Being a shifter under a sky with two moons could be a trial at times. But sometimes, those two moons were exactly what you needed. As both the luna spheres rose into the night sky, shining bright through the darkness, the little homestead that was Marissa and Emrys' safest place was bustling and packed to the brim. The toddlers and babies were all tucked up in Marissa and Emrys' bed, already asleep before the first tug of the enhanced moonlight began to play on the strands connecting their parents to their more bestial forms.
If Skylar and Dante had disbelieved the solidity of a pack made up of wolves and tigers, the introductions over the last few days had certainly done enough to assure them it was possible. Watching this laughing group of found family and friends start to spill out into the last snows of winter as they flowed from human to wolf and tiger and proceeded to play fight just to pass the time must have helped that sense of belonging as well.
Emrys leaned in the doorway of the little house, grinning as his sister-wolf and her mate ganged up on Dorian's tiger-brother and still didn't manage to bring him down. There was an air of excitement and warmth around the pack tonight that was all about inviting and welcoming new members of the family, but he knew he couldn't rush that introduction. Looking over his shoulder into the house, he nodded to Kit and Delilah - their non-shifter packmates who volunteered their night to watch over the cubs and pups without fail every month - and let his gaze wander over those of the pack who were, as yet, unchanged.
Marissa, too, had not yet shifted into her bestial form. Rhy'Din's twin moons did not have the same effect on her as it did on some of the others, especially those who were Lycan, and yet she felt its pull, just the same. It was like a tug at the center of her being, an itch that needed to be scratched, but she had long since learned how to control it. Presently, she was going over some instructions with Kit and Delilah, just as she did every time they left the pair with their children. Delilah, at least, was polite enough to smile and nod her head, like it was all new to her, though she had heard it all a hundred times before.
"We should be back by daybreak," Marissa said, as she turned to tuck herself under Emrys' arm.
"Yes, yes," Delilah replied. "We know all this already."
"You are never going to live down the shaving cream incident," Emrys reminded the Fey-touched woman with a warm grin. "This is your life now." He chuckled, squeezing Marissa gently before letting his gaze turn to Skylar and Dante, his expression gentling. They had met the entire pack already, but going on a hunt with them would be another new experience. "How are you doing?" he asked quietly, oddly protective over his newly found sister- and brother-in-law.
Delilah responded to Emrys by sticking her tongue out, before turning her smirk on Kit and leading him away so the pair could talk in private.
"I'm okay," Marissa replied, though he knew her well enough to feel her nerves just beneath the surface, the cat waiting to be let loose. "How are you?"
"Eerily calm," he murmured, brushing a kiss to her forehead tenderly. "I should be nervous about this, but I'm not. I feel absolutely confident that this is going to work." He met her eyes, slightly bemused by his own sense of self. "That has never happened before."
"Yes, well ... You're the Alpha," she told him, turning to face him so that she could brush the unruly curls from his face, as if she needed that excuse to touch him. "The rest of the pack is counting on you," she said. Especially her brother.
He smiled, leaning down to kiss her gently. "I won't let you down," he promised, and in his heart of hearts, he felt certain he wouldn't. He couldn't have said where that confidence came from, or why he was so sure he could help her brother, but he was glad to have that confidence tonight. He had a feeling they were all going to need it.
"I believe in you, Emrys," she whispered against his lips. "I always have." Maybe that was in part where his confidence had come from. He had come a long way since the first time she'd stumbled on him in her wood - they both had. She frowned a little, as she looked out at the rest of the pack. "He's been going out at night," she confessed regarding her brother, though Emrys had to have known that already.
"I know," he murmured reassuringly, waiting until her eyes returned to him to discreetly tap his own temple. The pack bond was already forming; he was generally aware of where everyone was, if he took the time to concentrate. "He hasn't come close to danger yet. If I thought he would, I'd have been out there with him."
She nodded her head with a faint smile. "Of course." She trusted him with everything, including her brother's safety. "I wish I knew him better," she said with a sigh and another small frown. There were times when she wished her parents hadn't separated them, though she'd known they'd thought it had been for the best.
