Rating: Some bad language and girlie flirting. Barely an R I'd say.
Disclaimer: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators," the characters, and situations depicted are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer Television, Alliance Atlantis, and CBS Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. This site is in no way affiliated with "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators," CBS, or any representatives of Jorja Fox or Marg Helgenberger. So there.
Note: The original character is this tale originally bore the name Shatterpath; I just stole it because it was cool. J Her new name was created for this story, but the character remains the same otherwise. This is based in the White Wolf game system. Do you have no idea what I'm talking about? You'll see…
It was a very strange crime scene.
And eerily familiar.
The young man was probably barely in his twenties and was dressed like every other club punk in Las Vegas. Dirty blonde hair, maybe five foot ten, and stiff with rigormortis. It was his death pose that was freaky, all of his limbs twisted in pain as though he had been hooked up to a power transformer. Warrick and I had combed the alley earlier and there was nothing here that could have carried that kind of voltage. So what had killed this young man? There was no blood, no wounds, no burn marks, nothing. It baffled me. Cases like this always bugged the hell out of me. On the other hand, I loved the mystery. The ache in my neck was getting unbearable, lancing up and down my upper spine. At times it felt like there was a dagger in my back it would get so bad. Had to be stress, because no doctor had ever found anything out of the ordinary.
“Nothing I can do here,” I murmured to myself and stood up to stretch out my muscles and rake my fingers through my tousled strawberry blonde hair. This scene was going nowhere until the coroner arrived. All I had to do was wait.
It was almost comedic, how it happened. Fate grabbed me and shook me like a rag doll before throwing me roughly to the pavement. While being a CSI afforded me the luxury of rarely being in immediate danger, there were always exceptions. That's why the big glock was hooked onto my belt. I scrambled desperately for the pistol as powerful hands grabbed me and tossed my poor body like a child's toy further down the length of dirty alley. Whatever was wrong with the guy that was suddenly looming over me, he was terrifying, with wickedly sharp fangs and glowing eyes. “Fuck!” I cried and managed to twist out of the way of his next grab. “Son of a bitch!”
Too much television, I decided internally, as the guy's eyes glowed like some kind of special effect. Luminescence, some banal part of my brain supplied oh-so-helpfully, as his thin lips peeled away from those evil fangs again. The bastard had to be on some kind of substance, to make his eyes glow like that, it's the only thing that made any sense. There was a sickening blur of movement, too fast for plain, mortal meat to follow, and the vampire was on me. Back in the days when I made my living by dancing for the masses, some nasty shit had happened to me. Too many drugs, too many men wanting more than I was willing to give. The druggie vampire was a flashback I really didn't need. He roared like an enraged animal from a horror movie and leapt on me. Knife-fire slashed down my back, and a boot caught me in the hip so hard that I was thankful that the blow had missed anything soft or easily broken. How the hell could I stop this guy through the pain and his inhuman strength and speed? Hurting and half-unconscious, there seemed no way I could survive this. As terror and pain began to pull darkness close, another player entered the scene.
I was dimly aware of something crunching to the dirty pavement and roaring like a pissed off tiger caught in a twister. A huge shadow was thrown across me and the vampire was ripped away by some irresistible force. Terrible bellowing and the wet sounds of tearing flesh echoed down the alley to mingle with the passing traffic. I'd never actually witnessed someone torn limb from limb, but that's sure as hell what it sounded like. Gore splattered across me, but I barely noticed. The ravaged body thumped to the pavement in counterpoint to a low growl that I felt more than heard.
Battered and half-unconscious from the pain, I prayed this was all a bad dream. Half delirious with pain, I didn't even realize the last the growling had stopped until soft footfalls approached my vulnerable body.
“Are you all right?”
Moaning softly, I tried to move, and was rewarded by agony flashing across my back and hip. This was bad, the internal, impassive scientist informed me calmly. Through the tears, I forced myself to look up at the owner of the low, feminine voice. Wow. Those were the most incredible eyes, shadow and storm and full of urgency and concern. Despite the fear and shock and pain, I felt myself smile faintly at my unexpected companion. Sharp Viking features and unkempt hair the color of overripe wheat, framed the pale gray eyes. Deep and deliberate scarifications in a shape reminiscent of a cloud across a full moon were mirrored on both cheeks. Five faint parallel scars ran the entire length of the left side of the strange woman's face and when she smiled gently, it pulled against the tight, jagged lines. When she leaned way into my dance space, I tried to warn her off. “Don't…”
“Relax, I can take your pain away,” she purred softly and sent a shiver down my spine. “It won't last for long, but we're not safe here. They often hunt in packs.” As her breath drifted over my cheeks, the pain did indeed begin to fade. It had to be adrenaline and endorphins… but then why did the stranger's face tighten up in pain? Every time the strange woman inhaled, more of the agony flowed from my body. It was a little disturbing. Under that otherworldly silver stare, I felt like I was being examined from the inside out. They really were silver, like finely aged jewelry and my delirious mind realized that they didn't match. One was a combination of shades that made up the end color… the left one, in the center of the horrific facial scars, was a flat metallic that was unnatural. With a sudden, brisk nod that was almost canine in its delivery, the stranger hauled me unceremoniously onto shaking legs before twisting around to hoist me onto her back. Startled by the close proximity of the lanky, muscled body, I was too damn sore to do anything but drape my heavy limbs over her muscled body. “Hang on… tight as you can. It's our only chance.”
With the powerful uncoiling of dense muscles, the blonde woman was on the fire escape and climbing as though there was far less than the usual two percent genetic difference between her and the great apes. Wincing, I let the adrenaline bring fake energy to my limbs and held on for dear life. On the roof, the scarred woman padded over the irregular surface with the natural ease of a born predator. The four legged variety, not the human kind. There was something eerie yet comforting about the feral body language. She paused at the long drop to the street below and pulled my legs up tighter against her hips. We were four stories up here, and the press of rush hour traffic below was like watching ants. A chilly winter wind whistled across the Las Vegas rooftops and I shivered reflexively. “Now what?” I asked softly, figuring that I must be in shock to feel no alarm over being manhandled by this complete stranger. The Viking woman gave a snort of dry amusement and suddenly stiffened and turned half around. The hairs on my neck stood on end as senses well attuned to unseen danger and detail screamed in warning.
“They're coming, I can smell them. Close your eyes,” the pale-haired woman growled like an animal. “And whatever you do…” The voice became an inhuman rumble as the body beneath me began to swell impossibly. “Don't let go.”
Some animal instinct made me choke back fear and alarm as the body beneath me began to change like something from a science fiction movie. Heavy fur rippled over transforming bones and flesh and inhumanly thick muscles coiled like industrial cabling beneath the emerging animal pelt.
