rosa_acicularis: (wolf)
rosa_acicularis ([personal profile] rosa_acicularis) wrote2011-11-10 08:44 am

he's the hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent. (i'd like to meet his tailor.)

Beware: this NaNo excerpt post contains narrative nudity, discussion of violence, dumb jokes, urine, and strong language. Cue cheesy awesome full moon picture:



++

 About twelve minutes before moonrise, the kid pissed his pants.

“I told you to use the toilet before we came,” Regina said, her voice slightly choked by the smell. “This is why.”

“You also told me to drink lots of water,” the kid said, crouched shuddering and miserable and stinking beside her on the pavement. “You said I had to s-stay hydrated.”

Saint-like patience with idiots and the mindlessly terrified was Claud’s department, but she was pacing on the other (human) side of the chain link fence, engaged in tense conversation on her cell. She was too far away for Regina to hear what she was saying.

“Don’t worry about it,” Regina told the kid. “It’s time to strip anyway.” She pulled a ratty old blanket from the duffel bag at his feet. She’d snatched it from his dorm room that morning, and the smells - his home, his sleeping human body, his pot smoke and cheesy Doritos crumbs - should still be fresh. “Take off all your clothes and wrap this around you, but not too tight. You’ll freak out if there’s anything restricting your movement.”

“Shit,” the kid said, and took the blanket with shaking hands. Then for a moment the terror on his face turned briefly to red-faced embarrassment. “Are you gonna--”

Regina turned her back, which gave her a lovely view of the empty expanse of the abandoned lot. The pavement was cracked open in long, wicked lines, bristling with dead grass. Beyond the tall, rusting fence was the desert and the distant highway; beyond that rose the deepening blue of the western sky.

It was hardly the most comfortable place to spend the night, but they’d been lucky to find anything usable on such short notice. The attack had only happened three days before, and they hadn’t got the call from Claud’s Reno contacts until yesterday afternoon. They’d driven through the night to get there in time for the moon.

“You decent yet?” she asked over her shoulder. “We’re getting close.”

“I think I’m going to hurl,” the kid said, which Regina decided to take as a yes. When she turned, he was a blanket-swaddled lump on the ground. He looked up to meet her eyes, and despite herself Regina felt a stab of sympathy. He wasn’t much younger than she was, but right now he looked like a child – one who’d just woken from a nightmare and was still waiting for someone to tell him none of it had been real.

Regina tightened the belt of her worn terrycloth bathrobe and sat beside him. “How’s the bite?”

Beneath the blanket, his hand went instinctively, protectively to his side. “Hurts. Not as bad as it did, but.” He looked up at the sky and took an unsteady, shuddering breath. “How much longer?”

She followed his gaze. “A few minutes. Maybe a little less. It’s not exact.”

He looked down again, dropping his head to his chest. His flame red hair looked almost black in the low light. “Christ. I shouldn’t be here. I don’t even believe in all this shit; I was just there to work the camera. Danny said--”

“Is Danny the one still in surgery, or the one whose throat got ripped out?”

She hadn’t thought it was possible for the kid to get any paler; she’d been wrong. “It wasn’t my fault. Danny said he knew where the guy slept, that we would just bring him some booze and ask him some questions. I had film of a stray dog, and we were going to edit it together later to make it look like - like --”

“Like you’d found a real, live werewolf?” She didn’t hide the bitterness in her voice. “And when exactly did throwing garbage at the terrified, half-mad homeless man become part of the performance?”    

He grimaced, an ugly contortion of his raw, freckled face. “It wasn’t. I mean, I didn’t. I was just there to--”

“To work the camera. Yeah, I know.” She pushed herself to her feet. “Look, Norris. I understand that you’re stupid with terror and pain, that your friends are dead and dying and that your life as you lived it is gone forever, but if you say another fucking word to me between now and moonset, I’ll maul you to death. Got it?”

He nodded mutely, his eyes wide and white-rimmed in his thin face.

Regina grinned. “Good boy.” She turned and walked over to the fence, the pavement cool and rough under her bare feet. “Claud, what’s going on?”

Claud held up a quelling finger, the phone still at her ear. “No, she’s standing right here.” She looked over and met Regina’s eyes. There was a pause, and then she said, “Not bad. I think I may have left her alone with the kid for too long, but—” She stopped and sniffed the air, frowning. “Is that urine?”

Regina grabbed the fence and gave it a good rattle. “Claudia. What the crap is happening?”

Claud ignored her, turning her back to the fence and scratching her fingernails through her short-cut ‘fro. “She’s fine, Peter. Have you found a place to spend the moon?”

Regina groaned. “He’s still out in the open? We’re minutes away.”

Claud directed a stern glare over her shoulder, her thick-framed glasses glinting in the streetlight. “He’s not the one you should be worrying about, Regina.” She gave the shuddering, huddled lump of blanket a pointed look.

After more than a dozen years of near constant exposure, Regina was pretty much immune to Claud’s stern glares and pointed looks. She stuck her arm through the fence and held out her hand, palm up. “Phone, please.”

“Brat,” Claud said, but she sounded more amused than annoyed. She dropped the cell phone into Regina’s waiting hand.

