So, I’m in the middle of editing Rampant, and the editor– who has not read The Green’s Hill Werewolves, says, “Who are Jack and Teague, and why don’t you have any backstory?” Well, she doesn’t have any backstory because of publishing difficulties with a pub NOT DSP, but that gets me thinking. A long time ago I had a couple of Green’s Hill Universe shorts I really wanted to write–but time and queue are often merciless, and I wasn’t able to get to them. I may get to one of them closer to Quickening, but I thought that since my “ficlet” or fanfic day was for ME and my completely decompression writing, I would maybe work on this story here. That way, if I get a little tired of it, I can skip it and do some SuperBat or something else for a while, and then come back.
Note though– I’m pretty sure I haven’t written anything that says Zeb can’t exist. If I have– and it’s been a while!–then consider this out-of-canon fan-fiction of my own work. If I haven’t, and he’s free and clear to exist, well, it’s a ficlet. I might even use it in the future.
Running until his chest would burst.
God, leaving his car was a fucking mistake.
Hell, coming down here was a fucking mistake–and he’d volunteered for the mission!
Oh, holy Goddess, he wish he’d listened to his Alpha. Teague Sullivan had been worried, Lady Cory had been worried–even the elves worried about him coming down here, and those people always seemed like the petty needs of humans, weres and vamps were so far below them.
But noooooo… Zeb Crandall, fresh on the gay-train, were-rehabilitated junkie, was going to go prove he was a man and try to get to the bottom of the were problem in Southern California.
Hey, Teague– it’ll be no problem. I’ll go down, play at Disneyland, sniff around a little. I mean, you guys just got back from that sitch in Redding and fucking Monterey. And we all know she’s going to be rough to deal with.
Teague nodded soberly. Lady Cory, Queen of the Fey and Undead– and mother to be. She was not going to take that information well. Zeb liked being the werewolf nobody knew. He was Spear Carrier Number 3 on the stage, and maybe a hero in his own two man (or werewolf) play someday. Zeb was just as glad that Teague Sullivan was the big dog in the were community who would take that that hit as her friend.
“Go ahead,” Teague said guardedly. “I’ll clear it with Green. You’re right. Even if you just get out of the car at the Grapevine, take a sniff around and come back. Southern California is a big space–I’d like to see if this Monterey thing is a fluke.”
Be careful what you ask for. Teague sent him with an Avian named Richie Turner–who was a nice enough guy. Totally straight, and still buying the Avian party line that they couldn’t sleep with a person and not bond. Zeb himself had his doubts, but he wasn’t going to urge anybody to take the word of a chem/psych major who dropped out of school because of an inconvenient heroin problem.
And even if he and Richie had bonded, that would have sucked, and sucked huge, because Richie had been taken out in a restaurant on the Grapevine.
They hadn’t even made it to Disneyland before some fucker had made them for out of territory, and Zeb’s life had exploded.
He’d been gassing the car at a practically deserted 76 Station at a town on top of the Grapevine who’s name Zeb did not know. Richie– who h ad kept up an amusing string of conversation all the way through the barren shithole that was I-5–had to take a leak, and Zeb waved him on.
“I’ll get us some sodas!” he’d called. Richie had given him a brief salute for thanks and then disappeared into the bathroom.
Twenty minutes later, Zeb had gone to see if he was okay. Were creatures didn’t usually get digestive problems–in fact, pretty much every time Zeb had shifted to his werwolf form, he’d had to take a huge dump, to get rid of whatever he’d eaten as a human. He’d decided to put off getting the sodas, which probably saved his life.
He’d walked into the bathroom and into a horror show. Richie lay dead–and dismembered on the floor.
A guy wearing a bloody clerk’s uniform was gnawing on his arm.
Zeb hadn’t hung out to see if the murderer was partially changed into a demented werewolf, or maybe a rogue vampire, or even a fucking zombie or ghoul– neither of which Zeb thought actually existed. He was too preoccupied with his own short-sightedness, and how grateful he was for interfering queens of the known universe.
Because for reasons unknown to him until this exact moment, all the were-creatures were required to put their cell phones and keys on a lanyard.
Had made absolutely no sense to him–he’d thought it was the most bullshit autocratic rule he’d ever heard of, but Lady Cory said so, and by God, did those people at the hill jump around that homely little college student like she was the virgin queen mother. Zeb–good spear carrier on the right that he was–had complied with the letter of that fucking law.
But it wasn’t until he was running through the wilds on top of the Tehachapi mountains, away from I-5, away from the godsforsaken 76 station in the nameless little fucking town that on top of the pass, that he realized he was looping that lanyard over his neck even as he changed.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck– thank God and Goddess for cargo shorts with no belt, loafers with no socks, and a T-shirt that fit a wolf as well as a man.
He launched in to an all-out wolf-run, the reassuring thump-thump of his cellphone and keys against his chest the only thing that kept him from losing his fucking nerve.
