“Why is this so hard?” The thought escaped Lilac’s mouth in a low growl. Teddy caught the sound, but couldn’t parse the words.

     As she jolted forward, Lilac felt her whole body sway around her unfamiliar new center of gravity. Each limb felt as though it were filled with bags of sand and stones. She solemnly wondered if one could get vertigo from their own height.

     Teddy was up ahead. She was waving Lilac down with her free paw. The other held a manilla folder; probably a case file. As Lilac caught up, her hands began to fuss with the hem of her oversized shirt. They walked through the hospital wing without a word between them. 

     While she was unbothered by the silence, Teddy could feel the worried glances the larger woman would anxiously throw her way. Her body was taut with agitation; seemingly withholding itself from the slew of questions welling within her. While her want to speak up was painfully evident, Lilac’s mouth stayed clamped shut as she failed to hide her nerves.

     Teddy’s glances were far more subtle. While she may have seemed lost in thought to an onlooker, her attention was fully on the werewolf woman beside her. With the abundance of glass they were passing by by, Lilac’s reflection was all too clear to her. A hunched back, a tightened grip, a flinch away from each nurse that passed them by…a gaze locked to the floor. 

     She’s trying to make herself smaller.

     Several of the wolven staff gave Lilac friendly looks as she walked by, occasionally morphing into light confusion once they got a full look at her. A curled tail, brushes of golden markings over her face, short, pointed ears and a soft, round face. Even though she was part wolf, it was painfully obvious she was a mixed breed. Judging by the constant twitch in her fingers and tail, Teddy could tell Lilac had noticed too, although, she probably didn’t know why. Teddy filed that away as a conversation for later. For now, the important thing was to get Lilac into a place of comfort.

     That would be easier said than done. The smiles Teddy could feel being offered to Lilac were much softer than the leers pointed at herself.  She only straightened her back and threw them a charming smile from time to time. 

     As Lilac’s face grew constipated with nervousness, Teddy couldn't help but muse when the dam might burst. Teddy didn’t even need to look at her;it was more than apparent the larger woman’s body was practically vibrating with apprehension. 

     “You know,” Teddy tended to speak from her chest, especially to new patients. It got their attention focused on her instantly. “You can hold my paw. If that would make you feel any better.”

     Lilac stopped in her tracks. Whatever had been going through her head stopped too, by the look on her face. Before she could completely process what was just said, Teddy laughed. It was a crisp, bubbly sound.

     “I just meant that it might put you at ease to have something in your paw. You’re obviously tense. It’s understandable.”

     “O-oh! S-sorry. I can’t really..I don’t know what to say. I’m just- it’s overwhelming.”

     Teddy laughed again. “Let’s sit for a bit. We’ll have plenty of time to chat before lunch.”

     Pushing open a pair of large, []doors they briefly were led outside before entering the adjacent building. Taking a pause, Teddy allowed Lilac to take in more of the facility. Not far from them was a large field equipped with half a dozen activities that reminded her of her school days. A basketball court, tennis courts, a track surrounded by bright green grass. Despite the wide open nature of it, the fact that the entire area was bordered by the connecting buildings made Lilac a bit uneasy. It felt like an arena… It felt like a cage. Groups of patients occupied the entire courtyard, the farthest from her being smaller bodies running around a playground.

     “Are those kids?” Lilac mumbled.

     “Yup. We get patients of all ages. We have separate spaces for the children and teens to hang out.” Teddy replied.

     The sight transfixed Lilac. Like most do at their age, many of them were roughhousing. “Aren’t you worried about them…” Unable to articulate it, Lilac trailed off. 

     “Their tamers aren’t far. Puppy play is important for any kid, but especially for them. It’s important to get to know your own strength.” Teddy hummed. “Teens are probably the most difficult. Going through puberty on top of everything is absolutely not an easy combination.”

     Lilac opened her mouth to pose a question, but clamped it shut. Her large hands returned to fidgeting with her shirt. Taking that as a sign, Teddy led them into the next building. Lilac couldn't help but take one last glance at the kids running around tumbling on and off eachother. Some were shifted. Some weren’t. 

