Three years ago

"See you later, Harry," she called out to the back of the diner; she heard a muffled yell of acknowledgement. The young woman pushed open the door and wandered into the cold night, the sound of the diner bell still ringing in her ears from a long days work.

She dashed through the parking lot, her bag thumping against her legs as she darted for her car. The piece of shit Rabbit sat gloomily near the dumpster, as forlorn and rusty as its smelly neighbour. The vehicle had been her mother's, but since she did nothing but drown herself in alcohol, the young woman had decided to take it for herself.

Not like the old broad could really complain or say otherwise.

She pulled out of the dark parking lot of the roadside Diner, swerving to avoid potholes that were notorious for robbing people of their hubcaps. Harry had an entire wall dedicated to hubcaps that had been found along the road right up to the parking lot; it was one of his selling points.

The rabbit rumbled down the small side road that lead to the highway, the lights flickering occasionally at every bump or scrape. The car smelled like the bottom dregs of an ashtray, but she was so use to it by then that it didn't matter to her. As long as she could get to and from work, she'd take what she could get.

Her cellphone rumbled from the dashboard, and while she had never been particularly fond of the idea of talking on the phone while driving, she knew that the only person who would phone her at this time of night would be her mother – and she wouldn't stop until someone answered.

"Yes, mom?"

"When are you gonna be home?" Not even a greeting, just a demand.

"Uhm, I'm still at work..."

"Bullshit. I phoned there."

"Well, I was just out the door..."

"Whatever. Stop by the store and get me some things."

She hung up. Didn't even say goodbye. Didn't matter though, the young woman would do what her mother wanted her to do – she always had, she always would.

Sometimes she felt like running away, that maybe her grandmother would take her in, or that she could wing it herself. Sometimes she fantasized so much about it that she actually began to formulate a plan – her mother had found her apartment rental ads once... It had ended poorly.

She wanted a normal life... A life that didn't revolve around working seven days a week to pay her mom's debts, or to pay for her alcohol. Or to eat... The only reason she refused to take a day off work was due to the fact that their fridge had broken a few months ago – she ate whatever and whenever she could at the diner. She hadn't eaten since three though; her stomach rumbled a reminder.

The young woman tossed her phone on the seat next to her and sighed.

"Remember, Bug. Whatever happens: never give up, never surrender."

"Dad, that's from Galaxy Quest."

"So? It's valid."

She rubbed at her eyes, tired beyond belief.

The highway approached, and she exited onto it. The stretch of trees that lined either side of the road blocked out the moon, casting the highway into a deep shadowed darkness.

As she drove the rumbling of her stomach became painful, and when she caught sight of a fast food joint sitting off the road beside a gas station she pulled into the lot. For a moment she didn't dare exit the vehicle, her indecision laying with the fact that her mother would want the tip money burning awkwardly in her pocket. However, she knew that if she didn't eat, she'd be up all night.

And going to work tired was less than ideal.

She exited the car and wandered into the squat building. The smell of deep fried junk food made her mouth water, and she hurried to the counter. An older man stood behind the cash register, his eyes lighting up when he saw her. She hesitated for a moment, her indecision biting .

"How may I help you?" He asked, his grandfatherly smile settling her decision. Shedug out the envelope with her tips.

"Could I get a cheese burger and fries please," she said. The man rung her through and she counted out her change with a grimace on her lips.

As the man hustled off to arrange her meal she stood awkwardly at the counter and looked out at small dining place behind her. A man was sitting alone at a booth, his size making him look awkward as he talked quietly into a cellphone. He glanced over at her, as if her gaze burned his skin – she looked away hoping he hadn't noticed.

"Here you go, Miss," she accepted the bag with a nod and left the building, her mind reeling with excuses to give her mother over the lost dollars – or maybe she would just tell her the truth.

She had hardly made it across the parking lot when the sound of gravel crunching behind her drew her to a halt. She turned slowly, her eyes alighting upon the man that had been seated inside. He moved towards her with purpose in his gait and an intent in his eyes. She didn't know it at the time, but the chill running along her spine was the recognition of his power – his predatory blood.

Her prey instincts flared to life – but she did not run.

