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z-August Turner

World of Darkness: Attrition - Man-Shaped Hearts [Mature]

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February 13, 2012, 11:30 p.m.

“You’re gonna lose your shirt,” August threatened as they cleared the dishes from the late dinner. Her internship had her keeping odd hours, and fitting her workouts around the demands of her last semester was always interesting.

“You say that every week, frail,” Declan chided her as he started to run the water for the dishes. “And yet, I always get my fill of the peanuts.”

“This time will be different,” the woman insisted, shoving the sleeves of her shirt up her arms. The spaghetti and meatballs were long gone; August tried to make enough for leftovers, but every time they had a post-training dinner, Declan ate every scrap. “Washing or drying?”

“Washin’,” he said and plunged his hands into the water. “I made it hot.”

“You always make it hot,” August snorted as she grabbed a towel. A second later she blushed, then blushed harder as the werewolf unleashed one of his slow sexy chuckles.

“Hey, you wanna get spanked, I have no problem delivering,” he told her, automatically washing the dish in his hands. He rinsed and handed the steaming plate to her, adding, “In poker or anything else.”

August flushed again, taking the plate and drying it. “Not this time,” she vowed. “I’m winning tonight.”

“Well, better hurry up and get to it then,” Declan said, doubling the speed of his dish-washing.

They kept of the light banter as they cleaned the kitchen and wiped the table. Then Declan went to get the cards while August located the peanut tin. When the werewolf came into the kitchen, August was holding the tin and frowning. “We have a problem,” she said.

“What’s that?” he asked, about two seconds before he remembered having a craving for nuts a couple of days ago. “No peanuts.”

“No, three peanuts,” she said, smirking a little. “You ate all but three? Really? And put the tin back with three peanuts in it?”

“I only ate what I wanted,” he defended sheepishly, racking his brain for appropriate stakes.

August was thinking, too, but her mind was going somewhere different. “Alright,” she said, then drew a deep breath. “Strip poker it is, then.” She colored at the look he gave her and said faintly, “Unless you have a better idea? I mean, with two people, it’s gonna be a short game…”

She rather hoped he didn't think of anything better. Tomorrow was Valentines, and being alone on that day was really pathetic. Sure, she, Oneca, Araida and Kaitlin would go picking up men, but that wasn’t the same. August didn’t want to pick up strange men for meaningless sex. She’d rather have meaningless sex with Declan. Hell, she’d rather have sex with Declan altogether. She knew it. He knew it. Only that little sliver of doubt was holding her back and on the eve of Valentine's Day, it wasn't enough to stop her.

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Gazing at her, Declan could feel her thoughts, the general weight and shape of them, or so it seemed to him at that moment. Maybe, he mused, it was his own thoughts he was feeling. Oh, I have a better idea... You know what? Fuck it. I am soooo damn tired of smelling her scent, and hearing her voice, and seeing her so damn close, and not DOING anything about it!

"Oh, I reckon I do have a better idea." His voice dropped an octave or two as he studied August. The green-eyed girl was by the counter, leaning her hip against it as they talked, and at his words (and more importantly, at his tone) her breathing hitched a little and her eyes widened. The background hormones, never far away when the two of them were in the same room together, suddenly surged as blood suffused her skin in a faint blush.

"You do, huh?" August bantered, trying to control the *lump-lump* of her pulse. Declan slowly started to step around the table, and August moved back against the counter some more, her eyes fixed on his. He can smell me... Hear my heart... Oh god I don't know if that's hot or terrifying. She watched him come closer, wondering why her skin wasn't crackling with the sudden electricity in the room. It's both. HE's both. "So what's the idea? Scrabble?"

"Nope." Another step closer.

"Monopoly." August tried again, hating how breathless she sounded, and felt. The rush of their earlier workout had her system nice and limber with endorphins and the 'runners high', and she didn't feel as tired as she would have last September. She felt very much alive around Dec... too alive, perhaps. He drove away not just the chill of ghosts and the grave, but the grayness of ordinary living. Not that she had much of that these days, but still.

"Nuh-uh." Declan shook his head, keeping up his steady advance. His eyes glowed lambently in the soft lighting. The Vargr's blood was up as he stalked August, well aware that there was little of fear in her scent. She smelled... well, she smelled wonderful. He wanted to bury his face in that smell, drown in her. It had been waaaaay too long since his last bed partner, at least three or four months. And the ordinary barrier that was between him and others - his secret - wasn't between him and August. She knew what he was, and she still fancied the pants off of him. He was right in front of her now, looking down into those sea-green eyes framed by long, long lashes, his senses listening to her body.

"Dec..." August meant to place a hand in the middle of his chest, she really did. But good intentions can often be mislaid, and besides, she didn't really want to restrain him. Her palm brushed against the hard muscle of his chest under the t-shirt, and of it's own accord her fingers spread out, feeling the heat of his body through the thin cotton. Dropping her gaze to his chest, she felt his heartbeat against her palm and bit her lip pensively.

"Yeah?" Dec murmured, and as she looked back up at him he leaned down and kissed her.

It was that storm all over again, the one from after their first training 'date'. Silver fire ran down Declan's spine as he felt August's hand bunch into a fist clutching at the front of his shirt, her other arm arcing around behind his neck and shoulders as she whimpered urgently into their kiss. She tasted sweet, her tongue giving way before him for a moment, then dancing against his. Of their own accord, her legs came up and locked around his waist as his hands lifted her effortlessly. It felt to the Vargr as though August was trying to press her skin against him through their clothing, so passionately she was forcing her body against his. And the only coherent thought Declan could manage was: Thank god Oneca's not around this time...

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Thank god Oneca’s not around this time! That was the last thing she managed to think before she tried to climb him like Mount Everest, her legs locked around him. His hands gripped her ass through her jeans, making August wiggle against him. He planted her ass on the counter for a moment; she didn’t let go of his neck or stop her frenzied kisses. A second later he lifted her again, shifting her weight higher. Their liplock was broken, but he immediately buried his face against her neck, his lips and then his tongue tasting and teasing the skin there.

August was only vaguely aware that she was being carried; her mind was not particularly interested in the path he took from the kitchen to the bedroom. She couldn’t even think enough to open the door, and when he pinned her to the wall to free up a hand, she made a guttural noise at the weight and press of his fevered body. The MSO seemed to forget why he’d pinned her there as one hand rose to slide under her shirt. He made a frustrated whine when he only felt another shirt under that, tucked into her jeans.

While he was trying to find skin, August reclaimed his lips, her fingers knotting possessively and forcibly in his hair. Her tongue swept against the inside of his mouth, filling his senses with her taste again. She heard his hand thump blindly against the wall as he tried to find the door handle. Then he got it and lifted her off the wall. He entered the room slowly, stepping with care. August would have dropped them both had she been carrying him into the room, because she would have tripped over one of the piles of books. Declan kicked one over, caught their balance and growled a curse. The green-eyed girl had enough presence of mind to giggle at the absurdity; then he dumped them both on the bed with a soft thud.

August was on bottom but Declan caught himself before his full weight slammed into her. His groin still pressed against hers with enough pressure to make her emit a hoarse cry of delight. He straightened up enough to pull her overshirt in one smooth motion. There was a satisfied rumble of approval when he saw that the undershirt was only a gray spaghetti strap top. Her blue bra straps were visible, too, and that rumble became a soft growl of pure anticipation. August reached for his shirt too, but Declan caught her hands and slipped them under her back. One of his big hands claimed both of hers as he slid the fingers of his free hand under the straps of shirt and bra. As he moved, the hard press of erection was shoved insistently against the cleft of her legs and August gasped from the sensation. As she writhed from the pleasure, he pulled the straps down her arm, revealing one pale breast with an aching, stiff nipple to him.