"You will, kitten," Emrys promised her softly. "He'll be himself again, and you'll have all the time you need to reconnect with him. You gave me Seren back; let me give you Dante."
"Thank you," she told him quietly before brushing another kiss against his lips. She knew she was procrastinating a little, but what was the worst that could happen? Dante had always been the Alpha. Would he be willing to give that role up to Emrys or would he want to fight for it? That was what worried her most.
But she knew her mate, as well. Emrys would not fight to keep Alpha status unless giving it up meant harm to the pack, and the pack needed to have faith in another leader before they could challenge for Alpha anyway. They wouldn't need to worry about that for at least a month. Tonight was all about Dante, and bringing him back to himself.
Emrys hugged Marissa close for a long moment. "Why don't you take Skylar to the others, and I'll shift here with Dante?"
Marissa hesitated, frowning for a moment, as she glanced at her brother, who seemed content to remain in wolf form forever. She might have asked if Emrys was sure he'd be able to force the change on her brother, but they had discussed it to death already and she knew they had to try. Besides, what was it her mother's ghost had said? Emrys was the only one who could help him - maybe this was why. After that moment's hesitation, she nodded again.
"I love you," she said, brushing a final kiss against his lips before she joined the others, shifting to tiger in mid-stride, as easily as changing her clothes.
He watched her move away, envying how easily the shift came to her. Pulling off his shirt and pants, he tossed them in through the doorway - while winking impishly at Delilah just because he knew it would give her ammunition to play with Kit for the evening - and headed in Dante's direction. He crouched in front of his mate's brother-wolf, lowering his head respectfully, and allowed the sensation of his intention to shift to ease down the delicate pack bond toward the other male. Only then did he shift himself, far less gracefully than Marissa, but with no less subtle power. He was a big wolf, and the last thing he wanted was to spark a fear reaction in his newest packmates.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
There was no aggression in the way Emrys' tawny-grey wolf greeted the younger male, though the dominance was there as he padded closer to lay his chin on the back of Dante's neck for a long moment. Hey. How are you feeling about this?
The younger wolf lowered himself slightly to the ground, as if in a sign of submission to the elder wolf. If he was feeling nervous, there was no sign of it, but at least, there was no sign of aggression. Whether the wolf understood what the Alpha was trying to do was another matter all together.
Frowning internally, Emrys realized that the human personality was buried very deep in there. This was going to be more tricky than he had thought. He stepped back, shaking out his fur, tilting his head with an invitation in his body language. Let's run.
That was good enough for Dante. He perked up right away at the Alpha's body language. Running was one of his favorite things to do, at least, as a wolf. The brown wolf that was Dante moved forward, only to lick Emrys' muzzle in a show of both submission and affection.
He got a lick in return, a wolfish grin, and a flick of the tail, an invitation to run at Emrys' side where Seren might otherwise have fallen in. No one took Marissa's place at Emrys' side, though. As the Alpha took off running through the trees, the wolves and tigers fell in with him, ushering their newest pack mates into the freedom of just enjoying the snow under their paws and the cold wind in their fur. Nothing compared to a moonlit race through the wilds.
It might seem strange to see a couple of tigers there among the wolves, but the wolves didn't seem to mind, accepting them into the pack like they belonged there. There was sheer joy in running, in giving themselves over to the wilder side of their beings. The tigers were mostly silent as they ran, swift and graceful. The wolves, though, were more vocal, the joyful sound echoing through the night.
There were answering howls on the wind, other packs in the area around the city declaring their presence, each warning the others not to trespass or get too close. Emrys navigated the information on the howl without a second thought, relaying it to Dante on the bond with deliberately human language and emotion, as though the younger male was his Beta in the pack and not just the newest male. He could feel the elation and freedom in the rest of the pack as well, and knew that would be transmitting itself to Dante and Skylar as the bond deepened beneath the moon. They were going to make this a success.
Though it didn't outwardly show, there was something inside Dante that reacted to Emrys' guidance and followed without resistance. It was almost like he was relieved to have someone to lead the way, happy even. He had always been the one his siblings had relied on, and something inside the human part of his being seemed to feel that he'd failed them.
