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(Un)taming the Wolf

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There are worse things than being a werewolf. Oz has seen some of them. He's seen kids at Sunnydale High, smiling in the sun one day, transformed into ravening monsters a night later with nothing of humanity left in them. At least he only has to be a monster three nights out of the month. All he needs to do is make sure he's nowhere near people for those three nights.

The Himalayas are a really good place to avoid people.

He draws in a deep breath filled with the taste of pine needles. Snow is falling softly around him and he raises his face to catch a few flakes on his tongue. He remembers doing that as a little boy and smiles to himself. The snow will cover all signs of his journey up here. From the snow-capped mountains, blue in the fading twilight, he hears the howl of a wolf - a real wolf. Oz has to avoid people...but wolves are okay.

Power thrums along his nerves and he raises his hands before his face. On wolf-nights his eyesight gets weird: he can see light and shadow more clearly, but colours blend into grey. It's like he has built-in night vision. The fine hairs on the backs of his hands are bristling, thickening. It's almost time.

Oz strips off his clothing, beginning with his boots. He doesn't feel the cold, even standing barefoot in the snow. His clothing goes into the canvas bag he brought along for the purpose. He pushes his boots under a nearby bush and places the bag on top. Snow falls from the bush while he works but he doesn't notice. Oz stands nude in the snow. Only one thing remains: the black beads wound around his wrist and hand. He waits for the moon.

Moonlight silvers the mountains ahead, but he can't yet see the moon. He can feel it, though, his blood running hot, his pulse a wild thing in his throat. He hears the wolf howl again, long and loud. His human ears hear mourning in that sound, but the wolf in him dismisses that anthropomorphic interpretation. The wolf hears longing, seeking. It rejoices when a second howl joins the first in song.

The first sliver of the bright moon is visible over the mountain peaks. For a moment - just a moment - he fights the Change, longing to see the moon once more through human eyes. He can do that now. Keep his cool. Take the herbs, use the chant. But not tonight. Beads slip from his hand as bones stretch and fine hair thickens into fur.

There is more than one way to tame the wolf within.

Oz starts forward as the Change takes him. Between one step and the next, feet become paws and he bounds onward with an eager bark. The wolves howl at the moon. His paws fly over icy rocks as he follows the sound. Some wolves will welcome a strange pack-mate on a full moon night. Others will fight to defend their territory.

Either way, he is ready.