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Hiraeth

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“Just run the damned border, Lena. It’s literally the easiest job, Lena. Just run along the border like a good little pup, Lena. Make sure nobody crosses it, Lena. It’s not that hard, Lena,” Lena cycles through the instructions in her head, each word echoed in disdain.

She feels the wet earth on her paws, how it grips the mud and propels her forward. It is repetitive, almost hypnotically so. Most nights, running around is fun, but tonight, it is raining hard and the earth is slippery. The water has seeped past even her thick undercoat. Even with her superior senses, the visibility is severely limited and all she can hear is the static torrential patter of rain.

Still, Lena has a job to do, graciously given to her by her brother, the Alpha.

It’s the one job nobody likes doing simply because it is…well… literally the easiest job in the pack. Border running. One is given a stretch of the Thorul border to run along and make sure no one crosses it.

And no one has crossed it for ages. Or to be more precise, no one has crossed it illegally, for ages.

It’s not like Lena’s completely ungrateful. She shouldn’t even be in the pack in the first place. She’s an illegitimate pup of the former Alpha who sired her from a lone wolf without a pack. He came back carrying little Lena and forced everyone to accept her.

They never did completely, of course. And when her brother challenged the old Alpha, taking the throne for himself, he only marginally tolerated her out of respect for his sire.

So, Lena gets the shit jobs. Cleaning up, running the border, always last on the feast, sometimes literally just the innards nobody wants and scraping the last of the meat off the bones. It’s enough not to starve her, but it has made her lean. All the running and the chores and food in limited servings has made it so that Lena is almost pure muscle, still smaller than most of the wolves in the pack, but there’s hardly any fat in her.

Which is a detriment in weathers like these when she could certainly use a layer of fat to keep her warm.

Still, she runs. It’s better than standing still and being cold. Running keeps her body warmer than if she’d been lazily lounging about in her den.

Besides, if she doesn’t run, she’ll be out of a pack and lone wolves never fare well… or at all.

 

 

 

The rain is not letting up and the earth is getting to be even more slippery. The sun is about to rise and she’s almost reached the last of her stretch when she hears it.

The night has been nothing but rain and water and wind and the sound is a break from the monotony. She stops abruptly and turns her head towards it, her ears minutely tuning in, trying to get a better read.

Footsteps. Fast. Uneven, but fast.

Faintly she can hear other footsteps, much farther than this one.

It hasn’t reached their border yet, but it will. She tries to sniff the air, but the rain is once again impeding her senses.

She bolts towards the sound, intent on intercepting it before it crosses their border but suddenly it’s gone. Lena stops again.

She can’t have imagined it. She’s sure she heard it. She breaks into a silent walk, focused and listening. And there it is again… but it’s different this time.

Scraping, like something being dragged. Or maybe someone crawling. Still heading for the border.

She once again breaks into a run, this time with a more accurate read on where she needs to go. She knows she’s getting closer. She thinks about alerting the pack, but she doesn’t. She can take care of this. And maybe once she does, they’ll give her a better share of the food. Or at least let her sleep in the bigger den instead.

Then again, she also likes her privacy. It’s a rather confusing aspect of her that she’s yet to deal with.

The scent hits her out of nowhere. Blood. Not just any blood. Vampire blood.

Vampire… singular.

But there’s something else. Something different. Something unique. Enthralling. Lena inhales deeply this time and it hits her hard. Whatever it is, it smells like a memory. Or a home she’s never been to. It smells of sunshine and warmth and fresh dew in the morning. It smells of promises and all the wonderful things she dreams of in lazy summer days when it’s too hot to do anything and Lena just lies in her den, alone, stomach exposed and completely vulnerable, surrendering to the day that refuses to let her move.

It’s confusing.

Lena slows to a pad, slowly, stealthily getting closer. She’s aware that she’s standing downwind and the vampire must have sensed her by now. Still, she lowers her body to the ground, all her muscles tense, ready for an attack if it comes.

But it doesn’t. Because the vampire she finds is covered in blood, resting on a tree trunk. Her blue eyes piercing, dirty blonde hair sticking to a soft face, with high cheekbones, a strong jaw and two little fangs sticking out of her pale, pink lips.

Lena has only seen a handful of vampires in her life but she’s almost certain she’s seen the most beautiful one. Which is saying something because Lena knows vampires are known for their beauty. It’s one of the reasons why they’re the perfect predators.

And yet, even in her wet, bloody state, this one is exceedingly exceptional in ways Lena can’t even begin to describe.

And also, she’s dying.

She looks at Lena and laughs, mirthless. And then she turns her blue eyes towards the sky.

“If it’s all the same to you, I would rather die by the sun,” the vampire says, her voice hoarse.

Lena also turns towards the sky and scoffs…or well it comes out more of a snort.