Further back in the formation, one of the white tigers gently nudged her head against the flank of the newest tiger playfully, urging her to relax and just be with them. The rest could come later, after all. And Demi knew that if Skylar relaxed, Emrys would have an easier time calling Dante back to himself.
The tiger that was Skylar looked remarkably similar to that of Marissa - they were sisters, after all - though she was a bit smaller and younger. Though tigers were normally solitary creatures, she seemed as happy as Dante to be among the pack, nudging Demi playfully in return. Marissa fell back a little to join her sister-tigers, allowing Emrys to lead the pack with Dante at his side.
Sometime during the run, something familiar to the pack started to link them along the bond. Not just the sense of being completely at one with each other and the world around them, but a mingling of their human and bestial minds, encouraged by a soft mantra that seemed to emanate from Seren - the former non-shifter who had been raised to guide pups through their early years and into their shifts. The sensation called to the human emotions, drawing them out to tangle with the wild freedom of the wolf and tiger, urging them to let go of whatever was holding them back.
It was more a feeling than anything else - a sense of belonging, of family. It didn't matter if some of them were tigers and some were wolves. They were a pack now - a family - and they belonged together. It was a liberating feeling to surrender to that of the wolf and the tiger, but it was important to stay tethered to their human side, too, or end up losing themselves to the bestial side, as Dante had done. Weary of running, Marissa weaved her way through the pack to her mate's side, nudging him to slow.
Emrys responded to that nudge near instantly, slowing the pack to a full halt in a favourite clearing, letting them mingle back and forth among one another. Despite being physically smaller than his mate in their animal forms, he still nipped the back of her neck affectionately, rubbing his muzzle to hers to reassure her that everything was going as they'd hoped it would.
The tiger that was Marissa playfully chuffed a greeting to her mate, though they were two different species. Only in Rhy'Din could such a thing be possible, and the pack they had created for themselves was proof that tigers and wolves could live in harmony with the other. Behind them, another tiger and wolf circled each other, playfully nudging and dodging the other, like it was a game. Though their human forms might be twins, Dorian and Neville's animal forms were very different from the other. One big tiger paw smacked the side of the wolf, and Dorian fell over as if playing dead.
The remaining wolf and tiger of the core pack lounged together on the snow, ripples of amusement flowing out from them at their mates' ridiculous display of silliness. Neville might not engage in this playful side of his nature when he was human, but the tiger could be a handful at times. It was a joy to watch.
While the brothers romped together in the snow and the others looked on, the tiger that was Skylar nudged her sister, as if to say, "What now?"
Marissa chuffed in reply, her tail hanging loosely behind her, before loping toward her brother and tackling him to the ground.
Letting Marissa engage her brother, Emrys took a moment to check in with Skylar, gently nudging her flank with his nose, testing the link of the pack bond to see if she could understand him clearly. You good, little sister?
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
But she was a part of that bond, and Emrys was not above pounce-tackling her directly into her brother and sister before dancing playfully away to tease his own sister affectionately. They might have been an odd little pack, but they were definitely close
Dante's head popped up, as if somehow sensing Emrys' playfulness with his sister and he rolled away from Marissa to land on his feet and go bounding after the larger wolf and tackle him to the ground - or try to.
Emrys didn't often get a chance to be a playful little brat, so having Dante go right for it was a gift from the gods. To the bemusement and amusement of the rest of the pack, he went down like a ton of bricks, playing a death scene like the worst Shakespearean actor in fur.
If tigers could laugh, Marissa was somehow doing it, but it was more a feeling of amusement that went down the line of the pack than an actual physical reaction to her brother's playfulness. She left them to it, plopping down in the snow, content to watch for now, while Dante nosed Emrys, as if to make sure he hadn't killed him.
The Alpha let him worry for just a moment before lurching up from the snow, fully intending to throw the younger wolf down exactly the same way he had gone down, tail wagging like a puppy's all the while.
Dante let out a yelp of happy surprise, bounding away as if challenging Emrys to catch him. There was no aggression in his actions, only playfulness, almost like he was a pup again.
