Aggie has lived her whole life thinking that she was the only one of her kind.
She was wrong
work in progress
I never saw him coming.
All day I had wished for some sort of distraction, and when I had successfully put myself into a mindless state of false tranquility, it was bliss. My eyes were trained ahead, not really focusing on anything. Music blared in my ears as loud as I could crank it without blowing out what was left of my eardrums, and with each hit of bass that reverberated through my headphones, my feet would strike the gravel path beneath me. It had been like this for the past couple of hours-mindless running to get my mind off of what had been bothering me all day.
The hair on my arms stood straight up-my Other's instinct trying to tell me that something was wrong-or about to be. I halted in my drone like trance of a jog, and yanked my earbuds out of my ears just as I heard the gravel crunch a few paces behind me. Just as I had begun to turn on my heel, I heard a hollow, whistling like sound. Pain exploded across the right side of my face, my bones crunched under the blunt force of a metal pipe connecting with the side of my head and I stumbled forward trying to catch myself. My right eye had already swollen shut, and with my left eye, I saw the hazy dawn of the mountains explode into an array of swirling colors. My mind chugged, trying to keep up with what was happening even though my brain was processing it all in slow motion. The pipe whistled again behind me and hit the top of my back, and this time I went down like a sack of bricks.
"Got you now, you creepy bitch." From the angle I had fallen, I could see a pair of legs with feet clad in boots. My assailant reared his leg back and before I had registered that he had kicked me, I felt the air whoosh out of my lungs as a few of my ribs snapped clean in half. Steel toe boots. What a son of a bitch. The world went dark as I teetered on the edge of consciousness and just before I tipped over the edge into sheer darkness, I picked up that scent-the one I had forced myself to run away from all day. Someone was there, watching from the thick of trees somewhere off to my right. The pain became too much and I slipped, hoping to god that I would wake up.
Turns out, fate would have that I would wake up. There was a voice in the background and as my senses regained themselves, I realized it was my assailant. I recognized those stupid steel toe boots first. It was dark out now and the only light I could see in this barren room was a solitary light bulb that hung precariously from a frayed wire. While my kidnapper continued his conversation obliviously in the corner of the room away from me, I tested the binds that I felt around my wrists and feet. The ones on my feet weren't tight for shit and I knew that I could break out of them in a heartbeat. The ones on my wrists,however, were a bit tighter and would require a bit more time to break out of. The muffled conversation came to an abrupt halt, and Steel Toe (I had dubbed him) turned around to face me. I lifted my head to look him directly in his beady black eyes, saw the fear hidden within them.
"Gotta let you go, she's awake." He pressed down on his phone, cutting his call off and looked back up to me. "Have to say I'm surprised." He stuffed his phone in his too tight jeans and ambled forward, his tough guy act really not paying off for him. He looked like an idiot. His dark eyes were set deep within his face, too close together in such a way that suggested that his gene pool wasn't too deep. His skin was marked with miscellaneous tattoos that climbed up his lanky arms, spiraled around his neck and speckled the top of his bald head. His jeans were scattered with holes and grease smears and he wore a leather vest over a dirty wife beater. It was hard to believe that people like him still existed in this day and age.
Steel Toe stopped in front of me and hunched over to my level, his dirty meaty hands grabbing my face, turning it to the side to look at his handy work from earlier. My hands balled up and I resisted the urge to jerk out of my restraints. My Other sense was on fire, I could feel it moving under my skin and it took everything in my power to keep it from rising to the surface. My head was pounding, and I had a headache from hell building at the base of my skull but I knew what he was looking at. The fractures I had suffered were gone, my eye was no longer swollen and my back had mended itself. My humanity, or lack there-of, was painfully obvious... Of course he had known that when he had beaten me with a metal fucking pipe.
"Why would God create such an aberration?" he muttered in his child like wonder. He let go of my face and stood back up.