"Miss," his voice was gravelly and deep, and if it hadn't been for the fact that he was approaching her in the dead of night she would have been attracted to the strength of it. "You forgot your keys."

She blinked, completely confounded. Her hand went to her pocket where her car keys were usually tucked, but they weren't there. The soft jingle of metal against metal made her realize that the set he held in between his fingertips were, in fact, hers.

"Thank you," she said, accepting them.

His lips twitched as if to smile, but he held back and simply nodded.

And then she left.

- - -

It had been a week since she had stopped at the fast food restaurant.

She was driving to work, a sandwich in one hand. The day before had left her with a table that had tipped well – a local author and his family. They had left her more than the usual tips she received from travellers and road warriors; enough to give to her mother and to grab a few groceries to last a couple of days. The sandwich in her hand was a godsend; she hadn't had a homemade lunch since back in junior high school.

Her phone started to ring just as she exited onto the highway, and despite her usual inclination to answer the phone she just shrugged it off and smiled.

She felt too good today to listen to the old woman whine and complain.

The phone fell quiet for a few moments and started to ring again.

She glanced at it, just as a truck from the next lane tried to move over. A honk sounded, and the young woman looked up in time to swerve out of the truck's way.

And then a wolf appeared on the road.

For a moment she wondered, as the wolf stood in the middle of the highway, whether it would ever move. It stared at her, and regarded her with an inscrutable look – it wasn't the look of a wolf, but of something much more intelligent. It was daring, mocking, powerful. Its eyes glinted as if to say: I am timeless, unstoppable.

A calm settled in her breast even as she swerved her car to avoid the wolf, as her car began to roll, and as it flew into the trees with a scream of metal and splintering wood. The calm shattered the moment her car slammed into the first copse of trees, and the screaming of the Rabbit was soon accompanied by her own terror.

The car stopped.

For a moment she sat in her seat, staring at her steering wheel. The phone was gone, but she could still hear the ring tone sounding off in the distance – behind it there was only silence.

She didn't feel pain, and despite the fact she could hardly move she knew she had to go. She reached for the ignition, knowing if she didn't get to work in the next few minutes they'd lay her off. Harry might have liked her, but he gave her too many chances.

She needed her job.

The ignition wouldn't turn; the engine wouldn't start. She sighed, her fingers shaking as she tried harder and harder to get the vehicle going. It wouldn't move.

There was blood everywhere, but she wasn't concerned about the upholstery right now – she could fix it later.

There was a branch sticking out of her chest, but that wasn't what mattered: she needed to earn the next month's rent. She needed to get to work. She needed to go.

The door of the car was ripped off the hinges, the Rabbit hardly protesting at the action. A man stooped in and pushed her hands away from wheel and the keys, and despite her gurgling complaint he didn't say a word. He eased down beside her, his eyes wild with something other than fear or shock; the man was struggling with a primeval urge.

She felt a hand cradling her neck, fingertips on her cheeks. "Easy there, darlin'," he said, the gravel of his voice familiar to her through a distant fog. "Settle there. Everything is going to be okay."

She tried to speak, she tried to say to him that she recognized him as the man from the burger joint, but he shook his head and watched her. She wondered why he wasn't phoning for an ambulance, or why, when he had removed the door so easily, that he wouldn't try to get rid of the branch sticking out of her chest.

He was wasting her time – that's what.

She reached for the ignition, but he intercepted her hand.

They stared at one another; her eyes filled with a lucid obstinance, and clarity.

But then her gaze wavered and her eyes lost their focus.. Her fingers curled around his, her eyes swaying unsteadily as she tried to focus on him once more. Gray eyes stared at her, the roiling and unsettled look in his own gaze suddenly easing into realization. For a moment they stared at one another, her fingers tightening around his wrist.

The man had intended to see her through until the ambulance arrived – and leave it at that --, but there was something about the young, dying woman.

Her grip was unyielding.

"Easy there," he repeated, and he pulled her hand from his.

The man left, and then there was a dog there. Or a wolf. It wasn't the same one from the road, that much she realized, but the softness of its fur as it came to her – the gold of its coat...

Its teeth flashed, and she felt a moment of pain on her hand.

