Hey, it has been awhile. Again. *sigh* Anyway, this fic should be wrapped up in about five chapters or so. This is the closest I've ever gotten to the finish line. I think it's wrapping up fairly well. Just so you all know, I'm gonna try and go back and clarify, edit, and expand chapters, though the plot will remain the same. Anyway, in a few months, this might be worth a re-read. Before I publish the final chapter, I WILL have everything that needs editing edited. I had a lot of trouble with this chapter, so tell me what you think.

Disclaimer: I do NOT own, nor do I ever claim to own, Wolf's Rain, by Bones and Keiko Nobumoto. I make NO money off of the ONLINE publication of this FREE-TO-READ FANwork.


Fortunately, Once Again

Chapter 20

Pack


After Blue got Quent and Hubb checked into the hotel, she went out again, exiting through the window. No one had seen a wolf in years, and in a town like Rayden stray dogs weren't uncommon. She had nothing to fear, and she let go of her human skin. She sat by the freeway exit and waited. And waited. And was rewarded.

She howled.

Cheza.

Cheza.

Mountains and sea and flowers and Cheza.

She didn't know what it all meant yet= and had no idea where the images were coming from but she howled anyway.

I won't hurt the flower wolves. You need rest. Screw being bounty hunter and hunted. Blue and Hige and Kiba and everyone and Hige. Safe.

They knew she meant it, and they came. They hid in her hotel room: Blue and the wolves and the flower and the caseworker.

Maybe she'd just been awake too long, and subsequently fried her human sensibilities. That had to be it, she tried to tell herself. But...

Pack.


As Hubb woke up that morning, after the dream, understanding dawned slowly.

Tsume lunging, knife in hand.

Blue, retreating from the lunge and landing on four black paws.

Other images came to his suddenly lucid mind. His sister, only different, dying in the snow. A scarf closing over his eyes, nose, and mouth as he lay in the self same substance. Memories of his sister in an amorous context. What the hell? But the image made it clear that the woman wasn't his sister, or she is, but she wasn't then. The thought made no sense to Hubb whatsoever, but it made him feel better.

But there was one image that was clear. Blue, on four black paws, saving his life. Killing men for him. Keeping Cher safe, acting as the world's most competent guard dog. And he knew that she was the same now too.

Hubb pulled himself from the hotel bed, and remembered how Blue's body flickered in the car. Remembered how reluctant she'd been to sleep. He pulled on his pants and shirt. Short sleeved, today. It was too damn hot outside of the dome for his usual button downs.

He slipped the room key into his pocket and exited. He needed to talk to Blue, and he suspected that Quent shouldn't be anywhere nearby when he did.

Blue's room was next to Hubb's, with Quent's located on her other side. Hubb knocked. There was no answer. Hubb cursed, he should've known she'd still be asleep. It was early, and she hadn't slept at all on the drive. He should've goddamn known.

When the lightbulb went off in his head, it was accompanied by sirens. It was a stupid idea, but the sudden, single minded desperation was enough to make Hubb ignore those sirens. There were windows in his room, and he was willing to bet that she hadn't locked hers. He was also fairly certain that a human illusion would fail when the wolf in question was asleep. He could catch her red handed. Or black furred, as it were, he thought, laughed. What he would do about it, well, he hadn't thought that far ahead yet. He edged the window open, found a decent hand hold, and hauled himself out. She had left the window open. Wide open.

What in the hell?

While Hubb had prepared himself for the sight of a black wolf-dog curled on the bed, he hadn't anticipated seeing a pile of wolves on the bed. Black and brown, red, grey, and white. He hadn't anticipated seeing his sister and her latest foster project there either. He hadn't anticipated seeing all seven of them piled on the bed in a great heap.

Hubb did the sensible thing and cursed his head off.

I woke to Hubb standing at the window and cursing his head off. That set off an entire chorus of oaths from every corner of the pile. The loudest came from Blue. I looked in her direction to see her disentangling herself from Hige, who looked rather pleased to have somehow migrated into that position in his sleep. I pulled myself to my paws and bounded off of the bed. I tilted my head, considering. I then pulled myself up on two booted feet.

