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Unstoppable. Part 1/36.

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Unstoppable.  1/?     (1230 words)

Clutching her backpack, Andrea peered around carefully.  She wasn’t supposed to be out and about in the nighttime.  Everyone was expected to be in their cabins leaving the night time to the bears, raccoons, and other animals that roamed the area after dark.  She had thrown a few things in her bag just in case, but she hoped to not need them.  Crossing the far side of the parking lot, she made her way out the far end and officially out of bounds and away from the small lights of the night time camp.  Picking her way carefully, Andrea cursed the voice in her head telling her to turn around.  She had heard that voice her entire life usually embodied by her mother, but occasionally living in the back of Andrea’s mind.  She couldn’t explain the pull she had felt all evening growing in intensity until she had gathered her things for a journey.

The winding trail up to the big flat rock was bathed in moonlight.  Andrea wondered about the history of this trail over years only recently visited by humans.  It filled her with a sense of wonder to think that millions of animals had stepped here for part of the path.  Up the hill and then along the edge of a small ravine, Andrea paused to listen to the sounds of the night.  Unexpectedly she felt safe, even though her heart was beating in her chest with a harsh rhythm.  Crossing the stream, she scrambled up the old decaying wall that she had never heard tell who had placed there.  

Who makes walls out in the middle of nowhere?  Was this place once a somewhere?

Leaving those thoughts behind, Andrea shook her head and scrambled on the rocks away from the stream and up around the rock formation until she came up between two large boulders and onto a mostly flat surface of rock that they called the Verge.  The view wasn’t much, but the sense of basking in the moonlight was unmistakable.  Her body finally relaxed and Andrea knew she could settle down to stargaze and relax for a while.  Perhaps she had just needed this personal moment of peace in order to satisfy the urge that had crept up on her throughout the day.  It had been faint and vague at first and then as the sun set, she knew that she had to get out that night.  Get away from the others.  Go and run perhaps.

The interval after sundown was the longest she’d ever been forced to wait through.

She went through her official responsibilities after dinner and then she was largely free.  Only the unofficial responsibilities to the unit she had assigned herself to for the week kept her within the boundary of the camp.  After their evening program and settling in for the night, she had waited until her cabin mates had all drifted off and she could slip away.

Once the moon rose, Andrea knew she was going to the Verge.  Even if she had to sleep out there, she could easily pick her way in the early hours unseen to get back for the breakfast prep.

Andrea threw her bag down and stalked across to the farther edge of the rock.  She knew this was where she needed to be.  She just wasn’t sure what she needed to be doing or why she wasn’t worried about being out there alone and without telling anyone.  She knew it was against the rules for so many reasons.  She wasn’t on property any longer and this was a wild place.

She felt unstoppable--a force of nature.

Closing her eyes, Andrea straightened her back and took a deep breath.  She wanted to fully give herself to this moment and time--to understand her feelings and her place in the universe at that moment.  She had been called and she knew it without a doubt.  She heard the water burbling in the stream below her and flowing steady with the snow melt of the season.  She heard the occasional breeze in the trees and could just imagine in her mind tracing it like some kind of animation with the wave of her hand.  The trees spoke of potential, but she could not fully grasp their meaning.  Nearer she heard the buzz of a mosquito who thought she was a wandering snack and then didn’t think anymore.  

Sitting down, Andrea noted other sounds that she should not be able to hear or that perhaps her mind was supplying to feed her imagination.  A fox rooted about from place to place.  An owl swooped down to capture a small kill in its talons.  A bear and two cubs rooted around somewhere in the distance.

Andrea lost herself in the feeling of it all.  She was both on the rock surface of the Verge and somehow out running with her pack savoring a wonderful run and the freedom to break with the daily grind.

Nearby she heard footsteps and then the scramble of a creature joining her on the rock.

Andrea felt no fear at the approach.  If anything she felt her spirit settle back into itself.  She opened her eyes to see two penetrating gold eyes watching her in the semi-dark.  The animal matched Andrea in mass on four paws instead of the humanoid two.  Her fur was dark as the night with the left ear and eye patch a light grey along with the left forepaw as well.  Andrea had never seen such a graceful creature in her life.

Holding her arms out in invitation, Andrea defied the advice of every parent, naturalist, and scientist she could imagine.  Equally ignoring the unspoken critique, the wolf rushed forward knocking Andrea to her back.  

After a short period of sniffing, the wolf licked Andrea’s cheek in a way that had the teenager reaching up to bury her fingers in thick fur and chortle with joy.  The pair wrestled the same way that lifelong friends would, and then the wolf heard something beyond Andrea’s human limitations.

With an almost regretful nudge of its nose to Andrea’s cheek, the almost all black wolf turned and bound across the rock, down and away into the night.

Andrea lay in the darkness aware of the edges of her body, the steady coldness of the rock under her, the dark sky filled with the endless mystery of the stars and their stories, and the sense that the fever in her veins from earlier had been soothed.

A beautiful wolf?  Here.

Yes.  Here.

What was it doing here?

Andrea considered the Verge and the waning moon.  If she were to oversleep, there would be hell to pay.

Going back now, she’d hear the bell.  Waken to the others moving in the morning.

The wolf was not coming back.  Andrea could not tell you how she knew, but she was certain.  She hadn’t known it walking out there, but meeting the wolf had become the whole point of her mission.  Going back would be the wise choice.

Perhaps next month would occasion another adventure and meeting?

Scooping up her bag, Andrea made her way down from the rock, around to the stream, and then across it to the path back.  The world of nature was a gentle hum within her now.  Settled for the time being, but part of her in an inexplicable way nonetheless.

  

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  2/?     (848 words)

Stumbling on the descent from the rock, the wolf jumped clear of the obstacle.  The moon had barely passed its zenith and she was ready to run.  The others ran once they caught her scent and she knew there would be whispers if not outright accusations.  Annoyed, she shoulder nudged her nearest packmate and started running.  If they found something to chase soon, she could work them through the stream and lessen the impact of her actions.  Explaining circumstances had never been her strong suit.

In this case, that weakness would be compounded by her own lack of understanding.

She had been called.

All day she had felt on the edge of a journey that went beyond the usual call of the full moon in her veins.  There were no words to be spoken for this nameless faceless yearning, so she had simply followed the pack and when able to do so--she had led her own way.  Unerringly her steps had taken her to a previously unexplored spot and an encounter she had little context for understanding.

The pack was so large that they often broke up into smaller groups in order to not have National Geographic called on them for running wild in forests that had few or no wolves in their natural order.

Paws to the ground, moonlight on her back, the breeze in her fur, and a hundred scents in her nose, she had run with a hope filled joy.  They had not come out of New York for a run in so long that now it had the joy of the first time or a re-found joy, a reclaimed strength.  Until it had all faded into one yearning, and she had known that the nameless, faceless, pull toward a new future--well, it had a scent, a face, and somewhere it had a name.

Indicating she wanted to explore on her own, the nearly all black wolf had accelerated and taken a circuitous route.  She didn’t want the others to follow her and there was an element of fate at work here that she was reluctant to simply go directly the way it was pulling her.  The animal trails in the area were easy to follow, the stream providing a lovely set of sounds, and then there was danger--humans had come and gone this way.  They avoided populated areas for hundreds of reasons, though she could not deny the call in her veins.  Miranda settled for a time to observe.  A bear and her cubs approached and then slowly wandered away from the wolves it sensed and the human scented areas.  The hoot of an owl signaled a swoop for the kill.  Nosing around searching for treasures she heard a fox meandering around.

The large property bordered designated forest land, yet she had not thought they had run nearly far enough to reach into that land shared with trails that led into various summer camps and resorts.

Despite her desire to avoid this, she found herself unable to remain unmoved.  Circling the large rock outcropping, she cursed this calling once more.  It already had so many strikes against it that she really could not stand it.  There was a rough trail between two parts of the outlying boulders with fresh human scent and before she knew it she was scrambling up and onto a large almost flat rock surface.

A young woman, probably half her age, sat facing the view as if she had not even taken notice of the large apex predator not more than 20 feet away.  The long dark hair cascaded down her back and then the young woman was turning slowly to face her.  When their eyes met in the moonglow, she knew--this woman was her future.  Joy filled the woman’s face before she opened her arms wide in a gesture of welcome.  The wolf could feel her indignation show in her body language, but then without permission, her body bounded forward, knocking the woman back.  The woman’s scent had the wolf swiping her tongue across the air chilled cheek.  Before the wolf could react or pull away, the young woman’s fingers were in her fur and she had released a sound of unbridled joy that clicked with something in her own heart.

Wrestling the way she never had as a pup, the wolf enjoyed the playful banter of a slurp and a shriek, a paw and a nibble, and just being near someone who felt like home.

Hearing the sound of her packmates approaching, the wolf tensed.  Tilting its head this way and then that, the wolf knew she had to go.  With a nudge in the place of a hug or a kiss, the dark wolf bounded across the rock and scrambled gracelessly down until she could leap to run.

There were still many hours left in the run and she would savor them.

She would tuck this memory away.  It was not a puzzle to solve now.

Indeed, what was she to do with a wild child of the darkness two states away from her day to day.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  3/?     (1065 words)

The end of summer would be bittersweet.  Andrea really liked the rhythm and routine of camp. She could get lost in her job, the songs, the little events, and the hikes she was able to go on when she had the day off.  Nature had always been a love of hers.  She had grown up camping with her family and always wondered if they could live in the forest, then why didn’t they.  The stars were brighter away from the light pollution.  It was just all so different than her day to day and she longed for that in a way that didn’t always make sense.  Her home life until recently had been the stuff of stereotypes and fairytales.  

Packing up, Andrea longed for another week at least.  The full moon was only days away.  Andrea wondered if it would be her only chance to solve the mystery of her almost all black wolf visitor.  She had asked around and been told that wolf sightings were rare in the area, but not impossible.  Although she feared missing the full moon as her only opportunity to see the wolf again, something told Andrea that the mystery would be revealed in time.  Just as the feeling of being called by the moon was not random, neither was the encounter on the top of the Verge.  She would meet this wolf again.

Meet?  Do you meet a wild creature?  Do you meet a person?  Why does it matter?

Shaking her head, Andrea had continued packing her things.  

Heading home on the last day of summer camp, Andrea gave her mother the rundown of her summer adventures.  Oh, she left out the skinny dipping--she knew she was too young for that.  She skipped over the beer she tried that night a whole group gathered on the other side of the lake, so that they were off property even though they were between camper sessions.  She didn’t even consider sharing her moonlit strolls out to the Verge or the one time she thought she met her destiny there.  There was no way her mother would understand being called by the moon.

It didn’t make any sense in her own head if she tried to piece it together logically.  Saying it out loud sounded ludicrous.  I was called out into the forest alone in the middle of the night and I met an entrancing nearly all black wolf.  Full moon?  Yes.  Do I have a fever?  Why no.  I don’t and I did not that night either.  Thank you.

I met a wolf who wasn’t a werewolf on the night of the full moon.  Yet, I’m certain that isn’t the whole story.

In here, Andrea would have pointed at her heart, I know in here that it isn’t the whole story.  I felt like home in the short minutes I played with that wolf.  Yet, I know there is so much further that I must go to finally arrive.  She never, even in her mind, added the missing words-- with her.

Other than that night, Andrea had not felt a calling to go back out to the Verge.  Though she felt more attuned to the night somehow.  In some ways it was unnerving, while in others it was freeing.  There was nowhere in the camp that she couldn’t or wouldn’t go even without a flashlight.  She could sneak up on anyone and deliver messages, supplies, or contraband without using the proper paths or giving herself away with a light.  She was everyone’s go to girl within the month.  It delighted her as much as she knew it drove the director crazy.  She hadn’t wanted to hire her, but the job requirements for the kitchen were fairly simple and she was old enough.  Additionally, she was the only applicant.

Leaving to return home had been difficult in more ways than one--her father died in some kind of accident that Spring that her mother would not talk about.  Andrea knew her mother wanted to protect herself and her brother from unsavory truths or just gross injury truths, but the lack of any kind of explanation, circumstance, detail, or even cause of death was maddening.  It created tension to rival the Spring storms and hung over all of them until the promise of summer yielded to a truce.  Andrea could escape, but there would be no nonsense in the Fall.  They all needed a reset.  Her brother went to stay with the grandparents and her mother took a series of small trips to visit family and friends of family.  Her mother was even sucked into a Las Vegas trip when her friend insisted on celebrating her divorce.  

In addition to dealing with her changed world head on at home, Andrea wanted one more full moon.  Would the wolf be there?  Would Andrea’s heart cry out until she followed the game trail up and across the stream and around to the Verge?  

She knew the summer had been an escape and a way to make a bit of cash for the coming year.  Her mother and brother needed her at home not wandering the forest as a child of the moon.

It would be good to have food off the summer menu again, to see her friends, sleep in a real bed, and yes to be with her mother and her brother.  She really did miss the dummy head.

In between her own stories, her mother told her about the goings on in their corner of Cincinnati, and Andrea let her mind wander with questions that she knew would be unsolved perhaps forever.

Was that a wolf?

Had it come looking for her?

Why did it crawl up there otherwise?

How come it greeted her with such self-conscious joy, even though its first instinct had seemed one of a cat-like disdain?  

Thinking of herself reaching out to the wild creature, Andrea could not decipher what it could have been upset over.  She wasn’t going to attack it and she clearly had nothing to fear.

If it wasn’t a wolf, then what was it?  Werewolves were feral beasts driven by their sexual desire and running around like crazy ‘I’m going to bite you and… you’ Chewbaccas.  She had seen that film, Werewolf , at her friend Jessica’s house and there was no way her black wolf with those unique accents was anything close to what was depicted in that film.

 

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  4/?      

“Are you running tonight?”  Nigel kept his voice low regardless of how unlikely eavesdropping in the new Editor’s office would be.

Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose as she dipped her head in thought.  They had not talked about the last full moon--too many ears around on the way back the following day, too many storms to flare up just when they had settled into the humid heat of the summer.  It didn’t bar the existence of assumptions or theories, though it effectively kept them from growing feet and wandering too wildly.  The human scent had been washed, covered in other scents, and faded by the time they were in their human forms again.  Only those who had been close to Miranda right after her wandering could say anything and other than a scent and a small window of time alone--there was literally nothing they could say.

It didn’t stop Miranda from checking the maps, inquiring about the nearby properties, and counting days on the calendar.  Would it be a risk to go back for a wild run again only a month later?  She could not hang out with a teenager in her wolf form.  The pack, and her husband would surely ask questions.

It wasn’t the done thing.  It might have been an old way of speaking that didn’t take away from the truth it represented.

Her best guess was that the young brunette on the massive rock in the moonlight either had escaped from one of the summer camps or worked at one.  It didn’t seem to suit the resort clientele to let their daughters become moon children.  Personal properties were at an even further distance than their pack’s own starting point.  The question was how far into the month of August did the camp push their days.  Had they broken for the summer and closed up shop or were they still there?

If they were still there, then what did she want--for the young woman, not the girl, did Miranda want her to be out there in the forest or tucked safely into her cabin?

“Miranda?”  Concern had crept into Nigel’s voice.

“I don’t know what I want and I don’t know what that means.”  Miranda made eye contact with him and then stood and moved to the window.  “I have always known what I wanted and gone for it, Nigel.”

Smirking at the knowledge of that, Nigel considered his long time friend.  Editor of Runway in under ten years and re-inventing it to rise like a phoenix from its own ashes.  Married to a minor actor poised to become a star, which in turn only elevated Miranda and her magazine further.  Logically, the only thing missing was Master of the Pack.  Stereotypically, the only things missing were the white picket fence and the kid or a dog.  Nigel almost laughed at that.  It would be some dog to be the pet of a wolf as intimidating as Miranda Priestly.

“What happened?”  Nigel kept the words in his question to a minimum knowing it was rare that Miranda entertained them.

Closing her eyes and swallowing, Miranda reached up to play with the large pendant hanging down to her chest.  Keeping her focus through the window pane, Miranda cleared her throat.  “All day I was edgy waiting for moonrise.  I couldn’t wait to go, Nigel.  I couldn’t wait to run.”  She shook her head as she thought of her feelings a month ago.  “We got out there.  How did we get so close to the national forest, Nigel?  How did we get so far so fast?”  Miranda didn’t wait for an answer as she plowed on.  “I was called.  I had to go to seek and find.  I broke away and I stalked this feeling, this pull in my soul, my veins.  I stopped and watched for a while once I caught the human scents.  I observed and tried to understand what was driving me.  Then I couldn’t wait any longer.  The moon has just reached its peak and I was scrambling up a trail between boulders and following a scent.”

Nigel raised an eyebrow at his friend.  Never had she stopped a thought in the middle like that.  Then again he could not recall once ever seeing his friend use four different fidgeting mannerisms to start a story or conversation.  Not even the ones that cut her competition out of the running and assured her ascension to Editor in Chief.  He wasn’t sure if he dared prompt her.  The wait might give him a heart attack.

“I was moon called by a young woman, Nigel.  A young woman.”  The disbelief mingled with the wonder in her voice at last turned the light bulb on for Nigel.

“”It means something, but you don’t know what.  You can’t determine if you should rush after it before it gets away whatever it is or if you should let the moon calling work it’s own magic.  You don’t want to avoid it, but you’d rather not rush fate.”  Nigel was translating his thoughts into words in real time, which was always a dangerous task around his often ferocious friend.

Waving her wedding ring at him and then motioning to her office and then New York City at large, Miranda let that be her answer.

“No wonder you wouldn’t talk about it.”  Nigel leaned forward to press his fingertips against his forehead and rest his elbows on his knees.  Knowing he was making assumptions, Nigel tried to think things through anyway.  He couldn’t be of any support to Miranda, if they couldn’t work out what they were dealing with.

Is she just human?   He wondered about who or what could cause a moon calling.  How old is she?   He mentally wondered in a panic.  Nothing happened. Doesn’t matter.  Could we work out who she was?  Would it be worth our time?  

What caused a moon calling?   Then Nigel began to wonder what that felt like and why it was so rare.  Jealousy flared up a bit.  Miranda had pretty much everything, why did she get this as well?   Then he thought about how this situation could become Miranda losing everything.

“We should go.  Someone besides you needs to know her scent, Miranda.  Moon called doesn’t go away.”

“I know, Nigel.  Believe me.”  

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  5/?     

Andrea shook her head wondering what was wrong with her.  She had been fine in the morning, maybe a bit restless, but she was a teenager in the tail end of a long winter that was part of the definition.  She wanted to run, but couldn’t focus on the words in her book or even pay attention to the television.  She was down to her underwear and a sports bra, yet she still felt overheated.  The sofa seemed to fuel her temperature spiking and she wondered if a cold shower would be more beneficial or harmful.

Zachariah was staying the night with his project partner for their Science Museum challenge team and her mother had been called away to help someone from their church.

Andrea took deep breaths in and out trying to count and step in some sort of synch.  Not for the first time, she wondered if she had poisoned herself with some bad food or if one of her friends had snuck something into her candy bag.  It was ridiculous though.  Dinner had been in the freezer from one of her mother’s cooking sprees leaving no chance of Andrea’s cooking skills going against her.  The candy bag had been empty for three days already.  

For weeks, Andrea could have sworn she was on the edge of some new life moment.  She had supposed that it was her 16th birthday coming up.  However, as she paced tonight unable to focus, stripped down to her under clothes, and grabbing at her skin as if to pull herself into a new shape, Andrea had to reconsider if she was on the precipice now.  She just hoped it wasn’t like Sigourney Weaver in Alien .  Shuddering at the thought, Andrea privately admitted that her mother had been right; it was not responsible for her to have watched that with her younger brother.  He still had nightmares and Andrea was made to sit up with him, since she was the reason he had been terrified in the first place.

Squatting down, Andrea rested back on her heels with her forearms on her knees.  She was breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth.  She would weather whatever this storm was and be glad when her mother returned from her mission.

Shivering despite her overwhelming warmth, Andrea instinctively moved toward the kitchen and the backdoor.  Once the fresh air hit her face, she felt that thrumming in her veins from the summer.  Stumbling down the pair of steps into the back yard, Andrea sought out the moon high in the sky tucked in between clouds.  Her eyes flared with the moonglow and her body began to shimmer.

Her last thought was, ‘A full moon.’

Then the changes overtook her body, knocking her to the ground in a series of cracking and stretching shifts as her skin gave way to fur, her athletic muscles became those of a predator, and her sight took on the night vision of a large creature.

Stumbling on four legs, Andrea shook her head trying to focus the insanity of this situation into her new reality.  Thinking angry thoughts, Andrea surprised herself with the rumble of a deep canine growl.  Closing her eyes, Andrea counted to ten regularly, then in her high school Spanish, and finally in her stumbling French that she’d tried to learn when Lily took the class.

Lifting each arm or leg, Andrea determined that she indeed was upright on all fours.  Tilting her head and concentrating on various sights and sounds, she was able to determine that she was focused although she was certainly differently abled--more like a dog or cat as far as she had heard from others.  She couldn’t say that sort of study was much of her thing.  Maybe it was now.  She chided herself.  Proving the existence of her tail had been more problematic, but something of a bit of idiotic joy.  She could certainly feel the extension wag or shift as she moved.  Getting her eyes on it for confirmation led her into several circles, where she indulged the urge to try and bite her tail.  She knew it was largely a fruitless endeavor, but she had to sheepishly admit that it was fun.

If she thought too hard about how things worked, she struggled.  Yet if she just acted, then the mechanics just flowed through her body.  For example, the details of sitting down with a tail eluded Andrea, but at different points in time, without thought, Andrea found herself sitting the same way she had seen so many dogs do in her lifetime.

Glad that they had a large partially snow covered yard, Andrea focused on exploring her surroundings and testing her senses.  This study of the minutiae kept her from thinking too hard about the fact that she had apparently turned into an animal, likely a dog or a wolf.  She could always freak out later when her mom was back or hopefully in the morning.

She could not have told how much time passed, though the moon seemed to be falling toward the horizon.  Andrea wondered if she would always feel warm or if she would at some point begin to feel the cold.  There wasn’t much snow on the ground still, but you certainly couldn’t say that Spring had sprung.  Climbing the steps to the backdoor proved to be awkward, yet she could leave her back legs on the ground and stretch to reach the door with her front paws.  The door had latched closed behind her, but Andrea knew she hadn’t locked it.  There was no way she’d have gone out in her underwear locking the door behind her.

Hearing the gate, Andrea sat at attention below the step tucking her tail around her front paws.

Her mother’s car slipped through the gate and then slid into the garage.  Several moments later, her mother approached the back door with her bag tucked on her arm.  “Oh!”  She gave a cry of surprise.

Andrea noted that it was not a cry of alarm.  She tilted her head in contemplation of her human shaped mother as questions began to fill her mind.

“Andrea?”  Her mother stepped closer and then set her bag on the paved walkway and kneeled.  “Oh, my beautiful girl.  Come here.”  Her mother’s arms were held open in a loving welcome.

Andrea had not known she needed this acceptance until it had been freely given.  Rushing forward, Andrea knocked her mother back and then began to sniff and lick the way a puppy would.  Her mother sunk her fingers into her thick fur and laughed.  For long minutes they played, until her mother firmly gripped her fur and pulled her daughter away.  “I’m cold and too old for this.”  She chided her daughter.  “Let’s go inside.”  She invited her daughter to join her in the house that likely had been too warm for a newly changed wolf.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  6/?      

Was it Spring already?   Miranda wasn’t sure.  There was the sense of something coming in the world and that felt similar to spring.  Although the daffodils had not yet started blooming in their raised concrete planters of various parks around the city.  The presence of the moon seemed to be with her at all times now.

The call wasn’t nearly as strong as that mysterious full moon over the summer.  Miranda imagined few things could rival that.  Being moon called had become so rare as to pass into legend.  If it happened, then no one was talking about it.  There were days she thought she had imagined it--perhaps gotten hold of some sort of wolf catnip out in the forest.  July was a lifetime ago.  The restlessness in her life whispered of a more that was as out of reach as it was diaphanous.  With the full moon, there was no chance of settling the madness.

Her computer chimed the hour and Miranda heard the elevator down the hall.  Her office would be invaded for yet another run through in the run up to deadline.  Swallowing at the thought of the last one, Miranda stroked her midsection to ward off the nausea.  It was almost as if she were stroking a disobedient pet in order to quiet it.  Shh.  There are guests coming.  Not now .  Catching herself doing it, Miranda scowled.  She needed her sharp wit and cutting judgment now, not that soothing sweetness.

The problem with clawing your competition on the way to the top is that you then have to fill in their positions when they leave and you are Editor in Chief.   Miranda shook her head.  She had accomplished so much in such a short amount of time and yet it was so precarious.  Every month was a judgment on her head and carried across her shoulders.  Nigel in Features had been a stroke of genius that neither had been entirely sure of to start.  However, Fashion and Styles were more or less in a period of adjustment.  Miranda frowned at the phrase.  It was unacceptable.  Katie Armstrong had been the Fashion Assistant Director for years and yet the air in the new office seemed to have gone to her head in a way that undermined her promise.  Not for the first time, Miranda wondered if people kept their seconds weak so they appeared irreplaceable.  Caryn Davies had more than enough Style, though she couldn’t seem to find any bits of Director to make the post work.

Now run-throughs were Olympic events in Miranda’s office requiring all three directors when they should be able to each manage their own on their own.  She hoped to promote them away or have them transfer to another magazine as soon as possible.

Nigel would be marvelous in either post.  Perhaps it would be more efficient to have him train up his own replacement and then transfer laterally.

Miranda shifted her focus as the rack was rolled unceremoniously into her office.

Miranda glared when Nigel came in on the heels of the parade.  He tilted his head and shrugged his shoulder in acknowledgment, but showed no regrets.  This shouldn’t be either of their responsibility and he knew it.  On occasion he had no problem stepping in; however, if he needed to hold the hands on all three departments along with Miranda shepherding them, then he should have some kind of Assistant Editor title.  They both knew it and the single moment passed unspoken between them.  It was not the time or the place for that conversation.  Miranda had not even finished her first year at the helm and had so much to prove.  

Her assistant, Stefanie, made history each day in Miranda’s shadow.  She set the office running before the Editor arrived and had subtly shaped Miranda’s moods into a manageable task list designed to provide for and alleviate certain tensions with an eye toward prevention instead of emergency response.  Nigel would never say it, but he thought that the woman should get a medal.  The year had been tough and the last couple of months had been downright brutal.

“What do we have then?”  Miranda rested her palm on her abdomen as she glanced about the offerings in the room.

“Quist has a new take on ‘global village,’ so actually it’s…”  Katie

“Where are the blouses?”  Miranda stroked her fingers down one garment with a frown and glared around the racks in the room finding them lacking.

Caryn rushed to the next rack saying, “Over here.  There are three with that punk print.”

Miranda cast her judgment, “No.  I’ve seen all of this before.”

Katie pulled a blouse from the rack behind Miranda to draw her attention away from Caryn. “I think it could be very interesting with this…” 

Pivoting to take in the room, Miranda observed, “Baffling.  You cannot create a decent run-through.  The Fashion Director and Style Director of Runway Magazine.  Yet you come to me with barely a thought between you.  Hours you’ve spent with the materials and I don’t even see the advertisers.  Are we just playing magazine here?”

“We have some pieces from Espirit.”  Caryn rushed over to hold up a different top.

Visibly taking a deep breath, Miranda prodded them again, “We need more, don’t we?”  She waved her hand dismissing Caryn.  Wandering over to a rack, Miranda flipped through a few hangers before holding up a brightly colored top.  “Oh.  This is.”  She kind of frowned at it and waved it in the air a bit while she hoped for another spark.  “What do you think, Nigel?”

