It was the weirdest thing being back on Earth. I honestly never thought that I’d ever see my home planet again let alone set foot on it. The worst part was the urge to find a phone and call my mom. My family. Fuck, I even wanted to call Devon. Every time I looked out over the lights of the city, I wanted to run as fast as I could and find someone, anyone, who would understand me and lend me a phone for a long distance call.
But I didn’t.
I couldn’t .
Mostly because I was looking down from Wolf’s ship, cloaked in the sky, invisible to any prying eyes below . . . but also because I hadn't the slightest clue what year it was. What day it was. I didn’t even know where we were, just that it sure didn’t look like North America.
Looking at Wolf’s maps didn’t help except to tell me it was Africa. Yeah, it showed me a neat little holographic image of the globe and showed me exactly where we were down to the last coordinate, but it didn’t have any country or city names. It didn’t have any borders drawn on it the way our maps did. Geography had never been one of my strong suits - I couldn’t even tell you the capital city of more than a handful of the States let alone tell you where they were on the map. And I was born in the States.
Working for the FBI had helped some of that, but a lot of it just went right out the window while I was in space. After all, worrying about hunting monsters and figuring out my relationship with Wolf kind of took precedence over anything else.
It wasn’t until Creature, our resident servant, managed to hack into our internet satellites and open up a real map that I figured out we were in Morocco. Still had no idea which city was beneath us, but I figured that didn’t really matter so much. I didn’t know enough about Morocco for the exact city to mean anything to me. There was a beach, pretty lights, and a desert a ways away. That was pretty much all I needed to know.
What was really important to me was why Wolf had brought us here. Part of me was terrified that he was dropping me off. Leaving me. Abandoning me. That I had done something to upset him without realizing and revoked my place by his side.
“Why are we back here?” I asked without looking as he approached; my attention was still drawn out the viewport to the locale miles below.
“I apologize,” he rumbled, standing behind my shoulder close enough that our arms brushed each other, “but a fugitive is hiding here and I must flush him out so that he may be brought to justice. I was the closest arbiter.”
I made a face. I wanted to be relieved, but his explanation didn’t mean that he wasn’t also going to leave me.
My silence prompted a question of his own.
“Would you like to go?”
It was enough to pry my gaze off the city and up to his face, something akin to concern, confusion, and terror skewing my expression. “What do you mean? Go where?”
He chittered in amusement. “Down. We can land and you can explore.”
The tension shed from my shoulders at his use of the word “explore” and I released the breath I’d been holding. Of course that was what he meant. “I might do that. I am afraid of how long it has been. How much has changed . . .”
“It is up to you.”
We were both silent for a moment with a pregnant pause that spanned until one of us spoke. Wolf, again. This time, there was a cautious terseness to his voice that I hadn’t heard before. “Your Earth belongings are still here. In storage. If you so wished to, you could—”
He tilted his head to look down at me, his tusks twitching idly.
“I don’t want that,” I said, switching to English so I could better express myself. “I chose this and I don’t regret it. I miss my home and my family sometimes but this is where I wanna be. Right here, with you.”
Wolf huffed and put his heavy hand on my head, bringing a rush of blood to my face. “Your sentimentality is endearing.”
“Thanks . . . I think.”
His hand came off my head and he turned to leave. “I will land the ship shortly and begin my hunt. You are free to do as you wish . . . I will signal when I am successful and we can meet back here.”
“Can I help you?” I asked, turning to face him.
Though he considered my offer, he shook his head in the end and declined “The fugitive is dangerous.”
I raised my brows and crossed my arms. “He cannot be any more dangerous than any other asshole that we have faced so far. I always play the support role, so I think I have our routine down pat.”
He was silent for longer than I was comfortable with, but eventually, he relented and slouched his shoulders. “Alright. Prepare.”
Grinning, I trotted along as he spun around, his dreads-like tresses arcing along behind him. If I was going to be forced to face my home planet again, I was going to do something that took my mind off the fact that I was going to be surrounded by humans again.
Sprinting through the thinly-spaced buildings, scaling walls, and dropping down from rooftops was just the kind of action I needed. After spending so much time on planets with a much heavier gravitational pull, Earth felt like traveling via bounce house. My leg braces did a lot of the work, too, compensating for the compromised state of my poorly-healed bones.
The fact that I was among my own kind was kind of pushed to the back of my head. I barely noticed them when I knew a dangerous, blood-thirsty alien was crashing along behind me, doing his absolute fucking best to stay cloaked, avoid drawing too much attention to himself while he barrelled through street debris, all while staying right on my ass. That was half the fun of it though—the adrenaline that came with being chased.
It helped that I knew Wolf was ahead. That I was smaller, lighter, faster, more maneuverable. That I wasn’t being ruled by misplaced anger. Anger that my mere existence had brought about within him.
That was my job, though. “Lure him here,” Wolf had told me. “He will be insulted by the fact that you exist.”
Oh yeah, this species was real tolerant. A human in yautja armor. Hanging out with one of the highest ranked individuals—judge, jury, and executioner for all intents and purposes. Wolf was some kind of goddamn unicorn for having me as his companion. Never mind that I’d heard rumbles and rumors of a few other choice humans that earned their place within their ranks.
