Paper Wolves : Act II

Current Act Wordcount: 7,301

Rating/Warnings: PG-13

Blurb: With the Southside Dumppack still reeling over the loss of their old alpha, Meg must find a way to salvage the mess before the Council decides their pack is better off disbanded. Forced to rely on help from the Northern Pack that wants them to fail, she’s learning the hard way what being a child of the Baron really means… (aka Urban Fantasy gets a Day Job)

Welcome to this year’s National Novel Wiriting Month rough draft!

Read at your own risk/amusement: There will most likely be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, contradictions/retcons, uneven characterization and pacing.

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~*~*~*~*~

Kick It Up A Notch

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“Well this is definitely different,” said Yusuf over a cup of coffee.

“Different is not the word I’d use,” said Susan, picking at the leftover pancakes that Quentin had whipped together once he and Yusuf had arrive for the emergency morning meeting.

When she’d gotten home the night before Meg had filled everyone in over the phone. It hadn’t really been important enough for a meeting then, so they settled for a Saturday Morning brainstorming session instead.

Besides that meant Quentin would make pancakes. Meg idly wondered if there were any left, but saw him snag the last of the pile.

Susan and Theo had talked to her last night, but they hadn’t had much helpful to say. For all Theo’s quirkiness and Susan’s grumpiness both had managed to stay on the right side of the law.

Quentin and Yusuf were a little more familiar with working with the cops, due to youthful indiscretions, but they weren’t used to American cops, so it was a bit of a toss-up on how useful they’d be.

“Do you really think Nico is in charge of a mob family?” Meg asked, trying not to mourn the loss of a third plate of pancakes. She wasn’t sure what she believed, but she couldn’t really put it past them.

“The Black family does have a bit of a reputation in parts” said Yusuf.

“Hah, reputation, I like that.” said Quentin. “Try we have a reason for them thinking we a mob. There’ve been a lot of the family whoever taken after the Baron’s legacy in truth rather than in name.”

“Well it couldn’t be the first time someone s broken the council’s laws about stay on the grey side of the law, but I really can’t see Nico breaking them either, after all he’s pretty settled in at this point, he’d hate to have to do anything to move.”

Nico’s one of the few people who’d managed to pull off the whole’ son of a son thing. So he had been able to stay in the same location without anyone really catching on. Plus he didn’t work for a living, at least not where anyone could see his face. So it was much easier for him to move from one identity to another.

Amusingly he did have to rebuild his consultant business over and over, since most of the company was built on the leadership of the various personas. She wondered how complex the family trees got that the council kept track of– and then was very glad she didn’t have to worry about it

“So are they really going to sit out there from now till forever?” Theo asked tiredly, looking out the window at the unmarked police car that was parked across the street and not at all subtly casing the house. “I want to go for a run.” She complained.

“You’ll end up in the pound,” said Susan with a snort.” You know we only have enough licenses for two dogs here, if we end up with you out there too much they’ll come looking and then how do we explain that you’re really wolf hybrids and not dogs?”

“Pretty sure those aren’t allowed inside the city limits anyways” said Meg

“So yeah, no going for runs with the cops watching.”

“Are they just watching you?” Theo asked hopefully. “Maybe you could go to a movie or something and they’d follow you.”

“I’m pretty sure they’re watching the house.” Meg sighed. “I know they know Merlin comes here once a week so I can’t see them not setting stuff up so they can monitor us.”

“Don’t we have, um I dunno, magic anti-spy stuff?” Asked Theo, “Hello bored immortals here, you can’t tell me we haven’t been playing James bond at least a little bit over the centuries.”

“If they do have them they are too expensive for them to hand to us, especially since we aren’t actually doing anything illegal” said Yusuf

“They’ll let us burn before they lift a finger,” said Quentin bitterly, “Sink or swim and we’ll dump you in the strongest current we can in the hopes you’ll just drown and save us the trouble.”

“You need to drink less.” said Susan.

“You need to drink more.” said Quentin.

The phone rang and Meg picked it up, just to get away from the conversation for a moment.

It was Mei from the bookstore checking to see if Meg had heard any good news on the job hunting front and to check in to make sure the cops weren’t bugging her, which they were but Meg wasn’t about to tell her that. They made small talk for a b it, with Susan making faces during some of the boring bits and the rest of the pack still talking about the cops.

