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the stars you see (or the monster you become underneath)

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Janis is a monster. Want a little more context?

Fine, she was born a werewolf. Her mom isn’t one and her dad fucked off somewhere else, so he’s most likely the reason why she is what she is. Once a month she turns into a giant wolf that could kill a man with the swipe of her claws, and to prevent that there is a metal cage reinforced with silver she locks herself in. She always wakes up covered in scratches and her own blood, but no one else gets hurt and that’s what reassures her every time. Maybe imprisoning herself for a day every month has caused some problems but honestly, she has a lot more emotional damage to unpack outside of that already.

When she was younger, it wasn’t such a problem and her mom described it as having a puppy that just wants to spend the night playing rather than sleeping. She can remember feeling safe and happy for most of her childhood. And then Regina George, her best friend since elementary, pulls her aside before any teachers are there and asks her if she is a lesbian. She’s heard the word before. It means a girl who likes girls, and though she does think Regina is very pretty, Janis is only twelve and doesn’t know if she like-likes Regina in that way. An odd feeling in her gut tells her she shouldn’t answer truthfully and her wolf bristles at Regina’s tone.

“I’m a space werewolf with four tails!” she snaps back. It’s not a serious answer, a half-truth combining her true heritage and her love of space and aliens. Yet, she can smell the deceit and Regina’s body language suggests she does take it seriously. The words ‘Space Dyke’ written on her locker tell her that her gut instinct was right. Everything begins to fall apart from there. The bullying begins and Regina is no longer her friend. She’s ostracized from everyone and feels like a freak.

On the full moon that month her wolf is restless, and it writhes beneath her skin like a force being restrained. It's the first time she wakes up with bloody hands, copper on her tongue, and in the basement instead of tucked into a bed. She’s confused and slightly scared because the blood in her mouth doesn’t taste like her own. She had bit her mom, who didn’t turn into a werewolf because of how young her wolf was then. Still, it chilled her to the core with horror. She had hurt another person, someone she cared for, and she can’t recall the details. All she can remember is feeling anger and rage.

Her mom holds no resentment towards her, but Janis is guilty and scared. She’s scared of hurting others now and it doesn’t help that school is such a shitty place. She can determine one thing: she’s not a freak, no, she’s something worse. Janis Sarkisian is a monster.

After pleading and trying to convince her mother, a large metal cage is installed inside the basement. The basement is soundproofed and the cage has silver running inside its bars so her growing strength can’t break it. There’s a key that hangs from the ceiling that she can reach when she’s in her human form to let herself out, but other than that, the door locks automatically once it closes and then she’s trapped there until the night is over.

She wakes up feeling tired and miserable and the feelings keep building because Regina and the other kids won’t leave her alone and the scars on her mom’s arm feel like a physical attack on her psyche. It gets to the point where her mom finds her with wrists she cut with silver because it’s the only thing that can really hurt enough. It burns and stings as she carefully drags the knife across her skin. The bane of her existence feels like it’s running through her veins like a poison and it hurts like she’s dying. She drops the knife with a clatter just as her mom gets home from work.

They clean the cuts, a series of slashes along both wrists. They take longer to heal and she feels sick most of the time while they do. She’s pulled from school the next day and put into art therapy. It’s nice. The calming feeling of moving the brushes across a canvas soothe her, taking her mind off the wolf threatening to burst from her skin at any second. It doesn't help the nights where she screams as her bones forcibly rearrange into another’s or the morning she wakes up terrified and aching, but it makes it easier to cope. Her mom tries to help by having food ready for her as she makes her walk of shame back to her room, but she begins to leave more often because of her work demanding more out of town business trips.

She meets a Damian Hubbard when she’s returned to hell. He’s openly gay, with confidence, something Janis wish she can say about herself. Turns out, Regina did have the right suspicions about Janis’s sexuality, but she refuses to admit to herself because Regina made her life living hell for a maybe; she doesn’t want to find out what happens if its a true thing. Also, it stings to think that Regina was right in the first place.

Still, she admires Damian and how comfortable he seems to be in his own identity. He sits next to her during lunch and is stubborn over being her friend. A part of her is happy that someone is talking to her about cordial things instead of insulting her, but another part is afraid of what happens if he got close and found the monster beneath her skin. He persists despite her obvious hesitance and reluctance. He keeps chipping at the walls she’s meticulously built to protect herself and others.

She begins to look forward to having lunch with him more and more. So one day, when he shows up with a smile on his face that doesn’t quite reach his eyes and the scent of sadness rolling off him, she feels the wolf fighting to come out because he’s hurt and she needs to protect him.

She can smell a foreign scent on him and memorizes it as she talks to him. She tells him about her day and how grateful she is for him being her friend. The smile starts to reach his eyes as she keeps talking and then they’re laughing at something dumb that happened in one of her classes. At that moment, she swears to protect him because wolves are pack animals and she’s learning how to be one.

After lunch, she tracks the scent and finds one Ryan Garcia who also has traces of Damian on him. She catches him laughing about a ‘fag’ and that’s all she listens to because a snarl escapes from her as she marches up to him. She stands over him, glaring and a growl in her voice as she asks him about Damian.

“What? The fag? I just talked to him-” he’s cut short by her hand slamming into the locker next to his head. The metal easily dents underneath her hand.

“Alright, here’s my talk: Leave. Him. Alone.” She keeps her voice low, the sound like a constant rumbling growl. She leans closer to punctuate her words, and he shrinks, the stink of fear exuding from his submissive posture. She finishes with a smile, but it also looks like a grimace. What matters though is that it shows her teeth, which are still sharper than they should be in her human form.

The whispering and rumors grow louder around her now, but she doesn’t care because no one is messing with her packmate anymore. (And if anyone did, they’d have to answer to her.) It’s one of the very sparse times she’s been thankful about being a monster.

Damian, despite his appearance and general demeanor, notices it and while they’re at her house (her mom away again), he confronts her. They’re cuddled up on the couch in front of the TV in the living room, a movie playing. The scents in the air change and Janis knows he has something on his mind. He hasn’t been paying attention to the movie for the past ten minutes.

“So...how’d did you find out?” He begins. It’s casual and throws her off-guard briefly. Her pulse increases as she realizes he might have figured out about her talk with Ryan.

“About what?” She tries to play dumb like she doesn’t know but Damian’s look tells her everything.

“Ryan Garcia and his ‘talk’. I don’t remember mentioning it.” He knows that she played dumb, yet he decided to play her game. Janis feels an anxious prickling sensation at the base of her neck.

“Uh, you didn’t? First time I’m hearing this…” The movie continues to play in the background, abandoned and no longer relevant in the present.

“I know you did something, Janis! He hasn’t approached me in days. No one has, and they didn’t just suddenly stop out of nowhere.” Damian clenches his fists as he speaks and he’s trembling. Janis moves closer to him, rubbing his arm.

“I, uh, I had a talk with him too, about leaving you alone,” she replies. She can’t stand lying to Damian, so she comes clean. The smell of saltwater hits her senses as Damian’s trembling turns to shaking with quiet sobs.

“B-but why? People are talking about you now! I can hear what they say-” She stops him by pulling him close into a tight hug.

“Then let them talk. I did what I had to because you’re my friend Damian and friends have each other’s back.” She says to him. His crying continues for a while longer, but they don’t let go of each other after Damian calms down. It’s around six thirty when she feels something wrong.

The sun begins to slip beneath the horizon when she checks her lunar calendar and sees that tonight is a full moon. Her heart rate decides to reach inhumane rates at that moment. There are only a couple hours until the moon reaches its apex and she can’t hold back her transformation. She berates herself for her forgetfulness. She normally keeps a better eye on the moon phases but she must have forgotten while talking with Damian.

She’s just about to tell him he needs to leave when she notices he’s asleep, leaning against the armrest. She doesn’t want him to be here in the morning, but it makes her wolf ache more if she sends him away. Carefully, she extracts herself from the tangle of limbs and stalks over to the basement.

She stands in the dark room, the feeling similar to several red ants crawling all over her body growing strong. As her body changes, bones breaking and organs rearranging, she’s struck by how it doesn’t hurt as much. She still cries from the pain, but it’s not excruciating like always.

She wakes up that morning with minimal bleeding and the all-consuming pit of self-hatred and disgust that follows isn’t there. (Well, it is, but it’s not as strong at least.) She’s confused and disorientated, slowly rising from where she’s splayed out on the floor. She wraps a blanket around herself when she realizes she can smell another person in the room.

Freezing like a deer in headlights, she locks eyes with Damian, who’s sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Immediately, her first instinct is to run because he can’t know her secret, he can’t learn the truth, he can’t see that she’s a monster.

Then she sees how he’s looking at her. Instead of disgust and horror, it’s soft and wide, like he’s witnessing something amazing. It makes her blush and draw the blanket closer to herself, but she can feel the cold feeling of fear trickling down her back.

“What are you doing down here?” She asks. She’s confused as to why he hasn’t run yet. He doesn’t answer for a second like he’s processing everything.

“Huh? Oh, I was looking for you but I didn’t find you anywhere until I saw the basement. The key was still in so I figured you were down here like painting or something, but I found a giant wolf kind of snarling and throwing itself at the bars,” he explains, still very relaxed and casual about it. He pats the space next to him, an invitation to sit.

She sits down, feeling a little too calm for someone that had another person find out her biggest secret, which could result in the biggest repercussions ever. She sits, hunched, trying to make herself as small as possible. She flinches when Damian puts his hand on her shoulder, but he holds her steady, keeping eye contact with her.

“I was very, very confused, and terrified because hello? Why does my best friend have a wolf in her basement? But as I got closer, it stopped growling. It wouldn’t let me close to it, but it calmed down, like a lot. It laid its head down and simply stared at me until it started freaking out. Then it flops onto its side. Next thing you know, the wolf is gone and my best friend is lying there instead.” He smiles as he speaks, his voice low and soothing. He brings her into a hug and wipes her face. She wasn’t even aware she was crying.

“Why didn’t you leave? Y-you know I’m a monster,” she cries, tears staining his shirt. He softly shushes her, rubbing her head.

“You’re not a monster, you’re Janis, my friend, werewolf and all.” She lays on his chest, crying, inhaling the amalgamation of scents she can only describe as Damian filling her senses. The moment is warm and comforting, like times from long past. She believes his words, feeling a satisfaction she never has before.

Then Cady Heron arrives at Northshore High School and she changes everything.

Chapter Text

Janis watches Mr. Duvall introduce Caddy Heron, a formerly homeschooled student from Kenya. She smiles to herself as she watches her interact with Ms. Norbury. She’s cute, in the sense that she’s new to so many things and it’s endearing to watch her stare at all of them with this wide-eyed look of wonder, but a sheen of determination obvious in them as well. Caddy (Cady actually, but she’s going to call her Caddy anyway) moves to sit down in the seat next to her, but she warns her that it's always saved for another girl’s boyfriend. Caddy glances around anxiously, unsure of what to do, but tries to sit down anyway.

The girl tells her off, and it irks Janis a bit to hear the tone being used against Caddy. She can mentally feel her hackles rise and she’s confused because she has never met Cady Heron before. Yet, her wolf already wants to jump someone for a rude attitude. As she watches the classes go by, she tries to understand her confusion. It might be the naivety, and how vulnerable she looks sometimes that makes some kind of wolf instinct of hers act up. Lunch begins and the dynamic duo (Damian and herself, obviously) track her down to the south hall upstairs bathrooms.

They show her the ropes, the rules, the order of the social hierarchy at Northshore. She takes it all in with a newborn giddiness that makes Janis fidget and her skin feel warm. She even looks awed by the Plastics, a trio that consists of Regina George, Gretchen Weiners, and Karen Smith. Caddy is approached and the four of them begin talking. Janis tries to relax against the table but her hands are clutching the table, leaving small indents from her strength. She tries to pick out their words, but the chaotic noise of the cafeteria drowns them out.

When she comes back, she says the Plastics want her to have lunch with them and it's like the heavens have opened and given her the perfect shot at revenge. Caddy doesn’t seem to think badly of them. Still, she tries to tell Caddy about Regina and how she’s a scum-sucking life ruiner. She resigns her attempts and just convinces Caddy to spy on Regina, essentially. A part of her recoils at making someone so pure and untouched by bad influences do such things, but Regina is the worst and she deserves it. Her inner wolf lets out a growl of pleasure at the prospect of getting her pound of flesh.

“Caddy, we’re your friends,” she justifies, “would we tell you to do something bad?” As soon as the words leave her mouth, a foul taste remains at how manipulative they sound, but her spiteful drive doesn’t care for it. Caddy, on the other hand, looks apprehensive, but her entire face lights up at the moment ‘friends’ is spoken. She agrees wholeheartedly and Janis only feels a little guilty.

The next day, the fateful Wednesday, Caddy dons one of Damian’s pinks shirts and Janis observes the Plastics interacting with her. She glares at Kevin Gnapoor, who walks over to talk to Caddy.

“Janis, sweetie, you’re growling a bit,” Damian whispers. He’s rubbing her arm, and she feels the familiar vibrations of the noise as he mentions it.

“Sorry. Didn’t realize,” she whispers back, feeling her skin grow warm from embarrassment. She doesn’t want to think about why she was growling in the first place, but Damian has an expression that reads that this will be discussed later. She throws a nervous glance around to see if anyone else notices, but they all seem to be staring at the Plastics out of the corner of their eyes. Regina is loudly declaring some kind of statement regarding some other guy who she could care less about, even if his proximity to Caddy makes her uncomfortable.

When Caddy returns to them this time, she has a bright smile and is basically bouncing on the balls of her feet with excitement. She still doesn’t understand that Regina is dangerous.

“I’m on her side, so she won’t attack me,” Caddy tries to explain.

“She’ll play nice, but if you pose a threat, she’ll destroy you, Cady!” Janis may be a literal monster, but Regina is a monster of a different kind. She’s the kind that ruins your life with a smile, that tears your guts out with a smirk. She’s willing to do what she wants to maintain her spot at the top of the food chain, including removing her competition.

“She told that guy off and she invited me to the mall, so I think I’ll be safe Janis,” she continues, to Janis’s chagrin. Desperately, Janis wants to protect Cady from her enemy, for a reason she can’t comprehend yet. Caddy leaves to her next class before Janis can bark out a retort.

“Don’t worry, we’ll keep her safe before Regina can do anything,” Damian says to her, rubbing her back. She relaxes, muscles loosening from their poised tenseness.

“I hope so.” They walk off to their next classes together, a sense of trepidation tingling her gut instincts. It fades as the day goes on, but returns when she and Damian are in her art room. She’s painting something; she’s not quite sure what it is, but it’s starting to look like a sunset of some kind. Damian sits on a stool, perched like a bird of prey waiting to swoop in and catch what he wants. She gets about halfway through when she hears him shift and she knows his dive to catch her has begun.

“So, the growling? I don’t this have ever happened before,” is how he starts his hunt. It’s not true actually; she growls whenever someone with bad intentions gets close to Damian. Still, she doesn’t know why she felt so protective over Cady.

“I don’t know...it just felt...off? Something about Caddy being around them didn’t sit well with the wolf, I guess.” She adds a couple strokes of paint onto her canvas, somehow getting some on her shirt. She turns around to wipe off what she can when she's aware of the large silence following her words. “Uh, Damian, you goo-”

“My friend, I have three words for you that will solve your problems,” he reveals, standing up from the stool with dramatic flair.

“I don’t thin-” He stops her talking by holding up his fist and a knowing look in his eyes.

“Big. Gay. Crush.” He raises a finger for each word and Janis can feel her face grow warmer.

“I literally just met her, how can I-” She immediately moves on the defensive, because no, she couldn’t have a crush on the new girl. Sure, she is pretty and her personality, curious and determined, is refreshing from the drab and depressing life of high school. Damian shushes her, placing his finger on her mouth. She wants to bite it. (The thought leaves her head as soon as it enters. She would never hurt Damian.)

