pack to become a problem.
And Poe and Finn got along well, something that made Rey happy to see. Finn even ran into Rose a couple of times at school, getting coffee with her between classes. She liked to see her mate bond with her pack and was happy he was making friends. Finn had become a lot more reclusive than when she first met him and Rey worried that was because they were a tight-knit couple. As quiet and independent as she was, Rey still saw her friends whenever she could, but she wasn’t sure if she should worry about Finn or not. He could decide for himself when he wanted to see people and he and Poe were close. Sometimes people only had one or two close friends and that was enough for them.
She looked over at the kitchen table from her seat on the couch. Finn hunched over one of his law books, carefully scanning its contents. Every once in a while, he would reach for his pen and write something down in his notebook. He studied too long, Rey thought, but she knew he always worked far harder than he needed to.
Sometimes, she would tease him, distract him, all to get him to take a break, but today she was content to just watch him as he worked. There was something hypnotic about watching him move his pen back and forth against the paper, and Rey was tired from her day at work.
Stretching out on the couch, Rey found herself lulled into sleep for a nap. In her mind as she lost awareness of reality, she dreamed of running through the forest with another wolf at her side who had fur a darker brown than her own.
Finally emerging from his studies, Finn looked around the main area of the apartment, only to find Rey napping on the couch. He smiled and decided not to bother her. As her shoulder was healing up, between work and the stress that he knew she was feeling from the… problems in the pack, she came home exhausted every day. Neither of them slept well these days either, though Finn at least had medication to help him out.
He went into the bathroom to clean up, removing his shirt to look at the scarring bite mark on his shoulder. Frowning, he looked at how the healing wound looked like it was scarring by how the light, raised skin etched the area. Each time he looked at it, he was reminded of the wolf that bit him and how he saw the intent of murder in his eyes.
Rey’s presence reminded him that he was lucky to have someone so devoted to him in his life, but he also understood that if he hadn’t been involved with her, Kylo wouldn’t have even known he existed.
At night, Finn always made sure that the doors were locked, and the windows shut tight. He didn’t really believe a werewolf could scale an apartment building, but it gave him peace of mind when he tried to settle in for bed. Rey also seemed to do her own ritual for bed, pacing the front room a few times and looking outside before deciding she could sleep.
He ran his hand through his locs and placed a few stray strands the way he liked before he went back to the main room. Now that he was finished with his studies, he reached for his laptop that he bought cheap and on sale. As long as it got the job done, that’s all he needed. Finn clicked on his browser’s icon and stared at his homepage as it loaded the latest local news.
Another update on that hiker found dead down in the southern region. Finn frowned as he clicked on the link that took him to the article.
Glancing at Rey to make sure she was still asleep, Finn ventured into the article’s words. A year ago, he wouldn’t have thought much about the hiker’s fate except that the poor guy was unfortunate to get in the way of a mountain lion, but now he knew better. It didn’t help that he spotted Rey and Rose glancing at the story when they thought they were being sneaky.
And the image of the safe at the cabin never left his thoughts. Between moments of fear and remembrance, those silver bullets stayed tucked away, only to emerge again when he thought of how Rey warned him that some wolves didn’t like humans and tried to reassure him all the same. He had no reason to believe that Rey didn’t think he was safe, but he wondered if he should have thought dating a werewolf through a little more. They had been together long before Rey revealed that bit of information to him, but it changed everything.
Maybe he should have thought harder about what it meant to be with someone that wasn’t quite human.
He loved Rey, truly. The moment she came into his life, Finn’s world seemed brighter and vibrant. She showed him everything she loved about the city she grew up in; things Finn wouldn’t have probably discovered on his own. But now it felt like she lived a double-life before she told him her secret and if he had known from the start, he might not have wanted to stick around…
What Poe told him somewhat frightened him. Wolves mate for life, and even if there were no hard feelings between them if Finn wanted to leave, what would that mean for Rey? Would she be so attached to him that leaving her meant she could die of heartbreak? Or was it so early in their relationship that she could go on without him? It almost felt like being a werewolf’s mate brought the additional stress of hurting someone else if it didn’t work out. Were there couples like them where one was human that felt obligated to stay with someone just to avoid the guilt?