“Yeah, well.  A bright peasant top and some embellished jeans and it’s a love story.”  He swooped in on a pair of jeans with embroidered roses up the front of the legs in exactly the bright pink red of the top.

“Is it too Perry Ellis Grunge from 1993?”  Miranda held the top up toward the jeans and the pair of them stared at the outfit ignoring the others in the room.

“Only if we wrap it up in the global village.”  Nigel disdainfully sighed at the selection that had been brought in.  “With the right accessories it will step away from the village and keep out of the grunge.  The midriff is catching and the embroidery draws the eye down the long lines.”

Reaching out for a belt, Miranda came up empty.  “Are we the only ones working here?”  Miranda’s low tone could have melted iron.

Katie rushed forward.  “Of course, you’re not alone.”  She held out a belt hanger with a selection to choose from, but did not single one out for consideration.

Coming to a complete stop, Miranda let go of the hanger letting the peasant top become Nigel’s problem.  One hand went to her hip and the other waved at the other people in the room.  “I asked for the life of spring, the world ready to bloom, and the hope of a bright future.  You gave me tatty, graffiti print with copycat motifs going back to Margiela in ‘89.”  Turning her head away, she told Nigel, “Yes, more like that.”  Miranda circled the outfit he held for inspection and then rested her palm on her abdomen.  “You two, I want exhilarating, not exhausting.  Go have your own run through.  If you can convince Nigel, then come back to me.  If not, then there’s the door.  Now go.”

Miranda turned to her favored view of the hustle and bustle below.  It was the full moon tonight, but that was inexcusable.  Gently she stroked her abdomen while she focused on the busy city beyond them and her disaster crew of directors cleared the hell out.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  7/?     

Spring faded into Summer or perhaps blossomed into or some other metaphor.  Andrea knew things had changed.  The night of her first change had been a bizarre first among all the other adjectives she could use to describe the experience.  The early morning acceptance of her mother had been the key to a whole new world that had apparently just been waiting for her to arrive.

Family friends were better known as packmates.  Her mother’s late nights that happened to be on full moon’s fell into place and the need for her brother to have friends and sleepovers became bittersweet.  Now there was a secret between mother and daughter pulling them together in an indescribable way.  When she had asked about Zach, she had learned that the first born almost always is the one with the legacy.  She had cried for the world that Zach would be missing out on, knowing that his inner geek would have been so fueled by the new knowledge and his inner teddy bear would have been amazed to have had that ultimate connection with their father.

It hurt, though Andrea understood the complicated dynamics of why the younger siblings were kept in the dark barring extreme circumstances.

A new wolf, though she had her first change months ago, Andrea was required to join the pack on various summer outings.  Training and pack bonding they had told her.  Thinking of the eldest child in the various families that had been part of her life over the years, Andrea knew there would be a certain amount of hazing as well.

Washing dishes last summer had not been her most favorite of tasks, but she had been able to get away from her family and assert her independence.  Additionally, she had been fully immersed in nature, going on hikes in her free time and participating in camp activities when she could including the songs, archery, and various games.  Wistfully, Andrea thought of the only other time the full moon had captured her whole being so totally and realized she would be not going back this year.  Even without the knowledge she had gathered now, Andrea had known the magic of the moment she shared with the mostly black wolf.  Now, she was certain that there was so much more to the story than she could have ever known.

There were times when the image of the black wolf came to her.  Occasionally in her dreams, running and exploring, but usually just at odd times when she had needed the presence of a loved one.  She would come to a stopping point on a bad day and just breathe deep sort of shaking the day away from her.  The tears, the thoughts of others contributing to her upset, the problem itself, her own part in it, and she would just focus on being.  Those were the times when the dark wolf would appear in her mind, a steady presence of strength and sense that the future ahead would be worth it.

“Packed already?”  Elizabeth Sachs came to check on her daughter’s progress.

Smiling at her mom, Andrea waved her arm toward her packed bag and pile of outfit next to it.  “I just have to tuck my toothbrush in after I get ready in the morning.”  She had always gotten into packing her things as an accomplishment of doing things herself, but also of imagining what she might be doing and what she would need.  It became a game for her from an early age going to summer camp and seeing how to make things fit the best way possible.

“Check on Zack and then bring the laundry to my room, okay?”  Elizabeth stepped into the room and kissed her eldest on the head before slipping away again.

“You like to pack fresh clothes, huh?”  Andrea asked her mother as she let the pile of warm laundry cascade from her arms onto the bed.

“I figure the clothes you were just wearing probably make up a complete set of what you might need.  Nothing forgotten if it is what you wore.”  Elizabeth patted her daughter’s shoulder as she focused on sorting out the different items so she could fold and tuck them into her own bag.  “Is Zach alright?”

Andrea smiled.  Her mom had something on her mind, but seemed to want to check on things before she broached whatever topic it was.  Andrea just hoped it wasn’t a sex talk or a dating talk.  They had enough of those with each step of Andrea’s development from childhood toward adulthood and then with her full transformation into a wolf, she had to go through many of the same topics again.  It was like having to go through double puberty.

“Pack bonding can be a wonderful thing, dear.  However, sometimes politics and history interfere with someone’s experience.  You know that there are topics that I pretty much refuse to talk with you and Zach about.”  Elizabeth gave Andrea that look that said I know it is frustrating, but it's difficult on my end as well .

Elizabeth patted her chest and closed her eyes for a few moments, but she continued before Andrea could find the words to say anything.

“Occasionally there is trouble in a wolf pack and there are different ways it can be handled.  If there is a challenge for leadership, then it often ends in an actual altercation in wolf form.  We regularly gather as a pack on the full moon, so grievances and other pack issues are discussed.  It is when we are strongest, but also our most aggressive.”  Elizabeth took a deep breath knowing this needed to be said, even though it hurt her to do so.  “Your father, he supported the losing side.  I’m not saying he supported the wrong person.”  Elizabeth held up her hand in a talking to the spirits kind of way.  “I’m just saying his side lost and he lost his life.”

Andrea squeezed her own thigh as she struggled between wanting to ask a stream of questions and noticing the pain in her mother’s demeanor and wanting to just comfort her.  She supposed the details would come sooner or later in some form or another--or her mom wouldn’t be talking about it.

Standing, Andrea pulled her mother into a tight hug.  “I love you, mom.  We will get through this together.”

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  8/?     

Nigel raised his eyebrows at his mercurial friend and boss.  Changes had come frequent enough that he had a hard time tracking her moods and their possible causes.  Before he could even think of an opening, Stefanie swept in, placing a hot cup on the desk in front of him and another in Miranda’s reach.  Not lingering, she would pick up two items from the out pile and disappear.  Nigel wasn’t sure which was more ominous--the click of the editor’s door as the assistant left or the scrawled ‘decaf’ label on Miranda’s cup.

Help us all.  He thought.  Miranda on decaf the day of a full moon .

“Cris?”  Miranda had been using fewer and fewer words, though she always managed to communicate her point eloquently.

“Adjusting to the changes and flourishing.  It was sheer genius for Cris to take over Beauty when you opened it up that way.  Cris works in close consultation with Yoli in Features and anything they cannot work out or that they want a third opinion about, they bring to me.”  Nigel reached to grab his cup.  

Nodding as she lost herself in thought, Miranda rubbed her thumb against the smooth surface of her container.  She found her life a never ending movement of players on a board and the constant weighing of options.  Her Directors--the captains on the field--needed to be able to make decisions on their own.  However, Miranda always struggled with knowing when enough information had been given and when to provide it.  Ultimately, she still wanted her overall plan to succeed and so she had to balance that information flow carefully.

“Your second?”  Miranda didn’t bother with naming the man currently working as Nigel’s understudy as the Assistant Art Director.  

Nigel awkwardly dealt with the sip of coffee he had taken and the unexpected question.  “Miranda?”  he blinked several times trying to work out why she was asking after Tyler.  Over the last 18 months, as Miranda took over the headship of the magazine, she had focused on the leadership specifically and the rest of the magazine globally.  She was not unaware of details and had it all at her fingertips.  However, she focused on assembling the team at the top that could effectively and independently manage their own section of the magazine.

“Could he step up, albeit, temporarily?”  Miranda elaborated on her question to some degree.

Knowing Miranda but still uncertain, Nigel started with his answer before prompting for more context.  “Yes.  He could.  If you want Tyler to direct, then there are things to work on.”  Resting his cup back on the desk, Nigel let his eyes contemplate his friend and editor for several long seconds.  She did not always respond well to questions, so he sought out any clues he could no matter how superficial appearances may be in any given situation.  “Miranda?”  He settled on her own tactic of the single word.

Reaching for her cup, Miranda shifted to take a sip.  Once it was close to her face, she glared at it and then set it down hard.  Swallowing hard, Miranda’s color dipped while she fought off the nausea threatening to make its presence obvious.  Rolling her chair back, Miranda stood and slowly made her way over to her window.  Soothing her stomach as she moved, Miranda breathed deeply of the bright sunshine pouring in through the window.  “I have to know the team is strong without me, Nigel.”  Her hand rested on her lower abdomen as she turned to face him once more.

Jumping to his feet, Nigel fought the urge to rush to his friend.  Tumor, heart attack, AIDS, divorce, his mind fairly exploded with reasons short of death that would pull Miranda away from Runway.  “What is it, Miranda?”  His eyes frantically searched over his enigmatic friend.

“Twins.”  Miranda whispered with tears brimming in her eyes.

Nearly shaking himself with the realization, Nigel instinctively replayed this office visit in his mind--Miranda asking after the team, drinking decaf, and hinting at her own absence.  He noticed her hand resting on her abdomen and other moments swept into his mind of a similar pose.  The face she made at her coffee registered at last as nausea from a strong smell.  “Oh, Miranda, you are marvelous.”  Finally he rushed to his friend, sweeping her up in a strong hug.  “Twins.”  He did a little dance that shook his captive and made them both giggle.

“I’m so happy, Nigel.  But it’s so much.”  Miranda held Nigel’s shoulders in her palm, while his hands slipped down to her hips.  The tears began trickling down her cheeks with hormones and happiness.

“With all of us, it won’t be too much.  It will be just right.”  Nigel soothed his friend thinking of the team at Runway as well as the pack that were friends as well a family.  Everyone would pitch in.  It had been several years since the pack had welcomed little ones into their ranks.

When Miranda teared up again, Nigel pulled her to him.  He rubbed circles on her back with one hand and wondered at the various mysteries of the world.  He could count on the four fingers of one hand the number of times he had soothed Miranda in this way and she had allowed him--and have extra fingers.

“Since we started talking about work, I’ll start here, hmm?  Your machinations have put Cris, Serena, and Tyler in place with Stefanie and myself to oversee things.”  He smiled when she snorted and repeated her assistant’s name.  “Yes, Stefanie.  She is a force to be reckoned with Miranda and you know it.”

Miranda grumbled and squeezed him tight enjoying their rare closeness.  “Indeed.”  She murmured her agreement.

“At home, if my understanding is correct, then Jeremy is the doting husband that so many draw up and a dream of when thinking of the word.  He dotes on you and will extend that to the twins.”  Nigel didn’t want to give false consolations and though he didn’t like to leave it open, he had no idea what the future held.  He could only judge based on his current information.

“Yes.  Yes.  We hadn’t planned for this.  We both enjoy just being adults and visiting the children of others.”  Miranda pulled away giving a sheepish smile.  “However, whatever hidden streak of parent that was in each of us has been fully activated.”  She glanced down her body and then rubbed the beginning of the baby bump that she had just barely been able to keep hidden the last few weeks.  “There are two of them, Nigel.”  Her emphasis on the word two made him bark with laughter.

“You’ve always been an overachiever, Miranda.”  Nigel rubbed his hand up and down her bicep once and then stepped back toward his chair.  “What else?  The press I suppose.”  He settled down and then reached for his cup.  “You have this mystery about you, Miranda.  The people here are drawn to you because of it and so is the press.  However, I am sure that we can think through arrangements so that you and the darlings are sheltered.  The pack will circle up around the new arrivals, Jeremy, and you.”

Miranda shook her head.  “I can’t ask that.”  

Shrugging, Nigel waved her off.  “You won’t have to.”  

After a short silence, Miranda turned back to her beloved window.  “It is almost summer.”

Nigel took a long drink from his cup thankful that it had cooled down from the danger to his tongue temperatures that Miranda always ordered.  “I don’t know if I can go to the homestead.  Would it be wise?”

Shifting back in his chair, Nigel wondered, “You can’t fight being moon-called.”  He quietly stated a truth they both knew down deep in their bones.

“I love Jeremy with my whole heart, Nigel.  I cannot imagine my life without him.”  Miranda seemed to be confessing her truths to the window.

“And yet?”  He prompted her softly.

“I have felt that connection from the summer surge a few times.  A brunette has appeared in my mind--young features, open spirit, her silhouette glowing in the moonlight.”  Miranda closed her eyes and let her hand rest where it instinctively had been traveling before she even knew the existence of the twins.  “A couple months ago, I saw a large dark brown wolf.  I know it is not a wolf that I have ever met, but I recognized her all the same.  What does it all mean?  Did she transform?  Is she a wolf?”  Miranda turned to face her friend.  “Everything could come undone, Nigel.  Right now my home is solid in a way I never had growing up.  Runway is as strong as she can be.  The pack will circle up no matter the circumstances.  However, the human side and the press?  That could be devastating.”  Covering her mouth with her hand, Miranda breathed slow and deep to keep her calm.

Nigel shook his head.  “Moon called is not convenient, though I cannot imagine it being cruel.  Not just because the few stories that we have are so romantic.”  He waved off her concerns.  “If your lives were meant to blend now then it would be a connection of family.  You would have a surprise older daughter and protector of the home.”  Nigel squinted his eyes as he thought about it.  “None of the legends tell of this kind of bond…”  He trailed off in a way that left it open, but dismissed it as unlikely.  “Lovers are usually what makes up those tales as you well know.  Young as she is, there are a million possibilities of how that comes about.  There will be the typical ups and downs of life and when you are meant to be together the moon will sing inside of you once again.”

Licking her lips at the suddenly easy way of examining the possibilities that her friend presented, Miranda asked, “And this summer?”

Nigel set his empty cup on the desk.  “If she has transformed, then this will be her first summer bonding with her pack.  For all we know, she was visiting the Poconos, the same as we were.  She could be here in New York, right now, Miranda.  We, you, cannot live in this mire of what ifs.  I would live your life in each moment and trust the moon.”

Leaning back against the wall, Miranda motioned down her body.  “And in five months?”

Nigel stood and made his way toward the door.  Turning just before he opened the door, he grinned and called back, “Fashion week.”

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  9/?    

“What’s wrong?”  Andrea drew her mother's attention from the steering wheel.

Forcing a smile, Elizabeth focused on her daughter.  This was the last full moon of the summer and she just wanted to get through it and get on with the year.  Being with the pack without her mate had been intense for a variety of reasons.  Cincinnati wasn’t a small town, but the wolf population was--the tensions that had nearly torn the pack apart and caused three deaths had not had time to heal.  It was acknowledged that Elizabeth had not been part of any of the politics on either side, yet it was also held against her that she hadn’t chosen.  To have what was viewed as a rebel’s daughter join the pack did not help to bring on the healing either.

“Have the others been nice to you?”  Elizabeth chose to focus on her daughter in an effort to leave her concerns to worry about at a later time.

Andrea shrugged.  “Mostly.  They kind of tease me about not having turned until now.  Some of them transformed years ago, even though they are my age.”  Andrea glanced around them.  “What is worrying you?”

Shaking her head, Elizabeth reached out and squeezed her daughter’s forearm.  “We will get through this together, right?  One more night and then we can get back to our new routine for the year.”  Seeing that her daughter believed she was holding back, Elizabeth gave one reason that would likely distract from further conversation.  “It had just been hard being fully back with the pack without your father.”

This time Andrea reached out to her mother and grasped her hand for a squeeze.  “I know we can’t talk about him here, but I’d like to know more about him.  What kind of wolf he was and the divide that he was part of.  I get it that it’s better I’m innocent for this first round of summer bonding, but I am certain that it will eventually turn into ignorance and could get us both in trouble.”

Knowing just how correct her daughter’s words were, Elizabeth promised.  “We will talk.  There’s certainly a long enough drive home.”

Andrea nodded and then pulled her door handle to slip out into the open air.

Timing it to arrive as close to the pack running as she could, Elizabeth stepped out into the darkness.  She stiffened as she inhaled the distinct smell of alcohol and Bertram.

“Was up to me, winners woulda claimed the widows.”  His words were slurred, though his meaning was crystal clear.

Walking away from the aggressive man, Elizabeth encouraged Andrea forward as well.  “Come on.  We don’t want to be late.”

Bertram walked behind them with a slow shuffling gait and the slosh of liquid in the bottle.

Tucking her arm into her daughter’s elbow, Elizabeth recognized the tension in the teenager and sped up their walking speed to just below a run.  They needed to get to the others so that Bertram could be intercepted.  His expressed plan had already been overruled by the Pack Master, but that didn’t mean Bertram wouldn’t risk the consequence if he thought he’d get to have his reward in time before they caught him.  She knew her daughter would not back down from a challenge.  She had been called to the school office enough times for Andrea standing up for others over the years.

They had just reached the edge of light from the back of the house.  Those who could had arrived earlier for a barbecue and some would make a weekend of it.  The pack did not often gather with a full weekend available and the summer gatherings were the closest to required that they had.

“Time to mate with the winning side.  Prove yourself.”  Bertram’s words were too loud to be shrugged away and not drunk enough to be incomprehensible.

Elizabeth dragged her daughter forward to the very edge of the group.

“I’ll show you how to do it, Lizzie.”  Bertram’s words had turned sticky in the humid summer air.

The sounds of the party had nearly stopped.  The pack’s attention focused on the new arrivals.

Her attention divided, Elizabeth was unable to catch her daughter in time.

“If you lay hands on my mother,” Andrea paused as she vibrated with rage.  Any of them could change at will once the sun went down, but the later it got into the night, the more likely an involuntary shift would occur.  Andrea could taste the rage in the back of her throat and feel her fingertips pressing into her hands to hold the tension in place.

“You’ll what?”  Bertram stepped up to the agitated teenager with a whiskey drawl in her face.  “You wanna take her place? Huh?”  He taunted her as she seemed unable to back up her threat.  “You want a piece of me?”  He reached out as though to stroke down her body.  He smiled as she stepped back and turned away from him.  Then he folded in half and flew backwards onto the ground as she turned and swung a kick to his middle.

Elizabeth shrieked as her daughter lunged forward transforming as she followed Bertram to the ground.  She could sense the pack rising and pressing closer--all of them tasting the wildness brimming over from the conflict and emotions.

Andrea clenched her jaws closed on his still human bottom jaw.  She pressed hard enough to draw blood.  Holding the pose for the longest count of thirty that she had ever experienced, Andrea breathed through her nose and kept what eye contact she could with the drunk idiot.

Releasing him with a wolfish gagging cough, Andrea backed out of his reach and transformed back to her human shape.  “You disgust me.  You’re supposed to be adults.”  Andrea focused on Bertram, but then turned her gaze on the rest of the pack.  “I know I’m new here, but if you have something to say to either my mother or myself, then say it.  Don’t hide behind booze and try to intimidate, belittle, or accost us.”

The Pack Master, Peter, slipped through the center of the crowd to approach the trio.  His enforcer, Fred, came around the outside edge of the light.  “Andrea, he does not speak for us and he knows that he doesn’t.”  Peter glared at the man still dumbfounded and bleeding on the ground.  

“He is an exaggeration of feelings and thoughts that are floating around.  I have sensed them.   I may not know much about the pack’s history or customs or whatever, but I can sense tension.  I am a teenager, it’s my native language.”  Andrea knew she needed to keep the peace.  Her mother did not want to be exiled from the pack, though Andrea wasn’t sure what good a pack was if Bertram’s behavior was acceptable.

Stepping close to Andrea, Peter made sure his voice would carry though it was clear his attention was on her.  “Bertram’s behavior will be punished as will any others behaving in a similar fashion.  I respect the way you stood up for yourself and your family.  You made your point clearly and without extra injury.”  When Andrea nodded at him, he turned to the crowd.  “We need to do a better job working towards the healing.  Andrea’s ability to pick up on our fractures in just two full moons makes that need obvious to me.  I challenge all of you to think about what is good for this pack moving forward.  We will be having a series of meetings in the fall to work through our lingering issues.”

In the silence, that followed the sounds of nature seemed to form a reminder of their connection to each other and the moon.

“Can we run together tonight?”  Peter asked all of them, but turned with a gentle look to peer at Elizabeth and her daughter.

“Yes.”  Each of them responded in turn followed by a loud whoop from the crowd.

Nodding to Fred, the Pack Master said, “He stays with you.  In the morning, we will work out a punishment.”  When the man on the ground tried to complain, Peter stepped over to him to put a boot on his throat.  “We could lock you in the doghouse for the night.”  Peter let his hard gaze drill into the face of the man who was sober enough to recognize the promise in those words.  “All right then.”

Stepping away the Pack Master waved his hands for them to follow him, then he ran out of the ring of light into the surrounding forest.  “Let’s run.”

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  10/?     

Pulling up to the curb, Miranda didn’t even bother to glance out of the tinted windows.  Miranda’s power was in full effect, though it was hiding a wall of tension that might have her lash out at anyone in the radius.  Always a nightmare, the Runway schedule during the holiday season jumped out of the crazy cake and did a little dance while it lit itself on fire and changed its name to insanity in all capital letters.  Keeping her words few, but her intent clear, Miranda addressed the driver.  “Wander.  Back on the hour.”  Stepping out into the flash of camera bulbs and the general racket of the press, Miranda adjusted her shoulders the way a wolf would shake off snow before going on the prowl again.

At her side moments later, Nigel fought the urge to grab her by the arm and whisper in her ear.  There wasn’t a red carpet, but it was still the press covered entry walk of a big event in New York City.  He had to maintain their image of colleagues at a soiree.  “Miranda?”  Nigel whispered in question.

She murmured as they waved to those gathered and mounted the steps at the entryway.  Then inside the front door and away from one group, and not yet crossing into the realm of the next entrance and the subsequent presentation of strength and joy, Miranda turned to him in the moment of a pause.

Letting her eyebrow communicate all that really needed to be said, Miranda slipped her hand into the corner of his elbow.  Someone more famous had arrived after them giving them a peaceful approach to the door.  “I’m tired, Nigel.”

Patting her hand, Nigel soothed, “The holiday season is always a nightmare.  We will be through it soon enough.  The Chelsea Piers shoot is on Tuesday already.”  Her acknowledging grumble was less harsh this time, though he did not like the defeated tone that had crept in instead.

They were announced and then greeted people as they made their way just to the center of the room.  Miranda had taken being uncertain of where to go and turned it into her strategy.  She did not meander through the various strata of minglers deigning to speak to this one or that and strategize as to why.  Those kinds of shenanigans were for closed doors, private calls, and the occasional back table tucked away in La Grenouille.

“The twins are not sleeping through the night yet.  This.  Chelsea Piers.  Runway’s party.  The pack wants to gather.  Parades, parties, toys for tots…  I’m not going, Nigel.”  Miranda made each event a sentence similar to the way you let a hammer drop to clearly signal each hit.  Miranda smiled and made small talk when others approached.  “The deadline and then New Year’s.”  Her smile hung on her face the way a beautiful piece of art stays in place on a wall.  Her eyes caught Nigel’s and her fatigue showed.  “I don’t want any of it.  Surely this much celebration is a falsehood.”

Nigel grabbed two champagne flutes from a passing waiter.  When Miranda shook her head slightly, he drank one smoothly and deposited the flute on an equally convenient passing tray.  “Skip Chelsea.  Do Runway.  Stefanie has it all planned beautifully for you, you know.”

Miranda hummed as she surveyed the crowd.  She wondered how close to the hour it was and if she could head to the door yet.  It wouldn’t do, to arrive at the curb before her driver.

“You must make an appearance with the girls at the Pack gathering.”  Nigel understood his friend’s reluctance to share her darlings and the fatigue that they and Runway caused.  However, there were certain expectations within a pack that were not negotiable.

Miranda’s withering glare made it clear that she was clear on the expectations of others.

Taking pity on him, she added, “That is why I am hosting the event.  My terms and my arrangements.”

Nigel’s eyes went wide.  “Jeremy?”

With a half smirk at her friend, Miranda shifted her stance.  “His protective streak has kicked in and we are the only parents of young ones in the pack at the present.  He is not unaware of my ambitions; however, even I do not think that now is the time.  So it is merely a social power play instead of a political one.  We’ve had Darius and the others around.  Quite honest, I think that Irene is relieved.  She never wanted to be a socialite and given our pack’s location and celebrity members, she’s been dropped in it for a long time.”

Nigel gave her a subtle bow.  Taking stock of those around them, he congratulated her.  “Sly dog.”  

Miranda fought the urge to blush knowing that she needed to keep her poker face as she continued to work through her various ambitions.  The twins were already sleeping for long stretches of time and growing so much since they were born, but it seemed that the hormones had not settled within their mother.  All the more reason to keep her political machinations on the back burner for the time being.  The long game required more patience, yet it allowed for building a strong foundation before putting everything on the line.

Shifting mental gears, Miranda checked over her to-do list.  Working a modified schedule meant managing the time in the office, since there was less opportunity to catch up later.  “How's the team?”

Nigel accepted the change easily.  “Your modified schedule gives them all the chance to see you and feel that they are seen.  The days you have taken have all been strategically good ones as you planned.  With the way that we re-structured things, Serena, Cris, and Tyler all look to me since I’m the senior member of the team.  It puts Tyler in a bit of a limbo, but there’s time enough to figure out how to manage that when you are back full time.  He is thriving on the opportunity to be more than an Assistant Director without the full responsibility of my position.  It is a once in a lifetime training ground.”  Nigel shrugged.

Considering the larger Elias-Clark entity, Nigel shared the news about their current CEO.  He wasn’t sure with all of the comings and goings lately, if Miranda had been informed.  “Walter had a heart attack.  I wasn’t sure if you’d been told.  I think it was more of a scare than anything, but I know you are on good terms with him.”  Considering the social niceties of the situation, he suggested.  “I can have Stefanie send him something on your behalf.” 

“Please do.”  Miranda visually scanned the room around them as she finished her thought.  “If he is taking visitors, let me know.”

Checking his watch, Nigel set his empty glass on yet another tray as it went past.  “Ready?”  He clued her in that the time for paying her dues had elapsed.  She tucked her hand in his arm and let him lead her on another route of socializing on the way out.

When the car pulled up at her building, she turned to Nigel.  “Help me, Nigel.  Jeremy wants a puppy.  I told him I just had twins and don’t want triplets.  He laughed, but I might put him in the yard if I go home and there is a dog.”

Nigel teased his friend, “Should I warn him?”

Miranda waved him off as she got out of the car.  “Don’t you dare.”

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  11/?      

“What did you end up telling him?”  Andrea put their bags in the trunk sensing her mother’s frustration.

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and slipped back into the car.  “Did you lock the front door?”  She asked as Andrea climbed in the passenger seat and buckled in.  They were running late, but hopefully so was everyone else.  The weather had been insane.  New York had the worst Nor’easter in years and a huge blizzard.  They were still writing about it and the month was almost over.  

“I checked the back and the garage as well.”  Andrea reassured her mother.  “Now what did you tell him?”  Generally Zachary was a great brother though his curious and observant nature had begun to cause problems with having to keep their wolf side a secret.  Not for the first time, she wondered how her father would have handled it with three wolves in the house.

Elizabeth sighed as she kept her eyes on the road.  “Thank goodness, it really is George’s birthday party and he was asking for Zachariah.  I’m not sure how other families handle this.  I don’t see why we can’t tell our immediate family.  It puts an undue hardship on the family.”