She finished up, pretty sure that Mei was less worried about her, but without promising anything more than to stay in touch. At some point she’d have to vanish and she had been hoping to break ties with her friends when the store closed It couldn’t hurt to make sure folks thought she was planning on leaving early and then when she did it wouldn’t be such a shock.

She rejoined the conversation, which had segued into ways to get the cops to leave, which rained from stink bombs to bomb threats and didn’t really get better from there.

The phone rang again and Theo grabbed it before Meg could, apparently ready to tell her old coworkers to jump in a lake Theo-style, but her cheery if obnoxious tone vanished about two seconds into the call. “It’s for you,” Theo held out the phone to Meg, “it’s Christopher.”

Meg frowned, but took the phone. She couldn’t think of a reason why Theo would react like that. but when Christopher started talking she got the idea. He was all proper and short, the very essence of a Council mouthpiece which meant bad news. Really bad news.

“You need to be at the airport tomorrow to pick up nine new pack members. You will need to provide safe transportation for them, recommended that you do not bring less than five wolves and make sure they are capable of restraining the new members if needed.”

“Wait, what, why?” Meg had no idea what was happening, they hadn’t had that many people run away and they certainly couldn’t be that many new wolves show up in that short a time. Which mean this was a pack that had split off or fallen apart. “Who are they?”

“You’ll be getting the remnants of the Ash Pack.” His voice as clipped and business like and as void of emotion as he could make it.

The Ash Pack had killed their alpha a few days ago; it had been all the interior rumor mill had been talking about. No one knew the details, but the Council hadn’t had them killed so it must have been a justified response.

And there were very very few things that constituted ‘justified response.’

“Why us?” She yelped, because the last thing she wanted was to have to worry about being killed by her own pack on top of everyone else. True, the pack might have done the right thing in taking out an abusive alpha, but the fact it had taken them so long meant that they were probably worse off than Keeper was and it had taken him forever to recover.

“Dumppacks are for dumping,” Christopher snapped. “You wanted to be in charge, you knew this would happen.”

“But not seven wolves at once!”

“If you can’t handle it, the Council will appoint someone who can.”

And that made sense, suddenly, why Christopher was so angry and so distant. Someone had pressured the Council into having Southside take the wolves on, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to keep the new wolves in line.

This wasn’t just back luck, this was Northside.

“Can you handle this?” Christopher asked pointedly and she realized she’d paused too long.

“Yes.” She said firmly. “But don’t send them by airplane.”

“Why?” Christopher was a taken aback, although he sounded less angry now that she’d stepped up to the plate.

“First off they probably won’t do well on an airplane, too confined, too many people they don’t know. Secondly I don’t want to meet them at an airport, we need someplace low key, with lots of room and not lots of people– first impressions set the tone.”

There was a pause on the other end. Then finally, “I’ll see what I can do.” But the angry was gone in his voice, he was still very businesslike and efficient but it wasn’t directed at her anymore.

She let out the breath she’d been holding when he hung up and handed the phone back to Theo

“Please tell me that wasn’t about what I think it was.” said Yusuf, quietly.

“Where on earth are we going to put nine people?” Meg asked, in bit in shock.

Theo and Susan were quiet. Theo looked like she was caught up in thinking about Keeper and how long it had taken him to adjust. Susan looked angry, but she always looked angry, Meg wondered how much was focused on the Council and how much was focused on the Ash pack.

Yusuf looked concerned, but not angry. Quentin looked frustrated, but no overly upset. She knew both of them had been through a lot of new pack additions over the years, but the Southside pack hadn’t picked up that many people in the last few decades since she’d joined. Just herself and Keeper.

Christopher hadn’t mentioned that the Council would be setting them up in apartments and although that had been the default solution when they’d been returning their runaway pack members Meg ha d a feeling that they were on their own for this one.

“We can fit them here,” said Theo after they were silent for a moment. “We’ve got the room, if we move stuff around. Plus they’ll feel safer here.”

