The snow hadn't melted yet, though that wasn't a surprise to , it was a surprise to find so many hikers camped out on the Lewis & Clark trail.
Her breath coiled like smoke in the air, as she looked at the small campsite. She could hear the mundane chatter of the ignorantly blissful humans. Completely unaware of her. If she were part of the less civilized of her kind - she would have attacked them for the scent of food that drafted down the forest-side.
While her wolf was dominant at the moment, her human half was not. But even her wolf didn't have the desire to hunt the humans for their packaged food. She shied away from humans. An instinct that the human half of her actually agreed with.
Those that took human shape were more dangerous than her wolf brethren.
She trotted back into the dependency and coverage the forest provided. She didn't get far down the hill, deeper into the forest when her wolf perked up in earnest. A howl, deep and utterly beautiful sang to the full moon. She closed her eyes and her ears fell back in pure contentment. Her wolf wanted to sing along with the other wolf - but she wouldn't do it. They were far too close to the humans, for them to not take alarm at her close proximity.
Her wolf-side was too curious and intent on the howling voice, that she began to unconsciously seek it out. She could smell her kind here. Those that could take either the shape of human or wolf, because both lingered in the forest -when it hadn't before.
The full moon required her kind to change during it's viewing - if only to sing to it.
She halted, her ears cocked to the side and listened expectantly for the sound to appear again. It didn't. Her fur raised on her back. She let out a snort of disappointment and frustration.
The hit to her side, knocked her to the ground and a growl viciously erupted from her throat. Her teeth immediately snapping at her attacker. Then she noticed other snarls, and realized the fangs at her throat were holding her - not harming. She froze at the realization, and breathed the air deeply for clues.
"Knock it off!" a man's voice commanded, approaching the pack of fighting wolves.
She couldn't get a decent look at him, because the other wolf still held tight onto her neck. He tightened his hold in warning, and she fell limp again.
She heard leather boots squeak and push the mud deeper into the earth at his heavy walk.
"Loosen up a bit, Nate - she won't give you any trouble," the voice ordered, in a tone that implied he gave those orders frequently and expected them to be obeyed.
Her hearing wasn't wrong. The hold on her neck loosened, allowing her to move her head slightly to see the man stopping to kneel next to her.
The wolf on top of her, lowered his body submissively in response. And even underneath the other wolf, she felt the desire to sink in the mud.
The man touched her muzzle firmly, his eyes locked on the haggard fur, and bare bits of flesh where she been in one too many fights with her competitors.
"Ben," the man questioned as a lean brawny wolf came forward, ducking his head.
"Change and call Marcy - tell her to see if she can find some clothes. And we'll need your brother to pull some strings, too." the man issued orders and she finally realized something - he was the dominant.
She surmised it was all she could do to not look him in the eye, and raise his ire by not submitting - but she couldn't help herself. She had never seen one of her kind in human shape before. She supposed, he was pleasant enough to look at. But those like him usually had a harem of wolves to do his bidding.
She heard a popping sound, and jumped at the unexpected noise. The dominant man-wolf tapped her nose in assurance and then turned to look at another man that had the scent of a wolf.
The man continued the noise, while popping his fingers individually as he approached.
The dominant gave an exaggerated sigh, looking pointedly at the other man. "Did you want something? Other than to piss me off enough today?"
The man grinned, and his teeth flashed white in the darkness. "I could always piss you off a little more, but no-" he stopped walking to them, leaving a wide berth away from the other wolves who stayed in an arc around the dominant. "Boss-man wanted me to give a report as to why you're running in Farris territory." The man's eyes gleamed crystal blue, showcasing the wolf beneath the skin.
The dominant's eyes narrowed slightly, and his already green eyes brightened to emerald jewels. "You'll tell Paul, Farris territory has been common grounds for seventeen years - and if he sends his second to me again, I'll send it back in pieces! Now get away from my pack!" The dominant stood roughly and the pack of wolves tensed in preparation for the coming fight.
She whined uneasily, the sound escaping her before she could stop it. The teeth tightened around her neck, and she winced.