“Janis, I know you, and I know the symptoms of jealousy very well, personal experience of course, so trust me when I say that you’re protective of Cady because you’re jealous of others getting to know her.” She hates that his words make sense and that they are the closest to what feels right about her feelings. There are some points he did miss, though. She swats his hand off (carefully, she knows her strength is dangerous).

“No, I wanted to protect her from Regina because I know firsthand how evil that bitch is.” The scars on her wrists still give her phantom pains and Regina had a hand in their creation. Maybe that was never Regina’s true intention, but that doesn’t matter because it still happened and she didn’t do anything except feed the flames.

“That’s a valid reason, yes, but I’m certain there’s more than just feeling protective,” he pushes onto her. She doesn’t gratify his words with an answer, just rolls her eyes and finishes her painting. It begins to look like the sun setting on a savannah. She can feel his gaze on her back, burning through her defense. For once, he stops and steps back, but she knows he hasn’t given up.

The next day, Caddy returns with all the information she gathered and it entertains her vengeance hungry soul. Until the Burn Book is brought up. Then she feels all the emotions from back then in the span of seconds and the scars begin to burn. “Space Dyke.” How absolutely original. Her stomach does an uncomfortable and unappreciated flip. She also learns what a Kalteen Bar is. It reeks of sweetness and that scent packaged granola all share. It would be hilarious if they put it into Regina ‘never weighs more than 115’ George’s food.

Janis’s life consists of the same routine: Caddy reports back with what she’s learned about the Plastics, Janis feels both really good about it and really fucked up, and Damian tries to convince her that she has a crush on Caddy when she doesn’t. (Even if Cady makes her chest ache in a good way and her smile and genuineness make Janis feel like she hates herself a little less than she really does.)

Being a werewolf has a lot of interesting perks: increased strength, a better sense of smell and hearing, and unfortunately, at least in this case, increased perception. She and Cady are walking down the hall, Damian sadly absent, when she notices that Cady keeps looking over at something. Janis spares a glance around and follows Cady’s line of eyesight to Aaron Samuels, a senior and Regina’s ex-boyfriend.

There’s a starstruck glaze over her eyes and Janis knows: Cady has a crush on Aaron. That statement stings a lot and her wolf wants nothing more than to march up to him and tear him to shreds. She doesn’t though, years of restraint coming into practice and her common sense being useful for once; She doesn’t control Cady, she’s her own person and she can have her own infatuations on relatively harmless people. It doesn’t make the truth hurt any less and Janis thinks Damian is right. She does have a big lesbian crush on Cady.

She refuses to act on it. Despite Damian’s advice to her all that time ago, she still has doubtful moments and believes she is still a monster. She doesn’t believe she’s good enough for Cady. Maybe Aaron isn’t that great, but at least he doesn’t turn into a slobbering oversized dog once a month. Sometimes more often than that because supermoons suck like that.

That night, she texts Damian around two in the morning because she’s going to doubt all the evidence there until she has no choice but to confront it during her involuntary late night/early morning thinking sessions.

mlem/wuhluhwuh solidarity, 2:23 am

wuhluhwuh: don’t make a big deal out of it, but you’re right, i do have a crush on Cady

mlem: OH

mlem: MY

mlem: GOD

mlem: janis admitting she’s wrong? clearly the heavens have opened up and answered my prayers

wuhluhwuh: did i not ask for you to not be extra about this

mlem: oh but darling, this is a deal bigger than Regina George, because you like Cady Heron and i am ready to play matchmaker

wuhluhwuh: hide your schemes you overeager gay

wuhluhwuh: she likes aaron already

wuhluhwuh: as in aaron samuels, senior and regina’s ex

mlem: well this just got a lot more complicated

mlem: you okay hun?

wuhluhwuh: it hurts a little but maybe its for the better. he isn’t a monster or anything

mlem: you’re not a monster janis, you’re just different

wuhluhwuh: mhmm. you should get some sleep, it’s late. night damian

mlem: ...good night janis

She reads the last text then drops her phone back onto her nightstand. Different. She wasn’t just different. She was something so drastically separate from humans she’s called supernatural, which implies, unlike the name, that things are incredibly not natural. Not normal.

She lifts her arm and wills it to change in the dim light. Long black claws grow from her nails and fur expands across her skin. She clenches and unclenches her hand, watching the muscles move underneath and how powerful it feels. She could merely swing her arm and spill someone’s insides onto the floor. It makes her sick to her stomach. This isn’t normal, it isn’t just different. It’s abnormal and a monstrosity.

Cady shouldn’t be with a monster like her.

She reverts her arm to its more accepted state. Thin white scars force unpleasant memories and dangerous thoughts into her head. Figuring she won’t get any sleep tonight, she goes to her art room and decides to start a new piece. The sun begins to shine through the blinds when she finishes a graphic painting of a dark-furred wolf and a blonde lion tangled in a brutal battle.

She goes through her day feeling restless and very anxious. Tonight is the full moon and her wolf is itching to come out (unlike herself). She fidgets constantly, full of energy and the need to run through the woods until her legs fall off. It almost feels like she inhaled a large amount of caffeine. It makes her jittery, but all the energy feels borrowed. It makes her feel like she’s wide awake, but still dead exhausted. She wants nothing more than the night to be here already while simultaneously wanting it to never reach its zenith.

Damian notices because it’s Damian and he knows her better than herself most of the time. He always offers to be there with her because he thinks that his presence calms the wolf. Maybe it does some nights, but today she knows that all the volatile emotions she’s felt this month will result in a violent transformation no one can control.

Cady delivers more news and Janis forces herself to focus on the words instead of how her whole body expresses her emotions. How she looks openly happy to have friends like them because of her wide smile and bright eyes. She almost vibrates in place out of excitement. It fails, obviously, but she lies to herself that Caddy just has that captivating of a personality.

As the sun slips below the surface and the moon begins to rise, Janis closes the cage door with a solemn clang. The lock clicks. She stands in the middle of the cage, on the side of prison bars where threats are placed. The terrible feeling of her wolf clawing to get out grows stronger and stronger until she’s screaming from the sensation.

Claws dig into her mind, finding purchase on its soft matter, and it drags her down. It pulls under the waters of her subconscious, using her as leverage to reach the surface. Her screams repeat until they turn into strained howls and her fingers scramble to find some kind of purchase along the floor. They gouge marks into the floor, adding more scuffs from so many similar nights.

Her breaking bones are the thunder of the storm of forced torture and the pain causes bright strikes of lightning. All she can feel is the pain until it consumes all her senses and it all goes dark.

Even if she’s submerged underneath the current of her mind, she can still sense what her wolf does if she lifts herself out enough. The darkness tries to pull her away but she can feel the solid metal bars impacting her sides. What she can always feel, for better or for worse, is the wolf’s thoughts. They burn like a fire in her brain and it’s not just anger.

“MINE,” an intruding thought says. An image of Cady, smiling and fierce, flashes in her mind. “ENEMY,” another one shouts. Aaron and Regina are easily identified but some other figures appear that look vaguely like some guys that approached Cady before. Regina makes the wolf increasingly agitated and it releases a long howl, one that signals the beginning of a hunt. It cycles through those emotions and images until she’s too exhausted to try and comprehend them.

She wakes up feeling her post-lunar aches and woes. More scratch marks litter the floor and it looks like she had attempted to claw the lock off. Janis trudges her way back upstairs, preparing to face the day. She tries to avoid dwelling on the thoughts she gets during full moons, but her mind keeps wandering back to why her wolf viewed Regina as not only an enemy but competition. She’s can feel her tail thrashing in anger at the mention of her again. She’s a threat because she’s trying to make Cady a part of her pack, but it can’t be done. Cady is a part of her pack already and Regina will need to fight her if she wants Cady. Janis is a monster and a part of that package is being the top predator around here. Regina could do her worst, but she could never be the monster Janis is.

Aaron also seems like a genuinely good guy, but all she has for him is contempt. At least her wolf doesn’t want to maim him as badly as Regina. It still does want to shred its claws through him because Cady is her’s, but just enough so he knows to back off. Well, if Janis had any doubts left regarding her crush on Cady, they were certainly gone now.

Chapter Text

Halloween has always been an interesting time for Janis. Personally, she doesn’t hate it; no, she actually finds it quite enjoyable. It’s a time for when freaks are celebrated and monstrosities are considered acceptable. She’s a permanent monster, unlike all those costumes people wear, but it makes her feel marginally better. So, it’s this dual-bladed concept: monsters are okay, but only for today.

This year, she’s spending it with Damian and they plan to binge horror movies all night. Cady was invited too, but she declined to go to a Halloween party. Apparently, the Plastics would be there, but she wasn’t going for them. Aaron had invited her. Janis’s chest rumbles as he enters her mind. Damian laughs from where he’s reclined on the couch.

“You are one of the worst jealous types I’ve ever had the pleasure meeting, and that’s a lot coming from me.” She flips him off and he gives a scandalized gasp.

“That kind of gesture does not belong in this sanctuary!” A scream plays from the movie just as he says that and the accompanying splatter of blood adds more to the irony. A reply dies on her tongue when she can hear someone running to her room.

The door bursts open, and Cady, in a bloody wedding dress and a knife in her back, barges in. Damian screams and Janis is sure she would have done the same if she hadn’t heard the distressed girl. A burning anger starts in the pit of her gut as her intuition points toward Aaron or Regina as the cause of anguish.

“She took him back...Regina just...took Aaron back.” Cady paces back and forth across the floor, her heartbroken expression serving to feed Janis’s wrath. Janis jumps to her feet, moving to comfort her.

“Of course she did, she’s a life ruiner.” Her scars act up again, but she prioritizes Cady and chooses to ignore the throbbing. Damian starts talking, presumably to explain why Janis hates Regina. Janis cuts him off, trying to say that it would unnecessary to the situation but Cady doesn’t look confused or lost.

“Guys, I know what happened. She didn't invite you to her party because she could only have six people,” Cady claims. It’s wrong because Regina is a fucking liar but Damian beats her to the punch.

“Oh, Regina is a hot liar! That’s not what happened at all,” and he shoots off into the story of how Regina badgered Janis about her sexuality until she snapped and how that backfired. How she wasn’t actually invited because Regina thought she was a lesbian. How Regina turned the entire school against her until Janis had to be taken away. (She’s thankful he doesn’t go into how it got bad, just that it did.) Cady looks shocked that Regina had lied to her and apologetic for not heeding Janis’s warnings.

“That’s not even true, I only have one tail,” she jokes. Well, to Cady. Damian knows it as the truth.

“Janis, I’m sorry,” she pleaded and steps closer to give a more in-depth apology. Janis laughs.

“Caddy, don’t be sorry. Now you know, Regina is not your friend. Me and Damian,” she gestures to Damian and herself, “we are your friends and we’re gonna make her pay.”

Cady nods, a fire stoked in her eyes. Damian stands on her other side and his grin is all the confirmation she needs. Her perfect opportunity for revenge is here and she can’t wait to sink her teeth into it. She almost had one before, and she’s not giving up a second chance.

“Ok, but for this to work, we need you to keep pretending that you like them, can you do that?” she questions. It’s the key part of the plan, the cornerstone of their so-called ‘revenge party’ hinges on. (At least the one that doesn’t involve a physical murder and her wolf finally getting the carnage it craves.) Cady smiles and does that thing where she bounces on the balls of her feet with how eager she is. (It’s so cute, so so cute and Janis almost stops thinking.)

“Yes!” The night ends on a high note and excited teenagers ready to unleash their fury. For the first time in many years, Janis doesn’t feel at odds with her wolf, though it always wishes for more bloodshed.

School rolls around and the plan’s in motion. Cady pretends to buy Gretchen’s excuse for Regina. (Janis believes it partially. Aaron could’ve said no, but also made the conscious decision to get back with Regina.) She growls a little when Gretchen hugs Cady, apparently a request on Regina’s part. She waits until the other girl is out of earshot to move on to the next step.

“Phase two, we need to take away Regina’s only achievement: being a hot person,” she declares.

“Yeah, but how?” Damian’s question stumps Janis because Regina is meticulous when it comes to her looks and it won’t be easy trying to ruin that.

“I got it, guys!” Cady grabs something from her pocket and the familiar scent of a Kalteen bar becomes noticeable. She mentally pats herself on the back all that time ago when she said they could put the candy into Regina’s food. Regina gaining weight would accomplish their goal because it's what society believes that would make her unattractive. Together, they do a chant and wait until lunch where Cady will spring the trap. Janis watches all the interactions go down, pushing her senses to the limit to hear their conversation.

“Bring me a whole box!” Janis snickers at that, which is all the indication Damian needs regarding their vengeance celebration. The party is full blown and it won’t end anytime soon. They keep their eyes forward to what happens next, but an ear to the ground for what the school thinks. (Cady is hopeful that by ruining Regina’s life she can get with Aaron when she’s gone. Damian and Janis are supportive, but for Janis, it feels like pulling teeth out every time she hears Cady gush about him.) The school worships the ground she walks on and the Kalteen bar scheme isn’t doing enough. It’s around November, almost December when Janis thinks they need to step up their game.

Damian is setting up the candy cane gram stand while Janis and Cady hang around, trying to determine more ways to ruin Regina’s life.

“We gotta go harder...if we make Gretchen Weiners think Regina is mad at her-” Cady’s eyes widen as she realizes what Janis is trying to say.

“I won’t do that, Gretchen is fragile!” Janis mentally applauds Cady’s compassion and sympathy for the Queen Bee’s right hand, but the darker parts of her are eager for retribution.

“Exactly, and if we crack her open she’ll spill something we can use!” If she had less sway over her wolf transformations outside of the full moon, Janis would have formed her tail and it would be wagging a mile a minute. Whatever is left of her conscience twists her chest with guilt for exploiting someone not mentally sound, yet her reprisal is something she wants more than a broken moral compass.

The sound of a pair of Louboutin heels clicking through the hallway marks the appearance of their guest of hatred at their party. Cady sees Regina walking toward them and ushers Janis away. Janis can hear bits and bobs of it, and she can determine that Regina is here for one thing: to gloat. Cady stands uncomfortably, glancing at Aaron and the floor. Janis resists the need to jump the pink-clad antagonist and her boyfriend for trying to rub salt into a broken heart. The rest of the conversation is drowned out by the blood rushing to her ears.

Regina leaves, bragging successful, and Aaron at least attempts to stay friendly, for better and for worse. Cady’s stance is low, her spirits dejected and her face full of misery. Janis and Damian take up their spots at her side, a hand on each shoulder. The party has reached its dull end, a point where it all seems bleak.

“No! We’re gonna get our revenge!” Cady’s head jerks up, resolve reignited. “Damian, one candy cane, please!” Janis is unclear as to why at first, but as Cady writes that it’s to her, Cady’s intent is apparent. Frame Regina as the sender and Gretchen will question her position as Regina’s best friend. Hopefully, in her insecure state of mind, Gretchen might expose some of Regina’s secrets.

After a month in the making, Cady returns with a plethora of news and secrets. Some Janis had already known, such as Regina not being a natural blonde and hooking up with Shane Oman (try as she might to mask odors with artificial perfume, Janis could always pick out the unpleasant scent that characterized Shane on Regina.), and some she didn’t know, like Cady’s mall trip had the purpose of humiliating her and that the hook up between Shane and Regina had both in the lion costume. (She’s not quite sure what to think of that one yet...except maybe Regina may have a thing for anthropomorphic animals, to Janis’s discomfort.

Damian and her cheer over this revelation of catastrophic secrets. Cady rejoices with them until she excuses herself to send a long text to Aaron. Right. Cady had wanted to get back at Regina so she could get with Aaron. It dampens Janis’s joy a little. She had always wanted blood for all the problems she had accumulated from the forced isolation, but now that she has it, its not quite as glorious when Cady doesn’t relish in it. (Still, it’s pretty fucking great and Damian is almost as enthusiastic as herself.)