“Oh fuck,” was all I could choke out before the creature carrying me turned to charge back the way they had just come. “What are you doing?!” It pulled a hairpin turn tight enough that I was forced to squeeze down with all my strength and ignore the protests of my damaged body. Something roared at us as we hairpin turned and shot away from the flash of glowing red eyes in the near dark. She grunted with every stride, the roof of the large building covered in only four enormous bounds. I'd grown up around horses at the Montana ranch where I had grown up. I was a damn good rider and remembered the sensations clearly of riding the big equines. This sensation was nothing like it. Some long-dormant memory of riding my dogs as a kid surfaced and I realized that my odd steed felt exactly like that, only super-sized. It was like clinging to a force of nature.
I suddenly realized we were running out of roof, even as the beast-woman reached the edge of the building and uncoiled like a missile. The analytical part of my brain raged at the knowledge of how far it was to the next building, remembered the four lanes of traffic below, panicked at how utterly impossible this was. Cold air howled past me as the beast stretched full length, densely solid body preparing for what was surely going to be a deadly landing. The impact was better and worse than I expected, as I was crushed down against the furry frame I rode. Squeaky pain escaped me and there was a 'whuff' of escaping air from enormous lungs beneath me. The unmistakable sound of industrial-grade damage to the building we landed on shattered the night air and the beast coiled up again to continue her mad dash for safety. Almost without pause, the creature ran with alarming speed from rooftop to rooftop, leaping huge distances as she went. Waiting for the nightmare to end, I held on for dear life and prayed to whatever deity was listening.
There was no concept of time passing, only cold and pain and the massive creature carrying me to some unknown destination. Suddenly she, it, stopped and before I could think about the consequences, I had let go and tumbled to the cold roof tiles. She stopped and began to turn and for endless, brief moments, I was witness to the impossible. Oddly enough, I first took note of the beauty of my strange hero, before realizing just how massive she really was. Even hunched over in a semi-four legged position, she must have been nearly eight feet tall. Silver-gray fur covered the elegant wolf head and flowed over the enormous body. Torso like the buffest of superheroes and canted legs like the predator she so obviously was. Time seemed to hover for an eternity as we regarded each other in the false silence. It occurred to me that she should be afraid, but she instead could feel only awe and curiously. Snow began to drift through the air, as time seemed to return to normal. The creature completed her turn and loomed hugely over me, head cocked in curiosity, ears erect in unspoken question. Damn, it was weird to see the canine body language coupled with obvious, sentient intelligence. My half-numb body was aching where I had been damaged first by my attacker and now by the tumble the roof.
“Thank you,” I heard myself whisper. “For saving my life.”
It, she, for this was most definitely an elegant she-wolf, seemed startled by the words and reached for me with hands as big as my torso. Shock and cold were taking their toll, and welcoming darkness at last closed in.
Warm smells of chicken and vegetables coaxed me back to the land of the living and away from dreams of fanged undead and angels wearing the fur of wolves. Even before fully awake, I knew I was somewhere unfamiliar and that just might be a bad thing. So my waking moan transferred into a sleepy sigh and I settled onto my back to take stock as best I could. There was a fire nearby; it's warmth and flicker playing over me. Someone or something was making small noises nearby that might have been a spoon stirring inside an aluminum pot. The nest of thick piles of cloth beneath me smelled stale and second-hand, like a Salvation Army store. My ribs were wrapped, bulky bandages cushioning the long scratches in my back. Same for the aching hip, and small bandages were stuck to my skin in various places.
“Hello again,” that sexy voice greeted me softly. She was far closer than I would have thought.
“God, you're quiet,” I groused half-heartedly and dared open my eyes. There was a tingle across my nerves as I met the shadowed gray eyes. Up close, the scarred smile no longer looked like a sneer. Then the big mug in her hands distracted me and my mouth started watering. “That's coffee?” Crap, I sounded pathetic. Her grin deepened and a strong hand helped me half sit up. I moaned and took stock of the awakened pains.
“Not as bad as you expected?”
“Yeah, actually. I thought for sure that guy broke my hip.” Some indefinable expression flitted through her fantastic eyes at my comment and something that was almost alarm blipped across my radar. “What is it?”
Her head cocked off to the left and I was struck by the memory of the she-wolf doing the exact same thing. Then I realized that the eyes were the same, and the scars on her face that traced through the heavy gray fur I felt earlier. “What are you?”
“Frankly, Officer Willows, you wouldn't believe me if I told you.”
I didn't believe what my mind and heart were telling me, not to mention the body memories. So I dropped the matter for the time being, as the coffee was warm and flavorful. There was some kind of numbing salve beneath the bandages covering my scratched up palms. A black sport jacket was pulled over the gray tank top the strange woman wore and she was all golden leg when she stood to return to the fire. Knee-high gray moccasins cradled her feet and the draping loincloth had symbols drawn on it that were reminiscent of the marks on her face. The long hair was drawn back in a ponytail away from her striking northern European features. We had definitely never met, because she was unforgettable.
“So,” the woman said in her clear, smoky voice. “Officer Willows, is it every day you come face to face with something like that vampire?” There was an underlying tension in her voice that was reflected in her expression when she turned back with food in her hands.
“Or something like you?” I smart-mouthed despite my early promise not to deal with the unreality of the situation and received a sharp glance. Good thing that wasn't a truly threatening glare or fear might have paralyzed me. She was scary and reassuring all in one package. Then she sighed, another distinctly canine sound, and looked back to the little fire.
“Yes. Or something like me.”
“Not really. Though that crazy gondolier attacking people by the Venetian's riverfront was pretty wild. We thought he was dead, but he was a pretty frisky corpse. Amazing what the human body is capable of.”
She grinned at me, the gesture distinct and awkwardly crooked because of the scarring. It was strangely endearing and made her adorable. Okay, time for me to shut the hell up and get out of 'hey-they're-cute-let's-act-like-an-idiot' mode.
My wallet and gun and clothing were stacked neatly beside the fire, and when I glanced down, I was dressed in warm, faded flannels. A shallow bowl of stew was placed in my wounded hands and I caught my strange companion with an intent look.
“You have my name, what do I call you?” Indecision made the proud features darken as the gray eyes turned inward. I knew exactly how she felt and the surge of empathy didn't surprise me as much as it probably should have. So I carefully balanced my food and reached out to put a hand on her arm. The flesh was reassuringly smooth and normal on my undamaged fingers. “I'd like to be able to thank you properly.”
Nervously, like a cornered animal, the silver eyes flickered from my face to my invading limb and back again.
And with that quiet word, she turned to the fire to brood. It was an odd name, but it somehow suited her. It was obvious that there would be no more discussion from the strange woman, so I was a good guest and ate the thin vegetable stew given to me. Before I could figure out a way to ask more questions, I found myself setting aside the empty dishes and giving in to the healing urge to sleep again. Where all of my paranoid self-preservation skills were was a mystery.