Andy sighed.  “Well, except for mandatory gatherings, if you want I will stay with him in the future.  I could just run a bit in the backyard once he goes to sleep.”

Checking her watch at the red light, Elizabeth hissed.  “I didn’t want to be late.  Not after Bertram’s scene last time.”

Giving a chuckle, Andrea waved that concern off.  “If Peter doesn’t handle him, then I will well and truly put him in his place.  He has had public warning.”  Taking a few deep breaths as she was trying to keep her equilibrium, Andrea asked, “Did they even punish him?”

Glad for some good news, Elizabeth reached sideways to pat her daughter’s leg.  “Yes.  They did punish him physically the next day and then there were a couple of other restrictions put on him.  Enough that he will probably steer clear of us.  I just don’t want to give any of them an excuse by being late.”

Andrea rested her hand on top of her mother’s and squeezed it encouragingly.  “I’d rather know who our enemies are and face them.”

Elizabeth turned to stare at her daughter in the pause of a red light.  “I don’t want you picking fights, Andrea.”

Meeting her mother’s gaze with her own eyes steady, Andrea shrugged.  “Identifying who is going to give you a difficult time or take the joy out of the meeting is not the same as picking fights.  Additionally, if they strike first, then you are not picking a fight at all.”

The light turned and Elizabeth had to focus on their journey again.  Every minute counted, but her daughter’s safety needed to be determined before they arrived to join the pack holiday gathering.  “Andrea, what did you not tell me about the pack?”  She infused every bit of mother into her voice knowing it did not have the same effect as a Pack Alpha or a dominant mate, but mother still held a very respectable third place in the authority-of-voice arena.

Having avoided telling this story for a month, Andrea cursed herself for forgetting to avoid mentioning any leading details to rouse her mother’s interest.  She didn’t want to cause trouble in the pack, especially knowing her father’s fate and that it could/would drastically impact her mother.  At the same time, Andrea was not going to let anyone think that they could be the boss of her when they had no authority and not even the skill or strength to back it up.  Andrea had wanted to leave it amongst the teenagers, though her subconscious must have thought otherwise.

“When we were running in smaller groups at the end of the night, Vera tried to assert her dominance.”  Andrea paused letting that sentence speak for itself.  There was no need for details, especially since there had been no need to call for help or any truly lingering injuries.  “Anyway.  I know you don’t want me fighting, just like at school, but if someone jumps on my head and tries to bite me more than once?  Well, I’m going to make sure they know not to get in my personal bubble.”

Breathing deeply to stave off the lecture that wanted to surface, Elizabeth acknowledged that as a high school junior going into second semester, her daughter was nearer to adulthood than childhood.  The resulting disagreement between them would be pointless and not the kind of friction they needed between them heading into a potentially tense pack situation.  “I’m surprised I haven’t heard from Ms. Santos.  She wasn’t injured was she?”

Accepting what her mother did not say and the severity of Vera bringing her mother into it, Andrea assured her mother.  “No.  No.  Just like with Bertram.  I used enough force to be clear, but not to cause damage.  She would be the guilty one by far if this was brought before Fred or Peter.”

Taking the off ramp that they needed, Elizabeth was careful on the curve knowing that if the temperature dropped any further they’d have ice to deal with.  “Keep it that way.”

Smiling at the thought, Andrea shared the last scene of the story.  “In fact, when we returned in the morning, Hector was busy cursing her level of idiocy. I quote, ‘what the fuck were you thinking?  You can’t challenge her, she has control and skill that you don’t have, so leave her alone.’  I don’t know what he means exactly or what I did to show I’m special to him, but I’ll take it.  I just want to focus on college entrance and keeping my grades up.”

Elizabeth debated whether or not to tell her daughter what had done it and whether that information would be more or less dangerous for her daughter.  She pulled up against the curb to park behind Fred’s truck.

When they came to a stop, Andrea decided to add another detail.  “You know what I told them?  I told them that in another year I’m out of here.  I don’t want to be anyone’s boss, but I’m not your bitch.”

When her daughter began to open the car door, Elizabeth motioned for her to wait.  “Andrea, your ability to shift back and forth between your forms that close to the full moon and in an aggravated state?  Well, that is what has everyone wanting to prove themselves to you like Vera, or keep you at a safe distance like Hector.  To be able to change at will, regardless of the moon, is a rare trait and generally signals a powerful wolf.”

Shocked, Andrea asked, “Really?”

Reaching out, Elizabeth squeezed her daughter’s leg.  “Be careful, okay?”

With a nod, Andrea shared the moment with her mother before they got out to face the pack.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  12/?      


“Miranda?”  Nigel slipped into the office and closed the door.  “What are you doing here?”  He murmured to himself as he approached the editor who was slumped on her desk.

Upon close inspection, Nigel noticed a trail of drool down to the glass surface of her desk.  He cursed silently to himself and tried to figure out the best approach for this situation.  Glancing around, Nigel returned to the door and opened it.  Instead of slipping out, he pretended to be on the way in and called her name louder than usual.  “Miranda?”  He pretended to be distracted by something behind him and then closed the door in order to give her a chance to sit up and wipe her mouth.

Crossing her office, Nigel poured them both a glass of water and then sat in the chair across from her desk.  “Have you seen Walter’s email?”  It wasn’t really worth rushing over, but it was important enough to use as a device to discover why she was here and then to get the papers that he needed from her desk.

Moving her mouse, Miranda dove into her email without a word.  It was good that she could buy time searching, while she tried to return from the fog of what must have been a much needed nap.  “He’s retiring.”  Her expressionless words hid a rapidly escalating and revolving set of questions, scenarios and contingencies.  “Better this year than last year.”  She made it as positive as she could in the moment.  “Nigel, what are you doing here?”  She realized that he must have come into her office and caught her sleeping; otherwise he would have closed the door.  Walter’s email was not a secret--it was a company-wide announcement that the search would begin for his replacement and that a plan was in place.

Catching her underlying meaning, Nigel blushed slightly and took a drink of water.  “I came in for those cover shots.  I wanted them ready for you Monday morning.”  Setting the glass down, he pushed forward with his first thought upon seeing her in the office.  “What are you doing here, Miranda?”

Fighting the urge to dive back into her email and dismiss him, Miranda closed her eyes against sudden tears.  “How do people do this, Nigel?”

Pushing his glasses into place out of habit, her friend quietly asked, “Find the balance, you mean?”  When she nodded at him, he added, “And stay sane?”

A single tear slid down Miranda’s cheek.  “I love them, Nigel, beyond reason.  Jeremy dotes on all of us.  I can tell he is as exhausted as I am.”  Her blue eyes sought out his dark ones looking for a friend.

Smiling widely in acceptance, Nigel softly said, “Let me guess.  If they can be awake instead of asleep, then they are.  When awake they are in motion and when they are in motion, they are climbing where they are not safe and sticking every thing every where that it should not be:  sucking on coins, raisins in the nose, anything in a light socket.  You love them, but you want to protect them which is more than a full time job and when they rest you try to, but there is always something to be done and they never rest long enough for you to truly get any relief.”

Her eyebrow rose to ask the question for her.

“No, I don’t have a hidden brood of children.  I do have a large family with a variety of ages that have had children over the years.  When they get together they share those kinds of stories as if there is nothing else in the world to talk about.”  Nigel shuddered.  “It is both torture and adorable.  They needed that from each other as the little ones walked and talked and climbed and ate and potty trained.”

Miranda let out a deep breath at finding that she was not alone in her experience, even if in her stubbornness to talk about it and ask for help she had made herself alone.  “Thank you, Nigel.”  She wiped at her eyes just in case a treacherous teardrop decided to fall.

“Take a nap.  Go home.  We are on the verge of summer.  The pack will support you as much as you will let them and you know it.  You’ve seen how they react every time you’ve brought them.  You’d be doing them a favor almost more than yourself.  Take work with you if you need to, but stay out there in our retreat territory for a chunk of time.  They’ll be two in September and see how the time has already flown by?”

Miranda nodded at his words, “Jeremy reminds me that while it’s tough, they will never be this age again.”  She waved at the photo on her desk, replaced frequently the way a rotating collection changed images.  “They are my beautiful babies.”

Motioning to her and the desk, he said, “Let me have those covers.  Take a nap.  I’ll be back in two hours?”  When he saw her nod his head, he continued, “I’ll come get you and we can head home.”

Crossing her office and then slipping out of her shoes, Miranda thought of the summer retreat.  “Do you really think I should spend a lot of time in the Poconos?”

At first, Nigel thought she was referring to the extra time her bobsey’s would be around the pack.  Then he realized that she had avoided the summer grounds as much as she could the previous year.  “Have you had any more visions of her?”  He asked quietly so she could pretend not to hear him if she wanted to take back her own question.

Miranda tucked herself against the back of the office couch and hugged the throw pillow.  For several long seconds she did not answer.  “I keep having these fleeting images or flashes of emotion.  I guess she’s a teenager and going through the ups and downs of becoming part of the pack and school.  She’s this happy presence in my life that just exists and I am comforted by the thought of her existence.  Yet I have no idea what it is all supposed to mean and I have no idea if she has any concept of my potential role in her life.”

Nigel flicked the lights off and considered his reply.  “I can only assume that the moon knew you would need the knowledge of each other, even though you are too far apart in living to be close to each other right now.”  He paused trying to work out how he would describe it in his own mind.  “Think of her like a photograph that you know is important, but that you don’t quite have the story yet, but you know that it is coming.  And you know that the moon has made it so.”  Nigel whispered the last part as he was uncertain about speaking of the moon in such a way.  They were not religious in general; however, there was this link to the moon that they could not ignore.  It had become a way of speaking, but he was never very sure of himself and certainly didn’t want to jinx anything.

He closed the door quietly when Miranda settled further into her wrapped up position.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  13/?      

Confused about being told that she had a visitor, Andrea left the Arts and Crafts lodge to head over to Arrivals.  No one really knew she was here besides her family, and even then the people that knew she was working another summer at the camp didn’t know where it was located.  With a feeling of foreboding, Andrea came down the stairs that connected Upper Camp to Lower camp where the main buildings and parking lot were located.  Seeing the curly dark haired boy with olive skin that she had spent more than enough time trying to like more than she should have, Andrea paused at the top of the steps.  He had not seen her yet, so he didn’t notice the obvious eye roll or herculean effort she had to make in order to attempt to be okay greeting him.  He also missed the fortitude with which she set her jaw for the upcoming dismissal she knew she would have to deliver with absolute clarity.

Not bothering to greet him, Andrea scolded, “You shouldn’t have come here.”  She could not believe Nate had showed up unannounced when she had expressly told him not too.  Their break up was fairly recent, though she had been rather direct in outlining what friends with her would mean in the sense of we’re not dating anymore.  Besides, the summer camp was far away and completely disconnected from her life on purpose.  “I told you I’d see you when I got back.”

Holding up his visitor’s pass, Nate tried to distract her with goofiness.  “Look, I already checked in and everything.”

Andrea folded her arms across her chest, “No.  Nate.  Just no.”  

Nate smiled the scruffy way he always used to get his way.  “Andy, Andy, Andy.  Come on.  I came all this way.  They told me you even had a day off starting after dinner.”

Andrea took a deep breath and just nodded in disappointment.  “See this.  This is part of your problem, Nate.  I told you I just want to be friends.  I asked you to respect that and let me have what is probably my last summer here.  You couldn’t do that.  You had to track down the address and show up unannounced, which is disrespectful to me and pretty creepy.”  She shook her head in disbelief when his expression clearly did not accept what she was telling him.  “Ignoring what people tell you and just assuming you can fill their time is not going to win people over in the long run.”

Hurt crossing his face, Nate’s face scrunched up as he pleaded.  “But Andy.  I wouldn’t see you for months.  I just wanted to hang out at the lake with you or whatever you guys do for kicks around here.”

Rubbing the heel of her hand against her eye, Andrea thought, I turn into a wolf and go running through the forest under the light of a full moon .  Knowing she needed to use words out loud, Andrea tried again.  “You’ve had a long drive and need to stretch your legs.  How about this, I’ll show you around a bit now and then you can sit at my table for dinner, before you leave.”

Outraged, Nate exclaimed, “Leave?  You’re sending me home?”

Andrea puffed her cheeks for visual accentuation of her current feelings.  “Tour.  Dinner.  Going home is up to you, but yes, you need to leave.”

Not getting his way was new for Nate and his irritation was clear.  “Unbelievable.  I thought we were friends, Andy.” 

Wishing she could knock him down, shift, and hold his throat in her jaws to make her point, Andrea took a deep breath.  Losing your temper on a full moon has been proven to be dangerous business.  It was part of why the first summer of pack bonding was so intense.  They tested you over and over in different conditions.  Thankfully, two summers of wolf boot camp had served their purpose.  “No, you thought you’d come up and turn this into date night.  You were hoping that a break away from you had changed my mind.  You are not behaving like a friend.  You are behaving like a jilted lover.”

Nate stamped his foot.  “I am a jilted lover.”

Stepping over to him with a speed that startled him, Andrea yanked the visitor’s badge from the yarn string around his neck.  “You showed up unannounced and as a friend I compromised to spend some time with you.  You’d stretch your legs a bit after a long drive, have some dinner and then take your leave.  Instead, you want to have a tantrum and try to make me the bad guy.  Leave now, Nate.  It is not up to me where you go, but you do need to leave.”

When Nate made no move to leave.  Andrea checked around them to see if anyone was nearby.  When Nate made a grab for the visitor badge in her hand, Andrea called out.  “Hey, Lex.  Can you have the team come out?  Nate needs to leave.”

Lifting their walkie-talkie, Lex kept eyes on Andrea and the young man with her.  “Ad staff, this is Lex.  You’re needed in the arrivals area.  Over.”  Walking closer, Lex paused within easy reach of either person, while still trying to not escalate the situation.  “They are on the way, Andrea.”  Lex hoped that it would not become physical.  Groups of kids were always passing near arrivals on their way about the camp.  “Dude.  If she says you should leave, then just get outta here.”  

Staring hard at Andrea, Nate barely noticed Lex’s presence.  “Andy.” He ground out.

A perky voice full of authority called out greetings from the main hall.  “Hey, Lex.  Oh.  Andrea.  How are you today?”  The acting was over the top, but served the purpose for the situation.  The loud voice of the camp director easily snapped Nate’s attention toward her even as she stepped closer.  “It appears that you need to leave.”  The other two not far behind her added more inertia to the fact that Nate needed to leave.

Seeing the three older adults coming his way, Nate glanced around him almost as if coming out of a spell.  He took a menacing step toward Lex that had Andrea pushing him with strength her human half shouldn’t have had.  “Get going.”  She fairly growled as he stumbled back several steps.

By the time Nate had thought of a retort or readied himself to physically respond, the directors and the lifeguard had joined Lex and Andrea as the leaving party.

“The next call is to the police.  Get going.”  The director firmly and calmly gave Nate his next step.

Knowing he was outnumbered, Nate turned in a huff to his car.  Once there, he slammed his car door and rolled down the window.  He backed up and then began his long drive wherever he was going.  His hand came out of the window and his middle finger came up.

The trio ignored him, physically turning to circle up with Andrea and Lex.  “You two alright?”

Andrea forced a smile and patted Lex on the arm.  “Thanks for calling the troops.  I’m all right, but the only visitors allowed for me are my mother and Peter Abraham, our close family friend.”

The director nodded, “Sure thing, Andrea.  Lex, how about you?  He tried to step up to you.”  The director’s eyes lingered over the androgynous assistant cook.

Lex grinned delighted with the moment.  “Andrea’s my super hero.  Did you see that push?”  Lex reached to squeeze Andrea’s upper arm.  “Steel, I tell you.”

Rolling their eyes at Lex’s antics, the group laughed.  Andrea broke into the moment, “Can I use the camp phone?  I need to make sure my family knows that he is not welcome.”

The director waved his arm in the direction of the office.  “You go ahead.  We’ll stay and chat here for a few minutes to give you a bit of privacy.”

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  14/?      

Nigel filled his plate with a fresh burger from the grill and surveyed the pack in ‘end of summer’ relaxation mode.  A group toward the far fence was playing horseshoes.  The twins were with Irene making bubbles using a circle of yarn and a bucket of soapy water.  They were delighted to chase her large bubbles and frustrated that their own didn’t seem to work.  He saw one of the girls reach her hand into the soapy water and grimaced at the thought of her arm and Miranda’s car on the way home.  He supposed that she had packed accordingly and it was only Saturday.  They would be squeaky clean by the time they headed home on Monday.

“Penny for them?”  Nigel asked as he settled in next to Miranda at the picnic table.

Miranda took a long pull from her beer and set it empty on the table.  “Yesterday I was complaining about not finding a balance and how little they were.”  She waved her arm toward Caroline and Cassidy.  “Now they are off to school and after a bit of adjustment they love it.  Here, they don’t even look back.”  

The wistful joy in Miranda’s voice caught Nigel’s attention.  “You have found that elusive balance.”  He mused.  “The girls go to work and so do you and Jeremy.”

Miranda closed her eyes and let her head fall forward enough that her hair fell into her face.  

Nigel quietly said her name in question.

In a recognizable calming mannerism, Miranda drew herself up into the formidable persona that he associated with the corridors of Runway and not the woman he had been friends with before either of them even had looked at Runway.  With an empty half smile, Miranda glanced at him and then away and around the gathering.  “Jeremy is leaving.  As you said, we finally found our balance and when we had a moment to stop and be that loving couple that started all of this.”  She sniffed and poked at the empty beer bottle.  “We don’t recognize who those people were anymore.”

Nigel considered his friend, how people handle emotions, and the pack.  “Does Darius know?”

With a slow nod, Miranda replied, “Yes.  He has agreed to let us have an adjustment time as far as being at gatherings together, but only temporarily.  We will adjust.  There’s no fighting.”  She floundered for words for long seconds.  “It’s like when you don’t know you’re asleep and then you wake up and realize you were in fact asleep.  We thought we were still in love and we thought that for a long time, I suppose.  Then we woke up and realized that we weren’t.  I think we are both sad because it had to have happened in the last five years and we were both there, but neither of us know what happened exactly.”

Taking his garbage and her empty bottle, he offered, “Want another?”  With her nod, he was away.

Setting her bottle by her hand, Nigel tucked into the picnic table again.  “And so we adjust.”

Miranda clinked her bottle against his when she took a sip.  “What about you, Nige?”  She asked gently.

Shrugging Nigel indicated that there was nothing to report.  “You know ever since Xavier…  I just haven’t wanted to get out there.  He would be a hard act to follow, even if I wouldn’t want him back, he’d still be difficult to come after.  I need to be away from that for long enough that the comparison fades.  I don’t want to waste my time or theirs.”  Nigel smiled.  “Here they come.  Are you running tonight?”

Nodding Miranda moved to greet her girls.  “After they go to sleep, I can join you.”

Caroline ran over giggling.  “Did you see?  Did you see, mommy?”  

Deftly, Miranda wrapped her daughter in her arms for a squeeze before shifting her sideways, so she could greet her younger by three minutes daughter.  “You were marvelous, Caroline.”

With her sticky hand, Cassidy was tugging on Nigel’s pant leg.  “Mr. Nigel.  Why were you late?”  She scolded him for not arriving with them the night before.

Smirking over at Miranda, Nigel grinned before pulling the youngster up onto his lap.  “My boss told me there were things I had to finish before I left for the weekend.”

Tucking Caroline onto her lap, Miranda leaned back against the table sitting next to where Nigel had turned to greet the girls as well.  “Don’t you work with mommy?”  Caroline asked him with a shrewd expression on her face.

Laughing, Nigel nodded, “I do indeed.”

Patting her mother’s cheek, Cassidy nearly fell from Nigel’s lap.  “Can we go eat with Irene?  She promised us corn on the cob?”

Capturing her little grubby hand, Miranda kissed the palm.  “Off you go then.”  She gave Caroline a tight hug and kissed her cheek from the side as she squealed with delight.

On the ground again, the pair ran over to where Irene already had their plates ready.

“Thank god, Irene wanted to be a grandmother.”  Miranda waved to the older woman and smiled.

Nigel tilted his head toward a group closer to the house.  “Who are they?”

Miranda glanced that direction and away again.  “Potential new recruits.  They are unaligned.  Could just be passing through.”

Nigel gave them another look over and then turned to face his companion.  “Could be strength in befriending them first?”  He mused aloud.  “Further your cause later.”

Miranda curled her lip, “One of them.  Stephen something or other.”  She growled.  “Tried to flirt with me.”

With a shout of laughter, Nigel took a drink from his beer.  “You are an attractive woman and a powerful wolf.”

Miranda killed him with her look, but it didn’t work.  “He doesn’t even know if he’s staying.  Why would I give him the time of day.”

Waggling his eyebrows, Nigel said, “Animal attraction.”

Disgusted and amused, Miranda objected to this joke.  “I am going to bite you.”

Giggling, Nigel finished his beer and set it down on the table.  The sun set and the glow of the day began to fade.  Those playing horseshoes packed it in and returned to the main gathering or went inside.  The girls were covered in BBQ sauce and Irene and Darius were wiping them down and buying their cooperation with the promise of a Popsicle.  Early shifters would be feeling the moon in their blood stronger now, while the others could savor the build up a while longer.

Weaknesses were rarely spoken of in the public spaces of the pack, though they all knew them and watched the others all the same.  Sometime after your first transition either family or a pack mentor gave you the breakdown.  Those who couldn’t resist the shift were weaker than those who could wait perhaps indefinitely on a full moon.  The earlier you had to shift on a full moon, the weaker you were considered.  If you did not have to shift or only for a short period of the night, then you were considered a strong wolf.  If you could shift at will even on a full moon, then you were top tier.

Nigel glanced over.  “Any early risers in the group?”

Miranda pursed her lips trying not to be amused.  “We shall see.  Another reason to not flirt right away.”

They bumped shoulders and laughed the way that long time friends do.

“You haven’t mentioned her in a long time.”  Nigel murmured.

Frowning, Miranda kept her voice low, “It’s been six years, Nigel.  Whatever that was seems to be in a deep sleep.  You were the one that told me not to worry about it.  She could be living two streets or two states away and I wouldn’t know until it was time.”

Acknowledging that truth, Nigel inquired, “Do you still have visions of her?”

Her blue eyes flaring with a certain wildness, Miranda slowly smiled.  “Yes.  Always these flashes here and there.  Never enough for a story, but milestones?”  Her hands came up in a questioning gesture.  “Age will always separate us.  I think she will more than equal me in power.”

Nigel pressed his hand on Miranda’s with a squeeze.  “Amazing.”  He thought it was as well.  For Miranda to find her equal and to have this romantic story behind it, well, it was the thing of legends.  Mooncalled. He could hardly believe it or wait for the time to be right.

 

Next...

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  15/?      

“Can you believe this apartment?”  Lily handed Andrea a Dr. Pepper and then flopped down on their couch.  “I thought it would be so hopeless to find our own place, but here we are.”

Andrea held her soda up in a salute to agree with her friend’s statement.  “I had faith in you.”  Are we just friends?  We are more, but that is definitely the word that came to my mind.   Andrea shook her head and scooted closer.  “You found a wonderful place.”  Leaning forward, she claimed Lily’s lips in a familiar kiss and then sat sideways to face her friend.  My friend that I kiss.  She admitted to herself.

“Who was that guy at the coffee shop last week?  I kept meaning to ask you, but it’s been so busy.”  Lily intertwined their fingers enjoying their closeness.

Rolling her eyes, Andrea set the Dr. Pepper on the coffee table.  “We dated in high school and broke up at the end of senior year.”  She leaned against the back of the couch, knowing that she would have to explain or Lily wouldn’t let it go.

“You dated him?”  Lily thought about the scruffy dark haired guy she had spotted talking to Andrea.  “He’s kind of cute, I guess.  But wait, you said high school?”  Lily fixed her slightly shocked expression on Andrea.  “Did you know he goes to Northwestern?”

Toying with Lily’s fingers in her own lap, Andrea wondered if this closeness was a mistake.  There were parts of herself that Andrea knew she couldn’t give and she wondered if it was similar to her reluctance with Nate or different.  “We were going to come here together.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t accept that I wanted to be friends.  That was the summer before I came up here to Chicago.  I knew we would be in different programs, different dorms, and that Northwestern was a big campus.  I was pretty worried that first term, but I only saw him once last year and then last week.”

Lily tucked her fingertips under Andrea’s chin and urged her to make eye contact.  Leaning in for a sweet kiss, Lily pulled away before it could get too heated.  “Is that why you won’t be exclusive with me?  Because you also date men?”  Her eyes searched Andrea’s face and her roommate sat up in sudden alertness.

Taking Lily’s hand in both of hers, Andrea squeezed it gently.  “Lily, I don’t know how to explain it.  You know I’ve tried before.  There’s just something that has me holding back.  Every time I’ve tried to date, there’s just something that doesn’t quite click.  I have had good times, made some friends, learned, explored, and just never have been able to fully go into everything with another person.”  Kissing the back of Lily’s hand, Andrea let her pull back.  “We became such good friends and I like being with you, cuddling, kissing, more.”  Andrea blushed along with Lily.  “However, I know that there’s some part of me locked away.  I never wanted to hurt you and thought you understood.  We can just be friends and roommates.  I don’t want to lose you, Lily.”

Lily scooted close and threw her leg over Andrea’s.  “Oh, no, no.  You won’t lose me, Andrea.  I just, it’s that I kind of understand, but at the same time I don’t.  I like what we have and I would be more with you, but I know you said you can’t go there.  You need the space because there is something you can’t really explain.”  Waggling her eyebrows at her paramour, Lily added, “Besides, I can’t imagine exploring all this polyamory stuff with anyone else.  You are my net.”

Andrea pulled Lily into her for a kiss and then a tight hug.  After several long moments, she leaned backwards until they were both cuddled together on the couch.  Kisses led to touches led to breathless highs that sent each into a blissful state of repose.

This is good.  Not perfect, but good.  Lily is my friend and more.  We are good together .  Andrea breathed deeply as she heard Lily doze off into a light slumber.  Slipping away from the couch, Andrea grabbed the quilt she had brought from home at the end of the summer this year knowing that she was coming back to an apartment and not just the dorms.

Why does the part of me that feels locked up seem to be guarded by that almost all black wolf?  That was six years ago.  I was a child and the whole encounter lasted maybe five minutes.  Andrea carried a box into her room and then came back for another.  If she was unpacked completely by the time Lily’s nap was over, then she could help her unpack later.

I haven’t even been back to the Poconos for three years.  I loved it there.  In fact, I’d love to go for a run there.  Those were wonderful woods to explore.  Unpacking into the beat up dresser they had found at a garage sale, Andrea continued to let her mind wander.  Was that black wolf from there?  If I went back, could I trace her?  We were never back there at the same time.  I wonder if we missed each other or her regular territory is somewhere else?

I wonder why I wonder?   Andrea scolded herself.  So what if I have had visions from time to time of a black wolf with that amazing white ear and eye patch and fantastic foreleg.  So what if I felt as though it was on the journey with me?  It was just a coping mechanism I came up with after my first transition.  I know nothing about her.  She could be a horrible person or married or both.

Except I know she’s real.  That memory is crystal clear in my mind and thoughts of her never leave my mind for long.  I feel like I have missed so much time with her.  Important moments that we could have shared.   Andrea wiped at her face as she realized tears had welled up without her realizing.

What am I crying about?  As much as I feel like I’m missing out on sharing our lives, I know that we will eventually.  And I do enjoy my time with Lily.  It’s kind of complicated, but it’s nice.  College and growing are important.  This is where I need to be, even if I also want to be there.  Andrea rolled her eyes at her thoughts.  Wherever there is.  She snidely chided herself.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  16/?      

“Nigel.”  Miranda stood just to the side of him at the bar.  The day had stretched out to be interminably long with crushing Irving Ravitz, the assistant having some kind of fit and walking out, the shows that ran into each other, and now finding Nigel to repair the damage.  Though from his posture, perhaps there would be no healing tonight.  Hopefully, there could be a stop to the damage at least.

She had settled on the stool next to him and ordered a whisky.  It was silent for long moments.

“Miranda.”  At long last, Nigel half turned toward her and clinked his glass against her own.  His eyes did not meet hers and then he was facing the bar again signaling for another before he downed the last swallow.

“I was out of play, Nigel.”  Miranda spoke low, but knew he could hear her.

“Doesn’t take the sting away when you don’t even tell me there’s a problem.”  Nigel would not give her the moment.  Irving Ravitz was always up to something, so was Jacqueline for that matter--yet, here he was blindsided when they had a real plan to worry about.

“A hint of something here, an out of place detail there, a knowing look between conspirators, it was all so much of a patchwork of guesses, Nigel.  I had nothing to bring you until it was too late.  I was already on the stage after the handshake.”  Miranda wondered if she would break from the stress of it all.  Displays of emotion had disappeared after Jeremy left her and she rebuilt her life to withstand attack from every front.  

“Yes.  You were up there.  Stabbing me in the back while I was sitting there with a smile on my face.”  Nigel took a deep swallow from his glass.  “My god, Miranda.”  

The tears formed in her eyes and she didn’t fight them.  Reaching toward him, she let her hand land on the bar next to his sleeve.  “I am sorry, Nigel.”

Facing her, Nigel let his eyes roam her face taking in the words she had said, her demeanor, and so many details and hints that were left unspoken.  Assured of her sincerity and knowing his friend, he accepted her truth and that it had been or seemed to have been the only way to foil Irving.  “I think you are.”  He brought his drink in front of him.  “Is he out of the way for now?”

Nodding, Miranda took a sip from her glass.  “He will have to re-group and come from another angle.”

Clinking his glass to hers, Nigel prodded.  “Next time a hint that something is rank in the state of Denmark, please.”  Shaking his head after savoring his drink, he added, “If you run the pack like this, I’m moving to Los Angeles.”

Knocking back her drink, Miranda waved for another.  “You don’t have to worry on that front.  Every factor of my life is a shambles.”

Startled with this outburst, Nigel focused on his difficult friend once more.  “What are you talking about?”

Tapping her pointer finger on the bar, Miranda said, “Runway as you know is under the gun from Irving.  Then Olivia walked out after the luncheon.  I think she threw her phone in the fountain.”  Miranda shook her head in disgust.  “The nerve.  We were talking in the car, and then I got out and went up the steps to the show.  I turned to ask her a question.”  Miranda snapped her fingers.  “She was all the way over there and I know she threw something.”

Nigel waited knowing that his friend would finally be getting the overdue information out in the open. 

“I think she had a crush on you, Nigel.  I could tell she was devastated for you.”  Miranda mused on the motivations of her assistant for long moments and then shrugged.  “Stephen served his divorce papers through the fax machine.  I didn’t even know that was legal.  So there’s no running the pack whatsoever.”  She lifted her arm with her palm down and then flared her hand up, palm out for the briefest of moments before letting it fall to the bar top.  It was a rather vivid send off gesture to the future.

“Darius isn’t fit to be pack leader in the wake of Irene’s death.  He is half the man he was.”  Nigel whispered words that they had already gone over a hundred times in planning for the future.  “There will be juggling for the top position.  We talked about this being the moment you were waiting for.”

Shaking her head, Miranda agreed and then pointed out why the moment had passed already.  “Stephen was not an ideal mate to co-lead the pack, but he is in good standing.  With our divorce and his recent grumblings.  No.  He was a mistake from start to finish.  I’ll never know what I saw in him.  If I pushed for leadership now, it could be civil war.  With Stephen to undermine me, Rose would have every chance of trying to do me in.  If she wins, then I won’t have another chance for a long time and that is assuming the fight is not to the death.”

Nigel considered her words for long moments.  “Serena from the Beauty department is considering joining the pack.”

Miranda tilted her head to regard her colleague.  “What are you thinking?”

Seeming to weigh his words, Nigel kept an air of mystery.  “She has a girlfriend, Emily--who loves fashion.”

Rolling her eyes at her friend, Miranda chided him. “Come on, Nigel.  Just tell me.”

Fixing a steady look on her, he asked, “And you’ll tell me from now on?”  He grinned at her when she nodded solemnly.  “Emily becomes your new assistant.  They join the pack with strong connections to us.  A loyalty even, if you will.  One that Rose could never touch.”

Taking his hand in hers, Miranda gives it a loving squeeze.  She knows that there are still rough edges between them, but that the core of their friendship has remained strong.  “Well, you have brought back hope to Runway with a potential assistant.  A wolf at that?  You’re so right, I should talk to you more.”  She gave him an arch look that dissolved into laughter between them.

“Stephen is no real loss as you know.”  Nigel returned the arch look and enjoyed the short sad laugh between them.  The damage he could do within the pack was real though Nigel thought that they would have the numbers if it came down to a fight between the two of them.  The wildcard in that would be Rose and her faction of the pack.  Would she choose to align herself with Stephen simply to sink Miranda or would she be selfish enough to go for her own success in the middle of their domestic dispute.

“Besides, you have someone better out there, Miranda.  The Moon doesn’t just call on people, the way a crank caller would.”  Nigel turned to face her again wondering if she had any updates on the mysterious young brunette.

“Remember when you said that she could be in New York City and I’d never even know?”  Miranda was simultaneously thrilled and nervous to say this out loud.  “I think she has come to the city, Nigel.  I could swear that when we were walking Patricia last week in Central Park that I caught her scent among all the others.  I probably was seeing things, but I swear there was a brunette across the area from us.  Can you even imagine?  How could I possibly remember her scent after all these years, let alone pick it out of all those scents in Central Park?”  Both of their noses curled at the thought.  Blocking scents to live in the city was similar to how Superman must have to block sounds from his hearing and so on.  It truly was superhuman or supernatural.

“Here’s to hope.” Nigel held up his glass.

Holding her own glass aloft, Miranda admitted, “Hope, my god, Nigel.  I live on it.”



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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  17/?      

“I’m so glad you could come with me tonight, baby.”  She turned to press her lover against the car where they had parked at the end of all the other cars.  “I want to run with you so bad.”  She murmured in between kisses.

“Why don’t we start now?”  Andrea asked as she nipped at her lover’s neck and slipped wandering hands up under fabric and down behind it as well.  She might have been pressed against the car, but she was far from being helpless in any sense of the word.  “We could just find a spot.  I hear a stream.  You don’t mind leaves in your hair, do you, baby?”

Reluctantly pulling back, the raven haired beauty tugged her younger lover with her.  “I brought you to meet the pack.  It would be such a delight for you to run with us.”

Flirting, Andrea teased, “Then let’s go find them before I ravish you right here.”

Stealing another kiss, the older woman pulled away.  “Why didn’t I find you before?  You are such a delight.”

Stepping into the circle of light in the backyard, Andrea took in the overall shape and make up of the pack.  There were two girls about fifth grade playing next to a bald man who was talking to a woman with distinctly white hair.  An angry fellow who reminded Andrea of her home pack’s drunk, Bertram was staring daggers at the woman from his smaller group of five on the left.  Sweeping toward the right, Andrea thought she could pick out the master of the pack just by visual cues alone.  It was strange to see another pack and try to decipher it based on minute impressions.  There were others scattered about.  Her lover had made perfunctory introductions until they reached her friend, Luisa.  Andrea remembered her from the night that she had picked up Rose at the club.  They were both attractive, and from time to time, Andrea wondered whether something could be worked out between the three of them or not.  Her lover had been rather possessive so far when they were out, so Andrea had not been able to find out yet.  Maybe tonight .  Andrea mused to herself.  

“Luisa, beautiful as always.”  Andrea greeted her with a kiss only to be pulled back against her lover’s body.  She laughed at the reaction.  “Whoa, lover.”  She soothed her as she stroked her hand over the arm wrapped around her from behind.

“I’m introducing Andrea to Darius tonight.”  Andrea’s lover announced in a gloating tone.

“Are you going to join us, Andrea?”  Luisa shifted her gaze from her happy friend to the younger brunette.

Shaking her head in the negative, Andrea offered, “I’m just here to run.  We’ll see what else happens.”

Pulling Andrea with her, the raven haired woman invited, “Luisa. Come with us.”  In a low tone, she whispered to Andrea, “Darius' wife died earlier this year.  He is still in mourning.”

Stopping abruptly, Andrea held her lover tight.  “We aren’t here on a battle night, are we?”  Andrea thought she kept the growl from her voice, but from the expression on her lover’s face, she didn't quite succeed.  “I am not part of this pack and shouldn’t be here if that is what's going on.”

Glancing over her lover’s shoulder, the raven haired beauty shook her head and focused on Andrea once again.  “No, not tonight.  Might be soon, but not tonight.”

Andrea stepped in the direction they had been going,  “Okay.  Let’s go then.”

Weaving their fingers together, the older woman practically bounced over to her pack master.  “Darius, I’d like for you to meet my lovely, Andrea.”  Shifting her focus to her lover, she added, “Andrea, this is our pack master, Darius.”  She paused as they shook hands, then continued introductions next to a somewhat shorter woman.  “And this is his lieutenant, Uma.”  Once they shook hands, it was time for small talk.  “Andrea is originally from Ohio.”

Darius smiled, “They’ve got some beautiful places to run.  What brought you to New York then?”

Winking at the older man, Andrea joked, “Well, it’s not modeling, acting, or dancing.  I’d sure like to have one of my articles on the front page of The Times though.”

Grinning at her easy going demeanor, Darius wondered what the future would hold.  This strong younger woman would be a fine addition to the pack.  He wondered if she would get along with Serena and Emily.  Finding them, Darius motioned with his head, “There’s our publishing group there.  Miranda, Nigel, Serena, and Emily all work for a magazine.”  He waved off the title as unimportant to him.  “You should talk later.”  He coughed at the outraged look coming from the woman’s rival and Andrea’s date.

Andrea let her eyes wander over to the group that the pack master had indicated.  The bald man was still there talking to the white haired woman, but now they had been joined by a blonde and a redhead.  The kids were talking up a storm to their new friends.

The white haired woman turned to survey the crowd and their eyes caught on each other.  Andrea felt her heart hover on the beat and then finally drop back into its customary rhythm.  Those were beautiful blue eyes that had almost flashed gold with the moon for a moment.  Andrea was lost in the other woman even as she moved with her lover and Luisa in the opposite direction.

“I know she’s in your line of work, Andrea, but trust me you want to stay clear of that whole group.  She’s a workaholic bitch who drives men away.”  Rose physically pulled Andrea to look at her.  “You hear me.  She’s nothing but trouble.”  Seeing that she had barely gotten through to her lover, the raven haired woman pointed, “See that man there?”  She pointed quickly and then kind of nodded her head.

Andrea was unsurprised to see her indicating the inebriated fellow who was still staring daggers at the white haired woman’s back.  She wondered what his story was, since he seemed so like Bertram on fleeting first glances.

“She’s driven him away. He hates her now.  Stephen loved her so much.  He pursued her like nothing else.  At first, she wouldn’t have anything to do with him.  He finally got her and then she just ran him into the ground--never coming home from work, ignoring his requests for time with her, spoiling those brats of hers rotten.  That’s why the press calls her the Dragon Lady, the Devil in Prada.  She’s driven away another Mr. Priestley.”

Andrea thought she remembered a headline several months previous.  “Miranda Priestly?”  Andrea asked for confirmation.

“The one and only.  She really thinks she’s the Bee’s Knees.  She’ll see eventually.  There will be at least one challenge ahead of her.”  Working herself into a temper on the full moon night was never a good idea.  “I hope we run soon.”  She pulled Andrea to her for a frantic kiss.

Putting two fingers to his mouth, Darius gave a long loud whistle.  “Let’s go.”  He called out as he began trotting into the darkness.  The others quickly settled their things or tucked them into a sort of bookcase along the back of the house, before jogging after their pack master.

Andrea watched them move.  She had found that it was always good to observe as much as possible.

The white haired woman hustled her kids into the back door of the house.  Her trio of companions waited in an impressive stand off with the ex-husband who swore and then ran after the retreating pack.

“Come on, Andrea.”  Rose’s voice trembled with the sheer joy of turning into a wolf and running under the light of the full moon.

Taking off with the promise of catching her lover, Andrea shifted as soon as she had reached the edge of the darkness.  Turning back, she caught blue eyes watching her from a bedroom window on the east side of the house.  Then her lover and Luisa were bounding playfully over and around her and they were off.

In the morning, if Andrea was sad to have missed speaking to the white haired woman or seeing her wolfish form, well, she didn’t say anything to her lover, Rose.

 

Next...

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  18/?      

Miranda could not read minds.  However, her sense of intuition and ability to read others sometimes gave the impression that she did.  It was not infallible, though in the halls of Runway it had become legendary.  It was whispered that the Dragon Editor knew everything within the walls of their building.  Amused by this, Miranda certainly never corrected them.   How could she?  Wolf status was not for public knowledge, no matter what the press said about her.

Pulling open the folder Nigel would be seeking, Miranda took advantage of her wolf senses pinging her that he was on the way to her office.  Double checking her final selections, Miranda reached for her marker to check the cover sheet and her choices to go back to Nigel and his team.  Closing the folder as he approached her door, she breathed deeply to center herself for the conversation that was to come.

“Andy Sachs.”  Nigel came to a stop in the middle of Miranda’s office.  He didn’t raise his voice knowing that she could hear him.  The second assistant was running errands for the day and Emily had become a steadfast supporter of Miranda both within the pack and here at Runway.  He wondered how they would be able to keep her within the magazine once her tenure as First Assistant was up.  Just as he opened his mouth, Miranda spoke.

“Mooncalled.”  She whispered in a grumbly voice that seemed to be dark water over stones.  “Hope.”  Miranda sighed from somewhere in her heart where the last stash of that elusive emotion had been hidden.  Turning to face him, Miranda did not even try to check the single tear that had escaped and had tried to summon its companions.

“Miranda?”  Nigel hadn’t quite put the pieces together and hated feeling caught out.

The silence loomed in the room threatening to push Nigel out of the door and down the hall.  It was tinged with a sadness that suited the early dark of the day and the first storm of the winter.  Miranda wondered how much worse the hurt could get if she finally put all the thoughts together for her friend.  She loathed the picture that this puzzle made and refused to give it satisfaction for as long as she could.  Hearing Nigel, her good friend, her pack mate, her fellow fashion warrior--hearing him shift uncertain of whether to comfort or retreat.

“How old do you suppose Rose’s new lover is, hmm?  How old is Andrea Sachs?”  Miranda elongated the name into what she thought would be it’s true form.  “What do we know about her?”

Uncertain of this line of questioning, Nigel thought over the time he had met the other woman.  “She’s mid-twenties, I suppose.  She’s out of college, Northwestern actually.”  Nigel was glad that he had gleaned that much information.  He was certain that Rose would cross a lot of lines, but at least she had not in fact robbed the cradle.

Miranda smiled ruefully and reluctantly proud of the younger woman.  She had made her way to a good university, found her path to some kind of success in New York.  Truly, a remarkable woman.  “And to think that ten years ago, she was basking in the light of the full moon on the top of a large boulder with those long brunette tresses, and welcoming, arms wide open, to play with a wolf.  The same youth that was mooncalled herself out to that flat rock outcrop the summer before her first transformation.”

Nigel stepped forward and sat gracelessly in one of the chairs opposite Miranda’s desk.

Miranda settled into the window sill facing toward him.  “She doesn’t know who I am, Nigel.”

Letting his head fall back, Nigel silently asked the ceiling why the hell this was the scenario they were in right now.  Out loud he said, “And she is Rose’s lover.”

Echoing him, Miranda rested all the way back against the window box.  Then taking a deep breath, Miranda followed their usual custom of bringing the conversation back around to their overall status in Runway and the Pack.  “Stephen is going to be a problem.”

With a mirthless laugh that might have been too soon, Nigel agreed.  “He has always been a problem.”

Raising her head to glare at him, Miranda yielded into a half smile.  Then she agreed, “I think he was possessed by a pod person or something.  I genuinely remember seeing something in him after the longest time of ignoring him.”  She shook her head in dismayed amazement.  “And then.  Well, then reality must have set back in.  I was working hard and the girls are not easy.  He was rising up the investment ranks.  Then it was alcohol and the relationship went sour with it.”  She caught her friend’s eye.  “I’m not saying that I was golden and he was the only one with a problem.  I certainly have my flaws.”

With a nod, Nigel jumped into the dialog.  He was glad that she kept her own actions in mind, but he would not let her take all the blame either.  “However, his original flaws came back with a vengeance.”  He frowned thinking of the man that had been part of his life more than he had ever thought possible.  “While the pod person was in charge, he managed to find even more character defects.  Hence the way he notified you of the divorce.  He should be a chicken, since he’s no wolf.”

With a bark of laughter, Miranda stood before she fell out of the windowsill.  “Absolutely.  So he’s a problem.”

Nigel beat her to the second statement, “Rose is the second and perhaps more dangerous problem.  She is making moves.”

Miranda settled into her office chair.  “Andrea is a powerful wolf at her side.  Rose is smart enough to ally Stephen with promises for later.”

Grimly tapping the desk in front of him, Nigel grumbled.  “So instead of three distinct problems, we potentially have one super problem.”

Pursing her lips, Miranda fiddled with the pendant of her necklace.  “Irving has been skulking around again.  We will have to keep an eye on him.”

Nodding his acceptance of this, Nigel returned to more personal concerns.  “What about Andy?”

Throwing her hands up in defeat, Miranda took on her editor in a crisis demeanor.  “How long has she been in New York?  For all we know it has been a while.  We co-exist without running into each other.  The full moons can be managed like the August one.  Assuming, she joins the pack.  Darius would never begrudge me spending time with the girls while they are still young.”

Nigel stood to leave, “So we just take it one day at a time and--”

Miranda cut him off with a growl.  “Don’t you dare say hope, Nigel Kipling.”

Nearly out of the office, Nigel cheekily turned and saluted.  “Destiny, then?”  He retreated before her face of shock turned into a body full of action.  

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  19/36.

Exhausted, Andrea made her way to the train station.  She could only hope that the storm coming in had held off, so that she could get home.  She had been following the story on preparations as far south as she thought she could get before turning back for the day.  Several shop keepers recognized her from her stops earlier in the day and encouraged her to hunker down as soon as she could.  No story was worth the risk with this unprecedented monster of a storm.  With Newark’s Penn Station in sight, Andrea hoped to catch the 15 minute train to Pennsylvania Station.  With any luck I can catch a taxi and be home in less than an hour.  Andrea thought to herself as she made her way into the station.

Turning away from the ticket machine, Andrea forced herself to be calm.  She passed two teenagers on her way to the ticket desk.  They were arguing and one had tears down her cheeks despite still vigorously engaging with her twin.  They seemed vaguely familiar and the scent of wolf on them tugged in her mind, but Andrea dismissed them.  She needed to focus on her own path instead of nosing into others.  Besides, other wolves means a pack somewhere.

Andrea grimly stepped away.  The trains weren’t running because of various washouts, concerns about the tunnels, and the increasing symptoms of the storm that was upon them.  Pulling her phone up, Andrea began checking for hotels in the area or all-night restaurants.  It wouldn’t be her first choice obviously, but she supposed it beat another night in an airport.  She had wanted the front page of the Times and now she wasn’t so sure that she wanted to keep it.

“Excuse me.”  Andrea closed her eyes and steeled herself for the added complication who was asking for her attention.  “Our phones are dead and we need to call a ride.  Could you help us?”  The red head with the tears had gathered her control and decided to take action.

The scent of wolf came from the girls’ belongings, but Andrea could not detect it coming from them exactly.  It was hard to place.  She wondered if her brother had a similar scent, since he was immersed in a wolf house.  They were teenagers, but she had only ever met one pair of red headed twins in her life.  It had been years since she went to Rose’s pack run on a full moon.  They had grown up in that time.  “You got the number?”

Pulling a business card covered in small print from her back pocket, the first teenager nodded.  “Jeremy Edgware, our father.”  She rattled out the number and watched as the woman dialed it.  “I’m Cassidy and that’s Caroline.”

The woman frowned as the call went to voicemail.  “Hello.  My name is Andrea Sachs and I am with your daughters, Cassidy and Caroline.”  Andrea made eye contact with the girl to confirm as she awkwardly left a voicemail.  “Their phones are dead.  We are at Newark station.  The trains are not running.  Call this number.”  She rattled off the digits and hung up.  Frowning, Andrea reached her hand out.  “I’m Andrea.  Do you want to try another number?  Where are you trying to get to?”

The twins communicated with each other mostly in body language and low incomplete sentences.  “Our mother is expecting us in New York.  We should call her.”  She slowly said the numbers, so that the woman could dial them.  “Her name is Miranda.”  Cassidy again spoke for the pair.

The name and memories of that single time she visited Rose’s pack confirmed the identity of these teenagers.  Miranda Priestly.  The workaholic who had driven another husband away and was Rose’s avowed enemy.  I thought I was free of Rose.  Andrea thought in the split seconds before the call went to voicemail.  “Hello.  I’m Andrea Sachs.  I am with Cassidy and Caroline in the Newark Train Station.  Their phones are dead and the trains are not running.  Call this number.”  She said the number slowly and then repeated her name and the number again.

“I told you we were on our own.”  Caroline spoke loudly for the first time since approaching her sister and Andrea.  “We have to get back on our own.  We can’t stay here, Cass.”  She rubbed her arms vigorously and gave the appearance of someone reacting to hot and humid conditions instead of the winter temperatures of the constantly opening and closing large space of the train station.

“Where are we gonna go, huh?”  Cassidy appeared warm, but less agitated.  She would be the one to sit down and wait like a statue until an adult came for them.

Hoping to head off a fight between them, Andrea suggested, “Since we are going to be here for a while, let’s get some snacks and bottles of water.”

The twins went with her readily enough, though there was precious little on the shelves.  “We’ve contacted their parents, but do you have any bottles of water?”  Andrea indicated the twins who did their best to appear young, innocent and a bit pathetic.  The reporter was not above using the youngsters to her advantage.

“Let’s give your parents some time to respond.  Find a corner to hang out, yeah?”  Andrea knew she had to keep an eye on these young ladies instead of allowing the Amtrak personnel to take charge of them.  She had not scented another wolf in the sparse crowd and couldn’t take the chance with the full moon coming.

Tucking the snacks into their bags, the girls joined Andrea.  “Were you going to Manhattan also?”  Cassidy asked their companion.

Pulling her charger out, Andrea gave them her general location beyond Penn Station.  “What phones do you have?  Will this one work?”  Seeing her Samsung phone, the girls sighed and shook their heads.  They usually didn’t bring their chargers since they had them at each house.  Andrea plugged hers in knowing that they might need it.

“It’s so hot in here.”  Caroline complained as she shoved her jacket into her bag followed quickly by dumping her sweater over the top as well.  “It’s like I need to change my skin.  Is this what snakes feel, do you think?”  Caroline ranted as she tried to get comfortable on the uncomfortable bench.  “This is rotten with the wind and the full moon, I feel crazy.”

Cassidy sought to soothe her sister with a hand on her knee, but she was clearly over heated as well.

“Really, it’s a full moon?”  Andrea wondered why the teenagers would know that.  Surely, if one had transformed already, then they could scent her wolf.  Yet no indication of pack knowledge had come other than the mention of the full moon.

Blushing slightly, Cassidy admitted.  “Our parents, they aren’t together anymore, but they have always had a to do about the full moon.  No matter whose house we are at there’s always some kind of gathering with family friends.”  Closing her mouth, to keep from saying more, Cassidy focused on Andrea with wide eyes.

Andrea nodded, “A lot of people have an awareness like that.  Back in Ohio, where I’m from, my family kept similar practices.  There was always some kind of secrecy, but we knew our parents were meeting with friends.”  Andrea smiled at the girls trying to put them at ease.  “My brother and I made up all kinds of stories about it.”

Caroline had taken off every piece of clothing that she didn’t absolutely need and Cassidy had slowly given in to her own rising temperature and taken off one article at a time.  Andrea watched them with rising horror as they fidgeted and the hands on the great wall clock ticked away at the time.

“Should we try your parents again?”  Andrea grabbed her phone and tucked the charger away.  “I saved the numbers earlier.”  Holding her phone out to Cassidy, Andrea focused on Caroline.  “Do you have a stomach ache or any kind of familiar illness?  Caroline, this is very important.  Do you think you are sick or do you think it is something else?”

Caroline’s attention snapped to Andrea and she inhaled deeply.  Her eyes flashed giving Andrea more of an answer than any of her attempts to describe her condition did.  Andrea shifted her attention to Cassidy on the phone leaving a second message for Miranda after failing to get a hold of Jeremy.  The girl was also overheated and wiggling, though she was doing her best to hide it.

Taking her phone back from a dejected Cassidy, Andrea came to a decision.  “We can’t stay here.  Pack up your things the best you can.”

Cassidy squeaked at this, “What do you mean?  Where can we possibly go?”

Motioning toward the employees that were closing up the various sections of the station, Andrea pulled up the local map on her phone.  “They are going to kick us out in the next half hour or so.  I think I know what is wrong with your sister, but we cannot stay here.  Cassidy, get your sister as ready as you can.  We have to move before she changes.”

Once they were outside and Andrea had checked that they were alone, Andrea partially explained.  “You’ll be able to move very fast now that we are out in the open.  Come on.  I’ll call your parents as we go.”

Glad she had carried a backpack today instead of a briefcase or rolling bag, Andrea tightened the straps of her bag and led the way.  After the voicemails, she sent a text to each parent.  It was just in time as Caroline dropped her bag and began to shake and shiver.  Then her whole body cascaded into a blur and that revealed her on all fours in a gorgeous red wolf form.  Cassidy squealed, but Andrea only grabbed Caroline’s bag and hurried them along.  If they could make it to the cemetery, they could find shelter and stay away from the living.

“Cassidy, your sister is fine.  I promise.  I will explain when we get there.”  Andrea made sure the other girl stayed with her on their journey.  Texting once more, the journalist hoped for clarity.

Andrea Sachs with the twins.  Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Newark.  FULL MOON.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  20/?  

Miranda woke with a start.  Disentangling herself from the pile of her packmates, she transformed back onto two legs and grabbed her phone.  Making her way to the kitchen, she noted that the power was still out.  It had been a frantic night worrying about her girls and their father after realizing the severity of the storm and not hearing from them.  No news had to be better than bad news, but it didn’t do anything to settle a worried mother’s nerves.  Especially when she had dreamed of that beautiful dark brown wolf that had haunted her for over fifteen years running with two smaller reddish brown wolves in a dream so vivid, Miranda had trouble realizing she was actually awake when it ended.

She had numerous missed calls, voicemail messages, and texts.  None from her precious daughters or their father.  He would have hell to pay when she was assured of the twins safety and could get her hands on him.

In the texts she saw:  Andrea Sachs with the twins.  Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Newark.  FULL MOON.

“Nigel.”  Miranda shouted for the first time in a long time raising her voice to carry.

A series of scrambling noises preceded her packmates into the kitchen where Miranda had settled herself in a chair.  “Tell me this is not happening.”  Miranda pleaded as she handed her phone to her oldest friend.

“They are in good hands, Miranda, and now we know where they are.”  Nigel hoped to console his shocked friend in a moment that he was still unpacking the layers of.  Why weren’t the girls with Jeremy?  Was he okay?  Now Andrea and Miranda will have to have direct contact.  Why did she capitalize ‘full moon’?  Oh shit.  Nigel’s brain just about melted as he settled into the next chair at the table.

Breathing deeply, Miranda focused on the facts they had and the ones they needed.  “Ladies, check the conditions outside.  We have no power, but maybe we can still get around.  We need to get to Newark if possible.”

Finding Andrea’s text message again, Miranda typed quickly.  Thank you.  Please update status when you can.  Miranda

She sent a message to Jeremy and then began to go through the other messages.

Growling, Miranda set the phone down when she felt it was taking too long to hear back from Andrea and the girls.  The last information she had was twelve hours old.  One of her girls likely had transformed if she had interpreted the capital letters of Andrea’s message correctly.  Her other daughter would likely be freaking out.  There had been no way to know this would be the full moon, but it hurt her heart to think of the girls with a stranger instead of one of their parents during a time like this.

It took all of Miranda’s self control to remain in the house waiting for information.  Untenable--every aspect of Miranda was twitching with the need to act, confront her enemy head on, and to solve the problems at hand.  New Yorkers having been through so much, generally had some kind of supplies on hand or plan for emergencies.  Miranda Priestly was a consummate New Yorker.  When Nigel tried to distract her with taking stock of their supplies--she merely pointed toward a walk-in pantry exclusive for such things and shook her head.  He had been there when it was designed.  She knew he meant well, but this was a problem that needed time more than action.  It was not a Miranda problem.

The storm raged outside with wind driven rain that was actively increasing damage from the initial storm surge.  The full moon had ended, though the wildness had not left Miranda.  Her quiet rage nearly felled Emily and Serena both upon their return to the townhouse.  If not for Nigel’s timely intervention, they would have shifted into outright aggression and bloodshed.  As it was, the only thing that saved them were fully charged cell phones and news.

Leaning against the wall in the foyer, Miranda visibly held herself in check as she asked, “Tell me.”

Having worked with Miranda and Nigel longer, Serena bravely broke the ice.  “I live far enough away that there is still power.”  She indicated the phones.  “We left them to charge while we scouted for any way to get to your girls.  The flooding is pervasive enough that transportation has ground to a halt.  They anticipate another two days of heavy storm.  This is the largest storm they have ever seen coverage wise.”

Curling her fingers into her palms, Miranda forced herself to take a deep breath.  “There’s no way to get there?”

Anxiously, Emily wrung her hands before explaining.  “The tunnels are flooded.  Boats have been washed up onto bridges.  Nothing is flying except rescue services.”

Nigel boldly spoke into this silence.  “Swimming is out of the question, Miranda.”

Growling at him, Miranda turned away to pace.

“With the phones, we can communicate the numbers and have better access to them.  Hopefully, Jeremy has or gets access to power as well.”  Nigel knew there was nothing for it until they heard from them again.  “Come on,” he indicated to the younger women.  “The number is in the kitchen.”

When Serena’s phone rang seven minutes later, Miranda sprinted to join them.  “She’s here.  Hang on.”

Unable to keep the panic from her voice, Miranda held the device to her ear.  “Cassidy?  Caroline?”  With a sigh, she slumped into a chair at the table.  “Jeremy.”  She grimly tried to prepare herself for no news.  “What?!”  Miranda sat bolt upright.  “Put them on, Jeremy.”

In breathless anticipation, the other three shifted in the kitchen.

“Cassidy.  Oh my darling.  Yes, tell me everything.”  Miranda listened with rapt attention for long minutes.  “Both of you?”  She asked in shock at one point.  Later, Miranda pulled her head away and then placed the phone to her ear once again.  “Caroline.  You were first, my dear.”  The proud tone accompanying the love in her voice allowed her trio of supporters in the kitchen to relax.

They managed to keep the call short, yet still communicate information.  Jeremy had found colleagues with electrical power and they were considering moving over there.  Every number was exchanged in a flurry of texts or order to keep access as open as possible in the intervening days.  The girls had forced Jeremy to offer Andrea sanctuary as she had become their protector, guide, fellow wolf, and she was stranded too.  They would keep regular contact, especially as conditions changed.  Once they could get to each other, they would arrange a meet up.

Moving to Serena’s place with the promise of electrical power and heat, the Runway crew tuned into the news that evening where the twins had promised Andrea had been interviewed and the girls had huddled anonymously behind her.



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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  21/36.

A tall white haired woman opened the door the moment that they were at the bottom of the steps.  Andrea froze in her tracks.  Miranda Priestly, the Devil in Prada, the editor of Runway Magazine, the woman who Rose had despised more than any other.  The woman’s treachery of playing on others’ sympathies and then breaking their hearts before driving them out of the pack--that Miranda Priestly.  It had been years since Andrea had last seen Rose, though her words still echoed the way caution signs lit up a road.  

Dealing with the teenagers and the storm had filled the majority of Andrea’s attention over the last five days, however, she had always known that this moment would come.  There had been no other choice she could make in the circumstances without abandoning the teens.

“Come on, Andy.  You’ve got to meet our mom.”  Cassidy tugged on their companion’s arm.

Caroline, who had run up the stairs, quickly came down them again after claiming a hug.  “Andy, please come in.  Come meet mom.”

With both teens encouraging her, Andrea mentally pushed that old echo of distrust and dislike to the side.  Not once in the days they sheltered with Jeremy had the first husband said a negative word about his former wife.  He encouraged his daughters to update their mom throughout the day, even when they were distracted with Andrea and all things wolf.  Additionally, the 16 year olds could not wait to be reunited with their mother.  In many ways they were typical teenagers, rolling their eyes at their father, asking half-heartedly about the woman he had been dating, and focused on their own interests more than the adults' concerns.

Once she gained the top of the entry steps, Miranda held her hand out to the younger woman.  “Andrea, thank you for everything.  Please come in.”

Blushing at the steady attention being paid to her by this powerful person, Andrea reluctantly let Miranda’s hand go.  “You’re welcome.  I couldn’t leave them once I realized the situation we were facing.”

Facing out once her guests were ushered in, Miranda gently asked, “Jeremy, won’t you join us?  You’re welcome to stay.”

Andrea saw the older man smile and heard him call out.  “I’ll head out, Miranda.  Now you are reunited.”  Miranda nodded at him and closed the door, while Andrea puzzled over the odd emphasis of Jeremy’s last word.

“Power has not been returned here yet, but we have options when we need them.”  Miranda motioned down the hallway.  “Let’s talk in the kitchen.  I’m sure you girls would like a snack.”  Miranda shook her head when her daughters dropped their bags in the entryway and rushed ahead of them.  “How did you manage, Andrea?”

Fighting off the shiver of joy that shot through her at the sensual pronunciation of her first name, Andrea shrugged and then stepped to follow the twins.  “We were clearly stuck at the station and I recognized Caroline’s symptoms from my own at that age.  I could tell that the station employees would not let us stay there overnight.  We hadn’t been able to get a hold of either parent, so we made a run for it.  Dangerous, I know.  However, many of those tombs have stood the test of time, we would be isolated from people, and there weren’t a lot of options.”

Reaching out to touch Andrea’s upper arm, Miranda puzzled over her instincts for contact.  Surely, she had more control over herself, even if they were mooncalled.  It wasn’t as if Andrea knew that in any case.  “No, no.  That wasn’t a critique.”  When Andrea turned to look at her, Miranda explained.  “Caroline turned first.  How did Cassidy handle it?  How did Caroline react to herself?  You understand, Andrea.  I wasn’t there for this important event in their lives.”  Her eyes searched Andrea’s own for understanding.

“You’re so loving.”  The longing and awe filled words fell from Andrea’s mouth without going through the processing plant of her brain.  Immediately, she covered her mouth shocked at her own reaction to this beautiful woman.

“Should I not be?”  Miranda murmured her response feeling somehow that they were speaking on two different levels about almost different topics.

Closing her eyes against her own mistake, Andrea took a deep breath and then opened them again.  Bowing her head toward Miranda in apology, Andrea explained.  “I have responded to the woman I am meeting face to face for the first time.  I have no reason to think this is the unguarded truth of you.  You may not remember, but a few years ago, I met you at a pack gathering.  The woman I ran with at the time filled my head with poison against you.  I am learning how wrong all of those words were in addition to how inaccurate the press has portrayed you.”

Tilting Andrea’s head up with one fingertip under her chin, Miranda stared into her dark brown eyes for long moments.  She registered her daughters tearing into snacks and chattering in the kitchen.  She had the luxury of a safe moment to connect with Andrea and did not want to lose it.

“Andrea, I invite you to get to know the unguarded me.  The woman who spoke against me has an agenda of her own that does not include me.  We will not go into that now.  I am sure that you understand conflict in a pack.”  When Andrea nodded, Miranda continued on.  “I am the Devil in Prada and I have driven away another Mr. Priestly.  I do not hide who or what I am.  However, you are coming to understand that those accusations are not all that I am.”

Taking Miranda’s hand in her own, Andrea tugged her down the hallway.  “You missed one moment, but let me share another with you.”

Entering the kitchen holding hands with their mother, Andrea immediately had the teenagers’ attention.  “Caroline and Cassidy, would you do the honor of presenting your wolfy selves to your mother?”

Meeting their wolf guide in the center of the kitchen, the trio held a whispered team huddle.  Then the twins flanked Andrea facing their mother.  “Deep breath.”  She coached them with a hand on their backs.  “One, two…”  Before Andrea could get to three, there were two smaller wolves in the kitchen staring up at their gobsmacked mother.

Kneeling down, Miranda held her arms wide open.  “My beautiful, beautiful girls.”  Nuzzling their fur as she greeted them, Miranda’s eyes filled with tears.  “How did?”  She was unable to finish her question as she fell over with the twins’ jubilation.

Shrugging, Andrea sat on the kitchen floor as well.  “We had five days and limited access to electricity and devices.  Their coloring is magnificent.”  Andrea laughed when one of the girls nudged her.  “What?”  When the young wolf tipped her head at her mother, the reporter caught on.  “They want to see your wolfy.”  Andrea grinned at the other woman as the second twin nudged up against her sister.

Keeping her eyes on Andrea, Miranda crawled forward into her wolf form.  “It’s you.”  Andrea felt emotion choking her as she held her arms open for the large black wolf with white ear, eye, and foreleg that she had met 16 years ago.  “After so long, it’s you.”

Bounding forward and into those open arms, Miranda nuzzled the brunette until she was laying on her back giggling and wrapping her arms around her canine form.  Once the twins started whining, the adults broke apart with Miranda greeting each daughter in turn.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  22/?     

“She’s back!  She’s back!”  Cassidy squealed from the front room.  She had been on the lookout for her hero since the last text message.  

Miranda moved quickly to intercept her daughter at the door.  She understood the girl’s interest and independence.  However, she had never become accustomed to her daughters opening the door alone.  She at least wanted to be there to supervise.

“Andy!”  Her daughter shouted as she pulled her into a hug and let the door crash closed.

Just behind, Miranda stepped clear of the staircase as Caroline joined the greeting party.

“Thanks for letting me come back.”  Andrea sheepishly greeted Miranda.  

With a shy smile, Miranda entreated the younger woman to join them.  “You are welcome here, Andrea.”

Unable to work or go to school, they played cards until the twins fell asleep.  Curled up on one couch, Miranda draped blankets over them and kissed their foreheads.  Turning to her companion, Miranda offered, “You are welcome to a guest room.  I can show you the way.”  Glancing away in uncertainty, she added, “I was going to curl up here in wolf form.  You could…”  She left the offer unstated, feeling that if she didn’t actually say it, then perhaps a refusal wouldn’t feel like a rejection.

“Can we curl up without shifting for a while?”  Andrea could not keep the hope out of her voice.  “I’d like to get to know you.”  She whispered.

Blankets were brought in along with pillows.  Pajamas were offered and changed into.  Then instead of giving into their mutual shyness, Miranda simply tugged Andrea down to join her as she half fell into the nest.    “You recognized my wolf form after all these years?”  Miranda chose a simple starting place for their conversation.

Facing the older woman, Andrea let her eyes roam the beautiful face in front of her.  Nodding the affirmative to that, Andrea asked, “How old are the girls?”

Taking Andrea’s hand into her own, Miranda was so thankful that they had naturally moved into this tactile relationship.  It helped settle some of the wildness within her.  Flicking her gaze to the sleeping girls, Miranda smiled before speaking.  “Sixteen.”

Andrea squeezed the fingers playing with her own.  “I couldn’t figure out why I had such strong feelings about you that night I ran with your pack.  Back then, I just chalked it up to Rose’s hatred and let it go.”

Rolling onto her back, Miranda tugged Andrea’s hand onto her stomach.  She didn’t comment on the younger woman scooting closer until their bodies pressed together all the way along her side.  “I made sure you did not see my wolf that night.  I knew that Rose had her claws into you and that revelation would have just been problematic.  It broke my illusions all the same.”

Pressing her lips to Miranda’s shoulder, Andrea murmured.  “I’m sorry.  I can only guess how awful it would have felt if my visions of you had been tainted.”  After an extended silence punctuated by the girls’ grumbling and shifting in their sleep, Andrea whispered.  “It seemed like whenever I was at a cross-roads, I’d see this black wolf.  Somehow, I always found my way ahead easier to see after that.”

Miranda thought for a moment, then offered, “I saw you at different times.  It seemed to be during milestones in your life, but also times that I needed encouragement.  The way you said, after a vision of you my choices were clearer.  Other times, I would see this magnificent wolf.   I could only assume that it was you, Andrea.  The coloring for sure.”  Miranda turned and reached up to Andrea’s long locks.  “The night you ran with the pack, I knew.  It was you I had visions of, and you I could not have.”  Shifting a bit to make eye contact easier, Miranda quietly admitted.  “I was so glad that you did not join our pack.  I don’t know if I could have stood that.”

Leaning close, Andrea nuzzled her face against Miranda’s in an unusually wolfy gesture while in human form.  They both smiled when she pulled away from the easy affection.  “It took me a while to figure it out, but that night should have made it clear to me.  The tension in the pack and how ready certain ones were to jump into it snarling all out.”  Andrea shook her head.  “I couldn’t join a pack on the edge. The pack I came from had been scarred by a recent battle.  My father died fighting for the better contender in an ill-advised battle for pack dominance.  Then I shifted and learned about this whole other world.  That first inaugural summer, I had to protect my mother and put others in their place.  I was sixteen.  I made myself clear, endured while I had to, and left.  College and then an adventure in New York.  Here I am.  I had no idea what drew me here, Los Angeles has better weather.  There was always just, well, a place reserved for you.  I had been seriously considering the West Coast, especially with winter settling in.  Wearing shorts at Christmas doesn’t sound so bad to me.”

Miranda considered her companion’s story before beginning her own.  “You know, Rose and I are rather similar.  It is a large part of why we oppose each other.  I think when you are similar, you either team up or become enemies.”

Andrea jumped in, “You might be similar.  You want to lead the pack, don’t you?”  Andrea shook her head with a smile when Miranda nodded her head.  “However, you are not willing to throw the entire pack into chaos by driving wedges and fighting, always fighting.  You would rather gain your support and come forward when the time is right.  You would yield if there was a better candidate.”

Miranda considered the younger woman, who technically had only met her that morning.  “How could you know such a thing?”

Barely audible, Andrea uttered words that nearly made Miranda’s heart stop.  “We are mooncalled.”  Letting the truth of those words wash over the both of them, they each breathed in the close presence of the other.  “Jeremy never once slighted you in the time we were there.”  Andrea smiled, “It was not just because your daughters were there.  He has a true regard for you, Miranda.  Additionally, your teenage daughters, while being typical teens in so many ways, could not wait to get back to you.  They love their father, but their home is truly here with you.”

Miranda stroked Andrea’s arm where it had settled across her body.  “Leading the pack has always been a dream of mine.  However, I want the girls to have both parents as long as possible.  This tempers my meaner ambitions, yet it does not make me anything less than the twice divorced workaholic that demands the best of everyone around her at all times.  A woman who is not afraid to make the hard decisions.  Ones that occasionally set a work colleague back because it is the necessary move.”

Shifting her arm to hold Miranda’s hand, Andrea quietly asked, “And the work colleague, did he forgive you?”

Startled, Miranda shifted to make eye contact with Andrea.  “How did you?”

Andrea grinned smugly.  “Reporter.”  She pointed to herself and then continued.  “I was only at the one pack meeting, but I do pay attention.  Especially if I think my partner at the time is going to challenge someone to a duel in the moonlight.  You were there with three people identified as your work colleagues.  The same three scents that I think I remember from that evening.  Also, you made a distinction that it was a work decision.  Whatever the scenario was, it was professional and that personal relationship has survived.”

Miranda blinked a couple of times in wonder.  “Are you always like this?”

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  23/36.    

“The house is fabulous, mom.  I hope you have people that help out?”  Andrea turned to fix an inquiring look on her mother.  There had been an ongoing quiet discussion between them that the house was too big for one person with both children spread out with one on each coast and having been a widow for a long time.  Andrea accepted that her mother wanted to get her kids raised without all the other complications.  However, she didn’t want her mother to not live a full life because she didn’t want to navigate the changes of a mother dating years after losing her husband.

Rolling her eyes at her daughter, Elizabeth just pointed down the hall.  “Put your stuff away, dear.”

Moving quickly, Andrea went to dump her things in the guest room.  She hated the idea of her mother rattling around in this big house alone year after year.  Suggesting she move closer to either of her kids just resulted in a flat out no.  So Andrea kept hoping that her mother would meet the right person or take in someone from the pack--perhaps even another widow.  Stopping in the restroom to freshen up, Andrea made her way to the kitchen, where she knew she’d find her mother.

“What time is Zachary getting in?”  Andrea had specifically arrived as early as she could to try and get some alone time with her mother.  Wolf sharing still had to be worked around keeping secrets from Zachary.  Not for the first time, Andrea wished that they had found a loophole to circumvent the rule for revealing their secret.  She couldn’t wish anything else traumatic on the family though, so she had never pushed the agenda of telling him.

“Oh, not until tomorrow, weather permitting.  He has a red eye tonight.”  Elizabeth pulled down two mugs and set them next to the coffee pot.  Then she pulled out a large pot of soup she’d already made.  It could warm slowly as they caught up.  “Give me a second and we can pull up a chair.  You know where the milk and sugar are.”  Focusing on the gas flame, Elizabeth set it on medium-low and gave the contents a few quick stirs.

“Is his winter stuff still here?”  Andrea amusedly asked.  Ever since he had gone to California, her brother had become a ‘weather weakling’.  As his sister she took every chance she could to tease him about it.

“Leave his stuff alone, dear.”  Elizabeth warned her daughter off of pranking her son.  “Now.  What did you get here so early for, hmmm?”  She figured that should be sufficient to distract her daughter for the moment and from the deer caught in the headlights wide eyes and frozen for a moment body--she was absolutely right.

Andrea leaned back in her chair and took a deep breath.  “A long time ago, before my first transformation, I met the most amazing beautiful wolf on a full moon night.  I had no idea about any of the wolf things.  It was the year after dad was killed.”  Andrea shook her head in memory.  “It’s hard to explain even now, but I had to get away from camp that night.  I could feel the energy in my bones or something.  So I went out to the Verge and chilled out with nature and the full moon.  I’m just like okay this is where I gotta be, I can feel it.  Then this wolf comes up on the Verge and I throw open my arms and greet it like I had been there waiting for it all along.  It was so.  Just.  Amazing.  The wolf came over and allowed me to hug it and then kind of like, you know, wrestling, playful banter.  Wasn’t more than a few minutes and then the wolf left.  I just lay on the rock and was so happy.”

Elizabeth watched her daughter bask in the memory before prompting her to continue.  “And you’re telling me now…?”  She prodded, before adding, “And we’ll get back to why you never told me this before.”  With a brief glare for the point of it, Elizabeth yielded back to her daughter.

“Remember all that I told you about when I was trapped in New Jersey during the hurricane with the twin teenagers?”  Andrea asked the leading question to determine how much background to re-tell.

“Yes, you could tell that the one would likely shift.  I still don’t see how you could recognize that, dear.  Go on, go on.  I’m sure it will make sense in the end.”  Elizabeth couldn’t help sharing her initial thoughts on the subject.  “And both girls transformed.  What a blessing.”  She added wistfully.

Andrea nodded her agreement.  She had often wondered in the weeks since whether she and Zach could have both transformed if they’d only been closer in age.  “Yeah.  So much less sneaky business.  And you know that I stayed with the girls’ father and then we all journeyed to reunite them with their mother.”

Andrea took a deep breath knowing that everything would be alright, but still feeling that this was a momentous occasion.  “TheirmothertransformedforthemandIknew.”  She breathed it all out in one word and then laughed a few seconds after her mother began cackling at her.

“I’m sure that made sense to you, but please rewind and slow it down.”  Elizabeth teased.

Andrea blushed crimson and then tried again.  “Cassidy and Caroline wanted to see their mother’s wolf form.  So Miranda, who I was totally drawn to, she transformed and was the mostly black wolf that I met when I was fifteen!”

Shocked at that, Elizabeth’s hand came up to her chest.  “You were mooncalled.”  The awe in her voice was unmistakable.

“We both think so.  In fact, we have each had visions over the years of each other.  We just had never met beyond that one short encounter, so we weren’t sure who we were imagining or daydreaming about.  At least not to a hundred per cent certainty.”

“But you know now.”  Elizabeth could hardly imagine how it must feel to have met so long ago in such a fleeting way and to have that stick with you all this time and then turn into this story.  Her daughter had not even transformed when they met and didn’t know about wolf shifters.  Her son had been in fifth grade.  Her husband had been killed in a pack fight the year before.  It had been such a lonely time for her, but this amazing event had happened behind the scenes only to be understood so much later.

“We know now.  It’s only been a month, but that place that has always been reserved for her has given its consent or however I should describe it.  Miranda is just this dynamic woman, mom.”  Andrea huffed as she tried to figure out just how to express how amazing her mooncalled woman really was.  “You asked how I could know about Caroline transforming.  Well, I almost met all of them about six years ago when I was dating Rose.  They are part of the same pack.  So I knew when I got their last names that they were from a wolf family.  From there it was the matter of a few questions and considering their age.  I had no idea they were both going to transform.”

Slightly confused, Elizabeth asked for clarification.  “If you met them six years ago, then I don’t understand.”

Nodding to acknowledge the missing information, Andrea filled in the hole.  “Rose and Miranda are basically enemies.  Rose had nothing good to say about Miranda.  I had no idea who she was, since I had only met a wolf in another state years before.  Miranda thought I was the young woman she had met all grown up, but she couldn’t bear that I was with Rose.  So she stayed with her daughters while the pack ran that night.  She must have met up with them when Rose and I branched off on our own.”

“You had no idea.”  Elizabeth was shocked at how all of it had played out.  “You were in the same city for six years.”  Elizabeth stopped hard and leaned forward.  “That’s why you felt drawn to the city.”

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  24/36.  

Please bring the twins to Runway.

Andrea nodded her head and tucked her phone away.  She had been texting with Caroline and Cassidy from the moment the news broke about the school shooting in Connecticut.  Miranda’s text near the end of the school day did not surprise her.  Unable to get away from work and likely with texts of her own from her daughters, Miranda would have carried on with her day.  It didn’t mean she wouldn’t want to see her daughters for herself as soon as she was able.  

Having graduated the year before the Columbine High School shooting, Andrea struggled with imagining her school in such a situation.  She supposed that this was in fact a huge part of the problem.  People could not get their heads around such an event or what to do about it and yet school shootings and mass shootings were not going away.  There would be a public outcry, an inquiry into the circumstances, and a push for better control of guns.  Despite the heartbreak of each situation since Columbine, not enough change had happened.  The number of mass shootings between Columbine and that day’s devastation in Connecticut each made a mark on her heart and mind as she researched.  The thought that mass shooting at a school had a FBI definition of 4 or more casualties not including the gun person hurt because Andrea knew that there were even more incidents that would cause loss of life, broken homes, lost friendships, and the sense of safety at school being stolen.

Ahead of her other deadlines, Andrea had to shake herself out of hours of research on school shootings and mass shootings.  It began as information gathering for an article and then became one of those topics where you found yourself clicking on the next piece of information until you had lost yourself in the tunnel of knowledge and speculation.  She had been shocked to find that an Ohio school in Cardon had an active shooter situation nearly a year before.  It didn’t matter that Andrea grew up a five hour drive away--it mattered that as she continued her research, she found more and more school shootings and mass shootings.  Before Andrea had been born, there was a 1974 school shooting in Olean, New York.  Other more recent incidents, Andrea found that she was ashamed to admit she had not kept in her brain very long for a variety of reasons.  She began to wonder if every single state had a story similar to these ones and how many schools just wondered if it was a matter of time.

Feeling distinctly sick to her stomach, Andrea was thrilled when her timer went off signaling that she needed to shut down and head across town to Dalton.  She wondered if the twins would be disturbed by the news reports coming out of Connecticut or if they would have been absorbed for the most part in their studies.  Given the texts from the girls directly, they appeared to be doing well.  Understandably the adults hearing anything about schools would be the ones to worry.  She supposed that the adults had better access to unfolding news throughout the day, while most teenagers would not be checking the news reports.

“Hey, Andy!”  Cassidy greeted her as she and her sister came out on the street to find their newest family member.  They had decided since there was no title for who Andrea was to them, that they would create their own.  It didn’t matter much as they never had to really use the title, but the twins had liked to think of Andrea as family now in any case.

“Hey girls!”  She gave them each a hug.

“Let’s take a selfie then.”  Caroline held out her phone and they crowded together.  After the snap she asked, “Ok.  So who all do we send it to then?  Mom and dad for sure.”

Andrea tapped her on the nose.  “As if you don’t know.”  She hooked her arm through Cassidy’s as they turned to head up the block.  “And send it to me too.”  She added.  “Now.  What should we bring to Runway as a treat to scandalize them?”

Cassidy squeezed Andrea’s arm against her own.  “I called for the car.  Roy will be cruising the block any time now.  He knows to just look for us.”

Caroline complained.  “Awe.  Man.  That means we can’t get ice cream.  We can’t have that in the car, Cass.”

Cassidy just giggled at her sister and turned to stick her tongue out at her.  She couldn’t understand why her sister wanted frozen treats on a cold day like today.

Andrea playfully pushed Cassidy away and turned to pull Caroline close to her.  “They make a mean Mocha Cookie Crumble just across from Runway.  What say we bring up a tray of temptations when we go?”

“Emily will start chanting.”  Caroline grinned at the mischief they were going to undertake.  Harmless trickery on a day where their mom was likely rather diabolical.

“There he is.”  Cassidy pointed to the town car pulling over up the block.  When the driver got out of the car, she waved at him.

With high fives and other greetings for Roy, the twins climbed into the backseat.

Stopping in front of the man still holding the door open, Andrea thanked him.  “I wasn’t sure which was the best way to get them across town.”  She smiled wide at her lack of plan.  “If you could take us to the Starbucks closest to Runway, we would like to scandalize them all with calorie laden drinks and munchies.”

Roy laughed as he imagined the outrage on the 17th floor.  “You cause as much trouble as they do, don’t you?”

Andrea gave him a bit of a curtsy.  “I do my best.”

In the elevator, Andrea had the girls add their drinks to her second tray.  “You don’t want brainfreeze.”  She sternly told them.

Caroline grinned, “And we better not interfere with mom’s ability to hug the crap out of us.”

When the door opened at the Runway floor, Andrea stayed behind when the girls lunged forward.  Balancing 8 drinks had never been a task she needed to master before.  Thankfully the others had already gathered in and around the Editor’s office.  Setting the trays on the assistants’ desks, Andrea easily handed the drinks around, before checking on her lover and the girls.



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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  25/36.

“And this is Andrea.”  Miranda introduced her young lover to the pack master.

“Good to see you again, Andrea.”  Darius shook her hand.

“It’s good to be back.”  Andrea acknowledged their previous meeting with a smile.  “I hope it won’t be problematic.”  With a slight tilt of the head, she indicated Rose off to her left surrounded by others, but staring daggers at her.

“It’s been years and I have a feeling that you can be clear with others.”  Darius encouraged the younger woman without even glancing toward the wolf she had visited the pack with before.  “Break ups happen and we all manage.  The pack is still here after all.”  He gave a knowing glance to Miranda and then waved her off as she drew her posture up.  “Miranda, you know, I have long wondered about you.  You’ve been a searcher for so long that I sometimes have forgotten.”  He looked at the pair of them again and nodded in response to his own train of thought.  “You seem to have been found now.”  He gave them a knowing smile.  “We’ll get started in just a while.”

“I think he likes you.”  Miranda purred into her ear as they walked back to the Runway crew and the girls.

“Cassidy, Caroline, over here please.”  Miranda pulled her teenage daughters into a family huddle.

Andrea greeted Nigel, Emily and Serena asking after their personal lives as well as their shared work.  Serena was pointing out that the full moon runs were good for Emily so that she could let loose some of her animal energy and see Miranda as a real person.  The redhead was blushing, but also promising a bit of a rumble once they were out and about.

When the twins joined the group, there was barely enough time for Nigel to teasingly remind everyone to, “Stay together in pairs, unless you’re under 18 then stay together with an adult.  If there’s trouble you can’t handle, then head back to base double time.”

Andrea glanced around the group and caught the girls and Miranda in an eye contact conversation of epic teenaged proportions.  Before she could ask, they heard Darius call out as he headed for the trees.  “Let’s run!”

The group he was nearest transformed as soon as they followed him.  The group with Rose in it took off on the right hand side and the one Stephen had tucked himself into was on the left hand side.  Others in the pack took care of one last thing or finished their beverage before trotting away into the night.

The Runway crew all shared a glance and then began running off with Serena, Emily, and Nigel in the front followed by the twins and circled up from behind by Miranda and Andrea.  Losing herself to her moon heightened senses, Andrea revelled in how right it felt to run with this pack with Miranda and their Runway family.  Even the thorny presence of Stephen and Rose could not diminish the overall sense of completeness Andrea felt washing through her.  In fact the only time in her life that she had ever felt so certain with every molecule of her being was the night she first met Miranda when she was 15.

Andrea came to a sudden stop as she realized that Miranda had cut into her running lane in such a way as to direct her away from the others.  Tilting her wolfy head this way and that, she noted that other groups were splitting off as well and that the twins were happily running and playing with the trio from Runway.

Andrea pawed the ground and sort of grunted with a head toss to ask why they were splitting off from the others or at least ask if that was what Miranda really wanted.

Realizing that her lover was not coming along without question, Miranda turned back.  Nuzzling Andrea and playfully wrestling with her, Miranda then moved so that she could pin Andrea.  With a sharp bite, Miranda jumped away from her lover and ran the direction she originally wanted to lead her lover.  This time at a much faster pace now with Andrea chasing her to get her own point across.

Andrea enjoyed the fact that this was new territory for her to explore.  When she had visited the pack previously, she had not gone this direction.  The abandoned stone cabin proved a delight for her inner explorer.  Though she picked up on Nigel’s familiar scent as a recent visitor.  Smirking in her head, Andrea followed Miranda through the empty door and then pounced on her.  They rolled and fought through several turns until Miranda shifted into human form underneath Andrea’s panting wolf form.  Surprised by this sudden change, Andrea made to back away but Miranda held her still.  “Let’s celebrate the moon in a different way.”  Miranda suggested to a still confused, but now human, Andrea.

Letting her lover go, Miranda sat up and pointed toward the provisions Nigel had stashed for them.  Beginning to unbutton her shirt, Miranda approached her transformed lover.  Once she was close, Miranda reached up and tangled her fingers in Andrea’s hair and tugged her into a fierce kiss.  With the wildness of the moon coursing through them, Andrea returned the kiss with just as much tongue and teeth.  Sucking Miranda’s lip between her own, the brunette pulled back enough to yank the buttons off and reveal the skin she wanted to taste.

Backing Miranda up against the far wall, Andrea kicked off her shoes copying Miranda’s movements.  Her hands were busy unclasping and tugging away her bra, then claiming the soft mounds of flesh capped by a pert nipple in the near freezing temperatures.  When Miranda bypassed her shirt completely to pull open the button fly of her jeans, Andrea knew this first round would burn in an intensity only their first mating had matched.  Gasping in reaction to the cold fingers already merging with her body, Andrea faltered in her lead.  

Taking advantage, Miranda spun them around until Andrea was breathlessly panting against the crumbling stone wall already wanton for Miranda’s touch.  Slipping out of her remaining clothes, Miranda growled her pleasure when Andrea yanked her own shirt over her head and flung it away.  Stepping back to her lover, Miranda rumbled her displeasure over Andrea’s jeans and then yanked them down until Andrea had one foot free.

Unable to wait any longer, Miranda pressed their bodies together as her fingers and mouth each laid claim to Andrea’s body.  Overwhelmed, Andrea wrapped her leg up around Miranda’s hip, tangled one hand up into her hair, and wrapped the other arm with digging fingernails around Miranda’s back.

The moonlight turned to lightning in their veins once Miranda curled into just the perfect spot within her lover.  Andrea screamed her name when her body went rigid and then shook with the force of her climax.  Leaning back against the wall when Miranda’s body trembled holding her up, Andrea smiled moondrunk and leaned forward to bite Miranda’s lip.  Sliding down the wall, Andrea wasted no time holding Miranda’s hip hard before she leaned forward to pass the lightning back to her lover.  Barely able to hold herself up, Miranda braced her palms against the wall and widened her stance.  Andrea rewarded her with fingers and humming that built the pleasure inside her until she was overflowing with ecstasy and howling at the moon.

For long moments, Andrea kissed her lover’s trembling thighs, her hips, and then up her torso.  Once her lips settled on Miranda’s taut nipple, the older woman trembled in a hard aftershock.  With her fingers thrust into the brunette’s hair, Miranda tugged her away from the sensitive nerve endings and into a kiss.

Breaking the kiss for air, Miranda pulled Andrea away from the wall and over to the blankets ready to shelter the storm of their lovemaking.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  26/?      

With Paris ending the fashion week cycle, it was time to put notes together on all the other weeks and simultaneously to find the energy to be fresh amidst the even more frenzied bustle of the City that Never Sleeps.  Elie Saab continued his monogamy with monochrome in ruby, emerald, and sapphire.  Gautier put leopard print on the runway.  Valli’s dresses would inspire ballroom dreams around the world.  Armani Prive stepped right out of the 1920s with outfits flappers would drool for.  There were rumors floating all around about the shows that hadn’t happened yet--silicon dresses, platform shoes, coral elements, exotic specimens from nature, skulls, ice, and bell silhouettes coupled with ruffled collars that would make emerald green the new black.

Glancing around the restaurant, Nigel smiled.  In all the years they had been coming to Paris, no one had followed them to this nearly out of town neighborhood place.  Of course, it helped that they each slipped out of the hotel separately and without the usual assistants and Runway crew in tow.  They didn’t exactly put on disguises, though they made sure to blend into the crowd instead of standing out in the center.

Thankfully, the majority of the fashion world was focused on itself and its inner workings.  The press--well, they had a banquet of celebrities, rumours and possible scandals and upheavals.  They didn’t need to follow nondescript loners away from the heartbeat of the action when it was all right there in the bright lights of the big city.

Nigel slipped into his seat across from Miranda with a smile.  He was glad for the mid-week time out that they took here each time.  Their drinks arrived after he had settled in.  “What are we toasting to then?”  Nigel held his glass at the ready, though he fixed his friend with a searching look.  Fashion weeks always held their own mysteries and adventures--some years just like the fashions presented made more of a splash than others.

“Exclusive with Raf Simons.”  Miranda murmured back to him so low he could only hear because of heightened senses.

Holding the glass confidently up to Miranda’s, Nigel offered, “To Belgians.”  When Miranda let her head fall back and a deep laugh bubble up from her center, he couldn’t help but grin at her.  “To Belgians.”  He egged her mirth on to elongate the moment.

“To Belgians.”  Miranda clicked her glass to his rather harder than usual and took a sip, before she started to giggle again.

“Did you see them or just meet up?”  Nigel couldn’t hold back as he leaned closer to his companion.  Not for the last time, he wished there were times he could transform into something much smaller and inconspicuous and follow the Editor around.

Miranda shifted in her seat playing coy for several long moments.  They were in a public location regardless of how low their voices were.  It wasn’t like they were the only creatures in Paris or fashion with better hearing than most.  Just when Nigel had settled back into his chair and taken another sip from his glass she captured him with her eyes.  The bright intensity sparkling there in her blue eyes rarely appeared outside of the full moon.  “Remember Dior’s New Look ?”

Sucking his teeth in surprise, Nigel whispered.  “1947.”

With Miranda’s nod, Nigel drained his glass and contemplated the possibilities of updating the look for 2013.

Signalling for refills, Miranda ordered food once the waiter appeared.  They had gone out together so often that neither needed to ask the other in most situations.  “You know, I wonder if re-invention would be a good angle for the issue?  What if we got other Elias-Clark publications to participate?”

Nigel sat up straight in an instant.  All of his senses on high alert for intrigue.  “What are you talking about?”

Miranda let her inner predator shine through in her smile, before she began to savor her prologue toward explanation.  “The average CEO has a shelf life averaging ten years.  The leadership position demands a freshness to respond to the changing market and world that someone in the same office for longer and longer periods of time struggles with the adaptations needed for survival.”  

Considering the image her words drew in his mind, Nigel rephrased it out loud.  “Stuck in their ways.”  Nigel frowned as he made the observation.  There were so many directions this type of generalized musings could lead.  He hoped that she was referring to Irving Ravitz, but with Miranda one could never be too sure.

“Innovation must continue.  In large ways where, like Dior, we are reinventing completely.  Sometimes it is much, much more subtle--there are timeless questions to ask--what would Coco Chanel do, for example.  Yet, still there is interpretation and change along the way.”

Nigel wondered which they were gearing up for--revolution or changing of the guard.  “What are you proposing?”

“We need to continue to innovate.  It is true in cars,” she flicked her fingers out to the side and muttered, “Auto Universe.”  Then she continued her thought stream.  “In fashion, from the designers through the houses and up to publications like Runway, we constantly reflect and reframe.  The publishing world has shifted into the digital age:  going online, creating websites, blogs, streaming, video, diversifying on issues like environmental impact and treatment of employees.”  Miranda leaned forward with a finger pointed on the table to bring home her idea.  “Elias Clark needs a similar injection of revitalization starting with a change at the top.  With the current Editorial team, and Irving’s recent budget faux pas, well, I think we will see a change before summer.”

Awe struck all over again, Nigel wondered for the millionth time just where she found the time.  How could she have met with the other editors to discuss this sort of topic without a single leak?  What else did she have on Ravitz that would smooth the way forward?  He knew he could just keep on studying her and still be surprised years and years from now.  Instead he just held up his glass, “How’s the family?”

The radiant smile this question caused had him wondering if there wouldn’t be wedding bells in the near future.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  27/36.

“What’s on your mind then?”  Andrea asked as she leaned against the entrance of the entertainment room where the twins had set up for their studying.  They had been in a heated debate when Andrea arrived.

“Cassidy doesn’t think anything will change.”  Caroline said heatedly to Andrea before glaring at her sister.

Coming more fully into the room, Andrea settled on the couch.  “In what sense?”

Defensively, Cassidy jumped in before her sister could misrepresent her.  “They just voted down that gun bill in the senate.  How many times do we have to learn the same lesson?  How many schools and children have to be shot up before they realize there is a problem.  I bet I could get a gun within a week, if I wanted to go do something crazy.”

Caroline rolled her eyes at her sister.  “Oh come on.  You wouldn’t know the first place to go to in order to get a gun.  As if, Cassidy.”  Point made, she turned her attention to Andrea.  “Well, what do you think?”

Taking a deep breath, Andrea wondered how deep into issues she could or should go with Miranda’s daughters.  It had been a blissful and intense six months, yet it also wasn’t as though they lived together or Andrea had any official place in the girls’ lives.  “Here’s the thing.  I’m a reporter and you are almost adults.  So I am going to give you my opinions, but they are just that--my views on the issues.  If we met somewhere else, then we would have this conversation on that basis.”  

Before Andrea could continue, Cassidy jumped in.  “As mom’s girlfriend, you’re wondering what your role is or your limits with regard to core issues with her daughters, right?”

Caroline tilted her head to the side in consideration of this detail.  “I bet mom knows your views or could guess them from everything else she knows about you.  I think that as you said, we could have this conversation as a reporter and two young adults, say in a library.  I get that you don’t want to interfere with our dynamic with mom, but we are going to seek out sources of information and opinion regardless.  I would suggest that mom would approve of you as a source.”

Cassidy grinned, “Besides you’re like our wolf yoda!”

With a chuckle, Andrea nodded.  “There is that.”  Taking a long look at each of the teenagers, Andrea considered her response.  “I am in favor of increased gun control in general.  I think that we have gotten ourselves into such a place that we don’t even see how prolific guns and gun violence are.  In that sense I agree with Cassidy that we do not seem to be learning from the tragedies that keep occurring in our schools, and other mass shootings.”  Andrea shook her head thinking of her research not that long ago.  “I get that we have a historical right to bear arms and there are a lot of people that actually go hunting in real life and so on.  However, the right to bear arms was not ever meant to be a single person owning enough weapons to take on the government single handed.  There has to be a point at which excessive collecting of guns is unreasonable.  It is also clear that there is not enough structure in place to analyze and effectively support people with guns that become mentally unstable and still have access to guns, often along with children who end up with access as well.  Changing gun control has to come about without doing it in such a way as to take every single gun from every single person.  The other side will not likely ever relinquish what they see as their constitutional and god given right.”  When the girls’ wanted to jump in. Andrea held up a hand and nodded to acknowledge them.  “I think we need to look at what else can be done in addition to tightening gun control--mental health checks, like professional athletes get physicals, check-ins on owners to see that they have proper safety storage, especially if children come to the residence.  We also need to look at what our society views as entertainment and how that affects what we deem to be normal or everyday.  I’m not saying that we need to go back to the Victorian times or that video games are horrible.  I’m saying that we need to look at the issue from more than one angle.”

Caroline considered Andrea’s words carefully.  “We don’t have any way to do those mental health checks on gun owners.”  She threw her hands up in the air in disgust. “We couldn’t even do the safety checks on storage to keep kids in the house away from them.”  With a huff, Caroline conceded to her sister, “You’re right, Cass.  The world is never going to change.  We are going to keep seeing the same headlines over and over.”

Thinking of her own struggles with similar thoughts and fellow reporters who had become so jaded as to barely notice the human impact of their own stories and experiences, Andrea tried to console them.  “I have seen many of my colleagues get lost in the negativity that some of our stories bring up and relive.  It is heartbreaking to begin a search on one school shooting like in Connecticut and then to find more and more and more.  Some that you knew of and others that you didn’t.  However, progress has been made. Small progress and not always very comforting, but progress.  In the Virginia Tech shooting many of those students had gone through emergency drills at school, like I know you do at Dalton.  They knew to close locked doors, turn off lights, keep quiet, build barricades--and that saved lives.  Too many were lost that day, yet others were saved because we have at least learned something from all of this.”

They each sat for long minutes considering what they had said and what they felt on the issue of safety at schools specifically and the larger issues surrounding guns and gun violence.

“Now, when I came in, you were saying that Cassidy was the pessimist on there being any hope for our world.  Caroline, what was still giving you hope at the beginning of your argument?”  Andrea asked them in a desire to shift the conversation to one with more hope.

“They finally charged that guy with the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida.”  Caroline pointed out.  “I think that, well, I hope that there will be justice in the process.  He wasn’t armed.  He had a pack of skittles and wasn’t a regular in the neighborhood.  Maybe he wasn’t the best guy, maybe he seemed out of place or whatever, but surely there are ways to figure out who the person is, what they are doing, and if they are a problem without it becoming a physical confrontation and then murder.” 

Considering other events that she had reported on in New York, and that she had studied growing up, Andrea knew that this was not any lighter of a topic than gun control and school shootings.  “That is a good thought, that his murder will be examined in a court of law instead of just on social media.  However, I don’t think it is any less of a tricky complicated topic than your first one.  Sometimes the laws are written in ways that work in one person’s favor over another.”  Shrugging at the connection, Andrea pointed out, “Sometimes this is related to the use of guns in a given scenario.”

Cassidy jumped in, “And sometimes racism is what pulls the trigger.  I’m telling you, Caroline, nothing is going to change.”

Caroline threw a wadded up paper at her sister.  “You’re so negative.”

Sticking her tongue out and then throwing the paper wad back at her sister, Cassidy called back. “You just want everything to be a fairy tale.”

Outraged by that, Caroline squished the paper further in her grip.  “I do not.  Those fairy tales are horrible and disgusting and nightmarish.”

Standing up, Andrea was effectively in between the seated girls and she waved at them.  “Whoa.  I get it, sibling rivalry is a thing.  My brother and I would get into some nasty arguments.”  She smiled at each one of the girls in turn.  “In the sense of pessimism, yeah, our world seems to keep having to learn the same lessons over and over.  That is pretty depressing.  However, we have come a long way from the Dark Ages and we are continuing to make progress.  Frustratingly slow progress, but still progress.  When your mom went to school she wasn’t even allowed to take PE like we know it.  She had to do some Girls Athletic League or whatever.  That doesn’t mean to not be angry or sad about certain conditions in our world today.  However, you can’t let that consume you into giving up or to be so depressed that you can no longer see the good things that do exist.”

Caroline inhaled and then in her wise old alien voice she started, “Fear is the path to the dark side…  fear leads to anger…  

Catching on, Cassidy joined her sister in the same voice to finish, “Anger leads to hate…  hate leads to suffering.”

Andrea moved toward the entrance of the room and turned to stare at them.  When they pulled the strange twin behavior and acted in unison, she really felt out of her depth.  They at least seemed to have moved past the argument and out of the morose mood that the topics could easily have led to.

Caroline this time grinned and said, “See Andrea, you really are our wolfy yoda!”

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  28/36.      

“Who was that?”  Miranda asked as she watched her lover frown at her phone.

Shaking her head at the message, Andrea grinned at her partner.  “Rose seems to have developed some form of amnesia.  She only remembers good times with me.  She’s thrilled that I might join the pack.”

Setting the unopened bottle of champagne back into the ice bucket, Miranda rounded the end of the table to wrap Andrea in her arms.  After a thoroughly claiming kiss, she nearly growled.  “What a strange affliction.  I hope it doesn’t impair other parts of her brain.  It could be life-threatening.”  When Andrea smirked at her, Miranda flexed her fingers where they were pressed against her lover’s clothes.  “And your reply?”  She reluctantly released Andrea, knowing that her emotions on this matter could get the better of her despite years of successfully being the one in control of them.

Picking up her phone, Andrea knew she was tantalizing her lover in a dangerous way.  There were times that she just couldn’t resist being a bit of a punk and she never kept anyone on the hook for very long.  Opening the photo app before she turned back around, she appeared to be pondering the situation.  “Mmmm.  Maybe I should respond?”  Andrea slipped an arm around Miranda and claimed her lover in a kiss echoing the recent claiming passion of Miranda’s own kiss.  Raising her free hand, she pressed the shutter button to create a stream of photos.  Pulling away from the kiss, Andrea pulled Miranda’s bottom lip between her teeth and bit down slightly before releasing it.

Still taking photographs, Andrea waited in the pause to see how Miranda would react.  “They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.”

When her lover growled and practically lunged for her, Andrea giggled.  When her knees buckled and they fell to the ground, her phone flew the opposite direction.  “Miranda!”  She whooshed out as she adjusted her hold on her lover in their new geography.

“Choose wisely, Andrea.”  Miranda growled against Andrea’s neck, while her hands were busy divesting them of clothing.

Pushing Miranda away enough to make eye contact, Andrea took a deep breath to signal the importance of the moment.  “Miranda.  There is no choice.  I love you.”  She smiled and traced a finger down Miranda’s cheek.  Closing her eyes, Andrea tried to find the words.  “Loving you is the moon singing in my veins, the starlight streaming across the infinite, and the sense of forever in a single kiss.”  Opening her eyes, Andrea leaned up to rub her nose against Miranda’s.  She could tell that her words were settling into Miranda’s soul and felt as though her gentle motion punctuated it.  When Miranda rumbled a low grumble that might be the closest that a wolf could get to a purr, Andrea kissed her to re-ignite their passions.

When Miranda’s teeth pinched her skin, Andrea moaned.  Passions echoed back to each other with every caress, scratch, and tug making Andrea wonder if their animal natures would demand a more feral expression.  There were legends, though they were old and incomplete hints buried in other stories the young ones were rarely told.

“I need you, Andrea.”  Miranda rolled so that they were face to face.  Pulling Andrea’s fingers to where she needed them the most, her eyes darkened to the stormy blue of her pleasure.  She gasped when Andrea’s fingers moved on their own to tantalize already sensitized nerves.

Fighting back her own responses, Andrea encouraged Miranda to reciprocate, to complete the circuit of ecstasy flaring between them.  

Barely able to kiss as they writhed against each other, the pair were insensible to the moonglow of magic surrounding them.  Their commitment to each other may not have been clearly articulated, but their truer emotions had reached a new level of alignment.  The mooncalled connection between them resonated within their heightened ecstasy and amplified itself in their continued mutual touch.  Instinctively each woman panted against the other’s skin on the approach to the cliff edge of orgasm.  At the moment of their release, each bit down on the other’s skin enough to draw blood.  Pressing tight into each other, eventually Andrea rolled onto her back pulling Miranda to adjust halfway draped over her.

Floating on a cloud of joy the pair nearly fell asleep.  Returning to awareness, Andrea checked on her partner.  “Miranda?  Love?”  I called her my partner.  Only in my own mind, but still .  Andrea could not stop the joy lighting up her face at the thought of being partners.

Breathing deeply, Miranda flexed her muscles and stretched as if she had awakened in her wolf form on a full moon night.  “Andrea.  Dear.  Whatever that was, I think the moon approved with enthusiasm.”  Miranda smiled and then claimed a kiss from her partner.  Growling into the kiss, Miranda reveled in just how good the thought of partners felt.  Just as her hand began to search for Andrea’s skin once more, the brunette’s stomach growled.

Embarrassed, Andrea placed a hand over her partially exposed middle.  “You’d think that I never feed this beast.”

Rising to her feet, Miranda held down her hand.  “Come on then.  The champagne can wait until after dinner.”  Pulling Andrea against her, Miranda claimed her for a kiss.  “Casual dress I think this evening.”  Miranda smirked at her partner.

Glancing over herself and her lover, Andrea mused, “Is that what we are calling this look then?”  With a quick peck on the lips, Andrea turned to lead the way to the kitchen.  She hoped to make it there before her stomach could make its presence known again.  Half turning as they walked, Andrea asked, “What are we celebrating, love?”

Following her partner, Miranda grabbed the champagne as she passed by.  Letting her joy seep into her tone, Miranda explained, “Quincy Hurston’s first official day as Elias-Clark CEO is an occasion to mark in my book.”

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  29/36.      

When the pack separated into smaller groups, Andrea slipped away on her own.  Miranda needed to stay close to the pack leaders as she knew that the girls’ first summer with the pack would be a monumental one not only for them, but also for shifting status within the politics of the group.  Andrea had no drive for power, though she had a strong sense of justice and would support her lover.  They had discussed the problem that Rose’s niece, Darcy, had tried to cause with the twins.  Additionally, they had laughed over the repeated calls and messages left by Rose herself--as if she could worm her way back into Andrea’s life after so many years and in the face of the powerful connection shared by Andrea and Miranda.

The delight of running in the moonlight never lessened over the years.  Andrea supposed that it was wired into their connection with the moon and was thankful for it.  She could shift at will, but it was always a different experience on a full moon.  She enjoyed listening to the other various groups as they spread out and played various games and so on.  She enjoyed skirting the perimeter and keeping to the shadows as she focused on her unusual talent of being able to blend in with her surroundings.  It was a skill she had developed running with the youngsters of her local pack.  She could slip away from them and then sneak up and surprise them without being caught by scent, sight, or sound.  They never quite figured out if it was an innate skill or part of her power.  No one else could shift at will the way that she did and there were so few sources of information on such topics.

In Andrea’s mind she sort of thought in terms of turning down her volume of presence and she had gotten to the point that she could hold that setting while focusing on other things.  Tonight her roaming took her on a meandering route following her nose or movement in the forest.  She kept part of her attention on an overall listening to track where the others were, yet kept away and around them.

Perking her ear up, Andrea listened carefully so that she could picture in her mind the location and positions of her current quarry.  Bounding on swift, silent paws, she traversed the distance quickly.  Then with a lunge she was in a rolling growling toothy embrace holding her former lover to the ground by her neck.  Andrea huffed out a breath and allowed her volume of presence to resume its usual hum.  The wolf below her whimpered.  

In moments, the rest of the pack had shifted and ran to investigate the sounds of a scuffle.  Forming a circle, the pack took in the fact that while Andrea had pinned Rose, she was not actively causing her further harm. It seemed to be more of a protective stance than an attack.  In seconds, the pack shifted to the others who were actually in the open where Andrea and Rose were almost hidden in the trees.

Darcy and two colleagues were facing Caroline and Cassidy.  In seconds it became clear that the trio had been attempting to gang up on the new pair while Darcy’s aunt would back her up from the back.

When Darius shifted into human form and purposefully walked between the two groups of youngsters, Andrea also shifted into human form.  Rose, who struggled to shift at will, could not follow her.  Until the moon waned, Rose would be unable to speak for herself.

“What is the meaning of this?” Darius asked around the circle, clearly making the point that none of them had the ability to shift and answer him.  He focused for long seconds on the casually lethal grace of the guest of the pack approaching him.  Shifting his gaze, he sought out their guest’s lover, who had been running with him only moments ago.  Sure enough, the white wolf had slipped between the others into the clearing where she shimmered into human form from one step to the next.

“They will have to speak for themselves when they are able.”  Andrea waved at the young wolves facing the twins and the one she had previously pinned to the ground.  “I do not wish to cause trouble in your pack.”  Andrea lowered her head toward Darius in deference to his role here.  Then she continued, “I believe that the youth have to sort out their own troubles as they encounter them.”  She pointed back toward Rose.  “However, I will not stand by while an adult engineers trouble.”

Darius tilted his head in consideration.  “It is your word against theirs and they cannot speak.”

With considerable effort, Caroline fairly shook and stumbled her way from wolf form to human form. Steadying her just in time, her wolfy sister slipped forward.  “Darcy thought she had us alone and outnumbered.  They were just spreading out to cut us off from the main group, when Andy came out of nowhere and passed us completely to engage Rose.  We hadn’t even noticed that she was lurking there in the trees while these three were trying to intimidate us.”

Letting the scene play out, Miranda simply moved toward her girls, wrapping Caroline in a half hug and then stepping back to run her fingers through Cassidy’s coat to soothe her still bristling nerves.  Her placement and silence said what she did not need to.  She would support and defend her daughters and had the power to shift at will the same as their pack leader.  That one of her daughters and her lover could also change were facts that had also registered around the pack.

After letting the silence linger for several moments, Andrea addressed the pack in general.  “I know I’m a guest here, but if you have something to say to the twins, Miranda, or myself, then say it.  Don’t try side schemes and playground tactics.”

Darius spoke loudly for the benefit of those gathered around rather than their guest.  “Andrea, bullies will not be tolerated here.  Every pack has its groups and the inevitable jockeying for power.  Teenagers would do better to create alliances rather than enemies, though they need to learn many lessons on their own.  Adults using that tension for their own gain or entertainment is unacceptable.”  Darius made sure to turn in a circle as he spoke, though he ended by focusing on Rose and her niece.

With the posture of a warrior, Andrea stood facing Darius in an unspoken, yet clear challenge to hold the rest of the pack to his words.  Despite not wanting conflict and knowing she wasn’t part of the pack, she had made it very clear that she would step in when she saw a wrong that even the pack leader had verbally spoken against.

Tugging Caroline by one hand, Miranda bowed her head toward Darius.  Caroline copied her movement in silence.  “I would like to take my family home, Darius.  I trust you to deal with the others accordingly.”

The word family washed over Darius with the power of realizing the truth.  He could have taken her assertions instead of requests as an insult; however, he recognized in every nerve ending of his person that she was protecting her family in a quiet calm that still stood facing him waiting for permission.  “Miranda, you have my word that they will be dealt with.  Take your family.”

Miranda and Caroline turned to slip into the trees on the side returning to the cabin and the cars.  Cassidy with a huff followed them in her four legged form.  Andrea growled in Rose’s direction as a warning and then shifted before bounding after her family.  By the time she had caught up to them, the others were back in wolf form and ready to run.

“The four of you will run within my range of sight the rest of the night.  Then you will stay behind in the dawn when the others leave.”  The Priestly family could just hear Darius’ instructions as they began to cover more distance on four paws instead of two.

Returning to the car, Cassidy swore a blue streak as she shifted into human form.  “Of course, I can do it now and not when it would have really counted.”

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  30/36.      

“Are we not talking about the gathering then?”  Nigel wondered what had been swirling through Miranda’s brain ever since she led her family away from the pack.

“Do you know why Andrea has been a guest of the pack for six months and not joined?”  Miranda had settled back in her chair signalling that she was ready to begin this conversation.

Nigel pursed his lips in thought.  Being a guest on multiple consecutive occasions without joining was a rare thing to happen and generally not allowed regardless of circumstances.  Yet, Andrea had not joined during her brief time as Rose’s guest of the pack and now she had practically made a career out of being a guest at Miranda’s side.  “I guess I never thought of it.  Have you talked about it?  Invited her?  Has Darius?”  It seemed unlikely that their pack leader would have objected.  Had that been the case, then surely he would have barred her from coming back month after month.

“Both Darius and I have made it clear that Andrea would be more than welcome in the pack.  In fact, Darius contacted her independently from me to say that she would be a true asset to the pack’s future and that his invitation to join was separate from her involvement with me.”  Miranda let that sink into her friend’s mind.  “That was in February.”  She added just to make the situation clear.  “Andrea knows that the decision is hers to make in her own time.  She has an unheard of open ended acceptance waiting for her.”

Nigel’s eyebrows nearly crept off of his face as the enormity of the situation settled in.  “Does she know that is not a done thing?”  He wondered if it was a Midwest thing where their customs were different and then Andrea had no other interactions with other packs to create a wider understanding.

Miranda nodded.  “She understands how unique this is and she knows that her reluctance at this point could cause ructions among the others.  Without even knowing the details, the others can clearly see that she is welcomed back month after month.”

Shaking his head as he tried to settle all of his thoughts, Nigel asked, “Why doesn’t she want to join?”  He paused and then made a motion as if waving to a list in the air of details that they both knew existed somewhere.  “She rebuked the pack in general, questioned his leadership, and called Rose out--all without saying more than fifty words.”

Leaning forward and resting her forearm on the desk Miranda signaled that this was between them.  “On her first full moon with her home pack, she found out that her father had lost his life in pack politics.  The wrong team lost, but that was what it was.  Andrea’s first full moon run with them had a drunken idiot threaten to educate her mother properly.  When Andrea stepped in, he turned his attention to her.”  Nigel’s eyes bulged as he imagined the fierce brunette’s reaction to that.  Miranda nodded severely.  “At the age of sixteen she shifted at will and had him by the throat.  Returning to human form, she put the pack on notice regarding how her mother was to be treated and how she would respond otherwise.”

Nigel tapped the desk as he considered Andrea’s background for the first time.  “She knew she would not be staying, but made it clear she would come back if needed to put anyone down who went against her mother.”  He whistled as he thought of the scene.  The twins were seventeen now and Andrea had done this while a year younger than they were now.

“If Rose or Darcy continue their tactics…” Miranda shook her head.  “Andrea doesn’t even want to join a pack.  After losing her father in a pack war for leadership, she has no interest in engaging in power plays.”  Shaking her head at the almost opposite actions of power and the lack of ambition to rule.  Meeting Nigel’s caring stare with her own troubled eyes, Miranda declared in a low voice.  “I do not want to lose her.”  Miranda stopped talking as the thought of losing Andrea choked her with emotion.

Nigel shook his head.  “Either you need to become pack master or circumstances will force Andrea to challenge for the role or be banished.”  He sighed heavily.  “Another scene like this one in front of the pack and as a guest…  No, Darius could not let that rest.”

“Do you think Darius will fight for Rose?”  Miranda wondered as she mentally moved chess pieces in her mind in response to different scenarios running through her head.

Nigel leaned back and crossed one leg over the other.  “Did you know that you called them your family?  You claimed Andrea?”

Almost bewildered, Miranda waved her fingers dismissively.  “Why of course.  She is my family, Nigel.”

Tapping the desk twice and then waving his finger in her direction, Nigel acted as though he had won a prize.  “You have only ever claimed the girls as family, Miranda.  Don’t you see?”

Startled, Miranda reviewed her previous relationships in her mind, specifically focusing on Jeremy and then Stephen.  When her thoughts returned to Andrea and family, she broke into a full smile.

At that indicator, Nigel continued.  “You should have seen Darius’ face.”  Nigel thought back over the moment.  “It hit him like a beam of pure moonlight to the heart.  The only three wolves that could shift at will that close to the zenith of the full moon and they were all part of the same family unit, almost all within the pack.”  Nigel paused before he answered the nearly forgotten question.  “I don’t think he will fight.  He lost part of himself with Irene’s passing and you know it as well as I do.  I think he has just been waiting for the sign to let the pack shift into its future.”

Blinking at him as she took in the enormity of that prediction, Miranda breathed deeply and then named the chief problem, “Rose.”

Agreeing, Nigel quietly added,  “Stephen.”

Thinking back to Nigel’s earlier observation, Miranda couldn’t help but share a secret with him, “When we got back to the car, Cassidy also shifted back.  She was so mad that she couldn’t do it in the clearing as she had been working on it with her sister and Andrea.”  The smile that greeted his utter surprise was positively feral.

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  31/36.     

Hearing the front door, Miranda slipped out of her study and down the hall.  Her senses could pick up no other clues than the sounds of the door opening and closing, the jangle of keys stuffed into a pocket, and the slow steps in the front hallway.  Her lover’s work bag thudded to the floor and then the keys were fished out of a pocket to settle on the table next to the book.  Careful not to startle her lover, Miranda moved to greet the tired figure standing, lost in the front area.

A warrior relieved of her armor, Andrea appeared to be wondering what was to come of her life.

The late hour, Andrea’s demeanor, and the lack of communication as evening had turned into night would have upset Miranda.  However, the reaction of her daughters to the announcement of the Florida verdict of not guilty in the Trayvon Martin killing gave the older woman the information she needed to understand Andrea’s disappearance and subsequent unannounced and graceless reappearance.

“The girls have barely settled.”  Miranda knew her lover would understand the need for quiet and calm.  Having been part of their recent conversations surrounding race, Miranda knew they would have to face this as a family in the morning.

“I shouldn’t have come.”  Andrea whispered.  Shrugging at Miranda, the brunette half stepped toward her lover and then seemed to think better of it and eased backward.

Stepping forward, Miranda pulled Andrea into her arms.  “You absolutely should have come.  I waited for you.”  Feeling her lover shiver before relaxing into her arms and returning the embrace, Miranda let out a breath she’d been holding.  Andrea had been shielding her outward senses in human form and only when she accepted Miranda’s comfort did she release the hold on them.  Breathing the scent of her lover in, Miranda fairly growled against the skin of her neck.  Her protective hackles were raised enough to draw the reaction from her own instincts.  They held each other for long seconds recovering in the contact of the other.

“Come.”  Miranda stepped back to pull Andrea by the hand.  

When they entered the kitchen, Andrea smiled.  “You didn’t.”

Turning to face her lover, Miranda smiled.  “I did.”  Motioning for Andrea to settle in at the small table, Miranda moved to the stove.  Despite it being summer, Miranda had made a batch of the soup Andrea said she always craved during tough times regardless of the season.  Once Caroline and Cassidy had rushed to her with the news of the verdict, part of Miranda’s strategy had been to draw them into preparing the vegetables and making the soup while she slowly drew out their reactions and thoughts.

They had worked through their reactions the best that they could and took comfort in the motions of cooking together and doing something for Andrea.

“Here.”  Miranda settled the large mug of soup in front of her mate complete with a large spoon and small pile of cheese melting on the top.

Stirring the soup, Andrea focused on the motions while she settled into the feeling of finally being done for the day.  “Thanks.”  She murmured before reaching out to Miranda’s hand on the table.

Easing back into her seat, Miranda crossed her arms over her chest.  Despite the stress of the situation, she drank in Andrea’s presence, thrilled that the younger woman had returned here to be with her instead of working the night through, or just crashing alone in her apartment across town. 

“How are the girls?”  Andrea asked in between spoonfuls of soup.

“Similar to you, they are disillusioned.  They don’t understand and want answers to how this could be considered justice.”  Miranda appreciated having Andrea at her side to navigate a response to this news and what it was revealing about the world.  She knew that the girls would appreciate the journalist point of view in addition to the younger than their mother point of view.  They were teenagers after all.

“I’m not sure I’m the best person to help them.  I don’t understand it either.”  Andrea tilted the mug searching for the last of the soup.

“You will all want to take action and doing something to make a difference will help you calm down.”  Miranda took the empty mug and spoon before dropping a kiss on her mate’s temple.  “Upstairs with you.”

After a shower and well into snuggles, Andrea wondered, “What the hell is going on in the world?”

Miranda pointed out, “These problems keep going on because we, as a people, have not dealt with or perhaps even identified the core issue or issues.”  Unknowingly, Miranda used a variation of Andrea’s own words as she pointed out that, “Events lead to a flash of awareness, anger, violence, and further incidents of a similar nature until the pressure cooker goes over and then there is change, sometimes small change and sometimes big change.  Things settle down, though they have shifted, they have yet to truly deal with the issues.”

Pausing to let Andrea get a word in and consider the rest of her own thoughts, Miranda pressed a kiss to her lover’s cheek.  Continuing to share her thinking, she began again, “We see it with other topics as well:  women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, the misunderstanding and hatred surrounding the AIDs epidemic.”  Miranda echoed Andrea’s words from month’s before, “We keep having to learn these lessons over and over.  Each issue is important, but it means that we never seem to fully move forward on the issue of race.  For example, we have a black president in Barack Obama indicating progress in our world.  We almost had a female president for that matter.  Yet we still have stand your ground laws written that would lead to a not guilty verdict today.  When we move some people and some conditions forward, we later find that we missed a lot of details that we didn’t even see as being a problem.”

Andrea stared at her.  “We don’t even see the problem.”  She repeated back to Miranda.

Miranda nodded.  “Fashion is just as guilty of racism, and a whole other host of problems.  People who choose to be part of fashion have to do so with the marks on their consciousness of sweatshops, insanely unsafe workplaces, supporting countries and governments who do not even treat people as well as we do.  Starving models, fashion designers, the amount of drugs and alcohol flowing through the very veins of the machine that creates the world of Runway Magazine, Haute Couture, from the design concepts, to showing, to production, until it goes through the department stores and into the casual corner clearance bins.” Blinking troubled eyes, Miranda fought her own frustration with the inadequate progress of their world.

“How do you do that?”  Andrea was still reeling from another hit to her worldview.

“You support the activists that you believe in.  Whether that is in person on the streets or behind the scenes.  When you have the choice in who to hire or recommend, you highlight quality, but also you look for it where others would overlook it.  Contribute to organizations.  Read and recommend books by previously unheard or silenced voices.  Buy art.”  Miranda smiled at Andrea’s giggle.  The woman had more art than she had walls in her home.  “You take time to take stock of those in your life in work and your social circles and you endeavor to expand your horizons.  You try to be aware of the issues, even those you have a harder time seeing.  Because once you begin examining, then you become more clear and can see further.  You think about what you say and how it impacts others.  You don’t tolerate hateful speech in those around you or in the books, films, designers, and others that you patronize.”  

Andrea rubbed her nose against Miranda’s in the semi dark of the room.  “That’s all there is to it.”

Miranda scooted closer.  “You do as much as you can each day and you challenge yourself to do more.  You surround yourself with people who are wiser than you.”

“The twins said I was their wolf-y Yoda.  You must be mine.”  Andrea kissed the bite mark on Miranda’s skin.  She settled firmly against her when she felt Miranda’s teeth lightly bite down on her matching mark.

 

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Unstoppable.  32/36.      

“Here we are.”  Andrea waved her arm about the living room as she held the door for her lover.  “Actually, why are we here?”  Andrea turned to face Miranda with the question wrinkling her brow.  She blushed as she thought of how blunt that was and how strange that it was odd to be in her own apartment.

“I heard there was an opening at Chez Sachs and wanted to reserve a table.”  Miranda grinned as she held up the take out containers that she had them stop for on the way.

Snapping to attention, Andrea tossed her bag on the couch and then motioned toward the small table.  “Madame, s’il vous plait.”

Laughing deeply, Miranda observed, “This is the strangest restaurant I have ever been to.  You have to bring the food yourself.”  Setting the bags on the table, she unpacked them.

Andrea did a small salute and then begged forgiveness.  “Please, Madame, forgive this humble establishment.  In New York to make it, you have to be avante-garde!  You have to have the panache , yes?  You need to claim a niche in the market.  No one else does things this way, you see?”  Andrea motioned to the containers Miranda was arranging.

Miranda fixed her younger lover with a glare known as the editor is going to take your pitch apart .  It would have melted mere mortals on the spot into little puddles.  However, it was ruined when Andrea winked at her still in character.

Full of an over abundance of energy and amusing accent, the host of Chez Sachs offered.  “You can have anything in the world that you wish to drink, Madame, order anything.  Anything.  I swear to you, you can order anything you wish.”  She gave a slight bow of the head in respect.

Chortling with laughter, Miranda waved the younger woman away from the table.

Bustling away like a semi-terrified waitress, Andrea bustled about in the kitchen opening cabinets, grabbing glasses, ice, and opening and closing the fridge.  Continuing her charade as restaurateur, she returned with a small tray to announce, “You order anything, anything at all, Madame.  It will always, always be Pellegrino when it arrives at the table.  It is like MAGIQUE, n’est pas?”  

Giving her lover the point down towards the chair, Miranda shook her head as she then grabbed a Pellegrino and a glass full of ice.  “You are too much, dear.”

Finding a spot for the tray, Andrea sat down and pulled her food closer.  “It is so strange.  I cannot remember the last time that I was here.  That is one empty kitchen.  Supplies are running low.  I’m going to have to restock.”  Picking up her fork, Andrea had eyes only for her food.

Gathering up the food containers, Andrea went into the kitchen to grab another Pellegrino to share.  When she returned there was a pensive air in the room.  Miranda was staring toward the wall of pictures and absently touching the silvery marks of their mating bite.

Andrea thought of how the complementary marks on her own skin made her smile when she saw them in the mirror or felt their slightly different texture under the pads of her fingers.  She wondered if they were there in their wolf forms and how they could check, or if it mattered.  She supposed that they would be there on the surface of the skin, but hidden under their thick coats of fur.

“Pellegrino for them?”  Andrea queried as she refilled their glasses.

Tapping her finger against her mating bite, Miranda remarked.  “You are my mate, Andrea.  My family.  Did you realize that I claimed you that way at the last gathering?”

Instinctively reaching up, Andrea ran her finger over her own silvery scars.  She scooted her chair closer to Miranda wanting there to be no distance between them.  “I am your mate.”  She let her eyes dance with Miranda’s for long seconds before she leaned forward to claim a kiss.  When they pulled away, Andrea breathed deeply before reaching for Miranda’s hand.  “I am glad that you consider me family.  I certainly think of you and the girls that way.”

Shifting her chair away from the table, Miranda let their fingertips slide together and shift before she reached out her other hand and wrapped both around her lover’s hand.  “I hadn’t realized it fully.  Nigel pointed out that I have never claimed another that way.”

The smile that tugged at the corners of Andrea’s mouth quickly lit up her entire face.  She radiated palpable joy between them.  “Intense.”  Andrea reached up and touched Miranda’s marks and then pulled her in for another deep kiss between them.  Sliding as far forward on her chair as she could, Andrea slid one knee between Miranda’s legs.  Their hands wandered while the kiss continued to map the intricacies of this connection between them.

A golden silence hung between them as they caught their breath and slowly came out of the moment.  “Andrea, my love, my mate, my mooncalled, please move in with us.  There is room for your independent spirit with us.  You practically live at the townhouse already.”  Miranda reached for Andrea’s hand and squeezed it gently.  Then with the other hand, she motioned around the apartment.  “Think of how odd it was to come here tonight.  You remarked on the feeling of being a visitor in your own home.  Your heart is with us already, please take the next step.”

Glancing around, Andrea let her eyes linger over the pictures, furniture, books, and the items in the other rooms beyond her current sight.  It bought her time to answer while her mind cast through recent memories of place and time considering that her nights were generally spent with the Priestlys, her family.  She considered the clothes that had slowly migrated over, the doubles of her personal products bought for occasions when she stayed over.  She had needed to replace the ones at the townhouse before the ones here had even gone down a quarter of the way.

It was a big step, but she wondered if it was a path she had been stepping on for many years.  A path that led her first to New York, and then to Miranda, and now to her new home.

Turning to face her partner, Andrea noted that Miranda had peacefully settled in her chair.  She had the air of the patient wolf on a moonlight run waiting to see if you would come off the porch and venture into the darkness with her or not.  The posture and bearing expressed that it was fine either way, the adventure was there whether this one was started now or Andrea would join her the next time.  Part of Andrea was amused to think of Miranda asking her question and then literally backing off and settling into her wolf form to await the response.

Andrea thought of Miranda turning people shaped at the pack gathering to claim her and her daughters.  Not only had Miranda claimed them as her family, but she publicly stood against the pack that appeared to be allowing Rose and her niece, Darcy, to weaken the pack from within.  Without hesitating, Miranda stood at Andrea’s side.

How could she not move in with her mate, her lover, and her daughters, their daughters?

“Yes.  I want to take my place in our home.”  Andrea spoke clearly.

Miranda’s smile captivated Andrea’s attention so thoroughly that she was surprised when Miranda’s weight settled on her lap.  Her hands automatically reached up to hold her lover.  The kiss pressed hard in its urgency until lips opened and tongues were touching and the urgency settled into a reveling in the wonder of each other.

Shirts stood no chance against the onslaught of nimble fingers.  They broke away from each other to stand.  Hungry for each other, they could barely stand the separation as they crashed together against the wall.  Pictures rattled against their frames.  Neither cared as they reached for each other.  A bra trailed off shoulders and then was carelessly dropped.  Fingers twined in hair while lips encased a nipple with wet heat.

Shoes were stumbled out of and left where they landed.  A bite caused a gasp which resulted in a playful escape and chase.

Pants were discarded in the doorway.

The bed welcomed their union with a squeaking bounce.

Play turned fierce when the moonlight called them higher.

Fingers stroking and curling, tongues lathing, teeth claiming, they danced into the arc of ecstasy.



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Unstoppable.  33/36.      

Parking next to Miranda’s car, Andrea stepped out and stretched her legs.  She had not been able to get away when a late breaking story called on her to rush across town, interview anyone she could contact, and then scramble to write the copy to go with the images.  With barely any effort, Andrea could tell that the pack was not near the house they used as a base on these nights.  Vaguely Andrea wondered who owned it and then let the thought drift away.  Her parents’ pack had a similar gathering place that had been in the pack families for ages.  There were likely multiple owners within the pack and a lot of legal details outlining a variety of circumstances and how that would impact the ownership of the land to keep it within the pack leadership regardless of changes over time.

Tucking her belongings in the trunk of the car, Andrea considered her options.  Rush to catch up with the pack would be the most obvious choice since she could then see her family the quickest.  However, she also knew that some of the pack may still be unsettled after the way an outsider held a member by the throat on the previous full moon.  Rose had been in the wrong, however, it was sometimes a tough thing to be confronted with an issue or event that you weren’t expecting or quite prepared to deal with.  Andrea knew she needed to tread carefully.  A guest of the pack was no more than a couple of occasions of honor.  Her extended and open invitation to join did not matter--she had not joined the pack.  Yet, Andrea had never been able to stand for bullying or for someone picking on a perceived weaker opponent.  Not when she was sixteen and certainly not now with her mate’s children in any kind of danger.

Stretching her muscles after a long drive and tense work day, Andrea did not wish to rush to the pack.  It was already quite late.  A long run in the other direction might take her off the Pack’s property before she circled around to join them, but with her skills in sense camouflage and defense she didn’t worry.  It would give her time to settle into herself after a long work week and hopefully allow her to be more accepting of the pack’s scrutiny.

She had moved in with her mate.  However, she still found herself reluctant to join the pack.  

Miranda would not pressure her, which Andrea appreciated.  It was not the same situation that her father had found himself in, though Andrea acknowledged that the first dose of wolf politics all those years ago had her distinctly distrusting of organized packs.  Over the years, she had interacted with a couple of other packs that sooner or later revealed that they had the same kind of jockeying for power.

Other packs were stable over time in ways that had Andrea interested in sort of going undercover to explore and study the dynamics of successful packs.  She knew that the work could never be made public, but she considered that it would be a valuable resource.  Business leadership books had a growing section in the bookstores and Andrea wondered if it would be worth doing a study that blended some of those techniques and work with wolf packs and writing about it, but not revealing that the organization was supernatural.

“I need to get going.”  Andrea muttered to herself.  Her mind could wander down these creative hallways for days if she let it.  Even though she was here to run on the full moon to burn off the crazy energy.

Diving into the transformation, Andrea shook herself and did a little dance as she oriented herself into this four-legged body.  Then she took off at a run in the opposite direction from where she knew the pack usually roamed.

Splashing through a stream, Andrea startled a family of raccoons washing their food.  The momma struck out at her with the swipe of claws and the whole family chittered at her.  Turning to tease them, Andrea waggled her body and ducked her head and front paws down to talk back.  When the mother scuttled toward her as fast as she could waddle, Andrea waited until just the last second to turn around and run away.

Once the adrenaline had worn off from her game, Andrea stopped to check herself over.  That raccoon had meant business even if Andrea had only come across them accidentally and then wanted to play a bit.  Checking the moon and her surroundings, Andrea figured that it was closing in on midnight.  She hadn’t meant to arrive as late as she did, but she supposed it meant less time with the pack and possible unsettled nerves.

Poking around a bit Andrea realized that she was dawdling and putting off her interaction with the pack.  Had it been a deliberate choice on her part, then she would have been fine with it.  When she caught herself unconsciously backing away, then she found that unacceptable.  The pack would have to sort itself out.  It was not a big ask that she wanted Rose held accountable for interfering with the natural shenanigans of the teenagers discovering their own pecking order.

Taking off at a run, Andrea wanted to close the distance to catch up with the pack.  In her hurry, she came across a coyote.  It had been stalking a cat and turned angrily on the intruder.  Focusing her mind on this adversary, Andrea brought herself up to the biggest that she could appear and turned her senses up the opposite way of how she would turn them down to remain incognito.  

Standing its ground the coyote cautiously eyed Andrea from top to bottom.  Her overpowering scent caused it to flinch while it processed the overall posture.  When it seemed the other predator would not attack, the coyote stepped forward aggressively.  This creature might be bigger and stronger, but it had scared away dinner.

Andrea bounded forward snarling to prove that just because she didn’t want to attack, that didn’t preclude her ability to do so.  The coyote turned and ran.

With a huff, Andrea relaxed her senses to calm her aura and just let the tension wash away.  She had been ready to fight and that always took a bit to shake out from.  

Returning to her goal, she lurched forward glad that the coyote had not gone the way that she needed in order to circle around to her pack.

Her pack?

That’s new.

She kept her pace even not wanting to shy away, nor wanting to jump into a clash by coming up on the far side and catching any of the pack by surprise.

Realizing it must have been later than she counted on, Andrea knew that the pack had already headed back toward the main residence.  Putting on a burst of speed, she focused only on the path back, hazards, and obstacles.

Literally running into a group of youngsters, Andrea hopped up and away so as not to crush the smaller wolf she had rolled over.  When she was greeted with snarling and an aggressive youth snapped its teeth at her, Andrea glanced around to evaluate the scene she had stumbled into.  

With a low dismissive growl, Andrea flicked her head in the direction of the house indicating that she was on her way back and hadn’t meant to interrupt their hijinks.  She too had been a teenager once and loved playing a variety of games with others even beyond when the adults would have preferred they had all returned before the gray light of day began to break.

Andrea even stepped sideways in an effort to diffuse the situation and carry on the way she had intended.

Three of the youth had turned their attention on Andrea at this point causing her to wonder why they would choose to attack a guest of the pack when the situation had been clear cut and not warranting this sort of posturing.  By her actions Andrea had apologized and indicated that she would intrude no further.  There was something off with this amount of disrespect bordering on actual threat to their behavior.

Inhaling deeply and stretching her senses out to take in the full measure of the situation, Andrea realized that a large pack of youths had gathered here, including two whose smells had permeated Andrea’s daily life.  The rest of the pack had continued on toward the house.

It was left for Andrea to take on a group of the pack children if they followed through on their aggressive behavior or for her to turn tail and run.  She supposed that her decision would hinge upon the condition of Caroline and Cassidy.

Snuffling out a query to the girls, Andrea shifted her position to try to get a better view of those present.  She had not spotted the girls with her eyes at this point though she had begun to hone in on her sense of them.  She could smell fear, though it was not just coming from the twins.  Others in the group were showing it as well, giving Andrea the impression that she had stumbled onto another occasion where someone was behaving badly.

A whine reached her ears from Caroline.

It was followed by a short scuffle and a whimper.

The silence that had settled around them was thick.

Andrea pawed the ground in front of her as she shifted to have a view in the direction the whimper had come from.  The posture indicated that those who did not wish to take her on had better leave.

Sounds bobbed and wove through the group of young wolves that would likely be challenging an adult in a full conflict for the first time and were being put into the position of it by peer pressure.  Friendships, alliances, and right and wrong would be broken or strengthened in the next several minutes.

Andrea nodded her head in the direction of Caroline, then she tilted it in the direction of the house.  Her message was clear.  I want my girls and I want to go.

The choice was theirs.

Puffed as large as she could make herself, Andrea stalked forward into the group.  She would get eyes on her girls and they would go.  She would not engage beyond intimidation unless she had no choice.  Strategically it was a mess, she would have wolves circling around her to close off her exit as she continued forward.  She would not attack unless there was no other choice.

Caroline was being held with a wolf at her throat, while Cassidy lay motionless curled in a ball.  Andrea could not smell any blood.  She knew this would not end well.  She could not imagine what the mob was thinking; however, with her experience, Andrea knew a fight was imminent.  She could only count on the weakest connected running off to the pack and their parents once reality crashed into their minds.  She only hoped that help would arrive before irrevocable damage could be done.

The moment Andrea growled a challenge directly in the face of the wolf over Caroline, Darcy jumped on her.  Andrea had known where the instigator was from the moment she had recognized how off kilter the situation had become.

Before Andrea could hurt Darcy, the majority of the others scattered.  Rose bound onto the scene and switched from wolf to human.  She screamed for Darius and then stood with her hands on her hips waiting.