I dropped down from a rooftop that was a little higher than I anticipated. Luckily, my leg braces took the brunt of the impact and I rolled through the momentum and back to my feet and on the run. The fugitive’s heavy landing sounded so close. Was I within arm’s reach?
The people milling about didn’t notice us. We were invisible, nothing but a strange disturbance of the air. Maybe they felt us pass by, maybe they caught a glimpse of our silhouette, but they remained blissfully unaware of the alien chasing the girl pretending to be an alien. I had to lead him away from the streets—I rounded a corner, turning on a dime, and zipped toward the beach. Where Wolf was waiting.
On open ground, though, the fugitive was faster.
Before he could overtake me, though, Wolf’s biosignature registered on my mask. I dropped to the ground and rolled, letting him knock the fugitive’s block off with a well-placed punch to the face. He crumbled like a sack of potatoes, out cold and ego bruised.
Wolf helped me to my feet and, breathlessly, I said, “We got him.”
“Yes. Good work.”
The Moroccan summer heat was getting to me even with my suit’s temperature regulator working. I wanted nothing more than to take my mask off and wipe my face clean, but if I did my active camouflage would turn off and I’d make a spectacle of myself. For now, I was going to have to deal with it.
Meanwhile, Wolf was busy picking up the fugitive, hauling him over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. “Let us return to the ship,” he said.
I paused and looked out over the beach and the crashing waves. There were plenty of people populating the area, all trying to cool off with the family. It was too crowded for Wolf, but for me . . . even if I was wearing traditional yautja armor, I was still human. People would just think I was some weird ass tourist wearing weird shit.
“I might stay for a bit,” I muttered. “When you finish with him, would you join me?”
He gave me a long look—or, at least, I think he did. It was hard to tell when I couldn’t see him properly—then finally spoke. “Of course. When there are fewer humans.”
When night finally began to fall, chasing away the myriad of beachgoers enjoying the summer, I found myself glaring at the last person who refused to leave. A stargazer, it seemed, with an expensive-looking telescope on a tripod and everything. Was it their job to look at the sky? Were they investigating a blip on the radar? Wolf’s ship?
Guy would probably shit himself if he knew a literal alien—or two—was wandering his city. If I spoke his language, I might have headed on over to have a chat with him about space. It would have been nice to have a conversation with a human again. My mask would translate, but I didn’t think I’d have an easier time communicating.
Wolf probably wouldn’t like it, anyway. Trade secrets and all.
Besides, I’d taken the mask off a while ago to enjoy my native atmosphere for a while. Sure, my cloak didn’t work without it on, but not a single person even seemed to care that I was there. I maybe drew a few cursory glances, but they’d been easy to ignore.
He left eventually, though. Packed up his telescope and blankets and headed in for the night. Wolf showed up within minutes, making it even more obvious to me that he had been lurking around, waiting for the guy to vacate. His active camouflage shed with a crackle of static electricity and I looked up at him in surprise.
“Oh, there you are,” I muttered, trying to hide my chagrin.
The way he held his shoulders made me think something was wrong. When I asked as much, he grumbled a reply. “I had trouble detaining the fugitive. He is in cryo-sleep now, though. Then that human would not leave . . . it was not my intention to make you wait so long.”
Shrugging, I stood up and shook the sand out of my leg braces and said, “It is fine. I figured he was at fault. All the food I got is probably cold now, though.”
Wolf cocked his head to the side and I pulled a big basket of local foodstuffs out from behind a rock formation. The underside was damp from the tidepools, but I’d thought of that and put a folded blanket down on the bottom to keep the food dry.
“How did you procure this food?” he asked me.
“I stole it, what do you care?”
He made an amused sound and gave his head a shake “I was merely curious, is all. You have quite a lot there.”
With a smirk, I sat down and pulled out a pastry I’d been looking forward to trying since I’d snagged it through an open window. “Some for now, some for later. You eat a lot, too, so I had to make sure there was enough for me.”
Looking around, Wolf hesitated a moment before taking a seat in the sand himself, struggling somewhat to lower his bulky and muscular body low enough to be on the ground.
“We could eat on the ship,” he chittered, rifling through the basket until he found a wrapped meat dish. That one I’d purloined from a food cart; there had been some sort of festival going on. Lord knows what holiday it was for. “It would be more sanitary.”
I harrumphed and said, “Why would I want to go back to the ship so soon after landfall? I much prefer an outdoor picnic.”
“Yes, yes,” he grumbled, tearing into the meat. I still wasn’t accustomed to him eating, but I had at least learned not to stare.
Smiling to myself, I looked up at the sky, unable to shake the strange feeling in the back of my head that reminded me I was home. I actually recognized constellations in the sky to some degree. Beyond that, though, the food was filling me with nostalgia. It was nice to taste something baked, something processed. I had missed my junk food, but I wouldn’t trade being able to sit and share a meal with my favorite alien for anything in the world.
“Besides,” I said after a short pause, looking out of the ebbing and flowing ocean, “it is a nice night.”
Wolf followed my gaze and nodded. “Yes. I suppose it is.”