The blue eyed wolf-man closed his eyes, briefly, and breathed in.
"Back off, Anthony - or I will cut out your throat." the dominant growled, and his wolves dug their claws into the earth, ready.
The other wolf opened his eyes, hungry. "She smells good,"
A growl came from the human throat, and she shuddered - it sounded eerily frightening.
"Leave," he commanded, fiercely and even she felt the power in his voice. The power of an Alpha who could control wolves within his territory. The fact that he apparently wasn't in his own territory only attested to his anger.
The other man-wolf had no other option but to submit and back away from the pack. Or risk his throat - quite literally. He backed up slowly into the darkness of the forest, until she couldn't see him anymore.
With his disappearance, the Alpha turned his attention back to her.
"It's alright, Nate, I've got her," the dominant gestured to the wolf atop her, who moved away at his Alpha's suggestion.
Her heartbeat picked up instantly, without the barrier between the dominant wolf and herself. She had never felt so bare before anyone's eyes. He titled his head, in a wolf-like gesture and watched her carefully.
"Calm down, child." he ordered, wrapping a hand around her muzzle.
She whined at the unfamiliar contact and the pull towards him that Alphas seemed to resonate.
"Sir," another man-wolf approached this time and when his eyes met his Alpha's he went to his knees.
"Get a hold of Marcy?" the dominant asked, idly.
The submissive nodded, and it took her a moment longer to realize this was the brawny wolf that had been sent away on an errand.
"She said to tell you to stop by on your way back, and leave the female with her."
"I don't think so," the Alpha countered automatically and the other man-wolf flinched a little at the stern tone.
The Alpha seemed to notice because his next words, were more subtle. "I'll consider it and that's all. What did your brother say?"
Becoming more relaxed because of his Alpha's composure the brawny wolf responded, "It'll take a day or two to scrounge up some papers - but he can make it happen, no problem."
"Excellent," the Alpha murmured, absently putting his fingers through her fur.
She hadn't noticed it either, until she growled unconsciously, in warning. The gesture made everyone freeze, including herself. The Alpha man-wolf turned his emerald eyes to her, and smiled with humor.
Something within her unfurled at the expression on his face, but she wasn't sure what.
"We need to get you cleaned up," the Alpha murmured, pushing against her side in an effort to let her roll herself over. She did and stood on her paws, shaking the dirt and grass off. She was mildly amused to see the man-wolf wipe at himself after her display, mud splattered his grey t-shirt.
"Come with me," he ordered rising to his feet, his pack moved in to flank him. She stiffened in surprise at his command and the packs close proximity. She could scent them, and every one of them was a male. The wolf in her bristled at the thought of them surrounding her.
"Nate - stay here, the rest of you go change and get in the van. Wait for me if I don't get there first," the dominant replied, as if hearing her thoughts.
The wolves separated and sprinted off into the forest ahead of them, leaving just her, the Alpha, and his second.
"Better?" he questioned, with a tilt of his head to her he started walking in the direction his pack went. He walked at an easy pace that she could keep up with - and startled by his observation, she didn't give a thought as to following him.
He chuckled as she walked beside him, while his second followed behind and to the right.
"You shouldn't be alone in Farris territory - it's been neutral ground for our kind for many years. There are wolves here who wouldn't mind eating what little meat you offer,"
She thought he might be teasing, if the slight lift in his mouth was any clue. But his words reminded her of the attacks she had already witnessed. And what, she thought, she would have witnessed again. But he was dominant enough in his pack, that he stopped their internal fighting better than any other wolf she had seen.
"I'm taking you back to a safe house of mine. There's the mate of my third there and she'll help you clean up." he answered her unspoken thoughts and gripped her fur in his hand gently.
She whined again, uncertain. She wasn't used to pack, and she certainly hadn't been part of the human world for as long as she could remember. Those memories were hazy at best and she had no desire to join the world that she didn't belong in.
"I'll help you," he murmured, running his fingers through her fur in an attempt to soothe her.
