Author’s note: for people sensitive to the mention of rape it is vaguely mentioned although did not happen and it’s just someone saying they were scared it would happen.
Zaid eventually got out of his pit but not for a couple weeks, nearly two full weeks of Max taking care of the elfling. He pretended to complain whenever she followed him around the house or demanded to be picked up or for him to turn into a cat but secretly he found himself growing attached to the pointy-eared little rascal. He liked the feel of her on his shoulders as he carried her around the house on his back, or the smell of her freshly shampooed hair as she curled up asleep on his chest.
Sometimes he felt a pang, wondering in the back of his mind what it’d be like to be a father. He sometimes thought of the baby he lost, the only baby he ever came close to having even as a cat. He thought of Elizabeth’s soft blonde hair and gorgeous grey-blue eyes, the smoothness of her skin, the softness of her touch. How gentle it had been making love with her–so different from his future lovers. They had been supposed to have sex in the dark, under the covers, shameful of their nakedness but neither of them cared. They had explored each other’s bodies.
With Elizabeth his love had been soft and gentle, silk and whispers. With Charles: rough and intense, sweat and hay. With John: wild and unbridled, smoke and alcohol.
Max sighed, wishing these thoughts would just go away. It had been a couple hundred years! Didn’t memories go away? Disappear? Did he want them to? Did he want to lose their memories like he had lost them? He thought about what he had told Zaid. That love didn’t end just because someone’s life did. Or when you lose the chance of being with them, Max added to the list, feeling that familiar twinge if pain when thinking of Zaid.
He loved Zaid and would always love Zaid even though…
Stop dwelling about it, he thought, shaking his head. But he couldn’t. He remembered the kiss they shared before Max had left Midnight Hollow. The passionate kiss Max gave Zaid to show his feelings. The kiss that hadn’t been enough. I didn’t want to take him away from Goose, I wanted them to be together. Max sniffled slightly as he recalled his own feelings after that–that the kiss hadn’t felt… right. Like something was off. Like this thing had been built up in his dreams (kissing Zaid) and fell a bit… flat. But that just had to do with the fact Zaid didn’t kiss back or love him. Right?
Zaid returned to going to work, leaving both Max and Chance in charge of watching the elfling. At first Max felt a bit put out that Zaid didn’t trust him watching the kid alone but soon realized the wiseness in the decision since half the time he didn’t know what the kid really needed and Chance had some sort of sixth sense about it.
Life became routine for the three of them as August headed towards September. Every weekday morning Max woke up and fixed breakfast for everyone. Zaid would the elfling ready for the day and then they’d all eat together. At fifteen till eight Zaid would leave for work and at ten till eight Chance would show up as Specter dropped him off. Because of the extra classes Zaid took he wouldn’t get back until five–all of which would change when school started. Chance fixed dinner for them and left after Zaid returned. They had dinner quietly together then usually watched TV or played kiddie games with the elfling until Zaid would get her ready for bed. After the elfling went to bed Zaid would just go to his room and curl up, leaving Max to do whatever.
On weekends Zaid spent a lot of time in bed but he spent as much time as he could with his kid. She asked for Goose constantly and Zaid patiently told her every time that Goose wouldn’t be coming back. After those questions Zaid would disappear into his room for a while and sounds of sniffling could be heard.
Lumie and Glados visited a few times a week, bringing things for the elfling since Zaid barely shopped anymore. New socks since she outgrew a few pairs, new hair ties, shampoo, etc, etc. Max tried to get things from the store but didn’t know what to get her. The girls tried to get Zaid to start potty training the elfling but he just grunted in response, not wanting to deal with it.
“Least he’s doing some things,” Lumie muttered one day when she and her fiance showed up. Max had been surprised when he found out Zaid’s twin was engaged but Adan seemed to be a decent sort. They wouldn’t be getting married for a while though.
“I’m trying to get him to go out and about,” Max said with a shake of his head. “At least he sometimes goes to the park. And he goes to work.”
Lumie hugged Max. “You’re doing so much for him, Max. Thank you for this. He blocks me out of his head a lot and I block him often because his thoughts–” She looked very upset and Adan put an arm around her. “His thoughts were so horrible those first few weeks.” A tear ran down her cheek. “I wanted to help him but couldn’t.”
Max bowed his head, mumbling incoherently. Then Lumie hugged him again. “You’ve saved him, if you hadn’t come back I don’t know what would have happened.” She placed cool lips against his cheek then backed up into Adan’s arms again.
Noah visited a lot too, more often than he did when Goose was alive. He brought pizzas on days when the elfling was there and beer on the nights when she wasn’t. He never gave Zaid an option of what to do. He’d show up and say that they were going to watch this movie or that movie, steer Zaid to the couch, and the two would watch it. Max could tell that Noah taking control helped Zaid too. Probably because of how out of control things had been.
