Lark draws in a sharp breath. Despite her best attempts to remain as still as possible, she’s trembling. Mere centimeters from her face is the sneering maw of her newly transformed werewolf-fiancé, his glowing eyes narrowed as he looks her up in down. He sniffs at the air, saliva dripping out of his mouth as he snarls. It’s an unsettling sight, to say the least--his new face is similar enough she can still recognize him, but distorted enough to elicit a surreal discomfort.
When his growling intensifies, so does her shaking. She knew this was coming, but she didn’t expect it to be so intense. When Karl had transformed during That Batshit Vampire Thing, he seemed to maintain some degree of his humanity. Nikolas, however, has done nothing the past few moments to demonstrate that he is in any way still himself
She glances around the room for something--anything--that would prove useful in this moment. She spots a newspaper on the couch, snatches it up, and smacks Nikolas across the head with it.
“Stop!” Lark speaks in the same tone she uses when commanding Honey, “down!”
Nikolas recoils and rubs his head. “Wasn’t going to hurt you,” he mutters. His voice is lower, and he lisps a little through his elongated canines.
“Well you sure acted like you were going to. And I don’t like you growling at me like that.”
“But you smell like him,” he snorts as if he’s trying to expel something from his nose.
“Dominic,” he sniffs at her, his hot breath tickling her skin.
“Um, yeah. I ran into him at the bar,” she begins to laugh, “and we talked for awhile. So you, uh, had a busy night, did you?”
Nikolas looks her up and down again then wraps his arms around her, his claws digging into her back. He forcefully presses his lips against hers. She doesn’t struggle against him, but she also doesn’t return the affection.
“Mine,” he growls as he draws away from her.
“Okay, Tarzan,” Lark rolls her eyes.
“You’re mine,” he tightens his grip , “right? You’ll stay?”
Lark gleans some very human worry deep in his inky black eyes. “Yes,” her face softens, “of course I’ll stay.” She returns his embrace, guilt overriding her fear. She shouldn’t have left him tonight. She knew it was a possibility this could happen.
With her reassurance in place, Nikolas leans in for another kiss. His body feels warmer than normal, and his mouth is wetter; his grip on her is tight, almost primal. And although she knows she should be repulsed, Lark finds herself receptive to his advances.
Which leads to the inevitable. Because despite all their difficulties communicating in recent days--or for the entirety of their relationship, to be more accurate--the two are intensely, deeply, and possibly even chemically attracted. And when words fail, sometimes intimacy can fill the gap.
Lark hesitantly lets Nikolas take the lead. He is gentle, possibly more so than their first time. It’s obvious he’s afraid of hurting her, though restraint earlier in the night would have been equally appreciated.
It’s perfunctory, any pleasantness marred by the tension of the night. Afterwards the cuddle in silence, at least momentarily.
“I love you,” Nikolas says softly.
“I know,” Lark gives him a weak smile.
“No Han Solo-ing,” he protests.
“Fine,” she forces a nonchalant laugh, “I love you, too.” Nikolas grins widely, showing off his beastly canines.
She can’t stand this.
And so she pretends to nod off. She even dedicates herself to a brief fluttering of the eyes, and then she lets her body go limp. It’s an almost cartoonish attempt at subterfuge.
Nikolas runs his nails lightly across her ribs. The sensation elicits a shiver, but he doesn’t seem to be aware of her clumsy ruse. He then switches off the bedside lamp and settles down next to her. Sleep comes easily to him.
Lark, meanwhile, tries to fight the tears.
“Come on,” Nikolas coaxes, “just a few steps to dada’s arms.”
Bjorn glares at his father.
“Seriously, kid. We’re supposed to meet your mom at the festival,” he glances at the clock, “in five minutes. So move it!”
Bjorn sits down.
Lark is already at the festival, though, having headed straight there after a fruitless afternoon shift at Bartleby’s. It’s unlike her to be anywhere on time, much less early, but she had somehow managed to beat Nikolas and Bjorn there.