The euphoria lasts for a while, and when the Annual Talent Show with the recurring nightmare from three Plastics from hell (actually, just Regina, Janis feels quite indifferent toward Gretchen and Karen,) featuring their good friend Cady, Janis is thrilled to see the fruits of their labor. (she’s also thrilled to see Cady in that outfit, as much as she doesn’t want to admit it. Her mind blanks when she first sees it, trying to comprehend that much skin being shown.) The performance is an absolute disaster and god it makes Janis feel pleased to the nines with how horrible it turned out. (The smallest bit of her feels remorse over how mortifying it would be for Regina to have her skirt fall and her ass bared to the entire school, but she hopes it’s something of a humbling experience.)

It gets even better when the next day features Regina’s complete downfall. Janis hides her smirk as she surveys Cady and Regina talking, and almost starts laughing out loud when Gretchen tells Regina she can’t sit with them. She can feel the betrayal, the hurt. (She knows this isn’t a healthy coping mechanism, this revenge party of her’s, but it feels amazing.)

The cafeteria goes completely quiet after Gretchen’s outburst. Janis can almost hear everyone’s pulses from how deadly silent it is. The shine in Cady’s eyes is like a lioness before a pounce. This is the final nail in the coffin, the last stone in the tomb.

“Rules are rules,” Cady reasons, but the statement means so much more than that. The Queen has been dethroned, publicly executed, and as Regina leaves the lunchroom, the mass of students moves in like a starved pack of scavengers, eager to collect a piece of the kill. (Her wolf grumbles only a little bit. Though Regina has felt her retribution, it wants more. It always does.)

Then everything begins to change again. The new girl becomes the new thing everyone’s talking about and it shows. Her popularity begins to skyrocket and even if she grows more versed in high school society, it comes at a cost. Cady dyes her hair, changes her style and the subtle nuances in her personality worry Janis. She makes an uneasy comparison to Cady looking like Regina. It’s unsettling at best and downright concerning at worst (She won’t turn into another Regina, she tells herself, even if the anxious growling continues in the back of her mind).

Janis figures she should be happy for Cady. She has more friends now (a small, vulnerable voice asks why she and Damian weren’t enough). It’s not like she changed that drastically, she just wears different clothes. As Janis reanalyzes Cady’s behavior in the past couple days, she notes that Cady hasn’t changed that much at all. She’s still determined as ever, but maybe a little boy crazy to the point of failing math just to get Aaron to talk to her. Janis is surprised that it works, but she’s also not surprised at all. Just jealous that Aaron has Cady’s affection.

She’ll focus on that later. For now, she needs to put all her attention towards the art show. She spends lunch in the art room, working on her painting. This one she had started while on the emotions she felt during their operation hell-bent on ruining Regina. It’s a portrait of herself and her friends. (Her wolf is happy with it too. At least it shares her love for them.) A small burst of pride trills in her chest when Mr. Duvall congratulates her on being a finalist for the art show. Damian’s support never fails to make her smile and that’s still true when he gives a small cheer. The Spring Fling nominees are listed. She doesn’t really pay attention to them because it's always the same people year in and year out.

However, hearing Cady Heron as a nominee nearly makes her drop her brush. She almost thinks she heard wrong because this hadn’t been a part of the plan (though it’s brilliant because the best way to humiliate Regina would be to steal the crown from her). She’s about to ask Damian about the inconsistency when Cady barges in.=

Janis pauses. Okay. A lot of skin. She then resumes painting because that’s the only thing her brain can think of right now. Cady is also befuddled as to why she’s a nominee. Janis makes an offhand comment that the Russians are behind her nomination. Cady doesn’t react, foregoing a response to check her phone and the numerous congratulations texts. Janis ignores the feeling of being brushed off like that. She’s just busy, no doubt. Just focus on painting.

Cady mentions Aaron and how he hasn’t responded to her messages. Janis is both grateful and pissed off because she’s happy Aaron doesn’t want to be with Cady, and angry as to why doesn’t Aaron want to be with Cady? Nope. Stop there. Focus on art. Janis asks if Cady will need a ride this weekend because Damian borrowed his grandmother’s motorized scooter.

“A ride to what?” As those words leave Cady’s mouth, Janis crosses her fingers and hopes to whatever deity listening Cady is just confused as to how the conversation was flowing. Maybe she hasn’t made the connection yet, so Janis does it for her.

“My art show…? Wait, did you not just hear Mr. Duvall just mention it?” Janis tries to patiently explain, keyword being 'tries' because her tone sounds slightly bitter. Janis observes Cady’s expression turn from confused to conflicted.

“Shit, that’s this weekend? I have to go to this thing in Madison with my parents.” Janis can smell the bullshit and the lies because right after that statement, she poses for a selfie. Even if Cady isn’t lying about being busy, it doesn’t make her blatant disregard for Janis any less painful.

“Yeah. You seem really torn up about it.” Damian recognizes the increased enmity in her voice, so as he stands up from the stool he was previously sitting on, he places a comforting hand on her back. Janis lets out a quiet huff and returns to attack her art with maybe a little more force than necessary. She’s still attentive to how it looks and would never botch a painting like that.

Cady contemplates sending a text to Aaron, congratulating him for his nomination. Damian takes the helm of the conversation at this point. He lectures her on how because they’re teenagers they lack a more developed impulse control and that they need to stop. He talks about how messy it gets when you’re borderline obsessive and how hard those messes are to clean.

“Tell her about Phillip,” Janis insists. Hopefully by telling Cady what happens when you don’t stop will get her to quit while she’s ahead. Damian jumps right into the story. He sets the stage of his fling with Phillip and how after camp, he badgered his female co-star to the point of an unhealthy obsession. He ends it with how Phillip won’t even talk to him or accept his edible arrangements.

“See, so because I didn’t stop, I made that situation a lot worse than it should’ve been,” he expressed, trying to be as wise and sage as possible. Cady nods along like she understands, but they see her send a text to someone. They don’t know who, but they have a feeling as to who it is.

That weekend, as Janis and Damian drive to the art show, Janis tries to focus on her art. She really does, but all her mind is capable of is going back to the conversation in the art room. Cady is changing, and sometimes change is good. This kind of change, though, is not for the better. She begins to feel like Regina and Janis hates it. Her wolf is feeling awfully restless and it’s not because of a full moon, or any other lunar phenomenon. She checked earlier and there’s nothing going on tonight.

She presents her art, the finished piece of her friends. She poured every feeling of love and protection into every stroke, every line. She tried to convey how much she loves her friends into the painting. It worked because she wins a prize for it. She’s ecstatic over it and so is Damian, but she can’t help but feel empty without Cady there too.

They’re outside and are getting ready to make their way back when Janis pulls out her phone, but Damian stops her hand. She gives him a weird look because doesn’t he want Cady to know how the night turned out? She’s ready to vocalize her concerns when he hands her his own phone. Over sixty different people are posting pictures and there are a handful of live streams. A seed of rage begins to grow in her chest.

“Y’know what Damian? We should tell Cady the news. In. Person.” Damian hesitates but complies with her request. They pack up the painting, which makes her both angrier and full of grief everytime she looks at it now. They are outside Cady’s house just in time to witness Aaron storm off, distressed, and Cady trying to catch up, equally distressed (if not more). A small twinge of sympathy hits her heart for Cady, some part of her still in love, but this isn’t the same girl. Not anymore.

“You dirty liar.” Janis hops off the back of the motor scooter, but Damian keeps driving. Cady has a very distinct deer in the headlights look and she reeks of guilt. And of alcohol.

“Janis, look, I can explain-” Guilty as Cady looks, Janis doesn’t have the patience for an explanation right now.

“Explain what? That you were supposed to be out of town? Don’t give me that bullshit! There are sixty different people posting about this right now!” Her wolf’s uneasiness makes sense now. It knew something was up, but she believed better of her friend.

“I couldn’t invite you! I have to act like I don’t know you!” She claims, but all Janis can hear is the deceit of a twelve-year-old Regina.

“You are just full of lies!” Damian had continued driving for a bit, but he stops at this. He shoots her a pleading look. She has to make this quick, he needs to be back before curfew. She stomps up to Cady. “This is your house, you could have invited whoever you wanted. You could have changed how this school works, you just decided not to.”

“Look, you would hate this party-” Cady walks back in the opposite direction, obviously annoyed and exasperated. Good, that makes two of them.

“Why? Because you’re having an amazing time with your amazing friends?” It’s phrased like a  mocking rhetorical question, but a part of her really does want to know.

"Janis, I can’t spend every second with you! It's not my fault you're like, in love with me or something!"

There's a brief pause after Cady's statement and she knows Cady said it in her drunken frustration, but her heart feels like it’s made of stone.

“Oh no,” is what Damian reacts with, though it’s only just loud enough for her to hear. He knows about her crush and the fact that Cady may have figured it out makes her near hysterical. Then the anger begins to roar and it feels like it physically burns her chest.

"That's the thing with you Plastics, you think everyone's in love with you but really, everyone hates you," Janis spits out, the words slathered with the bitterness and resentment she's harbored for years. A low rumbling growl resonates in her chest.

"It was your idea for me to pretend to be plastic in the first place!" Cady retorts, frustrated and confused. The anger burns hotter, and the growl bubbles out of her chest into her words.

"Buddy, it's not pretend. You're as fake as the rest of them," Janis says, taking a step closer to Cady. The growl curls around her voice, harsh and rough. "I hate Regina's guts, but at least she didn't pretend to be my friend!" The growl grows stronger, almost becoming a snarl, but it dies down suddenly. Janis abruptly pulls away, grabbing the painting from the scooter. "Here. Take it. It won a prize." Her voice is low and despondent and the growl is gone. Cady catches the painting and sees a portrait of her, Janis, and Damian.

"Janis..." she starts, but Janis marches right in front of her again. The growling begins anew.

"It's FINE! Really fine!" She towers over Cady, and she can hear Damian saying something about his pink shirt, but she can't hear anything over the blood rushing in her ears. Her wolf is struggling to stay contained and all the fraught emotions inside her are bursting from her skin. Literally.

She can feel her teeth poke into her mouth, her nails turning claws and the permanent growl around her words. Cady cowers beneath her, hands tightly clutching the painting, eyes wide. Her hearing clears to where she can hear the gasping breaths, the elevated heartbeat. She looks like prey right before the predator snaps its teeth into it. She can almost imagine it. Her teeth finally being able to sink into flesh and her claws savaging her throat. Janis can feel her shoulders tense like her body might actually do that. It’s so tempting and she wants it so badly. Just before her body moves, she inhales. She can smell the sharp scent of fear, the poisoned black ice of terror.

It’s strong enough to pause her thinking. Realizing that it’s coming from Cady breaks what remains of Janis's heart. The growling stops and the wolf recedes back into her mind. She turns to Damian, hopping onto the scooter, and they drive away. He pulls her close, murmuring words of comfort and reassurances, but she doesn't register them. She focuses on the scent of him and the sound of the Jazzy. Anything to distract her from what just happened.

He brings her home. Almost launching herself off the scooter, she fumbles with the key to her house and runs inside once it’s unlocked. She doesn’t even bother unlocking the basement and just uses her strength to break open the door. Damian can be heard distantly shouting after her, but she charges inside the cage.

Just as the door swings closed and the lock activates, Janis begins to scream. The scream is primal, full of so many emotions. It’s loud and powerful like rage, but it’s mournful and heartbreaking like sorrow. It’s the bellow of a betrayal and the cry of a traitor. Hot tears poured down her face and the wolf inside howls along. As she expresses her anguish into the air, she feels all the emotions begin to push to the surface. They churn and churn until they force themselves outside.

She feels the fur grow, the teeth and claws elongate, and her bones breaking. She keeps on screaming until those turn into howls and it hurts so much more than the full moon because she’s aware of what’s happening. After transforming she doesn’t black out or anything. She opens her eyes and stares at her warped reflection in the ruined metal bars. She hates how terrifying she looks. She hates that all that predator crap is second nature. She hates that she came so close to maiming Cady because her wolf wanted it. She hates her wolf for that. She hates herself for allowing it to happen. She hates being a monster.

Cady Heron is scared of her and why wouldn't she be? Janis Sarkisian is a monster and she proved it right then.

Chapter Text

Janis has stopped howling but remains in her wolf form. She curls up, laying her head down with a sigh. Her chest feels heavy with all the emotions she’s felt today. The anger has ebbed away, leaving a husk of exhaustion. She can still feel her guilt stabbing into her like a sword through the gut, draining her emotional energy even more. Janis decides she should sleep to regain energy to deal with her feelings. Before she can, her ears perk up at the sound of someone walking down the steps. Damian stands as the foot of the stairs, breathing heavily.

“Sorry, I took so long getting here. You run really fast and I had to park the Jazzy and lock the doors,” he panted. He walks closer, reaching up to grab the keys hanging from the ceiling. Janis growls in warning. He shouldn’t be here, he needs to get home! He has a curfew and he can’t break that.

“C’mon, Janis, don’t be like that. I’m willing to break curfew if it means I can be there for my friend.” His voice is soft and it soothes her ravaged mind. She whines as he moves to unlock the cage. He needs to get away from her! Didn’t he see what happened with Cady? She could hurt him too. He has to keep her in the cage because that’s where she belongs.

“You’ve been hurt. The last thing you need is more isolation. We don’t need to talk or anything. Just, y’know, we gotta be there for each other.” He opens the cage, and gestures upstairs. Tentatively, she steps forward until her foreleg almost passes the threshold of her prison. It stays suspended in the air, but she draws back inside. Every time she’s outside the cage, she puts someone at risk of getting hurt. She lifts her head to meet Damian’s eye line, which isn’t too terribly hard considering her head is already at his chest level. There’s a pleading look in his eyes, and Janis realizes that she’s not the only one who was betrayed. He needs her as much as she needs him. She follows him upstairs, lets him rest his hand on her back as they go to her room. She waits for him to lie down before sitting on the floor, laying her head on the bed.

“Just the two of us again, huh? Guess it was meant to be then,” he admits. Damian smiles, but it’s small and more of a grieving look. Janis huffs in agreement. He pats her head and Janis whines, leaning into his touch. Cady may have been their friend for a shorter amount of time, but she was just as important to them as each other. Now, it’s just the two of them again, and an emptiness where Cady resided. Janis gingerly climbs onto the bed, curling around Damian. She’s lost one packmate. She won’t abandon this one.

“I can’t believe you’ve never let me touch you before this...You’re really soft...and warm,” he expresses, words slowing down and slurring as the cloak of sleep befalls him. Janis huffs again, more out of affection than annoyance. She listens to the sound of his breathing even out before she begins to give into the lull of sleep.

The next morning, she wakes up still in her wolf form. Damian’s still entwined with her. She takes in a deep breath, inhaling his scent. His breathing suggests he’s still asleep. She lays by his side for a while longer before a restless energy forces her to leave. Slowly, as not to disturb his slumber, she rises off the bed and makes her way to the kitchen. Her mind replays the events of the night before and while her wolf spurs her to take action, all she can still feel is a bone-weary tiredness. Cady did always seem to be too good to be true. Looks like she was right.

The soft footsteps from her room reveal Damian drowsily rubbing his eyes. Janis makes an apologetic whine, trying to communicate that she hadn’t meant to wake him. Damian lifts his phone lazily, showing a text conversation.

“You didn’t wake me up. My mom’s texts had. I gotta get home,” he says. Janis almost whines again, but figures that she needs something more sincere. She pads over to him, taking a deep breath. There’s a series of sickening cracking noises as her bones realign and then she stands before him, human in shape once again. It’s the fastest transition she has done.

“I’m sorry for making you break your curfew,” she blurted out, her voice rough from all the screaming and howling she had done the night before. The guilt-stricken blade stabs deeper. Damian chuckles.