Emrys was more than happy to engage in that play, ignoring the sense of indulgent laughter coming along the bond at the sight of their usually calm and collected Alpha bouncing around like a dog with a new toy. There was method to this madness, but he wasn't going to rush it.
In truth, Dante had never really been a pup, in the true sense of the word. He hadn't experienced his first shift until he'd entered puberty, and by that time, as the eldest, he had already assumed the Alpha role among his siblings. Playing like a puppy was something new to him, or at least forgotten, and he seemed to be enjoying himself as much as Emrys. At least, until he stopped in mid-stride, as if he'd caught the scent of something familiar on the wind.
And there it was. The Alpha bond surged into Dante's mind, reaching down past the wolf, past the pain, past the torment and anguish and the artificial barrier holding the human mind at bay. Dante's entire personality was suddenly wrapped in the protective, comforting embrace of a brother who loved him, and clearly in his mind's ear he heard Emrys' voice as though they were humans sitting side by side.
"Come back, little brother. We've got you."
Dante paused there, the wolf's entire body tensing, motionless, as if torn between his instinct to follow that scent or remain with the pack and his Alpha. That feeling was so strong it went down the pack, but it was Emrys who would feel it most, as Dante harkened to the urging of his Alpha. He did nothing for a long moment, and then, he tipped his head back and howled mournfully into the night.
"Not the wolf. Dante. Little brother. Skylar's twin. Marissa's brother. My brother. Come back to us."
The Alpha authority was holding him in place, but it was Emrys' voice, Emrys' personality, the gentle calm that the man always carried with him, that was reaching out to the trapped human inside the wolf.
The wolf stopped howling, but remained still with tension, the fur on his back raised, his tail held rigid behind him. There was something out there, something familiar, but whether it was friend or foe, he was unable to say, until he could find his humanity again and tell he others what he was sensing. He remained that way for a long time, while the others gathered around, as if to lend their support. He felt the connection to the pack, to his sisters, to the Alpha, but there was something missing that he couldn't yet put into words.
At last, the human part of his mind uttered a single word - "Can't." It had been a struggle to find it, to remember it, but it somehow managed to crack open that part of his mind, if only a little.
"Can. I've got you."
And it wasn't just Emrys reaching out along the bond - now that the Alpha had forged the path clear, other voices joined his. The soft understanding of Seren, the sister who also knew what it was to be trapped, joined her brother's urging.
"It will only hurt this once," she promised, gentle but certain. "Come back to us and be yourself. You deserve to live the life you were given."
If he'd been human, Dante might have shaken his head in reply, but there was only a piece of the wolf that was human - a sliver of the life he'd been given, the one he'd been born into. He could choose to grasp that sliver and hang on for life or let it go and forever live his life as a wolf, without guilt or worry. It was his choice, but one he could not make alone.
"Come back to me," a soft voice he recognized as Skylar's was heard in his head and down the pack line. "Come back to us. We need you, Dante. We can't find the others without you."
Feeling the struggling inside Dante, Emrys reached out to Marissa and Skylar. "Memories. He needs memories of good things to hold onto. Remind him why being whole is best for him."
Marissa wasn't sure she could help much there. She had never known her siblings until recently, but there were other Marissas inside her who had. She had been working with Demi to repress them, as she found their thoughts and feelings confusing. Was Emrys asking her to set them free, or was he asking something else of her?
Skylar, though, latched onto the idea, moving closer to the wolf that was her brother and brushing her face against his, as she sought to share the happy memories of their childhood, like a movie playing in his head.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The tiger growled just a little to scold him for staring, but beneath the blanket, her form slowly shifted from four legs to two. Marissa drew the blanket around her shoulders, grateful her mate had thought of that ahead of time. "Your turn," she said, as she watched him in the moonlight.
Snuffling out a wolven laugh of sorts, Emrys padded into the pile of blankets, grabbing one to cover his rear end as he shifted, unconcerned about the chill on the air. They all ran a little hotter than the average human, after all. Instinctively, he reached out an arm to invite Marissa into his embrace, glancing only briefly over at the twins to make sure they were still doing okay.
