And this chapter needs to be cut in two parts...
Chapter Five - The Morning After
Colin awoke the next day, and to say he was surprised would not be an understatement. Surprised, and relieved. He was certain as he blacked out that if the creature he had known as Nadia Cole had not gotten him, then the storm would have finished the job.
He laid on the ground staring up into the waving branches overhead. Some of the them still held onto their leaves, like a dead man clutching to a life preserver, even if it was just inches from being pulled out of his hands by the force of the waves. Precious few of them remained, but they were there.
In his state of semi-consciousness and pain, Colin thought he was back in the park, before all this had happened, staring up into the leaves before Cole had even driven into his life.
Colin knew he was not back in the park for three simple reasons; one was that he could tell he was laying down on the ground. Second, he was soaked through the bone from being rained on all night. And at the last, his head was a throbbing ball of pain.
He tried to get up, but every inch of his body cried out. It did not seem to take well to laying prone on the ground in whatever position he had landed in. Colin was bent backwards over a rock on the ground, arching his back into an unnatural position. Every limb pointed in a different direction, and his head had found the only other rock that was not underneath him.
Every joint was stiff and sore from being stuck in their awkward positions all night long. When he tried to move one limb, he was reminded of every inch as a hot knife felt like it was slipping between every bone that moved against another.
The first thing he did was move his head to the side, hearing joints in his spine crack as he did so. Colin winced, more at the sound than any actual sensation, for which he was thankful. All he wanted to do was get the walnut sized growth on the back of his head off the rock it had used for a pillow.
Once that was complete, Colin felt so much better. It was a world of difference to not be resting upon that bump anymore. Out of the corner of his eye, Colin thought the rock beneath his head looked strange, and it took him a moment to realise what it was.
The colour was wrong. It was not an expected shade of grey, reminiscent of Cole's eyes when she wasn't trying to eat him, nor was the shade what he would have expected to see if it was just covered and stained with ages of dirt. No, it was covered in dried blood. His dried blood. Cole thought he was lucky that's all it was, and that he was able to see it there now.
He forced the thoughts of his blood loss out of his head and instead returned them to getting his sorry ass off the ground. With the throbbing in his head abating, the rest of his pain seemed to follow suit. It was no longer amplified by the pain closest to his head, and each movement seemed to become easier.
Colin shifted over to his side, taking slow, deliberate movements as his joints worked out their stiffness. He worked his way over onto his belly, and pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. That was when he remembered that Cole was out there somewhere.
He took a deep breath and pushed himself upwards, his first foot finding purchase on the ground, and then the next. Colin arose to his feet, and after a few hesitant seconds where he felt as if he might fall right back to the ground, Colin stood and looked around the forest.
If not for the ground being bathed in water, branches still dripping to the ground, a quiet raindrop orchestra in the background, Colin would not be able to tell there had been much of a storm at all that had blown by him. There were no fallen trees, no fallen branches that stood out from the rest. He could not tell if the few he did see were caused by the hurricane, or had been there for years.
Colin reached behind his head to feel where he had hit the rock, and was close to yelping in pain when he did so. His hair felt matted down, sticky, and when he pulled his fingers away, the tips had tell-tale scarlet stains of blood. They weren't covered in it, and it was possible it just came from his wet, bloodied hair, but still it was troubling.
Something nearby rustled along the ground, and Colin jumped. He feared whatever creature was out there had returned to finish the job. He spun around looking for whatever it was, and his eyes landed upon what he could only assume was Cole laying on the ground.
He was not sure, because she was lying face down in the dirt, hair covering up any features. Also, he was unable to recognise anything she was wearing, since she was naked. And he had never seen her naked before. Colin had never seen any woman naked before, outside of some of Eric's magazines, and on the televison when his mother wasn't paying attention.
But who else could it be, laying there on the ground, all blonde and naked? And more than a little bloody. Red streaks ran down the woman's hands, standing out like her arteries had been placed on the outside of her skin. It came from chains wrapped around her wrists, chains that Colin thought she should have been able to slide out of with ease, or at worst some minor difficulty.
Colin tried to speak, but his throat was raw and cracked with nerves even when he could force words out. "Um, Cole?"
The form stopped moving, like a cat that thought it was being stealthy until it was being looked at. The woman was not expecting company that morning.
"Cole?" he inquired again.
This time, the blonde responded, and moved, not quite getting up onto all fours, but starting to move in that direction. "Uh huh."
"Are you okay?"
She paused and considered a response, at least as far as Colin could tell. Cole was taking inventory in that pause, making sure she was in one piece, and that she was indeed okay. It took a moment, but then replied, "Uh huh."
"And um, you're naked."