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He dropped his head to it, his tongue just a little rough as it swiped across the hardened bud, causing August to cry out softly and struggle against his imprisoning hand. Looking down, she saw silver eyes gleaming in the shadows of his face, framed by his shaggy fall of dark hair, and August shivered with a sensation that was almost, but not quite fear. The shiver was driven away as Declan's lips and tongue voraciously paid attention to the tender skin of her breast, his free hand sweeping down to her waistband and slipping inside, work-roughened fingertips caressing the smooth skin of her hips and abdomen.

August whimpered in the back of her throat, the scent of her arousal flooding the room to Dec's keen senses, and arched against his hand. The Vargr unfastened her shorts and slid his hand in further, his teeth pulling down the bra enough to expose August's other breast to the relentless assault of his mouth. Her skin tasted clean and sweet, the remnants of the workout still faintly there to his tongue as it laved the pale swell of her breast, then dipped down between them to her breastbone, his lips nuzzling as he breathed in nothing but warm, hopelessly aroused August. His fingers slipped into her panties.

"Dec..." August moaned breathily, her head spinning. Declan wasn't gentle in his passion, but he was gentle enough for the roughness to be exciting. She felt his hardness against her thigh through his jeans and moved her leg against him slightly, urging him on even as she tried again to free her hands. She wanted to touch him, to feel his skin under her hungry fingers, to find purchase on the hard muscle sheathing his body and pull him inside her.

Declan released her hands, his lips moving up to capture hers again in a kiss that stole the breath from both of them. He could feel her pulse hammering through her body, echoing his own as he slipped a finger down further and finding August soaking wet with her desire. Her legs parted of their own accord as he slid a finger gently into her sex, his palm pressed against her. Green eyes opened wide in amazed pleasure, August's arms coming around his shoulders and grabbing hold so tightly that it nearly hurt. Fingers dug into the cotton of his shirt, and green eyes met his.

"Off." she said, her voice thick with lust. "Take this off." She started to try and pull it off him without waiting, and Declan hastened to help. As his broad chest came into view August ran her hands over it with a small murmur of pleasure, her fingers lightly playing in his hair. Dec smiled down at her and leaned down for another kiss, moving his hand back to it's previous position as their mouths opened against one another, tongues dancing. His finger stroked in and out unhurriedly, playing in the wet folds, and August's breathy moans increased in tempo.

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This was what she’d hoped it would be, and even more. Hell, she was so excited she couldn’t stop long enough to undress completely. Declan’s finger slipped deeply into her body, and August made a taut noise in the back of her throat. She’d have made a louder one had Declan not had his mouth over hers, thoroughly occupying her tongue with his own. The bold penetrations of his finger mirrored the ones of his tongue, each thrust leaving her moaning for more.

Abruptly, the werewolf took his mouth away from hers, even as his finger pulled out of her. “No,” August protested, only to shut up when Declan’s mouth resumed his vigorous assault on her breasts. At the same time, his rough finger traveled the soaked path of her slit to find her clit. As her hands gripped his hair, holding his head to her breasts, the werewolf focused tightly on that little bud. Each pass of his finger over her heated, sensitized skin brought another surge of pleasure; his tongue and lips drew that pleasure higher still.

Then Declan’s teeth closed lightly around a nipple and pulled; a growl rumbled deep in his chest and August answered with a sharp cry. Dec’s expression turned victorious as he moved his fingers lower and pushed two of them into her body. Her inner walls gripped and pulled at his finger and he was coherent enough to wish to god this cock had been there instead. For August, it was lightening and fire and heat all rolled into one; a virtual firestorm that raged through her nerves and left her writhing against her pleased partner. His fingers kept moving, and she was vaguely aware that he was growling, his head buried between her breasts as he fought the urge to ride out her orgasm completely and the desire to strip them both so he could fully enjoy the pleasures of her pleasure-wracked body before she was done. It was only when she stopped shivering and crying out did the Vargr lifted his head to smirk at her.

“Jeez,” the girl sighed as her tremors subsided – mostly. Declan kept his fingers in motion, the soaked digits sliding up and down her sex in slow strokes. “Wo-” Her word was cut off as Declan claimed her mouth again for a hungry kiss. His hard cock thrust against her as he silently reminded her that she might have gotten off, but he was still in need of attention. That surge of his body, that burning kiss set her nerves on fire again and suddenly, she was ready for more instead of for post-orgasm relaxing.

Her fingers curled into the front of his shorts and the silver-eyed MSO groaned as the tips of her fingers brushed the head of his cock. “Get these off,” she ordered the second her mouth was free, “and get on your back.” Even as he was already in motion, she added in a heated whisper, “I wanna suck your cock. Now.”

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You don't have to tell me twice! Dec thought as he arched and wriggled out of his shorts, before sitting to slide them off his legs. August helped there, grabbing the loose garment and and ripping it free from his ankles before throwing it across the room. Slender hands grabbed his shoulders and August's lips pressed against his for a long moment before she smiled into the kiss and shoved him over backwards.

"Gimme." she said, but paused for a moment as her eyes devoured his naked form for the first time. Okay, this was kinda worth waiting for, but dammit! I shouldn't have waited the Inner August commented with some acidity. The great part is now I get to make up for lost time. Declan was hairy, but not Man-Bear-Rug, and his skin had the steady tan that working your ass off in the L.A summer could grant. August grinned as her eyes strayed down to the junction of his thighs and the hard length there, standing to attention under her gaze. She wrapped her hand around it's base, feeling the heat and pulse of him there and loving the way his hips twitched under her touch. She leaned forward over him and worked him with her hand a little, looking up at the silver eyes blazing as they watched her, before giving him a slow, sexy smile and bending down, giving the tip of his cock a delighted kiss before taking him into her mouth.

Dec groaned at the sensation of her lips on, then engulfing him in the hot wet pocket of her mouth. Her tongue danced, playing around, up and down, then around his shaft again as her head bobbed slowly. Holy shit she's good at this! He felt her black hair tickling his thighs and belly as she moved, making a soft hmmm-ing sound in the back of her throat, as though happy, which was a new one for Dec. There were girls that gave head, and those that didn't. Among those that did were those who did it reluctantly - his last girlfriend had been one such... but August was not one of those. He felt the tingle in his spine that heralded the beginnings of the climb to orgasm and sighed, his body tensing and untensing with the pleasure August was inflicting on him, and kept his eyes on what was going on, not wanting to miss a thing.

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August loved the reactions of men from giving blow jobs; there was something very satisfying about it. There was also something so primal about it, so intimate. The slide of his cock over her tongue and lips; the taste and smell of male, from the part that literally defined him as male. She kept a light pressure to start, her tongue giving way to the changes in his length, soft and utterly yielding over his silken skin.

After the third or fourth pleased but very quiet groan from Declan, August began to suck, her fingers and mouth tightening over his shaft. Her head moved a bit faster and Declan’s groan became louder. His fingers slipped into her hair, tangling lightly in the black strands. The woman didn’t pause in her task but she did glance up at him. His silver eyes gleamed at her and she paused, letting his length slide out of her mouth.

Smiling at him, she pulled her hair to one side of her body and shifted slightly to the side. It gave Dec a clear view as she licked up the back of his cock, then drew him into her mouth again. He made a louder noise of delight, his eyes locked on the image of her going down on him. And what an image it was: the pretty girl kneeling over him, her green eyes half-closed in pleasure, her cheeks flushed with passion and excitement while his cock moved in and out of her mouth. The smell of her sex lingered in the air; he could smell his own rising. The soft sounds of the suction of her mouth and her happy humming were the audio backdrop, accented by the occasional pop when she broke her wet pressure. Her breasts brushed over his thighs, her nipples pressing into his skin while one hand aided her mouth. Her other hand played lightly with his balls, gently stimulating them. And somehow, the fact that she had her shirt and bra shoved just low enough to reveal her breasts while her shorts still hung loose and open on her body only made the image more appealing.