“Sweetie, I made that choice and I understood the consequences of my actions. Plus, my mom will understand when I tell her, trust me.” His arms surround her in a hug and Janis can’t stop her emotions from escaping her eyes. She doesn’t understand why he would risk so many things for her. She can’t see why he would choose to stay with her when she’s a monster. Didn’t he see it? Didn’t he see her almost bite Cady’s head off? Almost hurt her?

“But you didn’t. You never do because at your core, you’re not a monster Janis. You’ll never be one. You’re just Janis Sarkisian, my best friend who also happens to be a werewolf,” he proclaims. Turns out she had been whispering her thoughts out loud and he heard every word of it. She doesn’t reply, just clutches the underside of his arms and presses herself closer. She’s shaking from the strength of the sobs wracking her body.

“You won’t say that when I hurt you too,” she hiccups. He hugs her tighter.

“You would never hurt me because I know you care. You know that too,” he clarifies and Janis hates that he’s right. He’s right because the only reason she left the cage was for him. He’s right because she loves him more than she loves herself at this point. She would never hurt him. “You’ve made mistakes, yes, but you can’t expect to never mess up. You need to forgive yourself for mistakes by making better decisions,” he advises. She nods, but she doesn’t know if she has it in herself to forgive. Not yet, at least.

They stay like that until her breathing slows and her crying diminishes. As he pulls away, he gives an apologetic smile for leaving, but she understands he has too. She watches him go, a lead heart in her chest that grows heavier by the second. She needs to acknowledge that she had made a mistake. She had essentially manipulated a naive girl into ruining her enemy’s life, and the karma had come back with Cady turning into what they had strived to overthrow. She’s not to blame for how Cady changed, though. Sure, she did expose her, but she can’t change the past- just make amends with it and move on to do better in the future. Damian’s right, she needs to forgive Cady.

When school rears its ugly head, Janis is walking with Damian down the hallway. Suddenly, a cacophony of voices erupts from down the hall.  As Damian and herself get closer to the source, it gets loud enough to hurt her ears. In front of her, girls are grabbing sheets of paper and yelling various obscenities. She can make out numerous phrases, and they all seem to be insults, rumors, or lies about the girls of the junior class. A crinkle sounds as she steps on a paper that reads “Janis is a space dyke”.

“Huh, that’s original.” A feeling of familiarity tickles the back of her brain. Didn’t Cady say there was a book Regina kept with all these insults in it? She doesn’t spend any longer pondering the origin of the papers when Damian shows her another one. “Damian Hubbard is too gay to function? That’s only okay when I say it,” she reads, a growl building in her chest.

“Only Cady could have written that.” He takes her hand before her anger can get any stronger and leads her away from the other girls, who had begun to fight each other. He guides her to a nearby hallway that is thankfully deserted. The anger simmers, then dies down. What if scaring Cady made her retaliate by spreading the Burn Book? It didn’t make sense how Cady could’ve gotten it because it was in Regina’s possession. No, that’s the thing; Regina had done it. She had shared the Burn Book to get back at Cady. So, Cady hadn’t done anything, but she no doubt had a hand in it indirectly.

The sound of a shrill whistle shrieked through the halls, and Janis’s hands shot up to cover her sensitive ears. Mr. Duvall announces all junior girls need to report to the gymnasium, and Damian ushers the two of them there, Janis unable to process everything thanks to the ringing in her ears. While her hearing clears, Damian tells her to go on, as he needs to do something. She nods and trudges over to the bleachers.

As Mr. Duvall and Ms. Norbury try to settle down the students who are still fighting each other, she spots a bright teal sweater. She raises an eyebrow as Damian looks at her from behind his sunglasses, but she doesn’t do anything beyond that. Mr. Duvall continues to lecture and chew out the students until he has Ms. Norbury take center stage. She asks if a girl had ever talked bad about her behind her back. Janis raises her hand. Then she asks if they had talked bad about a girl before. Janis does the same thing if a bit more slowly.

“Everybody grab a piece of paper. We’re gonna write apologies to people we’ve hurt in our lives,” Mrs. Norbury states. All the girls follow her over, Janis walking over reluctantly. She notes that Damian stays on the outskirts of the crowd and Regina doesn’t even bother getting up. As people begin their apologizes and trust fall off the desk, Janis contemplates her apology. A part of her believes she should apologize to Cady for leading her down the wrong path, but another protest that she didn’t deserve it. Damian’s words from yesterday enter her mind. She decides right then who she needs to apologize to. As she stands on the desk, she can hear Regina yell.

“Oh my God, it’s her dream come true, diving into a big pile of girls,” she jeers.

“Ok, sure,” Janis mutters, dismissing Regina’s mocking words. She crumples up her paper and laughs. “I have an apology. I have a friend, who’s a new student this year, and I convinced her it would be a good idea to mess up Regina George’s life. We gave her these candy bars that made her gain weight, turned her best friends against her, and Cady,” she says, looking directly at the aforementioned girl, “got Regina’s boyfriend to dump her.” Regina stands up as she’s talking, miffed at being reminded of her downfall. Janis doesn’t stop and continues her speech. “Yeah, as it turns out, my friend is just as phony and selfish as the rest of them.” Cady looks veritably unnerved at the glaring eyes on her and flinches when Janis basically spits out ‘friend’ as harshly as she can. Janis takes a deep breath, clenching her fists until her knuckles turn white. “So, this apology is to myself because I really should have known better.”

Being screwed over by Regina, who she thought was her best friend, and then by Cady, people she had trusted and thought were nice when in reality they weren’t, had forced her to confront parts of herself she hadn’t before. With Regina, it brought out this much more savage and angrier side of her wolf and it made her think about her sexuality. Cady, on the other hand, helped focus that chaotic side of her wolf into something that wanted to protect instead of just destroying and that she doesn’t need revenge to feel whole when she has friends. She thinks about how those events had intended to break her, to completely demolish her spirit, but at the end, she’s stronger because of them. She hates the artificialness people adopt in order for others to like them and she’d rather be herself because all she has is herself.

As she talks about how being herself is more important and much better than being fake, she sees Regina walk out of the gymnasium, followed by Cady. The other girls, empowered by her speech, cheer her on, taking her out to the parking lot where she can see Regina and Cady. Cady is apologizing for something and as Regina snaps back at her, Janis turns her head down the road just in time to see a bus speed forward. Before she can react, the bus slams into Regina.

Janis didn’t like Regina, hated her even, but never would she actually wish bodily harm onto her worst enemy like that. Seeing Regina get hit by a bus makes her feel an emotion she hadn’t felt for the other girl in a long time: worried. She’s worried about Regina’s wellbeing and safety despite the fact Regina probably hadn’t given a second glance to Janis ever since middle school. Janis can’t help it because being hit by a bus isn’t something she’d ever wish onto another person.

Though Janis had seen what happened in person, she can hear the rumors circulating about what had happened. Some claim Regina jumped or that Cady pushed her, but Janis knows the truth. More rumors begin to fill the air until the news comes out: Cady Heron was the one behind the Burn Book. She knows it isn’t true, which means that Cady had taken the blame, and her heart aches because that was Cady she fell in love with all those months ago, the determined girl that cared more for her friends than the popular crowd.

She gets a series of texts as her and Damian get ready for the Spring Fling, all from the girl she still is somehow hopelessly infatuated with. The messages are all apologies for all the wrongs she had done, like lying and turning on them, but Janis never replies to them. If she does, it means she needs to admit she had done something wrong too. She isn’t afraid to own up to her mistakes, and she does intend to accept Cady’s apologies, but just as she reaches for her phone, her hand turns into claws. A blink later and it's gone. It was probably just her paranoia, but the split image had served to remind her of how close she came to slitting Cady’s throat with her hands. Her hand jerks back, terror chilling her spine. Maybe it’s for the best if Janis keeps Cady away from her. Damian comes into her room seconds later, adjusting his tie.

“Alright, how do I look?” He twirls around elegantly. Janis smiles crookedly and gives him a thumbs up.

“Bitchin’,” she laughed. He gives her a look for her use of language but remains smiling. He pulls out his phone, checking the time.

“It’s time to show the world what real platonic soulmates look like,” he exclaims, reaching out his forearm for her to take. She takes it and together they go to the Spring Fling.

When they arrive inside, Janis can feel her phone buzz, no doubt another notification from Cady. She opts to ignore it again. She has other things to worry about, like the overpowering smell of perfumes and colognes. The robust scents slap her in the face like she walked into a physical wall and she struggles to not gag. Damian takes her aside to a corner of the room, away from the majority of bodies. She leans in close, taking in deep breaths through her nose, letting Damian’s scent overtake her senses and block out everyone else. Her dizzying head calmed as she breathes, slowly winding down. Her phone vibrates again and she can’t stop the small growl of annoyance that slips out.

“Are you going to forgive Cady?” he inquires. She backs up, but keeps a hold on the lapels of his jacket, staying close to him.

“No, because…” What does she say? What can she say? She doesn’t want him to think that she’s afraid of hurting Cady because she’s a monster. “...that means I have to admit that I did bad things too.” It’s not quite a lie, but it feels like one. She can admit her misgivings, the road to doing so is just a lot longer, but that’s not the problem. She’s completely willing to forgive Cady, to let her back into her life, but she knows Cady won’t forgive her. Cady is trying to right now, but Janis knows. If Cady knew what she really was inside, she would regret ever meeting her. And then there are her feelings she had addressed long ago. She’s caught in this weird limbo of wanting nothing more than Cady back in her life because she loves her, but also protecting Cady from her because again, she loves her.

“Aw, come here, hashtag complicit,” he responds, embracing her. She allows him, still reeling from the earlier near freak out. In the background, she can hear Mr. Duvall as he stands on the stage, ready to report who had won king and queen. She doesn’t really care about that so she remains surrounded by her best friend.

“Janis! Hey Janis, can we talk?” A tap on her shoulder makes her turn around to see Cady Heron. Her heart skips a beat and panic spurs her to do something but talk to Cady.

“Uh, sorry, me and my date are too busy making out.” She tries to bring Damian closer, but he rejects her with an “ew, Janis.” She faces Cady again, a forced smile on her face. Or maybe not so forced, because she’s genuinely really happy to see Cady again. They stand around awkwardly, not sure how to proceed. Cady is just about to continue talking when Mr. Duvall reveals that the winner of Spring Fling Queen had been her. Cady stops, taken off guard by her surprise win. “Unbelievable,” she mumbles, but raises her arm, gesturing for the other girl to go claim her crown.

“Uh, I think everybody voted for me because they think I pushed a girl in front of a bus, which is terrible,” she begins with. Janis can hear a distant “Not your fault! Don’t apologize,” be called out from the crowd. She presumes that Regina said it. “...no, I won’t, but what is my fault, though, is how I treated my friends Janis and Damian.” Janis grips the sleeve of Damian’s jacket, subconsciously feeling like every eye had turned to the pair. “So, I’m sorry. I lied to you and I left you out. If we’re not friends anymore, I understand, and I’ll still treat you with dignity,” she amends. Mr. Duvall tries to get her to stop by mentioning that a speech isn’t required, but Cady says that she needs a little longer. She resumes her speech by saying that in wanting to have people like her, she lost herself and changed. She carries on with how people change themselves when they don’t need to because they are good enough already. Cady removes the crown from her head, reflecting upon the nature of it.

“You’re all stars, shining brighter than this fake crown,” she decides. She breaks off a part of it, the crowd in front of her gasping. She then compliments every girl, jumping down from the stage to give a piece to them of it. Janis loses her in the crowd, but she’s okay with that because she’s a little overwhelmed anyways and needs to think. She forgave Cady ever since she took the blame for the Burn Book. And she was right about not being friends anymore. Janis doesn’t want to be friends with Cady; she wants to be something more. She really doesn’t want to think about her feelings right now, though.

“Do you forgive her?” she asks instead, to Damian. He contemplates her question and Cady’s apology.

“I do, but the real question you’re avoiding is if you forgive her?” He turned the tables on her, shoving the truth she doesn’t want to confront in her face.

“I guess I do,” she replies, leaving the unspoken “but I don’t think I really forgive myself,” to hang in the air. Dread settles like a dead weight in her gut as she remembers how dangerous she is. The only reason she could have forgiven herself during the Burn Book incident was because she didn’t have to think about endangering Cady since she would be able to distance herself. Forgiving her meant Cady would be back in her life and she couldn’t be any happier with that news, but she can’t forgive herself for putting Cady into that situation in the first place now. The anxiety hits her all over again and she almost transformed right there just to escape it all, but she’s pulled from her thoughts by Cady appearing again. Cady clasps the crown, or what remains of it. She fidgets with it but there’s a smile on her face. She gestures for Janis to lean down, to which she does.

“Here, you deserve this, for all the trouble I put you through,” she shouts, trying to be heard over the music. Janis cringes slightly because it just makes more noise for her ears. Cady lifts herself onto the tips of her toes and places the crown on Janis’s head. Janis does her best impression of a red balloon while this happens, her heart trying to escape her chest. Janis smiles back at her but keeps it much more reserved, never exposing her teeth. The lingering fear prompts Janis to step back from Cady as fast as she can without causing a scene or revealing her discomfort.

“Thanks,” she yells back, though she’s sure the heavy bass of the song covered her voice. Cady shoots her a blinding smile and Janis can feel her resolve almost melt. She wants nothing more than to be with Cady, to have her, but even if her heart is full of love, her conscience feels strangled with so much guilt that it makes her physically nauseous. She turns to Damian to give him an apology as well. He whispers something into her ear that makes both of them laugh. The song fades out, leaving a disturbing silence where she can hear everything and nothing with the ringing in her ears.

“Janis, you feeling…” The rest of the sentence is an incomprehensible mess to her hearing but Cady lays her hand on her shoulder while giving her a concerned look. She almost flinches away from her touch. Not trusting herself to open her mouth and not vomit, Janis shrugs. Cady gives her skeptical squint then diverges into the crowd, for whatever reason. Janis loses sight of her in seconds in the mass of bodies and other overwhelming features. The pounding bass begins to feel like a hammer slamming into her brain and the flashing lights make her dizzy. Dragging herself to the furthest edge of the crowd, which isn’t too far and was only a couple paces away, feels like she’s trying to walk a marathon of effort. Her heels scrape against the floor and she almost trips from an uneven patch. Her balance is thrown and she spends what feels like a really long time trying to regain it while fighting off vertigo. Someone grabs her and pulls her close. A snarl escapes from her mouth, but as the other body encircles hers, she nearly collapses into Damian’s hold.

“Do you need to go home?” She can barely hear his voice over the music but nods vigorously. He nods back and begins to lead her out of the overstimulating crowd. Her legs shake and her head spins, but leaning on him lets them escape outside faster than if she didn’t. The city air outside, though tarnished by pollution, feels like fresh mountain air to her senses. She heaves deep breaths in and out, through her nose and her mouth, trying to cleanse her nausea. It doesn’t work and if anything, makes her feel worse.

“Damian! Is Janis okay?” Cady runs out of the party, face red. She’s worried for Janis’s wellbeing and something inside her aches. Janis tries to stand up and show Cady that she’s fine, but her lightheadedness prevents from doing anything. Her knees buckle, but Damian catches her before she falls onto the pavement.

“Definitely not. I’m taking her home,” he walks off to the car. Cady waits, unsure if she could come with, absentmindedly fidgeting with the sleeves of her jacket. Damian faces her. “You coming, Caddy?” The nickname rolls off his tongue, familiar and endearing, and Cady does not delay in her stride to follow. As Janis is laid down in the back seat, Cady and Damian slide into the front, Damian in the driver’s seat. “Keep an eye on her for me, ‘kay?” Cady gives him a determined nod as he pulls out of the parking lot. Janis catches a glimpse of Cady giving her a troubled look and some other emotion she can’t determine. It might be pity. Whatever it is, it makes her tingle inside, which does not help her case right now. Her lovesick feelings chose the worst time to resurface.