"Uh huh," came the same response. Not an unusual position for Cole to find herself in.
"Are...are you going to eat me?"
Again she paused. And if Colin could see her face, hidden behind the mop of blonde hair, darkened by the night long rain, he might have seen her crack a crooked smile. "Nuh uh."
Colin tried his best not to stare, and for a sixteen year old male, he could be said to have done a commendable job. Still, his gaze drifted along her bare skin, the paleness covered in raindrops and dew, each glistening in their way from the sunlight sneaking in through the trees.
His eyes darted back and forth, from Cole's body to anything else in the forest. One second they would be looking at a freckle she had on her shoulder, then he would catch himself and find a particularly interesting pinecone, until his stare bounced right back to a scar along her back.
When Cole began to stand, Colin blurted out a string of gibberish that sounded like someone had mashed their hands on the keyboard and tried to read it out loud. He spun around to make it that much harder for his eyes to see anything he shouldn't. Things he may want to see, but considering she had come close to devouring him the night before, he decided it best to not anger the she-creature.
Such was not to be his lot in life that day, however. The temptation to look was strong, but he felt he could resist such urges. At least, until Cole called out and asked for some help.
Cole did not know what to do. He remained frozen in place, turned away.
She called his name once, then twice. Then threw a rock at his back. That at least got Colin to move, and he almost turned around.
He did ask though, "What?"
"I need a little help here."
"I have some stuff for emergencies like these," Colin can't say he was surprised, but still, hearing that this was not an odd occurrence for Cole gave him pause. "But they're out of the reach of the chains. My wrists are a little banged up and swollen, or I'd slip free and get them myself. The wolf was extra rowdy last night, it seems."
Colin turned, keeping his eyeline high just in case, but he was able to see an accusatory glare being aimed straight at him with her last statement.
He kept his head held high and headed for the mouth of the cave, following the chains. Not that the cave was hard to find, but he was fascinated by the mere fact the chains were there in the first place.
Cole called out, her voice managing to find a way to echo in the space. "Way in the back, you'll find a tunnel, and a few feet in there, I stashed a backpack with some extra clothes and some food. And a spare key for the locks."
The backpack was easy to find, and Colin hefted the weight onto his shoulders. He could hear what sounded like cans clinking around, and figured that must be her food supplies.
He carried the bag out to Cole and set it down beside her, still being steadfast in his resolution to not look at her. Instead, he stood at her side, staring forward, like a soldier guarding the most precious jewels in the world.
As she rummaged in the pack, Cole spoke, "You know, you can look if you want to, I won't mind. Much."
Colin felt his face flush, but remained staring at a particular leaf that caught his eye. Was it more red, or more orange? Important things to consider there.
"I'd rather not."
"Oh? Am I that hideous?"
"NO!" he blurted out, with a little too much emphasis. "No, it's not that."
"Well, I'd like the first time I see a woman like that, well, I'd like it to be special."
"You don't think being almost killed by her werewolf side the night before to be special?"
Colin had no good argument for that, so instead changed the subject.
"Why do you bother to have a spare key, where you can't reach it?" he asked.
"Smooth, kid. Well, I like to have it there so the boys I drag up into the woods during hurricanes can fetch it for me. It makes me feel power over the patriarchy."
If Colin would grant himself the ability to look at her, he would have shot a glare of daggers into her soul right then.
"But seriously, it's always good to have a backup plan. Like I said, normally I can slip free. I'm just a little extra pained up this morning. I'd rather have a key just out of reach that I might be able to get to, than no key at all."
Colin stood there motionless, listening to the rustling of various bits of whatever being pulled from the pack and laid out. The noises were punctuated by scraping and rattling from Cole's chains, and the occasional grunt as her wrists were twisted in uncomfortable ways.
At last he heard a squeal of triumph. If Colin did not know any better, he would have sworn that it was the sound of a young girl getting what she wanted for Christmas, rather than a naked, blood stained woman cursed with lycanthropy finding the key she needed to set herself free.
He continued to listen as the chains were flung away and connected with the rocky ground of the cave. The landing was heavy, a little bit of a thud, with a sound not unlike nails on a chalkboard.
Plastic bags were torn open, bags Cole had used to protect any of her supplies from the elements if the pack had proven insufficient. And it seemed like the previous night would have been a test of that, if they had not been deep in the cave.
After a few more minutes had passed with Colin standing guard, eyes front soldier! he heard Cole behind him, "All right, you can turn around."
He did turn but was still shocked when he saw that Cole was still naked, for the most part. She had at least gotten on a pair of underwear and was hooking a bra over her chest. Colin didn't even stop spinning and turned right back around in a full circle.
