"How did you do this?" Linda asked.

Tony's room was a mess. His blankets were shredded, and there was only one pillow left intact. The door of his closet was splintered and fractured near the bottom. Loose pages from his comic books were everywhere. And was that fur--coarse, grey-brown fur--that she saw on the sheets, on the blanket, and caught in the wood of the door? Tony tried his best to look guileless and innocent, but Linda saw right through it. She was, after all, a mother.

"I'll help you clean this up," she said, "but make sure it doesn't happen again. And don't tell your father."

Don't tell your father. Tony's heart lifted. That meant she was on his side after all. His father was The Enemy.

Linda procured a new blanket and another pillow from somewhere while Tony pulled off the mangled bedcovers. He also scurried around collecting spilled objects and mauled comic books, dumping them in the big trash bag that his mother brought. What she did with the trash he never knew, but he was glad that she had asked no questions and, furthermore, did not tell her husband.

He did indeed make sure that it never happened again. Late at night, with some assistance from the sycamore tree outside his room, he half-climbed, half-fell down to the ground and scurried into the woods. Once there, he shucked his clothes--he had learned early on that having clothes on during a transformation could get very uncomfortable, very quickly--closed his eyes, and tried to coax the wolf out.

At first, nothing happened. Tony quailed, afraid that it wasn't going to work, and in that moment everything seemed to happen at once.

During his first attempt, Tony had discovered that changing by choice was very different from his full-moon transformations. The latter were often painful, and Tony howled and screamed and clawed himself during those times. He burned all over, he could see himself changing, could feel his bones cracking and grinding and changing their shape. But when he lured the wolf out on its own, it was different, though no less frightening. It was quicker, it burned less, it didn't hurt as much. The wolf did not claw and fight its way out; Tony willingly let his human form retreat.

But his first try had been disastrous. Once released, the wolf did not want to be controlled. It had flown about in a rage, with Tony desperately trying to rein it back in. By the time he had succeeded in ridding himself of the beast, the damage was done and Linda came storming up to see what the fuss was about.

Still, she had asked no questions. And changing in the middle of the forest where the wolf might decide to go charging into the midst of town was risky, but that made it all the more imperative that he be able to control it, right? Right.

Tony landed on all fours in the dirt. He was shaking all over, half from fright and half from the sheer will it took to hold the wolf back. Now that its form had been freed, it wanted total freedom; it wanted to hunt. It smelled blood, it smelled blood, it wanted blood.

A compromise, then. Let it run, if it wanted to run. Let it hunt, if it wanted to hunt. But Tony turned it into the forest. It sprinted off, legs stretching out, low to the ground.

It was disconcerting at first, being so close to the fallen leaves. At first Tony felt like he was going to crash at any moment. But when he got used to it, it was actually fun. He was so fast--everything went by in a blur. Everything sounded so loud, so clear, and he thought he could smell the Creator's fingerprints here in the dirt. How could humans live without this? He rolled in the leaf mold, pounced on shadows, sailed cleanly over half-rotten tree trunks crusted with fungus.

I'll make you a deal. I'll let you run, I'll let you hunt, but you won't be hunting people.

To his surprise, he could actually feel something from the wolf, more sensation and feeling than anything else.

reluctance/acquiescence/agreement

When the night grew old, Tony trotted back to where he had hidden his clothes in the crook of a tree and changed back. It was surprisingly easy; nowhere as hard as last time. The wolf's forehead split open crosswise and the pelt slid off like a baby's caul, and Tony shivered as the night air pressed against his heated skin. He pulled on his clothes quickly; the pelt was already gone, dissolved, leaving only a few tufts of fur. Tony kept one, stuffing it in his pocket, and then he was running back to his house, to the welcoming golden light of his window.



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