Marissa was half temped to let him moon his friends, but she coveted that view of her mate and didn't really want to share. She went into his embrace without argument, eager to brush a kiss to his lips now that they were human again. "Thank you," she told her quietly, hoping he understood just what she was thanking him for.
Emrys hugged her against him, nuzzling to her lips for a long moment. "It was harder than I thought it might be," he murmured back to her, a little pensive but mostly pleased it had worked at all. "He may be reluctant to shift until we can convince him he has control over it."
Marissa frowned as she looked over at her siblings, who were still huddled close, Skylar doing her best to soothe her twin. "They have nowhere to go now," she mused aloud, knowing Emrys would be okay with them staying as long as was necessary.
He looked down at her, raising a brow. "They'll always have a home with us," he assured her. "I'll grab Duncan and Evan in the next couple of days and we'll throw up another couple of rooms on the cabin. We'd have had to do it eventually for the kids, anyway."
Marissa paused a moment in thought. She'd apparently been thinking about this for a while. "Why not just build another cabin?" she suggested. It wasn't like they didn't have the room for one, and it would give the twins some privacy.
"It'd take a little longer," he warned, but his tone told her he wasn't averse to the idea. "Or we could turn the apple loft into an apartment of sorts?"
Marissa was frowning thoughtfully again. "I'm not sure they'll want to stay here permanently, but it would be nice to have someplace for them to stay."
"Perhaps we should ask them," he suggested, tucking her head under his chin affectionately. "They will need to be near us until this is done. Are there any other siblings you know the location of who need to be warned?"
"Other siblings?" Marissa echoed, furrowing her brows in thought as she nuzzled against him. There were the triplets - Duncan, Diana, and Darius - but he already knew about them. There was one, but she wasn't really a sibling, and it was going to be confusing trying to explain her existence. "I, uh ..."
Emrys smiled to himself, glad he had guessed right. "She's been living in the brownstone," he murmured against her hair. "Smells like you, but not like you. Never caught a glimpse of her yet, but Seren says she looks like you would if you were a teenager with an attitude."
Marissa jerked her head up and narrowed her eyes at Emrys the way she might if he'd stolen a cookie before it was cooled. "You already know?" Why hadn't he mentioned this before? Why hadn't Seren, for that matter?
"I don't really know anything, kitten," he pointed out. "I know there's a girl living in your old house, who smells a little like my mate. I assumed you had given her permission to live there, that she was family but wanted to stay separate. Neither of us talk much about family outside our little pack, love."
She frowned up at him, that worried expression on her face again. "It's ... a long story," she told him. One that wasn't about to be summed up in a few words - at least, not until they were well and truly alone.
"You don't have to tell me, kitten, not until you're ready to," he assured her, stroking his fingers through her hair. "All I need to know is whether we should be keeping an eye on her for her own safety at this point in time. The blood hunters tend not to attack in urban areas, but if she hunts outside the city, she shouldn't be alone."
"I don't know," she said, hesitating a moment as if considering further. That wasn't quite true, and yet, it was. They weren't the same person anymore, if they had ever been. "Do you think she's in danger?"
"She shares a scent with you and yours," he said softly. "If they have targeted your family, she is in danger, yes."
Marissa chewed her bottom lip, a sign of worry. She had been dreading this for a while, hoping that by leaving her counterpart alone, she would be able to live her life without any confusion or interference from her. "I should warn her then," she said, mostly to herself.
"Do you want me to come with?" was Emrys' soft offer, though he was fairly sure she would want to make the first contact by herself in this case. He didn't pretend to understand the complex relationships in Marissa's family, but then, he didn't need to. He just knew they were family.
"No, I think I should probably go alone," she told him. It wasn't that she didn't want him there, so much as the fact that it was going to be hard enough on the girl as it was. "I was really hoping to avoid this," she said with a sigh, but didn't yet explain why.
He frowned, concerned. "Is there some bad blood between you?" he asked, unafraid to show his concern for his mate when she seemed so conflicted in her heart.