She didn't like this. She didn't want to do this. The moment she thought of that, her claws dug into the mud and she stopped.
He released his hold on her, so he wouldn't pull her fur at her halt. The alpha turned around to watch her. It was when she glanced up at those emerald eyes watching her. Waiting. As if he knew what she was thinking.
He smiled gently, and with her suspicions confirmed- she ran.
She knew then, for sure, what the wolves wanted of her. Why she was always in the middle of pack fights- why this wolf pack had tackled her only to fight amongst themselves. For her. Always for her. Now she understood something she had been missing. The reason why all packs she had come in contact with, ended in viscous fights amongst themselves. They were all males. Every single one of them. And she was female. And apparently rare enough to fight over. Rare enough to chase.
She could hear claws slapping earth and paws running after her. Too fast, she thought. So she ran harder, very nearly breaking her leg on a fallen log. She jumped over it and slid on the mud, and losing her traction - she fumbled.
A squeak of surprise, and then a howl of pain as she flipped over and landed on her back, hard. Two harsh breaths later, and a wolf was atop her. His fangs at her throat, but it wasn't a wolf she recognized. His scent, however, was familiar.
The Alpha's eyes shined a lime color, much brighter than his human form and growled in reprimand at her. His fur was so light a gray, it could be mistaken for white. Perhaps it was. And he had a massive, muscular form that took the breath out of her because of his sheer weight.
She shifted, uneasily, under him and he didn't move to relieve her stress.
He growled again, chastising.
His second, Nate, finally caught up to them and took point on her other side, sandwiching her between the two wolves.
The Alpha loosened his hold on her neck, but then pushed his nose against it instead. Her wolf recognized the gesture. He was playing with her now and she relaxed instantly at the thought. He reached up to nip at her ear, teasing. Then his nose brushed against hers, and he backed away.
Taking cue, she rolled to her side, wincing at the soreness in her back. The Alpha waited for her to get her bearings, then came to stand beside her and bumped her shoulder with his. His second stood instinctively behind them again.
He leaned into her and bit her neck, playful but urging. He wanted her to follow him again.
She kneaded her claws into the earth in obvious protest. He closed his mouth and whined at her, pleading. She pawed the ground nervously, uncertain.
The wolf behind her also tried assuring her, in a more polite tone, she noticed.
The alpha growled, commanding her attention away from his second. He bit into her neck again, more serious and she winced away from him.
He snorted in disapproval, and backed away from her.
For a moment, the power of the Alpha called to her and she nearly followed him. But he wasn't leaving for good, because his second didn't follow. So, she halted and waited.
He was changing, and she felt the power of his wolf mute only slightly - as man came forward again. He looked entirely human, better than most she had seen, and was as nude as she would have been.
"I'm not accepting no for an answer, child. You'll come back with me tonight, and if you can't stand my pack that long - I'll ship you to another territory... a safer one. But a lone female in this place won't last long. Your scent is already attracting too many males. And we're not known for our calm temperament," his voice allowed no argument.
And how could she argue? If she ran, he'd chase her. She couldn't fight him, even if she did - his pack would be after her in retribution. She couldn't remember how to change her form to human, she'd kept this shape for so long.
"For now, I'll be protecting you enough that no one will bother you. And if you like...I can help you change." he added, reading her thoughts again.
So, she only followed him for curiosity, albeit begrudgingly, because she had a feeling he would have grabbed her by the neck and drug her the rest of the way there.
His mouth quirked upwards at her thoughts and she snorted in disapproval. He patted her head in a gesture that made her feel like a pup. Maybe she was, compared to him.
Her kind lived a long time. She wasn't entirely sure how old she was, to be honest. Her first memories were of a cage, and hundreds of different noises. Beeping, ticking, voices...so many voices. She felt like the bars of that cage were getting smaller and smaller, she had to get out. And somehow - she did. Her wolf felt claustrophobic. She didn't remember running from the building she was in. She didn't remember running far enough that she met forest. Her next memory was only of darkness- opening her eyes to see the waxing moon above her, and hearing others of her kind howling in song. When she had closed her eyes, she slept soundly.