Behind Cady, she can see the moon. It’s not remotely full, closer to a mere waning crescent, but something about it makes her feel unwell and the wolf is clawing her from the inside to get out. A growl builds in the car, and the strong scents of distress and anxiety fill her nostrils.

“Oh god, it’s not a full moon, why is this happening?” She can hear Damian mumble. The car gains more speed, resulting in Cady gripping the armrest.

“I understand that she’s not feeling well, but I don’t think going nearly ten miles over the speed limit is going to help!” Cady doesn’t know, doesn’t understand. She really hopes she can make it inside before her wolf comes out.

“This is something a little bit more drastic than Janis feeling sick,” he discloses, jerking the steering wheel into a sharp turn. Janis feels her limbs involuntarily move until she’s sitting up, silent except for the growl. Cady looks back to see her upright posture.

“Feeling better?” Cady asks, a nervous smile on her face. The growl grows louder and when Cady is about to speak again, she snarls, guttural and threatening.

“Janis, please, calm down, we’re almost home!” Damian is flooring it at this point, going as fast as the car will let him. The streetlights pass by in a blur, and everything’s moving so fast, but the moon with it slowly opening eye stares into her soul, silently watching. It doesn’t feel like a full moon transformation, but she can’t control herself.

“What the hell is happening? What’s wrong with Janis?” Cady interjects, her breathing nearing levels of hyperventilation. Janis tries to relax, but instead, she lashes out. Cady screams as she ducks, narrowly dodging claws aimed for her head, which instead carve into the seats, and Damian swerves the car. The jostled movement throws her into the side door, leaving more claw marks along the seats. She shakes her head, undazing herself from the impact and tries to make sense of what just happened. The tension raises higher when she realizes what she just did.

Horrified over her actions and fueled by the restlessness in her bones, Janis does the only thing logical thing in this solution: run. Frantically searching for a way to get out, she tries to use the handle to open the door, but in her scramble to grab it, she breaks it off. Panicking, she puts her attention on her other option, the window. Her fist slams into the glass, shattering it and creating long jagged cuts along her forearm. Several noises of protest, surprise, and concern come from the other occupants of the car, but she ignores them, unable to hear much over the pulse in her ears. She claws her seatbelt off and jumps through the broken window, feeling shards dig into her body, but the adrenaline numbs everything. She slams into the road, landing on her shoulder. It breaks on contact, but she rolls, jumping onto her feet. It pangs in protest, but she pushes through...

Aching, bleeding, and emotionally overwhelmed, Janis takes off into a sprint, not knowing where to go, but knowing she needed to get away. Squealing tires sound off from behind her, as well as more shouting. She doesn’t think before she forces her body to take on her true form. The fur grows, skin prickling from the sensation, and the pain builds on as her bones and organs rearrange. Two legs turn into four and she’s running away. The car rumbles in the distance and she runs in all kind of patterns to through them off. She zig-zags through streets and swerves down roads to get them to lose her trail.

At one point, she does lose them. She turns a corner, slowing down into a lope and listening for the sounds of cars. Her ears swivel around. Upon not hearing anything, she brings her trot down to a limping crawl. Everything hurts and she wants nothing more than to lie down and rest for eternity. The tiredness she feels combined with all the guilt, shame, and anger reduce her adrenaline-fueled determination to nothing. Her shoulder almost folds in every time she walks on it, but she can’t afford to rest. If she stops, that means that the distance she worked on creating gets smaller, therefore the closer Damian and Cady could be.

Reaching an empty street, she perks her ears, listening for the sounds of anyone else. Coming up negative, Janis tries to run across, but her shoulder gives out and her paws ache and she stumbles in the middle of the road. Struggling to get back up, she doesn’t hear the roar of engines until it’s too late. Bright lights shine into her eyes, blinding her until she feels something slam into her, the distinct noise of bones either breaking or shattering, then it all goes dark.

Chapter Text

Cady is having a pretty good day, from winning the state championships with the mathletes, to redeeming herself to Janis and Damian. Or at least, hopefully. She hasn’t really given a personal apology to each quite yet. She’s still passing out pieces of her newly won Spring Fling Queen crown. Left with a mostly intact crown, she pushes her way through the crowd, who have begun to grow rowdy due to the music picking up the beat. If she remembers from when she was on the stage, Janis and Damian were at the edge of the room, as far away from the crowd as possible. She doesn’t think too much of that. Janis and Damian tend to keep to themselves a lot and if they decided to spend Spring Fling on the fringes of the party just by themselves, then she’s fine with that. Besides, she’s kind of surprised that Janis is here, like she knew the pair were going to attend, but knowing Janis’s aversion to large amounts of people made her doubt that the other girl would actually show. Still, she’s grateful both are here, and especially thrilled that Janis is present.

She may not subtly shove past another attendee to get to Janis who looks more than a little overwhelmed and lost in thought. Just as she makes the first move to approach her, she stops. What if Janis and Damian didn’t want to forgive her? She said it herself. They had no obligation to. But she did say that she would treat them with dignity and respect, so they deserve an attempt. Her fire steels her nerves and she marches up to Janis, purpose in her stride and regret in her heart.

Her confidence falters a bit when she is face to face with her. She’s wearing this really nice tuxedo that's been painted with decals and it matches with Damian because why wouldn’t they match. For whatever reason, her heart rate begins to rise. The nervous energy makes her play with the broken crown in her hands, but she plasters on a smile when she notices Janis is looking at her now. She moves her hand in a motion to tell the taller girl to lean down. She tries to ignore the pounding in her chest from being so close to her as she apologizes and places the crown on Janis’s head. Cady immediately regrets everything she’s ever done when Janis visibly tenses from her shouting, but it dissipates slightly when she smiles back, albeit a little forced. Something twinges in something akin to pain when Janis seems to step back as soon as the crown is secured to her head. The other girl yells something back that she can’t quite hear, but it's probably gratitude. God, the mere idea of Janis forgiving her is enough to restore her prior hope, and her smile grows larger. Janis’s expression turns softer and there’s an emotion in it that she can’t understand, so instead of trying to figure it out, she turns to Damian. Damian’s smile sets her at ease and when she has him lean down so she can apologize, he whispers something back.

“Honey, I’ve already forgiven you because I know you’ve learned things, but please, heed our cautionary tale next time,” he says, laughing at the end, which makes her laugh in turn because she’s just so thankful that she has her two best friends back by her side. The song ends and just as the next one begins, she looks at Janis, who looks sick and nauseous.

“Janis, you feeling okay?” Janis stares at her like she didn’t hear a single word, so Cady carefully places her hand on her. Janis’s eyes are dilated, narrowed into almost slit-like shapes but that’s impossible on so many levels so it’s probably just a trick of the lights. Or the lack thereof. Her visage is pale and she is the definition of not okay, but Janis shrugs. Yeah, okay, complete utter bullshit. Cady has a nagging gut instinct that something about this is off but she can’t find out what’s wrong, so she sticks to giving Janis the most disbelieving glare she can before running off. She has to make a phone call.

Ducking into the girl’s bathroom, Cady half expects Regina to make another appearance but she saw the former demon queen of high school laughing it up and absolutely gone from pain medication just before she walked in. She goes through her recent contacts to find her mom. The dial tone rings twice before she gets an answer.

“Cady, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” Even if she had done some rather questionable actions and taken the blame for the Burn Book, her parents cared enough to ask if she had a problem instead of asking what problem she had created.

“Yeah, mom, everything’s fine, it’s just that...I apologized to Janis and Damian.” Saying that out loud feels cathartic like she could finally accept her redemption and get rid of her guilt.

“That’s great honey, but you do know that you’re still not scott-free? You’re grounded,” her mom asserts and Cady can’t do anything about that tone of finality, but she really has to go with Janis because she did not look okay in the slightest. She just got her back, she doesn’t want to let go for a long time.

“I know, but Janis isn’t looking really well right now and I’m too worried to just let her leave,” is what she says into the phone. I don’t want my time with her to end just yet. There’s a pause as her mother thinks about what she’s said.

“...see if you can go home with her, but you have to make this up later.” Cady nearly cheers, but reels herself to just thanking her mom profusely and hanging up to find Janis and Damian. She catches the retreating pair walking through the exit and books it. She barrels through the crowd and breaches the exit. Janis is heavily leaning against Damian for support and she looks miserable. Cady has never seen Damian this distressed before.

“Damian! Is Janis okay?” Why did she say that? Janis is visibly sick and totally not okay. Janis almost falls, but he catches her.

“Definitely not. I’m taking her home,” he replies and she’s thankful he isn’t sarcastic or snarky with his reply. She watches the two of them go, and she wants to follow them but she’s pretty sure that’s crossing the line of their shaky boundaries. She plays with the sleeves of her jacket, uncertain of if it is was okay for her to ask if she could come along. The answer presents itself in the form of Damian calling to her, asking if she was going with them. Hearing Caddy feels like a soothing rub of comfort that calms the turbulent storm of anxiety.

As Damian lays Janis into the backseat of his car, he tasks her with keeping watch on the frail girl. She almost slides into the back with Janis, but figures that would be an invasion of the other girl’s space. Instead, she settles for sitting the front seat and periodically (as in very frequently) check on the girl. They pull out of the parking lot just as a low rumbling growl that is too throaty, too feral, to be the engine makes itself known. It gives her a sense of deja vu. It almost feels like the night of her house party, of when she first abandoned her friends. Damian mumbles something, but since she couldn't hear it, she guesses that maybe it was to tell her to check on Janis again. She turns back to Janis to see her condition, but the car lurches forward, increasing in speed. The sudden jump causes Cady to face forward again and grasp the armrest for dear life.

“I understand that she’s not feeling well, but I don’t think going nearly ten miles over the speed limit is going to help,” she yelps, frazzled and really befuddled as to why Damian is breaking the speed laws.

“This is something a little bit more drastic than Janis feeling sick,” he yells back, pulling the car into a sharp turn that jolts Janis’s prone figure. Cady prepares to lecture him that his reckless driving with an unwell passenger is a huge risk, but she spots movement from the backseat in her peripherals. Janis has moved to a sitting position, but it’s stiff and unnatural.

“Feeling better?” Glowing amber eyes lock onto her and she feels like a target, like prey caught in the gaze of a predator. The deja vu grows stronger. The streetlights can’t quite reach the interior of the car so Cady can’t find the reason why Janis’s eyes are glowing but it unnerves her to no end. The growl, animalistic and intimidating through and through, gets louder and Cady can’t pinpoint the source because it reverbs off the inside of the car, but a tingling feeling tells her it's from Janis. Upon never receiving an answer, Cady tries to ask something else, but a loud snarl, harsh and savage. Cady can see the gleam of bared teeth and the narrowed eyes.

“Janis, please, calm down, we’re almost home!” he pleads, trying to push the car to its limits. Out of her element and shoved into an alien situation, Cady can feel her anxiety skyrocket, her pulse begin to grow out of control, and her breathing gets heavier. She has no clue about what’s happening and it’s throwing her off badly. She vocalizes her concerns to Damian while observing Janis. The other girl has grown deadly silent and Cady can see the tensed muscles, the poised posture for a pounce and it’s only through experience that she ducks. The seat shakes from the impact of Janis’s hand against it and Cady involuntarily screams from surprise because human hands don’t bend that way nor do they have claws. Damian freaks out too, briefly losing control of the speeding car, letting it swerve. There’s a shredding noise as the claws are dragged across the soft material of the seats and Janis is forced into the side door with a solid thud.

Damian keeps reassuring her and trying to tell her to calm down and Caddy figures she should join him but when she looks back at Janis, her eyes are no longer narrowed. They’re wide with fear and she’s staring down at her hands in disbelief and horror. As the seconds pass, she shrinks further into herself and Cady has to restrain herself from jumping into the back to comfort the scared girl, which would make the situation worse. Unexpectedly, Janis explodes with movement. There’s a series of scraping noises and a loud snap as she claws at the door and Cady realizes she’s trying to escape.

“Janis, please, don’t do anything-” The shattering of glass stops her words and she helplessly watches as her best friend bleeds along the shards, then jumps out a speeding car. She screams and screams her name and she can distantly hear Damian lending his voice to the chorus of anguish, but it’s too late and Janis is gone. There’s a heavy thud and she hears the snapping of bones with a stomach-churning clarity.

Damian slams on the breaks, executing some kind of crazy turning maneuver and the Jeep speeds off after...a wolf? A very large wolf that is limping away. Oh God, what is happening right now?

“JANIS!” he calls after the wolf. Why is he calling the wolf Janis? That’s not Janis because Janis is a human teenager, not a giant wolf. Unless she’s out of the loop when it comes to who the hell Janis Sarkisian is. The feeling of deja vu returns again and in an attempt to avoid whatever emotions she’s feeling right now, which is way too many, she falls back on reason. There has to be a perfect reason as to why they are breaking so many laws right now in order to chase after a wolf that Damian believes is Janis.

“Damian, hate to be the voice of reason here, but what the fuck is happening right now?!” Ooh, that was not the best way to phrase her confusion, but can you blame her? There’s a lot going on right now.

“Well, uh? Janis is a werewolf and she is currently running away from us. Which we can’t, y’know, have, so...JANIS GET BACK HERE PLEASE!” The words flow out his mouth in a frantic stream and she spends the next couple seconds deciphering the mess. A beat passes.

“Janis is a WHAT?” Werewolves are not real, they’re fictional legends, folklore passed down to warn people about the dangers of the night. Damian has to be on something, or this is some really whacked out dream she’s having. She glances back and the torn seats remind her, nope, this is definitely real. She can’t dismiss that idea no matter how much she wants to because her mind immediately matches up situations with Janis that fit that description. The first time Janis smiled at her like really smiled at her, Cady felt her face tingle and she couldn’t resist smiling back, but more importantly, there was the fact that Janis had really sharp teeth. She didn’t read too much into because it’s completely possible for some humans to have really sharp canines. The growling, on the other hand, was a little more divergent from human behavior. Humans could imitate and make their own growls, but Janis’s growls were more bestial in nature like she could feel the feral energy behind the noise. The fact Janis growls in the first place would probably be a warning that something wasn’t quite normal. But what does Cady know? Cady’s lived in Africa for sixteen years of her life so she doesn’t really know a lot about “normal” human interactions. Then again, she knows animal behavior and now that she thinks about, Janis really does express traits similar to a pack animal, like a wolf. She’s protective and loyal to her friends, hell, she’s seen Janis almost fight someone for talking to Damian with a rude tone.

The most evident experiences would be from the night of the party, the night she received a reality check on the kind of person she had changed into. Janis had been yelling at her and though Cady knows that Janis has a rougher voice, it sounded like she could only talk in the form of snarled words. Then her shining eyes, which isn’t possible for humans because they lack the tapetum lucidum nocturnal and most crepuscular creatures have, so her eyes literally could not reflect the streetlight like they were. Cady almost shudders as she recalls the combination of hateful eyes, narrowed into slits; the gravelly voice, spitting pure fury; the sharp teeth poking out from her mouth, and the skin that looked like it was pulled too tight against her skin. It wasn’t the alcohol warping her perspective on reality. She had really seen Janis almost transform, had really seen her pupils expand and her shoulders tense, like a lion’s before a pounce.

Cady figures she should be afraid, absolutely paralyzed from fear and shock. Instead, all she can feel is this burning feeling to find Janis and make sure she’s okay. Maybe her friend wasn’t human, that’s okay, she’s had plenty of friends that weren’t human and she has some scars from when those friends had attacked her before. This shouldn’t be any different, but for some reason, it feels like it is.  For some profound reason, Cady has this ache in her chest, like a desperate howl. She doesn’t know what it yearns for, yet it leads her in the direction of wherever Janis is. So, she listens to it.