Yusuf nodded, but slowly. “Worst case you can ask that they sleep in one bedroom as wolves. We can empty it out so that there’s nothing else there. If they want to stay human it’s going to get a little messy, but they can probably manage.”

“We need more blankets and pillows, but we can ask around.” said Quentin with a sigh. “They probably aren’t going to bring anything with them– if it’s like any of the other new wolves.”

Meg was embarrassed for a moment, because she’d brought a lot of stuff with her. But she’d also brought a house, so that sort of balanced things out. She hated to have thought of having to leave everything behind– even though that’s basically what she’d had to do with her old life.

When you became a werewolf you had to give up contact with the old world, it was easier to make a clean break at the start. Not aging wasn’t a problem for up to thirty years depending on how old you looked to start with, but after a while it became very obvious that there was something wrong.

So you moved away, someplace far enough where you could talk by phone or letter, or some way of holding on without visuals. But you had to reinvent yourself as well, had to change names, change lives. Make new friends who thought you were the person you were pretending to be.

Meg had been lucky, she’d been living such a transient life before– expecting for the terminal disease to do her in before she hit her thirties. She hadn’t bothered to make friend, or hold down anything more than retail jobs. There were no real ties expect for her mother who passed a few decades after and her father who hadn’t spoken to her since he stood up to his own pack to keep her alive.

From the rumors it sounded like the Ash Pack had all been living on a small commune in the middle of nowhere. They would have had no contact with the outside world for decades, possible centuries. On the one hand she was happy that they wouldn’t be leaving anything behind, but on the other hand she couldn’t imagine that much of a separation between herself and the rest of the world.

She’d be lucky if the Ash Pack wasn’t crazy.

And now she had to figure out how to keep her own friends safe while seeing how dangerous and what there was left to save in the members of the new pack.

And how to keep the cops from getting very interested in the fact that nine more people were moving into her house.

Hiding in Plain Sight

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“They’re going to meet us at the park now,” said Meg hanging up the phone.

“Good,” said Yusuf, “that’ll give them plenty of time and room to figure out we aren’t the ones they need to fight.”

“I’d prefer they don’t fight anyone.” said Meg, a little annoyed.

“They’re gonna be scared,” sniffed Susan. “They had to expect the Council would kill them, which meant they were backed into such a corner that death was better than putting up with the situation anymore. They’re going to be slightly paranoid for a while.”

“Like Keeper,” Meg sighed.

“Nothing like Keeper,” Susan snapped. “Keeper didn’t hurt anyone, didn’t lift a single finger to save himself. He was broken, but not dangerous. These wolves are dangerous.”

“I wish they’d give us more information.” Yusuf said with a sigh. “We’re going into this blind and I can’t see any reason why they’d withhold the information.”

“Because Nico wants us to fail.” said Meg.

“Christopher said that?” Yusuf raised an eyebrow.

“Didn’t have to,” Meg looked over the paperwork for the nine hundredth time trying to find a way to budget in the new wolves. “He’s very good at not saying things in a way that makes it obvious what he’s trying to tell you.”

“So what, do we treat them as if they are going to blow-up or treat them as if they just need help?” Meg asked, a little lost. “I don’t know how to approach this. If we just try and help them and they turn on us we won’t be prepared. But if they aren’t dangerous treating them as if they are will only make them more paranoid, won’t it?”

‘I’d go with polite but firm,” said Yusuf. “Set very clear ground rules, don’t make it that the rules are for them, make it so that the rules are for everyone. But put in things that seem common sense to us, make sure there are penalties too.”

“What could we possibly do to them? Take away their internet access?” asked Susan, rolling her eyes.

“Actually, I’d just give them extra chores.” said Yusuf. “You’ll already have to set things up to keep the house running with twelve people in it, just have them pick up chores from the people who are behaving.”

“I feel like we’re treating them like five year olds,” said Meg, frustrated.

“They might be,” said Yusuf.

“So how are we getting them in past the cops?”

“We don’t,” said Meg, having spent most of the night having nightmares about being arrested and having the wolves eat the cops. “I’m going out to the unmarked car that they aren’t bothering to hide and tell them that they are coming in.”

“Is that a good idea?” Asked Yusuf, concerned. He was used to much worst police forces, even after all these years in the US. The idea that the cops couldn’t just arrest them for being suspicious (or because they wanted to) wasn’t something he had quite managed to wrap his brain around.

