My head was buzzing. I don’t know if I actually heard what Koda said. I wasn’t his litter mate? My dama wasn’t really mine? He’d removed a part of who I was and I didn’t know how to even begin accepting my new view of the world. “Why didn’t you tell me!” I roared the anger filling the hole inside me. How could he have kept this from me? Why would he!?
Koda flinched, his ears dropped back on his head. “I’m sorry Ira. I wanted to keep it from you. Dama told Dega when he became alpha, he insisted that he know the truth. When she told him I said it didn’t matter. Even as a foundling you are still our litter mate, but the others—” Koda dropped his head a defeated wilt to his body.
It would horrible to conceive, but I had an idea of what he was telling me. “What did they say?” My roar had become an agonized whisper. Did I really want to know?
“Ira please, it doesn’t matter. I’m not going back. I came to find you. You’re my brother.”
“Tell me what they said!” This time I did shout, all the wolves in the dens focused on us.
Koda shook his head, his tail tucked between his legs. “They said it was better that you didn’t come back, but I didn’t agree with them Ira!”
My heart ached a untreated burn in my chest that was beyond any pain I’d ever experienced in my life. My litter mates renounced me. After every year, and moment, all the memories and lessons, they didn’t love me because I was different? “Why? Why would they do that!”
Koda sighed, his shoulders sinking, defeated by the whole exchange. “They fear you, Ira. You could easily kill every wolf in that pack if you wanted. Isn’t that the same reason the wolves in this pack avoid you - because they fear you? That’s why I was surprised when I found you with a pack. I figured there was no chance anyone would take you in, but the alpha—” Koda paused, maybe lost for words. “I think he is the only one who’s not afraid of you.”
How was that fair? I’d done nothing to provoke their fear. I’d never attacked anyone, hurt anything, I’d stayed out of the way majority of my life. I’d worked hard to earn their trust and acceptance and he was telling me it was for nothing? That no matter what I did they would always resent me because they feared what I might do to them? How was that fair? How was any of it fair? A broken sound dribbled out of me as I looked at my sibling— no not my sibling just another wolf, another wolf who feared me because I was different. I was scary.
“Ira, I’m sorry I should have told you but I—”
I snapped at him, my teeth clipping a hairs length from his muzzle, the clap of my jaw loud enough to echo around the quiet den. Koda yelped fearfully shrinking away quickly, the same fear he spoke of shining in his bright green eyes. He might have come for me, but he was no better than the others. He was afraid of me just like the others. Anger, filled me along with a deep rooted pain I couldn’t control or even decipher. I wanted to get away. I needed to run away from all of them. So I did. I ran faster than I ever had.
Into the woods - alone.
I sat on the mountain ledge staring down at the pack lands. I guess climbing for the flowers had given me a new skill, because getting up here had been pretty easy. This time instead of getting the flowers and leaving, I’d stayed up on the high ledge and escaped my grim reality. My dama was not my own. She’d raised me, loved me, and she hadn’t been my real mother. Why would she keep it a secret all these years? Why not tell me? Where had she found me? If I wasn’t hers who’s was I? What was I? I had so many questions, but I didn’t want them answered. Would anyone want to know the truth if they thought it would break their heart? I sure as hell didn’t want to know it. My eyes tracked over the forest and caught side of a familiar pair of black eyes.
For the last few hours my mate had been watching me from the ground silently, patiently, since I’d climbed up here. He hadn’t asked me to get down, he hadn’t said something that would likely upset me. Like always Zora knew when it was best to be quiet and when talking was the best option. Koda had said they were all afraid of me except my alpha. Was it possible he was afraid of me on some level? His whole pack was terrified of me - hell, except for Dey and Alloy I hadn’t made any friends here, or anywhere. Why was everyone afraid of me? What had I ever done to make them fear me? Other than eat a large amount of the squirrel population I hadn’t hurt anything!
The feelings of hopelessness were starting to weigh me down. For me that was almost as painful as a physical wound. My whole life I’d lived with the idea that there was a place for me, where I would be just like everyone else. Had it always been so hopeless? Maybe I’d pretended it wasn’t? I thought back to one of my earliest memories, when I was still and awkward pup and so very different from everyone around me.
“Ira, why are you so weird?” Koda’s green eyes looked at me curiously. It was a good question: Why was I so different?
“I don’t know…” Maybe I’d drank too much milk?
“You weren’t born right.” Dega said from beside Koda, his yellow eyes sharp. He was the serious pup of the litter, maybe he was right?
“We should ask dama.” Lemira spoke up, invested in our little conversation.
“Ask me what?” Dama walked into the den in her four form, her grey and brown coat almost blending with the colors of the earth around us.
“Why is ira so weird looking?” Koda asked quickly. I snorted, always the first one to get to ask the questions.
Dama paused looking at me for a long second. She had a strange look in her eyes, like she was sad. Why would she be sad? “Don’t call your litter mate weird Koda. Ira is different from others, but you should treat him just like your other litter mates.”