And then a burning took her.

- - -

The first few weeks after my car accident had left me a mess. Before my first change, my brain had re-wired itself, my body had fought against the unstoppable infection and I had suffered. I had gone from thinking like a human to considering the world through the eyes of a predator – the only thing? I didn't realize what was happening. Confusion was my only companion.

I had been a doting and irrationally loyal daughter, but the few weeks following had altered my perceptions. My drunken mother was no longer someone I needed to coddle, but a weakling that should be left to the elements. She no longer needed my help – for I refused to give it. She hadn't deserved such loyalty, such devotion; she was nothing but a rodent waiting to die.

Of course, at the time I hadn't understood my cravings, or my sudden rationale. I hadn't understood why my eyes wandered to the old or young, or why a waitress' throat would be so tantalizing as she bent to pour my water. Children playing tag in the park had my complete attention, and dogs were now something to avoid. My family and friends had become nothing more to me than a nuance of my life; my loyalty or interests didn't lie with them, even though I tried to tell myself that it did. At first I had thought that I was going through some sort of depression, or maybe even suffering through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but then I started getting sick.

At first my smell was off, everything was more vibrant and heady. I could hear everything; the pulsing of the city kept me awake into the nights, and I could hear our neighbours in and around the trailer park arguing, fucking and partying. This transformed my confusion into something darker -- something I imagine a wild animal would feel when trapped in the city --, which in turn lead to a boiling temper teetering on the edge of explosion. Then came the sweats, the black outs and the aches. Eventually the hot-sweats changed to a chill, and as the cold descended upon me I gave in.

In every way.

That night I changed, and I ran as far as I could without looking back.

The months following my first change saw me enraged. I was no longer rational, but completely ruled by my need to eat, sleep and survive. I wavered back and forth between forms, changing from human to wolf with my emotions. I'd fall asleep curled up against a garbage dumpster as a wolf, only to wake up shivering, naked. One night a passing homeless woman had put a blanket on me; I had killed her without an ounce of care.

She had trespassed – that was my instinctual reasoning, while in the back of my mind the last vestiges of my humanity screamed with grief and disgust.

The agony of the change nearly ruined me, while the confines of the city drew me over the edge. I prowled the streets, desperate to find my way out of the labyrinthine jungle of concrete and steel. The irrational anger that clung to me guided my footsteps, and welcomed me into the first stages of my new life; if the man that had cursed me with such a gift had been around, my anger would have been focused on him, and it would have been his hand that guided me through the beginning.

But he was not there – I never even smelled him.

It wasn't until I had left the heart of the city and found myself in the suburbs that my mind settled from the anger of my new blood. As the days spent in the city stretched behind me, the primitive tumult of my newly wired brain settled into complacency. I spent days digging through trash cans, sleeping in flower beds and chasing squirrels.

Then I had seen a school yard, and everything that had been smothered beneath my new found existence had crawled meekly out of a hole. I had remembered – everything. From my irrational loyalty to my mother, to the murder of an innocent woman trying to help me in the night. The months of my previous actions came upon me in a tumult, the guilt of what I had done – leaving my mother without a word, the murder – roiled within me until I felt nothing but an endless sea of shame.

I had cried to the moon, as wolves often do.

The next week I returned to that playground, every visit reminding me of the humanity I had left behind and lost in the previous months. I watched as children laughed and screamed in joy, their games of tag drawing my interest as they had once, but I pushed aside the carnal desire to chase them down and tear their throats out. I told myself over and over again that I shouldn't feel that way. It wasn't right.

I stayed there, watching, until my ribs poked through my coat even more; until one day a little boy sat next to my hiding spot and offered me a sandwich. We had repeated this process for a week until I had followed him home.

I had clung to the Stevens family, their joy in one another – and in me – allowing me to feel normal. With them I could forget the life I had left behind, or what I had done. Despite the fact I may not have looked like one of them, I clung to their humanity and made it my own.

Yet, I always remembered the man that had saved my life and taken it from me, the man whom had given me a second chance, but hadn't stayed around long enough to teach me how to take it. Anger surfaced when I thought of him, but not a human anger – a wolfen rage.