There’s no sun. There won’t be any sun for at least a few more hours. The rainclouds are thick and dark and while, yes, the sun should be out any minute now, its rays won’t penetrate these thick clouds for hours.

So instead, she turns to the wounded vampire. She sees deep gashes on her chest, her sides, some on her arms. The white shirt she’s wearing is almost completely red and the jeans have not fared well either. One of her legs is broken, bent at an odd angle, with the bones sticking out.

She’s going to turn feral first before the sun ever gets to her. And that’s not something Lena wants. She’s not prepared to face a feral vampire. The right choice should be to call her pack

A choice she doesn’t make.

Inexplicably, Lena shifts to her human form, making a choice she didn’t know she had until she’s already done it.

“Feed,” she says. She hasn’t learned too many human words. She understands them well enough but forming them is… alien to her. Even the sound of her own voice is strange.

The vampire shakes her head and chuckles. “No, I don’t feed from humans, especially naked ones.”

“Wolf,” Lena replies, gesturing to herself. “Not human.”

“You certainly look like one.”

The vampires voice is weakening. Lena knows she’s about to—

“Okay so the sun’s not coming out. Could you maybe just do me a favor and kill me? I’d really rather not turn feral,” the vampire says, cutting Lena’s thoughts.

“Feed,” Lena insists for reasons beyond her understanding. She’s feeling a strange sort of despair, like this is something that needs to be done, and it needs to be done now. The stubbornness of the vampire is only driving her to act.

“I told you, I don’t—Hey! What—”

But Lena isn’t listening anymore. She straddles the vampire, pries its mouth open, and pricks her thumb on its sharp fang. She lets a drop fall on the vampire’s lips and then smears the rest on her wrist. Before the vampire can react, Lena jams her wrist on the vampire’s mouth, muttering, “Not human.”

Lena yelps at the pain but it is quickly replaced by something indescribable, mostly she figures because she’s never experienced it before. Like her life is slowly draining out of her, but not in a bad way. It feels right. Like it should be passed on to this stubborn creature that is now greedily devouring what Lena has to offer.

She feels her muscles relax, weakening, and she knows she can only give so much before she passes out. And passing out is not the best idea right now, so she gently pulls and the vampire, understanding, lets go of her wrist.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” the vampire says. “But, thank you. You can leave me here now. I’ll wait for the sun. I promise I won’t cross your border.”

Lena scoffs and shifts back to her wolf form. She can feel her life coming back almost immediately. And when she’s gathered enough strength, she carefully takes the vampire by her only good ankle and drags it along.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” the vampire hisses, her broken leg dangling uselessly.

Lena drops her for a second, shifts back to human form and says, “Quiet,” before shifting back and taking the vampire’s leg again, dragging her across the border, through the mud and heavy rain.

Every time the vampire would protest, Lena would bite down just a little bit, growl, but carry on regardless.

By the time they reach her den, a solitary, tiny cave near the border of Thorul, the vampire is already quiet, seemingly resigned to what fate Lena has for her. What that fate is even Lena isn’t sure.

She hasn’t been sure of anything since she sensed this vampire’s presence. And it’s not as if she was compelled to do anything.

She’s familiar with compulsions. All her life, that’s what she’s been doing. She’s compelled to follow instructions, compelled to sit back and watch as the food slowly disappears leaving her with scraps and bones, compelled to run the border, compelled to clean out the dens when the pack goes hunting, compelled never to look at any of the other wolves left in the den because she hasn’t earned her place yet, compelled to always be the first one to bow and the last one to stand.

Compelled to live at the edge of the border, miles away from the rest of the pack, like a dirty secret nobody should live with.

No, this isn’t compulsion. This is something else entirely.

 

 

 

Lena’s den is not exactly the best. And she’s sure vampires are not supposed to live in dens. But Lena has a bed of dried leaves and the way the cave is formed, the rain never gets inside, so its dry. She also found a little brook at the back of it, the water coming from somewhere underground and it guarantees that Lena always has fresh water, at least.

But now that she’s dragging her guest in, she figures she’s not really sure how they live. She doesn’t know much beyond the gossip and the mutterings in the pack.

And vampires keep to themselves mostly. They’re not exactly territorial but they are rather solitary.

“So, little wolf, what now?” the vampire asks. She’s sitting, her back leaning on a cave wall. She’s covered in mud and blood and dripping with rainwater. Lena is sure whatever tracks they made has now been washed away by the rain and the mud outside so that’s one less problem she has to deal with. But she does need to go and give her report to her alpha, hope there’s food left, and clean out the den before she’ll be allowed to sleep.

She shifts to her human form and checks her wrist, finding no scar or sign she’s been bitten. She turns to the vampire and gestures to herself. “Lena,” she says, touching her chest.

