Paper Wolves : Act IV

Current Act Wordcount: 4,279
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 NaNoWriMo 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.

Previous | Index | The End

~*~*~*~*~

Bad Bargains

Anane led them over to what looked like a warehouse. She gave him a disbelieving look and he grinned. “Far enough away that no one will hear the screams,” he said with a grin.

She shuddered, but she’d known the curse wasn’t an easy transformation– it had been one of the worst days of her life before and she doubted it would be easier the second time around.

The followed him inside and after a small entrance area he led them over to where a padded chair sat. Amusingly there was also a bottle of aspirin and some alcohol.

“Figured it couldn’t hurt to try and dull it somewhat.” said Anane.

She sighed, Tooke the proffered drink and two aspirin and then carefully climbed into the chair. It was a little too big, but she figured he’d probably used it on everyone. It was carved of a hardwood and had been reinforced with metal in places. She ran fingers down one place where the arm had been cracked off and then patched with metal.

“Do you remember how it hurt the first time?” asked Anane as she let them strap her to the padded chair that would keep the seizures under control.

Meg just nodded, she never forgot those nightmare hours when she hadn’t known what was going on. There was nothing to compare it to, not even the tortures of the Clearwater Pack’s initiation.

Anane grinned, “this is going to be MUCH worse.”

Susan made a noise then, Meg wasn’t sure if it was really a snarl, but Anane turned to glare at her and Susan held out for a moment before she was forced to turn away.

“Smokey Susan,” said Meg, trying not to think about what she was getting into. “Theo’s worth it.”
“I know,” said Susan, but Meg could tell she was fighting her own euphoria of being so close to Anane. “Just get it over with.”

When they were done and both Anane and Susan were sure she wasn’t going to hurt herself they began.

The family oath was a simple thing, and over the years the packs and the Councils had turned it into an elaborate ritual.

All Anane asked was “Are you my daughter?”

Meg took a deep breath, thought about her pack– her family, and Theo. “Yes.”

He’d been right, she thought, when she could think again, it was much worse. There were lucid moments, when the curse ebbed, but she spent the next hours in the sort of pain that defied easy metaphor.

It didn’t burn like fire or ice, or cut like a knife or a razor, it was just pure unvarnished pain as the curse unmade her and remade her in its image.

The old woman, whoever or whatever she was, may have given the curse the wrong words but it still remembered her intent.

She must have said something when she thought that, although Meg didn’t remember speaking, because Anane started talking. He’d been talking the whole time, a sort of low murmur that faded in and out– but this was the first time she could understand him again.

“She meant for us to be the monster wolves of folklore I think, rabid mindless things that would turn on each other in a frenzy. But wolves are more than that, have always been more than that– she might have been better to curse us as dogs.”

She notice in some hazy part of her mind that he was keeping well out of her reach and that Susan had moved to a corner of the room, pacing back and forth in wolf form and watching her with worried yellow eyes.

“But you are a wolf, not a dog, not a mad rabid thing. You are a creature born of family, of love and loyalty– things that hunt in packs are social, communal, and so are we. Remember that.”

She wanted to snap at him that all of this she did for family, but al that came out was a coughing roar that sounded more lion than human or wolf.

Susan whined worriedly, Anane laughed, and then things slipped away again.

~*~*~*~*~

“She’ll kill you.”

She floated back into the world as Anane pushed Susan’s wolf back out of range. She frowned, or tried to frown, but she had no energy left.

How was she supposed to kill anyone when she was this tired.

Susan whined grumpily, which was something only a few dogs could pull off well– but Susan had decades of experience making wolves sound human.

“Give her time.”

And the world floated away again on waves of pain that pulsed like a heartbeat. It was slowing, she wasn’t sure how she could tell, but there seemed to be a horizon now. She just had to hold on a little longer.

When it was finished she fell asleep in one swift dive into oblivion.