“But, dama, why is he different?” Koda stressed nipping at our mother’s chest irritably.
“Stop it Koda, it’s because he’s a different kind of wolf.” She licked a loving path across my cheek, making me yelp happily at the surprise kiss. “My surprise.”
Her surprise. I always thought it was because I was different, now— now I wondered if it was because she found me. She didn’t want me to come back, none of them did. Only Koda was still my sibling, by choice— and my mate. I looked down at the silver wolf who laid at the base of the mountain, waiting for me.
I got up from my ledge and made my way down to the ground, much more gracefully than I had the first time I’d attempted their climb. My feet sank into the soft ground right in front of where my alpha lay. His black eyes watched me curiously, waiting for me like always to spew my guts into the air. I wanted to, I always wanted to tell him everything, when I was hurt, when I was happy, because— I wrapped my arms around his furry neck, his ash coat soft and full of his familiar scent — because he wasn’t afraid of me. Zora shifted in my arms, his fur receded to reveal the muscular corded shoulders I loved. His large arms wrapped around me, engulfing me as much as he could in a hug. I loved him, so much it hurt. It didn’t matter if I was a foundling, or that the pack feared me because I had one wolf who wanted me regardless of all of that. A pathetic whimper escaped me as I pushed my muzzle into his throat. I wasn’t alone. Everyone could leave me, but he would stay. I know he would. “You aren’t afraid of me.” It wasn’t a question.
“No never, not even the first time I saw you.” He rumbled, the soothing sound filling some of the spider cracks in my broken heart.
“Why? Everyone else is.”
He pulled back making sure our eyes were locked. “I do not see what they see.”
“What do you see?” Was he blind? Oh fucking weasel dicks, has he been blind the whole time?
“Something tells me you are constructing some strange idea in your head. I see you, Ira.” He ran his hand over my muzzle and up to my cheek. “You are different, but beautiful because you are. Foundling, or not you are the mate I chose, and I do not regret the choice I made.”
I wish I’d come down sooner. His words are a balm against my fresh wounds. I needed to hear him tell me that I wasn’t alone, that no matter what he would be with me. “I love you.” So much. I buried my nose into the crook of his neck where his scent was the strongest. I could drown myself in him, and forget about all of my problems.
Zora rumbled deep in his chest, a soothing loving sound that made my belly flutter. “I love you, my foundling.”
He had found me, and I was so damn happy he had.
I avoided Koda. Like the plague, actually worse than a plague, like a pissed off bear with a honey hive stuck on his head. You get the idea. He tried to talk to me for the past week, but every time he did I found some way to get out of it.
“Ira I just want to—” Koda tried to speak.
“Oh squirrel.” Yeah I was saying anything at this point. Avoiding conversations that make you upset is the best thing to do in these situtaions. I’m going with my own personal coping method and skipping a lot of my grieving stages and going with acceptance/denial. I accepted that I was found by my mother and I was in denial that any of what I just said actually happened. You confused yet? Good so was I. I think I’m just ignoring my problems because that really just felt like the best thing to do. I’d avoid Koda and focus on making friends in the pack while my pups grew to a size bigger than a nut in my belly. That was my grand plan.
So that’s why I sat next to Frix who was tensely sewing a bag while giving me the side eye every so often. I couldn’t blame him I’d just sat down next to him without any warning and started talking about the thinning squirrel population. I’d eaten so many of them I think I was starting to get fat along with making my favorite snack go extinct. The grey wolf just kept stitching in his second form, trying to ignore me. “So Frix what should I do about the squirrel population?” That should get him talking.
“I would recommend maybe not eating them all.” Frix said it as if it was obvious. Well you try being pregnant and craving small woodland creatures. It was hard to control myself. I could admit that he had a valid point, but I wasn’t sure we couldn’t find another solution.
“Ira we need to fucking talk!” Koda growled, Alloy followed not far behind him.
“I’m busy talking to Frix.” Pointing at the other wolf I avoid eye contact with my sibling.
“No you’re talking at someone and avoiding me. Now get your freakishly large ass up and let’s talk.” He snapped, the fur on his hackles rising.
“Calm down Koda.” Alloy rumbled from beside my brother, running his large wolf head along Koda’s throat to ease him.
“No! I will not calm down. I want to talk to you about what happened. I left the pack to come find you.” Koda barked.
“I know that!” I said resigned, because clearly I was not going to able to ignore this. “It’s just easier to pretend that it never happened. I don’t want to talk about it ok. I would much rather make new friends with— Frix?” I looked around and Frix was definitely gone. Damn it, Koda had scared him off. “You scared him off.”
Alloy snorted out a chuckle from beside my sibling. “Foundling or not Ira, you are just as obstinate as my mate.”