"No ..." Marissa was quick to reply, though she seemed to hesitate again before continuing. "Not bad blood exactly ..." She seemed about to continue when she noticed the rest of the pack getting restless. "They're going to want to hunt," she said, stating what seemed obvious.
He followed her glance across the clearing, noting the tension starting to build. "Do you want to hunt with them?" he asked his mate gently. "I am not too willing to leave the twins at this moment, but Seren can fall into the role of Beta if necessary."
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
He smiled, shaking his head. "No one will hold it against you," he promised her.
Still keeping hold of his mate, Emrys raised his head, reaching out for the golden wolf that was his sister. She emerged from the playfight in a surge of motion, making eye contact to absorb the instruction the Alpha gave, turning to bark at the other wolf and two tigers with cheeky authority.
Marissa couldn't help but smile at the easy-going way the pack got along. She was proud of Emrys for taking the lead as Alpha, and happy that he and Seren had found each other. Family was everything, but it wasn't always about blood. "She's really come into her own," she remarked regarding Seren, as she watched the four of them lope off.
"Who'd have thought all she needed was a baby," he teased, almost laughing at the thought that crossed his mind. "Dorian just wasn't helpless enough to settle her, I guess."
Marissa smiled, turning once again to face her mate, reaching to curl her fingers about his jaw. It really was adorable how he never thought anything was about him. "Have you ever considered that what she really needed was her brother?"
"Not particularly," Emrys admitted in a mild tone. It had never occurred to him that he might have had something to do with his sister finding her feet. He thought she had been doing pretty well without him all along. He smiled down at Marissa. "Are you doing the ego-stroking thing again? I thought I was immune to it?"
"Of course, you didn't," she murmured to herself, an amused smile on her face, as she patted his cheek. "You, immune?" She couldn't help but laugh. "My darling, if there is one thing you are not immune to, it's my wiles," she said, a sparkle of mischief in her eyes. At least, she wasn't frowning anymore.
He laughed, dropping his head to nip at her neck for the tease. "I will never be immune to you, kitten," he promised, his voice a gentle growl in her ear.
She smiled, obviously pleased by his show of affection, as well as the growl, which was doing things to her insides that she didn't really want her siblings to know. "Later, darling," she promised him, patting his cheek again. "What are we going to do about them?" she asked, with a nod of her head at the twins.
Emrys frowned thoughtfully. "Guide him back into wolf, take them home, shift him back and put them to bed?" he suggested. "They can have the kids' room tonight - knowing Kit and Delilah, all the children are in a blanket fort in the main room anyway."
"Do you think that's a good idea?" she asked, brows arching upwards at the suggestion that Dante shift back to wolf form. It was the form he'd been stuck in, and she wasn't sure it was a good idea for him to shift back just yet.
"The sooner he does it, the easier it will be to recognise the control he has over the wolf," he said quietly. "We'll be there to guide him through it, if he needs us."
She considered a moment before nodding her head. "If you think it's best," she said, putting all her trust in his judgment. She wasn't a wolf, after all, and though she was a shifter, things were a little different for her.
"It's better than making them walk home naked through the woods," he pointed out with a faint smile. He had no doubt they would do it, but why should they?
"I doubt they'd care," she murmured, knowing not everyone possessed as much modesty as she did. "Besides, we have an abundance of blankets," she pointed out. Then again, it was quite a walk on human legs, but not so far on four legs.
"Did we over-prep?" he asked innocently. "Should I have asked them to bring a tent, too?" His grin was sweet and impish, and he knew exactly how she would react. After all, he was making it his life's mission to observe her for every little detail.
She gave her a playful swat for his teasing. "Unless you want to roast marshmallows and sing Kumbaya," she teased in return, though he might not get the song reference.
"Is that a new way to say you want sex tonight?" he asked, and this time the innocence was real. Apparently he could feel out the way the word was spelled quickly if he thought there was an innuendo in there.
She giggled at his misunderstanding. "No, but it can be if you want it to be." Then again, he needed no hints to be able to sense her moods. "Think the others can find their way home without us?" she asked, though she was quite sure they could.
He nodded confidently. "They'll get home safe," he predicted. "Between Dorian and Demi, they're a pretty alert group."