Not that he was really thinking about ending things, but their current situation was… complicated…
Maybe it was time for him to make a final decision.
Poe sat down next to the three women at the table. Running late as usual, he apologized again as he sat his coffee down.
Clutching her own cup, Rey smiled. “Poe, when have you ever been early?” she teased.
“Or even on time?” Paige joked back as her sister grinned.
Laughing, Poe tried to wave them off. “OK, OK, I get it.” Then he turned serious. “What’s this about Rey?”
Earlier in the week, she had called everyone up and wanted to talk to them about something important, without hinting to what it could be. All she said was that she wanted to keep this between them and that she wasn’t including Finn. That told them she was wanting to discuss werewolf issues involved.
For a moment, she looked a little upset. Perhaps it was more personal than they were led to believe. Rey gripped her cup again and took a light sip from it.
“I think I’m going to go after the feral pack when I can Change again,” she finally blurted out. There was no explanation, and Rey didn’t even look anyone in the eye to see their shocked reactions.
Rose was the first to speak up. “Are you still on those pain meds, Rey?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m not high.”
“Too bad,” retorted Rose, “because that would at least be an excuse!”
“Guys,” Poe butted in. “There’s a reason for this, right?” He looked at Rey pointedly.
All eyes were on her again. It wasn’t clear if she had thought on this for long, but Poe knew Rey well enough that there were always a few things in the corners of her mind as she went about the day. Sometimes, he would learn that she had plans for herself years before they came into fruition. If she was considering this, then likely Rey had some kind of plan already.
From the look of it, Paige thought this too. “This… isn’t a revenge thing, right?” she asked warily.
That would have been Poe’s first choice in deciphering her intent. There was no one else besides Leia that was more grief stricken by Han’s death. Also, not only did Ben kill his father, but also went after Rey’s mate. Nothing could have been worse for her besides loosing Finn that night. To a wolf, an attack on a mate often brought out the more territorial aspects in them. If anyone had more reason to go after Kylo, it was Rey.
“I want to protect my pack,” she confessed. “And as much as I love my father and my aunt, I’m worried that their attachment to Ben is preventing them from doing anything.”
“And you aren’t attached?” Rose was skeptical like everyone else at the table.
Rey paused for a moment, thinking this over. “Ben turned into someone I do not know and the Ben I believed I knew wouldn’t have killed his father or attacked Finn.”
“They are not two different people,” spat Rose.
“But they are. Until now, my cousin led a double-life. He ran with us in the forests like family while the entire time he hated our mates and loved-ones.” Rey probably didn’t mean to stare at Rose while she said this, but she did, putting an emphasis on the matter. “Now that I know what he had been up to the whole time, I admit I didn’t know Ben and now I know the only person we’ve ever embraced as family had been the one that now calls himself Kylo.”
It would have sounded crazy or full of denial if it weren’t for the fact that Poe was thinking the same way.
“Do you have an idea Rey, of how to deal with this? ‘Cause I’m all ears,” he said. “I don’t wanna think about what could happen to our pack if those feral wolves cause us more trouble.”
No one did, and that was the problem. Some of the pack thought if they ignored the feral wolves, the problem would just go away. In Rey’s experience, nothing just went away.
“I might,” she admitted. “It’s not the best idea, but it’s an idea.”
They waited for her to give them more details.
Rey looked between them seriously. “You have to promise me you won’t tell Finn,” she sighed.
Sorry this took so long to get out! Two colds in three weeks slowed me down on editing this, plus I had to get out other stories I already had scheduled.
She knew she would Change again when she started to feel the prickling in her spine. The feeling made her agitated, like she was in one place when she needed to be somewhere else and couldn’t figure out exactly where. It had been a month after her shoulder healed up and the first signs of spring had started with her allergies and the first blooms of daffodils and tulips in the gardens on her usual daily walk around her job. Rey had gone so long without Changing that she almost forgot what it was like to feel her bones shift into a new shape.
After debating what she wanted to do for the night of the full moon, she told Finn her father would let her stay at his house while he went off to do pack things for the night. She didn’t feel like going back to the cabins yet and her father’s home had distance from the neighbors that no one thought it would be a problem. She would just stay inside for the night.