“Mate?” I looked around for another wolf. When had Alloy mated? Why hadn’t he told me who— Oh you’ve got to be kidding me? “Koda? Seriously? You mate with my only friend in the entire pack? Well I do have Dey, but that’s besides the point.” My ears flatten against my skull as I started to realize that this was yet again another thing he kept from me. “When were you going to tell me about this? Do I get to know anything?”
“Hog barf, Ira! When were you going to tell me you were pregnant?” Koda retaliated. We growled at each other the same way we had as pups when we’d argued about what was who’s, and surprisingly it felt good.
“I should have told you before, but I didn’t want to hurt you.” Koda said relaxing his body. “I didn’t leave that pack and come find you for nothing. I know I’m an ass sometimes Ira, but you’re still my litter mate no matter what.”
A warm bloom of emotions settled in my chest where my heart was. I may have lost a large part of who I was, but I hadn’t lost all of it. Koda loved me regardless of who or what I was, because we’d been raised together — and on some level forced to love each other sometimes — but it had been worth it. “Does this mean you’re definitely not going home?”
Alloy chuckled again while Koda rumbled disapprovingly. “No mutant I’m not going anywhere.”
I lay awake by my mate that night unable to sleep. I stared at my mates beautiful face, his lips were slightly parted as he breathed in and out. Making up with Koda today had helped some of my grief, but I still felt alienated by the pack. My alpha was the only one who didn’t fear me, even when I might be something worth fearing. Koda’s words made me remember that day with Naga and Comira - how I’d felt. I’d wanted to hurt them. There was something deep inside of me that wanted to do the unthinkable and I wasn’t sure I could have stopped it. Zora had stopped me, without any hesitation. Would I hurt him in the future? I ran my hand over his naked skin that was so fragile against my talon tipped fingers. I wished that I could be something different than what I was. It was pointless for me to dwell, but I wanted to be normal. My whole life I’d wanted to have another form, but I wanted more now than I ever had in my life. For me, for my pups and for my alpha. I didn’t want to shift randomly every so often, only getting a small taste of what it’s like to be like the others. I didn’t want to be feared and alienated. I don’t want to be—
A lone howl emitted from the distance. It was faint, but I heard it. Something about it called to me. I got up slowly from my alpha who rumbled in his sleep beside me but didn’t wake. I wasn’t surprised, with all the work he’d been doing looking for the blood wolves I knew he was exhausted. That, and always looking out for me. Walking out of the den I followed the faint sound into the woods. There should be a sense of self preservation but I don’t feel any fear among the trees and guided by only the moonlight. I know that Zora will be furious if he finds out I’ve left, but I need to follow the sound. It calls to me.
I see her in the clearing ahead, her cries loud a sorrowful from this close. The blonde she wolf doesn’t even notice me standing behind her as she cries. I know Naga is to proud to let any of the pack members see her like this. Her grief was palpable in each note, and although she had always been unyielding with me from the moment I met her, I didn’t want anyone to suffer alone like she was.
“Naga?” I said just loud enough to get her attention.
She spins around baring her fangs in a ferocious snarl. “What are you doing here?”
“I heard your howls, and I thought—”
“You thought wrong. Go away, mutant.” She snapped cutting me off quicker than I could explain.
What was her problem? What had I ever done to her? No matter how hard I tried to prove my worth to the pack, to the alpha, and to her she just threw it in my face. “I was just coming to help. You don’t always have to be such a bitch to everyone.” I growl back.
“Everything was fine until you came! Everything! I was going to be Zora’s mate, but you took that and now Comira is gone too! But you have everything! Friends, Pups on the way, and the alpha!” Her voice became more upset as she spoke, the sad notes of her song filling her words with just as much pain. Naga must have noticed because she straightened her shoulders and lifted her head high, posing as a dignified she wolf without a care in the world.
“Naga, I know we haven’t gotten off to the right start, but I’d like to try again. I’m sorry you lost your friend. I can’t imagine losing someone close to me like that.” I really had nothing to say about Zora, I was not upset that I had mated my alpha. I was sad that she felt so alone, because if there was anyone that could understand how she felt it was me.
The she wolf sneered and turned her back on me sitting down to face the other way. I was pretty positive that was a go fucking die signal and was about to leave when she spoke. “I guess you can stay if you want to, but don’t fucking talk to much.”
A surprised rumble escaped me as I stared at her back. It was a branch being offered, no doubt one filled with really big thorns, but it was Naga’s prickly way. Walking a little closer I moved to sit beside and paused when she growled.
“Not to close you smell bad.” Somethings would never change.
I sat a little further away and listened as she continued her song, the notes still filled with pain, but there wasn’t quite as much loneliness as I’d heard before. Maybe it was just in my head, but I thought maybe I’d helped her just a little by being here. As I listened to her howl into the night sky I wondered if this was the beginning of a new kind of acceptance.
“Farther away I can still smell you.” She griped.
Well, it was Naga, so I couldn’t be too hopeful.
Well we're on a roll. It's going to start to liven up soon so put on your armor folks. Ira might need a helmet if I can find one big enough.