Wakefulness returned on prickly cat feet that danced down my spine. When my eyes snapped open they confirmed what the ears had already told me. The room was empty. There was nothing but glowing embers and the smell of coffee. There was a definite sense of loss at the absence of the gray beast-woman. Perhaps I wasn't meant to hear what had to be a fascinating story. Wearily, I stretched and was astonished that so little pain echoed across my nerves. Weird. It was fantastic, considering how shitty I'd felt earlier, but weird nonetheless. Gingerly, I went to my things and gathered them in preparation to get the fuck outta dodge. Then a door slammed somewhere nearby and my half-honed cop reflexes kicked in. I was in some kind of dim warehouse space, tucked back deep behind masses of mismatched storage boxes and packages. There was no way out but over the piles of crap. So I shoved the glock into the chest pocket of the flannel jammies and prayed it would stay put. There was a battered packing crate nearly the size of a compact car that had just enough space on the top for me to squirm my body into it. Almost inaudible footfalls approached and suddenly Greytrail ducked through the steep piles of stuff that surrounded this space. She looked mildly surprised at the pistol aimed at her head and I sighed in relief.
“Nice to see you up,” Greytrail drawled sarcastically without ever turning her eyes to the threatening pistol. Instantly, I snorted in frustration and amusement and let the pistol dangle between my loose hands.
“You shouldn't be sneakin' up on cops, even if I'm only a CSI.”
“You're right of course. My apologies,” Greytrail sighed with a funny combination of patience and aggravation. “Come down here.” Like helping a small child, or a freaked out cat, Greytrail reached up to effortlessly ease my body down from my hiding spot. There was a certain thrill at being so expertly and gently manhandled, so to speak. Not once did she make any attempt to touch the gun, for which I was intensely grateful. There was water beaded on the cowboy-style duster and her hair was soaked. “I brought you a paper and some fast food, here.” She handed over a greasy paper sack and flicked back the edges of her long duster. I swallowed surprise and trepidation at the malevolent shape of a matte-black military grade shotgun. It was negligently leaned up against a pile of dusty crates and Greytrail shrugged off the coat. “How are you feeling?”
“Far better than I think I should. How are you? I notice that you're soaked.” That earned a slightly startled look and a shrug while she carefully set up a little space heater to warm up my chilly toes. Then she grabbed a foot and pulled on a thick sock while she spoke.
“It's raining. Every Leech in the city seems to be looking for you. And there are more of them then you'd think to track down a single CSI. There you go, the heater's running now. Be careful or I'll be warning you that your socks are on fire.” The lopsided grin again and I found myself smiling back. “I was a cop for many years. I don't underestimate anyone that works for or against the badge. Are you good?”
“Sweetie,” I chuckled in delight at her compliments, flattery and her warm touch on my feet. “I am the best.”
Laughter faded to an easy silence as we contemplated how this relationship was going to affect both our lives. We both obviously had secrets and obligations, but were mutually curious. I poured more coffee while struggling with my thoughts. Then, the very otherworldliness of my companion gave me the courage to break the rules and I began to speak softly.
“I think I've seen corpses like that before, but it's hazy. Like a reoccurring dream. The rest of the blue line would think I'm nuts.”
“That's the idea, I'm afraid.”
“Are there more like you?” I blurted out before I could think. For long moments Greytrail did not reply. Then she nodded tightly. “So that's one thing I didn't know about the world around me. I wonder what else I've missed.”
“Plenty, I can assure you. My kind, as well as the Leeches, have defenses that science can't explain. Perhaps that's why you're missing some of the puzzle pieces.” A sharp silver stare stopped my next question. There was fear and respect and need dancing in those pale depths. “I want to trust you,” Greytrail whispered urgently. “But we both have much to lose.”
For long moments we watched one another silently. There was something about her that tugged at the deepest needs in me. The terrifying and intoxicating blend of humanity and animalism was irresistible. I needed her; I knew that deep down, even as I struggled with the idea of needing anybody. Greytrail broke the staring contest by reaching for the fast-food bag.
“Chicken or beef? I have no preference.”
“Beef,” I responded mechanically and sank into the nest of second-hand clothes and bedding again. A cheeseburger was handed to me and I peeked into the bags that Greytrail removed from her coat. In them were various things: food, vitamins, and most importantly, my missing cellular phone. Unfortunately, the battery was dead and I was beginning to wonder how much time had passed. Were Lindsey and the rest of the team beginning to wonder where I was? Were the police looking for me? “It was left where the Leech attacked you. A half dozen of them jumped me, but I slipped away. We need to move you and soon. I took half the day covering my tracks, but they'll find a way to track one of us eventually. A friend of mine will be here to pick us up soon. We only have a couple of hours until darkness.”
With that explanation, Greytrail began to rustle about the storeroom. Things were shoved into a few bags, other things kicked over to scatter their contents across the floor.
“Leaving less of a trail for them to follow?”
“Exactly. Got everything you need? Good. Just a few modifications and no one will ever recognize either of us easily. Luckily, we're surrounded by disguises and it's cold outside, so we can bundle up.”
“Well, this is a first. I've never been undercover.”
“Not much call for it I suppose, in your line of work. Consider this one of your weirder cases.”
I chuckled around the last mouthful of burger and scrounged into the pile of clothes that were no longer to be my bed. A scruffy overshirt and even scruffier jacket ensured that I was just another of the faceless masses. Greytrail pulled her hair up under a fedora while I went for a yellow knit cap to cover my strawberry blonde mane. Some hugely noisy car pulled up outside and honked.
“Come on, that's our ride. Just remember to be nice.”
Sore and creaky, I was forced to awkwardly clamber through the storeroom and duck walk down the dim hall and stairs. The areas of the building we walked through were in worse shape than the old second-hand shop. Greytrail gently offered a sack of things to a worn-out bum at the base of the stairs before warning him he might not want to be here this night. Wearily, he thanked her and shuffled into the pouring rain. Both of us watched him vanish into the fading evening before the horn sounded again.
“Yo baby! C'mon! Never thought it'd rain so fuckin' hard in goddamn Vegas.”
The owner of the sloppy, New York accent stood a solid seven-foot tall and seemed indifferent to the weather. Our ride was a battered station wagon that must be some kind of war movie relic. It had as much stuff crammed into it as the building we just vacated.
“Digger,” Greytrail greeted the huge man in a carefully diplomatic and no-nonsense tone. He was every inch the mafia leg-breaker. Right down to the greasy haircut. “Meet Red.”
“Hey! Pleased to meet'cha Red. Any friend of Grey's.”
“Likewise,” I murmured and was relieved that the bulk of the car prevented me from having to shake his enormous, filthy hand. I'd dealt with some disgusting characters in my time, but this guy was that and dangerous to boot. Greytrail smirked as she climbed into the car and gestured me in behind her. Twisting her body sinuously, she yanked the door shut to block out any more rain from coming down to drip on us. We were so close our noses almost touched and taste her breath.