"You've gotta be kidding me," muttered Cole, unheard by her companion.
She grabbed more clothes, and when she next told Colin to turn, she was in the middle of pulling on a dark purple t-shirt that matched her jacket, and was wearing some faded blue jeans that looked like they had seen their share of battle, if the tears in them were any indication.
Cole stood there barefoot, tugging out her wet, matted hair, trying to make sense of the blondeness, not unlike their first meeting.
For a moment, everything Colin had witnessed the night before was forgotten. He no longer thought about what she had become, but saw only the small, petite woman that had captured his heart. No one could have suspected that someone who looked so fragile rode a motorcycle at that moment, let alone transform into a giant, man-eating wolf several times a month.
But Cole had no intention of letting him forget. Nor were those cold, stony eyes of hers. She stared at him, her thoughts a mystery for the ages that may have even given Sherlock Holmes a hard time. "I'm sure you have plenty of questions," she stated.
Colin nodded, and was about to say something, but she interupted.
"Too bad, they'll have to wait. I am starving and screw canned goods. Let's hit the diner in town."
Colin wanted to protest, but before he could say anything, Cole had gathered up the contents of the pack and shoved them back inside, in a less neat state than they had been in earlier. The bag was slung over one shoulder, and her jacket the other before Colin had even opened his mouth.
The girl trounced through the forest barefoot, scooping up her boots as she passed them by in a free hand. Her movements were graceful and smooth, even then. Colin was quick to follow behind her, and the trip out of the woods was much faster than entering.
Cole knew where she was going, and despite her shorter gait, Colin had difficulty keeping up with her.
They were soon both standing by the bike beside the road, still no cars traveling by. Cole packed her stuff back up, and then paused, her mouth hanging open in thought.
Before she caught a fly in her trap, she spoke. "How in the name of god did you find me?! How did you get here??"
Colin explained his journey the previous night, and once he reached the part where he was driving along the road, he let out an expletive so loud all the birds in the trees took off like they were being hunted.
Cole looked at him with confusion and concern.
"My mom's car! It still has a flat tire. And fuck the car! My mom! Oh geeze, she's gotta be worried sick!"
Cole tugged on her jacket and zipped it up to her neck, then grabbed her helmet. She swung an efforltes leg over the bike and nodded to the kid. "Get on, we'll get into town, call for some help, and get you home as soon as possible. It's the least I can do."
Colin was hesitant, but it was a better offer than just sitting by the road and fixing it himself. He walked over to the bike, and tried to negotiate just where his limbs would go, before Cole offered him a hand and told him where to put his legs.
Once he was situated behind her, she grabbed his hands and moved them around her waist. "Hold on tight, this road is bumpy, and you don't have a helmet."
As if to punctuate her point, she pulled her own down and tucked away her blonde hair.
Colin held onto his wrists, his arms wrapped around the girl, and he grabbed even tighter when the bike started up. He loosened his grip when one of her elbows shot back and got him in the ribs.
The trip into town was swift, and for the most part, painless. Colin felt like his entire body was going to vibrate through the ground by the time he got off the bike, and his arms and legs were stiff once more from holding on as tight as Cole would allow.
The pain did not begin until after the bike came to a stop. The first thing Colin heard once his feet were on the sidewalk was a loud laugh. A laugh he knew all too well.
"Well well, look who's riding bitch! It's Colin! How ya doing, buddy?" Colin turned, knowing who it would be; Davis Welcher, his class's version of the school bully.
The pair of them had been friends for years, but something had happened when they reached high school. The pair had drifted apart, and Colin became more withdrawn while Davis fell in with a bad crowd, and found himself leading them as the years went on.
Even physically, the two of them resembled each other. They could have been mistaken for brothers if someone looked quick enough. Davis had become more muscular due to his extra-curricular activities, while Colin didn't do much of anything and remained small and thin, but they were still close.
A small voice in Colin's head chanted, no no no not now, over and over again as he came face to face with his former friend and occasional tormentor, fearing that today was time for the occasion once more.
Davis was joined by his usual goon squad of two other classmates. They were larger than Davis, almost six feet tall each, and thicker as well. In more ways than one. Davis was, in truth, not stupid. He was sly, in some cases. It was clear which of the trio was the brains, and which two were the muscle.
"Back off, boys," came a voice from behind Colin. The next thing she said, blew Colin's mind. He had never been what he would describe as flabergasted, but he discovered the meaning of the word that day. "He's under my protection."
All three of the troublemakers bust out laughing at what they saw. To them, they saw a small girl, close to a foot smaller than some of them, that any one of them could have hefted over their heads with one hand alone. The idea that she was offering protection to one of their favourite playthings was the height of absurdity.