Finn went with her this time too, knowing he would likely be safe in a neighborhood instead of out in the middle of a forest. He also wanted to keep his eye on Rey in case the Change went bad again. She assured him that she wouldn’t be able to make the transformation if she wasn’t healed up, but the memory of her shoulder dislocating the last time was too fresh.
On the night of the full moon, they spent their evening getting comfortable and preparing for the worst. Finn kept an emergency kit nearby this time.
Rey decided to try to induce the Change earlier than sundown, already rolling her shoulders and neck out of discomfort. She hoped that the gradual transformation would be easier on her body.
Nervously, Finn watched as the first part of the transition washed over her. It wasn’t the worst part, but it was uncomfortable, and she always paced whatever room she was in during this part. Her muscles ached as they twitched and her hormones sent messages to her brain to prepare for her bones to restructure. It sparked her nerves alight with sudden shocks of pain, but it created more of a cramping sensation than anything else.
No, the worst part was when the actual shift happened, when her bones and muscles ripped and moved and stitched itself back together. A gradual change made this a little more tolerable, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t painful.
She didn’t like Finn to see this part of the Change; that’s why she always opted to go into another room and lock the door. He saw it the night Ben attacked them and heard the sickening pop of her shoulder leaving its socket. It hadn’t been a pleasant experience for either of them. Tonight would be no different.
Dragging herself upstairs, she pulled herself into her childhood bedroom before shutting the door behind her. Finn did not follow her, so she assumed he understood her need to be alone.
Her father had left her room largely intact to look how it did when she was growing up. Her sketches of cars, aircraft, and robots still decorated the walls and her stuffed animals still sat on her bed. If she walked in here with Finn, she might have been embarrassed, but halfway transformed into her wolf skin, she found the environment to give her a sense of nostalgia.
On the floor at the foot of her bed, she allowed herself to go through the final motions of the Change, moaning one last time before the pain ebbed from her spine.
She must have dozed off for a moment, because she didn’t hear Finn come up the stairs until he was lightly knocking at the door. “Rey?” he whispered.
Barking quietly (she didn’t want to disturb any neighbors that were around), she let him know she was OK and that it was safe for him to enter.
He turned the knob to her room and peered inside. “You doing OK?” he asked her.
Rey allowed him to draw near. Sitting down beside her, Finn stroked his hand gently through her fur. “No pain in your shoulder?”
Well, there was still the echo of the transformation firing through her nerves, but nothing she would call painful at this rate. It would take her a few more minutes to feel normal again, then she could move around more.
It probably looked odd for a hybrid-wolf to shake its head, but that was the best way she could communicate with him when her jaws no longer were capable of moving in a way for her to speak.
Still, the Change exhausted her, and she moved closer to her mate, resting her head on his thigh as she waited for her strength to return to her.
Leaning against the side of her old bed, Finn continued to stroke Rey’s fur in a consistent, almost hypnotic, pattern as he looked around. He always wondered what she was like as a child, and this gave him some insight. She seemed like she was a normal child and except for the wolf plush that sat on her bed, there was nothing that would have ever tipped him off to the fact she wasn’t normal. There were stacks of books on cars and robots, paired with cute toys of animals (and more robots). Clearly, she had an interest in her field of work for a long time.
His phone vibrated in his pocket and he carefully shifted to not rouse Rey. Rose Tico’s name gleamed at him on the lock screen, before he slid his finger up the touchpad to answer. “Yeah?” he asked.
“How’s Rey?” the woman on the other line asked.
Finn patted the wolf’s head again, smiling at how ugly-cute werewolves were with their short snouts. It was like the human face had to meet the wolf halfway, resulting in a squished in nose. Not what he would have imagined a werewolf to look like initially.
“She’s doing OK, I think,” he answered. “Just tired.”
“Good,” Rose sounded relieved. “I was worried.”
“She’ll appreciate you checking in on her.” But then a thought occurred to him. “Wait,” he interjected. “Aren’t you…?”
“My family is, but I’m not,” she explained. Rose sounded a little sad, but Finn wasn’t certain.