Regina stepped back from the fence and lifted the phone to her ear. “Where are you?”

“Church basement a few blocks from the hospital,” Peter said, sounding slightly out of breath. “I had to break in. How’s Norris?”
 
“Panicking, but safe. How’s his friend?”
 
Peter sighed, and Regina knew the answer. “The surgery was unsuccessful. He died fifteen minutes ago.” Peter had stayed behind at the hospital, just in case the boy lived until moonrise. He probably wouldn’t have survived the shift, but Peter would have had to sneak the body out of the hospital even if he hadn’t. They couldn’t risk the exposure. 
 
“I’m sorry, Peter,” Regina said, trying to keep the relief from her voice. “I know you wanted—”
 
A sudden, sweet pressure in her chest stopped the words in her throat. The moon was rising.
 
“Regina,” Peter said, his voice forced and strange, like he was fighting to form each word. “You’re sure you’re safe?”
 
He needs me to answer, she thought, but the moon was round and rising on the desert horizon, large and milk-pale against the evening blue sky. She drank in its beauty as a drowning man drinks from the sea, and when she closed her eyes its light followed her to the sudden silence of her mind.
 
Fuck,” the kid was saying over and over again in a high, fear-shrill babble. “What the hell, man, what the fucking hell—”
 
“Peter,” Regina said, too full of light to say anything more. She was holding something to her ear she did not need; she dropped it. She wore clothing that bound and suffocated and kept her from the air; she slipped her arms from the sleeves of her bathrobe and let it fall to the ground. She stood, naked, before the moon.
 
“Fucking hell,” Norris said again, and then they changed.
 
 
 
 
For an unbreathing, impossible moment, Regina didn’t exist at all.
 
She was weightless, without feet to stand upon the ground or skin to feel the night’s desert chill. She was headless, eyeless and unseeing; not a woman, but the absence of one. I am defined by what I am not, she thought, the words filling a mind she no longer had, and then with a single, gut-wrenching pull the world returned. There was light and sound and smell, the broken pavement beneath the pads of her feet and the moon above.
 
A skinny, sand-brown wolf shivered inside Norris’ blanket, whimpering. It smelled like a stranger, like blood and piss and weakness. Peter was gone, and this cowering idiot was in his place. She bared her teeth and let the growl rattle low in her throat.
 
“Regina!” a human voice called. “Regina, you’re frightening him!”
 
The words seemed to come from very far away, but the human’s smell was wonderfully, steadyingly familiar – the chemical scents of her shampoo and soap and deodorant, the packet of wintermints she carried in her purse and the home-scent that clung to her skin and breath.   
 
Claud. She was standing on the other side of the chain link fence, watching them anxiously. Regina trotted over and gave Claud a taste of her very best gosh, what a friendly dog impersonation – vacant dog smile, wagging tail, and lolling pink tongue. It had the intended effect; Claud relaxed, rolling her eyes. “I get it – you’re in control now. God, you’re a ham.”
 
Regina ended the performance with a happy, dog-like bark and stalked back over to Norris.
 
The other wolf started to whine when she approached. Enough, she said, snapping her teeth near his muzzle. When he quieted, she sniffed the corners of his mouth and briefly nosed the thick reddish fur behind his ears. There was nothing new in those smells, nothing about the kid she hadn’t already seen or heard in her human skin, but he had to learn the social conventions somehow. She pushed the blanket away with her nose until she came to the wound in his side.
 
She’d seen what the homeless werewolf had done to the other boys, the one who died at the scene and the one who’d slipped away with Peter at his side; Norris’ wound was a love bite in comparison. She gave it a quick sniff and moved to scent the base of his tail. He whimpered again, and she answered with a firm warning growl.
 
Slowly, Norris rolled to his back and revealed the lighter underside of his stomach and throat. Regina huffed her approval, and then, for the first time since she’d met him that morning, the kid calmed.
 
She tugged the blanket over him again with her teeth and left him there to rest. After a quick sniff at the open duffel bag – God, did this guy ever do laundry? – she ambled over to the fence.
 
Claud was waiting for her, her hands on her hips. “Look, I know you have a lot on your agenda for the night – sniffing, peeing, and sniffing the places where you’ve peed – but I’d really like my phone back. If it’s not too much trouble.”
 
Regina rolled her eyes and trotted back to the spot where she’d dropped the cell phone. Her bathrobe – smells of her suitcase, Claud’s car, Peter’s eco-friendly laundry soap – had landed on top of it, and she nosed the terrycloth out of the way before gently picking the phone up with her teeth.
 
“If you eat that, you’re buying me another one,” Claud said as Regina walked back to the fence. Regina grunted and pushed herself up onto her hind legs, her front paws clanging against the fence. Even upright she wasn’t quite as tall as her bipedal friend; Claud reached down through the links and took the phone from between her jaws. She grimaced. “Great. Now it smells like wolf breath.”
 
Regina gave her a panting grin and dropped back to all fours.
 