"I'm wondering the same thing." I said through grit teeth. My chest hurt like I had been hit by a car, but at least I could breathe. Steel Toe made a face and went back to his corner. There was a table back there with all different kinds of objects on it-including a bloody pipe. As I listened to him dig around for something, a familiar scent filled the air-the same scent I had tasted at the park right before I went unconscious. My heart picked up pace in my chest and I looked around for the source. An Earthy mixture of pine, mint and fresh rain called to my Other nature-something that was never supposed to happen- and controlling my second skin became a harder task than ever before. Steel Toe had found what he was looking for- a long and sharp blade that glinted in the moonlight through the window. I could smell the silver in the blade from across the room, and that was all it took.
Unable to keep my second nature down, I kicked out of the braided rope that bound my legs to the chair, watched that fear in my kidnappers eyes blow full force to the surface. I flexed my arms out, feeling the braids in the rope give. Steel Toe abandoned his knife and reached into his vest to whip out a gun. The poison smell of the silver in his ammunition made my stomach hurl. The ropes around my hands weren't giving away fast enough, so I lunged to the side with all of my might as Steel Toe pulled the trigger on his small gun. The wooden chair splintered and I yanked my arms out of their confines, but once again my brain seemed to be processing everything in slow motion.
The Earthy smell was now overwhelming and I had pushed myself to my feet just as someone else came barreling through the door to the small room. Steel Toe's gun went flying as whomever it was knocked into him with enough force to throw him through a wall, and even though all my brain seemed to process was a flash of a person, I saw one detail that made my blood run chilly cold in my veins.
Just like that my solitary existence was rocked right down to its core. Everything that had been burned into my brain since I was child was thrown right out the window, leaving me standing there staring at nothing like a bump on a log.
"NOOOOO-" Steel Toe's scream was cut off into a blood filled gurgling that eventually turned into nothing more than silence and I continued to stare at the fresh hole in the wall trying to make sense of what was happening. Through my brain addled mess I recognized the sound of flesh being ripped and muscle being torn and even a bone breaking or two. Steel Toe never really had a chance. My senses suddenly kicked into high gear, and my Other nature was right back to being underneath the surface of my skin. I watched tiny fissures pop up on the flesh of my arms and hands as my Other forced itself through.
Okay Agaitha, get your shit together. You know what this means. You have to go now. I stumbled towards the door just as a pair of hands grabbed the edges of the hole in the wall. I turned by the door and watched as he climbed through, bringing that wonderful smell with him. I knew what it all meant, and I knew what he was but for the life of me I just couldn't get my head around it. He pulled himself out and up in one swift movement and stood there like a force of nature. The tension in the air was palpable, and the silence was the loudest noise I had ever heard in my life.
He wore a pair of jeans and a fine grey shirt, both of which were smeared with crimson. It was all over him...and so were the scales. They popped up in patches up his arms and neck, traced the hard line of his jaw and tapered off on his strong cheek bones. His eyes were hidden in the mess of auburn hair that hung around his head, but I saw them and they set this new reality into stone for me: I wasn't alone anymore.
Time to go, Aggie. Time to run.
We locked eyes for a moment-I knew at this point that mine were almost identical to his- and then I took off out the door with an all new sense of meaning. The hallway was long and full of doors identical to the one I had just burst through and I couldn't find the exit for shit. My eyes pinpointed the escape stairs out of the window though and I made quick time in running through it (thank god it was already open) and tearing down the steps. Thunderous footsteps tore above me and I knew it was him. He was coming for me and the thought both excited and scared me. I said fuck it to the rest of the stairs and hopped the railing, landing solid on my feet. Not daring to look over my shoulder I kept going, aiming for the thick line of trees that would give me a better chance of losing my new captor. My skin was itching now as my own scales pushed through, shoving aside old flesh.
"Why do we have to run, mama?" I don't know how many times I had heard this conversation in my head these past few years, but now it was all I could think about. I broke through the trees, ignoring the heavy thicket of briers and limbs that grabbed and yanked at my hair, skin and clothes. I kept pushing myself, banking on the fact that I was fast-faster than my brothers and sure as hell faster than any of my peers.