“Hell of a poker face you've got,” she purred softly and my hormones hummed eagerly. Digger was so broad that he took up the bulk of the bench seat and left Greytrail pressed tightly into me. Looking into those pewter eyes, I could see only the enormous she-wolf that had loomed over me on the roof yesterday. Frightening and yet oddly comforting, Greytrail's human smile warmed me like little else had in far to long.
“Comes with the job.”
With a chuckle, Greytrail settled herself by muscling Digger over a few inches and draped a negligent arm around me. Digger kept up a steady patter of leering compliments and remarkably astute insights into the bustling city around us. It was odd to have a stranger, obviously new to my home, be so accurate about it's beat. It was strange but wonderful to have Greytrail's arm holding me lightly to that strong body. Finally, we entered a district that looked as though it had seen better days, and was beginning to again. I was wracking my brain for a memory of where the hell I was as Greytrail's animal magnetism had utterly distracted me.
“Here ya go, ladies. Tell Mike I'll go check the patrols on the west side, willya?”
“You got it, Digger. Thanks for the ride.”
“Hey, it's no problem. Good luck, Red. Always nice to meet new kinfolk, ya know?” He leered greasily, and I was again thankful for Greytrail's bulk between us.
“Ummm, thanks,” I hedged awkwardly and climbed out with Greytrail right on my heels. With a smoky roar, Digger's car vanished into the pounding rain and we were alone. Greytrail turned to the building behind us and glanced up it's corrugated metal face.
“Sorry I don't have better accommodations than this, but at least it'll be safe for now.” Again Greytrail flashed that smile and I knew I was well on the way to being smitten. In the big industrial door was a smaller door that was rusted and well worn. Soon it opened only enough for a suspicious eye to peek out.
“Hey Mike. She followed me home, can I keep her?”
“Very funny. Come on in.”
This man was everything Digger was not, except for the dark hair. Average height, sharp, well spoken, clean cut, and his body language screamed 'cop'. Hell if I knew if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Inside the door was a huge garage with a beautiful old muscle car gleaming in the half-lighting alongside an enormous RV.
Mike's blue eyes were as piercing as Greytrail's, even in the florescent lights. There seemed nothing in common between his cool alertness, my escort's predatory calm and Digger's leering competence. Unless…
Unless they were all werewolves. What a scary thought. I squinted at him as though trying to figure out a complicated and dangerous puzzle. The stare was returned impassively. There was little of the feral otherworldliness to him, unlike the woman by my side. Then he grinned suddenly and offered a hand. “You ever thought about being an actress? You have a hell of a poker face. I'm Mike Sullivan, pleased to meet you.”
“Catherine Willows,” I replied, startled that it never occurred to me to tell him anything but the truth.
“I pulled one of the Don's Leeches off her yesterday,” Greytrail mused as she shrugged out of her coat and tossed it over the ladder on the back of the RV. “Now it seems every damn bloodsucker from the Arctic Circle to the Florida Keys wants her hide.”
Blue eyes regarded me steadily for a moment before he returned his attention to Greytrail. “Is this a good idea to bring her here?”
“Gaia, I hope so. It's a little late now to worry about it.”
“Either that or she's immune to the Delirium by some other means. Not a moment of undeserved panic from our guest during this whole episode of the Twilight Zone.”
“Seen the Crinos?”
I suppose I should be annoyed that they were nonchalantly discussing me like some lab specimen and sighed heavily.
“Miss Willows?” Mike addressed me politely and I winced. “I sincerely hope we can we trust you. There are few opinions I hold in higher esteem than Grey's. Oh, and Grey? The cat's in the oven again. I have no idea what the hell he finds so fascinating in there.”
And with that he turned away and headed for a metal staircase on the far end of the big garage.
“Goofy cat,” Grey mused absently, but I could tell that she was still concerned.
“Greytrail, I'm beginning to piece together what the hell's going on, but I promise not to betray any confidences.”
For an endless moment those unearthly eyes searched deep into my unflinching gaze. It felt as though my very soul were on trial. Then Greytrail made a very wolf-like head gesture and the silver gaze softened. “Come in where it's warmer.”
The climb up the stairs sent my battered body into a fit of aches that left me shaken by the time I reached the top. Then just as suddenly the worst of the pain drained away again but left me feeling oddly hollow. Like I hadn't eaten in too long, or had too many days amped up on caffeine and adrenaline.
“I don't know. Maybe I was battered up worse than I thought.”
“We'll have Mike take a look at you.”
This was obviously a converted industrial building of some sort. It was barely fit for human habitation on the second floor. A break room of some sort had been converted to a rude kitchen, a large office space into rough barracks separated by cubicle walls. A beautiful gray tabby cat the size of medium dog entered the hallway we were following Mike down when the damnest thing happened. The big cat froze in its tracks and hissed threateningly at the group of us. I never saw it coming. Greytrail whipped around and swelled up into the humanoid wolf form I remembered from the roof. Before I could so much as squawk in surprise, I was grabbed in an abrupt bear hug that completely cut off any movement from the hips up.
“Hey! What the hell!”
“Are you sure?”
Fear was pounding in my veins and I struggled violently in Greytrail's rock-hard grip. Mike pulled off my hat and I felt my hair tumble out. “Dammit, get off me!”
“Where? Ask Caller, I don't know where it is,” Mike was sounding desperate and I knew exactly how he felt. His strong hands firmly tilted my head to the side even as I continued to struggle. Mike was running his fingers over the nape of my neck and down my spine. “Is he sure?” Mike questioned, then his fingers drifted lower, to the soft spot just above where shoulder blade lay closest to spine. It was as though Greytrail's growling was guiding him. When Mike prodded the spot deliberately, I froze at the disturbing sensation that was almost pain and almost pleasure. There was something hard and unyielding there beneath my skin and a new fear froze my struggling.
“Well Miss Willows, it seems you've been tagged somehow. We'll need to take a closer look as quickly as possible. Grey, this thing reeks of Wyrm taint.”
While I squirmed in protest, Greytrail effortlessly carried me back downstairs and to what I thought was the RV. Trapped, frightened and barely able to see, I finally cried out in terror, as there was the distinct sensation of a syringe pricking my skin. A mournful sound rumbled up from the creature holding me captive and darkness closed in before I could tell them to fuck off.
“Dare I ask?”
“Don't look at me, Grey brought her here. I can't imagine what the hell she's thinking. Do you know who this is?”
I slowly became aware of the deep, soulful voice talking with Mike. And, as I had done with Greytrail earlier, with deliberate care I kept my breathing even as wakefulness returned fully. There were restraints at strategic places holding me facedown to a chilly metal surface that I suspected was a metal exam table. Fear knotted my gut and sharpened up my perceptions.
“The Giovanni have been keeping tabs on her.”
“And she's a ghoul? Seems kinda overkill.”
“Yeah, well you know how dangerous those bastards are. What the hell was Grey thinking?”
Warm air smelling of someone's breath feathered across my face and I desperately tried not to cringe.