“Kara,” the vampire replies. “I—I shouldn’t be here. If you’re here to kill me, just do it. I’m not in any state to fight. My wounds aren’t healing fast enough and, in a few hours, I’ll be hungry again.”

Lena shakes her head. “Stay. Sleep. No sun,” she gestures around. Even in summer, the sun’s rays do not ever reach the inside of her den. “Feed later.”

The vampire takes a deep breath, hissing as she does so. “This cave smells like you. Is this your hous—uhmm—den?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re letting me stay here?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Lena stares at the vam—Kara—and shrugs. She looks out. It’s almost time.

She turns to Kara. “Stay. Sleep. Feed later.”

It’s frustrating her that she can’t articulate what she really needs to say but she trusts that Kara understands anyways so she shifts into her wolf and, not waiting for Kara to respond, pads out of her den and breaks into a run towards her pack.

Before she reaches the pack’s den, however, she does something she never thought she would ever, ever do. She prepares to lie. Nobody ever lies. Not to the Alpha.

But then again, she reasons, she’s never really had any excuse to lie to anyone, least of all the Alpha.

Until today.

She deliberately rolls around in the mud a few times, making sure some of it reaches her undercoat. She stands in the rain and lets the mud seep into her fur before walking in as quietly as she can.

Nobody notices her. That’s pretty much her role in life. To be invisible. To do her tasks as quietly as possible, without bothering anyone, that she can slip in and out of the den, dragging out bones to keep the den clean, and hardly anyone notices.

Today, however, she is noticed. Mostly because she looks so damned silly.

“What happened to you?” the Alpha asks, and the rest of the pack turns their head to her.

“I was running, and I slipped on a cliff side and fell. It’s very wet and muddy outside,” Lena says, surprised that she can lie so easily.

“Did you notice anyone cross the border? Krypton has sent word that a rogue vampire has escaped and was last seen headed to Thorul,” the Alpha asks. There’s rumble of dissent that spreads across the pack.

Krypton is a good neighbor, as far as Lena knows. It is a country led by vampires who, despite their need for solitude, always craves order and power. But they respect Thorul’s boundaries.

“No, Alpha. The border was muddy and slippery, but no one crossed it,” Lena answers.

She can hear some of them snickering, but she ignores it.

“Go wash yourself in the lake before coming back to finish your duties,” the Alpha says and the rest of them laugh louder. She knows what it means. The lake is at least half an hour’s run so that by the time she makes it back to the den, there will be no more food left and a lot of bones to drag out.

And the only way she will be able to clean the den out in time to get some more sleep before her run this evening is to shift into human form… something even more shameful in the presence of the wolves.

But it must be done.

And the Alpha has willed it.

So, Lena pads out of the cave and does as instructed.

Sure enough, by the time she’s back in the den, the food is gone. There may be some meat hanging on to some of the bones, but it’s hardly anything compared to Lena’s hunger. Still, she proceeds with her task, shifting to human form and gingerly picking up the bones. Some of the wolves snap at her feet, as close as they can without actually biting her.

They have made it into a game. Trip the lone wolf up in her human form, prolong her duties. But Lena is used to it by now. Soon, she has the first batch of bones piled outside. She takes three more rounds, picks out a bone or two from the pile, cleans it off, and heads home with her head down.

She’s hungry but, pack’s law, she can’t hunt.

And most disappointingly, Kara is gone when she comes back to her den.

Once again, she’s not even sure why she’s disappointed. She figures it’s really just cause she’s hungry. She sniffs at the spot where Kara was sitting, whines, and lays beside it, her snout resting at the place where Kara’s scent is the strongest.

It doesn’t do anything to satisfy her hunger, but it makes her feel a little bit better.

Just before she passes out from exhaustion, however, she hears grunting and some odd shuffling outside her den. She lifts her head and sees Kara dragging a whole buck inside her den.

“Do you know how hard it is to hunt when you only have one good leg?” Kara says, skipping on her good leg before finally collapsing on the cave floor, her chest heaving. “But, and don’t ask me how I know because honestly, I have no idea either, I knew you were starving. So, I stole back to Krypton, caught you the biggest buck I could find, and dragged it all the way here.”

Lena growls her displeasure which Kara, still heaving on the cave floor, waves away.

“Yes, yes, I know. That’s why I took it from Krypton. Technically, you’re not breaking any pack law. You didn’t hunt it for yourself, and it wasn’t taken from Thorul,” Kara says with a satisfied smile that Lena finds ridiculous. But she is also quite hungry so she pads towards it and sniffs it.

It’s got Kara’s scent all over it and her mouth waters.

“By the way, I hope you don’t mind sharing, but I fed on it too. I told you I don’t feed on humans, right?” Kara says.

Lena snorts. She doesn’t really care. She sinks her teeth into the buck and begins her feast.