"Lebowski," I said. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Yeah, Hubb!" Cher said. "What happened to watering my plants?"

"Oh please, Cher. You know damn well that was just a ploy to get me to find the book," Hubb said, blinking blearily. I sighed and pinched my nose.

"This is ridiculous. Everyone, human, NOW." The order came from Kiba, and I shot him a disdainful look as Toboe and Hige complied. God damn obvious to go human in this situation, I felt.

"So you've remembered?" Cheza asked, blindly brushing a strand of soft pink hair from her eyes.

Hubb shrugged. "I dunno," he said. "I was dreaming. And I saw... things." He turned to Blue. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you what? That I'm a wog, or about this whole situation? Because I hardly knew you, for one, and two I only really remembered last night. I found these guys and brought them here on instinct."

"About the wog thing. This whole situation is too goddamn weird, I get not talking about that."

Sick of being generally left out of the conversation, I butt in. "Wolves are extinct. That is the very first thing anyone learns about them. That's why she didn't say anything. That's why none of us said anything."

Hubb looked at me, startled. Like he'd forgotten I was even there.

"Exactly," Blue said. "You don't just tell people you're a wog. It's a hard habit to break."

"Bullshit," Hubb said, eyes suddenly fully awake and almost ferocious in their intensity. "It wasn't just habit. You forced yourself to stay awake in the car just to keep it from us."

Blue was suddenly sheepish. "Well, Pops is..."

"Like last time?" Toboe asked, voice heightened with sudden distress. I had almost forgotten how fond Toboe was of the old goat before.

Blue bit her lip, likely struggling through the haze that blurred those memories.

"I don't think so. Not quite," she said, shaking her head. "He's just set in his ways."

"And you're scared of how he'll react?" Cher asked, though it was hardly a question.

Blue nodded. "He's practically her dad," Hige said, "Of course she'd be worried."

"Of course," Kiba said quietly. "But now that we're this far, what do we do about him?"

We all shrugged in unison.

"We'll figure it out," Toboe said. I crossed my arms and looked away, almost sickened by the optimism.

"Maybe," I said. Hige stood up and cuffed my ear. Most god damn initiative that fat ass ever had.


"So, where exactly are we going?" Darcy asked, kicking her feet back and forth. "I don't think you ever said where." Paralee didn't move her eyes from the road before she responded. The road was empty, but she'd been avoiding looking at Darcy, lately. Darcy'd gone from being a runaway little girl to a runaway with a dead brother and a taste for revenge; despair surrounded the child like a fog, and it scared Paralee to the bones.

"Arboretum," she said. "It's been a long time since I've seen the oce- Darcy, what's wrong?" Darcy had fallen back against the passenger seat, clutching at her temples.

"But that's where they're going!" she said. It was almost a scream. A few strands of black hair came free in Darcy's hand and now Paralee couldn't look away. What?

"Who's going to Arboretum?"

"The wolves!"

Paralee's blood ran cold. "The wolves?" she asked. There was suddenly a pit in her stomach, and the words oh shit ran repeatedly through her mind.

Darcy recoiled, shook her head, let out a breath, said, "I don't know. Wolves are extinct." Paralee nodded. As far as Darcy was concerned, wolves were extinct. At this point, Paralee didn't give two shits about honesty. Darcy hugged herself; when she spoke her voice was cold. Hard. "Regardless, there's someone I need to meet there. Who, I'm not quite sure of."

Paralee shivered, then scolded herself. There was no use being afraid of a ten year old, she decided. None at all. "Then how do you know you need to meet them?" she asked, voice carefully normal. Darcy shrugged and Paralee moved a hand off of the wheel to hug herself.

"Lunch is ready, folks!" Giles called from the interior of the trailer. Paralee found a place to pull off the road, glad for a break in the tension.

"I think our stomachs are calling, Darcy," she said, turning off the engine. "Let's go eat."


Word Count: 1461

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