“I can’t see how not telling them is a better one.”

“So why are you telling them they are coming here?”

“They’re house burned down,” said Meg with a shrug. “It’s true, in a way. Although they did set the fire themselves so it’s a bit of a toss-up.”

“They really burned the house down?” asked Susan.

“That’s what Christopher said when I asked what they were bringing.” said Meg. “He said the house was nothing but ashes when they arrived to pick them up. Warm ashes, so apparently they did it as soon as they knew they were leaving.

“Wow,” Susan blinked. “Well that’s one way to make a clean break I suppose.”

[more goes here]

Three’s Company, Twelve’s a Crowd

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The Council had sent their own transportation to bring the remaining members of the Ash Pack down to them, but they didn’t bring them all the way to the house. Instead they met at a local park, which was as close to neutral territory as Meg could manage.

She had brought her own backup, but there were seven new wolves and she wanted the numbers to be at least a little even.

She’d been given almost no information to work with on the wolves other than they had apparently turned on their alpha and killed him– but it was a justifiable death, at least per the Council’s investigators.

Meg had a feeling there might be a portion of the pack that would renounce their kinship oaths, once they had time to adjust to the changes.

She waited with her team by the picnic tables, thankfully there weren’t a lot of people in this end of the park. Just enough around that the newcomers would know that public violence wasn’t an option– for either party.

They pulled up in the same generic black SUVs that the Council had sent down to deal with Corbin. Meg was beginning to wonder if they ever bought anything else.

She tried not to think about how industrial their own rental vans were or if it would look bad that the pack didn’t have their own vehicles yet.

The newcomers weren’t going to care, she reminded herself firmly, all they cared about was not getting killed– at least if her own experience with abused wolves was anything to go by.

There was a pause and then after a moment people started getting out of the cars.

It was ways to tell which ones were from the Council, they dressed better, moved better, heck they were probably fed better all things considered.

The remains of the Ash Pack came out once the area was secured. They were dressed in decent clothes, jeans, blouses, stuff that looked worn but not badly so. It made her feel a little underdressed in just a t-shirt, but the people who were wearing the clothes looked so horribly lost that she didn’t think about it for long.

There was one male in the group, someone who looked as if he still needed a month’s worth of solid meals to bulk out, but a strong stubborn sort. He was doing his best to ignore the Council guards, but she could see him flinch as they moved.

The other wolves were all female, all early twenties or younger save for two who looked almost like the parents of the rest, just by age. They were all very nervous and didn’t hide their worry well at all.

She noticed that they all stayed as close to the one male as they could and he was the only one who was taking any sort of active role in finding out where they were and what would happen next.

She nodded to the one guard as he looked over and they slowly began to walk across the grass to the picnic area.

“I don’t like this,” Yusuf said quietly. “They’re all focused on him, this could get back when we have to split them up.”

“You want to put the younger ones in one car and him and the older ones with us?” Asked Me, “that way we’ll have the worst offenders in case anything goes wrong.”

“Might not be a bad idea.”

They got within speaking range and Meg put on her best ‘hi howdy doing, so sorry your life is shit right now’ smile and stepped forward to greet her new pack members.

~*~*~*~*~

They’d been briefed on what to do, how to act, what to say or not say– but it was all jumbled up in his head and all Weed could focus on was making sure the others were okay.

Lily was doing well, she always did, giving him a strong corner stone to rest on as he tried to focus on being calm and holding onto the positive with both hands.

After all, they hadn’t killed them, hadn’t even punished them once they’d called to tell the Council what they’d done. And being assigned a new pack didn’t seem that bad, he’d have someone else to take over, to protect them, and maybe he wouldn’t have to worry quite so much all the time.

Only the person who was leading the group of people they’d come to meet looked younger than Lily. She was dressed poorly, he though dismissively, then ground down on the thought until it turned to powder. That was the Gardner talking, and he wasn’t going to listen, not anymore.

She had plenty of other wolves that looked more powerful, more in control, but they all seemed to be happy to let her be in charge.

Weed was torn, he wasn’t sure she was strong enough to protect them, to keep them safe, but he was so very tired.