"Then, let's go home," she said, brushing her nose against his. The hunt could wait. They'd had enough excitement for one night. Besides, they were going to have to do a little planning before they went looking for the blood hunters.
"Let's collect the twins first," he reminded her. Eager though he was to take her home, he was acutely aware of his duty to Dante and Skylar, to make sure they were safe and sheltered and able to work through all this without fear of interruption.
"I love you, you know," she reminded him, holding him back a moment with a hand on his arm. He must know that already, but she didn't think it hurt to remind him.
He swept her up into his arms, kissing her soundly, holding her up off the snow for a long moment before letting her back down again. "I do know, yes," he agreed, grinning against her lips. "Happens I love you, too."
She couldn't help but grin into his kiss as he swept her into his arms. There was no place she'd rather be really. She might not have known it when she'd met him, but he was exactly what she'd needed. "Good," she told him, in between kisses. "Make sure it stays that way."
"Couldn't stop me if you tried." He chuckled, kissing her once more on the tip of her nose. "C'mon, before I freeze my todger off."
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
"Today, yes." He grinned down at her, hugging her into his side even as they approached the pair sat by the fire.
"Well, I guess that's better than Mr. Willy," she murmured to herself, just loud enough for him to hear her.
The pair near the fire stood up as they approached, huddled in blankets against the cold now that they were in their human forms.
Emrys rolled his eyes, snorting with laughter at the little comment even as he turned his smile onto the two who now stood. "Let's get you two home," he said gently. "Run out the last of that energy and change to have cocoa in pajamas."
"Pajamas?" Dante echoed, with a puzzled look at Skylar. It wasn't that he didn't know what pajamas were so much as that he hadn't brought any with him. Of the two of them, he had a lot more catching up to do.
"It's okay," Skylar assured him. "I'm sure Emrys doesn't mind sharing his closet."
"Plenty of clothing," Emrys promised. "You two get the pups' room tonight - you need the space, and they'll be passed out in a blanket fort by now, anyway."
"The pups," Dante echoed again, looking between Emrys and Marissa. "Your children," he said, stating the obvious. He was struggling a little to find the right words, but Skylar was right there to interpret.
"Yes, you remember, don't you?" she asked her brother gently. He had met them already, though he'd been a wolf then.
"I remember," he confirmed quietly.
Emrys' smile gentled. "They'll be pleased to see you walking on two legs," he assured Dante. "But for now, let's slip back onto four and go home, shall we?"
A brief look of panic crossed Dante's face for a moment at Emrys' suggestion.
"It's okay," Marissa assured her brother gently. "We'll make sure you can shift back."
"You won't lose yourself," Emrys promised him, conviction simmering beneath his words. "We won't let you get lost again. You have my word."
Dante nodded his understanding. "I trust you," he assured the Alpha. How could he not when Emrys was the only one who'd been able to return him to his humanity?
Skylar smiled, at her brother's side. "We trust you both," she told them.
"Then shift with me."
It wasn't a request, but neither was it an order. Dante was free to ignore Emrys if he chose to. The Alpha had all the time in the world to guide him back onto four legs, after all.
Shifting back to wolf wasn't really the problem; the problem came when it was time to shift back to human, but he had done it once already with Emrys' help and there was no reason to think he couldn't do it again. He maintained eye contact with the Alpha, his eyes changing first, before the inevitable crack of bones signaled the rest of the change. Beside him, both Skylar and Marissa did the same, flesh changing to fur and nails to claws.
Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that Emrys would ever be able to command a slow shift from human to animal not just for himself but for three others in the same moment? He couldn't help the thrill of pride in himself and in his packmates as he shook out his fur, nudging the two tigers before inviting the wolf to take up place at his side. Let's go home.
Home. It was a strange word for the pair of siblings whose home had been destroyed, but maybe home wasn't so much a place as it was the people you called family.
And family was what they had here. Though it might feel as though that comfort and safety had been ripped from them, there was still a sanctuary filled with love and light that had a place for them. Home was where you made it, and for tonight, at least, it was with their new Alphas - their family.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
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