Foregoing the strip poker had been a really good idea.

She was relentlessly assaulting his senses, not that the Vargr minded. Those tingles in his spine were getting a lot stronger, more demanding, while his body tensed longer and harder with each pull of her mouth. His world was reduced to the wet, hot pleasure of her mouth and fingers, the smell and sounds of pleasure and the sight of her enthusiastically giving him head. When she started to draw him in deeper, his body stopped untensing at all, merely winding him up to greater heights. When she finally deep-throated him, he felt the tingles become shocks. As if she knew, August’s mouth tightened around him further and she began to move her head faster. She switched between relentless speed and pauses where she took him as far as she could and sucked him hungrily.

It was during one of the fast-paced sessions that Declan’s shocks built to the point where he couldn’t hold himself in any longer, no matter how much he never wanted this to end. He released a guttural, hoarse groan, trying to warn her, but all that he managed was a moaned, “August…” Then he was climaxing, his body shuddering as he spent himself her mouth, her throat working as she swallowed. Fire raced down his spine as her mouth kept that pull on his length until he was done, the tremors from his body fading into nothing. Then she gave him one gentle stroke of her tongue and released him, sitting up, mindless of her partial nudity. Her face was flushed and she was smiling smugly, pleased with his reaction.

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For a long moment Dec just lay there, stunned into relative insensibility by pretty much the best god-damned blowjob of his life, capable only of looking up at August's smile framed by her dishevelled hair and thinking... Well, actually thinking was fairly hard right now. Wow was probably the closest Declan was coming to a coherent thought. There was definitely the feeling, however, that he wanted more. As coherent thought started to return, along with a grin stretching across his face as he looked up at her, foremost on Dec's mind was the fact that August was not nearly naked enough.

"Now that was awesome." he said. August grinned even more smugly.

"It wasn't bad from this end, either." she told him, glancing fondly down at his cock. Her eyes widened a little, her smile becoming pleased and surprised. "Well now..." she purred, reaching out and running a finger down the still-hard length of him, feeling her insides clench and turn liquid once more as Dec murmured in pleasure. "Looks like someone's still hungry."

"Whaddya want me to say? There's no such thing as too much of a good thing." Dec told her with a lazy grin, the muscles of his torso flexing as he sat up effortlessly and leaned forward to kiss her. Somewhat surprised, August returned the kiss eagerly - many men were squeamish about kissing after a blowjob. "It's a werewolf thing, I think. I wasn't this, uh, lively before. Lively enough, but yeah." he explained.

"So what, you plan to run me into the ground then fuck me till I can't stand up again?" August murmured with a sexy smile, her voice taking on a throaty emphasis when she said fuck. There was a rumbling noise in his chest, his arms coming around her waist as she shifted position to kneel straddling his thighs.

"I heard it's the second best type of exercise." the Vargr deadpanned. "Runnin', that is." August felt the heated tip of his cock brush against her inner thigh and moaned deep in her throat, her head coming down to meet him in a passionate kiss.

"I am going to be so exhausted tomorrow, aren't I?" she stated rather than asked, not sounding at all unhappy at the prospect. A thought occurred. "You've got protection, right?" she asked, momentary alarm in her green eyes. It wouldn't do at all for them to have to stop, even if it was only long enough for Dec to run to the store.

"Lots." He assured her, then grinned. "And I hope you don't have any classes in the mornin', because I want you all to myself." He nuzzled at her throat, his tongue tasting her skin causing the girl to arch against him.

"Screw my classes." August whispered hoarsely. She kissed him again, her teeth nipping at his lower lip gently. "And screw me, goddamn it. I want that beast inside me." Dec wasn't sure whether she was talking about his cock or about him. Maybe both, he mused as he picked August up and rolled over, pinning her to the bed with his face over hers.

"You've got too many clothes on." he told her, rubbing against her through her shorts teasingly. August whimpered.

"Let me up and take these off." she told him urgently. "Now."

Dec rolled off her and August practically bounced from his bed, unhooking her bra and tearing her grey top off before dropping her already-opened shorts and panties to the floor. She started to turn back towards the bed then, but found Declan right behind her, the Vargr having moved with his usual noiseless grace and speed as his hands gripped her hips, preventing her from turning. She turned her head to look back at him in surprise and Dec kissed her deeply, his silver eyes glowing as though lit from within. She could feel the hardness of his cock pressed against the top of her ass and squirmed against it, teasing him as their tongues danced. The gentle growl rumbling through his body thrilled her as he moved her forward, pressing her up against the wall. The cool surface on the heated skin of her breasts made August gasp, a gasp echoed two seconds later as Declan, pinning her with a fraction of his weight, slid one hand down between her and the wall and found the entrance to her soaking slit, his thumb brushing around her clit tenderly. August moaned loudly, her hands pressing to the wall for support as she abandoned herself to his touch, pressing her ass back against him in little circular movements in time with his fingers.

Then it went wrong.

The instincts started intensifying in the Vargr. Wolf-like instincts, the urge to mate, rather than simply fuck. It was August, after all. He'd been interested in her for about six months. They'd developed a sexual tension between them so thick that whenever Dec went round to Casa del Chicas, Oneca would grin and make a big deal about getting some popcorn... no matter the activity. Once they'd been messing about by the pool, and Oneca had gone and gotten a damned bag of popcorn. They spent at least one night a week training together, eating together and hanging out. He wanted her, not just for a quick bang, but with a marrow-deep sense of her presence that he felt keenly when she wasn't around. She was sexy and strong and fun, and the Wolf inside him didn't see any reason why they couldn't be together.

As she whimpered under his touch and pressed back against him, Owns-The-Night leaned forwards and pressed his open mouth against her shoulder, his tongue flicking against her skin, tasting the salt and sweat and hormones. He growled, the urge to claim his mate flashing through his wild soul, and before he could even start to interpret and dilute the impulse he bit into August's skin, her blood joining the other tastes on his tongue.

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“Ooo, oh, OWW, FUCK! Delcan!” August’s shriek filled the room as Declan backed away, horrified. He wasn’t the only one; when she pushed off the wall and clamped a hand to her shoulder, she looked pretty damned horrified, too. But hers wasn’t as much mortified horror as it was terrified horror. When she looked at her hand and saw blood, that horror redoubled. “You bit me!”

“August…” What did you say to the girl you’d just bitten on the shoulder? Somehow, I was just trying to claim you as a mate seemed unhelpful.

The subject of his concern turned and dashed for the bathroom. Declan followed, only to have the door slammed in his face. “Shit!” he muttered, then knocked. “August?”

The girl ignored him for now, using the mirror to get a good look at her shoulder. A perfect set of teethmarks welled with fresh blood and her shoulder began to really hurt. “Oh, fuck… You BIT me!”

“I’m sorry!” The plaintive apology from the other side of the door didn’t help. “Can I please come in and help you with that? It should be cleaned and bandaged.” August felt tears rising. This was just fucking perfect. She’d let herself think of him like a guy and had forgotten he was a werewolf, just a Man-Shaped Object. “August…”

“Bring me my clothes first,” she said, her voice resolute. It also said, without doubt, that sexy-fun-times were over for the evening. Over forever was also on the table. There was a long moment of silence; half of August expected Declan to break down the door and come after her anyway. And while part of her didn’t believe it – and part of her liked the idea – the fact that she was even thinking it said much about her frame of mind.