And now he had the gall to step back in my life.

I felt both anger and fear. The abandoned wolf wanting nothing more than to tear into him, while the ignorant human shrieked in terror. I floundered against him, my emotionally-spurred change quicker than it should have been and much more painful. That pain added fuel to my burning passion and I tried desperately to grab any piece of him I could. By the time I had snatched a mouthful of his shirt, William's patience with my struggles apparently gave way. He clamped his hand down on my muzzle and gave me a shake, a deep growl resonating from within his chest. Even through my anger, my wolf hardwired brain saw it as a reprimand given to a misbehaving puppy. I stilled.

I huffed and puffed. Hot air trumpeted from my nostrils in frantic spurts; my heart beat frantically in my chest. William's closeness kept the blood pumping through my veins at a determined pace.

"We need to talk," Barlow's voice was rigid in my ears. I cocked an ear at him, my attention slowly diverting from my captor to the man that had been only pleasant to me. I noticed he was staring at me, but his words had been directed to another.

William's grip on me eased and I sprung away from him and the alpha, my paws taking me into the corner where I huddled. I shrunk against the wall, my lips twitching as a growl began in my throat. Then I noticed that I was alone.

Barlow and William had left.

- - - -

I waited in the room for hours, or days. I couldn't tell which. All I knew was trepidation – a deeply rooted anxiety that roiled in my stomach.

Even though they had left my clothes in the room with me I hadn't changed back. The mere concept of neutralizing myself for the minutes it would take to change was ridiculous – he could return. Instead I stayed in the corner, curled against the wall with my eyes on the door. Waiting.

For what? I don't know.

For a chance to escape, or to attack.

Or to see what the hell they wanted with me.

Eventually, after what felt like eternity, the door creaked open.

Barlow stepped inside, his back rigid and his eyes dark. However, despite his somber mood, he didn't rankle my hide nearly as much as his dog had. There was something about the man, even now, that settled my nerves and eased me into a timid nervousness. With enough time I imagine I would have rolled over and asked him for a milk bone.

I watched him as he approached, my eyes unwavering. He settled himself on the couch, his eyes as focused on me as mine were on him. Our gazes locked. I stared back. His lips twitched.

I looked down.

" Mutts don't last long in pack territory," his voice was a drum through the air – it shattered the silence that had been lingering for the past few hours with a deafening crack. The words themselves fell upon me moments after he had delivered them, the implications of the situation cementing itself firmly in my gut.

I felt sick waiting for my death sentence.

"However, William is the one that bit you – thus you are of our blood."

My heart skipped a beat.

The blood stilled in my veins.

The fur along my back shivered until my tail was quivering between my legs.

Barlow sipped at his long forgotten lemonade, his lips tightening at its neglect. I waited for him to lash out, but he didn't. He simply set the lemonade down and sighed, his hands folding on his lap as he considered me.

"You must have a lot of questions."

I remembered my brief encounter with Tammy. The questions that had been roiling in my mind had been a tumult of imaginable proportions; her inability to answer them had simply set a burning in my heart. I needed to know. I wanted to shout yes, but I couldn't. I wouldn't. I wouldn't allow this man to see that I wanted what he had to offer.

" -- Questions which only we can answer."

My tail beat against the floor – only once, but it was enough.

Fucking traitor.

Barlow smiled the subtlest of smiles, his eyes dancing with amusement. He had baited me; he wanted to see if I had any desire for the life I had been forced into only three years prior. Or... at least knowledge thereof. I would have growled if it weren't true, if in fact, I didn't want to know everything and anything about what I was. But, the fact of the matter was simple: I wanted to know with every fibre of my being.

"We can help you."

- - -

Alright, sorry it took so long to get out. I've been working on other things, as well as travelling. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has been reading the story. I really appreciate the support! The reviews are spectacular (although, I'd love it if anonymous reviewers would leave email addresses so I could reply :D ), and I adore everyone's words of encouragement. I even enjoyed the rage-quitter, because their review made me laugh.

Also, this chapter was edited once by me. I have no beta. If you see mistakes, or have any constructive criticism, please leave it in a review or private message me!

Please review!