In my mind's eye, I saw my mother pulling out freshly washed sheets, watched as she plucked one from the basket in my hands and took to pinning it to the clothes line in our back yard. My mother had never been conventional and was a stickler for "the old ways." She took the pins that she had between her teeth and clipped the rest of the heavy sheet to the wire before scooting down to the next spot to repeat the process of hanging our linens to dry. The wind that brushed around us was warm and carried with it the smell of fresh cut grass and the sound of my brothers screaming at each other from the front yard.
My father used to be the Tribal Elder-or a pack Alpha. As shifters though, we didn't like those terms, so we stuck with Tribal Leader. Every year, he and a few of the other Tribal Elders would travel to our ceremonial clearing-the one where we had our Runs every couple of full moons. All they did was secure it so normal civilians didn't caught in the midst while we completed our carnal needs. I remembered that day because for the first time in my eight years, I was finally curious enough to ask my mother what the Runs were about. Of course my mother had no problem in obliging in my eight year old curiosity and answer my endless questions.
"We run because it's tradition Agaitha." She had murmured through the clips she had stuck back in her mouth. I knew that wasn't the end of her reply and I waited patiently while she finished hanging up my brothers bed sheets. The warm wind twirled about us, whipping Mother's long chestnut hair around her, and she swatted at it to keep it out of her face. As a child, I had often heard that I looked like my mother an awful lot, and as an adult I could see the resemblance, save for a few differences.
My mother was called a Valkyrie. It was what our tribe referred to our strong, warrior women as and the term fit her like a glove. Mother's skin was a beautiful tan that resulted from working outside all day. When her hair wasn't kept in a tight French braid, it swirled around at her side in a cascade of brown and hues of red. I knew that if it came down to it, my mother could take any male in our tribe and win, and as a teen I had strived to be just like her. I did resembled my mother now, but I had my father's raven black hair and emerald green eyes.
"Way back when, before our tribe and people were created there was a Princess." Of course she was talking about our Goddess Lupine, the very first shifter. It was a story that had been passed down through the ages, and one I didn't mind hearing over and over again. Mother took the half empty basket from my small arms, and brought us both to sit in the grass. Out of habit, she began gathering my hair and setting it into a braid as she completed her story.
"She was beautiful and strong-
"Just like you mama," I had commented as I aimlessly plucked grass from the ground.
"Oh Aggie." She pinched my cheeks and I smiled as she continued her story. "As the Goddess was on her daily walks, she found a hunter- a man with qualities in him that made him honorable and steadfast. She fell in love with him." Lupine and Wulf. "And eventually, after many years of watching each other from afar, he fell in love with her too. The Goddess's father grew angry with her choice, and punished her by striking her shoulder, cursing her to turn into an animal. Every full moon, she would shift into a different being and would hide herself away from her love in fear of being rejected." I winced as she tugged the braid tight about halfway through, before gathering more of my hair to continue. "Her love followed her one full moon without her knowing. She gave chase away from him but he continued to follow, pushed by his love for her until eventually he caught her. To take the curse upon himself so that they could be together, he bit her where her father had struck her."
I knew the rest of the story. Wulf had taken half of Lupine's curse and instead of being an animal all the time, they only shifted at the full moon and got to live out the rest of their immortal lives in happiness. My mother sensing that I was unhappy with this explanation continued. "The Goddess and The God found that their curse was a blessing. They shared it with their children and so on. We run because they ran. Because it is our tradition and how our Soul-Bound are dictated. If we didn't have tradition we would have-
"we would have nothing. I know." I had finished for her.
My memory came to an abrupt halt as my foot caught a tree root and sent me flying forward. That wonderful smell that signaled he was near drifted in heavy, and I shoved myself to my feet and took off running again as I heard branches snap and dry leaves crunch the distance behind me. The moon hung pregnant in the sky, and her light drifted through the cracks in the hammocks of the trees barely giving me enough light to run by. My heart was pounding in my chest and adrenaline coursed through my veins, the soul purpose of pushing me forward faster and harder than I ever had in my life. For the first time in my life, I was participating in a Run. I had a Soul-Bound when all of my life I had been told that I was the only one of my kind. A small part of me wanted to stop, to let him take me right there on the forest bed but the rest of me wanted to run far away from this. Alone was all I had ever known. Alone was how my parents had left me and I didn't want to change it. I didn't want to rely on anyone but myself because that's how it had always been. I had my brothers but it wasn't the same.