She sighs and rubs her neck. It’s Spooky Day, and the weather is crisp and cool. Perfect, really, because she’s felt exceptionally hot the last few days. In fact, she’s just felt “off” in general, a feeling she attributes to the lingering stress from Nikolas’ first transformation. Even though he hasn’t shifted again since that first night, she’s afraid that he could snap at any minute.
Karl drops by their house daily in order to check on Nikolas. He once pulled Lark aside and promised that he wouldn’t let Nikolas “do anything stupid,” a comment meant to reassure her. But it only compounded her fear: Karl can’t always be there to babysit, and there is no way he can come quickly enough in the event of a lycanthropic emergency. Besides, he has two pups of his own, werewolf daughters who take up much of his time.
A pang of fear strikes her, a sensation that’s becoming too familiar. What if she gets pregnant? She can’t handle another child right now, not emotionally, and especially if said child is a hellspawn werewolf.
“Lark,” a voice breaks her concentrated worrying. She blinks, her eyes refocusing. Dominic is standing in front of her, a look of concern on his face. “Are you okay?” he asks.
“Yes,” she shakes her head, “sorry. I didn’t even notice you there.”
“I figured,” he arches an eyebrow, “are you sure everything’s okay? You look really tired.”
“Tired? That’s code for ‘you look like shit,’ right?”
“Sorry,” she sighs, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately.”
Dominic bites his lower lip.
“What are you doing here? These festivals are normally, like, family affairs and you’re…”
“Painfully alone? I just had to get out of the house, and this seemed as good as anything.”
“Painfully alone?” Lark cringes, “dude.”
“A bit, yes.”
With the ice broken by Dominic’s predictable awkwardness, the two fall into a comfortable conversation. So comfortable, in fact, that Lark doesn’t notice Nikolas’ arrival.
Nikolas takes a deep breath, inhaling through his nose, then exhaling through his mouth. Karl has been working on breathing techniques with him in order to try to control his anger. The only thing I can control is myself, he reminds himself. He turns his back to the pair, focusing his attention on his son instead.
“Do you want to go on a ride, buddy bear?” He asks Bjorn. The toddler squeals in excitement.
And it turns out that doting on his son is an ideal method for managing his anger. Nikolas gets lost in the moment, enjoying his son’s delighted screams. Bjorn occasionally looks up at him in wonder. He’s amazed by his father and his hypnotizing glowing eyes.
Soon the wonder of the spring rider wears off, though, and the game is ended with a high pitched “up” from Bjorn. Nikolas picks up his son and glances over his shoulder. His blood begins to boil as soon as he catches sight of Dominic again.
“We need to find you some friends,” Lark says as she gives Dominic a quick hug, a token gesture in order to cheer up her obviously lonely friend, “seriously, Dom. I’ll set up a hangout with my friends sometimes. Oh, and I’ll invite my brother! You’d really get along with him, I think. You’re both kinda square in the same way.”
“Thanks, I guess?”
“What the fuck is going on here?” Nikolas storms over to the pair, his venomous voice cutting into the conversation.
“Um, Nikolas,” Lark straightens her back when she sees him, “What are you doing? Wait, where’s Bjorn?” Nikolas has enough sense to leave Bjorn playing in the sandbox before his confrontation, but not enough to express that to Lark.
“What is this dick doing here?” Nikolas shoves Dominic a little, “that’s the real fucking question.”
“Nikolas, calm down,” Lark says, “and take deep breaths, okay?”
“We were finishing up a conversation,” Dominic says as he rolls his eyes, “in fact, I was about to leave.”
Sometimes the smallest thing can make a person snap. Such is the case of Dominic’s rather mild eyeroll, a small expression of annoyance and petulance that wouldn’t even register to most people. But it sends Nikolas flying into a rage.
He roars as he backhands Dominic. The strength of the blow is staggering, and Dominic reels backwards.