Andrea took up guard position over Cassidy as Caroline wriggled herself into a sitting position.  The others circled around to be on Darcy and Rose’s side, stayed on the sidelines clearly out of the conflict the moment that they could do so, or they had run back.  

Two adults in the pack arrived quickly and others could be heard moving toward them.  Jake and Shannon shifted easily now that it was close to dawn.  Trying to understand the situation they glanced about and stepped away from each other in somewhat battle ready positioning.  

“What is the meaning of this?”  Jake shouted as he took in the situation.

Holding a weeping Darcy to her chest, Rose launched into her explanation.  “Andrea had Darcy by the throat.  She must have snuck up on them from behind.  She wasn’t here for the pack run because she was biding her time.”

Andrea shifted into human form as she realized that others were returning including Darius.  The twins would not come to further harm.  Cassidy was breathing, but not moving and her needs outweighed any accusations of this power hungry former lover.

Pointing down at Cassidy, Andrea explained.  “I went the long way around and was catching up with the pack.  I stumbled into whatever was going on with the teenagers.  I had intended to keep going.  They blocked me.  Concerned by the unnatural behavior, I worried an issue similar to last month had developed.  By scent and sound, I confirmed that my girls were here.  I could not see them and when I approached to check on them, the others circled on me.  Darcy jumped me from the side,” Andrea raised her shirt to show the freely bleeding wound given to her.  “Cassidy is not moving.”

Dancing in her rage, Rose shrieked, “It isn’t your place to step in.  You don’t have any authority here.  You are not pack.  You have no claim on those twins or my niece.  Where’s their mother, since you are not her?”  Rose was practically dancing with each verbal stab in Andrea’s direction.

“Right here, Rose.  I’m right here.”  Miranda’s cool voice carried on the predawn breeze sending a chill through all those assembled.  

 

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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  34/36.      

Shoving a still sniffling Darcy away from her, Rose turned to face Miranda with a sick glee.  “Your little bitch needs to watch out.”  Rose taunted Miranda.  “She has no business here.  She’s not pack.”

Noting that Nigel and Serena had joined Andrea with the girls, Miranda could focus on the still ongoing threat.  She could hear the others returning in a rush from the house.  Many of the children had come back in a panic with out of breath and somewhat conflicting stories.  Having not seen her own children return and hearing that her lover was fighting, Miranda had simply run faster than the others.  She was glad of it now.

“Your objection is noted.  I will hold you to all other pack rules, since you have become such a stickler for them.”  Miranda had begun to circle the other woman speaking in the low tone that drew lesser mortal’s attention.  It would disorient Rose to her surroundings and have her attention focused solely on Miranda.

“She needs to watch out.”  Rose repeated though there was considerably less wind in her sails now.

Miranda huffed a small laugh at this threat.  “It was you on the ground last month, Rose.  Not the other way around.”  She kept her voice low and her demeanor guarded but icy calm. Her steps continued to slowly circle Rose so that the woman had to keep pace with her or show Miranda her back.

“She’s not pack!”  Rose screeched.

The others around the circle grumbled at this.  It had become an issue for them after all, Miranda noted.  Though not an issue enough that they had turned on Andrea or asked for her guest status to be revoked.  To her ears, it sounded more like they wished that Andrea had joined the pack already.

Miranda paused, placing Rose with her back to Andrea, the girls, Nigel, and Serena.  She breathed easier when she saw Cassidy sit up mostly on her own.  When the girl turned enough to face her, Miranda could tell that she had been knocked about, but would recover.

“What is your real issue, Rose?”  Miranda rolled her eyes and glanced around the crowd allowing them to join in with various noises and gestures.  They weren’t all supportive, but in Rose’s state of mind, Miranda could count on the woman taking it as though the whole pack had turned on her.

“Every time the teenagers try to sort out their own power levels, this bitch steps in to lord it over them.”  Rose pointed back behind herself as she spoke.

“Last month, Andrea went after you when you were manipulating your own niece into a conflict.  This month you are somehow here first when your niece attacks my mate for checking on the health of our children.”  Miranda stepped close into Rose’s space snapping the woman’s attention to her.

Both stood breathing hard inches from each other as the pack shifted uneasily around them.  This spontaneous fight did not have the usual markings of a pack challenge.  There had been no behind the scenes forming of alliances and a clear cut division of the pack unveiled.  In fact, the two fighting were not even the Pack Master or the second.  No one really knew what to do when they went wolfy and everyone could tell that it was only a matter of seconds.

“I won’t go.”  Cassidy’s voice rang out clearly in the tense silence.

Andrea stepped closer to Darius, “Is this what it has come to in your Pack?  This one did not learn, Darius.”  Her words were clear and firm.  They were infused with iron that would not bend.  The fact that she was not posturing or visibly angry scared the daylights out of those assembled.

“How dare you challenge Darius for Rose’s bullshit?”  Someone called out from the sidelines.

“You have no say here.  You’re not pack.”  Another piped up louder than the grumbling that had started.

Turning in a clear circle, Andrea’s aura flared though she showed no outward excitability.  “You can all shove it.  This is precisely why I never joined a pack.  If you are okay with her treating children this way, then you should be ashamed of yourselves let alone your pack.”  Andrea caught Miranda’s eye as she completed her turn around the assembled group before focusing on Darius once more.  “What is it going to be?”

His shoulders sinking with the decision he was having to make on the spot, Darius looked defeated before any kind of fighting had truly even begun.

Stepping so that she could have both Rose and Darius in her view, Miranda called out clearly.  “Darius, if you do not wish to continue as Leader, then I petition to ascend.”  Focusing all of her attention on Rose, Miranda dared her with every fiber of her being, let’s fucking end this .

Crickets did not dare to chirp in the silence that crashed down on the pack.  Darius sucked in a breath and held it as he contemplated the sheer volume of importance on that one sudden question and the impact his answer in the moment would have on so many others and their lives.  Momentous would be one word, but even then it did not measure up to the sheer magnitude.  

The youngest ones only knew that their adults had become the kind of still that their prey froze in during the hunt.  They just hoped that their family would snap out of it soon.  The idea that something was a more powerful predator than their pack was horrifying.

Many of the older teens felt sick that their actions had been part of the final straw that had come to this.

Miranda Priestly had just petitioned to ascend as Pack Master, partly to save her lover Andrea Sachs, guest of the Pack, and partly because Rose Garrer had always been jealous of her, and partly to forever protect her pups.

Before Darius could exhale or come up with any words, Rose jumped at Miranda shifting as she went.  With a step back and a heavy arm swing back and up over her head, Miranda shoved the other wolf to the ground hard.  Using her human height, Miranda was able to jump just before her transition using that momentum to further press Rose into the ground.

Unseen by either fighter, Nigel, Serena, and Emily fanned out in case Rose had support that would go so far as to interrupt now.  They didn’t think it was likely.  An unplanned spontaneous coup was a rare thing to imagine and there was no way to prepare for it.  Andrea stayed with her daughters.  She could defend them in a clear cut scenario; however, the pack members were better for holding back anyone intending to interfere with this fight.

With a deep bite, Miranda shoved Rose away from her to worsen the wound.  Rose staggered to her feet as spectators backed away from her.  She glanced around and whined, but there was no response.

Miranda gave Rose space.  She wanted this fight to be decisive and she wanted Rose to have every chance to charge.  She did not want Rose to live on the false hope that Miranda just got in a lucky hit with the smackdown followed by the jump and easy throat bite.  She also wanted Rose to know that while she could have killed her, she did not.  Rose would hate her even more, but she would know there would never be a way to beat her and she owed her for her life.

After four charges where Rose ran up snarling, ready to bite, pawing at Miranda and jumping up to try to get a hold of her, or to bring her down, Miranda finally saw the opening to lunge.  Using her body weight, Miranda sank her teeth into Rose’s front leg and twisted her over so that she was on her back underneath Miranda.  With a growl, Miranda released the leg and within a few moves she had her jaw clearly in place for a killing bite.

Rose tried to wave her off with her front paws, to kick at her with her bottom legs, to wriggle and writhe to get free in any way that she could.  

Miranda simply held her in place and would not budge.  She did not deepen her hold, nor did she jostle away or loosen her grip.

The heavy curtain of silence and breathless anticipation returned until Rose lay still trying to catch her breath.

“Enough.”  Darius called out in a voice infused with all of the authority he still had over the pack.  “Miranda Priestly, let her up.  She will face me for punishment.”

Miranda backed immediately away.  She shifted into human form and joined her daughters.

“Rose Garrer, come here.”  Darius pointed to the ground at his feet as he stepped into the center where the fight had been.  

Rolling to her feet, Rose stepped over to her Pack Master.  Shifting into human form, she kneeled at his feet.

“Rose Garrer, you have been warned.  You know your own history and mind.  You know the consequence that your actions have brought down upon you now.”  Darius’ voice rang with authority though it was tinged with sadness.  He did not want to do this to a member of his pack, but this one had brought shame to them all.  “Rose Garrer, you are banished from this pack.  You and all who claim you are not welcome here.”

Darius’ second stepped forward and in a clear voice said, “Rose Garrer, you are banished.”

Then another voice repeated the words, until everyone in the pack spoke them together as one.

A different kind of silence descended as the words died out.

Sobbing hysterically, Rose stood, found Darcy and rushed away from the circle of the Pack.  No one followed them or checked on them.  Events the woman had put in motion had not fully run their course.

“Andrea Sachs, come here.”  Darius pointed to the same spot.

Head held high regardless of what judgment might come, Andrea stepped forward without hesitation.  She would accept the consequences of her actions to protect her daughters.  For her there was nothing else.  Standing the accepted respectful distance away from him, Andrea lowered her eyes to the ground and held her hands open to the sides palms toward Darius.  She did not scrape her leg back into a courtly bow, yet her move was entirely acceptable.  She was a guest of the pack, a strong ally to Miranda, and acted for the safety of pups putting herself at risk.  She did not need to bow and scrape.  “Darius.”  She simply acknowledged him.

“Andrea Sachs, have you accepted the Pack invitation?”  He did not need to explain that it would be revoked if she did not choose to accept it at this point in time.

“I accept the Pack.  I run with this Pack.  I have chosen.”  Andrea responded in words she had heard in so many stories and lessons.  Words that until now she could not have uttered with a true heart.

Again Darius’ second stepped forward, “Andrea Sachs, the pack claims you.”

Serena repeated the words, then Emily, and then Nigel.  By that time the rest of the pack was echoing the words until they said it all as one.

This time the silence was welcomed with a sense of anticipation.  There was the hint of celebration somehow as a new member was welcomed into the pack.

Darius released Andrea with a subtle nod.  She returned to her daughters.  Darius spoke to the pack, “There is an unanswered question.  Miranda Priestly inquired if I wished to continue as Leader.  She offered to put forth a petition to ascend.”  Darius turned in a circle taking in the body language of his pack and trying to gauge their reactions.  This was not usually done on the spot this way or if it was, then it was done via an organized and bloody fight to the death.  There were rarely calmly offered challenges right in the heat of the moment.  However, he had been Pack Master for a long time and weathered many storms.  He held himself steady now.

“Retirement is a rare thing in our world.  The changing of leadership is often violent or some other intrigue leaves an opening at the top.  I embrace this new direction in my life and hope to become a wise elder that the Pack consults from time to time.  I accept Miranda Priestly’s petition to ascend.  She has already proven her dominance.  Rose Garrer chose her own ruin.”  Turning around to seek input from the pack again, Darius opened the floor.  “Are there any others ready to rule?”

Shuffling feet, the occasional murmur of a younger to a parent and back again, the whisper and giggle of teens ready to move away from the ceremony, and the occasional night sound of the forest were all that answered him.

“Miranda is not mated.  The leader must have a mate.”

“Andrea has barely joined.  How can she whisper into the ear of our leader?”

Returning to the center, Andrea glanced around at her new pack.  “I have run with you for 8 months.  I obeyed your rules and followed your customs as a guest.  My caution over joining goes back to the pack of my youth as you well know.  I have overcome that hesitation and joined my family.”  Andrea stepped closer to Darius again.  Then she pulled her shirt to the side.  “That is the silvery scar of a mooncalled mating bite.  Anyone who doubts my commitment would do well to consider what these marks mean.”

Stepping close to her lover, Miranda bared her skin as well to reveal to Darius and those nearest to him the matching silvery scars on her skin.  “I show these private marks to you, so that there is no question.  I want no grumbling behind the scenes or factions forming.  I want to deal with things up front, even if there is a disagreement.  I want to know your thoughts so that they can make the pack better together.”

Darius barely glanced at his second in command, “Objections?”  He dared the others.  “Hmm.  There has to be blood and a show of dominance.”  He pondered Miranda and those closest to them.  “Anyone got a knife?”

Nigel came forward with a multitool including a short blade.  

No one made any objections.

Miranda took the multitool from her good friend and extended the blade.  “What do you reckon, a symbolic palm wound and I take you to your knees?”  Miranda knew they were making this up on the spot, but it seemed to fit in with old fashioned childhood rituals.

At Darius’ nod, Miranda swiped the blade over her own palm and then reached for his for a similar move.  Before either of them could feel the pain or any blood had fallen to the ground, Miranda leaned forward into an arm drag followed by a drop and the use of her body to trip Darius down.  It was a simple and effective wrestling move that so many of them had practiced over the years.

When he had caught his breath, Darius called loudly, “Miranda Priestly, I yield to you.”

Later no one could find the words for it, but they had all felt the shift of power between them as the moon recognized the new Leader of the pack.



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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  35/36.      

Hustling back to the townhouse, Andrea let herself in.  She had made good time getting back to the city, though parking in New York held its own kind of magic and consequences.  Setting her bag down in Miranda’s study, Andrea made her way back out to the foyer peeking into the kitchen and bathroom along the way.  She was surprised to see the townhouse only lit by the early morning light and filled with the quiet so commonly associated with the small hours.  She rushed toward the front of the house when she heard movement upstairs.

Leaning over the railing the same way that her girls often did, Miranda motioned with her head for Andrea to join her.  Grinning, Andrea gave her a thumbs up and then turned to set the alarm.  Her footsteps light on the stairs, Andrea swiftly caught up to her mate.  “The girls are sleeping?”  She whispered before giving Miranda a peck on the lips.

“Almost.  They wanted to see you first.”  Miranda tenderly rubbed her nose against Andrea’s nose.  “Cassidy’s room.”

Tapping on the door, Andrea heard a soft welcome and turned the handle.  Crossing the room, she settled at the foot of the bed.  “Staying together tonight, huh?”

Cassidy sat up and crawled so that she could hug Andrea.  “Thank you, Momma A.”

Turning and scooting, Caroline sat up, “Is that okay Momma A?  I mean is it okay that we call you that?”

Hugging Cassidy and then moving so she could hug Caroline, Andrea smiled widely.  “That is a wonderful way to call me.  I’m glad you claim me in your family.  I know I sure include you in mine.”

Cassidy scooted closer to her sister again as Andrea leaned against the head of the bed.  “Doctor Louise checked me over while you were all talking.  She said I was right to play possum.  I just hoped that I would know when to get up again.”

Considering the situation, Andrea thought out her response for a few moments.  “I think that it was a good strategy.  They leave you alone, whichever of you goes down first.  Then when they focus on the other one of you, it gives a tactical advantage.  I doubt you’ll need that kind of strategy at this point, but it is good for critical thinking.  Kind of like war games where you work through a scenario and consider actions and reactions.  That sort of thinking skill generalizes to other situations as well.”

Caroline applied the thought to a future plan as she suggested, “We should play some of these games with the ones who have been good to us.  There may not be the Rose-Darcy shenanigans, but we will still have to work out our own place in the younger crowd.  Darcy had friends that we might need to be on the lookout for.  It will bring our group closer together.”

With a big yawn, Cassidy nodded her head.  Blushing she said, “Time for sleep I think.  How about you Caro?”  She rearranged her pillow to settle in.

“Me too.”  Caroline agreed as she picked up her sister’s yawn.

“Night, Momma A.”  They both drowsily murmured to her.

By the time Andrea had bent to kiss both foreheads, the girls were asleep.

Miranda was pacing in their room.  It was a slow pace that Andrea missed upon her entry.  However, coming out of the walk-in closet she realized that while Miranda had been on her way one direction when she came into the room, Miranda was now on her way in the other direction.  In her sleepshirt, Andrea padded over to her mate and wrapped her arms around her.  “Miranda.  What is it?  The girls are okay.  Cassidy wasn’t knocked out, she was playing possum.”

Trying to turn away, Miranda growled low in her throat when Andrea held her in strong arms.  Miranda wanted to take comfort in the closeness of their bodies, though she didn’t want the heartache when it was taken away from her.  Reaching up she tried to shift Andrea’s hands away from her only to have them held against her own body until she was clutching at them against her breasts.

“Not talking, hmm?”  Andrea rested her chin on Miranda’s shoulders.  “Not fighting me anymore either though.”  The younger woman thought out loud.  “Actually you’re hanging on tightly now.”  Andrea nuzzled the side of Miranda’s neck and stepped forward so that one of her feet was between Miranda’s and they were as close as they could possibly be.  “You can chime in when you’re ready, but I’m going to start with the highlights that I know about.”  She gently bit the curve of Miranda’s neck to let her know this was love talking and that she would push, but still try to give her some space.

When Miranda shifted their arms into more of a hugging you hugging me from behind shape, Andrea began.  “The girls were not hurt.  They are safe and sound.  The instigator has been banished and will take her counterpart with her.  I almost challenged the entire pack, which might have gotten me dead.  Then you petitioned for leadership.  The only contender tried to kick your ass and failed spectacularly.  I don’t know why you let the fight go on as long as it did.  Honestly.  Then I joined the Pack.  Darius passed leadership to you in a ceremonial battle.  Some other boring stuff before we left and drove back here.  Oh, the girls want to call me Momma A.  I came looking for my lover, my mate, my Miranda and I found this agitated creature instead.  Can you tell me where my Miranda is, hmmm?”  With another bite on Miranda’s neck, Andrea relaxed her hold, but did not loosen it.  The message was clear that Miranda could move about, but that Andrea wanted her close.  Steady, yet flexible.

Shaking her head, Miranda breathed in and out for long seconds.  She rubbed Andrea’s arms to let her know that she was enjoying their embrace and her strength.  Then Miranda expressed her concerns, “You never wanted to be in charge of a pack, Andrea.”

“Mmmmm.”  Andrea let her lips vibrate against Miranda’s skin as she considered the situation for a moment.  Then she let her lips form into a smile just the same, so that Miranda would be able to feel it even more than hear it in her words.  “I have everything I have ever wanted in a mate, you,”  She grinned and turned Miranda around, before adding, “And our daughters.”

Face to face with her lover, Miranda could only see joy and acceptance.  Her other senses only picked up on the same although there was a large trace of arousal as well.  “I love you so much, dear, Andrea.”  Miranda leaned in for a kiss.

In the response, Andrea subvocally called to her mate.  With lip to lip kisses, they tasted and then drank deeply of the other as they deepened the kiss.  Miranda accepted the call and her body responded to its mate.  It may have been daylight, but the power of the moon glowed around them.  

Fingers sought out skin and moved or tore away clothing blocking access.  Within them their wolfish natures surged to the fore adding an animal abandon to teeth biting into skin and growls calling and challenging the other.  Naked and alluring, Andrea drew her lover to the bedside where she finished shedding her mate’s clothes.

“You are mine?”  Miranda asked, holding her lover tight.  The day had gone cloudy for it was darker in the room and only the glow of their bodies kept them visible.

Her eyes going wolf gold, Andrea responded in a human voice laced with her wolf.  “All of me is yours.”

Her blue eyes shifting gold in response, Miranda stepped into Andrea where she claimed her with a kiss and with her fingers.  With a keening wail, Andrea dug her nails into Miranda’s skin.  She was lost to the dance even as they had only begun to sway to the music.  Miranda’s touches only tantalized Andrea higher and higher.  Up on the bed, they writhed together, Andrea giving now and then Miranda again, again, again.

Their glow filled the room as they filled each other.  In a sudden moment of pain, Miranda bit back a wail as her body followed an aching summons of the moon.  “Andrea.”  She growled into the heated air between them.

Rising to her knees, Andrea reached up, sliding her fingers into Miranda’s hair and pulling her hard into a kiss.  Pulling away, Andrea bit Miranda’s bottom lip.  “Only you, Miranda.  Only you.”  Letting her free hand play over Miranda’s heaving chest, pert nipple, flexing side, and then down to this new appendage, Andrea held it firmly.  “Are you mine?”  She let another rumble punctuate her voice.  “All of you?”  Andrea squeezed Miranda to make sure she was clear what was included.

“Yes.  As you are mine.  I am yours.  All of me to all of you.”  Miranda wasn’t sure where the words came from, but the connection between them was divine.  Her mind was clear on their actions, though a little hazy on the moonglow and the implications.

Turning, Andrea placed herself as close to Miranda as she could while holding herself up with her hands.  “All of you to all of me.”  Andrea turned her wolf gold eyes back up to urge her lover into motion.



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Chapter Text

Unstoppable.  36/36.      

Returning from the bathroom, Andrea stretched and stretched her muscles out.  The day after a full moon always had residual effects; however, today felt like a combination of three full moons, an especially athletic marathon of a nighttime variety, and the effects of an appendage that had rarely played a part in her life thus far.  Smiling at the clothes strewn around the room, Andrea gathered them up and threw them in the basket in the closet.  Stepping out, she turned to the side and stopped short--the cyclamen had come out of hibernation and bloomed in the course of their morning.

Glancing away and then back to confirm she had not imagined it, Andrea peeked at her lover, down her body, and then back to the blooming when it should not be blooming cyclamen plant.

Actions in the form of sense memories complete with physical sensations coursing through her body helped Andrea’s waking mind to leave sleepy town.  Details of their words and sense of bonding mate to mate all over again echoed in her mind to build with those sense memories.  The memory of Miranda’s wolf eyes had Andrea sliding into bed with her lover to confirm and affirm.

Fingers under the sheet found Miranda’s skin and then the wet heat of her lover.  Andrea lingered there, letting Miranda’s body tell her she was interested, but still caught in a dream.

“Miranda.”  Andrea murmured before she bent down to catch an exposed nipple in her mouth.

Getting into the sensations, Miranda’s hips thrust against Andrea’s fingers.  Her hands came up to hold Andrea against her breast.  “Andrea.”  Miranda moaned long and loud as she reached awareness and ecstasy at the same time.

Pleased with her wake up call, Andrea snuggled next to her panting lover.

“Good morning.”  Miranda grinned up at her lover after several long moments of finding herself and floating back down to her body in the bed and her awareness of the waking world.  “What was that, Andrea?”  With a full body shiver, Miranda turned to face her mate.

Tracing her fingers over the mark to draw Miranda’s eye, Andrea pointed out.  “I have another mating mark.”

Sitting up to trace her fingers over the new and healed mark, Miranda winced from the action.  Distracted by her own body, Miranda turned this way and that, stretching out one leg and then the other.  With wide eyes turned on her lover, Miranda signalled for a moment and backed off the bed.

Amused, Andrea only nodded and waved her lover away.

Standing Miranda tested her bodily reactions to movement and then disappeared into the bathroom.  Returning several minutes later, she carried the glass kept in the cupboard and a handful of pain relievers.  “I have a second mating mark as well.”  Slipping three tablets into her mouth, Miranda washed them down with water.  “Theories?”  She queried her partner with a raised eyebrow.

 

Sitting up, Andrea held out her hand for pain tablets and the glass.  Taking them, Andrea answered the question with a question.  “You know those Mooncalled Legends and such, are there any you may have forgotten to tell me?  I feel like I missed a major plot twist.”

Fixing her lover with a look that clearly said do not try to distract me , Miranda began to generate her own theory.  “We engaged in a marathon that has left me invigorated, but my legs are rather sore.”  Glancing around the room, Miranda asked, “Did we get the toys out?”

Finishing the water, Andrea slid out of bed and held her lover from behind.  “No toys, lover.  It was all of you to all of me.  Don’t you remember?  Or did the moonglow go to your head?”  Andrea waited to see if the memories would surface with a bit of prodding like they did for her.

“I thought I dreamed that.”  Miranda whispered.

Nuzzling Miranda’s neck and shoulders, Andrea let the moment stretch a little before adding, “It was dreamy all right, but I was there too and all I can say is that it is a good thing we are mated and I am living here.”

Shocked, Miranda turned in Andrea’s arms.  “What are you talking about, Andrea?”

Grinning, Andrea put Miranda’s hand on her bare stomach.  “Last night there was some mooncalled legendary action going on.”

Startled, Miranda backed away slightly to see where Andrea had placed her hand.  “What?”

Pointing to her new mating bite, Andrea explained.  “If we weren’t already mated, then this would have been a surprise.”  When Miranda nodded her acceptance of that fact, Andrea moved on.  “You took over leadership of the pack and I think the moon approved of that with a round or twenty of marathon mystery sex.  With me so far?”  Andrea stopped again hoping that Miranda was ready to connect the dots now.

With a nod, Miranda bade her to continue.

“The moon gave you a moonbeam, dear.”  Andrea reached to cup Miranda’s sex and make the point.  “Then you put a little moonglow into me.”

Miranda opened and closed her mouth several times in rapid succession.  “You mean to say?”

Tugging Miranda to sit with her on the bed again, Andrea explained in a different way.  “When Cassidy and Caroline graduate in the Spring, I should be able to bring little Moonbeam here to the ceremony.”

Caressing Andrea’s face with gentle fingers, Miranda just stared in awe at her lover for long seconds.  Then seeming to snap out of it, she declared.  “We will not name the baby, Moonbeam.”

Andrea nodded very seriously, “You’re right, Luna would be better.”

Miranda growled at her mate.

Chortling with glee, Andrea warned her.  “Be careful what you wish for, Pack Master.”

Sudden worry flashing in Miranda’s eyes, she pointed out, “Andrea.  You didn’t wish for any of this.”  Her eyes searched Andrea’s for any signs that she was covering feelings she hadn’t made known yet.  

Silencing her with a finger on her lips, Andrea assured her.  “I wished for a strong family.  One that was solid and could weather the changes of time and pack and life.  I love your daughters as my own and I love you more than I can express.  We have that family I wanted.  I kinda wanted to have a child of my own, but it was barely even a concept and not a fully formed thought, dream, or fantasy.  Am I like the First Lady of the Pack now?  Because if that is so, then I cannot imagine a better role to be in, so that I can protect the twins and ensure others are living up to pack standards.”

Kissing Andrea, Miranda poured all the love she could into the embrace.  “You are amazing.”

Waggling her eyebrows, Andrea added, “And if it was just some freaky moony celebration sex?  Then so be it.  It’s not like we need to buy condoms.”  Pulling Miranda toward her as she fell back on the bed, Andrea demonstrated why they would not need such prophylactics.

When they both got their breath back, Miranda slipped out of bed and disappeared into the closet.  

Curious, Andrea sat up on the bed wondering what Miranda was up to.

Still naked, Miranda settled on her knees next to the bed and held up a ring box.  “Andrea, will you be my First Lady of the Pack and my only lady?  Will you marry me?”

Springing forward, Andrea landed on top of Miranda sending them into a heap of limbs on the floor.  “Yes.   Yes.  Yes.  What a time to propose!”  Andrea had sat up and helped Miranda arrange their limbs on the floor.

Rolling her eyes, Miranda huffed out a breath.  “It is anticlimactic now and a bit redundant.  However waiting for a more appropriate time would be even sillier.  So let’s end the story of tonight, the right way.”  Opening the box, she took out the ring and slipped it onto Andrea’s finger.

When Andrea crushed her to the floor with renewed kisses, Miranda groaned, “Thank goodness for werewolf healing and fortitude.”



Fin.

 

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