~*~*~*~*~

The response to her semi-forced cheerfulness was a mild disinterest and Meg wasn’t sure if the newcomers were scared, confused, or actually looking down on them. Yeah, they were a dump pack, but they hadn’t had to kill their alpha so that should count for something, right?

She smothered annoyance as they ran through the generic song and dance as the Council turned over leadership and responsibility for the nine new wolves to Meg. Thankfully she’d had a cram session with Yusuf and Christopher last night in order to make sure she did everything correctly.

The new wolves all took the pack oaths without much hesitation, or at least nothing that could be considered and insult. The oaths weren’t binding at all, beyond how much one valued their word, so she wasn’t sure why they would object.

The Council was finally satisfied, gave the Ash pack’s defector leader one last stern look and then got back into their creepy black cars and left.

“So, you ready to go home?” Meg asked, without a whole lot of hope, but at the word some of the younger members started showing signs of coming around. “It’s not that big, apologies in advance, but we’ve got just enough room for everyone until we can find you a proper place to live. Wasn’t really expecting company, but we’ll manage– we always do.”

She smiled and this time a few of them smiled back, but not their leader.

“So, I’m not the best with names, so I hate to say it but we’ll wait to hand out name tags until we get back to the house. And yes, we’ll have nametags too.” That definitely got her a smile from one of the younger wolves.

“Right, so you five,” she waved out the younger members of the pack. “Get to go in the cool kids van with Theo and Quentin and Keeper. And Theo is not driving.”

Theo made a face, but Keeper was visible relieved, which help mask some of the terror she knew they had to be feeling at getting split up again.

“They rest of you get to be in the Old Kids van,” she grinned at the other four, “In which we can talk about Responsible Adult things like taxes, kids these days, and prunes.” That got her an honest to goodness smile from the oldest woman and she let out some of the breath she’d been holding.

The man seemed very nervous, but clamped down on what he’d been about to say when he looked over at the older woman and she seemed unalarmed.

Nice to know she’d have at least one friend from their side then.

Meg and Yusuf and Susan got into their car and the other four followed them. They did a quick introduction where she leered that the man’s name was Weed, or Touchstone, they amusingly couldn’t decide which it was and he didn’t claim either one.

The older woman’s name was Lily.

Broken Hearts and Superglue

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Weed looked out across the backyard, glass of water in hand, lots in the moment of having nothing to do. It was really a sense of loss, a sort do gaping hole that made him think there should be something he should be doing something he was forgetting it was a very unsettling feeling.

He rolled a shoulder, feeling against the weight of the chain that wasn’t there anymore.

None of the chains where there anymore. None of the chains or the knives or the constant feeling of starving as their bodies tried to keep them alive and whole.

He shivered and then started as Meg came up behind him.

“Sorry,” she said, apologetic in a way he still wasn’t used to. She was supposed to be in charge, supposed to be the word of law, the alpha, only she wasn’t that and yet she was still in charge. He wasn’t sure he liked it.

He moved over so there was more space between them as she came out the door and went to sit on the battered couch that took up a good half of the slim concrete patio.

“You know you must have known how to relax, you just need to remember.” She said, not looking at him.

He sniffed, but tried to change his stance. She shouldn’t know he was nervous, she shouldn’t know anything. It was dangerous when they knew what you were thinking– only it wasn’t anymore. He snorted, frustrated and took another drink.

“We dodo ad beers you know.” Meg said, tipping her own at him.

“That’s not healthy,” he snapped without thinking, then paused embarrassed, but not sure how to apologize.

“Who, you’re right,” Meg grinned and took another drink. “But that’s part of the fun of it, is being able to do things you know are bad for you– even if they really aren’t.”

He frowned, but nodded. True the curse would protect them from most of the sins that mankind was heir to, but that wasn’t a reason to indulge in them. The body only had so many resources, there was no point in adding damage.

But here there was as much food as they wanted. As much food as they needed. It might not be the best food, but he was working on that, much to Theo’s dismay. He could teach them, improve them, they’d be so much better– he jerked, terrified of the line of thought as he realized he was thinking it, smashing his head back into the sliding glass door hard enough to make a nice loud thump and startling Meg as well as the people inside.

