I think this is what you were waiting for?

Maybe?

Hopefully?

Anyway...

Dedication goes to  AuthorAliciaKing for being the secondy-third reader. That's a real word, you know. (It's not. it's really, really not). 

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Saffron

I swivel away from Beta's snapping jaw, dance out of the way, and berate myself for not giving the fight the attention that it deserves. I can't keep getting distracted. I need to defeat Beta. I need to help my friends.

I zero in on Beta. My tunnel vision makes the world around me disappear. When I attack, I do it with new resolve, and Beta actually takes a step back. Then another. And another. I don't let him get far. I strike. My body aches from my impact with the tree and my left leg is still bleeding, but I push through the pain. Again and again, I lash out. My vision blurs in and out, but I don't let it stop me until Beta falls and I watch his bleeding, battered body hit the grass.

I could go in for the kill. I could, but I don't. I've killed wolves before, twice, but both times they were accidents. The first time was three years ago, and he twisted away as my teeth latched onto his neck. I didn't let go quickly enough then, and it snapped. A quick death.

For years, the snapping haunted my dreams, and then, I slowly began to forget. Until last June. I'd underestimated the damage I'd caused, and the Rogue bled out, even though I never intended for his wounds to be fatal. Dad was furious. When he saw what I'd done, he beat me within an inch of my life, as if the guilt wasn't enough. Dad kept shouting that we were the good guys. That we were defending ourselves. That we didn't kill. We never, ever killed Rogues.

I remind myself of that as I circle Beta's unconscious body. He's alive, and he'll heal, but from the looks of it, he won't be in fighting shape for a few hours at least. I leave him be and go check on Older Brother. I try to run, but my injured leg forces me down to a wolf version of a jog. I'd prefer to stay still, or at least walk, but I don't have time to waste time. Not when my friends need help.

Aside from a large bump on his head, Older Brother looks fine. His chest rises and falls at a steady pace, so he kind of looks like he's taking a nap. I can't risk him waking up and attacking my friends, so I wrap my jaw around his neck. His blood tastes disgusting, but it needs to be done. I try to be gentle, so he doesn't die, but if he weren't unconscious, I know he'd suffer.

When the job is done, I head toward the kids. They've got it covered with Joshie's rock and Nisha's constant circling, but I don't want to take any risks. When I reach the Rogue kid, I tear a chunk out of his neck. Nisha yelps and Joshie screams, but I don't have time to comfort them, or explain.

I check on Zara next, and break into a full-out run despite the pain. She's got flesh missing on her sides and flank, and she's swaying on her feet, barely staying upright. I lunge at her opponent. I aim for his neck, but the dizziness makes my vision fade in and out. When I end up with a mouthful of shoulder instead, I figure I'll take what I can get, and clamp my jaw shut. He shakes me off, and I prepare to lunge again... until a blur of black streaks across the field.

For a second, I think the black wolf is on our side. That POW sent him, or that he's a pack wolf who accidentally came across us on the way from school. I wait for him to join the fight, but he runs straight for me. It's obvious he's going to attack, and I brace myself.

It only takes a few minutes of fighting for me to realize that the black wolf is much stronger than Beta and the Older Brother, thought maybe not as strong as Dad. He doesn't have the injuries I do, though, and he's not exhausted. Also, his vision doesn't keep blurring thanks to that giant tree, his back and ribs don't ache, and my injured leg doesn't make it painful to move.

The black wolf bars his teeth as he circles me and lets out a menacing growl. It's a scare tactic—a warning that I should roll onto my back and surrender—but I ignore it and pounce. He moves back, and my teeth close around a chunk of fur. It must sting, losing that chunk, but the black wolf hardly seems to notice. He doubles back, and we continue circling, attacking, circling.

Soon, I'm out of breath, panting, while he doesn't even look winded. My ribs are throbbing in time with my every step, and the searing pain in my leg is so overwhelming it feels like it's on fire. I wish I could lie down and give myself time to heal, but I have to keep fighting.

Suddenly, a wolf lets out a howl of pain. I spin my head around and realize it's coming from Zara. She wavers on her feet, having used up the last of her energy. The large, gray wolf attacks her again, and the blow sends her flying. I forget the black wolf and race toward her, but he intercepts me, breaking my leg and sending me crashing to the ground. I don't even hear my own cry of pain over Jess's cry of horror. She tries to get past the white wolf again, but instead of hurting her like the black wolf hurt me, her wolf just keeps her contained.

Zara watches the scene unfold and then she does something stupid. She shifts. Suddenly, the bloodied wolf transforms into a naked, human girl. Her tanned flesh is bathed in red, and flaps of skin open up to reveal the meat below the flesh. Her eyes flutter open, and I know this is it. This is her goodbye.

Zara wants to die a human, not a wolf. There's no other reason for her to shift. No other reason why she'd mouth one last word. I can't hear it from this far away, or to even be sure she makes a sound, but I see the shapes her lips form. Zara's last word. Jasper

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I'll update again on Monday. 


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