There’s something about the smell of the forest at midnight which can drive a wolf crazy. It stirs their souls, their hunting instincts, and has them lusting for blood. It is the same even for those who spend their days walking on two legs. The nights surrounding the full moon are the worst of them; forced to take their furred forms, werewolves spend the nights drunk on the moon’s power.
But I was never one of them. An accident of birth, my class was both a blessing and a curse. It meant I wasn’t forced to change as most of my packmates were. It also meant I wasn’t hit by the moon’s fever. There was no real reason for me to be in the forest with the rest of my pack, but I came nonetheless, because I found them beautiful.
One wolf in particular always drew my attention. The gorgeous red wolf was bigger than the others, who often trailed along behind him like fumbling pups even on two legs. His red fur was rich in color, and his eyes were so pale a blue that they neared white and seemed to glow in the forest’s dim light. Muscle rolled smoothly under his silky pelt as he stalked through the trees. Stalking, yes, not creeping as the others did- this wolf was too proud, too confident, to slink though the shadows like a common curr.
The red wolf approached me, and I felt the familiar rush of awe which was natural in the face of an alpha. As he came closer, however, that awe was tempered by warm affection. I held still as the red wolf moved past, taking the time to rub the length of his body along mine to mark me with his scent. I nipped at his tail as he left me; his coughing bark let me know I had amused him.
I was free to move once he had passed on, but I never lost his presence. That particular wolf shadowed my movements; always within reach, even if I couldn’t see him through the trees. If it were any other wolf, I would have felt threatened knowing the alpha was hunting his prey. Not this wolf. I knew he would never consider me as prey. He only sought to protect me, and I appreciated it.
Without him, I would have missed the moon’s dance. I wouldn’t dare to reach for the freedom of my furry form in his absence; the shift wouldn’t have the chance to take hold before the intense boost to my pheromones attracted a lusty wolf. Thanks to the protection of my red wolf, I was able to shift whenever I wished.
Thanks to Neo, I was untouched. Unclaimed, and free to run with the pack.
Yet even with his protection, I wasn’t fully accepted by the pack. A fact I was reminded of when I thought to stretch my muscles and hunt. I was better at it than most wolves- better than any in my pack, at least. I had only searched a few moments when a soft rustle from the bushes to my left had me tense and focused. Ears perked up, breath shallow and silent, I gave a testing sniff and tasted rabbit.
My empty stomach announced its presence in that moment; though it mortified me when I walked on two legs, it only sharpened my senses and encouraged my hunt when I prowled as a wolf. I sank back on my haunches, slightly awkward as I coiled and prepared to launch. It wasn’t often that I was allowed to hunt, and that was going to make the rabbit so much sweeter.
I was a moment away from launching myself forward when I hear the deep growl. It froze me solid, and the grey streak blew past me to disappear into the bushes where my prey hid. My moment of shock was quickly replaced by outrage when I saw the grey wolf emerge from the foliage with my intended prey dangling limp from her jaws. The grey wolf dropped herself down in front of me to tear into the rabbit; it was a blatant insult, one I could do nothing about thanks to the color of my fur and the nature of my pheromones.
My red wolf, on the other hand, had no such restrictions.
I danced back a few paces the moment I heard the red wolf’s snarl. I knew it as well as my own, and I knew the violence which would follow. The red wolf shot past me, a high-pitched yelp sounding from the grey wolf who had been too focused on her taunting to notice the red wolf’s presence. I sat down, feeling the gaze of the rest of my pack watching the spectacle along with me. It was such a common occurrence, my red wolf punishing those who dared to mock me, that I never understood their interest.
How many times did Neo have to beat a wolf bloody before this stopped being fun for them?
Only the moon knew the answer, and she never seemed willing to part with it. She just shed rays on us, watching with her usual serene grace as Neo pinned the grey wolf by her neck after a struggle filled with flying blood and fur- all hers. She scrabbled at the ground desperately, but nothing could free her from the red wolf’s grip.
The grey wolf let out a high-pitched yelp when Neo locked his jaws around her neck. If he’d truly meant to harm her, he would have been able to crush her throat in the moment and it would have been the end of that irritating grey wolf. He simply held her in place until she stopped struggling instead. It was a show of dominance, and with his powerful jaws putting pressure on the grey wolf’s neck, it was only a matter of time before she gave up. Laying still but for the heaving pants which shook her body, the grey wolf surrendered herself to Neo.