Lark scans the festival. Motherly instinct has kicked in--she needs to grab Bjorn and run. She spots him in the sandbox with another toddler, both of whom are under the watchful eye of the toddler’s mother. He’s safe for now, but Dominic isn’t. So her concern shifts, and she surveys the park for someone who could help. However, the two people who spring to mind, those she thinks would be the most useful--her brother or Karl--are nowhere to be found.
And the fight is escalating quickly, too quickly for anyone to do anything about it. With a roar, Nikolas tackles Dominic.
“Stop,” Lark yells at the men, “Nikolas, stop it!” He’s too focused on his prey to hear her. Dominic, meanwhile, is struggling to hold is own in the fight. After all, he is a pacifist, and he certainly fights like one.
The fight ends quickly, leaving Dominic with only bruises. Fortunately the mage avoids any scratches or bites that would have doomed him to the same fate as Nikolas.
While Nikolas is the victor, the win isn’t cathartic. In fact, it only exacerbates his rage; it swells up inside him, inevitably reaching the surface in the only way possible. With a deep howl and a fiery burst of light, he transforms.
The festival is crowded, but the attendees are engaged enough in their own business that they fail to notice the fight. The transformation goes equally unnoticed. Lark silently thanks the maker for the obliviousness of her fellow citizens. She doesn’t know how she could explain this to the potential onlookers, and brief, vague conversations with Karl have left her with the impression that any public displays of lycanthropy could threaten Nikolas’ safety and freedom.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Lark hisses, “Karl warned you about shifting in public!”
“Where is he,” Nikolas snarls, spit flying from his mouth, “I’ll kill him.”
“He left,” Lark snaps. Dominic had indeed hobbled off as quickly as he could with barely a farewell. Lark doesn't blame him--she had briefly considered fleeing as well.
“Hunt,” Nikolas growls and sniffs at the air. He quickly pinpoints the trail, and starts lumbering after his prey.
“No,” Lark steps in front of him.
“No!” She repeats herself louder, “you need to leave. You can’t be seen like this.” Nikolas bares his teeth, and Lark puffs up in response. “Don’t you fucking dare bare your teeth at me,” she warns, “got it?”
Nikolas sneers and steps to the side. Lark scrambles to get in his path again.
“Nikolas, you need to stop,” she orders, “and get out of here. Go to the woods. Now.” Her commanding tone seems to work: a look of uncertainty crosses his face.
“Don’t want to,” he says hesitantly.
“Remember what Karl said--when you shift, it can only be in the woods or at home. You can’t let people see you like this, remember?”
“I hunt him. No one notices. I’m fast.”
“People might have already noticed you, idiot.”
Nikolas’ eyes widen.
“Besides, Dominic is probably already at his place,” she changes tactics and adopts a softer, sweeter tone, “door locked, some godawful spell ready. He’s a mage, remember? He could really hurt you.”
“He couldn’t,” his nostrils flare.
“He might. And I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”
“I hunt,” Nikolas says again, doubt in his voice.
“Go to the woods. I’ll call Karl and he’ll meet you there. You can still hunt. Just not in the city, okay?”
Nikolas’ eyes dart back and forth as he looks between her, the invisible eastern trail he’s drawn to, and the woods to the west. He snorts, then crouches on all fours and bounds westward.
Lark watches as he retreats. She waits for the relief to hit her, the optimism that comes from the knowledge that for the moment, both her friend and her fiancé are (relatively) safe. But it doesn’t come--in fact, her despair only deepens.
The rest of her life is going to be like this.
Author’s Note: I feel so awkward any time I write something even remotely sexy (probably due to my Puritan-esque upbringing xD). Even more so since Nikolas looked so beastly the whole time. Don’t judge me too harshly, dear readers! There were two reasons for that scene: 1) blah blah foreshadowing or character development or whatever and 2) to show off Nikolas’ awesome fur. (: