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Through the Trees

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Anita sighed, finally feeling the exhaustion from driving nonstop for hours.

 

After being away for two weeks sleeping on springy beds in rural motels, she was adamant on sleeping on her own bed tonight. A quick look on the dashboard clock told her that she at least have an hour or two before the sun rises.

 

She got off her truck stiffly, bones cracking and half of her ass numb from sitting. She stretched her arms as she looked at the tree saplings sitting on the bed of her truck, finally deciding that she'll deal with them later in the day.

 

She turned towards her cabin with a weary shuffle, missing the sleek SUV parked at the other side of her tool shed, looking out of place in the forest.



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The very first thing that Anita saw when she entered her cabin was a black high heeled boot, resting haphazardly on the floor right across the doorway. It was laying on its side, looking a bit odd without its pair. Further in, she saw a trendy jacket hanging at the back of her sofa and the other boot sticking sideways from under it.

 

The groan she let out was loud. She forgot about the full moon and her guest.

 

She ignored the other clothing articles scattered around her living area and headed towards the bedroom.

 

Anita was close to tears when she saw the giant white wolf sleeping on her bed, sprawled and occupying the whole thing.



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"Lo," she called out.

 

"Loba, please, I'm so tired. Can you move a bit?"

 

She saw the wolf's ear tweak, but it didn't wake.

 

"Andrade," she tried again, a little louder this time. She placed her hand on the soft fur of the wolf's haunches and pushed. "Come on, I want to sleep. Please move."

 

Nothing. The wolf was dead to the world.

 

Anita frowned. There was no way she could move her guest with sheer strength alone. She had tried before. Loba was heavier than she looked in her wolf form, especially when she's adamant on being a nuisance. She wouldn't be able to fit herself in the sliver of space behind her guest either, and though her years in the army had taught her how to sleep on a plank of wood without falling off, she deserved to have a good night's sleep on a proper bed.

 

Hers, preferably. But she accepted quickly that it wasn't going to happen now.

 

With one last longing look at her soft bed, Anita let out the heaviest sigh of the night, and headed out the room towards the sofa.



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Two years ago...

 

Anita let out a breath as she stretched, popping her spine with a satisfied groan. The new saplings she planted the week prior were healthy. Despite the uncharacteristic heat the past few days, they were thriving.

 

She looked around and let herself smile. Five years of hard work and a considerable part of the land that she had bought was now covered with fledgeling trees. It wasn't anywhere near it's previous state, but it was a start. It was hard work, but it felt good. She welcomed the sweltering heat against her skin as she placed her hands on her waist, feeling a sudden nostalgia of her days as a grunt.

 

It was hard back then too, but her whole family had been in the army and it was the only thing she knew. She was good at it–not the killing, more like the helping. Although she could argue that she was good with the killing too. It was an odd thing to be proud of, but that was the truth.

 

When she realized that it wasn't for her anymore, she packed everything up, used up most of her savings to buy a piece of land that was damaged by a wildfire and decided that she wanted to rehabilitate it, whatever that meant.

 

Anita was a different person back then–she always carried around a certain kind of guilt being in the army–so when others saw nothing but ash and burnt stumps and a lot of years wasted tending to land, she saw salvation.

 

Her family was sad when she left, but they understood. They all had a different way to cope.

 

Now Anita spends her days planting trees.

 

The sound of a twig snapping pulled her out of her head. When she turned to look at the direction, she was greeted by a pair of cunning amber eyes and a bloody mess of a fur.

 

Anita had accepted that she was going to die that morning, eaten by a white wolf almost bigger than she was.



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Something felt odd.

 

It was warm all of a sudden and there was a certain weight on Anita's torso that was getting harder and harder to ignore. She helplessly tried to grasp at the edges of her sleep but it was already gone.

 

She opened her right eye and saw a pair of bright yellow ones looking back.

 

Anita let out her first groan of the day.

 

"Whyyyy..." She croaked, frowning as she rubbed her eyes. She shot the wolf resting on top of her a sleepy glare. "You had the bed, why are you here?"

 

The wolf simply yawned before resting its head back on her chest. Anita felt it huff against her neck.

 

"You're heavy," she whispered, voice tired. She buried her hands in the fur of Loba's back and stroked gently. 

 

When she didn't get a reaction, she held the wolf tighter to her before closing her eyes again.

 

She felt the wolf's nose boop her chin before falling back to sleep.



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Anita's hands went to her hip, instinctively, patting for holsters. She cursed, finding nothing but her belt of small pruning tools.

 

"Easy, easy," she said, appearing calm. She held her hands in front of her in a placating manner while her heart continued to thunder in her ears.

 

The wolf stalked forward and Anita fell backwards, tripping on a sapling. From her position on the ground, she finally confirmed that this wolf was bigger than usual. Unnaturally bigger.

 

She was out of her depth. She learned many things in the army, but nobody had taught her how to fight a huge apex predator that looked all too ready to tear her throat out.