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Dec brought August her clothes, knocking on the door and, when she opened them, not so much handing them to her as having the girl snatch them from his hand before slamming the door shut again. Thoroughly miserable, he trudged to bedroom and pulled his own clothes on. The room smelled of sex and arousal and blood, and glancing in the mirror Dec realised that he still had her blood on his lips. The sight made him vaguely nauseous, but he fought the feeling down and went to the kitchen sink to wash off and rinse out his mouth, before fetching the first aid kit he'd bought since he started training August.

How the hell had it gotten away from him so fast, and so wrong? He'd bitten her, not just a nip, but a real bite. If he'd been in his wolfen shape, it'd have severed her arm. What the fuck was wrong with him?! That hadn't happened with his other sex partners... August's fear and shock was a physical presence in the room as he sat outside the bathroom and waited, first aid kit on his lap. He'd hurt her, and more than that, he'd totally fucked up their relationship, whatever that relationship was. No way would she trust him again. No way would she even want to be alone with him, or cuddle up to him while watching a movie. He'd behaved like an out of control animal, and that's how she'd treat him.

And did he really deserve any better?

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August pulled her clothing on, her hands shaking. It took twice as long as it should have, but she refused to call Declan for help. She didn’t want to see him right now, not naked. They’d come so close to giving release to the sexual tension that burned between them, only to have him do this. What the fuck?!

The shorts and underwear went on fine, but the bra was an issue. August quickly gave up on it, dropping it on the floor. She felt like a tramp without it, but given that Declan had already seen the girls first-hand, it was a little late to be self-conscious. Her shirt went on much more easily, the thin straps very easy to maneaver around her wound. When she came out of the bathroom, she had the bra in one hand, and the right strap of the top was hanging down her arm, rather than on her shoulder. One of his towels was pressed to her right shoulder, hiding the bite from him.

She looked at Dec sitting on the floor, sniffling a little. Then she quickly sat down in front of him, turning so that he could see her shoulder. She let go of the towel but left it in place on her shoulder, letting him do whatever cleaning or care he thought was necessary. “You… you told me once that your don’t pass werewolfism through bites, right? Am… Do I remember that right?” Her voice was rough and thick with tears.

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"Yeah, that's right." Declan said in a subdued voice. He winced as he saw the wound, and started to clean it with a wet cloth. "August, I-"

"Just..!" she stopped her voice from rising, or breaking. "Just. Clean. It." she said through gritted teeth. She felt him wipe away the blood, and heard his quiet breathing.

"This'll sting." he said quietly. August braced herself as he rinsed the bite out with plenty of antiseptic, then wiped it down once more with a clean cloth. It did sting, and the pain helped the tears come without her having to break down and sob. Dec bandaged her up properly, the process taking another five minutes during which they sat in silence. Finally he sat back, and August carefully pulled her strap up.

"August-" he tried again, but she moved away from his reaching hand and stood up, not looking at his face. "Just hear me out, okay? Just one time."

She didn't want to. She wanted to run home and hide in her room. "Just forget it, okay?" she muttered without looking at him. "It was an accident, I get it. I shouldn't have been doing that with you-"

"No." Dec protested. "That's just it. That wasn't normal even for me!" He got to his feet, but slowly, not wanting to spook her. "I've had sex since my Change, August. That never happened before, ya got to believe me. I don't know what happened to me." He paused, thinking. "It was like shit got twisted up, and I dunno why. But I might know someone who does."

"That's great." August said, close to tears and blinking to stave them off. "Good for you, Dec. Look, I'm going to go home, take some painkillers, and try not to freak the hell out." She grabbed her bag on the way to the door, only to pause as he called after her.

"August." She looked back at him, standing there with a bloody cloth held loosely in his hand and a miserable expression on his face. "I'd never hurt you, never on purpose."

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“Okay. That’s good to know.” Her words were fine, but her tone was troubling, anger clear from the first word. “So tell me, how the fuck do you accidentally bite someone hard enough to draw blood? I know what kind of force that takes, Dec, my dad used to do that to all of us, and he never broke skin.”

“Your… dad?” Declan asked, blanching.

“Yeah, he used to do it as punishment sometimes, grab an arm or a leg and chomp down,” August said, the tears coming now as anger morphed into pain. It pained her to talk about her father and Dec in the same way, doing the same thing: hurting her. “You going to accidently burn me with a cigarette next?”

“No! I told you it was all messed up!” Dec protested, but softly, weakly.

“I never had any boyfriends bite me, but you know what they said after they hit me? ‘Oh, baby, I’m sorry, it wasn’t me. I just got mad. You know I’d never really hurt you,’” August said, swiping at her tears carelessly. “And you know, that was how love was supposed to be, so it was okay. But it’s not! I know that love’s not supposed to be like that, that you’re not supposed to be getting hit or slapped or bitten. And the shittiest part of this was that I really believed you wouldn’t hurt me, ever. I trusted you to keep me safe when I walked home at night, even when I wasn’t walking with you. If I was in your territory, I knew you were watching out for me, and when I wasn’t, I knew that what you’d taught me would keep my ass alive. You were safe.” The fact that she was speaking of that feeling in the past tense was killing her in slow measures; she’d have given anything to go back in time and just talked him into watching a movie instead of suggesting strip poker. “God damn it, Declan, I trusted you!”

“August-”

“Don’t, please don’t sound like one of my asshole exes,” she begged, her words hoarse and ringing with pain. “I can’t… won’t be able to stand to hear you say that to me. It will break my heart.” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them; she hadn’t been aware that she was going to say them until they were in the air. And it was true. She had fallen for him. Looking back, August could see that, so damned clearly. She couldn’t have said when lust became more, but she could see that she’d fallen in love with a man-shaped object.

August turned away from him, fumbling out her phone and dialing home. “August, I’ll give you a ride,” Declan said from behind her.

The phone picked up on the first ring; August could hear Aradia laughing in background. They’d been planning a party for tomorrow night. She glanced at the clock: tonight, actually. It was now the fourteenth. Lovely. How shitty. “August? What’s up?” Oneca’s voice was cheerful and only slightly slurred. That was more and more common lately, but August had only really caught onto it lately.

August paused, then said, “Nevermind. I’m on my way home, I’ve got a ride.”

“A ride? Weren’t you at De-” August hung up before Oneca could finish. She turned to Declan and said, “Fine. I want to go home.”

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The ride home was silent but for the rattling of tools in the back of Declan's truck, but the silence was pregnant with unspoken words. August stared out of the window, pointedly not looking at Declan and with her shoulder pressed right up against the door. Declan kept his eyes mostly on the road, but now and then stole a glance at her profile. Now and then he started to speak, but closed his mouth every time, the first word stillborn.

He felt fucking miserable. He'd had no idea just what August's trust and friendship had meant to him, and now it was gone, washed away in one moment of twisted animal instinct, blood and pain. He'd betrayed her trust, and whether he'd meant to or not was beside the point. She'd compared him to her father, to her abusive exes. That hurt, because he knew that, violent creature though he was, he wasn't a fucking child-beater or woman-batterer. You're a killer, though. A man-eater. You killed that leech's blood-slaves with no remorse. You ate that pusher. Face it, you're a monster and that's why you can't have sex with someone you feel this strongly about without taking a bite. His hands clenched on the steering wheel so hard it creaked.

Too soon, the truck pulled up outside Oneca's house. Lights and music were on inside, and some voices could be heard on the night breeze as Dec killed the engine. He looked at August, but she was already out the door, closing it with almost slamming force and stalking away, her head low. The bandage on her shoulder showed up as a white patch against the night, and Dec broke a little inside. He almost called after her, but she wouldn't turn back. She wouldn't talk to him now. Maybe she'd talk to him tomorrow... Maybe she'd not talk to him again.