     The two arrive at a plain-looking door in the middle of a hall. The simple sterility of it reminded Lilac of a hospital. Except, she didn’t know of any hospital rooms that had locks on the outside of their doors.

     Inside, there was a low-set bed with the cheapest-looking sheets and mattress Lilac had ever seen. The rolling chair by the combination dresser/reading-desk looked more comfortable by comparison. It all reeked of chemicals, designed to destroy any scent of previous occupants. There was a single shelf, high on the wall above the dresser-desk. For books, perhaps, but Lilac didn’t want to think of being here long enough to accumulate a collection.

     Teddy plopped herself down into the rolling chair and spread her arms wide. 

     “Welcome to your home away from home. Cute, ain’t it?”

     Lilac looked around the small room. The trappings were minimal, but she almost welcomed the coziness. There was a window just above the desk, big enough to get a good view, but small enough to crush any dreams of fitting through it. Slowly, Lilac approached the bed. The mattress sunk deeply under her newfound weight. To her surprise, though, it didn’t snap, or even creak. And it was more comfortable than it looked.

     “So, what’s on your mind?” Teddy spun absentmindedly in the chair, letting her gaze drift around the ceiling. 

     “I don’t even know anymore..” Lilac mumbled pitifully, momentarily taken about by the smaller woman's aloofness.

     Teddy’s look was full of bemusement. “You don’t seem to be from around here.”

     “Where is ‘here’, exactly?” Lilac tilted her head as she peered outside. She hadn’t seen much of the city, so it came as no surprise that she recognized nothing of the surroundings out the window.

     Teddy spun around and pulled the manilla folder from under her arm. The outermost page was labeled “Lilac Kimberlite - No. 1044” Lilac swallowed a lump in her throat. 

     “We’re not far from [insert name of farmlands] so it’s not really much but corn fields beyond those walls. They picked you up in Portsburg? Didn’t take you much for a city girl.”

     Lilac’s body tensed. “I’m..I’m from Stoneclaw. I was staying here for a few months but…” Lilac glanced back down with heavy eyes. Her short pointed ears drooped slightly. ”I’ve just been having a hard time.” 

     “So what do you know about Lycanthropia?” 

     Lilac’s grip on her shirt hem tightened. “Not much I guess.”

     “Well we can start with the basics then. Doc wasn’t very good at explaining things.” Lilac thought back to the Golden retriever man and his terseness with her. Teddy threw a glance out the small window. 

     “Sorry about them, by the way.  Everyone else here is pretty sweet.” 

     Their eyes met and Lilac felt another lump catch in the back of her throat. Teddy’s words were intoned with what-sounded-like a sincere offer of consolation, but the looks that had been on the nurses faces when she woke up flashed in her mind when she blinked. 

     “They were scared...of me.”

     “A few weeks ago there was an incident. A good portion of the medical wing is on sick leave. In the meantime, we have a good amount of temp staff. They’re trained, but I don’t blame them for being nervous.” Despite Teddy’s smile, Lilac could sense there was more to the story, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to pry.

     Lilac looked over her shoulder. Teddy had propped the door open with a stopper. Someone passed by, and that was when it occurred to her: Aside from the first staff she’d encountered, everyone she’d seen in the building were wolves; from patients to staff. As she pushed past a set of double doors, Lilac finally found it in herself to ask, 

     “The doctor said it’s mostly pure wolves that get this mutation…right?”

     “An exaggeration. There are known to have been mix-breed werewolves, so it’s not like it’s unheard-of for one to not-quite look the part.” Teddy’s eyes followed along Lilac's deep blue fur to small markings of golden brown and the snowy white that trailed her entire body to the underside of her tail. “You definitely take a lot after your akita side.”

      “My- My mom...she’s an akita.” Lilac’s expression scrunched in thought. “Is it because my dad is a silver wolf?”

     Teddy shook her head as she leaned further back in her chair, perusing Lilac’s folder. “It’s not hereditary. There’s so much misinformation, and it honestly varies region to region. A curse, demonic possession, hell- there’s even a superstition about it being transmitted by bite like some kind of virus. It’s since been reclassified as a chronic disease,” Teddy’s put a finger to her chin in thought. “ But even that may not be quite right. Have you ever heard about Law 54?”

