I know a lot of authors will give bullshit excuses as to why they take so long to update, but in my case, I had a serious excuse. From October-December, I was busy with my semester in college. I was taking several diffucult courses, and between classes, and work, I had barely any time to check this website. And when I did, it was on a computer that was not my laptop, so I never updated because the story was on my laptop. Then, right before finals, my laptop crashed. So I lost everything. Yay. So I had to fix it before I could start my new semester.
Then, In January I got into a terrible car accident. I wound up in the hospital for a long time, and then in a wheelchair. I am still not fully recovered; I still have another six to nine months of recovery left ahead of me. So the updates will be slow. And this chapter is not the greatest, because I had to rewrite everything. But I'm happy with it, so enjoy!
Even with everything that has happened, I'm not abandoning the story. Fragility
“It’s the full moon, Dawn. You need to leave here.”
Dawn refused to look at Micah. He had approached her bed slowly, waiting for her to be the first to speak, but Dawn would never cave first. Even if this wasn’t Hell, it was still torture and she would carry the pain within herself.
“Dawn, please,” Micah said softly. “You haven’t spoken in days.”
Actually, Dawn was feeling pretty bored. Coming from such a long line of talkative people she found it rather dificult to remain aloof and indifferent to all the people that had been taking care of her.
While she still could not put names to all the faces she had met, some of them had become a common face, and she had learned.
Several hours after waking in the secret hospital that was special for the preternatural, Dawn had been introduced to a kindly woman that all the shifters called Dr. Lillian. She was a small woman, with gray hair cut straight just above her shoulders.
One of Micah’s wereleopards, a blonde woman called Cherry, had taken over position as Dawn’s nurse. Cherry had tried to draw Dawn into conversation but Dawn had stubbornly ignored her.
Now, apparently, Micah had returned to try to draw Dawn out of her self-pity.
“Dawn, this isn’t something you can go through alone. The first full moon for any shifter is terrifying.”
Dawn recalled Oz, all big wolf and growling with salivating, disgusting teeth. On the days of the full moon he was truly a ferocious, man-eating monster. Cool doubt made her shudder slightly, and Micah stiffened. Dawn gathered together her feelings and tried to swallow her fear; to make it evaporate.
“It’s okay to fear what might happen tonight,” Micah said carefully.
She turned then to give him a hard look. She deffinitely did not want to discuss that topic. She was Buffy’s sister and she knew fear intimately. But not with strangers.
She really did feel bad though, for not talking. She debated with herself for a moment, and after several days of not speaking, found her voice was rough from misuse. “Tonight is the full moon?”
A relieved smile broke across the leopard king’s face. Dawn realized that he probably would have been glad to hear her say anything. It made her feel even worse.
“It is. Dr. Lillian said that she would escourt you to the Lunapar, and Anita would keep you company if you don’t shift.” Micah brushed a stray curl out of his eyes.
Dawn frowned deeply at this. If she didn’t change? The way everybody hovered over her, she thought they had all been certain!
“I might not change? I thought you were all convinced I was this leopard-thing.” Dawn pulled herself up into a more upright position, and glared at the man.
Micah shook his head, seemingly unfazed by her annoyance. “You haven’t accidentally shifted at all, which is very unusual. But you have
been healing at a faster rate then a normal human.”
“Is that bad?” Dawn murmurred, feeling slight regret at the cold shoulder she had been showing towards everybody. Maybe, she decided glumly, I would have understood more about this if I had paid attention instead of acting like a sullen child.
“It’s not bad, just unusual.”
Of course. Everything was always unusual with her.
“But,” Micah continued. “Dr. Lillian also found several anomolies in your blood that has led her to believe that you will shift.”
She found herself highly tempted to laugh uncontrolably. Several anomolies, indeed. Dawn had Buffy’s blood in her, Slayer blood. She had been created out of green energy that allowed for the travel through different dimensions, and she had been pushed into the shell of a fourteen-year old girl. She had no doubt in her mind that those might be the anomolies that Dr. Lillian was seeing, but she wasn’t about to voice this to Micah, or to anybody.
Wait. Different dimensions. The moment the thought came to her, she was suddenly open with so many different possibilities. Maybe, just maybe
she wasn’t in Hell, or even a Hell dimension! What if she was just simply in another world, one closely related to her own?
“--go with Richard and his pack to the Lunapar with Anita, and-”
“Richard?” Dawn asked, cutting Micah off, unfamilliar with the name.
“He’s Ulfric of the werewolves,” Micah explained patiently. He paused, then said, “Did you want to know anything else about what will happen tonight?“
Dawn puzzled over this a moment, then nodded slowly. “What is the Lunapar? And what’s Ulfric? And do weres go crazy on the full moon? Do you get locked up? And--“
Micah cut her off by holding up a hand. He smiled, but it was a smile that Dawn couldn’t place. She had seen lots of smiles over the years, but this one was definitely the first she had been unable to deceipher.
