Perigean Tide — The tide that occurs when the moon is at its closest point to the earth during its orbit. These tides are higher than normal.
Your name is Dave Strider, and you aren’t going to die. You aren’t, no matter how much it feels like a half-starved, claustrophobic chipmunk with knives for teeth is gnawing on the inside of your stomach in a two for one lunch/escape attempt. You’re used to this, as much as anyone can be. Sweat pours off you like a cold drink in a hot shower and your wrists and neck burn where the metal touches it.
You are not going to die here. Bro is too careful for that. You don’t deserve death, rest, and besides, he wouldn’t risk the bait, live bait is always the best, why eat a burger when you could gore the entire cow with your teeth, get the blood on your face and your claws, and though you are sick and shivering in the middle of the fucking woods two hours before the full moon rises, dirt and blood in your mouth, tied up in silver cuffs and trying not to make any humiliating noises, you know better than to hope for an end to it. It’s not the first time, and it will not be the last.
Earlier that day he’d checked the two of you out of the shitty motel the two of you had been staying in and passed you the plant to chew raw. Down the hatch, lil’ man , he’d said and you complied. It’s bitter, always is, but you prefer the clamminess and the palpitations to the transformation and beating you know will come later if you don’t choke it down now. Then, the two of you do what you always do the night of the full moon: drive to whichever forest or desert or dump he has decided on this month, tie you up in case you can’t hold the transformation back, and dump you somewhere upwind, somewhere out in the open.
It’s this time of the month that it’s impossible to forget the fact that you’re a monster. You’re not sure if Bro makes it worse or better, but at the very least he makes you useful. The person you once were was gone, but Bro will make sure you take as many beasts down with you as you can.
It’s no good to show weakness, even while playing bait, but if you’re too quiet you’ll be accused of hiding, fraternizing with the enemy and that hurts just as bad. In the end, you don’t have to play much of anything. Silver is nothing more than a mild irritant most days, but this close to the full moon it fucking burns like bleach on roadburn and it’s all you can do to keep from howling.
As the sun begins to set, (you aren’t changing, not yet, not at all if you can help it, the cuffs slide off of your wolf form but not the collar and the wolfsbane poisoning hurts ten times more) the sweating picks up. You can’t smell Bro, you never can, he knows how to mask that shit, there’d be no point otherwise, and anything that catches his sweaty, bloody, half-teenager half something else scent is going to be downwind so you just twitch defenseless and half blind and watch the shadows change as the sun sets, slowly, slowly, slowly-
You hear a branch crack and still. Bro does not step on branches unless he’s in the trees, and even then they are never branches that break. He is silent to human ears, to wolf ears even, though you’re drugged up but he’s never been caught before has he and the pain is making your mind drift. You can hear breathing and careful steps, (not careful enough), and the sweaty animal-human smell as the monster who is not you falls for the bait, hook line and sinker, and comes over to investigate.
This is the part you like the least. (You don’t like any of this, not at all.) You curl up, small, and there’s a part of you that wants this to be a real rescue, even though you’re fine, you’re cool, you’re in on it, it’s nothing but moon sickness and a stomach cramp, and there’s a part of you that feels like you should be proud, that you’re doing good, and then there’s the part of you that wants to warn whoever has fallen for the good old teenager tied up in the middle of the forest trap like a chump, tell them to run fucking run.
You just curl up tighter.
“Karkat, we have to go . It’s almost moonrise we don’t have time for this.”
“Shut your food hole, Kankri,” another voice hisses. “Don’t you smell that?”
Two of them. Not much older than you are, from the sound of it. As if on cue, pain lances through your stomach and you are forced to let out a cry. One pair of footsteps breaks into a run.
“Karkat, come back ,” the first voice says but the kid, were, you smell it on him, he’s already in your sight, crouching down and eyes wide, red eyes like yours. Like yours but nothing else about him looks the same as you, he’s all tan skin and dark hair and a soft face and he’s got his hands on your forehead and it feels so nice.
Everything is bad, and it is about to get worse.
“This is extremely inadvisable,” the other voice says, but it sounds a little hesitant. “We need to call someone. An adult.” You can see a pair of grey sneakers and the bottom of jeans from the other guy but not much else, because the boy’s face is in your face and his eyes are wide with shock and concern. You can smell it wafting off of him, feel the tremor in his hands and he pushes your bangs off your face and pulls off your sunglasses and no, that’s bad, that’s very bad, and you flinch away but he looks worried, not disgusted, not scared, or maybe scared but not of you and you try and reach for him.
“Fuck,” he hisses. “Call dad.” You feel fingers on the silver-plated cuff around your neck and the boy draws his fingers back and hisses before he goes back to stroking your hair. It feels. So nice. You can’t stand it. “Help’s on the way. You’re going to be ok, fuck, what kind of fucking creep would do this to a kid?”