Too depressed even to grumble under his breath, he started up his rattletrap once more and headed home. He needed to figure this thing out, maybe call someone who'd be able to help.

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August almost didn’t go inside. She could have slipped around the side of the house and gone in through the back. She lived in the attic and there were a couple of ways into her section of the house. But she’d called Oneca; her friend knew she was coming home and would be looking for her. If August didn’t go inside and let them know she was here, Oneca would worry. With a sigh, she tossed her overshirt over her shoulder so that the bandage was hidden from view and went inside.

Oneca was waiting near the door for her. “Hey, what’s up?” she asked her expression concerned.

August looked past Oneca to the group of people in the living room. They were ‘planning’ tomorrow’s party but in reality, they were drinking and having a good time. August tended to think of it as the pre-party.

Oneca nodded and took her arm; it was meant to be a gesture of friendship as they walked together, but her entire arm throbbed and August hissed. Oneca looked really worried at that but let go of her and walked beside her up to August’s room. “Alright, what’s going on?” she asked when the door was closed and locked.

August sighed. “Oneca, first promise me you won’t do anything or say anything to anyone,” August insisted. “I need to talk to someone but… please promise me this won’t leave this room.”

“Of course,” Oneca assured her, nodding.

“Dec and I started to fool around,” August said. At the thrilled look that crossed Oneca’s face, she added, “Don’t get too excited. Things went wrong.” She pulled the shirt off her shoulder.

“What did he do?” Oneca asked, her expression settling in hard lines.

“He bit me,” August answered softly. “Hard enough to bleed. He said he didn’t mean to do it, that something got all twisted up…” She felt the tears rise. “Oneca… I hate this. I really like him. I mean really like him. A lot. I really want to turn back the clock and go back. But I can't...” Miserable, August wiped away her tears.

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"Bit you?" Oneca frowned. She pulled August into a hug, just offering silent comfort while August cried.

She took a look at the bite after August stopped shaking quite some much, then fetched a first-aid kit from under the sink and began gently applying antiseptics and Neosporin to the two curved sets of red even though August tried to protest that it'd already been done once. "Another time is just a better precaution, then." She peered at the bite, trying to decide if any of the punctures needed stitches and deciding that they weren't large enough or deep enough for that. She hoped. "Did he say anything about this being...more than just a control problem?" Oneca's tone was worried but focused.

"Wh-what?" August blinked up at her.

Oneca sighed, wishing she didn't need to ask this right now but too well-trained not to. "August, he wouldn't tell us what he is, but...did he say anything to you beyond 'I'm sorry'? Sometimes...well, some things beyond an infection can be passed through a bite." She fitted a large band-aid - one of those make to bend well over a joint - and waited with what she hoped was a calming presence for August's reply.

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“Oh, that. I asked. It’s fine.” August snorted sharply. “Or at least, that part of it is fine, because nothing else about this was. Oneca, I don’t know what to do. I was an idiot.” She pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, almost balancing on the end of her bed. The movement unintentionally displayed the lean muscles that Declan had been helping her develop.

“If you didn’t know he was going to bite…”

“Not about that.” August put her head on her knees, breathing deeply and trying to keep from crying again. “About… how I feel.” Oneca’s expression revealed understanding seconds before August miserably admitted. “I think I’m in love with him. I know I shouldn’t have done that, I mean, do these cross-species things work out at all? Especially when biting is involved. But… I think I am. When I realized that he’d hurt me, like all my asshole exes, it hurt so much.” Despite her determination to not stop crying like a heroine in an eighties bodice-ripper, she felt more tears rising. “I actually begged him not to apologize, because if he had, it would have broken my heart. My words, Oneca. ‘Broken my heart.’ Ah, fuck this is so messed up.”

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[February 14, 2012, 4:30 a.m]

Could this be any more fucked-up? Dec raged at himself as he paced back and forth on the polished wood floor of his lounge. The normally tidy, if sparsely-furnished, room looked like a bomb had hit it. The couch lay in confetti-like pieces across the floor, as did the beanbags and Dec's heavy workout bag, the sand adding to the mess along with the tatters of the Vargr's clothing. The burly naked man slumped against a wall and sank to the floor, head in his hands.

Why the fuck did I bite her? Everything was goin' great, and then *wham*! Look on the bright side, he told himself bitterly, at least you didn't Change and tear her to pieces.

"What the fuck is wrong with me?" he asked the empty room, his voice a quiet, miserable rumble. And how do I fix it? It's not like there's an advice column for Vargrs: "Dear Auntie Fuzzbutt, I bit this girl I dig when we were about to do the nasty all over the place- His head jerked up from the cradle of his hands, eyes narrowing.

"Lise." he said firmly, getting to his feet. His cousin would know about this shit, right? She grew up in the Pack, knew the ins and outs. She'd told him that whenever he needed advice, he could call her. She'd also extended him an invite to come to Minnesota, to a place called 'Wolf Lake' of all goddamned places, and meet the family, but Dec had refused, albeit politely. This was his place, a concept he found some difficulty in expressing to the carefree Lise, but she’d understood. Kinda.

“You’re a lot like the Old Wolf.” the blonde Vargr female had said with a grin. “Probably a bit too much like him to be in the same zip code, but what the hell. Whenever you feel like it, the door’s open. We’re the Free People, so you’re free to come and go. But you go ahead and call me if you need anything, little cousin. I could always use a California vacation.”

Declan found the phone in the wreckage and, after fumbling around in his room, found the number. He was about to dial when he glanced at the luminous green digits of the clock in his room and stopped. Two hours ahead, so... Yeah, six freakin’ thirty in the morning is not the fuckin’ time to be askin’ for romantic advice, the Vargr thought to himself sourly. Well, it gives me time to clean this goddamn mess up...

Several hours later, with the sun well above the horizon in L.A and it being mid-morning in Minnesota, Dec punched the number into the phone and lifted it to his ear, staring out at his back yard through the screen door. He’d cleaned up the mess, dumping it all into the back of his truck and taking it to a few dumps around the area so as not to cause too much attention. It might have been paranoid, but fuck it – no-one ever died of being careful. So he watched his yard unseeingly as he listened to the phone ring a few times before being answered.

“Hello?” Female voice, alto, Midwestern accent.

“Lise, it’s Declan.”

“Little cousin! How’s it shakin’ in La-La-Land?”

“Not so great.” Dec said, getting straight to the point. “I need some advice.”

“Stocks and bonds, or something more dark and sinister?” Lise’s tone was light, but held a cautiously inquisitive note.

“There’s a girl...” Dec admitted. There was a long pause at the other end.

“Dark and sinister, then.” Lise said more soberly. “You like her?”

“Yeah.”

“Something happen, Declan?” his cousin asked, stressing the second word.

“Something happened. Nothin’ bad bad, but it scared the shit outta her... and me too.” Declan admitted, feeling a faint echo of his earlier fury roil at the admission. “You said if I needed-“

“Say no more.” Lise sounded concerned and reassuring. “I’m on my way... Gimme a day or so?” A pause. “This girl... does she know what you’ve been through?” The hint was there – anyone listening would assume PTSD from Dec’s record, but the two Vargr both knew what she meant.

“She knows most of it.” Dec admitted again.

“She cool with that?” Lise sounded surprised.

“I guess.” Declan shrugged, though she couldn’t see it. “I ain’t too sure sometimes, though. I don’t think she knows what to think about it, is my best guess.”

“A day.” Lise said firmly. “Annalise to the rescue, Little Cousin.”