“You can open your eyes, I won't bite. Promise,” the deep voice coaxed gently. There was a long pause before I realized that playing asleep was a temporary fix at best. Might as well see how much trouble I was really in. It was like looking into the face of someone wearing a rubber horror mask. He was human enough looking to make the bestial cant to his face all the more startling. Hairless, albino, with features like a mutant Neanderthal, the milky third eye in the middle of his forehead seemed almost inane. But warm curiosity and affection shone freely from the colorless eyes tinted slightly purple.
“Pleased ta meet ya ma'am, I'm Jasper.”
His tone and expression was charming and open, standing in stark contrast to the terrifying visage. Suddenly Mike was releasing my legs, arms and torso.
“You're crazy to not wait too do this,” the dark man said quietly in a tight voice. “We don't know what she's capable of.”
“Quit being so homid Mike,” Greytrail's voice broke into the room as I sat up. “We all need answers.”
“Except for the scars, you're looking remarkably normal this evening,” I smart-mouthed sarcastically at the woman who had gone from rescuer to captor so suddenly. She looked damn good dressed casually in jeans and a white shirt. But I wasn't noticing goddammit, I wasn't. “You scare the fuck out of me and now you want to talk?”
Uncomfortably, Greytrail reached up to rub the back of her neck while Mike moved away. The blonde woman moved in close while her companions puttered about the inside of the RV, which was obviously some kind of sophisticated and portable laboratory. I knew half the equipment and it was expensive.
“Yesterday on that rooftop, I asked you to trust me. Now I need to know if I can trust you in return. We didn't harm you Catherine, I have no intention of harming you and my pack does as I say.”
Without conscious thought my eyes flickered over to the two men who were hovering over something on a counter. When the silvery eyes returned to me, they were soft and sincere. Warmth spread through me from hearing my name combined with that odd need to trust, despite what had happened. Greytrail was compelling in the animal way she combined ferocity with tenderness. So I gave into curiosity and reached up to touch the brutally scarred cheek. The puckered flesh had that odd hardness that was characteristic of scar tissue, and the flesh jumped and twitched minutely.
“This goes against every ounce of training and street smarts I've spent a lifetime learning, but yes, I trust you.”
Relief washed over Greytrail's face as Mike approached. “Good, because the Leeches tracking you was no accident. Look.” Held between Mike's fingers was a small, round stone that glittered darkly in the artificial lighting. There was something creepy and otherworldly about it and my hackles rose in response. It was the exact shape of the thing I had felt in when he had pressed into my back…
“It's a bloodstone. Vampires use them to track down their ghouls and I swear there's a thousand of them in this damn city. It's been some time, Miss Willows, since you've been entirely human yourself.”
Ghoul? What the hell was he talking about? Another of the werewolves, for that's all they could really be, stuck in its head with a growl. This one was a real beauty, clothed in silky patterned fur of midnight and silvery white. Crystalline blue eyes regarded me quizzically and huffed a question to Mike, who shrugged and handed her the bloodstone wrapped in dog kibble.
“Don't look at me, this is Grey's project. Did you get one? Good, give it this, then either convince it to run an obstacle course far from here, or just scare the hell out of it. Okay?”
The beast nodded smartly before leaving. Abruptly, I realized I was still lightly tracing the furrowed scars and self-consciously jerked my hand away. After clearing her throat, Greytrail leaned up against the exam table and finished explaining.
“That was Kynthia, she's going to feed that stone to a local stray dog so the vampires will track the wrong living thing all over Las Vegas. Hopefully they'll find the damn thing in a steaming pile of dog shit. That'll give 'em something to think about. But about the whole ghoul thing…”
There was a strange sensation of hunger deep in my gut like nothing I had experienced before. I felt tired and weak and somehow… less than what I had been only the day before. Clinging to my sense of self desperately against the pull of the hollow hunger, I eyed Greytrail levelly.
“Tell me more about this ghoul thing, I'm afraid the supernatural has never been my thing.”
“It what happens when a vampire gives some of its tainted blood to a human in order to obtain certain controls over them. It makes the human stronger and faster and more resilient. Do you still hurt from that beating yesterday? Can you feel the incision where we removed the bloodstone?”
While deeply terrified of Greytrail's questions and explanations, I did a deeper self-inventory and was forced to tell them the startling truth.
“No, not really. Just an odd sense of hunger.”
“That's the blood talking. Your body has to replace the stuff now that we've broken the bond that the vampire held over you. In a very short period of time, you're going to be merely human again. I'm afraid you're going to feel a physiological loss of the blood. We'll do what we can to make it easier.”
As though acknowledging the sharp hunger had made it more real, the sensation deepened and I winced. “Oh, this is not going to be fun. Grey? I need someone to get a message to my coworkers and make sure that my daughter is okay. She'll be getting worried about now. A couple days is the longest I'm usually away.”
“You've got a daughter?”
She was tense and concerned, but the imminent avalanche of withdrawal was looming over me like a tidal wave. “Yeah, her name is Lindsey. The other CSI's can take care of it, please Grey.”
A gentle finger hooked under my chin brought my face up to meet her soft gaze. “Your cub will not suffer Catherine, not while we can do something about it. Mike?”
“Find her and see if there's a way to get her here. As much as I hate the idea of trying to keep the Litany intact around a child, The Giovanni's will have no problem using her as bait. Catherine?”
“Do you think there is one of the other CSI's can handle meeting us? And that we can trust them?”
Did I? This whole situation was so unreal, going against everything that I had believed about the world around me. Werewolves and vampires and magic pebbles were the stuff of campfire stories and horror movies. Not my banal life. “Maybe Warrick. He's tough, savvy and may not laugh in your face when you tell him you're a werewolf.”
Calloused thumbs caressed my cheekbones when she cupped my face tenderly. “Jasper? Will you and Helaku go feel out her coworker? Be careful, there's no need to hit him with the Delirium. Kynthia can stay here to stand guard with Caller.”
“Okay, I'll tell her on our way out. C'mon Jasper.”
The men did as they were told, leaving us girls alone in the lab with the big gray cat. Again it stared at me with a piercing intelligence and I knew it was more than it appeared to be. “That's Caller, I assume?”
“Yes, he's my familiar spirit. He was the one that sensed the wrongness in you and led Mike to the bloodstone. Here, eat something.”
A heavy sandwich wrapped in while wax paper appeared out of the sack I hadn't even noticed in her hands. We sat quietly at the lab table and ate cold deli sandwiches full of meat and lettuce. Some of the hunger abated, but I could still feel it coiled deep inside like an angry rattlesnake.
“Lindsey's going to be afraid,” I whined half to myself, feeling sick, hollow and scared.
“Mike's actually very good with kids. She'll like him well enough.”
“But I taught her not to trust strangers.”
“Good idea. But she's never met a Garou.”
“Is that what you're called?”
“Yes. My kind are Garou.”
There was another long pause while my tiring brain tried to focus. It was bearing down on me like a freight train and I remembered the sensation from years ago when I cleaned up and got off the drugs. This was going to be ugly.