A low, rumbling growl left his throat, and he shook his head- a mild motion, with none of the violence one would see if a wolf were shaking its prey with an aim for killing it, it was more reproach than anything. He released her after that and took a few steps back to sit himself right next to me. Neo was much larger, nearly twice my size; I small for a wolf, and he the ridiculous size of a child of the stars, and it made me look like a pup next to him. Especially when his tail curled around my haunches protectively.
The grey wolf got to her feet, stumbling slightly as she recovered from the disorientation that came after having your oxygen supply cut of. Blood marred her mottled grey fur in several places, and she favored her front left paw- but she was still alive, and I could not say as much for the last wolf who had spurned me on a moon night. The fever hit Neo more strongly than most; I could hardly blame him for losing his temper on the man who had nearly assaulted me.
The grey wolf drew my attention back to the present when she snarled softly at me. Neo responded with a deep growl, and she bowed herself down at his feet, baring her neck to him. The red wolf turned his nose up, and I felt more than heard the disapproval from the rest of the pack; Neo had just shown that she was so far beneath him she wasn’t worth the trouble of dominating, and that particular grey wolf had the the kind of status which made that the highest insult possible. The fact that Neo did it for me only made it more so.
Unlike him, there wasn’t much more I could do to disgrace myself. Any other wolf would have been ostracized for slamming themselves into Neo as I did. My weight wasn’t much compared to his, but it was enough to catch his attention, especially after I nipped at his shoulder.
Neo tipped his head to look at me, blue-white eyes alight with curiosity. “Problem?”
I was overcome with smug pleasure for a moment; wolves had to know each other intimately to converse in such a way, and most were only able to do so with family members. Neo had told me on several occasions that I was the only one he could silently speak with. There wasn’t any way I could know that without feeling a little prideful. “You’re making them angry, jackass. You know who she is. Her father will make my life hell.”
“He can try.” There was a deep darkness under those words, which I had heard countless times. Neo was my protector, and I trusted him.
But there were times when even he couldn’t get in the way, and this was one of them. The grey wolf he was insulting was the daughter of the pack’s leading alpha. Its only alpha, at the moment. Even though he was a simple alpha, he had iron control over the pack, and it gave his daughter more power than she already had in her own right as an omega. It made her all but untouchable, no matter what my friend might think. Neo may have been a child of the stars, but he wasn’t old enough to have any say in the pack.
In just another year, however, I had a feeling things would dramatically change. As soon as Neo graduated college, the pack was his, and he wouldn’t put up with the shit they pulled.
Until then, my life would be much easier if Neo remembered they had every right to make me miserable. It wouldn’t be a change from the first twenty-two years of my life. I just didn’t want it getting any worse. “Please, Neo.”
“Fine.” He paired the word with a huff. Planting a paw on the grey wolf’s shoulder, he shifted away from me to put his mouth around her neck. Jaws loose, he had no intention of hurting her. The show of dominance was simply that- a show, and one which seemed to appease our packmates and allowed them to dissolve from where they had crowded around us.
The grey wolf was on her feet as soon as Neo let her go, giving me a haughty look before she disappeared after the others. I watched her go with exasperated defeat before I looked to Neo again. “Thanks for standing up for me, jerk.”
“Pleasure, as always. It warms my heart to see you so grateful.” Neo nipped at my ear, matching his teasing tone with his playful action.
I jumped back, falling into a playful crouch reminiscent of a puppy's: front paws pushed forward, rear in the air. Neo watched me with his eyes lit by amusement. He didn’t make a move even when I lunged for him, allowing me to tackle him and send us into a tumble over the forest floor.
There were disapproving eyes on us once more, but I cared far less when I was so caught up in our play fighting. We didn’t often allow ourselves to stoop so low as to roll around in the dirt together. I couldn’t remember a time we’d done it since we graduated high school. It was a bittersweet memory, a reminder that we would drift apart eventually. A memory I immediately forced to the back of my mind as I let out a playful growl from where I had ended with my back on the ground, Neo crouched over me.
He should have known better when I played submissive; of the many things I was around him, obedient never came into the picture. His nose was a breath away from my neck when I used my smaller form to my advantage, getting my rear legs up beneath him and kicking hard. Neo coughed a sound of pain as my paws shoved against his soft underbelly, and danced away from me before I could do it again.
I was on my feet the moment he let me free. Giving him a taunting snarl before I turned tail and ran for it. Neo’s excited, pleased howl rang through the air behind me, making a shiver of anticipation crawl through me. When he caught me, I was in a world of trouble- assuming, of course, he could catch up to me before dawn came and we all had to reclaim our human forms. And considering he’d never caught me in all of our years together?
I wouldn’t be seeing him again until school the next morning.