"Oh really?" choked out Davis around bursts of laughter. "And what protection is a pretty little thing like you gonna offer? C'mon, show me what you got, babe."
Before Colin could pray for cooler heads to prevail, Davis was shut up with what Colin thought was a clap of thunder, a leftover from the hurricane coming back into town. Instead, it was the sound that Cole's helmet made with the side Davis' face.
Even Colin felt the collision, it had been so palpable. The sound echoed like a shot, and the air vibrated as everything stopped. No one knew what to do next, least of all the stunned into silence bullies.
Davis was the first to recover, despite his teeth still rattling inside his skull, and his brain sloshing around upstairs. He rubbed his cheek, and then adjusted his jaw. It was pure luck that nothing was dislocated or broken, save for his pride.
"Well, well," he grinned. Colin could hear his former friend's jaw clicking as he spoke, so something was out of place, but it wasn't stopping him. Why wasn't it stopping him? Colin pleaded in silence. "Looks like it's not Colin, but this pretty little thing that's the bitch."
Davis hand moved so fast, it was like the switchblade had always been in his hand, and no one had seen it. Colin wasn't not convinced that wasn't the case, the way he knew Davis.
The pair behind Davis advanced, standing tall and trying to use their height to their advantage through intimidation. They towered over Cole. Their shadows alone could have swallowed her up several times over. The trio closed in on her, blocking all sunlight from her, encircling her in a dome of shadow.
"You really don't want to do this," Cole said, not backing down even an inch from them. In fact, Colin thought she somehow was trying to stand tall and look intimidating to them.
To his surprise, Colin saw Davis flinch. It was a slight movement, a tiny flicker in his eyes. A fast look of worry wash over his lips. The barest tremble in the knife blade held too tight in Davis' hand.
No one else saw it, save for Cole. Colin didn't know if she noticed it or not, but if anyone else did, it was her.
The four of them stood there, in a strange circle, with Colin on the outside. Watching and forgotten. Colin was just fine with that, now that knives were involved, but he hated to do nothing but stand there while Cole was in danger.
Even if she had tried to eat him the night before.
It was like watching a four-way game of chicken, every single person waiting to see who would make the first move. Colin was half-tempted to yell at them to get on with things already, but he was pretty sure silence was better at that moment. Cole had put herself in the line of fire to draw them away from him, and it would be stupid to bring it right back onto himself.
The point became moot when Davis took that fateful first move and lunged forward with his knife. It was not the move of a trained fighter. It was sloppy, brash, and all wrong. It was more about putting his weight into it than trying to be effective. Even Colin could see that it was more brute force than style.
Cole side-stepped the lunge with ease. There was no way she could not have seen it coming. A blind man would have avoided Davis' knife, and Cole was no blind man. Colin was still not ready to buy into what she was, but he knew it would have made it all the easier to not get hit.
What Colin didn't know is that the wolf side of Cole may well have enhanced her in small ways, it was no magic cure-all that made everyone superfast and agile. It may have affored her the barest of edges, and maybe just an iota more on the days of the full moon, but if she did not have the skills, the enhancements would have been for naught. All of Cole's skills she had to learn and keep honed on a regular basis. This fight was not how Cole wanted to get in her training for the week.
As the blade thrust into the air where Cole had been, she reached out and grabbed his arm. If she had not moved, it was plain to see the blade would have indeed plunged deep into her chest. Say what you will about Davis not having much style, but against a lesser opponent, his brute force was more than enough.
Cole was no ordinary opponent, though. Davis had misjudged her to a considerable degree, based on her size, and that alone may well be his downfall.
The girl bent his wrist, and Colin expected to hear a snap. Yet the wrist did not break as he feared. Davis feared it too, as his eyes grew as wide as saucers staring at his hand. While it did not break, Colin was certain that it was bending in ways not covered in the owner's manual.
Davis made a brave effort to not let go of the knife, despite his fears of broken bones. The knife shook in the air like the needle of a seismograph during an earthquake, and still he hung on. He may not have had conscious awareness of the fact, but part of Davis knew the knife was close to being his sole advantage.
Cole had forgotten the bully's other advantage though; numbers. The other two students tagging along with Davis had remained motionless out of sheer shock at what this little bit of a thing was doing to their friend. That fear held them in place for only so long, though.
One of them reached out and grabbed Cole by the shoulders. Her eyes flickered in awareness of her other assailants, and Colin could see the wheels moving behind those eyes.
The girl released her captor's arm, and he let out a high pitched noise that was not quite a yelp. Davis wasn't even aware he had made it, nor that he was holding his breath the entire time Cole had him in her grasp.