The throng of trees gave way into a wide clearing filled to the brim with grass that reached up to my torso. There were hills of it that rolled along these old mountains and I realized my chances of not being seen anymore had just become slim to none. I continued to push myself, gulping in air like a fish as I tore the limp skin off my arms, letting the scales breathe. The darkness of the night changed to a glowing myriad of colors. I passed heat signatures of snakes and rabbits and squirrels, resisted that rising primal instinct to hunt everything in the nearest vicinity. I continued to tear away at the skin on my arms and neck and I had just begun to pull away at my face when I heard him crash through the trees behind me. I broke my rule and chanced a glance at him. Our eyes locked and I saw that new primal need.
Like me he had began to tear away at his human nature, exposing beautiful black and blue scales to the light of the moon. They were so unlike my own (white and purple) and for the first time in my life, a sense of longing set up in the pit of my stomach and pumped liquid, molten heat throughout my body. I watched him pick up on that scent, the vertical slits that had become his pupils dilated like a cats eyes would and he took off like a bullet-quicker than I had expected. Oh gods, my curiosity had really fucked me this time.
For the third time that day, my brain had decided to process everything in slow motion. There was silence, not even the crickets dared to sing, as warm fingers wrapped around the upper part of my right arm. His grip was vice and he yanked me back to him. I pulled away at his fingers, managing to turn to face him as he grabbed at me again, a low growl breaking the heavy silence. I growled back continuing to fight at his hands. It became a game of keep away and I lost as my ankles tucked underneath me, sending us crashing to the ground. My head bounced off a rock, making my eyes vibrate. He took advantage of my momentary weakness by working on pinning my arms by my sides. I began my struggle to keep my solitude too late. In one quick movement he had ripped away the fabric of my t-shirt, exposing my torso to the moon. Everything went down hill from there. His grip on my arms receded, and the strap to my sports bra was hiked down my shoulder, giving him clear room. And then he bit me.
I opened my mouth, but there was no scream. There was a hell of a lot of pain, but more overwhelmingly there was pleasure. That heat that had pooled in the pit of my being exploded and dug my nails into the flesh of his arms. My back arched into him and he growled as one of his arms scooped underneath me, pressing me to him. The breath I didn't know I had been holding exploded and suddenly there was only one thing I wanted to do. There was a new need as I ripped his shirt from his body, tossing what was balled up in my hands away. His skin had that same dark tan that all men had in the south. It was how my mother told me to look for a hard worker. Lines of black ink trailed patterns up his arms and into his chest but I hardly saw them. Not holding back my urge any longer, I opened my mouth and clamped down right into the base of his neck, burying my teeth as far as they would go. He made a noise that I had discerned as a mixture between a grunt and a growl, and yanked me closer as I took him all in. Never in my life had I known what to do in this situation, but my body did and it sure as hell wasn't being shy about it.
My world tilted, shifted sideways as fresh blood pooled in my mouth-his blood. The night faded away into the background as I was lost in new senses and emotions, the strongest and overwhelming being want borderline need...but there was more than that. The back of my head tingled and I wasn't really sure if it was from the rock I had hit it on or something new entirely...but there was a new presence there. One that I immediately recognized as him. I felt his want coupled with my own and the feeling was enough to nearly overpower me.
I unclamped my jaw from his shoulder, locked down my thoughts and pushed away. I expected to see anger or irritation...but he didn't give me any of those. Not even a blank stare. I continued to back away from him until I had enough clearance to stand up and away from him. He followed suit, all the while raising a curious brow at me before cracking the whitest, most brilliant smile I had ever seen. It was hard, but I forced my Other nature away-tucked it back deep down within me so it couldn't rise to the surface again. I was hoping that he would disappear out of the back of my mind, but that would be too easy. He didn't. I could still feel him there, hear his curiosity mingling with my own thoughts...and a name.