FANDOM


More Human Than Wolf or More Wolf Than Human?

Pages 33 through 61 inclusive. Total pages: 29

Prev-chapter | Next-chapter

Chap3 cover

Cover art for Chapter 3

The rude customer has returned. He slams his cup on the counter and tells Malaya she needs to make his drink again, and that she needs to make it right this time. He declares he's never had such a lousy drink and tells Malaya she obviously has no idea what she's doing. During the man's tirade, Malaya starts to change as she becomes angry. Clenching her fists, she successfully staves off the change by force of will. Staring at the offending drink, she slides it to her when she fully regains control and says she'll get right on that[1]. She goes through the practiced steps of recreating the man's drink, calling out order up when she finishes, and then placing the cup ungently on the counter at the end. She watches in angered disgust as the mollified customer walks off sipping his drink. Charlene keeps an eye on it all, catching Mal's mood. After he leaves, Charlene says some of their customers need to calm down or stick to decaf. In tacit agreement, Malaya says that as much as most of her customers are nice, it's really hard not to reach across the counter and throw the guy through a window[2].

Changing the subject, Charlene asks Malaya how long she's been working at the coffee shop. Malaya admits it's been a while, and she explains that she's always helped out. When she turned twenty, her father made her part owner of the shop as a present. Charlene asks if there are any big plans coming up or if she's going to stay with the coffee shop. Malaya admits that she hadn't thought that far. Turning the tables, Malaya points out that Charlene has only been around a few months, and she had moved to Michigan in the middle of winter. Charlene says she had wanted to see what was so bad about winter. She decided it was awful and the mystery is solved. She tells Malaya she's from New Orleans, where her daddy is a musician and her momma a teacher. Malaya says that New Orleans had to be more interesting than Michigan in the winter. Charlene thinks there's a lot to do here. As they are talking, Malaya gets out a music player and selects a playlist title "MID DAY SLUMP" and starts it playing. Charlene's last comment is that she's not bored. Elias steps in just then, murmuring that it sounds like a dance club in the café[3]. Malaya tells Charlene she's taking a break to talk to Elias. A confused Charlene asks if they're talking to the weird sniffing guy now, and she offers that he is cute and all… Mal fends her off, telling her it's not like that, and he's gay. She tries to convince Charlene that the sniffing thing was just a bizarre love of scones. Charlene simply blesses his heart and tells her to have a good chat.

Malaya comes to the table with a coffee for Eli, then tells him she's on break so they could talk. Elias tells her that he spoke to his packmate Marin. He reports to Mal that they decided that she knows jack shit. She replies with a sarcastic thank you, Mr. Miyagi[4]. Elias continues by saying that weirdos could be prowling around town looking for new pack members, and her not knowing werewolf stuff could put her family in danger. Stuff like werewolf pack structure, moon cycles, vulnerabilities and strengths, mythology, hand-to-hand combat, witches… Malaya interrupts him, saying she just needs to know how to not be hairy and pissed off one night every month. And she doesn't want to accidentally kill the rude guy. Elias informs her that he will be teaching her how to be a werewolf and not to pretend she's human forever. He points out that she is part of a very exclusive group that gets super hairy sometimes, and with practice, at will. You don't learn to control the change, he says to her, you give into it. You get in touch with your inner wolf and just let it flow. He tells her there's no thought to it[5]. Malaya asks him why he's doing this and wants to know what he's getting out of this. Elias answers that he doesn't know. He points out that he was born a werewolf and doesn't know what it's like to have only humans to talk to. He tells her he doesn't know what it's like to feel like being a werewolf was a burden. It's all he's ever known and he loves it. He allows that for her this is a scary thing that is holding her family hostage. If he can help her with this, he wants to try. Plus, if his mother found out he'd left her to the monsters, she would chop off his head and teach her herself. Malaya decides she likes this woman already. He tells her that his mother is also terrifying. His mother and father are the pack alphas. Malaya innocently asks him what alphas are all about[6].

Elias begins explaining the way werewolf pack structure works: Werewolf packs are arranged like wild wolf packs. They are usually headed by a mated pair, and the rest of the pack is made up of their kids. Elias's pack also takes in outsiders, such as werewolves without packs who blend well with everyone else, or people who petition the pack's alpha, his mother, for the bite. Mimicking a ravening beast, Malaya says she thought werewolf packs were about fighting for dominance. Elias says that information came from outdated research on captive wolves from the 70's, but in the wild, it's not like that. Elias uses his packmate Marin, who lives on the outskirts of her town, as an example: Marin has only been a werewolf for a few years, but she's older than him. Neither outranks the other. Elias is faster than her, and she is stronger than him. A stable pack will work with everyone's strengths[7]. Malaya asks him about becoming an alpha. Eli tells her that you let your alpha or alphas know that you want to form your own pack, and then you do. You either find a partner and have kids, or you find some people who want to follow you. There are no fights to the death or anything. We're not evil…usually, he declares. Elias notices that Malaya is still unconvinced, and she explains that she's been repressing her werewolf side for twenty years. It's this thing that sits in her chest…like a low-grade panic attack she lives with every day. She admits that she was hoping for an option more than knowledge is power[8]. Elias says he's sorry but it's all he's got. He tells her that at the end of the day she's a werewolf, and she will always be a werewolf. He tells her that she has an opportunity to be faster, stronger, more powerful than she can imagine. He warns her that might not be something she really cares about, but pretending it's not who she is isn't going to solve anything either, and right now that could put her whole family in danger. She decides she needs to get back to work, but she would think about it. He says that's all he could ask[9].