And every night since then, she had been running, finding new land to explore and play in. It was uncommon if not rare for her to walk in other wolf territory. And when she did, they hardly ever attacked her. They usually fought amongst themselves at her approach - which had her backtracking rapidly.
"Yes - it is our instinct to fight against each other when an un-mated female walks among us. Those of our kind that do not possess any control manage to attack their own brothers. The packs you've come across are nomadic- usually without a strong Alpha to keep discipline. Here in the city territories, the fights will be down to a minimum." he explained calmly, in response to her thoughts that he could see so clearly.
She raised her head a little higher and ignored him. She didn't like the invasion in her mind that he took for granted,so easily. She was not his pack, and was not entitled to him.
"I wouldn't say that," he added with a growl more wolf than man.
She growled back, irritated.
"If you claim to be un-mated, even my well-controlled wolves will bicker. I can't have that in my territory." he added roughly.
She stuck her nose up in disdain and snorted at him. She could easily walk away then, if that was the case. She was only following him for curiosity's sake.
"No...you need a mate, young one. It's too dangerous for you without one," he answered, more gently.
She chose to ignore his advice. She had been wandering for a long time, or so it felt. She wasn't sure. But so far, she had managed just fine on her own. She didn't need a mate and she didn't want a pushy Alpha thinking he was going to make her part of his pack. Despite the feelings of the wolf within her. The wolf was very excited about this turn of events. She wasn't. Which was what mattered.
"Wolves need pack to lean on. And packs usually consist of males and females. My pack is in need of a dominant female, to balance out our males. There are a couple of Alphas I know of in other territories that wouldn't mind a female, if you so choose. But, I will do everything in my power to persuade you into my pack. I need you," The Alpha's eyes brightened from forest, human green to lime in the darkness.
If she were human, she'd be frightened of him. But the wolf in her was only in awe. She wanted to bask in the power of the Alpha and submit willingly to be in his pack. The wolf was so practical an animal. So simple. The human part of her wanted to run away and never been seen by him again. But the wolf warred with her, protesting. She needed pack, that's what was wrong with her. Or so her wolf-side argued. So, she followed beside him again.
Her wolf wanted to fall back, to be behind him - to show submissiveness. But the human side won that fight. If he wanted her so bad, he was getting her, as is. Her stubbornness was going into full force now, without holding back. She trotted a little faster, stepping ahead of him. Her wolf protested loudly in her head, angry.
The man-wolf only chuckled at her behavior and obviously hearing the internal struggle with her wolf, and herself.
"Once you have a pack, those two sides of your mind will become one. You'll have more control of yourself, and 'she' will leave 'you' be." his voice still had a smile in it, and she turned to look at him.
Her wolf wagged her tail happily at his advice, in thanks. The human in her wanted to bite his ankles.
He raised his dark eyebrows at her thoughts, but said nothing about her violent wishes. A vehicle started suddenly, surprising at yelp out of her.
"It's my pack, it's alright." the man-wolf soothed, patting her on the back and walking ahead of her now.
They were met with the edge of the forest and dirt road, where the dark blue van sat in idle. A door opened and a pack member hopped out of the sliding door. He bowed his head at his Alpha's approach.
This was the one known as Ben, she remembered. He was thin, she noticed easily. And his hair and skin tone suggested he was of Irish descent. The sporadic freckles were too obvious of a giveaway. And his flyaway red hair was bright, even to her wolf-eyes in the dark. She supposed, if she were human, she'd think of him as attractive. If a little too peaky for her.
"He's got a mate, young one - so don't even think about it," was the Alpha's dry response.
The third, Ben, looked up in surprise at his statement, then blushed scarlet. Her wolf was embarrassed at his outburst and snapped at him, angry.
"Get in, Ben. She'll take front," the Alpha ordered, non too politely. He opened the passenger door to the vacant seat and gestured for her to get in.