“Are you okay? What happened?” Meg was next to him, much too close an much too suddenly and he snarled, pushing her back even as he back peddled away from her.

“Stop.” She snapped, and it sounded like she was talking to a child. There was a little magic left in the pack bonds this far down the family tree, just enough to act like a slap, break him out of the panic loop.

He still kept moving away from her, getting himself out of the corner, away from the broken glass that he’d dropped and away from the door where Susan was heading over a frown on her face.

“Susan, leave it.” Meg snapped and Susan stopped, frustrated, glared at Weed for a few more moments and then turned and headed back into the room.

“Now seriously, are you okay?” Asked Meg, this time a bit forcefully and he nodded. “If you’ve got brain damage, something lingering we need to know. We can get you more food, get you some room to run as a wolf if you need to.” Sometimes being a wolf made the curse happier, helped them to heal things that normal waiting didn’t always fix.

“I’m fine.” He finally managed, still keeping her at a distance. She didn’t move to follow him, hadn’t moved other than to straighten from where he’d pushed her.

“You’re obvious NOT fine,” Meg snapped. “I need to know if you’re going to hurt anyone, I can’t have you hurt anyone.”

And he could hear himself in that echo, that same stubborn refusal to let anyone else get hurt, dammed it if it mean throwing himself between the threat and his family. And that gave him something to cling to for a moment, to beat back the panic that his earlier train of thought had brought.

“I’m fine, it was– just a bad dream.” He massaged his shoulder, not really thinking about it. “Just a real bad dream.”

“If you need to talk to someone,” Meg started.

“No.”

“If you need to talk to someone, talk to Quentin.” She finished stubbornly.

“Talking is busy work,” snapped Weed. “It gets you nowhere. Nothing changes because of words.”

“It changes how you look at things,” said Meg quietly, moving back to sit on the sofa.

“But it doesn’t change how things actually are,” said Weed.

“No,” Meg agreed. “But sometimes if you just look at them from a different angle they don’t seem as bad.”

“I don’t know how you can think any of this is good!” Weed snarled.

“It’s not good,” agreed Meg. “I never said it was, just that someday maybe it won’t be. Stop looking at the forest and start focusing on the trees.”

“I’d rather just torch the forest.” Weed muttered, looking down at the shards of glass.

“There’s a broom and dustpan inside.” said Meg.

Weed nodded, then went inside to get them.

Meg sighed, looking out over a backyard with high fences to keep the view of wolves from the neighbors. The yard was pretty much torn up from all the running and playing, but it was nice to have room to unwind, even if it wasn’t traditionally pretty.

She wasn’t sure what had set him off, but she wasn’t sure she could manage to walk on eggshells for as long as it was going to take him to recover. Maybe she really had been givn too much to manage.

She hoped he talked to Quentin, at least a little bit. Her own ‘initiation’ at the hand of the Clearfield Pack had been horrible, but it had only lasted a week. Quentin had spent decades in jail before he’d managed to get free– and there were few places more hospitable than third world jails that realize they have someone they can harass with no lasting effects.

Weed came back out after a moment with an annoyed frown that mean Susan had probably read him the riot act where Meg couldn’t hear. But he cleaned up the glass, when back inside and then came out again with another glass of water.

This time, after a pause, he sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the tiny porch. It wasn’t really a submission posture, but it was harder to get away when you were sitting down, so it did cost him something, even if he was still trying to pretend she wasn’t really there.

It wasn’t much, but it was something.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Weed said, when he was alone with Quentin later. The two were working on building bunk beds

Quentin shrugged and nodded, measuring out the next length of wood.

Weed looked at him for a moment, but the older wolf didn’t seem to react with anything other than mild disinterest. He huffed, not really a sigh, just a sort of shake to toss off the stress he’d felt even bringing it up and then handed Quentin the t-square when he looked like he needed it.

It was odd, Weed thought, he’d been slightly terrified that the older werewolf would actually want to talk about it– bring up what had happened, old memories, old wounds that still ached as much as his waking mind knew they were over, but Quentin seemed content to just take things as they were.