“The Lunapar is a holy place for the werewolves out in the woods. All the werewolves gather together so that they can shift. My leopards go as well, because Anita holds a position among the werewolves that requires that she be there.
“And no, we don’t go crazy. You don’t need to worry about that if you shift. You’ll have the pard there with you. We protect our own.”
Micah looked at her, and Dawn realized he didn’t exactally answer her last question. She decided to ask, just for the extra reassurance.
“So, no to the getting locked up part?”
He grinned. “That’s a big no.” Then he sighed and pressed his fingers to his temples. “I know it’s a lot to take in, but you’ll be okay.”
Dawn looked away, thinking to herself that he was probably wrong, but wishing all the while that he was right.
* * *
Several hours later, Dawn was smushed between Cherry and a blue-haired wereleopard named Zane in the back of Dr. Lillian’s truck. Zane and Cherry were both talking eagerly about the upcoming moon and Dawn was trying to shrink into herself, and the seat, as far as she could.
Dawn had responded quietly to a few of their questions, but was unable to sate their curiosity. When she realized that, she fell silent and remained that way for the rest of the ride.
She was almost asleep, starting to nod off with her head dipping towards her chest, when the truck halted. Cherry and Zane jumped out, and disappeared into the night. Dr. Lillian looked over the seat at Dawn, and gave her a calm smile.
“I’ll be here the whole time,” she told Dawn. “Micah and Anita are already here. They’ve been waiting for you.”
“Okay,” Dawn mumbled, wanting to crawl into herself and never come out.
Dr. Lillian smiled gently, and leaned over to brush a lock of hair away from Dawn’s face. “You’ll be fine. And tomorrow, I think you should take a shower. You haven’t had one in a couple days.”
Dawn nodded gratefully. The last time she had showered was the day that she had stopped speaking, and she knew she was probably starting to stink.
“I’m ready,” Dawn said after a deep breath.
Together they exited the truck, and Dawn finally got her first glimpse of the mystic place of the werewolves and Anita‘s wereleopards. The Lunapar was a large clearing, relatively flat, and torches were mounted into the ground on either side of a large stone throne. The throne was a huge chair carved of rock, and Dawn felt uneasy watching it; memories of blonde hair and cruel laughter weaving through her subconscious.
Dawn shook off old memories and took note of the large group of people standing in a circle a short distance away amidst the large clearing. She noticed the distinct lack of clothes, and turned to watch the ground as they approached, her face flushed with embarassment.
“Dawn,” Micah greeted. Dawn looked up and smiled at him, relieved that he was still fully dressed.
“Hi,” Dawn said, feeling shy. The air in this place felt different. The air tasted pure, and the general feel of the area was that of eager anticipation.
“How are you feeling?” Micah asked. “The pard is really excited to meet you.”
She wasn’t unaware of the stares that she was getting, the curious looks and whispers. She felt like she was in high school again, and had to control a tremble.
It was then that she noticed Anita stalking over, her face not quite as angry as Dawn had recalled seeing it several days before. When Anita stood next to Micah, Dawn gave her a quivering smile.
Anita studied her a moment, and said, “You’ll probably want to undress soon, before the moon rises.”
Micah’s eyebrows rose, and Anita said, “When you shift, your clothes don‘t magically disappear. Most go naked so that they don’t shred what they wear.”
Dr. Lillian, who had been about to walk past, paused to give Dawn a nod before continuing by, calling over her shoulder. “It would be advisable to undress.”
Dawn blushed again, and drew her arms across her stomach, fingers cleanching into her elbows. “I’d rather not.”
Micah gave her a knowing look, gently touched Anita’s hand, and retreated. Dawn watched Anita watch him leave, and when the woman turned back to face her, she looked slightly flushed.
Well, Dawn admitted to herself once again, Micah was beautiful.
“You aren’t going to undress?” she asked before she could control her mouth.
Anita glanced down at her simple jeans and leather jacket and shook her head. “I don’t shift.”
“You don’t?” Dawn asked, startled. “I don’t understand. Aren’t you Nimir-Raj?”
Anita nodded. “Yeah, but for some reason I don’t shift. I still have a leopard in me though.”
Dawn worried her lip. “Could the same happen to me?”
Anita shrugged. “It’s always a possibility. But Dr. Lillian is fairly certain that you’re going to.”
“My blood,” Dawn murmured, remembered portals and green light.
Anita, oblivious to this, nodded. She glanced over her shoulder towards where Micah was beckoning her, and turned back to Dawn. “Micah wants you to meet the rest of the pard.”