It was the first full moon in months she’d spent without Peter, and his absence made her restless. She knew that he was probably perfectly safe, raiding the church pantry for Sunday School goldfish crackers and drinking out of the toilets – it really was amazing how much better water tasted from the bowl – but as the night went on she found herself looking over her shoulder, seeking out his face and his scent.
 
Twice she almost howled for him, though of course he wouldn’t have been able to respond. If Claud noticed, she was diplomatic enough not to mention it.
 
There was no certain way to predict or control a newly bitten wolf’s first full moon. Regina had spent hers shut up alone in Claud’s basement, snarling at shadows and gnawing her own paws bloody; Norris seemed content to spend the night curled beneath his blanket, whimpering occasionally in his sleep.
 
“It’s the release of stress,” Claud said after Regina had completed her hourly patrol of the abandoned lot and settled down to rest. “The thing he’s been dreading most has finally happened, and he survived. After that kind of prolonged agitation, a collapse is inevitable. I see it all the time in patients.” She dropped another couple of potato chips through the fence, and Regina licked them up. “Still, though. Exhausted or not, he could wake up any minute and charge the fence, wild eyed and foaming at the mouth.”
 
Regina yawned.
 
“Yeah, well. I’m not saying it’s likely. I just saying it could happen.” Claud finished the last of the chips, folded the bag neatly, and tucked it into the back pocket of her jeans. “It’s good that you were here. You did well with him.”
 
Regina looked up at her, lifting a lupine eyebrow.
 
“I mean it, Regina. He wouldn’t be resting now if he didn’t trust you. If you hadn’t helped him through this, he could have done himself a lot of damage. You may have saved his life.”
 
Regina closed her eyes and let loose a sound very much like a human snore.
 
“Bitch,” Claud said affectionately, and went back to the car to get a few hours sleep.
 
 
 
All three of them slept through the sunrise.
 
Regina woke to the sound of footsteps on pavement. Before she opened her eyes, her bathrobe landed on her head.
 
“You might want to wash this,” Peter said, stepping over her. “I think someone urinated on it.”
 
Regina sat up and wrapped the robe around her naked shoulders. “If someone did, someone is dead meat.” She sniffed the robe, but it was hard to tell – her sense of smell was nothing compared to what it had been the night before.
 
Peter crouched at Norris’ side and gently shook him awake. “Norris? Norris, it’s Dr. Talbot. It’s over. You can go home now.”
 
Claud hurried over with her medical kit and elbowed Peter aside. “Lose the blanket, kiddo. I want to see that wound.”
 
Norris laid back and let her poke and prod to her heart’s content, which was really the only sensible response to Claud on a Florence Nightingale tear. “I don’t – I don’t really remember anything,” Norris said. Regina walked over, and he looked up at her with wide eyes. “You were naked. Just before.”
 
Regina knotted the bathrobe belt tight around her waist. “Well,” she said, “obviously he remembers some things.”
 
“It was like a dream,” Norris said. “I was myself, but I wasn’t. It was really fucking crazy, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t actually – that bad. Not like what I was expecting.”
 
Peter risked Claud’s nursely wrath and gave the kid a pat on the shoulder. “We’ll talk about all that later, Norris. First let’s get you into some clean clothes. And a shower. Preferably not in that order.” He stood. “Hey, Regina? Walk to the car with me?”
 
Regina was a fast walker by nature, while Peter was more of a meanderer; as he had a full foot’s height advantage and a good part of that was leg, they usually ended up moving at precisely the same speed. They walked side by side in silence until they passed the gate.
 
“You found him, didn’t you?” Regina said, her voice low. “The wolf who bit Norris and killed those boys.”
 
“Yeah, I did.” He stopped walking, and Regina stopped with him, looking up to meet his eyes. He looked worn, like he needed a haircut, a hug, and a stiff drink. Preferably not in that order.
 
“You can wait,” she said. “If you don’t want to talk about it now.”
 
“No, it’s not—” He stopped and looked away. He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “His name was Charlie Ambrose, and he’d been homeless since he was bitten seven years ago. He killed himself last night, just before moonrise.”
 
“Fuck, I’m starving,” Norris said, his voice too loud and too close. Claud walked close enough to support him if he needed it, but he seemed to be doing just fine on his own. He gave Regina a wide, shit-eating grin. “Hey, what’s the best thing to eat after you’ve spent the night as a flesh-hungry killing machine? Steak tartare? Newborn babies? Doughnuts?” He laughed, and Peter flinched.
 
It’d been years since Regina had shifted by accident; her control was far too good for that. She slipped her human skin now because she could, and because as a wolf her teeth were significantly more impressive. She answered Norris’ grin with one of her own and watched with some small satisfaction as the blood drained from his freckled face.
 
And if she had to sacrifice a small piece of dignity a moment later when she wriggled free of her bathrobe – well, it was a price worth paying. Claud shuffled a freshly terrified Norris off to the car, and the awful tension in Peter’s shoulders eased somewhat. He crouched beside her until they were nearly eye to eye.
 
“I missed you, too,” he said, and gave her a wink before he stood and walked back to the car.
 
In the end, they went for doughnuts. 
 
++

I've listened to Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London, like, 157 times since November 1st. I think there's something wrong with me.

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