Davis had been putting so much force into his thrust, that much of that momentum still remained when he was set free, and his body careened forward. He stumbled onwards, almost falling flat on his face. Davis managed to keep to his feet, however.
With both hands free, Cole wriggled free from her leather jacket. From where Colin was watching behind Cole, it looked like a turtle ducking its arms and legs inside its purple shell. She fell to her knees, leaving the jacket behind in the attacking kid's hands, blinking at the now-empty garment he held onto.
Cole hit the ground and rolled back towards Colin and her bike. There was a period of hope where Colin thought they would both just leap onto the motorcycle and drive away from the fight, but it was becoming clear that running from a fight was not Cole's style.
The third assailant dove to the ground and crawled under his stunned associate's outstretched arms. Watching him pass by the jacket was almost like watching some twisted parody of a toreador and a bull.
He swatted away at the jacket, but just as he was clearing the obstruction from his vision, it was refilled with the side of Cole's boot. She begun to spin her leg in an arc the instant he came after her, and the sole of her boot collided with the side of the kid's head in a most satisfying thud not unlike the sound a side of meat makes when a butcher clams it down on a counter.
The kid wobbled to the ground, already unsteady by the way he had been lunged underneath a pair of arms, and it was almost like Cole had chopped down a tree and was now watching it fall to the ground. He did not quite land on his side, but just stopped himself short of doing so. He scrabbled back away from the fight on all fours like a wounded puppy. If he had a tail, it would be between his legs.
Davis had regrouped somewhat and spun around to face Cole once more, and lunged forward. His technique had not improved since his last attempt. Cole seemed distracted by the other two, but Davis still missed in his lunge due to his anger overtaking any focus.
Cole did not hesitate and lunged forward herself. Rather than stabbing him though, Cole instead thrust her head out and connected with Davis. It was a sight to behold for their size difference alone, and would have been near impossible without a mighty leap from Cole, if Davis had not leaned down and forward when he tried to stab the girl.
The two heads connected, and Colin had expected it to sound like a bat hitting a baseball in a homerun, but rather than that, what he heard was something closer to a watermelon being smashed against the ground.
While the heads were smashing together, Cole's long hair flew all about and almost looked ready to devour Davis' head with life of its own, like a giant, yellow octopus.
The pair of them both stumbled on unsteady feet for a moment, although it was clear that Davis was far more dazed than Cole.
Still, Cole managed to blurt out, "Fuck, they give you guys metal skulls up here or something?"
The third bully, still holding Cole's jacket had been staring at the empty garment in his hands all this time, the oh so little of it that had passed. Seeing an opening from the fight, he lunged forward at the girl, and managed to get the jacket draped over her head.
Cole had been caught by surprise by the move, and before she could duck free or escape, the jacket was wrapped tight and held strong with large hands. Cole grabbed at the jacket against her head and clawed at it, unable to find much purchase for her fingers to dig in. Even if she could grab at it, there was little she could do.
Meanwhile, Davis was regaining his senses, and he began to smile at the girl's predicament. The sight of her head all wrapped up like a present pleased him. And the present even had a tuft of blonde hair sticking out of the top like a bow.
All he had to do was cut it open and see what was inside, and it would be a good day.
No one involved in the fight had given Colin a second thought once things had begun. Even Colin himself wasn't even thinking of himself as a participant. He wasn't even thinking of himself as an observer. But when he saw Cole in danger, something flipped inside him. He had to do something.
And do something he did. He grabbed the also forgotten helmet, fearing his own meager strength behind his paltry fists would do little good, and swung it in a wide arc at the kid holding the leather jacket tight. Colin could already see Cole's struggles weakening without being able to breathe.
The helmet picked up speed as it moved through the air and hit the kids head with the sound he had been expecting to hear earlier. Colin could almost hear the non-existant crowd go wild as the imaginary baseball flew out of the field.
When the helmet connected, Colin let go if it right away, part of him thinking if it was not in his hands, no one would think he did it. Indeed, if he was not the single other person standing there, they may well have never suspected he would do such a thing.
As the helmet clattered to the sidewalk, the kid let go of the jacket and grabbed the side of his head, and his hand came away covered in blood. Colin could not help but smile in triumph and a little bit of glee.
Colin's moment of victory was cut short, however. With the jacket no longer being held, Cole was able to catch her breath, and her inhalation drew everyone's attention. She tore away the jacket and flung it to the ground in a heap.
She stood there taking short, sharp breaths, and her hair was a tangled mess. She looked like a wild child that had just walked out of the woods. Colin was the one person there who knew just how much truth there was to that idea. There was a crazed look in her eyes, and the way she stood, hunched over, and her fingers flexing, all Colin could think about was that this was the closest she had ever been to the wolf without becoming the wolf itself.