It's later in the evening and it's closing time for the café. Malaya is wiping things down and turning off the signs. Charlene checks with Mal to see if she is good to close up. Mal answers that all that's left is the garbage and bids her good night. In the alley behind the store, Malaya tosses the trash in the dumpster, where it hits the bottom with a solid THUNK. A voice comes from the shadows asking how she had managed to hide for all this time. Malaya's head whips around at the sound of the voice, and she spots a short, stocky, light-haired woman with glowing eyes standing in the shadows[10]. The woman steps into the light, and the signs of transformation identify the stranger as a werewolf. Leaning away from the woman, Malaya asks her what she's talking about. The stranger answers with an ominous you know. Her boot crunching in the snow, the woman speaks with venom: You, here the whole time… Mal takes a timorous step back, and the stranger speaks again in venomous tones: Making me look bad. In the vaults of her mind, Malaya releases a profanity and the strange werewolf leans in to roar in Malaya's face, threatening her with fangs and claws[11]. As profanities ring in her mind, Malaya watches the strange werewolf's approach while her own partial transformation begins with glowing eyes and growing claws and teeth. The stranger scowls viciously at her, unafraid or unaware of these signs. Malaya attempts another step back, and as one more profanity rings out, her sensible, stylish flats—great for work, terrible in snow—fails her, and she sliiiiiips. She begins to fall forward and puts out her hands, or rather her claws, to break her fall[12]. BAM, and rather than hitting snow-covered pavement, Malaya hits something quite a bit softer with an oof. Realizing that she is leaning against the stranger—who's eyes were no longer glowing—and using the coat's lapels as handholds, Malaya tries to stand up and apologize at the same time. She fails at both when, with a chagrined again, really? her flats fail her again. Only, this time, instead of falling down, she uses her handholds to leverage her fall. The transfer of momentum causes her to throw the stranger up and over her head and into a brick wall. The energy of her fall is decreased and she gently slides and rolls like a cat, ending up on her hands and knees instead of her back, positioned like a runner at the start line[13]. The strange werewolf slowly climbs to her feet, obviously angrier than before. Her visage is even more menacing and Malaya tries to apologize, saying that she totally didn't mean to do that. Ignoring her apology, the stranger roars at Malaya and causes her to quail in terror before her. Suddenly, Malaya's wolf recognizes the danger and rears up to defend her. The sudden furtherance of her transformation causes her great pain and consternation. Her clothes begin to rip on body. She feels the deformation of her teeth and other changes and doesn't understand what's happening to her[14]. The stocky, young werewolf eyes have once again stopped glowing as she backs away from her transformation. She watches Malaya's difficult first full transformation with concern. She asks if Malaya is dying, then she remarks that she looks like she's dying. With difficulty, Malaya pulls her phone out of her pocket. Malaya tries to use her trembling and suddenly awkward hands to text someone, counting on autocorrect to fix her fumbles. Before she can complete the text, she loses her grip on the phone, and it drops to the pavement with a harsh BAM. The stranger's concern becomes worry as Mal's transformation nears completion[15]. Standing in Malaya's shadow, the tables are turned, and it's the strange werewolf trying to apologize for the whole growling in her face thing. Malaya stands and stretches, showing her new robust physique in silhouette. Bending forward and down, it's her turn to intimidate. The stranger responds by scooting back to the wall and then dashing off down the sidewalk. A now dejected and confused Malaya sniffs the air and finds a familiar scent: "eee…lii…aas."[16] Running full out at a gallop, Malaya tracks Elias by his scent. She passes down city streets and country roads as she works her way out of town. Shirking passing cars, she makes her way to the outskirts of her little town and the woodlands that surround them.

At the Walter's house, Vincent is becoming concerned that Mal hasn't called him for a lift home from work. He tries calling her but gets no answer. His father sits on a couch nearby, thoroughly engrossed in the book he's reading, and not recognizing his son's concern. Postulating that she might have gotten a late-night rush, he convinces himself that she might need help handling it, giving himself cause to check on her at the shop[17].