“Make a left here,” she orders. Damian, who was preoccupied with finding Janis and hadn’t noticed her extended silence, jumps at her sudden words, but turns the car, obeying her command. The streetlights and car lights illuminate the dark shroud of the night and Cady prays to spot the reflection of eyes in their radius. She notices another car, a large truck, several yards ahead of them, and pushes Damian to slow down to avoid any police taking notice by having witnesses. He reluctantly eases on the gas.

“Janis is still out there you know…” he mentions.

“I do know, which is why it’s more important to be able to look for her, something we can’t do if we get pulled over by police,” she explains. He nods, but the anxious expression stays etched onto his features. Cady raises her eyes back onto the road, searching for any large quadrupedal figure running in the darkness. They reach an intersection and Cady listens to that howl again, only to feel uncertain over where to go next. Hoping that her instincts will lead her down the correct path, she points to the right. Dread pools into her stomach and she really regrets the decision. The truck continues forward and as soon as she loses sight of it, Damian floors the pedal again.

Suddenly, a thunderous crashing noise can be heard over the roaring engine. The dread solidifies in her gut and it looks like Damian feels it too. They share uneasy glances before Damian forces the car into a U-turn. Without thinking, he takes the route the truck had. Cady swallows a painful lump in her throat as she spots the uneven lump on the road and Damian audibly gasps.

The car is barely parked alongside the road before Cady bursts from her seat, running to the lump. Glass litters the asphalt and Cady can feel her heart drop when the figure is wolf-like. Janis’s wolf form is huge, her paws almost as large as Cady’s face and her body is longer than she is tall. Cady can feel her brain try to warn, to tell her to stop because this is a predator, an animal that could, actually almost has, hurt her. She ignores it because Janis has and always will be her friend above all.

She’s on her side, with a horribly twisted shoulder and a gash along her head. Her knees hit the floor with such force she can feel them sting, but she doesn’t care because Janis is unconscious or dead and she can’t tell which one it is. Cady doesn’t realize she’s crying until they sprinkle the dark fur. No, she can’t afford to be falling apart right now. She’s studied animals, she knows how they work. With blurry eyes she clears by blinking through the tears, Cady feels around for Janis’s pulse. A sob of relief escapes her mouth as she feels the dull, barely apparent beat beneath her fingers.

Damian collapses next to her, whispering words so fast she can’t pick up what he’s saying. He’s struggling to draw air into his lungs and Cady instinctually jumps him, keeping him close. He squeezes her tight in his embrace and Cady can feel pangs of longing as she realizes how much she missed his touch. He clutches the back of her jacket in a death grip and Cady can feel the tears wet her collar.

“We...we need to-need to get her h-home,” he hiccups, voice muffled. Cady nods along but hits a mental roadblock. Not only is Janis taller than her and nearly as tall as Damian, she definitely weighs more than both of them combined in this form. “I’ll bring the car closer,” he explains, composing himself, though his voice is still unsteady. He tries to get up, almost falling, but regains his balance, taking off to get the car.

Cady feels along the wolf’s ribcage, feeling the ragged breathing from bruised and cracked ribs. She releases a huff, relieved to find that none were broken and pressing against her lungs or piercing them. She retracts it when she notices there is a puddle of blood beneath Janis’s head. Lifting the head reveals that the liquid had been leaking from the wolf’s mouth, which means there’s blood in her lungs. Carefully laying her hands on Janis’s chest, she pushes down then moves to blow air into her lungs. She repeats the compressions until the wolf stiffens, then shudders as Janis hacks up a mixture of spittle and blood onto the road. She remains unconscious and her breathing is labored but it doesn't sound obstructed by blood anymore.

The sound of wheels along the rough floor brings her attention to the Jeep being pulled up in front of her. The engine shutters off and Damian runs to open the trunk. He lays down the back seats to make room for their canine companion. He steps back and also ponders how to move Janis without doing more damage.

“We need to keep her on her side,” Cady offers. Damian nods.

“The front half would be the heaviest parts of her body, so I’ll lift from there while you bring her legs around.” The two of them move in, Damian with his arms beneath her chest and neck, not quite able to lift her head, and Cady supporting Janis’s hips. It’s hard. Janis feels like she weighs over 200 pounds and Cady can tell its almost all muscle. It takes a lot of effort, way more than two teenagers can offer, and then some, but through sheer willpower and determination, they manage to slide Janis into the back. Damian takes off his coat, placing it under Janis’s head.

“I think I’ll stay in the back with her, just in case,” Cady suggests.

“Good idea, you know animals pretty well so you’ll know more about how to keep her stable,” he agrees. Cady jumps into the back, sitting in an empty space that isn’t occupied by furry limbs. She switches between feeling her breathing, to checking her pulse, and stroking her fur, making sure to avoid the areas matted by dried blood. The streetlights shine light into the Jeep as Damian takes them to Janis’s house. Each passing one illuminates her dark fur and her haggard appearance and seeing Janis like this makes her heart ache, though she’s still adjusting to associating Janis and the wolf as the same entity. Damian pulls into Janis’s driveway, slowly inching inside the garage, and Cady lets her body relax. He leaves the car without another word, running inside the house. He returns after a few minutes, with a white box decorated with a red cross.

“Here, Janis has a habit of getting hurt pretty often so we keep this well-stocked.” He sits down next to her, opening the box. “I can take care of her cuts and stuff, but I’ll admit I’m a little lost when it comes to her leg.” He takes out a bottle of disinfectant and some gauze, shrugging with a sheepish smile at the end of his sentence. Cady smiles back, trying to ease his turmoil. She inspects Janis’s shoulder and tries to see where the breaks occurred while he sets on patching her scrapes. Her actual shoulder was jagged, and upon lightly touching it, dislocated, while there was a broken foreleg, possibly the ulna, from the misshapen bulge underneath the skin.

“Damian, can you hold her body down while I pop her shoulder back into place?” He looks uncertain, trying to find a good hold around her without hurting Janis. Cady helps him find a steady purchase around the least injured parts of the wolf, then places her hand on the removed shoulder joint. “Okay, 3...2...1...now!” Damian braces Janis’s body as Cady pulls the shoulder up and towards where it belongs. The following snap resounds in the car with their heavy breathing. Janis jerks her body and Cady holds her breath in apprehension. Her leg stretches out in an enormous amount of effort, according to the screwed eyes of her face and the bared teeth but then her expression relaxes and her muscles loosen. She returns to an unresponsive state but Cady can tell her breathing is steadier.

“Do you need anything?” he inquires. Damian checks over his work, the patches of gauze that litter Janis’s form. His voice is tired but still laced with concern for his best friend. His hand, stained red, smooths over a ruffled section of fur, the movement shaky from his nerves.

“Yeah, do you know if we can use anything to build a splint for her leg? Like straight rods that we can use to keep the bone aligned.” Damian tilts his head in thought.

“Well, I should be one of the last people you ask regarding straight things, but I know what we could use,” he chuckled. Cady can’t help but laugh along. It feels nice to be in the company of Damian. It would have been the best thing ever if she was awake and uninjured. He leaves, patting Cady’s shoulder on his way out the car. While she waits, Cady rubs Janis behind her ear, careful of the gauze around her head. She lets out a watery giggle when she spots Janis’s tail flicking weakly from her action. Damian returns with two wooden sticks, laughing when he realizes what happened. “Here, these are from an art easel Janis broke.” Cady can’t help but snort at his statement because of course, Janis would do something like that. She rearranges the sticks and Janis’s foreleg, then asks Damian to hold the beams in place. She takes a roll of medical tape and wraps it around all three, careful of where to put the tension to keep the bone in place as it heals but not too tight to where it cuts off blood flow.

“I guess we have to keep her out here,” Cady comments. Technically, they could bring Janis inside but there’s too much risk carrying Janis right now. Besides, they probably couldn’t fit her through the doorway if they could lift her in the first place. Damian makes a noise of agreement.

“We should go inside, but I don’t want to leave Janis by herself.” Cady shares his sentiment, fearful that Janis might choke on her blood or bleed out internally. Even if Cady had examined her earlier to confirm that the fears were technically unfounded, the fear remains,  a thorn in her mind that throbbed painfully. “You don’t want to either so,” he stands up, “I’ll grab some blankets and stuff. It’s going to be a long night.” He goes inside the house, leaving Cady with Janis once again.

Cady observes. It’s something she’s done nearly all her life, watching to see what happens. She waits, investigating the wolf that Damian says is Janis. The dark fur, soft and thick, shares the shade of Janis’s roots. Even her mane is blonde, the lighter fur trailing down the back of her neck until it blends with the rest of the fur. The expression on her muzzle settles into a small scowl, lips raised enough for the slightest bit of teeth to poke out. It solidifies the evidence that Janis is a werewolf because it's an expression she has seen her do, albeit human. She pets the tufts of fur along the bottom of her chest, also feeling her breathing and checking for jagged pieces of rib.

Damian walks in after a couple of minutes. He has a bundle of clothes in one hand, a couple blankets, two pillows tucked under his arm and he is no longer dressed in his Spring Fling attire, simply in a pair of pajama pants and a black t-shirt with “Do you hear the people sing?” written on it and a rainbow flag beneath said writing. He looks tired, smudges of exhaustion beneath his eyes, and his shoulders are sagging, though he’s not tense anymore. As he watches her actions, a weird gleam shines in his eyes, the emotion in it unidentifiable, then it’s gone.

“Sorry to interrupt the tender moment, but I got these,” he holds up a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, “for you. Figured you’d want to sleep in something comfy.” He hands her the clothes, which she accepts with gratitude. “In case you don’t remember, the bathroom is on the left, down the hall, second door to your right, if you wanna clean up,” he guides, pointing to the garage door. She thanks him again and carefully extracts herself from the trunk. She does remember where the bathroom is, even if it has been a while since the last time she was here, but she does appreciate the reminder.

Her shoes shuffle along the tiled floor as she takes in the familiar sight of Janis’s home. It’s decorated with a variety of paintings, no doubt made by Janis herself. There’s one of a sunset on a savannah that makes her chest warm and nostalgic for the land she grew up in. More thoughts of the old environment begin to creep back into her mind and she wishes she could return to the starry sky there, but she shakes her head, clearing the thoughts. She’s not there, no matter how much she yearns to go back. Besides, Cady’s made a new life here, one she would miss. I’d certainly miss the new people I’ve met.

She enters the bathroom and almost recoils at her reflection. She’s disheveled, and she has dark marks under her eyes like Damian. Her hair is a mess and there are smears of dry blood on her face and all over her hands. A feeling of horror bubbles in her, pouring over into her body. It forces her to drop the clothes on the ground and immediately scrub away the stains. The hot water scalds her skin and turns it pink but the relief that floods through her body at the disappearance of the blood is worth it. The soap smells clean, just a simple antibacterial scent, instead of a scented one.

A thought hits her as she dries off. Janis owns a lot of simple scented things. She’s never put too much thought into it, figured Janis just enjoyed the simpler smells of things, but now that she knows Janis is a werewolf, someone with a better sense of smell than humans, she wonders if it's because of that sensitivity to scent.

“There are some perfumes that are super strong and give me a headache just from the slightest sniff, no wonder Janis avoids heavy fragrances so much,” Cady muses to herself.

She changes into the borrowed clothes, giggling when the shorts, which would have reached mid-thigh on Janis, fall below her knee. The t-shirt fits just fine, which, she realizes with a blush, is because it's a crop top. It has the NASA logo on it and when Cady remembers its one of Janis’s shirts, she hates that her mind conjures an image of Janis wearing it. Not that it isn’t a...pleasant...image, she wants to focus on other things, like the fact that Janis owns a NASA shirt or that Janis was hit by a truck. Not Janis looking really really...well, hot, for a better lack of words, in a crop top. Frustration wells inside her a little bit. She doesn’t understand where these feelings are coming from, but she pushes them down, suppressing them to deal with at a later time.

When Cady reenters the Jeep’s trunk, Damian has placed a pillow under Janis’s foreleg, elevating and cushioning. The other pillow is where she was leaning against earlier and a folded blanket is next to it. He’s dozing, the blanket wrapped around his shoulders. She apologizes when her entrance jolts him awake. He waves her off, sitting up and rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“Well, there’s two things I have the energy to do right now,” he pauses, yawning. “Item one is sleeping, while item two is answering any questions you have to the best of my ability.” She laughs at his words and he gives a grateful smile. Both actions sound and look absolutely tired.

“I do have, like, so many questions...but I’m really tired ...Today’s been a wild ride…” she slurs together, and Damian chuckles breathlessly.

“Oh honey, me too. If you can wait, then that’s okay...as long as you don't...freak out…” He nods off towards the end of his sentence, slipping back to the call of sleep his body is no doubt demanding. Cady concurs, feeling her body grow heavy. Her eyelids droop and she tries to fight the tide of sleep, but its grasp is too strong and she feels herself being dragged by the waves of unconsciousness. But, taking in the warmth of her atmosphere, the comfort of being surrounded by Damian and Janis, and the happiness of being with her two favorite people, even if she has rather complicated emotions regarding one of them, brings her to a place of mind she hasn’t been in for a while and she gladly falls into the depths of sleep.

Chapter Text

Sleep drags her down into its deep murky waters. Her body feels like it's floating, no longer tethered to the physical plane. She hovers mindlessly, getting used to the confusion of disorientation. Which way was up or down? Left or Right? As time passes—or not, she can’t quite tell if time exists—something solidifies against her back. It grounds her, and slowly, like water draining from a tank, her awareness slips back. The thick sludge of sensory deprivation slides away and she can feel the pressure of its disappearance.

Her lungs twitch at the sudden plunge into breathing and a flood of scents fills her nose as she inhales. She can feel the lightness of air, a slight breeze cooling her skin. It whistles as it rushes past her ears and she’s relieved she can hear something other than her own breathing. It rustles the leaves, and the curiosity to see, to know, to learn, is too much.

Cady opens her eyes, gasping as she finds herself staring into the endless abyss of the sky. She’s laying on her back, gazing at the infinity of the galaxies, framed by the branches of reaching trees. They sway in the soft wind and Cady lays there, taking in the majestic sight. She hasn’t seen this many stars in what feels like forever ago. When the ache in her heart for a land where she could see this many stars every night grows too strong, she decides to move on.

She rises to her feet, surprised by the vivid detail of the world when it was much too dark for her human eyes. Nearly every detail on the trees can be pinpointed, from the texture of the bark to each individual leaf on a branch. She stands to her full height and nearly stumbles, the body feeling unfamiliar. Each limb feels too long, too lanky, but they also hide a powerful strength that intimidates her a little bit. It takes a while to readjust and it makes her the slightest bit dizzy. She sways unsteadily, regaining her bearings until a wave of nausea makes her gut twist and lose her balance again.

To calm her stomach, she takes a deep breath through her nose. She immediately regrets it. The overwhelming flood of scents returns with a brutal vengeance and she gags on the formidable clarity of pine she isn’t used to. Taking another breath, much slower than before, but the scent of pine just grows stronger. Instead of repulsing her like before (which she surmises must have been from surprise), the smell is enticing and she can’t resist inhaling even more.

The scent of fresh vegetation blends with the clean mountain air, which hints at the petrichor of spring showers, and even if the air lacks the obvious odor of animals—she can almost imagine, can almost taste—the tang of prey. A primal urge surges from within and she drops down on all fours, trying to trace the taste. She doesn’t even think twice about the twists in her body as she goes down, the pinch of pain that disappears just as quickly as it had appeared, and the fact that she no longer has hands.

Dark paws take a low, wide stance, bringing her muzzle to the ground. The aroma grows stronger and on instinct, she opens her mouth to try and take in more of it. Her body shivers in anticipation. She doesn’t know what prey the track belongs to, all she knows is that there is a feral desire to track, hunt, and kill.