Cole lunged at Davis, whose face filled with fear at the pouncing girl. This time she did leap into the air and tackle the bully to the ground, somehow pinning him despite her stature. If Davis was not in a state of utter shock and complete terror, he may have been able to shake her off, but Colin was not so sure.
If Colin didn't know any better, he would have thought that Cole was growling as she leapt upon Davis. As it was, he might not have been convinced otherwise.
The tiny girl began raining down balled up fists into Davis' face, and he was unable to do much to block them with her knees pinning his shoulders down.
He still managed to call out amidst the bludgeoning hurricane for assistance from his two friends. The pair of them in unison shook their heads.
"Fuck that!" one of them shouted.
The other agreed, "The bitch is crazy!"
"I'm getting out of here!"
Cole turned her head at the sound of other voices. Her nostrils were flared in anger, her breaths short and quick, and her granite eyes burned like coals of anger. Even Colin was afraid she might attack him.
Before her rage could find further outlet with the other two, the pair of them ran off down the street. The one who had been cracked in the skull with Cole's helmet moved slower, and weaved from side to side like a drunk man falling out of a bar, until his friend helped him get steady.
Cole turned back to Davis, and raised a fist to resume her downpour of punches. Colin stepped in and grabbed her arm in a firm hand. She turned her head once more and just let out a wordless, gutteral howl of rage. Colin knew that sound. He had heard it in his nightmares the night before, and he knew it came from the same place as the wolf.
He did not let go, however. He held tight and stared deep into Cole's still human eyes. The wolf may be clawing at the surface, but this was still the girl he knew, and not some creature. He knew he could reach out to her.
He hoped, at least.
Colin could feel the tense muscles in her arm, pulling tight as she struggled in Colin's grasp, and tensed up from the fist, begin to loosen. Her arm softened as the fist opened up, the fingers flexing, beating like a heart.
Her face softened, and realisation swept over her features. She jumped off of Davis and scrambled to the side. That was a first for her, feeling such rage as a human. The line between her and the wolf had never become that blurry before.
Cole recovered her composure almost as swift as her humanity had returned though, and the soft, frightened girl, that other extreme she had swung to after almost killing Davis with punches, swung back towards the center she tended to reside at. She kicked the knife that had fallen to the ground, and it landed right on top of a sewer grate, swept away by the draining waters from Sandy.
Davis started to get up, and even through his blood-stained cheeks, the rage he still felt was easy to see. His face was distorted, lumpy and cut from the beating he had received, but somehow it all looked like surface damage. He was bruised, and beaten, but nothing that wouldn't heal over time. Nothing looked broken, at least.
Colin spoke as their attacker struggled to get to his feet. He knew what was on Davis' mind, and it was not sunshine and puppies. "Stop. Do you really want more of what you just got. Just get out of here. Just go home, clean up, and I will never tell a single soul that you were beaten up. By a girl. That is barely five foot nothing."
Realisation flickered in Davis' eyes, knowing what such a thing would do to him. He didn't say a word, and just grunted an agreement before heading off down the street. The sole reminder of anything that had happened being a few drops of blood dotting the sidewalk like crimson raindrops dropped by hurricane Cole.
Cole's chest heaved with each deep, short breath she took. It was a ragged breathing, like she was on the verge of hyperventilating. She was half exhausted, both in her body and her mind. What she had almost done to that young man, whose name she didn't even know shook her inside and out. The exertion from the fight was bad enough, and would have caused her body to shake on its own, but she was half a second away from a panic attack. Never before had she come that close to being the wolf, and yet still herself. Never before had she felt that much rage.
This was not the first time she had gotten blood on her hands, but it was the first time it was her fault. She was used to waking up and seeing blood-stains covering her fingers. Never before had she been the one to put them there, and been conscious to do it.
Colin scooped up the discarded jacket and helmet from the ground. As he walked closer to the blonde, he saw her eyes flash on the jacket, and her breath quicken at the sight of it. It was just a brief moment before she came back to herself, but the sight of her jacket punctuated everything she had just done and had done to her.
The heightened moment of panic passed at least, if not all the panic that had built up.
Colin folded the jacket up as best as he could be bothered to do, and grabbed Cole by the wrist. She was so out of it, she didn't even wince. Any pain she may have felt, any pain lingering and waiting to remind her of the chains, was muted down by the haze of her mind.
He took the jacket and draped it over Cole's hands before anyone got a good look at them. She seemed to understand what he was trying to do, but it may just have been her going along with whatever Colin tried at the moment.
Colin moved to her side and put a hand on her back, nudging her forward. The pair walked, Cole dragging her feet and still trying to catch her breath, like each step would wear her out.