Pretty as a postcard, the cozy two-story house is nestled in the woods with snow drifting down covering the landscape. A closer inspection of the details of the front door shows a solid, sturdy-looking door with frosted glass side panel framing the door. The peace of the woods is shattered by a resounding WHAM as that self-same door is violently propelled past the large square-framed entry to the living room. Looking back into the living room, Marin, Marisa and Elias are on the couch: Eli is sprawled on the right side of the couch, the two ladies are cuddled together on the left, all of them with expressions of surprise and concern on their faces. A low growl fills the room as Werewolf Malaya Walters fills the entry to the living room. Making an educated guess, Eli calls to Malaya. Marisa quickly and explosively gets angry with Eli, punching his arm and telling him this is what happens when you're nice to strange wolves[18]. Elias comes to Malaya's defense, stating that she wasn't in control, and if she couldn't stop the change during the full moon, how could she be in control now. Marin declares that she doesn't care what Mal's deal is, right now, she was staring like she was spoiling for a fight. Marisa is concerned about the damage to her house.

Behind the coffee shop, the door open alarm persistently dings as Vincent looks down at the phone he found on the ground. It's Malaya's phone. He sticks his head into the back door of the shop and calls out for Malaya in Tagalog[19]. Not getting an answer and seriously worried now, Vincent thinks to check Mal's phone and finds her aborted message to Elias, which reads: hee l pp WERE wool f. Realizing he can use Mal's contacts, he reaches out to Elias. Elias answers and Vincent demands that Eli tells where his sister is[20]. Eli tries to lighten the mood, first letting Vincent know that Malaya was with friends and he would text him the address. Then he tells Vincent that Malaya is now eight feet tall, very hairy, and currently holding him up to the ceiling. Marisa posits that she could take her down with Marin's help. Marin says they would tear up the house doing it. Marisa grumbles that she doesn't get it. She had warded the house just that morning, supposedly rendering it invisible to stray werewolves. She has also just revealed herself as a witch. In an accusing tone, she tells Eli she has no idea how he led her to the house. Texting furiously, Eli confesses that he has no idea, either. He notes it should only be pack that could do that. He then facetiously asks if maybe they could worry about it after his feet touched the ground again[21]. Becoming understandably belligerent about Malaya, and frustrated her magic didn't stop her, Marisa starts questioning Elias about his level of trust for Mal. Knowing Mal has no control of her wolf, Marisa opines that she could be the killer and not know it. She is also concerned that they didn't find her. In her defense, Eli points out that Malaya isn't doing anything now. He points out that she's freaked out, but she hasn't hurt him. He declared emphatically that he knew Malaya hadn't killed those people. Hearing Eli's words and realizing she has a friend in an enemy camp, she lowers Eli gently to the ground. She then sits down on the floor and hangs her head, looking the very picture of melancholy. She just sits there, everything about her drooping. Even her toes are drooping. Eli makes an exaggerated look at this motion towards Malaya while giving Marin and Marisa the stink eye, silently asking the obvious question: Could this be a killer? Marisa thinks that watching Malaya is very depressing. She caves and accepts that the baby werewolf isn't the killer. Marin declares that Mal has been a wolf for more than twice as long as her, and she shouldn't qualify as a baby anymore[22].

Vincent gingerly approaches the front door, examining the damage, and then he calls out to his sister. Seeing his sister for the first time as a wolf, Vincent can only express his surprise as Wow! She looks up at him then jumps up and bear hugs him, wrapping him up in her arms. Initially, he's overwhelmed by her size, but she suddenly starts transforming back to human. Vincent gathers the shaking and distraught woman closer in his arms now, comforting her and assuring her that she has done no harm. She complains that she couldn't control herself. She describes the pain as every bone in her body all breaking at once. She declares that she didn't ever want to be that thing again. She had felt like she was trapped in a body she didn't recognize[23]. As the three packmates look on in bemusement, Eli comments that she had changed back a lot faster than he'd expected. She replies, saying that once Vince got there, the wolf just gave up. Eli theorizes that since her family is her pack and kept her grounded. Since she had been protecting them from her werewolf thing since she was a child, she had trained that part of herself to bottle up around them. Mal looks like she isn't happy with the answer she got. Vincent worriedly quizzes her about what caused her to change like that. She answers that she just remembers the werewolf in the alley attacking her. She tells him she changed without realizing it. She recalled throwing the stranger into a wall and the stranger running away afterwards. She remembered the rest of her transformation. She said she then recognized Eli's scent and followed him here. Eli is concerned with her ability to throw another werewolf. Marin is concerned that there's another wolf[24]. Brassy Marisa goes on the warpath again. She states there are no known werewolves, aside from Marin, that live in the area. Then she asks how she got her magical camouflage. Marisa states that there is some real advanced magic on her for a wolf who's never full shifted before. Despite Marisa's aggressive questioning, Malaya calmly and reasonably answers by saying she doesn't know what camouflaging means. Marin says there is something bigger going on in the town then they knew. The other wolf had gone undetected, so the question to ask is how many others are out there undetected. Vincent wants to know why the sudden interest in his sister after all these years, and Elias admits that it's likely his fault. If he was noticed when he came to town, then whoever followed him would be lead to her. With an expression of fear and anger mixed, Malaya asks why this is happening. She worries that her anonymous enemy now can find her and her family, and her family is defenseless against her foe. She angrily declares that she wants things back to the way they were. She might not have been happy, but they were all safe. She puts her hair up as she leaves the house, saying she shouldn't have gotten her hopes up[25]. Watching her from the living room, Vincent reminds her that she's not wearing shoes. In the living room, Vincent tell the group that Malaya really still needs their help, even though she's freaked at the moment. He wishes them all a good night and apologizes for the door. Marisa told him it would take only a few minutes to repair. In his disbelief, he could only answer okay? Eli, feeling guilty, stands in the living room looking lost and gloomy. Dragging the ruined door back to the front of the domicile, Marin says she now has more questions than answers. Watching Marin place the door back in the frame, Marisa agrees. Marisa invokes her magic, looking eldritch in the gloaming light.Bands of magical symbols appear around the door, and with a WOOOOOOSH the door is repaired. Both ladies try unsuccessfully to stifle yawns, so Marisa declares the day's problems can wait: it's time for bed. Eli keeps his sleep arrangements private for now[26].