Cady takes off at a steady pace as she follows her nose. She never stumbles over her limbs, the old unfamiliarity gone, and she moves gracefully between trees, over roots, and under branches. The trail grows stronger and stronger along with this feeling in her chest until she can’t resist howling into the night sky. It echoes into the empty air, the reverbs sounding like her pack coming to hunt with her.  (Almost like she isn’t alone on this dark night.)

Her hunting song plays in the night sky, though there is never an answer. She keeps chasing the trail long after the howling stops, after the echoes stop calling back, running for what feels like lifetimes, yet the stars shine as bright as ever, the full moon following her as her watchful guardian. She doesn’t even bother sniffing the prey she has been hunting this whole time. An ache leads her and her hunger grows as she feels herself getting closer to her target. She breaches the treeline, her lithe, muscular body propelling her forward through the underbrush.

The moment her paws leave the floor, time feels like it comes to a stop. Her target is finally in sight; The very thing her primal soul hungered for stands before her. Her keen perception depicts a human, average sized, small build. A snarl rages from her chest, her teeth exposed in the most ferocious manner she can muster, her paws outstretched to pin her prey. They slam into the creature, time beginning again with the vicious tear of skin. Before it can react, she lunges forward, jaws snapping shut and withdrawing her head to rip out a chunk of flesh from its throat. Her breathing is heavy, as blood fills her mouth, visceral excitement running hot through her veins. Her teeth gnash together as she crushes bone and flesh alike between powerful jaws. Her dilated eyes glance about, eager to tear her prey apart. She drops the shred of meat from her maw, blood dripping down the side of her mouth to her throat, as she recognizes what’s in front of her.

Her own mutilated body, torn throat oozing blood, a wide fearful dying gasp twisted into agonizing death, a memorial of her last moments. Her hackles rise, fur on its end, as she scrambles back, away from her own murder. The shock forces the fur to recede, followed with bones snapping into their proper places once again. She looks down at her blood-stained hands, a series of silvery white scars she knows aren’t her own trailing down both wrists. Long, wild locks of dark hair with blonde tips fall past her shoulders, mingling with blood on her hands.

A howling cackle pierces the shroud of her thoughts. The sound seems to explode from the very confines of her head; she clutches it, trying to alleviate the head-splitting pain. The mocking laughs continue and she looks pitifully at the sky, crying out to the cosmos to end the pain. (Sometimes, the laughing sounds like screaming and she thinks it’s her soul screaming in retaliation for the atrocities she’s committed.) The infinity beyond has condensed into a massive wolf, the endless galaxies outlining its shape and filling its body. Its large unblinking eye is the moon, which seems to stare deep into her soul, stripping her down to her core. It looks past every appearance, every layer, to see her true self. Its milky way chops open into a sneer, black globs of void dripping like blood from star-tipped canines, the derisive laugh returning. Cady stares in horror, petrified from fear. It lunges forward and she screams as it swallows her whole into its emptiness, its deafening cacophonous laughter numbing her ears.

A shriek breaks the silence. Cady is abruptly forced from the nightmare into her body and her eyes shoot open. Her heart hammers inside her chest and her breathing is too fast, too shallow. Her mouth goes dry with fear, and she forgets where she is in her panic. She jolts up, dislodging something resting on her person. If her mind was in the right place, she would have paused to take in her surroundings and investigated what was around her. It’s not. Her mind feels like it's buzzing with unrestrained anxiety, her mouth is sour with the taste of metal, and her stomach is churning with the aftertaste of violence.

The phantom sensations lie heavily on her body and with a burst of energy, she breaks out of the cloth-lined box she’s in. As she lands, Cady had overestimated the stability of her footing. Her knees hit the floor and pain shoots up her legs. The pain doesn’t bring her any closer to a rational mindset, instead fueling her instinctual need to get away. She stumbles inside the house and runs through the hallways, the colorful paintings blurring in her haste to get to the bathroom. Once there, she barely manages to bow over the toilet before a spurt of bile forces its way out of her stomach. It splatters against the porcelain. She heaves for a while until another wave of vomit escapes from her mouth. It happens once more, or maybe twice again, she can’t tell. By the time her stomach settles, her cognitive sense returns. She flushes the toilet, never sparing the mixture a glance, some part of her afraid to see blood.

Cady braces her weight against the counter as she rises to her feet. Her reflection stares back at her, blue eyes appearing as weary and empty as she feels. With trembling hands, she turns on the faucet. She cups her hands, rinsing the evidence of bile from her mouth. She ignores the lingering taste of metal at the back of her throat. Some of the water trickles down her arms, the chill drawing her further out of her panicked state. With the adrenaline gone, Cady is aware that her knees are aching but when she checks, she’s grateful that they’re only bruised, with minimal scraping. With a deep sigh, she turns off the faucet and slumps against the wall, sliding to the floor.

The nightmare flashes through her mind, but the details are already growing hazy. She can’t remember what exactly happened, but she really doesn’t want to pry, if it initiated such a violent reaction. Yet, no matter how hard she tries to ignore it, the final scene of her nightmare kept replaying her head. The sight of her brutalized body, bloody and broken. Bloodstained hands covered in scars. The overpowering combination scent and taste of blood. A wave of nausea passes through her. She stares at her own hands. She sees red, but one blink and it's gone. She clenches them into tight fists, then unclenches them, her body feeling like her own again, yet still lined with traces of foreignness. A knock draws her out of her mind.

“Cady? Are you alright?” Damian’s muffled voice calls out behind the door.

“Uh, yeah, I’m okay….” Cady rises to stand on unsteady legs, leaning heavily against the counter. The nauseated feeling remains in her gut and she fights the bile rushing to exit her mouth again. It’s a thinly veiled lie. She didn’t even think about lying to him in the first place, her mind automatically answering before she could mull over his question.

“You really don’t sound like it.” His voice may have been soft and gentle, but Cady can tell he knows she’s bullshitting him. She wants to tell him everything, like before when they would confide in each other, but she hasn’t quite comprehended why she feels the ways she does and trying to relay that to Damian in her current state would do more harm than good.

“....just not feeling too well. That’s all.” Damian begins to say something else, but a heavy thud hits the wall, shaking the house to its foundation, and he yells something. The door muffles his words and her mind is too exhausted to decipher it. Still, even in her fatigued state, she can guess that whatever caused the noise is going to be an issue. The mystery of the subject motivates her enough to consider exiting the peaceful bathroom.

She balances against the counter, continuing her internal debate to investigate. A chill rolls down her spine when her mind conjures up several worst-case scenarios. The most plausible one sticks to the forefront of her thoughts: If Cady’s outburst had woken up Damian, then Janis definitely heard it, which leads to the source of the sound that drew Damian away as Janis waking up. Her concern for her friends outweighs her tiredness and her hand changes from hovering above the doorknob to twisting it. Apprehension shakes her whole being as it swings open.


 

Fangs blacker than the darkest night swallow her whole and she screams as she falls down its gullet of endless stars. The stars begin to fade, and all she can see is the bright moon, glaring at her as she descends. She hits the surface of a dark lake, gasping as pain flares across her back. Immediately, the water floods her mouth and she’s dragged down into its depths, the moon still staring its forlorn eye at her.

She struggles to swim to the surface but it just drags her deeper. The fight ebbs away, and she gives in to the lull of darkness. As her vision dies, as her lungs scream for the air that’ll never come, as the bitter water surges into her mouth, as the moon judges her, she thinks of soft blonde hair and bright blue eyes, framed by scarlet and marred by her hands and teeth.

Janis wakes up and regrets it right away. Her head throbs with a painful headache, though it's nothing compared to the aching agony her body makes her feel. Stale air littered with dust fills her nostrils when she inhales and she coughs violently to clear them. Her body protests vehemently, her ribs and lungs burning with the action. She tries to sit up, whining when the pain intensifies. It takes a while, but once she manages to sit up, slumped against the wall of the car, she tries to remember what happened last night and gather her wits.

First off, she has a makeshift splint wrapped around her arm, recognizing the wood as the legs of the easel she had broken. She still has her Spring Fling outfit on, and she’s in the back of Damian’s car. Damian isn’t here. Maybe he went to get more bandages, but she shakes her head because she can see the first aid kit in the passenger seat.

Then she sees it. The torn seat, the snapped door handle, and the broken window. Hysteria rises in her chest as the memories flood back into her head. She remembers the yelling that followed her as she ran as fast and as far as she could. She remembers her aching body, screaming for rest, as she forced it to keep going. She remembers the headlights of a vehicle then darkness.

She tries to trace Damian’s scent to determine how long it’s been since he was in the car but wishes she hadn’t breathed in at all. Cady’s scent—something primal deep inside her crying out for the other girl—hits her harder than that fucking truck. Cady knows the truth. She knows Janis is a monster. The tang of old metal floods her mouth and the memory of that damned dream rears its ugly head. The phantom sensation of running through the woods and tracking a target tingles in her limbs and her tongue wipes across her teeth, expecting to taste blood.

Even her subconscious is aware of the abomination that is Janis Sarkisian. It’s trying to tell her that she was going to hurt Cady, that if she didn’t get away from her, Janis was going to devour her, rip her body to shreds, and enjoy every second of it. The thought of hurting Cady makes her shudder, but it’s the unpleasant truth. Tears well up in her eyes. Cady would never love her, would never accept her. Cady Heron hates her, no doubt. As the tears overflow down her face, Janis wants to curl up and accept her fate as a monster that no one would truly love. Despite that, her wolf is vindictive and livid. Its hurt and betrayed that someone it had trusted would turn on it.

Torn between her humanity and her primeval side, Janis feels her body and soul warring over how to react to the tumultuous thoughts in her head. She feels sick to her stomach, her heart beating at an inhuman pace. Its rapid thumping forces the adrenaline into her system, overpowering her stiff limbs and numbing the pain in her body. Unable to think, her instincts guide her into scrambling to her feet, exiting through the open broken door. She manages to open the garage door before she could barrel into it and most likely knock it off its hinges. It flies open, slamming against the wall and the house trembles from her strength. A growl breaks free from her throat, showing her wolf’s irritation at the possibilities that could occur from Cady knowing her secret while Janis is too afraid to suppress her emotions.

Damian, who had been down the hall in front of the bathroom door, rushes over at the commotion.

“Janis, it’s okay! Everything’s gonna work out—” Janis snarls loudly, her mind melding into her wolf’s thoughts.

“‘It’s okay’? Don’t fuck with me Damian, I know it’s not!” Damian’s expression stops short of devastated and bewildered like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing, then it transforms into a determined one.

“No, Janis, trust me! Cady doesn’t think—” She lets out a rough bark of laughter, short and bitter.

“Don’t fucking lie to me! I know she thinks I’m a monster! ” Her voice cracks, the sadness and loneliness beneath the anger exposed for a second, but that second is all Damian needs to hear to know how she truly feels.

“I’m not lying Janis!” He’s pleading with her and for a second, she considers hearing him out, but with her mind on a warpath, her wolf feeds her ire. For once, her wolf ignores the scent of desperation and distress and it roars inside her, blood rushing in her ears.

“No! I know I’m a monster, just look at me, Damian!” Whatever he planned to say dies on his tongue. Her scream stops him. It’s deep and guttural, nearly a roar, the wolf overpowering her, but the pitiful cries of a teenage girl can be heard underneath it. It shakes the house’s foundation and the fear that flows throughout her body freezes her blood, but the rage and anger and hate she has suppressed for most of her life surges to alight the cold with its blazing heat.

Her skin prickles with the uncomfortable sensation of fur sprouting from her skin and her bones creak as they slowly begin to rearrange. Janis is halfway into her hybrid form when she looks up. The world is in sharp clarity, every detailed magnified and the edges are slightly blurred. She can taste the emotions in the air, the scent of fear with the dryness of anguish. She stares down at him, hackles raised. She inhales, freezing when another scent wafts by. Slowly, like she didn’t want to face the truth, she rotates around, until she’s completely facing the source.

Pale, with a cold sweat glistening her skin, Cady stands in the hallway. Her expression is a cross between confusion and fear, but all Janis can see is disgust and hate. Her heart thunders in her ears and Janis decides that she has to get away. From Damian, from Cady, from anyone she could hurt.

Her mind moves fast, but her instincts are a step ahead of her. Though she was unsure of where she would go and what she would do, Janis has already filed that as a later problem, with the current one just being her escape. With practiced poise, her body coils and springs forward, ready to take off into a sprint. But for once, it seems Damian manages to move faster and his arms wrap around her torso like a vice grip. The opposing forces of her jump and his hold squeezes her ribs and a whine almost escapes her mouth amidst the growling. Damian nearly tumbles forward but braces himself with a grunt. Janis tries to pry off his arms, not understanding why he won’t let her leave .

As she continues to struggle, Janis is aware of a warm, slick sensation on her claws. Glancing down, her drive to fight drains away. The cuts from where she had tried to remove his arms were bright red, the blood dripping down the sides as he held onto her. Her emotions, which were already high strung, grow into a threshold of numbness, her eyes transfixed on those cuts and her bloodstained hands. At that moment, Janis isn’t sixteen and a junior in high school. Janis is twelve and she’s waking up with a headache and the taste of blood in her mouth. She’s twelve and her best friend just betrayed her. She’s twelve and she just attacked her mom.

Now, Janis is sixteen and she just hurt her best friend. Janis is sixteen and has no doubt scared away her only other friend. Janis is sixteen and once again, she’s proved that she’s a monster.


 

Cady exits the quiet bathroom and enters a world of shouting. Janis and Damian are arguing, though the latter’s voice is raised, not really shouting. Janis, on the other hand, is the source of most of the noise. Seeing Janis again makes her realize how long it’s been since she’s seen the other girl. The night of the Spring Fling doesn’t count in her mind, because of the chaotic elements of the dance and the even more chaotic events after. This is the first time in a long time that Cady has seen Janis as, well, her human form.

The splint she tied around the other girl’s arm isn’t as taut. The difference in size from Janis’s arm to the wolf’s caused it to loosen. The bandages, under the same effect, made her stature seem even smaller. She doesn’t seem to notice or care. There’s a dark glare in her amber eyes, predatory and angry. The shiver it sends down Cady’s spine isn’t from fear, at least not entirely. Their argument continues with Janis’s rough voice cutting off Damian’s replies. Her words slur together and her pronunciation grows clumsy in her emotions. Cady jumps when Janis roars. The howl is powerful, loud enough to make Cady cover her ears from its thunderous strength, and not only can she feel Janis’s anger and frustration, but the sound channels Janis’s sadness.

When the howl stops, her hearing returns in the form of her pounding heartbeat. The sound is too familiar for a second, like a certain hunting song but warped by muddled feelings. Cady looks at Janis and sees her for what she really is. Her ears glow with danger, large fangs protrude out her mouth. She stands, slightly hunched over, her clothes crumpled and torn at the seams. Sharp claws glint in the light, fingers crooked with bones meant for a creature not of human origin. Then those amber eyes meet hers and they go wide from fear and surprise. Janis turns away from Damian and launches herself forward, but Damian reacts faster and snags his arms around her middle.

Janis snarls harshly, trying to wriggle her way out of his grip and almost succeeds, but her movements stop when her head tilts down. From her perspective, Cady can’t see much, yet when Janis lifts her hands up, she understands what happened from the red coloring them. Janis goes limp, no longer fighting Damian. Every ounce of fight in her leaves, and so does her wolfish appearance. He cradles her and gently lays her on the couch, propped upright. He’s whispering to her, but Janis doesn’t seem to register anything. She stares at her hands with wide glazed over eyes.

Carefully, he lays his own hands over hers. She startles but the clarity returns to her eyes. She stares at him while he whispers, her body tense. Tears well up in her eyes, spilling from the sides as she begins to sob. Cady wants nothing more than to be there by her side with Damian, as a friend should, and take Janis into her arms, but Damian is already there and Cady is sure she would just be intruding instead of helping.