“Thanks.” Declan said, feeling a faint sense of relief and hating himself for it. “But ease up on the ‘little cousin’ shit, will ya? I’m twice yer damn size, and yer only two years older than me.”

“Older is older, kiddo.” Lise said with a grin audible in her voice. “See you soon.” With that she hung up, and Dec scowled at the phone for a moment before uttering a short bark of a laugh. Lise had that way of lightening the mood – maybe she’d be able to help him figure out why the hell he’d bitten August.

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February 14, 10:44 a.m.

It had been a miserable Valentines. August hadn’t even been in the mood to party. Instead, she’d gone to her aunt’s and let the closest thing she had to a real mother tend to her heartbreak. August had worn a t-shirt to conceal her bandage, so Aunt Molly hadn’t seen it and freaked out. The young woman hadn’t been sure she was going to talk about Declan at all, but once she was sitting at her aunt’s kitchen table, sipping hot cocoa, the story had come pouring out. Not all of it; not even most of it. August had implied they’d had a fight about something stupid instead of him biting her. God, this feels like one of my abusive relationships. Lying to my family about him, hiding wounds… shit.

“This is the man that Mike mentioned at Christmas?” Aunt Molly’s first question had August wincing. “The one you said wouldn’t hurt you? He may not have touched you, but you’re hurting now.”

“I know. It was just so… God, I’m dumb. I know that this wasn’t normal.” August wasn’t sure that was true, but her heart was just too stuck on Declan to think otherwise. She had trusted him completely and now… now what? It didn’t make sense and hadn’t since the moment he’d bitten her. “Look… I love him.”

“Oh, baby. Be careful. Be so careful. And I want to meet him.” Aunt Molly cut off her protests. “If you keep dating this boy, I want to meet him, I want his name and I want to know where he lives. If something happens to you, I want to have this to give to the police.”

“If I keep dating him.” That was completely unlikely now. Even if they got past the biting thing, it seemed like their worlds were too far apart. He’s a werewolf, not a man. You’re a woman, not a werewolf. Seems pretty cut and dried but you didn’t let yourself think about that, did you?

February 15, 3:33 p.m.

August turned onto Declan’s street, biting her lip apprehensively. She probably shouldn’t be doing this, but still her wheels seem to head for his house on their own. She almost kept going, particularly when she saw there was another car parked in front of his house. What the hell? Dec never brings anyone to his house… except me.

The young woman parked, feeling a really ugly feeling churn in her gut. She and Dec weren’t dating, but if he’d gone out and found some floozy… I’m not scratching his itches if he’ll crawl out to any scratching post. Her words barely made sense in her own head and she felt anger and hot jealousy as she marched up to his door and knocked.

He answered and for a second August forgot to be angry. Instead, she was filled with a burst of searing longing – longing to touch him and be touched in return. The pain in her shoulder reminded her why she wasn’t doing that, however. He looked tired and rough, like he hadn’t been taking care of himself for the last few days. But even with that, all she was really aware of was his effect on her – how much she wanted to grab him for a hug. Now that she was aware of her feelings, they were so intense that they almost hurt.

Then a movement behind him distracted her. August glanced past him to see a cute blonde woman. She was about August’s age with an adorable smile. August wanted to like her immediately, but she was a woman in Dec’s house. “I see you have company. I’ll just go.” August barely recognized her own voice as she spoke: it shook with anger, hurt and jealousy. She hadn’t realized she could sound quite so vindictive or bitter. “Oh, and lady? You should be really careful.” August pulled the collar of her shirt down to show the edge of the bandage. “He bites.”

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Lise Gevaud

radha-mitchell.jpg?d=600

"Yeah, he mentioned that." said the sunny-faced woman as she approached, careful not to crowd Declan aside but simply looking at him expectantly. After a moment, the Vargr stepped aside and back a little, and the strange woman gave August a grin that was familiar, if odd on feminine features. "I'm Lise, by the way. Declan's cousin."

"Cousin? Oh... Well that's-" August felt her emotions whipsaw from angry and bitter, to so elated that she wanted to cry, to embarrassed. Declan hadn't gone and gotten his itches scratched. There was a faint shame deep inside her as her green eyes flicked past Lise to Dec. She refocused on the blonde and smiled awkwardly. "Is there a reset button?" The other woman laughed, a low throaty sound, and August suddenly realised/remembered that this was that Lise, who Declan had mentioned a time or two. Another werewolf.

"You just hit it." she told August with another grin. She didn't radiate the same aura of restrained violence as Dec, but there was something about her that was similar. A feral grace, a certain watchfulness... August flicked a glance at the arms left bare by the woman (shaped-object's) t-shirt - they were toned without being bulky or unfeminine. Lise had some curves, but they were lean curves with coordinated muscle. Werewolf fitness. The W-Plan. she thought to herself, restraining the urge to giggle. This wasn't a giggling moment.

"You wanna come in?" Lise asked with a smile, head canting slightly to the side as she watched August's face. "Declan won't mind. Far from it - he's been talking about you non-stop." The smile broadened as, beyond her shoulder, August could see Dec's shaggy features turn a little red under the tan.

"Thanks, Lise." the male Vargr growled, but his heart wasn't really in that growl. He looked at August, drinking in the sight of her standing on his doorstep. He wanted to step forwards and bury his face in her hair. He wanted- "You want to come in?" he asked softly. Blue-green eyes, large and expressive, looked back at him.

"Sure." she said.

There was the usual 'getting comfortable' moments. Milk, water, soda, OJ were offered and accepted, and while Declan was in the kitchen, August looked for her favorite beanbag only to find that it had been replaced. Come to think of it, all the furniture in the room was new, though not brand-new. Dec's wages didn't stretch that far. And the kick-bag was conspicuously absent.

"Yeah." Lise said softly, watching August's eyes. "He was pretty mad at himself."

"I can hear ya, ya know." Declan's voice rumbled through from the kitchen. Lise shot the doorway an amused look.

"So turn your ears off, lummox." she called back with a lupine grin. She winked at August. "Alphas." she said loudly. "All the tact of a shark and less'n half the charm."

"I ain't an alpha." Dec shot back as he came through with the drinks. "Ya need a pack to be an alpha."

"Bullshit." Lise retorted. "Packs form around alphas, so the alpha has to exist before the pack."

"Is that true?" Declan asked curiously, sitting down on his new couch.

"It's the accepted theory." Lise shrugged easily. "To be honest, our monkey-sides like to chatter and think shit over and come up with the why's, who's, and when's. The wolf side doesn't need to do that so much. Anywho..." she shrugged again, then fixed August with her blue-grey eyes. "Declan trusts you." she told the brunette bluntly. "Says you know some stuff about us, but not everything. He also told me what happened when you two were getting frisky." Lise smiled a little, but her gray eyes were serious. "Bad news is that its a sign of some problems. We don't bite like that unless there's some imbalance. Good news is that it's fixable."

"Imbalance?" August inquired, looking at Dec, who looked uncomfortable. "Like... mental imbalance?"

"No." Lise said, leaning towards August intently. "More like a spiritual imbalance. He's not crazy, just out of sync."

"We've got two sides to us." Declan said quietly, eyes on the glass of milk in his hands. "Two souls, literally. The human and the animal. It's kinda heavy spiritual stuff, but it boils down to one side overpowering the other."

"In Declan's case, it's his Wolf." Lise said into the silence left by the male's words. "It happens sometimes, 'specially with those of us like him."

"Like him?"

"Y'know." Lise grinned at August. "Assholes."

"I'm right here." Dec grumbled. Lise smirked at him, then returned her smile to August.