“Can I ask you a question, Greytrail?”
“You don't strike me as being nearly this open most of the time. More like a shy wolf.”
“Yeah well, I've never told a virtual stranger anything about my kind before. Especially not anyone in a position that can harm us.” There was another long silence before Greytrail spoke again. “So, any ideas of why a vampire would go to all the trouble to tag you with some very powerful juju?”
“Yeah, I have vague memories of seeing the vampires dead before.” Emotional pain welled up and I cleared my throat. “I think I've been destroying evidence for a long time. It's like I remember vivid dream images all the sudden.”
“Don't take it so hard, Catherine,” the gorgeous she-wolf smiled gently and I felt reassured again. “Any Leech with the power to create and use a bloodstone is going to be very old and very powerful. Some of the old ones are incredible survivors, some have had centuries or even millennia to hone that talent.” My look of skepticism earned a soft chuckle like rusty door hinges.
“You don't laugh much,” I pointed out and her humor deepened.
“No, I don't. Thank you, Catherine.” It was getting harder to resist the way her saying my name made me feel. This entire situation was insane and dangerous, and yet my damn hormones were perking up nicely at this exotic stranger. Real animal magnetism… Greytrail started talking again, but her tone was different, more strained like someone forced to go to therapy. “Before time, the Garou were tasked with protecting the world from corruption and watching over the humans. The vampires are one of our ancestral enemies because they're abominations to the order of life and death and most are corrupt. But there're always exceptions to the rule, just as there're corrupt Garou.”
“Garou, got it. All of you here are werewolves?”
“There are only five of us that mostly live here to form a loose pack, six now that Digger's joined us,” Greytrail grimaced and I found myself chuckling. “There are more of my kind that live here and I'm still debating on whether to introduce you. It's not like they won't know who you are soon enough, if they don't already.” Again fear trickled up my spine. As though sensing it, Greytrail raised her head and that fierceness was back in her expressive eyes. “None of them will harm you, I promise.”
“Thanks. It's a little freaky that there are local Garou that know me.”
“You've been under the sway of a powerful enemy. Despite the fact that many would have never found the stone and just flat out killed you. Your CSI team is how many?”
“You're not doing a good job of reassuring me.”
“I'm a realist and I know the Garou all to well. How many?”
“Five on the night shift. I think there are six on days.”
“Highly unlikely that the Leeches went to all the trouble of tagging more than one.”
“I'm all anyone needs,” I sassed in a self-depreciating tone and she chuckled again. It was as though she had figured out what the noise did to my hormones.
“It's not your fault.”
“Easy for you to say.”
Greytrail snorted in annoyed amusement and finished her sandwich.
“You seem to be taking this very calmly.”
“I figured pitching a fit at this point would be more than a little pointless. You'll need to help me come up with some bullshit excuse as to why I up and vanished.”
“We can come up with something.”
There was a long, heavy moment while I studied the pale eyes. Why the hell she inspired trust was beyond my comprehension. “You've gotten past all my cynicism and paranoia. I trust you.”
My statement was abrupt, but firm. It also rocked Greytrail back on her heels. After a long, heavy moment, she reached up and uncomfortably scrubbed her hand over the parallel scars tracing down the left side of her face.
“Well then, I suppose it's only fair to show you what I truly look like. Caller? Will you drop the illusion please?”
Immediately, the scars began to change. They deepened, becoming more jagged and furrowed and began to match the color of her odd eye. The long marks puckered up like a ragged mountain range, pulling the serious mouth into a permanent grimace. But it was the left eye, caught in the middle of those claw marks, which caught and held my attention. The black and white of the eye vanished to become a rounded silver surface that was almost mirrored. Where the pupil should be was a hypnotically swirling whirlpool that drew me in like a magnet to iron. It would be oh so easy to just fall into that swirling vortex. It wasn't until Greytrail stretched her jaw and blinked, that I could shake the hypnotic effect off. My alarm faded as I watched her ravaged and otherworldly face behaving exactly as it should. The banal reality of those tiny muscles behaving normally, coupled with the strangeness of that eye, was oddly grounding to me. So, I reached out and touched the ugly, furrowed scars as she yawned and showed off normal looking human teeth. It was humbling that this wild creature in a woman's body did not flinch away, even though her eyes were closed. They were warm and soft, with hard, rough mountain ranges of scar tissue just beneath the skin. The silvery marks running through the center of the claw marks felt the same as the pink flesh, except that they made my fingertips tingle. “You just get more and more interesting, Silver Face.”
Grey chortled and the cheek under my hand shifted into a smile. “Silver Face,” she snorted mockingly and rubbed against my caressing palm. With that nuzzle, Greytrail stood and gave me a loaded glance before reaching for the buttons on her jeans. The bolt of some visceral sensation that flashed through me was something I was wholly unwilling to put a name to. Bunched under the denim was the decorated loincloth and I tried to force myself not to notice the naked arch of her hips on either side of the raw cotton. While she stripped down to the strange clothes I had met her in, Greytrail began to tell me about her kind.
“There are five forms we can take. This of course is our Homid form where we appear completely human, then the Glabro, which Jasper was wearing earlier. You've also seen the Crinos, our war form, the best mix of human and wolf. After that is Hispo, the dire wolf, which you rode across the rooftops yesterday, and lastly is Lupus, the true wolf. I won't be able to understand much of what you say the closer I get to the wolf, but my animal senses will be much keener. Ready?”
Nervous and fascinated, I nodded and avidly watched the process begin. With a silent ripple of change like those badass CGI morphing programs, Greytrail's body began to stretch and fill out to comic book hero proportions. Her features took on an animalistic Neanderthal aspect; the long hair became shorter and wirier. The clothes adapted to fit her new proportions perfectly and I suddenly understood why she had ditched the outer clothes. “The tanktop and loincloth are… I dunno, bonded to you somehow, right?” Greytrail nodded and I was proud of myself for figuring it out. One hugely muscled arm gestured and when she spoke her voice had grown impossibly deep.
Then she began changing again and I remembered the sensation of that emerging gray fur against my body. Greytrail's body swelled impossibly tall and broad she grew until she towered nearly twice my height and half that wide across the shoulders. The clothes had vanished into the heavy pelt like magic, no evidence of them showing on the hairless, scarred length of pale skin along her left side. Various criss-crossed scars decorated her chest and belly, the marks on her face running nearly to her sternum. Again the analytical CSI in me took over and I took a good, long look at the amazing creature standing there. From neck to hip she was built like an impossibly buff human covered in luxurious fur. The legs were canted like a wolf's; all her weight resting on enormous paws the size of large dinner plates. A heavy brush tail twitched behind her, doing its job of balancing the enormous body. The hands were also very much human shaped, with wickedly sharp claws the length of my hands curling from the ends of the fingers. Feeling brave, I stepped in close to trace the shape of ribs just beneath the thin skin on the left side. Greytrail flinched and made a small doggy sound, but let allowed me to explore. The ribs had been broken once, their normal bow shape knobby and slightly twisted beneath the warm hide. Fascinated, I pressed both of my hands flat against her body heat, and slowly ran them over the peach fuzz nakedness and into thick, puppy-soft belly fur. As a ranch kid, I'd always had dogs. Greytrail felt exactly the same, as my touch wandered over her right side where the fur grew thick and wiry. She shifted restlessly as though tickled and the unnaturally powerful muscles rippled against my hands. It was the strangest and most exhilarating fucking thing I had ever experienced. This supernatural creature was real, as real as the small freckles on the back of my hands and the heart pounding in my chest. This beast woman was authentic and stood patiently while she was touched with wonder. I glanced up to see that the noble wolf's head was cocked curiously so Greytrail could watch me touch her.