Which was nice. Certainly a lot nicer than having people constantly worry over him, which Theo seemed to love to do with some of the younger members of the pack. But those were females, and females seemed to love rehashing things that couldn’t be changed. It was hard to put the past in the past when you were thinking about it every other minute.

But he didn’t have to, so he stopped.

Instead he thought about the wood and the tools and how they were making something out of nothing– well not nothing, but close to nothing. And how happy it would make Bryony to have a bed again. She loved to make beds, she’d always loved to even before she’d joined the pack. Something about the order in it, she’d told him, she like seeing things in order and ready to be used.

He grinned as he remembered her lecturing him about his own bed, nest more truthfully upstairs. He liked sleeping in wolf form so much better so his blankets were in a messy pile that he burrowed into at night, wrapping himself up in a wolf burrito.

[more goes here]

White Knights and Other Oddities

—————————————————————————————-

They were in the middle of installing the last of the bunk beds when the doorbell rang. Meg left with a sigh, Susan trailing behind.

“I really hope it’s not the cops again,” Meg muttered. Even with the explanation they’d been given the cops had taken to randomly stopping by to ‘check up on them’ and bring them stuff from the red cross or other help.

Which to be honest was really nice of them, and if they hadn’t been more or less determined to arrest her somehow she’d have been a lot more nice about it.

But it wasn’t Officer Hunter when she opened the door, it was Christopher. She linked, taken aback and he grinned.

“Got permission to come down for the weekend and try and help sort things out. The Council is amused that you’ve handled this so well so far. Nico’s lost a bit of respect up there, he was pretty obvious that he expected you to fail almost immediately and now they are having fun at his expense.”

“Well, um, that’s nice I guess?” She moved away from the door so he could come in. “Don’t suppose that fun includes a little monetary help?”

“Nope,” Christopher said ruefully. “But I’m a crisis management expert and heck if this isn’t a crisis, abet a mild one, so I’m pretty good at getting things sorted out.” He dropped his suitcase against the side of the sofa. “Did you know you have an unmarked police car watching the house?”

“Yeah,” Meg shrugged. “They’ve been there a while– they’re trying to catch us doing something wrong so they have a in for Nico’s theoretical mob organization. Only we aren’t doing anything wrong, so most they just get bored.”

“How are you getting along with the Ash pack?” Christopher asked.

“There is no Ash Pack,” snapped Weed who had come down the stairs in time to catch Christopher’s comment.

“Weed,” said Meg in tired admonishment. “He didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Then let him say that.” Weed wasn’t quite growling, but she could tell he didn’t like Christopher. Since they hadn’t met, at least as far as Meg knew, she had to assume it was because he was obviously a Council representative.

“He came down here to help us, if you chase him off I’m going to be really annoyed.” She said mildly and Weed gave her a frustrated look. “He’s a friend, really.”

“As far as I’m able,” amended Christopher. “There are limits to friendship.”

“There are limits to everything,” said Weed, but turned to go backup stairs when Theo called out for an extra hand.

“They really aren’t bad,” said Meg quietly. “I don’t know if you’re being here is going to be a good thing or not, but they’ll get over it,”

“It’s just until tomorrow afternoon,” said Christopher, somewhat apologetically. “But if you let me I’d be more than willing to help out going over your plans.” He paused. “You do have plans, right?”

“I’m not completely hopeless,” Meg laughed and led him into the dining room where the paperwork had reclaimed the table– at least until lunchtime.

And Then There Was One

—————————————————————————————-

By dinner Weed and Christopher had more or less settled their difference enough that they weren’t subtle growling at each other. It helped to have Susan there, who had her own strong dislike of Christopher and the Council he represented. So Weed could let her pour on the contempt and just stay in the background and be amused.

They were in the middle of setting the table buffet style, since there wasn’t enough room for them all to eat there anymore. When Meg started feeling a little light-headed. Susan caught it almost as soon as she did.

“Are you okay?” She asked, putting down the plates she was carrying and taking the silverware out of Meg’s hands. “You don’t look good.”

“I don’t know, I was fine.” Meg blinked, trying to clear her head and then sat down abruptly as the worst headache she’d ever felt slammed into her head. Everything went bright white then black and it felt like someone had poured molten metal into her eyes where it ran down her spine.