"The ones who gravitate to 'fight' on the fight-or-flight scale. The ones who don't compromise - not because they're consciously assholes, but because they're just plain wired that way. The violent ones, cullers of the weak, bullies, warriors - call 'em what you like. They get into fights all the time as kids, and violence follows them around like B.O. when they're full grown." Lise was still smiling, though her eyes were grave again as she watched August's face. "Dec's a nice guy, but he's also a wolf. You ever seen that wolf?" August hesitated, and Lise shrugged. "Neither have I, yet. We believe that you can tell a lot about a Vargr by their wolf. It's like..." she gestured with her hands "... like an expression of their other soul."

The woman-shaped-object grinned sheepishly. "It sounds like new age crap, I know. But it's for real."

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“I’ve seen his wolf.” August admitted it quietly; just thinking about it brought back the memory of that massive form. “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to learn from seeing it. I’ve never seen… well, the last one I saw I didn’t know was a werewolf, but probably was.” As Lise’s eyebrows rose at August’s confession that she’d seen not one but two werewolves in her young life, the green-eyed girl shifted on the couch and asked, “Can I ask questions?”

“Of course.” Lise smiled encouragingly.

August nodded. “Sorry, I know the vampires have a ‘if I tell you I have to eat you’ policy and I’m avoiding being eaten as much as possible.” At the sound from Declan she turned red, shot him a glare and clarified, “Being consumed for food anyway.”

“What do you want to know?” Declan’s cousin brought the conversation back to the point deftly, once again highlighting the differences between herself and Declan.

“Umm, okay. So his wolf-soul and his human-soul are out of sync and the wolf is imposing wolf-like actions on his human half. Is that accurate?” August wanted to be clear on this before she asked the question that was really bugging her.

Lise nodded. “Yes, that’s a very basic way to say it.”

“So his wolf-soul doesn’t like me? I mean, he bit me really hard.” August looked worried as she laid out her concern.

Lise laughed again. “Other way around. Wolves bite when they mate, but girl-wolves have thick fur to protect them from teeth. You don’t.” She studied August’s expression for a moment before adding, “Suffice to say that both of Dec’s souls like you a lot – the wolf showed you and Dec… he’s showing you too, just in a less painful way.”

August looked at Declan; silver eyes met green and she saw the truth of that statement as he gazed at her. Her heart flipped over and her stomach tightened; her face flushed as she felt a stupid amount of joy and excitement from that confirmation. Lise waited patiently for August to compose herself enough to ask, “So if he’s got the two souls and they’re out of sync, what does he need to do to fix that? Is there some way I can help him?”

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"I need to try and bring 'em into line." Declan said, shrugging. "Whatever the hell that means." Lise glared patiently at him, then shrugged herself at his truculent expression.

"I admit, I'm no expert." she frowned faintly. "It comes easier to some than others, and actually understanding and explaining it is rare. Best I've heard it explained is that he needs to express his human side as much as his wolf. Sounds like since you came along, that's been easier for him." She shot Dec a mischievous glare, but Declan was merely nodding thoughtfully.

"It's true." he admitted to both of them. "I was alone before, carving myself a life out here, staking my territory."

"That's a real wolf thing to do." Lise nodded. "How far did you go to secure your turf, Dec?" she asked intently, leaning towards him.

"As far as I needed to." he answered bluntly, casting a sideways glance August's direction. She was also regarding him intently, her large eyes expressive, but Declan was damned if he could read that expression. He sighed, his gaze level on August's. "I killed maybe twenty-three people in the last year. Not includin' vampires and their li'l helpers. Drug-dealers, rapists, punks."

"Killing is one thing." Lise said with a curious amorality that was jarring - a reminder that she wasn't human or didn't play by societal norms. Her gaze was more intent. "Did you eat any of them, Declan?"

"Shit." he muttered, and now he looked away, ran his silver eyes over the room. It was enough of an answer for both women.

"God-damnit." Lise cursed, throwing her hands up. "How many? How often?"

"A few." Declan growled, his voice reverberating in his chest as he shot her an angry glare. "Maybe five or six. There. Happy? What's the big deal? I stopped that shit a few months back when-" he looked at August and left it unsaid, but it was obvious enough.

He had stopped after meeting August. After the party, when he'd started interacting with humans as friends.

"It's almost-cannibalism, you dumb furball!" Lise wasn't yelling, but she was close. "Shit, that's pretty much right at the top of the no-nos." She calmed, studying him curiously "What were you thinking?"

"That I was a monster and they were meat." Declan admitted, staring at Lise hard. She was going about as far as someone could go when it came to pushing him, but worse than that was August being right there listening to this. "I thought it was what a fuckin' werewolf does."

"Oh for fucks sake..." Lise buried her head in her hands. "This is my fault. I should have stuck around and helped you out some more. Christ on a bike, the Old Wolf is gonna peel my hide." Dec glanced at August, his expression one of wariness at her reaction as Lise composed herself, then sat up and pointed at Dec.

"Okay, rule one - stop eating folks. You say you've stopped: great. Stay stopped. That sort of thing feeds the worst aspects of a Changer. That's where the imbalance is coming from - if we act like monsters, then we become monsters. You're not a monster, Declan. You're Vargr. You're a mystical blend of the best and worst of man and beast. You can bring out the best or the worst by what you do. It sounds like August's been good for you, at least. Fuck knows what would have happened if you'd kept on..." Lise shook her head.

"You okay?" Declan asked August in the sudden silence, his silver eyes steady on her. He was ready for her to scream, or yell, or shrink away, or just plain fucking leave. His face was a mask of stoic wariness as he watched her.

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August stared at Declan, her green eyes wide. She was very pale, and Lise shifted slightly, ready to grab her if the woman took a dive. Though she appeared to be frozen, her mind was racing, bouncing from thought to thought at this horrific revelation. Dec had eaten people. Humans. He’d eaten humans. Humans like her, with families and dreams and hopes. Her stomach twisted and August thought she might throw up. He’d eaten people, and she’d kissed him.

Not people like you. Her brain stepped in; working in collaboration with her sanity and her lust-maybe-more for Declan, it began the biggest spin control since spin was invented. Pimps. Drug-dealers. Rapists. He deserves a medal.

He ate them! He ate people! Her stomach tried to agree with her by violently reversing its normal operations and heaving out what little food was in there.

He ate people who were little better than animals themselves. They were preying on people. Her brain cast about and found an example. They were like Evan.

August swallowed. “Did you eat Evan?”

Lise looked curious but refrained from asking. “No.” Declan’s answer was instant and ringing with honestly. “I dumped him in a junk yard.”

August nodded, thinking, So he hasn’t eaten anyone I know. “Did you eat them as a…” She swallowed against bile and started again, “What form were you in when…?” She couldn’t finish.

“Wolf.” Again, he was telling the truth, and August relaxed a bit more. He hadn’t been a man when eating men. That was important to her mind.

For a long moment, she gazed at him, feeling her world crumbling. He was Declan. He’d made her feel so good, and not just in bed. He had eaten people. She loved it when he hugged her, or the way he smiled at her. He'd called them meat, and swallowed their bones. The memory of his silver eyes shining in the dim light of his bedroom – before it’d gone wrong – made her libido rise, driving back the urge to throw up. He was a technicality away from a cannibal. She loved the way her body clenched when he play-stalked her, with lust and safe-fear all wrapping together. He was... She refused that thought, focusing on the next. She loved the way he teased her, the little touches when they were training. She loved him.

Humanity Check at Morality 2 (condoning cannibalism is one step up from doing it)

Carver Soze *rolls* 3d10: 9+5: 1 sux – August remains at Morality 7.

[salmonMax] 5:42 pm: An hour?