Her dreams were focusing and surreal, never settling on one scene or storyline before melding into something else. It reminded her, annoyingly, of watching Keeper channel surf. And when the dream was finally over she awoke cranky and impatient.

The first thing she noticed was that she was in a bed, something she hadn’t realized the warehouse had hidden away. But on closer inspection, now that it was daylight again she could see the warehouse had been converted into an actual house, although some of it was clearly still under construction.

Wide and airy, it had the feel of a college dorm, the bits and pieces felt more macgyvered than engineered, and yet it worked. She wondered for a moment if Anane lived her, but tossed that aside. He’d said he was only visiting the area, there was no reason this was his.

Although it did remind her of him, the ancient gutted to embrace the modern. She yawned and tried to sit up, only to find herself tied to the bed. With a mutter she set about undoing the buckles, the straps were loose enough to make that easy while still short enough to keep her in bed until she was coherent enough to unbuckle them.

There was noise from the downstairs, the bed was in a bit of a loft in the corner and Susan came trotting up the steps– pausing at the end of the landing and eyeing her warily.

“For the love of– seriously Susan, I’m not going to eat you.” She undid the last arm restraint with some annoyance and ended up a split second later with a arm (and lap) full of overly ecstatic wolfhyrbid.

Anane let them play for a moment, then coughed politely.

Meg and Susan had the good grace to look at least a little bit sheepish for roughhousing on the bed. But only a little.

“Breakfast and then I think it’s time to pay your father a visit.” He said, and things got solemn again. “Since you cleaned out my fridge to fuel your overly enthusiastic transformation, we’re going to have to hit Denny’s.” He paused. “You might want some pants.”

At which point Meg turned bright red as she realized she was down to a t-shirt and undoes. Susan valiantly attempted to block the view, but Anane just laughed and went back down the stairs so Meg could change.

Susan up shifted to human with a scowl that wasn’t quite genuine and glared after him.

“I really ate everything in the fridge?” Meg asked, while getting dressed as quickly as she could.

“That and six hamburgers to boot,” said Susan, giving her a semi-worried look. “I don’t think it went as well as he was expecting.”

“I wonder if it was the silver,” Meg said, shuddering as she remembered what Corbin’s shotgun had done to her side. “That wasn’t magic’s silver, but still.”

“He knew about that though,” said Susan, “and he almost– he almost looked worried for a bit.”

Meg didn’t say anything to that, she couldn’t think of anything to say.

~*~*~*~*~

“So this is the new laptop, eh?” Quentin looked around the emptiness of Google Docs with mild curiosity. “It doesn’t make that nice typewriter sound that Q10 does.”

“True,” said the Writer, who was still getting used to the new keyboard, “but it’s a lot less likely to lock up, give me weird video driver errors, or randomly turn itself off– which was about where the old net book was at.”

“Maybe they’ll do a Q10 app then,” said the older werewolf, who as far as the Writer knew had no particular interest in electronics. “Either way, I’m not really meant to be in this story you know.”

“I’m finding that out,” said the Writer with a sigh. “I didn’t realize Yusuf was going to fill in most of the roles I needed. You’re sort of extraneous.”

“Like the cops,” Quentin said with a grin, looking over at the unmarked police car that was sitting stubbornly across the street from the house.

“Nah, they’ve got a purpose, I’ve just got to figure out how to get them from being a laser gun on a prairie mantel and made them fit in a bit smoother.”

“And find a logical reason to boot.”

“Eh,” the Writer shrugged, “logic is for the days after NaNo.”

“But yeah, if I could have the rest of the novel off–” Quentin trailed off hopefully.

“Sure, sure,” said the Writer, looking over her note cards. “I’ll go back and pull you out of any earlier scenes as well. I’m going to be doing a lot of trimming actually.”

“Isn’t that always the case.” With a respectful (is) tip of his imaginary that the werewolf wandered back into the vagueness that made up most of the house.

“I need to get around to doing a proper floor plan at some point.”