Gretchen came maybe once a week, bringing potions for Max to horde in case he’d need to use them against enemies.
And finally Wheelchair Man visited twice and didn’t stay for long either time but each time Zaid seemed vaguely cheered up.
Max felt so adrift during all this. He continued to do the same things he did every day, reassure Zaid, play with the elfling, and stay awake half the night trying to figure out his problem–why he felt so… turbulent and confused. Wasn’t this what he wanted? To live with Zaid and help him, to be with him every day, to be there with a greeting when Zaid came home from work, to be in his arms (okay so he was in cat form whenever Zaid held him). Was it truly only the fact that Zaid didn’t reciprocate the feelings that made everything seem so strange.
Their lives together, when they were alone, had been very different. There had always been that sense of danger. Max teaching Zaid how to fight, the two of them preparing to battle. Oh there were other things. Emotions. Happiness, laughter, sadness, tears, anger, frustration. It had been great though while now it felt like they were actors on a stage reciting their lines. Oh, Max knew it’d be difficult of course. Zaid suffered such a terrible loss. He knew things wouldn’t be how they ever were before he just didn’t realize it’d all feel… not right. Unnatural. Something he couldn’t put his finger on.
On the day after school started and Zaid’s schedule changed, a knock came at the door. The elfling was at her grandparents, Zaid was curled up on his bed, and Max had been pawing at a toy mouse. He got up, shifting into a human as he headed towards the front door. The knocking became heavier, more panicked.
“Yeah?” Max opened the door, frowning at the sight of a freaked out looking young man on the doorstep.
A whiff of dog came to Max’s nose. “What do you need, werewolf?”
The kid looked like Max had hit him. His eyes widened and his entire body tensed up like he might just bolt. Max could smell the fear on him and his own body tensed as he readied himself to hurt this kid in case he turned out to be an enemy. “How did you kn-know?” the kid whispered, his voice sounding like he might collapse at any second.
“I have a good nose now what do you want.”
“Please–please. I n-need to speak to Mr. Danevbie. Z-Zaid? I–I took classes under him for a c-couple years.” The kid wiped his eyes and Max realized there had been tears. “He probably doesn’t r-remember me but I didn’t know where else to go!” Now he began sobbing, covering his face.
Max scowled but stepped back, letting the kid stumble in. “What’s your name?”
“Shouldn’t you be in school?”
More tears and this time the kid did collapse, sinking to his knees then slumping back, hugging his knees to his chest. He just cried, not saying anything. Max shut the door and told Royce to wait there. He hurried into Zaid’s bedroom, shaking him awake. “Psst. Hey, Zaidy-boy, wake up, we’ve got a–a visitor.”
Zaid sat up, rubbing his eyes unhappily. “I’m not in the mood–is that crying?”
“Some kid named Royce McCall is here, says you taught him? He’s crying. A lot. I didn’t do anything. He just cried. And he’s a werewolf.”
That got Zaid’s attention. “Excuse me? No–he’s not a werewolf, I never taught a werewolf. I remember Royce. He’s not a werewolf.”
“Well, he is now.”
Zaid took off to the living room with Max following close behind. Royce glanced up, his tears slowing a bit when Zaid appeared. “Sifu!” He got up and awkwardly bowed. “I’m sorry for c-c-coming here I didn’t know where else to go!”
Zaid went over, resting a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “What happened, Royce? Come over here, sit down. Max says–he says you’re… a werewolf?”
Royce hiccuped, nodding as he sat down. “I am. N-now. I am now. I… I was b-b-bitten.” He hunkered down as if to make himself smaller. “About a week ago. Some asshole bit me. I was out–and uh, uh walking home. And this guy appeared out of n-n-no where and just grabbed me, knocking me out. I woke up in th-this dingy ally and he w-was crouched in front of me and I thought he was gonna r-rape me.” Royce wiped his nose off on his arm, leaving a trail of snot. “I tried to hit him and he pinned me down l-laughing. He said–he said that he w-was gonna b-build an army and r-rise against th-the mortals! And then he bit me! On my arm!” Royce pointed at a spot. “Then he laughs again and knocks me out. Next thing I know I’m waking up feeling really awful like a hangover! I get home and like, am too scared to tell anyone cause I mean… yeah!