The thought bewildered him. “Wait, so werewolves don’t always have werewolf children?” He then briefly wondered if Rose was adopted and worried he might upset her.
There was a slight pause before she continued. “There’s been… issues with our children the last century or so,” she said. “Paige thinks it's genetic, but no one is certain. All I know is that my parents and sister can Change, but I can’t and I’m not the only one.”
“Oh! Um… sorry?” Finn wasn’t sure what the correct response to this information would be. Werewolves seemed to prefer their human forms, but a large part of their identity went into the Change as well.
He could tell the conversation was getting awkward. “It’s fine,” though Rose’s sigh in her voice made it clear that it wasn’t fine. “It took time to get used to the fact, but it’s OK now.”
The subject was dropped from there as they made a few parting words. Finn promised that Rey would call Rose first thing in the morning to let her know the Change went well.
“You’re lucky to have a friend that really cares that much about you,” he told Rey, who looked up at him and thumped her tail against the ground.
She looked a little too cute like that and Finn had to resist the urge to talk to her like he would a puppy. He didn’t think she would take kindly to that.
“Wanna see what’s on Netflix or Hulu?” he asked her.
Her tail beat harder and more rapidly on the floor. He took that as a yes.
Miles away, Leia Organa sat at her favorite rock overlooking a cliff and a view of a forest stretching about a mile or two before it came to a logging line and subsequently had been harvested for the lumber industry. This was where she always came to if she needed to think.
And she certainly needed to think right now.
A rustle in the brush told her that who she was waiting for was drawing near. “Luke,” she greeted.
The white wolf was noticeably grayer than the last time they had seen each other in their wolf skins. Leia would bet she was looking similar. Neither of them were as young as they used to be. Perhaps this was why the siblings had been struggling so much.
“Rey Changed again, or at least, she believed she would tonight,” he reported. Talking about his daughter made him seem like he was a decade older. Luke was tired. They all were.
“Is Finn with her?” Leia asked.
Luke nodded. “They’re at my house. Finn wanted to keep an eye on her and Rey didn’t feel up to coming outside yet.”
Curling her lips up as if to smile in the only way lupine mouths could, Leia was pleased. “I like him,” she said. “Rey has made a good choice for a mate. You should be proud.”
“I am,” Luke insisted with a sigh. “I just wish things hadn’t gone the way they have.”
Didn’t everybody? Leia wanted to ask. She obviously wished her son hadn’t killed her husband and attacked her niece’s mate. It had been horrifying enough to come home to find Han dead in the garage and a cell phone full of frantic messages from Chewie who couldn’t reach him and Finn, who was desperate to get help. Now the pack was faced with the consequences of not keeping their own in line.
And really, if anyone was more shocked by Ben’s betrayal, it was Luke who loved his nephew like a son. Hadn’t it only been the month before the attack that they sat on this very rock together and discussed what a fine pack leader Ben would have be? They even talked about the possibility of Rey being the beta leader the same way Luke had supported his sister for three decades.
She wondered where in his new pack her son found himself. Did the feral wolves care about leadership?
“We can’t ignore the feral pack anymore, Luke,” she insisted, deciding it would be better just to jump into an uncomfortable conversation. “We have for too long, and look what’s happened.”
“I know,” he huffed. “I know.”
But they were aware of all that had gone wrong and still had not taken action like the old laws required. The siblings knew why – who willingly wanted to kill their offspring – but they could not bring themselves to. Even they doubted their own abilities, they could just imagine what the rest of the pack was thinking.
This time, it was Leia’s turn to sigh. “Maybe we are getting too old for this.”
“Maybe we are,” he agreed. “But I don’t want to step down and land someone else with this. It really should be our problem to solve.”
“My concern is that we won’t be able to stop Ben,” she voiced.
Luke lay on the ground with a whine, his paws hanging off the cliff. “I’m not sure what the answer is,” he confessed. “I want to protect our pack, but I don’t think either of us could end his life like the old laws require.” He huffed again. “Maybe you’re right and it’s our time to step down, but who could take our place? We need someone to fight Ben and I’m not sure if any of our wolves are strong enough.”
Staring out at the forest, Leia went quiet for a moment before she responded. “I can think of one,” she hinted. “She already came close to defeating him.”