It hurt so much she didn’t even scream, just muffled yelp as her jaw clenched shut and she curled into a fetal position as the pain leeched out of her bones into every nerve ending. She was on fire, burning, so much pain growing and growing and growing.

And it snapped off like a light, leaving her shaking and throwing up, muscles still clenched and shuddering.

“What happened? What’s going on?” She could hear Theo frantically trying to get over to her while Susan crouched protectively over her, downshifted into her wolf form and snarling up at the others who were all trying to help at once.

And in the distance she could hear Christopher’s phone ringing with a tone that meant something horrible had happened.

And then everything went black, and stayed that way.

~*~*~*~*~

Yusuf managed to get Susan to back off, banishing the other pack members to a safe distance and keeping Theo from starting a fight with Susan so she could reach Meg.

Meg was unconscious, but breathing. She’d hit her head on the way down and there was a small cut still sluggishly bleeding on her forehead, but otherwise seemed okay. Only the cut was still there– she wasn’t healing and he couldn’t figure out why for a long moment.

He realized what happened at the same moment Christopher snapped his phone shut and stepped over to him.

“By the power vested in my by the Council, Yusuf Black, true and loyal son of the Baron who is father to us all, I cede you this pack, let its success be your success, let it’s failures be your failures. Do you so swear?”

Yusuf just looked up at him and Christopher snarled, “do you do swear?”

“I do,” he finally got out. It had been such a long time since he’d had a pack, but the old familiar magic was there, gathering the severed ties and keeping the pack tapestry from unweaving.

“WHAT HAPPENED?” Roared Theo, finally shoving Christopher to get his attention.

He snarled back and for a moment Yusuf though his first act as alpha would be to keep them from killing each other, but Christopher had the control Theo lacked and the crises management expert fought back his wolf.

“The Clearfield Pack is gone.” Christopher said. “The whole branch’s been disinherited. I have to leave,” he looked a little lost, “I have to get back, they’ve called me in– I can’t–” he trailed off, looking down at Yusuf and Meg. “I’ll be back, I promise.” Then he turned, picked up his suitcase, still leaning against the sofa and was gone.

“They’re all gone.” Theo blinked, “all of them.”

“Come on, help me get her cleaned up and into bed.” Yusuf picked up the now-human Meg carefully and the two headed up stairs, Susan padding along behind, ears flat back and still muttering to herself.

There was a long pause from the people who were still left downstairs.

Then Lily sighed, a short sharp burst of frustration and resolve. “Dinner’s getting cold.”

And with that, everyone went back into motion, still a bit in shock, but jumping on the chance to do something normal, something routine to distract them from the apocalypse that had landed on their doorstep.

~*~*~*~*~

The Writer sneaks back into the end of the scene and does some exposition dumping that really needs to be included earlier in the story.

A) Werewolves are either born that way (one or more parents are a werewolf) or are turned into werewolves when they are officially adopted into the Black family (or when their parents/grandparents/great-grandparents take the oaths) ((uncles and aunts and cousins don’t count)).

Adoption oaths can be coerced, but the person offering the kinship oaths and the person taking it must at that moment truly mean them.
Brainwashing of one or both prior to that event is a-okay, but they cannot be forced to accept (or give) the oath against their will.

B) Renouncing the family oath can be done at any time by any werewolf. This affects ONLY the person renouncing, not their children. Renouncing also cannot be done unless the curse really truly believes they mean it.

C) Werewolves can disinherit their children, but not their children’s offspring UNLESS they are the Baron or one of his seven sons. Those eight can prune their tree at will however the sons can only prune those branches that trace back through them. The Baron can get rid of anyone he wants, except for his own children. Again, they really have to mean it when they say ‘you aren’t my child.’

D) The curse is stronger the further you get down the family tree to the Baron. Most werewolves are 20-30 steps out from the foundation wolves.

E) No one beyond the original eight who can tell who a werewolf is related to except the werewolf’s ‘parent’. Thus the confusion when new werewolves turn up if it isn’t obvious how they got that way. (And why Donny’s plan isn’t quite as stupid as it seemed.)

F) Killing your ‘parent’ does not count as Renouncing an oath, the curse already expects you to be a horrible awful person.