The other guy, Kankri, pulls out a cellphone, and despite the wolfsbane your senses are keyed up enough to hear the fingers tapping and you know that Bro is about to strike. The boy above you looks so worried and beautiful and kind and when was the last time someone was kind to you? The last time someone showed concern, it was the last hunt, and he’d ended up dead for his trouble and this guy is just a kid. Just two kids. So you grab onto his sleeve and pull him down and you do something that will probably get you killed.
“Run,” you cough out. “It’s a trap.”
“What?” says the boy who’s holding you.
“Get the hell out of here,” you hiss, but it’s too late. You hear the gunshot and it’s only because of the split-second warning that the stranger is able to duck.
“Fuck,” he growls and tries to pick you up with him. You struggle. He can’t take you with him, that’s not the point. You won’t die, as much as you might want to, but he will and who will help Bro? A half-feral noise rips itself from your mouth without your permission.
“Karkat, leave him!” says the older boy, and he grabs Karkat by the arm. “No time to shift, just run!”
The split-second Karkat hesitates is forever in your head but he puts you down in the end. He doesn’t have a choice; Bro is shooting again, and though he’s crouched, taken as much cover as he can, he has to leave. Now.
“Fuck,” he says again. “I’ll come back,” he promises in a low growl. You can’t help but laugh at that, hysterical and sharp. But by the time Bro makes it out of wherever he was hiding, Karkat the werewolf and the other guy are gone. He curses, shoots some bullets in the direction they’ve vanished in but nothing, and the laughter continues to overwhelm, you’re a monster and monster bait, a child killer who saved a kid who’s just as bad as you probably and Bro hauls you up by your T-shirt and pins you against the tree, getting real close to your face, all up in your personal space, so close you can see through the sunglasses into his eyes and they’re pissed, so pissed, you’re in deeper than the Mariana Trench, the Rockies are an anthill compared to the mountain of shit you’ve hiked up and buried yourself beneath.
“You little fucker,” Bro hisses and no matter how you struggle, there’s no way to escape so you go limp and submissive as you can and pray that he grows bored quickly. “You’re going to wish you were dead by the time I’m done with you, gave it away, you little piece of shit.” He’s holding you by the neck now and bashes your head against the tree trunk. It’s worse than a wall, because the bark is rough and the wood doesn’t give way. You know there’s blood. You can feel it, smell it, hot and sticky in your hair and on your neck. It’s just a matter of how much at this point.
“Please.” Begging never helps, but it’s instinctual. Submit. All you’ve got are your instincts this close to sundown, moonrise.
Bro lets go and you drop to the floor like a stack of stones and when he kicks your ribs you can hear the crack and feel a sharp pain blooming. He gets a few more hits in, his boots are steel toed, as if a kick didn’t hurt enough, and when you can manage to do nothing but shiver in a ball and hold back your whimpers he tosses you over your shoulder.
The walk to the van is an eternity and too short all at once. Each step jostles your bones but when you get there and he tosses you into the trunk, you wish you were still outside. Sold metal, cold and hard as hell, and, worst of all, isolated. There’s no way to get to the front, to the warmth of family just feet away, in the driver’s seat and turning the key. The engine starts, you drag yourself to the barrier.
“Bro, please,” you beg, despite yourself. Moon sickness, you know, but right now the loneliness hurts as much as the physical pain, a cold knife in your heart to match the hot crack in your ribs. You’re scared and you’re isolated, packless and trapped and vulnerable.You’ve got a bit more time until you’re forced to change, don’t even bother to pretend you’ll be able to hold it back at this point. Any energy you have is being used to cling to consciousness. And you are very rapidly failing.
Dirk used to sit with you when you got like this, (like this, you can’t even think it, coward, when you were mid-turn), cross-legged in the trunk with you or basement or wherever Bro tossed you to stick it out. It still hurt, the wolfsbane, the silver, but Dirk would rub your back and brush your hair out of your face and did his best to keep Bro away from the two of you. You weren’t so lonely, when Dirk was around, even if you were no safer. He had stayed with you every change, every month, every year.
But that was why he died, wasn’t it?
You try and stifle your cries, howls, with your fists and it’s embarrassing as fuck and all it does is make Bro slam the dashboard with his.
“Shut up,” he growls, and you can only hear it through the metal and the engine because of your moon sharpened ears, but Bro knows that. “Shut the fuck up, lil’ man, or I’ll make you.”
Even though you can’t see it, you know the moment the moon crests because every sensation you’ve been feeling gets ten, twenty, thirty, times stronger. Your eyes roll back in your head. Everything goes bright, and then, everything goes dark.