A moment of realization flashed in Luke’s eyes, followed quickly with anger. “No, Leia. She’s too young.”
“She’s the only one who can-"
“I can’t lose her too.”
This was the heart of the issue. And really, who would want to send their child to do something so dangerous? Even Leia had her reservations to send Rey out to fight Ben, but desperation also meant that she didn’t have many other options. Rey had more to fight for at the moment, wanting more than anything else to protect her mate and her pack. She had shown more initiative figuring out where Ben and the feral pack went than anyone else.
“I’m afraid we might lose everything if we don’t figure this out soon,” Leia whispered.
Below them, in the forest, they could see the rustling of brush where their pack roamed together, the first signs of spring in the air.
Now that I'm not so swamped with scheduled stories, I'm hoping to get another chapter edited and rewritten soon!
He never really enjoyed coming to this shopping mall because of how far down the light rail line it was from the apartment and because of all the gangs that hung around the area, but this was the closest location for this particular shop. The last time he was here, there were far more stores open and seeing two of the main department stores closed and the amount of vacancies were depressing. Everyone blamed online shopping, but consumers didn’t budge to continuing shopping in this mall. Most of those stores closed because of their company’s faulty practices and sketchy investments, anyway.
Counting his lucky stars that this shop hadn’t closed yet, Finn hesitated outside, staring in at the bold displays of women’s cosmetics. He was one of those guys that found a product he liked and stuck with it and rarely stepped foot in stores like this. Yes, he would admit that he would rather shop online for the convenience, using the excuse that the deals were typically better than in the stores.
Taking one more glance inside, he spotted the back rack full of glass bottles in all shapes in colors imaginable and made a B-Line for that section. Finn was thankful that he wasn’t the only customer inside and hoped the group of teenage girls who were obviously skipping class would keep the workers occupied while he tried to make a choice. He needed to concentrate.
There were too many choices, and he didn’t know where to start. Going through all of those bottles would be overwhelming. He had to figure out how to narrow it down.
Well, maybe he could start by checking the prices first. If he couldn’t afford it, then there was no need for him to even look. That took out most of the biggest names of perfume industry and left him in the low to mid-ranged price categories. Rey wasn’t into big fashion designers. It was a special occasion to see her wearing anything other than jeans, a t-shirt, and those fleece jackets she wore everywhere.
Still, that left dozens of selections and he started to randomly browse the aisle, grabbing bottles that had interesting shapes or names and smelling the tester bottle left out. Most of these were too… feminine for his liking and none of them reminded him of Rey. She was too rough around the edges to want to smell like flowers and sunshine. A wolf as proud as her deserved something to match.
A display in the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he was surprised because compared to the other displays, this one was so understated and minimal that most people would overlook it. He had never heard of the brand before, but the clear bottles were labeled with simple typography and the scent names were straight forward. There were fun, cheerful scents named for sweets like Chocolate and Orange Cream, then there were odd scents like Library and Food Court that made him want to smell the bottle just out of curiosity. The scents weren’t just marketed for women though. Most were marketed as a unisex scent.
His hands roamed to a selection in the display full of more natural scents. Ocean. Fir Tree. Wildflowers. This was the section he was looking for.
After a couple more minutes of trying the scents and comparing them, he found one that was almost too perfect. He found the bottle in its box below the display and double-checked to make sure he grabbed the right one before he marched up to the check-out counter.
“Find everything OK?” the young woman at the counter asked as he approached.
He smiled. “Yep. Oh! Can I get this gift wrapped?” He knew it would cost a little extra, but they would probably do a nicer job than he could.
Out of the selection of gift boxes available, Finn liked the simple black box with a white ribbon the best. He placed that carefully in his shopping bag and made sure not to jumble it too much on his way home.
He couldn’t wait to see Rey’s face when he got home and presented it to her. Finn would admit that the last couple of months had been trying on their relationship, but no more incidents came up since December and he took his time really weighing his options. He was in it for the long-haul.
The gift was neatly placed at their small table in the kitchen area, a space only large enough for two, but perfect for them. Finn wanted to make sure that was the first thing Rey saw when she got home.