Dawn hesitantly followed after the shorter woman. When they approached the small group of four that had broke away from the large pack to greet them both with Micah, Dawn was assulated with several voices meshed together.
Dawn stepped away from the voices, dazed, and three leopards backed away sheepishly at a sharp word from Anita. The other leopard had not spoken a word, merely regarded her curiously.
“This is Dawn,” Micah introduced. “Dawn, this is some of our pard.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” a man with blond hair told her with a smile. “I’m Gregory.”
The woman standing besides him stepped forward and gave her a small hug. Dawn instantly froze, but found herself melting into the embrace. It felt like it had been a long time since she had been on the receiving end of human contact.
Or, she thought ironically, lycanthrope contact.
The woman stepped away, a smile on her beautiful face. “I’m Vivian. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“It’d be a pleasure to get to know you better,” said another man, his eyes crawling over her appreciatively. Dawn started to shrink away, but caught herself, and shot him a dark glare.
“That’s Caleb. Ignore him--we do.”
Dawn turned to see a naked Cherry strolling over. Her face instantly went back up in flames as the leopard who had been checking her out reverted his attention to the busty blonde.
Gregory chuckled at her embarassment, and Dawn turned away from them to see the as-of-yet unnamed wereleopard.
He was beautiful. Long auburn hair was twisted into a braid that fell down to his ankles. Like the others, he was naked. But Dawn was more interested in the large lavender eyes that were studying her as closely as she was studying him.
“You look familiar,” Dawn said, astonished, but was unable to place where she had seen him.
He gave a small nod. “My name’s Nathaniel. I’m the one who found you.”
He looked slight unsure. “The night, when you were attacked…”
Dawn blinked. “Oh.”
He smiled shyly. “You look a lot better now.”
“Thanks,” she said softly, and reverted her attention to her feet.
“Are you nervous?” Micah asked, standing close to Anita. Dawn glanced over at the two, both so short, and even though she was so much taller then them both, she felt so tiny.
She gave a small shrug. “I guess.”
Nathaniel smiled. “You’ll be okay.”
Together they all headed towards the larger group, and Dawn could sense some hostitlity between one big, brown haired man and Anita. She wisely ignored it and instead focused on all the other were-animals that had gathered.
Well, as much as she could without purposely staring at them all naked.
And then, they were changing. They were all shedding their skin, sending some strange liquid sliding off of wolf and leopard fur. One by one, they were shedding and shedding, and Dawn was once again struck with a familiar thought.
Is this how it was, when she shed her true skin for her human shell?
Anita was besides her, as everybody changed, and Dawn stared down at her pale, human arms and felt nothing.
* * *
She sat with Anita the rest of the moon in the back of her Jeep. Dawn kept sneaking glances at the other woman, who seemed like she was light-years away, but at the same time, was more aware than even Dawn.
Dawn caught Anita studying her from the corner of her eye, a slight frown pulling down the corners of lips.
“Um,” Dawn said, after about an hour of silence between them. “Is something wrong?”
Anita looked slightly startled, but shook her head slightly. “You just look familiar for some reason. Have we met before now?”
Inside, she laughed. Maybe in another life. Anita didn’t know that Dawn was from another world, if it was another world she was from, so she probably just looked like somebody Anita had passed by on the streets one day or something,
“No,” Dawn said, reigning in her amusement. “Sorry.”
Anita shrugged, and looked away.
Dawn licked her lips, a question had been on her lips, and she wanted answers.
“Why didn’t I change?”
Anita focused dark eyes onto the younger girl, and Dawn was almost tempted to shrink away. There was something about Anita that made her wary, and it was something Dawn was used to back in Sunnydale, but it made her uncomfortable to realize that even in other worlds she still felt that unease.
“The most simple explination,” Anita said. “Is that you just didn’t catch it. It’s unusual, since you were obviously attacked by a were, but not completely unexpected. You won’t be the first, or the last, to come out okay.”
“But,” Dawn said, piecing together what she had learned. “Didn’t Dr. Lillian think I would shift?”
Anita nodded, the moonlight catching in her dark hair. “There were anomolies in your blood that set her off. She’ll probably want to study it a bit more, try to figure out what they are.”
“She won’t,” Dawn blurted out with certainty, and sealed her lips shut at the suspicion that lurked behind the other woman’s eyes.
In order to avoid that look, Dawn turned her face up the moon, It hung ominiously in the night sky, and she almost shook. For some reason, she couldn’t help but wonder if this was a warning of some sort, and no matter how hard she tried to shove this thought aside like she did with so many others, it continued to come roaring back to life.
She didn’t want to know what this feeling was.