 

Anita continued to crawl backwards on her hands, slowly patting along the way. She knew she had dropped a small axe somewhere. She refused to go down without a fight.

 

She grabbed the handle as soon as felt it. She rolled to the side quickly and got up, preparing to strike.

 

The wolf howled all of a sudden and fell sideways on the ground, writhing.



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The next time she opened her eyes, it was already late into the day. Judging by the harsh ray of sunlight peering in through the windows across the sofa, it was probably some time past noon. She was starting to feel the signs of hunger when she heard footsteps approaching.

 

"Good morning, Sergeant."

 

Anita sat up and faced her guest only to turn away a second later. Loba had a sadistic habit of walking around in her underwear after a full moon turn.

 

'Clothes are restricting,' she once said, some time around the first three months of their odd friendship. Apparently her wolf didn't like it, at least not as soon as after turning back. It took Loba three days before she wore a shirt and a pair of shorts.

 

It wasn't anything new, but Anita tend to forget. And it didn't help that Loba had an affinity for laces that barely covered anything.

 

The sofa dipped beside her and Anita glared at her guest. 

 

"You had your hands on me a few hours ago and now you're blushing?" Loba teased. Anita wanted to punt her sometimes.

 

"That was different and you know it."

 

Loba only hummed as she checked her nails innocently, the edges of her lips raised in mirth.

 

"Whatever you say, beautiful."



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The bathroom door swung open and out came the most beautiful woman Anita has ever seen in her entire life. Thick white fur was now a stretch of golden brown skin, still glistening with water from the shower. Her hair was dark brown that reached the middle of her back, with the tips colored like leaves during the fall. The woman looked nothing like the bloody mess that she carried towards her cabin.

 

Anita snapped to attention when the woman cleared her throat. The same amber eyes watched her with caution. Now that they’re on equal footing, she was surprised to discover that she was actually taller than her.

 

“Thank you for the clothes,” the woman started, pointing to her borrowed old army shirt and boxers. Then she looked at her with a small, self-deprecating smile. “And for not killing me while I was turning,” she ended.

 

Anita kept quiet, palm itching as she remembered the iron grip that she had on her axe.

 

She crossed her arms tighter against her chest and nodded.

 

There was a tenseness in the air while they stared at each other. It was thick but it wasn’t hostile. The initial fear that Anita had when she faced the wolf was replaced by curiosity and a slight hint of disbelief. Never in her life did she imagine something like this happening. She had a lot of questions.

 

Anita opened her mouth but was cutoff by rambling.

 

“Okay, look,” her guest said hurriedly. “I’m not gonna insult your intelligence by denying what you saw.” She pinned her with sharp eyes and Anita couldn’t do anything but nod in agreement.

 

“Yes, I was the wolf,” the woman said next, slowly, word per word. “And yes, I turn once every month during full moon. And then I turn back not too long after it’s done.”

 

She paused, as if gathering herself.

 

“I apologize for startling you earlier, but I promise I wasn’t going to harm you. I think I caught the scent of your truck and thought it was mine so I went into your property. I knew I was going to turn back any time soon but I got lost. I’m, uh, actually new to the area,” she shared, sounding slightly uncomfortable. “This was my first run on this side of the forest. And I couldn’t find my way back to a car that I hid off the highway.”

 

Anita didn’t say anything. Nor did she move. She kept her eyes on her guest, thinking hard about what all of this meant.

 

After a few silent beats, she finally let out a sigh.

 

“I’ll help you find your car,” Anita offered, unsure, but feeling good about it.

 

She watched the woman’s face light up with a bright smile.



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After her awkward afternoon (no thanks to Loba), the woman sat her on her small dining table and insisted that she would cook. Anita was too tired and too flustered to say no. She kept her eyes on the table while Loba puttered around her kitchen.

 

“I found a new butcher,” she heard the woman say from the stove, “a bit more expensive but the cuts are high quality.”

 

Anita scoffed. Without thinking she lifted her head to answer, only to choke on her own spit at the sight of Loba’s lace-covered ass directly right in front of her.

 

She heard Loba laugh.

 

“Oh Sergeant First Class Williams, were you looking at my ass?”

 

The coughing only seized long enough for her to glare before her throat itched again.

 

She saw Loba roll her eyes before she turned the off stove.

 

“I don’t even know why you’re still surprised,” the woman said, bringing over some plates. “You already saw me naked the first time we met.”

 

Anita accepted hers with a thanks . Her stomach rumbled at the sight of the perfectly cooked steak.

 

“That was different,” she muttered as she cut the meat. “You were in distress and covered in blood.” 

 

“So? When am I not in distress and covered in blood?”

 

It sounded so matter-of-factly that Anita couldn’t help but chuckle.

 

“You’re a pain in my ass, Andrade,” she muttered around a bite.

 

Loba giggled and looked at her with a soft teasing.

 

“You know you love me, Sergeant.”



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