Checking his phone, he realized he only had an hour before he needed to get going to work his shift at the financial aid office. He wouldn’t need to do much to prepare but change into the school’s polo shirt as part of the uniform. The rest was casual and he normally just wore his jeans and sneakers. It wasn’t the best paying job out there, but the school worked around his schedule and he could contribute to rent and utilities. If it wasn’t for that, he probably wouldn’t have felt so comfortable moving in with Rey.
Glancing one more time at the gift as he went to get changed, Finn was counting down the time until Rey got home.
When he got home later, Rey wasn’t there, and the gift was still on the table.
With a frown, Finn checked his phone to make sure he hadn’t missed a text or a phone call from her. It was late, but sometimes she worked late as deadlines drew closer or she stopped in to check on Han’s old shop to visit with Chewie.
There were no texts or voicemails.
“Maybe she went out with friends tonight and forgot to tell me,” he mumbled. It wouldn’t be the first time. They both spaced out and lost track of time easily.
But just to be sure, he sent her a quick text just to make sure everything was OK.
He was hoping his lack of patience wasn’t making him behave like a clingy boyfriend, but he couldn’t help his excitement. Finn hoped he chose her gift well.
Rey never came back that night.
When it was late in the evening and most of the restaurants were closed for the week night, Finn’s panic could not be quelled. He wasn’t sure what to do first, if he should reach out to her friends or family though he didn’t want to worry anybody if it was just that Rey was having car problems or something.
He tried Poe and Rose first and felt relief when Poe answered his phone the first time.
“Finn, what’s up?”
He took a deep breath. “Rey hasn’t come home, and I can’t reach her.”
There was a long pause on the other end that went on longer than Finn would have liked.
Poe finally gave him an answer. “She’s gonna be gone for a while, Finn. Not sure how long, but she told me she was taking two weeks' worth of PTO at her job.”
It took him a moment to process this. “Wait. Where is she going?”
“Uh…” It sounded like Poe wasn’t sure if he should answer, but Finn could take a guess.
He sighed. “She went after her cousin, didn’t she?”
The silence on the other line spoke volumes.
“OK,” Finn tried to talk himself through everything. “So, she left to find a feral pack of werewolves, planning to be gone for a week or two…” A thought occurred to him. “What if she needs longer or can’t get back?” He imagined Rey trapped in enemy territory, unable to escape because she was always watched by a guard of feral werewolves.
Poe tried to reassure him. “Paige and I have a plan in place to meet her if there’s trouble. We’ve hidden a cell in her car, and her car is hidden where hopefully no one will stumble on it on accident.” He sighed. “And once Luke and Leia figure out where she’s gone, they’ll likely want to go after her themselves.”
Right, and on top of everything, Rey’s family were pack leaders and like every concerned parent and relative, Finn worried that they might do something rash.
“How do you think this will end?” he finally asked.
“I’m not sure,” Poe confessed. “Rey went in intending to gather intelligence, but I know her and if she gets angry enough… Well, that’s why Paige and I are always on standby. We really think she’s taking it upon herself to right a wrong and we’re not sure what will happen if she tries to kill Kylo.”
There was even more to take in. What did Rey expect when she left without telling him? Did she… expect him to sit around and wait for her to return; expect him to understand? She already kept secrets from him, but while Finn understood why she would initially hide her other life from him, he did not understand why she thought he would be fine with her leaving for weeks on something that could easily put both of them in a dangerous position.
“Poe,” he said. “I’ll talk to you later.”
“I’m sorry, Finn.” And he sounded like he meant it.
Upon hanging up the phone, he slumped back against the couch and ran his hand down his face. He couldn’t believe this would happen after he spent the last couple of weeks deciding if all of this was worth it. Thinking he had finally made up his mind, this felt like betrayal.
He stared at the gift box on the table and wondered how long he had to decide to return it.
The forest was alive with scents and sounds unfamiliar to her, but the fir trees were fresh, and the air felt clean after a night of rain. For the first time in months, she could run freely in her wolf skin and it felt wonderful.
But she was not here for her own fun. Any moment now she would enter the feral pack’s territory and have to face whoever was out scouting.
And just as she thought, too soon she found herself face to face with an enormous, snarling silver wolf.