“The next morning I woke up like this with these eyes and everything seemed so freaking weird! I can smell things and hear things–my hearing is so sensitive! And I’ve always been a vegetarian but I wanted meat!” He spread his hands out, looking especially distressed at that. “I looked for the bite mark but it was gone so I wondered if I dreamed it all except for these changes and–and so I tested it, you know? I went into my mom’s room and found her silver necklace. I held it and I felt so weak and dizzy so I dropped it and ran. I–I screamed and I told my mom what happened, I t-t-told her I had been b-b-bitten by a werewolf! She didn’t believe me into I got a knife and put it in my hand and the wound healed right in front of her.”
Royce rose at that, shakily taking a few steps, his back to Zaid and Max. “She fainted. When she w-woke up and I told her again she started totally flipping out! She said I was one of ‘them’ now and said she w-was gonna call P.A.S.!” He covered his face again. “My mother, g-going to… send me to my death! I begged her not to and she told me to get out to never go back. I left–I got some of my things and I left and been living on the streets for like, four nights when I remembered you and you know supernaturals and are like, all for supernaturals and–and I’m s-s-s-sorry I didn’t know wh-wh-where else to gooooo!” His words broke off as he began wailing.
Zaid got up, putting an arm around Royce’s shoulder. “Hey, shhh, don’t worry. I’m not angry or anything and you’re right, that’s–that’s who I am.”
“I’m evil now!”
“No, no you’re not. Hey, look at me.” Royce looked up, his face puffy and tear- and snot-covered. “You are not evil. You’re a good kid. Becoming a werewolf doesn’t change that, it doesn’t change you…”
While Zaid talked Max went to the bathroom to get a cold, damp cloth. He returned and awkwardly pushed it into Royce’s hands. Royce sniffled a thanks and began wiping his face down. Max then fetched him a glass of water which the kid gulped down. Zaid motioned towards the kitchen and mouthed the word ‘food’ so Max fetched some cold cheese pizza. Royce at first didn’t accept it but once Zaid promised him it’d be fine, Royce gobbled it down faster than Max thought possible.
“The full moon is coming up and I am so scared.” Royce sat back down again, head in hands. “I’m so freaking scared I don’t know how to deal with this. I’m going to attack people, I’m gonna kill people!”
“Werewolves don’t do that,” Zaid said. “My brother’s a werewolf.”
“Mhm. Tell you what, I’ll call him and see if we can’t set up a face chat with him. He can tell you what it’s like being a werewolf, and what to expect during a full moon. I’ll get your clothes washed and the spare bed made up for you.”
“I can’t… I shouldn’t stay here,” Royce said faintly.
Zaid picked up his phone and gave a very small smile. “It’s fine, Royce. You need somewhere to stay and can’t afford a hotel. If you’re okay with it, you can stay here for a day or two. Go with Max to the kitchen and get some more food while I talk to my brother, all right?”
The two of them did just that, Royce sitting at the counters while Max made him the most staple of meals–a tuna salad sandwich. “No thanks, I don’t eat meat,” Royce said though his mouth obviously watered.
“Oh oops, yeah, sorry, forgot.” Max crammed the sandwich in his mouth and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the kid instead.
“So, what are you?” Royce asked as he ate. “You don’t smell like–like… you smell like…”
“A cat?” Max offered and Royce’s eyes got big, nodding. “That’s cuz I am. I’m a shapeshifter. I turn into a cat.” He waved the sandwich a bit. “Hence the tuna. Look, kiddo, it’ll be all right. Being a supernatural ain’t the end of the world. I know it probably seems it specially being kicked out and–uh, oops,” he said when the kid’s face fell. “I mean, uh. It’s not so bad. You’ll heal from anything–except silver–and probably never get sick. Some werewolves can succumb to certain illnesses but bitten werewolves are a lot hardier than born werewolves. You’ll age even slower than them and probably stop before–“
“Please don’t. I don’t want to be immortal! How sucky would it be? To like, see everyone you love just die?”
Max swallowed the last bit of his sandwich, the bread and tuna heavy as it went down. “It sucks,” he said softly. “But word of advice, dog, don’t mention that sort of thing in here. Don’t know if you heard but Zaid’s lover died a couple months ago.”
Royce’s hands flew to his mouth. “Shit! He did! I remember now! Oh no, oh no, I didn’t mean–I wasn’t thinking! Dang it, I am an idiot!” He smacked his forehead and sighed.
A moment later Zaid came in, snapping his phone shut. “I talked to my brother and he said he can make a video call with you in forty minutes. I was thinking in the mean time–if you wanted–you could get a shower and into some clean clothes, I have one of my old simfu uniforms that should fit you. It’s clean.”
Royce hopped to his feet. “I–I don’t even know how to thank you for this, Mr. Danevbie.”