“You really are gorgeous, did you know that?”
Very human surprise ghosted across the animal face and Grey stepped away only far enough to drop to all fours. Eye to eye now, the massive muzzle hesitantly moved into my personal space to sniff delicately. Barely touching me with that damp nose and stiff whiskers, Greytrail sniffed me over carefully, I was assuming to learn my unique scent. We would never again be strangers. Again I touched, this time the noble face, the silky, erect ears, the thick ruff protecting the vulnerable throat. Eventually, there was another ripple of change across Greytrail's body, as she became the dire wolf. There was not so much a change of size, but proportions, her body taking on a true four-legged appearance and her head becoming heavier and wilder. The jaws alone were the length of my entire lower arm and she could not imagine what kind of teeth were hidden under the whiskers. After a long minute, Greytrail began to collapse in on herself, becoming a much smaller, sleeker version of the Hispo. Just like an enormous dog she cocked her head quizzically at me and twitched her curled tail in a semblance of a wag.
Some forgotten memory surfaced deep in my mind. Perhaps some nature show on wolf behavior I had watched at some point during my life. There was a tension in Greytrail that had become more apparent the closer she had drawn to this true canine form. Without making any sudden moves, I crouched and ducked my head below the level of the fine muzzle. The wolf did not completely trust me yet and there was only one way to earn that trust. Making a small whine of supplication, I ran my head under Greytrail's jaws and hunkered down even lower on hands and knees. There was frank astonishment reflected in the normal gray eye as the wolf looked down at my cowering human body. A big paw came up to unceremoniously sprawl me onto my back with a startled 'wuff'. It was like a solid punch to the ribs.
“Gently, stud. You're much stronger… than me…”
My voice trailed away as Greytrail straddled my small body and lowered her head to show murderously sharp fangs. Without conscious volition I grabbed the ruff and realized just how strong the Garou really were. A low growl tangled my stomach into knots and shortened my breath. But earlier I said trusted her and I reached within myself to find strength there. Against every intelligent instinct in my mind, I turned my head and closed my eyes. Never in my life had I been so aware of the lifeblood pounding fiercely through the thick arteries in my neck. Never in my life had I been so afraid and so exhilarated as when Greytrail took the soft skin of my throat in those mighty jaws with a gentleness that froze me. There was a harsh growl from the wolf and then a wet tongue was slobbering across my face. Terror and trust melted into acceptance and tenderness as I laughed and Greytrail whined playfully.
Hugging the proud head to my chest, there on the cold cement floor, I knew I had found something truly unique. Nothing would ever be the same.
It was the sharp pang of that unnatural hunger that woke me from a blissfully deep sleep. Moaning softly I burrowed into the furry body keeping me warm and tried to fall back into the beckoning darkness. When my bedmate sighed heavily, I felt the press of the movement against belly, chest, abdomen and the warm rush of air across my forehead. Abruptly, my last waking moments came back to me and opened my eyes to look into Greytrail's lupine features. Not a dream then. I really was with a werewolf and I really did have vampire blood running through my veins. The wolf was looking at me oddly and pressing her weight heavily into my body.
“Ease up Grey, I'm not going to do anything.”
She looked at me closely with that swirling eye before relaxing the pressure on my prone body. Guess I'd been thrashing around in my sleep. How Greytrail had managed to keep both our bodies on the thinly padded RV couch was beyond me. Again the wolf sighed and rested her head on her paws. I knew that dogs, the wolves' domesticated kin, were expressive, but not this expressive. Must be a product of her dual nature, the human within the beast. Too many questions ran around my mind and I had no one to ask. With my own sigh, I curled more closely into the wolf and buried my face in the heavy ruff.
When a solid knock echoed through the lab, Greytrail was rolling off the couch and swelling into Crinos so fast that I was left blinking in surprise. Caller peeked out from the RV's oven and gave the Garou a long-suffering look that actually made me grin in amusement. Jasper peeked his head in, looking exactly the same as I'd met him.
“Good, everyone's still alive and kicking. Want some company?” Greytrail rumbled something even as Jasper ducked around her and bounced over to me. “Hi, feeling better? Mike says you gotta be kinfolk, 'cause you don't get the Delirium. Wow, are you really a crime scene investigator? Neat. Are you hungry? We don't have a lotta food, but I'm sure we could feed you.”
He finally paused for breath long enough for I to wave him down.
“Whoa, slow down Jasper. Kinfolk? Delirium? I don't understand.”
“More Garou terminology,” Greytrail said and they looked over to see her human self again. It was a bit of a shock to think this was the same wolf that had warmed her only a minute before. “Kinfolk are the direct blood relatives of the Garou that didn't get the gene or the magic that makes us what we are. The Delirium is an instinctual fear response that most humans experience when faced with the Crinos form.”
“I can certainly understand that.”
“No, you don't understand. You don't suffer from it. The Delirium makes humans forget they ever saw us, and repeated exposure will drive them completely insane. It's one of the things that's helped keep us hidden all this time. The human mind can justify anything.”
With a deep chuckle Jasper took up the thread of the tale.
“All those stories of the yeti and bigfoot and beastmen hunting in the sewers? Whole bunches of those urban legends are products of the Delirium! Cool huh? There's other stuff we can do too.”
“Here Catherine, I'll show you.”
In Greytrail's hands was a gnarled stick that looked as though it had been picked up in a dirty alleyway somewhere. As I watched, the stick began to ripple as though alive, changing its shape to some other purpose. Soon it was straight and sharp and deadly looking in the woman's hands. Expertly she hefted it and hurled it across the room to imbed it in a wooden cabinet. I gaped and Jasper laughed.
“Mike's gonna spaz over that hole.”
“He'll deal. That's a Gift I learned not long ago from an odd little man in central park. It's called Reshape Object. Jasper? How about Create Element?”
“Hey,” the young man objected. “That costs Gnosis!”
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
There was a long, awkward moment before I tentatively spoke up. “Know sis?”
“Mystical energy,” Grey explained almost absently as she pondered how best to show off what the Garou were capable of. “Changelings call it Glamour, Mages call it Quintessence. We call it Gnosis. Same stuff, different applications.”