Rey had never seen a wolf so striking in her life. Silver fur like this was rare, but almost as captivating as the color were the wolf’s bright blue eyes. The only other wolf she had encountered with eyes like this in her life had been her father.
“Why are you here, girl?” the wolf asked her, her voice deep, but feminine. That might have shocked Rey even more. If it weren’t for the wolf’s scent, she would have assumed she was male. Rey had never met a female wolf so massive before. It kept her on the edge. She did not want to fight with this wolf if she could help it.
“I’m here-" she began, but paused. Why was she here that didn’t make it obvious that she was a spy?
Why was everyone else here? What did they claim they were looking for? She quickly thought back to all those forums she scanned through.
“I’m searching for a new pack,” she explained. “Somewhere to belong.”
Hopefully, that was good enough.
The silver wolf circled her, looking her up and down. She snarled again, making Rey nervous.
“Is that really what you’re here for, little Skywalker?”
Rey wondered how the wolf knew who she was. They never met before.
She wondered if she said the wrong thing as the silver wolf barred her teeth and snarled. Rey prepared herself for a fight by crouching down on her haunches, ready to jump away or at the other wolf if she needed.
“Stand down, Phasma,” a deeper voice grunted from the trees.
Twisting quickly around, Rey found herself in the company of another wolf, more familiar than almost anyone else. His black fur shone in the sunlight.
He growled at the other two wolves, looking particularly at Rey. “I’m surprised to see you here, cousin. I thought you were busy building a love nest with that human.”
The mention of Finn made her heart ache. Leaving him like this had been difficult; leaving him without a word had been almost impossible. Poe, Paige, and Rose swore they would look out for him and tell him the truth once he realized Rey was gone, but their bond was strong and their promised didn’t make separation hurt even less.
Just two weeks, maybe one, she told herself.
Rey looked her cousin in the eye and lied. “After the night you showed up at the cabin, we fought. He didn’t accept this form after all. You were right to believe that humans couldn’t be trusted.”
“You smell like him,” Kylo pointed out.
“I only just left.”
Only a month ago, she taught herself this story and decided there would be no way that Kylo wouldn’t see right through it. He was far too smart to fall for a weak lie.
Yet he seemed pleased with this, not to her surprise. What surprised her was that he was buying the lie. “I heard you were looking for a new pack?”
“One that will accept me as I am,” she continued, trying to remain as confident as she could. Fear created its own scent that a wolf would pick up easily. As long as she kept herself calm and her instincts controlled, she might make it out alive.
“You find yourself in good company,” he purred, gesturing to Phasma with a shrug of his large shoulders. It was only then that Rey realized that more wolves loomed in the shadows, ready for a signal of what to do. Not keeping her caution up might have been a fatal mistake. She would take the care not to make it again.
Kylo continued. “You could find a better family here, better choices of a mate,” he said this part carefully. Rey noticed a red wolf behind him, thin and tall, looking at her with passing curiosity, sizing her up like prey. She didn’t like how this wolf was looking at her and noted him as someone she wanted to keep her distance from.
The red wolf spoke up. “Leave her alone, Ren.” He acted sympathetic. “She only just left the human. It’ll take time for her to feel ready to find another mate.”
She guessed this was Armitage Hux, then. There wasn’t a lot she knew about him except from what she saw online. He was good at persuading wolves that the way of the feral pack was the way to go and often returned to his human form to seek out those who felt lost and displaced in the world. Rey could see why he was good at his job.
Phasma still wasn’t convinced of Rey’s sincerity, though. It was obvious by the way she warily watched her. Rey would have to keep her eye on the silver wolf.
There were rules she would have to learn to help her figure out how she would live among this pack without rousing suspicion, but first she needed to establish herself as one of them.
“Will you allow me into your pack?” she addressed Kylo specifically, knowing he held more power here. Disgusting herself, she lowered her belly to the ground, asserting submission under him. She had to. It was a ritual carried out for millennia for a wolf to leave one pack for another.
Leaning his head skyward, Kylo howled to call the others. A new packmate had arrived.
Sorry readers! Due to another wave of harassment on my fics, all new publishings and updates will be set to comment moderation until further notice.