“You might also want to make sure if it’s a one-story house or not,” pointed out Meg who had just walked down from the theoretical upstairs. “I’m pretty sure this was a rancher at some point.”

“Continuity isn’t my strong point,” the Writer gestured at the index cards.

“And neither is working on actual scenes in the novel.”

“Right.”

There was a pause.

“Don’t suppose you could help me with that?” the Writer asked hopefully and her fictive sighed.

“I’d say just pick a scene at random and start writing, but I’m not sure that would help.”

“Couldn’t hurt.” The Writer closed her eyes, “Ernie, weenie, many, moa…”

And there was Movie Sign!

Follow Your Nose

With the curse in place and a MUCH stronger tie to Theo they didn’t have as much problem stacking her down as Meg had expected.

They drove around for a while playing hotter and colder and once they thought they were close they waited until dark, downshifted and checked out the building in wolf form. Anane was very much a wolf, there was nothing else that he could have been taken for.

Meg was pretty much the same now, she took a moment to look at her reflection in a puddle before Susan yipped at her to follow. It was weird to see the lack of dog in her features she’d gotten to used to seeing. She was all wolf now, but still the same coloring. A little less with the German Sheppard but it was still there faintly.

inaner was black as the night, two yellow eyes floating in the darkness. Susan was much more dog in her wolf and stood out as a hybrid probably but less so than Theo. It was sort of amusing the amount of domestication that seeped into the bloodlines

She wondered if that was an indented bit of the curse or if was just a random tangent that the magic had taken. She would have thought that as the curse got weaker it would simply have stopped letting them turn into wolves– not that they would look more like dogs. true it was much faster transformation now, almost seamless and instantiations shift up or down, but as far down the tree as she had been before she would have thought there would be more degradation.

Either way they ended up in a bare of town where stay dogs would catch the eyes so they stayed to the shadows and watched door cars. The Clearfield pack had moved into a warehouse as suspected, but it was in an area where the other ones were occupied so they had a feeling that this one was too.

They watched the patrols for awhile, knowing that there were probably folks cloaked in the area so they didn’t get close at all. Thankfully the sympathetic magic that would have let the other pack know they were there vanished with the curse. All they had to worry about what the magi corm the medallions which was much less powerful. Being a block or so away was far nigh to keep them safe.

Atlas for flow.

DO how are we supposed to rescue Theo?

I have no idea, beta least now we know where they are.

No Stupid Questions

“This is a human problem, right?” said Meg.

“I suppose,” said Anane.

“Then why don’t we use a human solution?”

Susan and Anane just looked at her.

“We’ve got what amounts to cops of speed-dial. We have a large group of people who we know for sure have been killing people–”

“Werewolves,” corrected Anane.

“Still,” said Meg. “At least one of those had to make it into the system. If we tell the cops just enough for them to link the groups together there’s a chance we can have the cops do the dirty work.”

“How is this better than just killing them?” asked Anane.

“How are we going to explain a warehouse full of dead people?” asked Meg.

“Gang war?” offered Susan, sarcastically. “What does it matter, they won’t trace it back to us.”

“And the fact that they are all named Black? And that they are already investigating Nico for mob ties? And that they know Anane is in the area?”

“Huh.” said Susan.

“But if they get arrested, what’s to stop them from getting loose again?” asked Anane skeptically. “There are trials, juries, bond hearings– they may pick them up but I bet they won’t keep them.”

“We don’t need them to keep them,” said Meg. “Look, right now they’re holed up expecting werewolves– they aren’t prepared for cops. They’ll be off guard when they’re picked up, some of them will get held, some won’t– but it’s going to be MUCH easier for the Council to clean this up in smaller groups.”

Anane blinked. “You are much more vicious than I give you credit for.”

“They did something bad enough to get one of the Baron’s sons to disown them and I’ve got to say from what Christopher’s telling me I don’t blame them. They earned their turn in hell,” she said.