She was led every step of the way by Colin up to a doorway that opened into a small diner. The establishment appeared to be empty save employees. Not many townsfolk were coming out first thing in the morning after the hurricane.
The damage to the town had indeed been minimal, and there were the occasional dots of people starting to mill about the streets, but most people were more concerned with their own homes than going out for breakfast.
Colin was grateful for the peace and quiet as the lone waitress said they could sit wherever they wanted. Cole had recovered enough that she no longer needed Colin's guiding hand to find her way.
The pair took a table near the back and Cole perched on a chair where she could see out the large series of windows in the front of the diner. The occasional car rolled by and stopped outside at the intersection right near by, but it was all normal stuff for a quiet country town.
Colin knew the diner used to be a home and had long ago been converted to a restaurant. The signs were still there in the design. Most of the walls had been taken out to create the dining room, but some posts remained that marked where they had once been, and the whole room was an odd shape, like it had been made up of several rooms before becoming one.
Cole pulled back the jacket once they were as alone as they could be, and the waitress had moved back towards the doorway, thinking her two customers were busy trying to decide what to order.
Her hands were still stained red. She had hoped that once the jacket was pulled away, it would have been as if a magician's trick had been pulled, and much like a box covered in a magic cloth, the red stain would be gone.
However, her hands remained a deep shade of scarlet, the blood darkening to rust, like she had stuck her hands in dirt and burned them in boiling water all at once.
Colin leaned across the small table, resting on his forearms. He whispered to not be heard. Not that there was anyone there to hear them, but this would not be a good time fot the waitress to return.
"You should go get cleaned up," he said. He gestured with a finger towards a door in the wall not twenty feet away, past several other tables.
Cole nodded and got up, leaving the jacket behind on her seat. She didn't bother to cover her hands up, but instead shuffled with haste across to the door and disappeared inside it. While she disappeared, Colin shrugged in his loneliness and picked up a menu for want of anything better to do.
The restroom was small, and again told the tale of the establishment's haphazard origins. The small room must have once been nothing more than a tiny closet, retrofitted to house a toilet and sink. A literal water closet. Half of the ceiling was eaten up by an awkward slope to it, where once there had been stairs, Cole theorised.
Pale light from the lone bulb overhead flickered to life, and it was adequate to the task, but just about.
Cole looked in the mirror at the sight before her. It was not an unfamiliar sight after all these years of changing and finding the carcass of dead animals when she woke up, but part of what she saw looking at, the part that terrified her, was that it wasn't all the wolf looking back at her that morning.
She had grown numb to the presence of the wolf, what it made her do. It was a necessary evil at worst, and a burden she had to just live with at best. But today...this...she caused this. The wolf had stayed chained up all night, despite its best efforts.
It was when she got free. When she got angry. That's when her hands got bloody. The memories were hazy in her mind, like they were with the wolf, but she couldn't lay all the blame at the paws of her alter ego.
She turned away from her refletion, feeling her own eyes staring back with accusations and she could not take that for long. She turned on the faucet and began rubbing away the stains on her hands. The water was hot, as hot as she could make it. The stinging against her skin shocked her most of the way back to herself, gave her the focus she needed to find her way out of her own head.
The sink was soon just as red as her hands, but the colour faded down the drain with the water. Cole began to see her own skin again. Once she had gotten them cleaned off, an act she was used to by now, she cupped her hands in the water and splashed it on her face. She looked back to the mirror and felt like a new person. She could still see herself staring back, blaming her, but she looked and felt almost human again. Or at least as human as she ever felt these days.
Cole puckered her lips and exhaled for a long time before taking another breath. She closed her eyes and did that several more times, using a simple meditative technique to clear the cobwebs from her head that still remained from the wolf and her own haze of rage.
When she opened her eyes again, very little had changed. She still looked like a mess, and she saw a few drops of dried blood spotting her purple shirt. At least it only looked like any normal stain to the casual eye. But she at least felt calmer, and clearer of mind.
She wet her hands again, and brushed them through the thick mess her hair seemed to never stop being these days, and fixed it the best she could with limited resources. She managed to get it under control and looking like normal hair with some effort, but she needed a proper shower. It was far from a perfect job, but it wasn't like she was trying to impress anyone, so let well enough be.
Cole exited the restroom and did her best to leave her troubles swirling down the drain and tossed in the small trashcan, but she knew they would always walk with her, no matter where she went.
She took her seat and had just enough time to find something on the menu before the waitress returned.
Colin leaned back in across the table, but before he could speak, Cole reached out and slapped his cheek. It was little more than a tap, but it still startled him and made him sit back.