His second, Nate, had come up behind them in human shape and threw a pair of pants at him. She hadn't even noticed his disappearance. The Alpha caught the denim easily and pulled them on over bare skin.
She still bristled in indignation at his conclusion that she wanted his third. And her embarrassment that his third now thought that she did want him. Which was a repulsive idea, even if she did want a mate. Since she certainly didn't.
"In, please!" the Alpha bothered with polite necessities, now as he slammed the sliding van door closed - blocking off her view of his pack in the backseats, all looking at her in curiosity and amusement.
She didn't like his tone, but thought it sounded close enough to a request that she hopped in the front seat he offered.
Her wolf didn't like having his pack behind her. And she kept wanting to turn around to look at them, so her back wouldn't be vulnerable. That desire soothed when the Alpha climbed into the driver's seat. Her wolf understood that feeling more than she did. It meant that since he was in the front, the Alpha trusted them enough to give them his back, which was more than enough for her wolf to be content.
She flinched when he turned the car into drive and turned it around, to face the other direction. As an afterthought, he turned the radio off, and it became silent. The wolf in her sighed in relief. She didn't like technology, either. Her wolf-ears were far too sensitive for it.
"That was a good song," a wolf complained from the back. He was immediately rebuffed by smack to the head, she didn't see who managed to hit him.
"Quiet, pup!" a gruff voice responded, to the younger wolf who crossed his arms and fumed silently.
Her claws dug into the fabric of the seat, and she had a hard time retracting them without damaging anything. She felt slightly guilty as she tore the velvet accidentally.
The Alpha reached over to pat her on the head. "Stop worrying so much,"
Her wolf was all for that idea, but the human half of her couldn't relent just yet. Not when their future was so uncertain. She didn't like not knowing was what going to happen. She also didn't like that they were now on paved road now, where other cars were buzzing past them on the opposite side. She stared purposefully at the Alpha, who's continued peace was passing onto her.
Truthfully, she'd say that she didn't mind looking at him. He was very pleasant looking, to both her wolf and human side- which was strange in and of itself. Her wolf didn't like the males of her kind in human shape. And she, herself, didn't like men in general. But he was nice enough, so far.
She continued watching him, as if she could somehow gain knowledge of him by staring at him. He didn't seem to mind the attention. So she let her eyes wander, guessing. He had a strong face, she noted. With the kind of stern expression that made him look old, or older than he was. She had a feeling he was very old, but his body remained youthful - as their kind usually did. He had hair that made her human half envious. It was dark and rich in color and curled elegantly around his face, thick and long enough to reach the nape of his neck.
His eyes had dimmed to human green now, and even then - she thought they were a pretty color. If a little unusual in their darkness. They suited his face, she thought absently. He turned to look at her then, with a knowing glance that suggested he didn't mind when she met his eyes. Even so, her wolf made her lower her eyes, when she wanted to stare back at him.
The gesture humored him, and he chuckled quietly in the silence.
His pack shifted uneasily behind him, unaware of the cause of his amusement.
She sunk lower in her seat in shame for giving him submissive, when that hadn't been her intention at all. But blast him, he'd caught her unaware.
"We're almost there, stop fidgeting - you're making my wolves anxious," he spoke softly, as if the others weren't even there.
But when he mentioned them, she froze - her wolf on alert for any trouble they might give her.
"Relax," he breathed, and curse him, if she didn't just do exactly that.
Her wolf forced her to lay curled on the seat, with her eyes on him. And for the first time, in a very long time, she felt like she could sleep. The kind of sleep where the troubles of tomorrow didn't affect the dreams you could have tonight, because for a small moment, you felt completely content. Or ignorantly blissful, she thought snidely to her wolf - who was far too relaxed with this situation.
He clucked his tongue at her, and it rose her irritation even more. "Sleep." he said simply, and her eyes were already lowering.
"I'll wake you when we get home," he said before her lids finally closed.
A/N: Just something that's been in my head for a while, and has been sitting in my computer for even longer. Hope you liked it. Definitely not beta-d, let me know if you'd be interested. Leave a review, and tell me what you thought of it.