She feels Kara patting her, almost absentmindedly, as she feeds and she really should have hated it. No one should come near her food but Lena doesn’t care. No, she does. She does care. She cares that Kara should do it. She needs the pats and the little scratches she’s doing to Lena. It makes everything feel better.

So, when Kara puts her hand down, Lena growls.

“Okay, fine, you needy little wolf,” Kara says, laughing. She turns to her side to rub Lena’s fur, watching her eat. Her laughter is a good sound. She should do it more often, Lena decides.

Finally, her snout bloody, her stomach bloated, and all that remains of the buck are its bones and skin, Lena slumps down beside Kara who is still watching her.

“You’re a strange little wolf. What did you do that you’re not sleeping with your pack?” she asks. She’s still running her hands through Lena’s fur and it makes Lena sleepy. But, and almost by instinct, she knows…

It’s like a switch in her brain. She knows the buck didn’t satisfy Kara. It’s not even enough to heal her. It was probably enough to fuel her journey back to Lena’s den. But Kara isn’t fed enough to heal.

So, Lena shifts to her human form and sits up, extending her wrist to Kara.

Kara swats it away. “I told you. I don’t feed on—”

“Not human,” Lena insists. “Kara must heal. Must feed.” And to emphasize her point, Lena touches the wound on Kara’s side and she hisses. “Must heal,” she repeats.

“No, I don’t deserve to live. I no longer have a home or a family,” Kara says, stroking Lena’s wrist so gently, she gets goosebumps. She can see the hunger in Kara’s eyes increase the more she traces the lines on Lena’s wrist.

She knows what it feels like, not having a family or a home. Sure, she’s part of a pack but she’s never really belonged to it. They do not play-wrestle with her. They do not bathe with her or lick each other clean. She has no voice, no choice on any pack matter. And during mating season, she’s not allowed inside the den. She’s had to suffer her heats on her own.

She’s a pariah within her own pack and she hasn’t done a single thing to deserve it, other than being born.

It’s a lonely existence but it’s better than having no pack to speak of.

So, she understands. She’s not really sure what Kara has done to deserve her fate, but she understands the despair and the loneliness. No one ever deserves to be that desperate or lonely, least of all Kara.

She takes Kara’s hand and places it on her chest. “Family.”

She gestures around. “Home.”

She sees the big fat tears that leak out of Kara’s eyes and something inside her panics. Something so primal, she is forced to shift back to her wolf form and lick Kara’s face clean, anything to stop the tears from falling.

“Stop,” Kara says laughing. “Stop, Lena. That actually tickles.”

But Lena can’t stop now, Kara is making wonderful laughing sounds. She straddles Kara and proceeds to lick even more.

“Okay. Stop. I give up. I give up. I’ll feed. Geez,” Kara says in between laughing and getting licked in the face. Lena sits back.

“But I’m going to need you to shift back into your human form. Because I know I keep calling you Little Wolf, but and I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, you’re actually not little. Like… at all. You’re taller than I am, sitting down. So either get off me, or shift back to your human form.”

Lena chooses the latter, so that for the second time that day, she’s again straddling Kara who sits up.

“Much better,” Kara says, and Lena notices that she’s looking at everywhere else but at Lena. “It would be much better if you had clothes, but I suppose that’s too much to ask.”

Lena tilts her head, not really understanding what it means.

“Never mind,” Kara mutters. “Hand please.”

Lena raises her hand and watches as Kara gently traces the veins there again, producing the same effect as before. She shivers slightly.

“Are you sure?” Kara asks and looks at Lena.

“Yes,” Lena answers.

Lena is ready for it this time and the sharp pain is almost nonexistent. Now she notices how soft Kara’s lips are, how warm her mouth is, how gentle her hands are. And even as she feels life flowing out of her, she knows it is right.

Like a purpose, something she’s meant to do.

She watches Kara feed, curiously. Her blue eyes have turned red, gleaming, almost fiery, and there are thin red veins surrounding her eyes. She traces some of them with her free hand and Kara doesn’t seem to mind.

Just as Lena is starting to feel a measure of exhaustion, Kara lets her wrist go, licking the last of the blood that spills out. The wound has already closed by the time she gets her hand back.

Thoroughly exhausted now, she gets off Kara and shifts back to her wolf form.

“Sleep now, Little Wolf. I’ll bury the buck out back—”

Lena growls.

“—and yes, I’ll make sure your pack doesn’t see me—”

Lena growls even harder.

“—no, I will not run away. You’re right. I need to heal, at least.”

Lena huffs.

The last thing she hears before completely passing out is Kara humming, scratching her behind the ear.

Lena has never slept better, deeper in all her life.

She doesn’t know how to tell Kara, but Lena is starting to feel like she’s the one who found a new home, and a new family.