"All you're doing is drawing more attention to us. Stop it," she demanded.
Colin rubbed his cheek, and then tried to speak again after making sure another slap wasn't in his immediate future.
"What the hell happened out there?"
It was the question Cole presumed he would ask, and it was the logical one to ask. Still, she didn't want to talk about it. She had not confided in anyone about her condition, save for those whom it had been impossible to keep it from. Now this kid had seen her transform, and seen her at her worst as a human. Not a way to start out the day.
She responded with two words, as if they were all the explanation needed, "Full moon."
They were far from an adequate answer, and Colin said as much. "Could you maybe elaborate on that a bit. It's daylight out."
Cole snapped at Colin, her temper short, "You might have noticed my little condition, yeah?"
The boy nodded and stayed silent as she continued. "Well, it's not just the nights of the full moon. Every night, every time the sun goes down, I can feel that damned wolf clawing at the back of my mind. I can feel this anger inside me just itching to get out. And it gets worse on the nearer the full moon gets. The only time when I don't feel it, is when there's a new moon. Every other night though, I am on the wrong side of pissed off."
Colin started to open his mouth and point out the obvious, but Cole steamrolled right over his sentence. "And yes, it's daytime. It gets so bad on the full moon, the wolf knows it is so close to being free that I always feel it, just beneath the surface. Just waiting for me to give in."
She paused, realising her voice had been raising bit by bit as she went on. She bit her lip to draw her attention and looked away in shame. "Today was the first day I'd ever given in. I've yelled at people, I've snapped at them, but never before have I...have I..."
Cole looked out the window, envisioning her tearing into Davis. Her attention was drawn back when she felt Colin's hand touching hers, grabbing it and squeezing.
She was so shocked by the gesture, it managed to chase away every last bit of anger in her mind. It had been almost two weeks, since the last new moon, that she'd felt that way. She yanked her hand away from Colin's, and could see the hurt look in his eyes when she did so.
"Sorry," she muttered. "I'm not used to being touched." It was the truth, but not the sole reason she pulled back. She knew she couldn't get close to Colin. It was too dangerous. She could not deny that it felt good, the almost alien feeling of someone touching her with kindness, and it drove the wolf back, even if for just a moment. But still, down that path was nothing but blood.
Colin stayed silent and nodded, holding his own hand, as if it had been burned by touching the shimmering star-like brightness of Cole's flesh. He knew, somewhere inside he knew, that the road he saw from that touch led down towards pain, but part of him thought it was worth the risk. Another part of him wanted to run away and avoid the pain. Finding out Cole's deepest secret had somehow strengthened their bond, while at the same time making it clear he should be far away.
He knew things would be complicated, Colin just never suspected they would get this complicated. He had no idea how he felt about this girl anymore, but he could see she was in pain, and all that mattered was helping her. She may be a monster, his head confused and turned around every which way, but he would worry about all that once he knew that Cole was safe.
Colin had no idea when that would be, or if it would ever be possible, but it was at least something to focus on. Something to focus on that was better than what she could become, and what he knew she was now capable of even without becoming that.
He knew this scared her as well, quite a bit more than it scared him. Worse yet, she had lived with this for he could only guess how long. Even with all that time, this was new to her, and she was still scared.
They both avoided looking at each other as the awkward silence between them grew. The world snapped back to normal, or as normal as it could be for them ever again, when the waitress came by with their food.
Silence returned, however, once she was gone and they began eating. Both of them had become gorgons, fearful of becoming stone should their gaze fallupon the other, as they could not even look at each other.
It was Colin that broke the silence at long last. "Is it always like that? Not the fighting, but the rage, the anger?"
Cole did not seem to hear him, instead continuing to shovel eggs into her mouth like they would plug up any words trying to escape.
"Did you..." Colin began.
"I heard you," the girl spoke at last. "I just... It's hard to talk about. But yes, it's always like that, on the days of the full moon. It's so hard to not...to not do what I just did. I thought I had it under control, and that would never happen but..."
Cole drifted off again, the words lost in the gulf between her mind and her mouth.
The pervading lack of sound, save for the muffled clinking and clattering of utensils and plates and who knew what else coming from the kitchen, gave Colin time to think. Too much time, as he came close to yelling out once more.
Cole looked up from her plate, a fork-full of eggs hovering in the air in front of her open mouth. "Do I even want to know?"
"I did it again," Cole sighed.
"I still haven't called my mom. She is freaking out, and she is gonna kill me."
Cole sat up in her chair and placed her fork down, the food forgotten for the time being. "Well, call her now."
"It's too late."
Cole tilted her head. "Why? Better to call her now than have her find you somewhere. Just get it over with."