     Lilac nodded. “Our teacher filmed the signing and we watched in class. We don’t get a lot of signal in the mountains. It was the anti-mauling law, right? It’s a federal offense to harm someone with your teeth.” As she spoke Lilac unconsciously licked her enlarged fangs, still unused to them protruding over her bottom lip permanently.

     Teddy hummed in agreement. Her eyes shut as she leaned further back. 

     “Werewolves are a small exception to that.”

     That statement knocked the wind out of the larger woman. How could that make any sense? How could one of the most potentially dangerous beings in the world be exempt from the consequences of attacking someone? As though Lilac’s distress was plastered to her face, Teddy elaborated.

     “What I mean is, Lycanthropia can lay dormant in a person for years. We’ve had senior citizens walk through that door. We’ve had infants.” Teddy rose from her chair and plopped the folder onto the bed beside Lilac. Though she never lost her relaxed posture, her tone became serious. Lilac gasped as a collage of photos fell before her. “The condition-It’s unpredictable.

     Horror washed out the color in Lilac’s pelt as she scanned the photos. Her paw flew up to her mouth as she felt a sudden urge to vomit. Her head goes light. Her vision blurs for an instant. The pictures were clearly of her temporary apartment the night she first shifted. Everything was destroyed. The furniture, the appliances, even the clothes she brought from home; everything was in tatters. Even the walls had punctures like an ax had been taken to them. 

     “Hey-hey- look at me.” Teddy took a seat on the bed beside Lilac and pulled the hyperventilating akita’s snout to meet her face. In her pad, she could feel Lilac’s racing pulse. In Lilac’s hunched position, they were eye level with one another. Where Lilac’s eyes were trembling and turning dark, Teddy’s were still. In them, Lilac found a place of infectious calm; like a cool, refreshing spring. She took a deep breath. The blackness in her sclera faded as quickly as it arose. She glanced down at her clenched hands, shocked to see her claws had sharpened into daggers. The question rattled around in her mind how her body could transform itself within the span of several moments. She clutched the offending arm and held it close to herself.

     “The reason for the exemption is to give a bit more grace to newly-shifted werewolves; people who haven’t learned to manage the condition yet. Private medical records, insurance provided by the state… And the wolven council allocates funds to disaster mitigation. Werewolves aren’t free from punishment, but things like this-” Teddy motioned towards Lilac’s destroyed apartment. “-are covered, so long as you’re actively seeking treatment here.”

     They stood like that for some time. Lilac took deep breaths as she tried to process the information. At the same time, Teddy took her paw away and leaned back, so as to give her patient more space. 

     Lilac visibly trembled before the smaller woman. Her fur stood on ends as she stared absently through her. Her mouth was agape before forcing out a question she wasn’t sure she wanted an answer to.

      “D-Do my parents know I’m here?” 

     Teddy’s stern, but calm gaze at Lilac never faltered. She rose from the bed. “Do you want them to?” She whispered.

     At that moment, it was as if a dam had broken from within Lilac. Her lip quivered pitifully as she let out an open mouth sob. Tears poured out of her eyes as everything within her only echoed a deep despair.

     The smaller woman only looked at her blankly and closed the file. Lilac’s vision blurred as she sunk deeper into her sadness. She held herself tightly. Though her head never raised, she could see Teddy had at some point accompanied her on the bed. 

     Although they never touched, Lilac couldn’t help but feel the soft warmth radiating off the other woman as she wept. 

     “I’m sorry.” Lilac choked out. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m s-sorry.” She almost chanted, the words being the only thing her brain could fashion a sentence out of. She went on and on, chanting, tumbling over what devolved into incomprehensible babbles.

     There could be no consoling her. Not now. Now that it ran from her trembling lungs, all Lilac wanted was to purge the despair from herself. She dared not look at Teddy. She dared not show her face. The one peek she allowed herself between her paws revealed a tissue box held out by a little blonde paw. Lilac clenched her eyes shut as she took one and continued to sob.

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1 comment

You left in a couple brackets: “[insert name of farmlands]” and "Pushing open a pair of large, []doors "


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