“Even your dad?” Anane raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah.” Meg didn’t say anything else and after a moment Anane nodded.

“Then we call the Council, get enough backup to feed the police enough to setup a reason to arrest them. Any idea of how we can deliver this without making them horribly suspicious?” said Anane.

“I’ve got an idea.” said Meg.

~*~*~*~*~

“This is your idea of a peace offering,” said Hunter flipping through the documentation with a raised eyebrow.

“You wanted a mob, I found one for you.” said Meg.

“Wait, these guys killed the guy they found in the swamp?” said Chase, flipping through his own folder. The Council had sent of a LOT of information. “Seriously?”

“Case of mistaken identity I think,” said Meg. “But that’s the easiest one. Most of them turned into missing persons, but we’ve got a lot of evidence that missing means dead.”

“It’s circumstantial a lot of it,” said Hunter after a moment.

“But there’s a LOT of it,” said Meg.

“It’s worth bringing them in and seeing what we can get,” said Chase. “Right?”

“They are Blacks after all,” said Meg sarcastically.

Hunter gave her a look. “They are.” He sighed. “Fine, but don’t think this little internal turf war means you’re off the hook.”

“Far from it.” sighed Meg.

“Thanks,” said Chase and with a smile he followed Hunter back to the car.

Meg turned and walked back into the house, time to do a little follow the leader. Hunter might not want them involved in the operation, but he couldn’t stop them from showing up for the end.

Check and Mate

It was an anticlimactic ending– at least once the cops had finished storming the place.

She saw her father as they were leading them away to the cars. He called out and Chase paused for a moment.

“It didn’t have to end like this,” he said sounding hopeless and frustrated.

“Yeah, actually it did.” She gave him a tired look, “You were an okay man, you really were, but you were a lousy wolf.”

He just looked at her for a second, then turned and walked away into the vans without looking back.

“Was that really your dad?” asked Chase.

“As close as I’m ever going to get,” said Meg.

“You can always visit him in the jail,” Chase tried to find something cheerful, but Meg just looked at him and he sighed. “Okay, so that’s probably the last things you’d ever want to do, but at least you got your dog back, right.”

Theo was under the care of Anane who was showing uncanny restraint. She seemed calm and collected, the very pinnacle of well behaved wolf hybrid (at least after her suitably enthusiastic greeting).

“Not really a fair trade, a dog for a family” said Meg and Chase nodded. She wondered what he’d have thought if he’d known what she really meant. “But he dug his own grave, I’m not going to keep trying to save him from it.”

Chase gave her a slightly confused look, but headed back to the vans when Hunter called him.

“This isn’t the way that I thought this would end,” said Anane conversationally. “You younger wolves, all bloodless and law abiding.” he sounded amused, if somewhat disappointed.

“I know you don’t believe me, but it does make life a lot easier.” said Meg dryly.

“You’d be surprised what I’d believe,” Anane grinned. “But this looks like a good place for me to make my exit. stage right.”

“Oh,” said Meg not sure what to say.

“Here’s my number,” he handed her a business card. “I’ll be in touch.” And with one last slightly patronizing grin he wandered out the door to this car.

“That was the oddest thing–” said Meg.

“Odd is not the word I’d use to describe him,” said Susan. “Intoxicating, sadistic, self-centered, there are whole lot of adjectives that fit just about anything he’s involved in.”

“Am I going to regret this?” Meg asked.

“I don’t think so,” said Susan. “I wouldn’t have called him if I thought it was a bad idea.”

“Even to save Theo?”

Susan paused, then finally. “Yeah. There are some bargains that just aren’t worth it.”

“And some that are.” Meg grinned and scratched Theo’s ruff as the wolf-hybrid leaned into her.

“So, if we’re done here–?” Susan let the question trail off.

“Home it is,” said Meg fishing the keys out of her pocket.

New Equations

Settling back into normal life was anything but easy. Every now and then she’d forget and things would come out more forcefully than intended.