She loved him, and knew it wasn’t right to be okay with it. “Okay,” August said, drawing a deep breath. She didn’t want to throw up anymore, but her stomach still hurt.

“Do you mean you’re okay?” Lise dared to ask.

August nodded slowly, swallowing again. Dec’s next question came out of left field: “Have you eaten today?”

“Uh…” August flushed, both from his concern and because she hadn’t. She knew better than that; even if she didn't think she could eat, she had to have some nutrition for her own health.

“Damn it,” the Vargr growled, rising to his feet. “You gotta eat, frail.” Still grumbling, he stomped into the kitchen and returned with one of the energy bars he kept just for her. August felt warm again as he handed her the bar; it was another reminder that not only did she care about him, but he cared about her in return.

“Thanks.” Her gratitude was a soft near-whisper as she tore into the wrapping and extracted the food. “So… what’s next?” August prayed that there weren’t anymore nasty surprises coming. She couldn’t handle another horror like she’d just absorbed.

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"What's next is that Dec needs to play some." Lise announced confidently, her smile lighting up the room once more.

,,

"Play?" August and Declan asked in unison. Lise flapped a hand dismissively.

,,

"Chill. Hang out. Smell the roses." she said with a shrug. "It's important for him to learn the lighter side of life. Face facts, furface, you've been an orphan, a soldier, then a werewolf in the middle of a massive city. You approach everything like a battle to be won. We're all pretty damn lucky August came along when she did and introduced you to civilised life. Y'know: friends and stuff. Dec needs to get comfortable rather than being all Deer Hunter."

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"I can't just let my territory go to shit." Dec protested, eyes narrowing.

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"Who asked you to?" Lise shot back. "Just learn to enjoy life some more. You're all 'work-work-work, grrr-snarl-growl, lone-wolf-macho-man'. You're two inches from being a total asshole. The Old Wolf, your great-grandad, he's got an excuse to be a crabby bastard. You're not even thirty yet and you remind me of him so much I keep wanting to see if you've got silver roots."

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"Fine. I get it. More fun." Dec growled.

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"And that goes for on four legs too." Lise pressed. "August's got to learn to be comfortable with your other skin if this is gonna work out - sheesh, werewolf relationship guidance wasn't on my job description, you know. You've told her that you're vargr, so let her see you and touch you in non-snarly situations - uh, that is if she's okay with that." Lise glanced at August. "It'll help both of you out, I reckon."

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“I’m good with having fun.” August managed a smile. She took a bite out of her bar; it tasted like ash in her mouth. She was far too stressed out; she could tell due to the lack of taste in her food. That’s part of why it was so hard to eat when she was upset. “Maybe some hiking or low-key stuff like that to start.”

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The moment she thought about it, she realized exactly how it was going to go down. She was going to be walking around, probably sweating her ass off and covered in bugs, while Declan ran circles around her and made her hate four-legged and furred superiority. “We can do other things, after the hiking.”

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“Like what?” Declan asked, sounding clueless.

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“C’mon, you have ideas on how to have fun, right?” August’s smile faded at his confused look. “Seriously, you don’t have any thoughts about fun?”

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“Well, hikin’s like slow hunting, that’ll be fun. I like hunting.” Declan smiled a little at the thought.

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“Slow hunting.” August tried to wrap her head around the statement that hiking had any correlation to hunting beyond their common locales. “Sure. Slow hunting.”

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“It’s not?” Declan stared at her, only to crack up when August stared at him in disbelief again.

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“Asshole!” Grinning, August reached over to swat his arm, and for a sweet moment, things were normal. “Or do I just start saying alpha instead?”

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“I think asshole is fine when you’re in public,” Lise laughed, having given up hiding her giggles behind her hand.

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“You know,” August added when the levity had subsided a bit, “if you’re worried about your territory, I could probably help with that.” The two werewolves stared at her and August swallowed at their suddenly intense gazes. “What’d I say?”

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Lise, uncharacteristically, didn't say anything. She just glanced at Declan, her eyes containing equal parts curiousity and caution. Dec was still looking at August, but he didn't seem angry, just intense. Of course, he usually seemed intense, but it was off-putting having that laser stare on her once more - it reminded her of their first meeting, the way he'd evaluated her, but now there was a more serious air to his intensity.

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"Okay." Declan said at length, relaxing again as he regarded her. "I'm pretty sure you ain't talkin' about patrolling with me. Junkies and assholes are one thing, but you could still get hurt by them. And there's other stuff out there too - you've met Sarah, right?" August repressed a shiver as she remembered the vampire. "Well, she's a nice vamp. There's some sick assholes out there amongst that bunch, and they like all the impressionable young minds around here."

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"So don't take this as a refusal, cause it ain't, but what can you do to help?" His head tilted to one side, eyes on hers. "What you got in mind?"

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“Uh...” It was hardly a promising start, but August had not really thought about this beyond helping Declan. The answer was pretty obvious with only a second’s thought though. “Well, there’s the fact that the ghosts around campus probably see things. I might be able to talk to them and get them to help.” Lise looked surprised and August glanced at Declan. “She didn’t know?”
“You keep my secrets, I keep yours.” The simple statement was a touch chiding and August looked appropriately chagrined.
“Right... So, Lise, I see dead people.” August swallowed and fidgeted, clearly still not comfortable talking about it openly, though she was discussing it. “I just started dealing with it, so I’ve never tried to bargain with the ghosts. My mentor insists it can be done, though she moved to the place with the least murders per capita, so I think that says something. Anyway, I’m willing to do that.
“There’s also other ways I can help - I have an ear in the student body, at least until graduation, and if I stay in touch with classmates, then I’ll have one for a while to come. I can join the alumni organization, too.” August brushed hair from her eyes with nervous fingers, feeling weirdly as if she were in a job interview. “I mean, I can do support stuff, too. I know I can’t go head-to-head like you, Declan. But I think I can help, and I want to help.”

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"Wow, she sees ghosts?" Lise regarded August with frank, wide-eyed amazement and curiousity. One of the fringe benefits of hanging around with Oneca, Declan and other odd assortments, August reflected, was that they didn't immediately look at her as though she was a nut when they learned about her 'gift'. Of course, what did it say that werewolves and girls who could start fires with their minds were the only ones that treated her as though she were normal. Hell, even special in a 'talented, gifted' way rather than a 'ride the short bus to a rubber room' kind of way?

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"Yeah." Declan said, and damned if there wasn't a hint of pride in his gruff voice, an entirely : "Yessir, that's my girl, she's all kinds of awesome." He turned to August and smiled slightly. "And it could be really useful, too." he allowed. "But are you sure, frail? You ain't exactly comfortable with this, as I recall."

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“No, I’m not.” August swallowed hard but her gaze was steady as she met his eyes. “I’m not comfortable with any of this. But I don’t have that choice. Weirdness finds me, and I’m have to adapt to it. If not, I’m just going to pull myself into a hole like Mom did, and rot. Start talking to my dead sister.”

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“If you see ghosts, isn’t that normal?” Lise asked. There was no guile in her voice or expression, only curiosity.

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August paled slightly. “Yes but…. I only see Tyla when I’m in mortal danger. She’s waiting for me to die, so we can be together again.” Declan awkwardly reached out to put his hand on her leg, offering comfort he wasn’t accustomed to giving. August smiled at him and cleared her throat, putting her hand on top of his. He turned his hand over and their fingers twinned together, bringing a flush of pleasure and desire to her face. “Anyway, this stuff is here and part of me, and I have to face it. And while facing it, I might as well put it to good use.

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“Besides,” she smiled at him, “helping people will make this feel less of a curse and more like a… gift. Like even if it’s something that causes me pain and fear, I can use it for the greater good.”

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