The stranger, now fully human, knocks on a parlor door. Upon admission to the room, a nameplate inscribed with Connie Greensmith can be seen. The owner of the desk looks up as the stranger from the alley approaches. She wearily says hello to the woman we now know is named Aubrey, calling her dear. Connie states that it seems that Aubrey didn't bring the requested werewolf with her. Aubrey's reply of no mama tells us that Aubrey's last name is likely Greensmith too. Aubrey goes on to explain that the target wolf, almost assuredly Malaya, was a lot stronger than her[27]. Connie grills Aubrey, asking if she was hurt or knocked out. Responding with a no, Aubrey admits that she ran away after Malaya picked her up and threw her at a wall. Connie mocks her for running away, and Aubrey accepts responsibility for that. Connie goes on, stating that Aubrey has allowed a wolf to live under their noses for twenty years, until another wolf sniffs her out for her. But, Aubrey had already been told she was forgiven for that. Connie continues chastising Aubrey, reiterating her disdain for Aubrey's cowardice in the face of Connie's direct orders to bring Malaya to her. Bending down with her hands spread in obeisance, Aubrey apologizes again[28]. Standing in a defensive posture, Aubrey tries to excuse herself by explaining how Malaya had changed into a huge beast, a big wolf on two legs. She had known she couldn't take her, so she ran. Aubrey's report further confirmed Connie's decision to bring in Malaya. Coming out from behind her desk and leaning hipshot against it, she told Aubrey that if Malaya is able to transform that far, then they absolutely needed her. Connie sits on a bench in front of the cowering Aubrey. She tells Aubrey that 'she' is strong, and they need her. No excuses. Spoken as a question, Aubrey stammers out that she doesn't know how to do that. In a chiding tone, Connie wants to know if she's asking her. She reminds Aubrey that she's not a werewolf and again calls her dear. She carries on lightly chastising Aubrey, telling her no one can help her except herself. They need this wolf as part of their pack… She demands that Aubrey figure it out for herself. Changing tack, Connie becomes solicitous and caring, calling Aubrey her sweet girl, and she tugs at Aubrey's forelock. Calls her her first wolf. She quietly questions Aubrey's willingness to protect her. Aubrey answers her yes, but…[29] With feigned hurt and sadness on her face, Connie avows her love for her wolves, then she remonstrates that though she has said over and over they need a bigger pack, her wolves just keep failing her. Placing her hands over her heart, Connie moans that it hurts her that Aubrey doesn't try harder. No longer placating, Aubrey growls angrily to her mama that she'll try harder. With laced fingers and a mournful expression, Connie lays on a guilt trip, claiming that she dies before they get there, she can't keep them all safe. She proclaims that that girl belongs in their pack and it's very important that she gets her there. Cupping Aubrey's face in her hands, Connie finishes by saying they're not strong enough without her. Aubrey replies with a truculent yes mama. Connie says "that's my girl" with a gentle smile. Connie heads back to her desk and dismissively says she has work to do, then she tells Aubrey to close the door on her way out. Again Aubrey replies with a grudging yes mama. At the door, Aubrey looks back at Connie, but Connie has already dismissed her and is engrossed in her work. The sound of Aubrey's steps lead away from the closed parlor doors[30].

Prev-chapter | Next-chapter

References

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.