Theo never seemed to mind, she found the power differential amusing rather than alarming, but Meg felt bad when Susan or Weed ended up on the wrong end of a bad mood.

But she got tired of apologizing and they got tired of being apologized to.

Instead they moved to a hastily constructed language half bro code and half sign language. Apologies given and accepted without having to really mention that they’d passed at all.

She knew Anane was still out there although she hadn’t heard from him since the arrests. To be honest, she liked it that way. The idea that she was related to one of the sons was something that still terrified her some nights. The amount of power they had was staggering.

Heck the amount of of power she had now was pretty terrifying, when you got right down to it.

She’d never been around single digit wolves before, everyone she’d know had been at least twelfth generation of lower. She’d been pretty far down the ranks herself, at least as far as she knew. Most werewolf genealogy was either the kind where you could trace right back to the baron or where you had only a general idea where you fit into the tree.

There were a lot of wolves who had missing gaps into their trees, they might know one or two generations back, but like the Ash Pack they had no idea where they went from there.

And now she outranked them all.

Well, not all of them. There were hundreds if not thousands of the Baron’s grandchildren running around– there were even rumors that he had more than just the seven sons now. But since Anane was the first person that powerful she’d ever met, she was going to focus on worrying about the vile she knew as opposed to the ones she hadn’t run into yet.

Seemed safer that way.

Sadly her new found status within the werewolf pack didn’t translate into real life income or a real life vanishing of Hunter and Chase. They seemed more determined than ever to use her to get into Nico’s organization.

But things did start to work out. They got the Ash Pack into a house nearby, thankfully the group had a lot more crafting skills than had been expected. Between their work as a cleaning crew and their handmade jams, candies, and crafts they made enough to keep themselves afloat.

Weed still sent a good deal of time at the house, something Meg wasn’t sure if she should mind or not. But neither Susan nor Theo seemed to mind that their house had turned into ground zero for the group of friends within the pack so she didn’t worry about it.

Besides they have a heck of a guest room now, so there was never a dearth of places to sleep.

The only real bonus, other than being able to tell Will to shut up and have it work, was that Nico was having serious acid indigestions over the whole affair.

Anane had taken the time to swing by and ‘have a chat’ with the Northside Alpha and while he didn’t get her any details the subtle harassment had completely stopped.

Merlin wasn’t any less of a pain to work with, but she had a feeling that was just his personality. It did help to be able to ask him a question and then follow up with ‘give me a full answer’ and actually get one.

But she didn’t always so that, it was sort of fun to guess which questions she needed to ask. She was picking things up and he seemed amused more than annoyed at her stumbling.

Plus he was the only one who seemed impressed bit the fact that she’d bootstrapped her way out of accidental status. Which really only made him more of a jerk, but it was also nice to have at least once person in her life who thought that taking the baths from Anane was a good thing.

She still wasn’t sure herself.

But life goes on and she had a pack that needed her.

And So Passed November

“So wait, you’re really going to turn the Musefic into a book of some sort?” Asked Chase, who was eyeing the mostly completed manuscript with something akin to alarm. “Isn’t that cheating somehow?”

“I don’t see how,” said the Writer. “After all, I did write it during November and it was meant to be part of a book.”

“Part of a rough draft,” objected Meg, snagging a beer from the interdimensional cooler. “They weren’t really meant to stand alone.”

“But they do,” insisted the Writer. “I was going through and editing them out into another file and I realized it really did tell the story of NaNo, abet in a slightly confusing form.”

“I don’t think you can tell the story of telling the story without the context.” said Chase.

“I don’t think you should tell the story at all.” said Meg.

“Good thing you’re not the Writer then!” said the Writer, who was a tad more smug than she should have been considering she was going to have to find a way to make the NaNo silliness into something entertaining.

“And on that note,” said Chase with a sigh. “Pass me another beer.”

And she did.

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