Janis cries intensely, red-rimmed eyes and sharp, heaving breaths. She hiccups with such strength that Cady winces just thinking about the pain her chest must be in, both physical and emotional.

“...I’m sor—I didn’t...Fuck, I didn’t mean to…” Janis frantically whispers under her breath, most of her apology being lost to her heavy breathing.

Awkwardly, Cady walks away, no longer able to stand that feeling of invasion. Instead, she goes over to the garage, figuring that the cuts on Damian’s arms need to be treated. She spots the white box in the passenger seat. The back door on the driver’s side is still open, so she enters from there, climbing over the torn up backseat. There’s an uncomfortable pressure in her chest, unsure over how to feel over what just happened. What’s still happening.

When she re-enters the room, Janis has calmed down considerably, though her breathing shudders like she’s on the verge of tears again and the occasional sniffle can be heard. Damian continues to embrace her, perking up when Cady holds up the first aid kit. He extracts himself from the mutual hold, Janis curling in on herself the moment he leaves. She looks so small. He takes the kit from her, despite her protests that she could patch him up.

“Sit down, I’ll be back in a bit,” is all he says to her, gesturing to the couch, or specifically, Janis’s direction. Her heart skips a beat, mouth going dry. He walks off without another word. The silence is suffocating, pressing down on her like the weight of the world. The tension is palpable like she could just reach out and cut it with a knife.

Tentatively, Cady shuffles forward, slowly approaching the couch. She sits gingerly, not getting comfortable in case she is asked to leave. The couch creaks beneath her weight. Janis visibly tenses and Cady can see her instinct to spring forward and run away, just like she was trying to do before. She stays put and Cady doesn’t know why that makes her feel relieved.

The stiff silence continues and Cady absentmindedly finds herself taking in the interior of the house. Just as her mind drifts away and her focus wanes, her eyes float back to the compact form of Janis, averting her eyes once she realizes what she’s doing. Nevertheless, again and again, she finds herself going back to Janis, no matter how far her eyes wander. Janis is curled up, trying to make herself as small as possible, with her back to Cady, so Cady has no idea what she is thinking. She keeps looking and turning away, unsure of how to react with Janis in such a vulnerable form. Logically, she knows that as a friend, she should go over and comfort her, but Cady isn’t sure what to make of her and Janis’s relationship. So, she sits, and waits, and watches.

“You know everything?” Janis asks, nearly startling Cady out of her skin, still in her curled up position, but facing her now. It takes a second for her to realize Janis is talking to her, a couple more for her to comprehend the question, and even longer for her to realize holy shit Janis is talking to her.

“W-well, not everything, everything, I just know the gist, wait, no, I don’t even know that, so I guess I don’t know anything, I just know, ugh, some things? Like I know that you’re a....werewolf,” she rambles, internally yelling at herself to shut up, though her mouth doesn’t seem to be on her side. “Not that I have anything against it! I’m not...species-ist? I don’t think any different of you and stuff—” Her rush of speaking is stopped by a sharp laugh.

“Jesus Caddy, breathe! It’s like you’re the one with the lifelong secret that got exposed. Relax, I just wanted to know.” Janis sits up, smirking devilishly, a complete one-eighty from her previous mood. Cady hesitates, questioning if she really did have anything to hide, but even if her nerves are high and she can’t quite understand her own thoughts, she knows that the way Janis is acting is just a front. The only thing that betrays what she’s actually feeling is the small hitch in her voice and the way her hands are clenched and shaking.

“Haha...sorry I just got nervous, which doesn’t help when you’re probably feeling the same way…” Cady fiddles with her hands, popping her knuckles. Janis’s smirk grows wider, but her expression changes from the joking and bravado to a bit of the anxiety beneath the mask. A large pause of silence follows, making Cady think she might’ve said the wrong thing. As the seconds' pass, she fights the building impulse to speak.

“I should explain things,” Janis states. Cady nods, shifting to make herself more comfortable and to distract herself from the need to reach out and grab Janis’s shaking hands. Janis takes a deep breath, her tone the slightest bit tight with emotions.

“...I was born a werewolf. My mom says my dad is the reason why I’m like...this.” She emphasizes it by lifting a hand and Cady watches in amazement as fur grows over it, nails turning darker and sharper until black claws extend from crooked fingers, then it recedes until Janis’s hand is human once again. She shakes her hand out, stretching it out from the uncomfortable act of changing.

“So yeah, because of some sperm donor douche who I’ve never met, I’m forced to turn into a giant wolf once a month. It’s great,” she spits out ‘great’ with every bit of sarcasm she can muster. “Almost like a second person in my head except a helluva lot angrier with sharper teeth, but at the same time, the person is me...It’s complicated, I know.” She trails off toward the end, and another period of silence consumes the two as Janis mulls over what to say next. Cady had nodded along, listening intently as Janis talked, and now that she has stopped, Cady contemplates if she should respond.

Neither of them gets another word in because Damian returns. There are rolls of bandage wrapped around both arms, but he doesn’t look to be in pain, and the smile he has on his face suggests that he’s relieved the two were talking. He’s holding two glasses of water, perspiration cooling on the exteriors. Janis takes one look at him and turns away, but not before Cady can miss the shame coloring her cheeks. He hands one to Cady, which accepts, thanking him for his thoughtfulness. She takes a small sip then resists the urge to chug the rest of the glass. The small amount of cool water made her realize just how dehydrated she was.

Janis flinches when he sits down next to her, now conveniently between her and Cady. He tries to hand off the other glass to her, which she reluctantly takes, her back still facing them. Damian gives Cady a look that reads like a “can-you-believe-this?” expression, with a raised eyebrow and a smile. Still, she smiles back, small and uncertain, relaxing as the smallest bit of tension leaks away.

“It’s nice to see the two of my favorite people talking again,” he says warmly, beaming. Janis, however, immediately turns around with a look in her eyes that suggests she strongly believes against something in his statement. Cady can see how he reaches out, carefully taking her hand into his own. How Janis jerks back away from him initially, clutching the glass to her chest. It’s the hand Janis had transformed into the wolf claw earlier, Cady notes offhandedly.

He rubs his thumb in a circular motion over it. Janis looks like she wants to anywhere but here, yet she lets him, her taut expression going lax. He pulls her close, speaking softly, and she melts into his hold. Cady observes their intimacy as an outsider and tries not to let the envy plant a seed of resentment. Their friendship had been exactly one of the things her adventurous spirit had called out for and it seemed to be so near, yet so far away. She swallows it down roughly, telling herself that it isn’t about her right now.

Janis pulls herself away from him, an unreadable expression on her face. “I want to apologize. For last night. I’m so sorry for worrying both of you with my actions. I was...afraid. Of hurting people. You guys especially. So, I ran, because I didn’t know what else to do. I figured it would be alright as long as I ran away from you.” Her gaze falls to the bandages wrapped Damian’s arms, a testament to her fears. A protest jumps to the tip of her tongue… a flash of a past memory: the cold curb, Aaron marching away from her, Janis and Damian, sharp bullets that she wishes she could take back …but she holds it, not knowing if it was her place to decide such a thing. Still, the urge to speak up is strong, so she pushes past the memories and chooses her words carefully.

“N-no matter how vigilant you are, accidents can happen. You just have to know how to take care of them when they happen and how to move on.” Her voice comes out shaky, unsure of if she should be saying anything about a subject she barely learned. Good thing she’s a quick study. Damian turns to her, a knowing smile on his face, while Janis fixes her sharp eyes to her own. She resists the urge to squirm under their full attention. Her heart hammers in her chest and she wonders if Janis can hear it too.

“Accidents are a part of life, we can’t avoid them. Sometimes, you can walk the same stairs every day, but one day you bring your leg too low and you trip because you’re lost in thought. Maybe you’ll say something you’ll regret because your emotions are running high and you can’t think rationally. And, you can hurt others without meaning to because you’re focused on something else.” Like making more friends rather than keeping the quality ones. Like getting a guy to notice and like you. Janis’s stare bores into her, stripping away her words for the feelings beneath. Damian reaches his hand out, which she hesitantly takes. He pulls it, bringing her closer to their embrace. Cady slowly lets herself relax, feeling the warmth exuding from the pair.

“‘It’s fine ‘til someone gets hurt’ but what do we do afterward? Let the hurt grow, leave it alone and let it fester? No, you heal. Healing takes time and patience, but you heal and you move on. Just as change is apart of life, just as pain and hurting are inevitable, healing is also a constant of life,” her voice continues, still a little shaky but growing confident. “You’ve just gotta accept it.”

A long pause of silence follows her words and she turns away from the two. Cady resists the urge to escape it because what if that was the wrong thing to say? What if she overstepped her boundaries? Are they going to ask her to leave? What if, what if, what if

“Fucking hell Caddy that was deep.” Janis’s wavering reply is heavy with emotion and Cady, with a small bit of internal debate, lifts her head to meet her. Amber eyes glisten with tears and Cady doesn’t realize she’s in the same predicament until Damian cups the side of her face, using his thumb to wipe away the wetness. Several emotions hit her at once and her body begins to shake from the intensity of the different feelings pulling and stretching her heart, threatening to tear her apart from the inside.

A weight settles on top of her shoulders, pulling her close. Emotions escape from her chest, overwhelming her thoughts because the person enveloping her in a hug is Janis. She doesn’t realize how much she’s missed her touch. Her body shakes with the strength of her sobs because she really did fuck up by losing this. Well, this time she knows for certain; she wouldn’t give this up for the world.

Chapter Text

“I’m not a werewolf so I can’t truly understand what it means to be you...but I have some experience with animals. I did grow up observing them after all,” Cady said. “Animals tend to lash out when they’re afraid or when they feel threatened.” Her eyes lit up as she remembered the Kenyan savannah she once lived in. Janis almost wished she could put herself inside that mind, just to understand what it meant to love a place so deeply and how that place could make Cady happy. 

“Well...I project a lot of negative emotion onto my wolf side,” she admitted. It made her uncomfortable to say it, but she realized it as the truth. She really did push and blame her anger, her sadness, her disgust, all onto the ‘wolf side’ of her brain. “Is that why I lash out?”

“Your wolf wants to hurt because she’s hurting and her pain comes from your pain. You two are the same person despite the differences. She only knows what you know, and if all you know is pain, well…” Cady trailed off, but it was easy to see her point. Janis didn’t reply and only shifted idly, trying to be comfortable despite her discomfort.

“Maybe...maybe you should try to teach her kindness?” she suggested, only letting the slightest bits of apprehension to soften her words. Janis hummed, mulling over what the two had discussed. When she lifted her gaze to Cady, the girl smiled, ever so gently. Janis thought about how she didn’t deserve such a soft look upon her wretched form, but then stopped herself. This whole talk focused on anger, cruelty, and violence and here she was subjecting herself to more. 

“I think...she knows what kindness is, but I’ve forgotten how to be kind,” Janis said. She tried to remember a time where she’d been kind but her mind kept drawing blanks.

“You and Damian showed me around Northshore on that first day and you had no obligation to be friends with me,” she said and Janis paused because she racked her mind for that experience. It doesn’t take long because honestly, how could she ever forget the first day she met Cady Heron? And Cady’s right; Damian and her approached the new girl with the honest intent of truly being friends and it had only spiraled from there.

“Janis, kindness comes from a place of compassion. When you care for others, your actions toward them will always carry kindness,” and then Cady cupped her face and Janis’s breaths immediately became shallower. Her thumb wiped away the tears dripping down the sides of her face and there’s this knee jerk reaction of thoughts that scream insecurity and self-loathing but she didn’t want to think about those anymore. She was tired of the dark thoughts and the ever-present heavy cloud around her head and she wondered, for a moment, how it would feel to be as kind as Cady? To not hate herself and her wolf?

“C-Cady, how can I be kind to myself?” she wept, and inside, her wolf cried too because they were one in the same. The abuse she gave herself for her wolf made her wolf hurt and that in turn made her hurt more and she’s tired—tired and exhausted and wanting nothing more than for this cycle to finally stop. But she didn’t know where or how to start. 

And Cady, sweet Cady who was brave and curious and stubborn in one tiny dynamite of a package, just brought her hands away and grabbed Janis’s hands. Though Janis’s hands almost entirely engulfed hers and were as stable as a newborn fawn’s legs, Cady was strong and resolute.

“Forgiveness is a good place to start. Forgiveness and acceptance.” 

Instead of thinking about all the reasons she didn't deserve the wisdom and patience given to her, Janis remembered a series of scenes.

A young girl, so eager and happy in the day, turned into an excitable pup who wanted nothing more than to play with her mother.

A hurting girl that didn’t understand the hostility she was surrounded by and a wolf that took those internalized feelings and expressed them in the only way it knew how to.

A fist-sized dent into a metal locker next to a cowering whelp who dared to hurt what she protected and a docile wolf that finally got to witness her friend, safe and whole.

A jealous girl who turned into a jealous wolf, an angry girl who turned into an angry wolf, and so on. Whatever the girl was feeling, the wolf would feel too.

Janis squeezed Cady’s hands and bared her soul.


Janis inhales.

Exhales.

The air is sweet and warm, reminiscent of the summer sun. She can smell the woodsmoke of the campfire and the burnt sugar of marshmallows. S’mores, as camping laws dictate, are a must. However, she’s never really cared for sweets and she doesn’t know if being a werewolf means she has a chocolate allergy but she doesn’t want to find out. Still, seeing the happiness of her friends as they enjoy their treats coats her tongue in a sweetness akin to eating one herself.

Though the sun is just beginning to dip beneath the horizon and Janis knows the moon’s call will grow stronger until she cannot resist its haunting song, she is not afraid. Even if her hands shake the slightest bit. How can she be afraid when she is sandwiched, not unlike a fire-roasted marshmallow, between the two graham crackers of stability in her life: her best friend Damian and her girlfriend Cady. 

The memory of that talk between her and Cady reassures her as she plays it over a couple times in her head. She begins to draw away from her thoughts as the invisible strings pulled taut around her chest start to tug, calling something deeper, more primal into the night. Cady’s hand, though, remains firmly planted in hers once she leaves the memory. Janis gives it a gentle squeeze, which Cady returns. 

Inhale.

Exhale.

“It’s time,” she announces and though a part of her still feels like wrenching her hand away and running far from here, she knows it’s an old feeling from a scared pup who didn’t understand what it meant to let others in, of a young girl in a metal cage, alone and hurting. With grim determination, she stands up and leads her friends, her pack, into a nearby clearing away from the tents they’ve set up. With even greater resolve, she lets go of Cady’s hand and walks away, mourning the loss. Damian’s shoulder rub as she passes by eases some of the grief. 

She is in the center of the clearing now. She gives her friends the most confident smile she can muster as they watch from the edges of the clearing. They return their own smiles and Janis feels almost blinded by the brilliance. In the face of such support and love, Janis can feel the walls dropping within herself and she lets them fall and lets her friends in. 

She stares at the orange glow of the fire mingling with the creeping light of the full moon and whatever is left of her fear drips away. As the sun goes beneath the line of the horizon and its light fades, the moon’s pull on her soul grows stronger and she knows to not be afraid.

Janis Sarkisian is a werewolf, which means she is both girl and wolf, not a monster. Her high school plans were to keep her head down and make it through all four years without too much fuss. Currently, her plans are a little skewed. She’s just finished her junior year and here she is celebrating her summer holiday with Damian Hubbard and Cady Heron. That part seems like her plan has gone right despite some unexpected factors, but the biggest change is this: she can’t very well howl to the moon if she keeps her head down now, can she?

Janis is a wolf and a girl and she doesn’t know a lot but she’s learning and relearning. Tonight, as her wolf tastes fresh air for the first time without distress and fear, she looks at the sky. The stars and the moon are perfectly framed by the yearning branches, reaching up and up into the cosmos, a motley crew of permanent yet changing denizens. And she knows with a deep conviction now, as her body bends and changes, she doesn’t become a monster. She was never one to begin with.