“Mages? Changelings? You mean to tell me there's more than werewolves and vampires?”
Both Grey and Jasper grinned at me. “Jeez Cath, after all we've shown you I'm surprised that you're surprised.”
Jasper didn't sound angry or condescending, merely taken aback. I suppose that he had a good point, but really... All of my carefully constructed notions about the world around me were being rapidly shredded apart by these beings of wolf and man.
“It's not every day that I have my perception of reality so drastically altered.”
“You're right. I'm sorry.”
“No offense taken.”
Again there was a long pause that I found myself filling. “You said I was kinfolk? But how could that be? If I don't suffer from this Delirium, wouldn't I have noticed that I had a werewolf relative?”
“Perhaps,” Grey chimed in with a low, intense tone. “But, Catherine, a few years ago you would have denied with every fiber of your being that vampires exist. And only a few days ago you were oblivious of our kind. What else might have been missed?”
A creepy, horror-movie, icky-thing-ready-to-jump-out-at-you feeling chilled down my spine and I looked inside myself. I looked at all of my accumulated knowledge and experience and realized that everything my angel wolf had just said was absolutely true. Swallowing my dismay, I looked at the two Garou and nodded quietly. Things were only going to get weirder from here on out. Greytrail sat beside me and pulled me into a strong hug even as I felt the withdrawal shakes approaching again. “You will survive this Catherine Willows. I feel the strength in you. I want you to know that Lindsey is here and safe. She's keeping Mike's daughter company upstairs. Warrick has already been here and gone. It's complicated, but we're doing our best. I'll be right here to help you through this, just be strong.”
Knowing that Lindsey was safe was enough to allow me to focus on my own safety and sanity now. There were still some terrifying twists and turns on this roller coaster and I was not looking forward to it.
I woke suddenly in the near dark of my new home and realized that I felt wonderfully, blissfully… human. At last the painful, knotting hunger had released its hold on my guts and muscles and brain and I luxuriated in the sense of being in control of myself. I felt so different that I had to wonder just how long I had been carrying around that damn bloodstone. As had become our custom, I was once again wrapped around Greytrail's lupine bulk, as much for comfort as warmth. Much of my recent history was a disjointed blur of impressions and sensations. The withdrawal symptoms had reduced my higher brain functions into so much gibberish. But through all of it, the gray wolf woman had been no more than a few feet away. When I wrapped arms around her neck and squeezed fiercely, Grey woke with a canine grumble. An almost giddy sound of humor bubbled up out of me and that caught the wolf's attention. There was relief and amusement tin her eyes as I growled playfully and used my lesser weight to push the big canine onto her back and straddle her. Head canted to one side to watch quizzically, Grey allowed me the familiarity. Then her nostrils flared to test my changed scent and thick forelegs loosely pinned my unresisting body in place. There were a series of small grunts and whines as Grey snuffled through my hair and licked my face. Then the body beneath began to swell, pressing me off the floor. Soon Greytrail had collapsed back in on herself and I smiled into her human face.
“Good morning,” she whispered in a loving tone and watched the gray eyes crinkle in a smile. “You're human again. I can smell it. How do you feel?”
“Wonderful. Weaker, somehow… less than I was, but now it feels like just me in my skin for the first time I can rememeber.”
A look that could have been envy ghosted across Greytrail's face even as she chuckled lightly. The sound vibrated between us and I was abruptly aware of the curvy, muscled body I was sprawled over. We had never been so close before with her in homid form. It shouldn't have shocked me anymore, the bolt of desire that sparked down my body and the answering flash in Grey's gaze. But I gave into temptation by leaning down to taste the warm breath of my companion. The werewolf froze as I pressed teasing kisses over her full mouth across cheeks and jaw. My small hands sifted through the tousled blonde hair and traced warm ears. Not until my curious tongue traced the furrowed scars near her jugular did Greytrail finally react. Strong hands around my lower back and she made a supplicating sound low in her throat. That brought my head up only far enough to let our gazes meet, mouths almost touching.
“So you do want me,” I whispered and gloried in the darkening of the expressive silver gaze. “Good.”
The first kiss was soft and questioning, our eyes still locked. Then the heat that had been building between us for days or an eternity was cumulated in a deep kiss that fried my recently healed synapses. My banal scientist brain was having a fit but I happily ignored it. The kisses deepened in intensity and I answered Greytrail's sound of need with one of my own. One of the hands on my back moved to burrow into my hair and began massaging my sensitive scalp. I could have cried form the bliss of the rough/tender touch. Purring with all the pleasant sensations rippling through me, I curled a small hand around Grey's ribs just below her breast and remembered the scars there.
“Good morning! Oops…”
The unexpected voice jerked us apart and we stared over to the door. Jasper pushed back the hood of his voluminous robes and looked at us sheepishly. A faint growl rumbled up from Grey's chest even as she carefully rolled me off of her to sit up. There was movement behind the voluminous robes and relief and happiness flooded through me. “Lindsey!”
Then my daughter was in my arms and we clung together for dear life.
“Oh sweetie, I missed you.”
“Me too. But I've had a ton of fun with the other Garou.”
“So they told you about themselves, huh?”
“Yep. Warrick said he would stop by as soon as he could sneak away. He said if I was good that I could play Nintendo on his big screen.”
“Oh he did, did he?”
We giggled as Jasper gingerly sidled over until his Glabro nose was nearly touching Greytrail's chin. With another growl, she roughly butted their noses together and waved him away. “So you're Lindsey.”
The tone might have been intimidating if she wasn't smiling like that. Lindsey giggled and offered a hand to shake, utterly unfazed by the horrific scars. Blonde and blonde, they grinned happily at one another and were immediately the best of pals. The big, scary Garou were big puppydogs around kids.
“You were kissing mommy.”
Greytrail blinked owlishly at the comment while Jasper snorted in suppressed amusement. Scrubbing both hands over her face, Grey raked them through her hair and leveled a long look at my daughter. “Yeah,” she confirmed quietly. “You okay with that?”
Lindsey shrugged and eyed the blonde woman closely. “I guess. But don't you guys have to hide and stuff?”
“Yeah, but, you're a big girl, Lindsey. We'd have to hide it no matter what.”
Realization dawned in her blue eyes and I hated the world around us in that moment.
“Because you're a girl.”
Lindsey crossed her arms and scowled fiercely. “Well that sucks.”
“At least I'm not Canadian,” Grey chuckled and Lindsey looked confused. “Sorry, just a joke of mine and Mike's.”
“You rang?” Mike's wry voice broke into the scene. “You started out so damn close to Canada that you might as well have been.”
“Crossed the border often enough, but then again, you never struck me as a Trekkie, either.”
“Trekker,” he growled mockingly. “There's a difference.”
“Dude, you're weird,” Grey drawled back like a brainless surfer.
We all laughed like a proper family while Caller rolled his eyes.