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"I'm so sorry, Lydia. All of this must be terribly confusing. But at least you know that you're not actually crazy. Well, not completely. There's bound to be some residual effects, but you're a strong girl. Personally, I think that you're gonna pull through with a minimal amount of post traumatic stress. And maybe a few years of profoundly disturbing nightmares." Peter Hale to Lydia Martin, S02E07: Restraint.

 

"and a yellow moon glowed bright
till the morning light
terrible, am i, child?
even if you don't mind"

blue ridge mountains, fleet foxes.

 

-

 

Sometimes, when she was younger, Peter-

 

-

 

He was a good uncle. There were so many of them running around the house. Peter was a good uncle. He used to buy her and Derek and Cora things, little things, candy and toys and books. The house was always full of light and sound. Her mother, the alpha, grinning and laughing. Peter was her brother. When he gave them his gifts, he would always lean closer to Laura, whisper in her ear: this is special for you. This is for you, my little one. My little alpha.

 

-

 

Laura was next in line. She was the oldest: the prodigal daughter. She had close to no attention span, slacked off in class, went to parties every other weekend. Everyone told her that she had a lot of potential. Her mother spent long afternoons with her, on the weekends, during summer vacation, discussing what she needed to learn, what she would have to do, who she would have to become. Once, after a session, Peter and her mother fought in the backyard under the guise of instruction. Both were only half-shifted. She remembers Talia pressing Peter down, claws out. See, she'd called to Laura: watch me. But Laura was on the porch and could see everything from where she sat, so instead she had watched both of them, the dark lines of Peter's body, angry and tight, her mother's teeth sharp and violent, prepared for something Laura could not name, or understand. It was the first time she'd seen Uncle Peter lose control. It was the first time she'd seen Uncle Peter beaten.

Sore loser, Talia said, claws still out. Peter wanted to go again. Talia turned to her and grinned: Remember, watch me.

 

-

 

Laura was a bratty kid. She was the first-born, she was bossy, reckless, but she wasn't mean-spirited. Laura understood power in the way that children born into it understand power: through her hands that could become claws, her body that could become a beast. Sometimes she had problems sharing. She knocked Derek down, once, a fight over nothing, meaningless after a few days. His lip bled. Her mother was frustrated, growled until Laura submitted, cowering. She hadn't known what else to do. You're supposed to set an example, her mother told her, but an example for Derek? For everyone? After, Laura cried for hours in her room. She didn't mean to hurt Derek. She didn't usually mean to hurt anyone. She was lying on her bed with the white covers and white pillowcases when Peter found her.

 

-

 

You're very special, he said, hand stroking her hair, dark like her mother's, braided like her mother's, all the way down her back. You're going to do so well. Little alpha.

 

-

 

Laura understood power in the way that most first-born children understood power: the word MINE stamped over everything she wanted.

 

-

 

Sometimes, when she was younger, Peter would-

 

-

 

Uncle Peter was only a few years older than her. Maybe about ten. Laura was mature for her age. That's what Uncle Peter said. He liked spending time with her the most. Her cousins were jealous, Derek ambivalent, Cora too young to care. Laura is mature for her age, he would tell the others. And ten years. It was almost no difference at all.

 

-

 

She used to have dreams about a bed in the middle of a forest. Her forest. She was on all fours. The bed was soft and cold and white and it felt wrong, like she didn't know what to do with it, or maybe she just didn't know what to do with her body on it. Her limbs felt separate. Puzzle pieces with the wrong edges. There was a man. She couldn't see him, but:

Remember, the man said, you're very special.

She knew the bed, but:

The sweaty pieces of hair sticking to her neck. He touched her back, the bony curve of her hip, her stomach. She woke up.

 

-

 

The dreams were normal. It was after the fire. Laura was traumatized, the social worker said, and it was possible Laura would be traumatized for a very long time. They had faith in her recovery, however, though not so much in Derek's. She was normal. She would make it through the ensuing years with minimal stress: night-terrors and the occasional hallucination.

 

-

 

Uncle Peter's favorite, her cousins whined.

 

-

 

She was happy Peter survived. She was angry Peter survived. She missed her mother, her father, Cora. She had dreams about a man with a half-melted face standing behind her. Trauma, she thought, waking up with her thighs wet and hot. This is a side-effect, this is nothing, this is normal. She took long, deep breaths. She closed her eyes and opened them. The lights in their apartment flickered. She couldn't get up to go look at herself in the mirror. She shifted, paced the length of their apartment as the wolf, didn't change back until she heard Derek down the street, the shuffle of his boots on the pavement, the angsty teen music pounding out of his headphones, incomprehensible from where she sat.

This was a year or so after the fire: they were in New York, by now, Laura had gotten two jobs, forced Derek to start school again. They didn't have time to waste. She'd been to the counselors, she knew the protocol. PTSD. The fire-

She was bound to have issues. A couple years of nightmares, maybe some hallucinations. She'd bounce back. She always did, anyway; before.

 

-

 

What are you doing, Laura asked, and Peter smiled.

 

-

 

She was always in a forest and she was always on a white bed with white pillowcases and white sheets covered in dirt. She was always on all fours like a bitch in heat. There was always a man she could not see. He always told her how special she was. She had always had these dreams: she would always have them.

 

-

 

The first time she ran in the forest with her mother, the ground sang to her: yours, yours, yours. Laura was young, maybe five, six. After, Talia kissed her cheek, smoothed her hair down, cocked her head, listened. Laura was shaking. Don't be scared, her mother said, so Laura wasn't.

 

-

 

Laura, her mother used to say, you are a wolf but you do not have to be a monster. And then her mother was put down like a bitch.

 

-

 

They were in her forest. There was no white bed. When she turned, he was close, not touching her.

My little one, he cooed, my little alpha.

She was strong enough to fight him, but she was surprised, upset. She thought of her mother: beautiful, grinning. She thought of her claws, of the afternoon she'd pushed Peter into the ground. Yours, yours, yours, the forest sang.

 

-

 

The man with the half-melted face: How did Laura know his face was half-melted? He stood behind her, she couldn't see him.

 

-

 

Sometimes, when she was younger, Uncle Peter-

 

-

 

Peter had a wife, two kids, a job teaching history at the community college. Laura was eighteen when her entire family burned to death in a basement. She had a high school diploma. She had Derek. Peter lost everything, he told her, and Laura was remade, stronger, better, beautiful, grinning. Laura's claws were out. She thought of Derek: alone in an apartment in New York, waiting for her to come home. Laura, Peter told her, you are a wolf but you do not have to be.

And Laura said: watch me.