Vilkas and a squeaky-clean-but-still-stinking-of-werewolfness Royce talked for two hours on the internet. Max didn’t hear everything but he heard a few things, like how much pain Royce would be in, the fact that he’d be starving and naked when he woke up unless he had some food in the night in which case he’d just be hungry–it took a lot of energy–and yes he could be a vegetarian werewolf but it’d be difficult and as a wolf his instincts might take over if there was meat laying around. Also Vilkas gave him advice on keeping a piercing as a werewolf.
“…it’ll be constantly trying to heal over so it will feel weird,” Vilkas explained, tapping his own piercing. “If you take it out for just a second it will start healing over. You’ll need to re-pierce it. I’ve had to pierce my own ear so many times…”
Zaid put the kid’s clothes through the washer and dryer then Max helped him make up the storage room into more like a guest room. They moved things around including a box of Goose’s clothes. Zaid picked up a plaid shirt and brought it to his face, breathing in the scent. Then he put it back, closed the box, and shoved it into the wardrobe. By the time Royce finished his chat with Vilkas the room was somewhat ready for someone to stay.
Zaid called his dads to ask them to take care of the elfling for another night then called Noah, canceling movie night. “No, I’m fine, we had an unexpected visitor,” Zaid whispered. “Yeah–yeah… yeah, that’s fine.” He handed the phone to Max so Max could confirm a visitor and not just Zaid being too depressed for a movie night. Once Noah had been reassured that someone was indeed there, he and Zaid chatted a bit more before finally getting off the phone.
Then Zaid called for takeout from a vegetarian place. He had a menu there at the house and by the way his fingers curled around the paper Max knew it had to have been a place Goose liked. He resisted the urge to hug Zaid and instead turned his attention to the wolf. Royce wore his PJs now, curled up on the couch, looking very sad. Max didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know much about new werewolves.
“Yeah. I’m an immortal. And it does suck. I’ve been around since the 18th century.”
“Holy whoa!” Royce gasped. “Man, I wish I knew you when I took my history class.” Max couldn’t help but giggle at that. “I bombed. My mom saw my report card and…” His smile faded and he began tugging at the ring in his lip. “She always yelled at me, like, a lot. But I never thought she’d kick me out. You get along with your parents?”
“I don’t remember my parents,” Max said, as he didn’t like many people knowing his true origins. “I was raised by other people. A real mean witch. Literally.”
“What’s it like being like, five hundred years old?”
The two of them talked until the food got there then continued talking. Max found it easier to talk to him than most werewolves since he didn’t yet had that persistent doggy scent that they got after their first transformation. Zaid didn’t talk much, just an occasional word when Royce directed a statement towards him. Eventually Zaid headed to bed but the cat and dog continued talking well into the night.
Royce stayed with them. He called his mother in the morning trying to convince her that he wasn’t evil but Max and Zaid could both hear her screaming at him that he was a monster and that if he ever came around the house again she’d called the P.A.S. on him. He hung up and disappeared into the guest room to cry.
He didn’t want to stay too long, he didn’t want to impose… but another night went by and another one and before any of them knew it a week and a half had passed by and the full moon came upon them. The elfling stayed with her grandpas and Gretchen put some quieting spells on the house. When Royce transformed his screams tore through the house. His bones crunched as they changed. Light reddish brown fur spread over his body. His clothes fell as he finished transforming into a wolf.
He seemed very confused at first, as if he didn’t expect to be able to control himself. Then the doggie instincts took over as he began biting into a cat toy. Max hissed and Royce growled. Zaid got between them before a fight broke out and Max felt guilty, realizing it wasn’t Royce’s fault and besides, he needed something to do. So Max picked up the mouse and threw it. Royce ran after it and returned it excitedly.
The night passed by like that and in the morning he woke up screaming in pain as he changed back human. Zaid, having been through this with Vilkas, had clothes and food waiting for the kid. Royce slipped into his clothes, ate the scrambled eggs and toast, then collapsed into his bed asleep.
“He’s gonna be here for a while isn’t he?” Max asked. They had made sure the wolf had gone to sleep then went into Zaid’s room to talk.
Zaid shrugged. “He needs a place to stay. I guess we could send him to the Rag. He might like it there, with other supernaturals. Dad suggested it the other day. That’s what the Rag is there for, to guide supernaturals. Take care of them.”
But when they brought it up they could both see the rejection in Royce’s face. He shrugged and said he’d go. But both Zaid and Max saw he didn’t want to. “Only if it’s what you want,” Zaid said firmly.
“Nah it’s fine,” Royce said with an obviously forced chuckle. “I know I can’t stay here and impose on you guys. I really appreciate all the help though, I’d be so freaking… I don’t know what without you.”
And with that the storage room became Royce’s room, and Zaid’s depression seemed to lessen just a bit.