He felt the gunshot before he heard it.
As the echo hit his ears, his backend wobbled, and his brain registered pain. God. Fuck. He was hit. It felt like his spine had been ripped off his hipbones, holy holy holy hell.
Zeb kept running. He’d seen Teague Sullivan rip a wolf’s throat out with his teeth once. The wolf had regenerated and gone back into the fight.
Teague had ripped the wolf’s heart out with his bare, human hand then. The wolf had stayed down–but speculation in the common room that night had run that it was because the wolf was all the way to crazy and couldn’t think of a reason to live.
Everybody in the common room claimed to have seen worse at some point in their lives, and Zeb was okay with that.
Right now, running and regenerating and running some more, he figured it was the only reason he was still breathing.
But his breathing was getting labored and a second gunshot–from farther away this time, he reckoned–had shed more of his blood.
He needed to go to ground, call someone at Green’s, and get the fuck out of So-Cal right now. God– what a clusterfuck. And he so needed to call Teague and let him know that whatever the actual situation down here, there was no use sending ambassadors or scouts or even vampires. If the threat was coming to NorCal– like Teague and Cory had anticipated for over a year, then they needed to take it out when it got there, and let the rest of this shit alone. Control over half the state was plenty when the bottom half tried to kill you dead just for gassing your car.
He was wobbly–and his mind was wandering.
Behind his closed eyes he could see the gas station clerk, and the more often he closed his eyes, he became convinced he’d seen a partial change to werewolf. Poor Richie– he’d been so excited about finding a girlfriend and getting married and getting laid.
Zeb didn’t have the heart to tell him that sex wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Of course all of Zeb’s sex had been quick and dirty one-offs, where neither person could look each other in the eye at the end until he’d met Adrian. Yeah, sex with Adrian had been life-shatteringly awesome, and once Adrian had pulled Zeb to the hill, Zeb had enjoyed the promiscuity that sort of “dogged” the unattached werewolves–and that had sort of rocked his world too. But Richie had been talking about the kind of sex that would last an extended lifetime, and Zeb? Zeb wasn’t sure there was such a thing.
Now that Richie was dead and wouldn’t get a chance to have any sex at all, Zeb, in his blood-loss wooziness and exhaustion, was starting to wonder if maybe he should find out before he tried to do his leaders a favor again.
It would be nice to think someone at the hill besides his captain and his queen would miss his mangy ass if he didn’t get it back.
Think, asshole, think! There was a werewolf–or a lot of them after his ass. They could smell–and God did he stink!–and he would need to shake them.
He found a dip in the hillside and the corpse of a fallen tree, tucked in and closed his eyes, trying to come up with a plan.
He smelled water.
There wasn’t a lot of it in the Tehachapi Mountains– this must be an irrigation ditch leading down to one of the lakes. But if he could maybe go drink from it…
He could. He could get some water, spread his blood smell all over stream bed and lose the bird-eating psycho with the gun. He just needed some water, and some sleep, and maybe a rabbit– yeah. A rabbit would be outstanding. But water first.
Sniffing carefully, he emerged from his hiding place. When he didn’t smell cold steel or gas– two scents that he’d registered on the enemy before he’d even changed–he slunk through the tall grasses that surrounded him and stayed down, heading for the smell of water.
It took him an hour. He could feel the time sweated out of under his fur, as he moved, one leg at a time, swearing every move was going to draw the headshot that would end even a werewolves life. His first shotgun wound was completely healed by the time he found the steep-sided irrigation ditch, but his second one was completely oozing. He needed that water, and as he lowered his head carefully, lower, lower, lower, he was pretty sure he’d die if he didn’t just get a tongue full before he carried on.
He slipped in, and thank God it was warm, because he dog-paddled and drank and allowed the terrifying current to carry him down the mountainside to the lake he knew was coming.
He didn’t even try to swim against the current. Zeb knew two things about himself. One was that he sucked at fighting the current. The other was he rocked at going with the flow. Third spear-carrier on the left, being carried away, sir.
HIs cell phone thumped against his chest in it’s case, mocking him as he paddled.
Carried away from safety, carried away from his contact wit hhis hill.
Third spear-carrier on the left, exit stage irrigation ditch down the mountain.
* * *
The water ride ended eventually. There was a moment of darkness, of being underground, of paddling with his nose being the only part of his body not submerged.
Then he was all submerged, and just when he was wondering if his lungs would regenerate, he popped out into the lake like a big furry cork, where he dragged himself to shore. He lay, panting for a moment, wondering if his pursuer would have thought of this.
Surprise, motherfucker– I zagged when you thought I’d zig!
He kept his eyes closed, breathing and scenting the air. Pant pant pant… Nope. Nothing out here but real animal. No rogue wolves with their sickly sweet scent. No psycho gas station wolves, no blood but his, still lingering in the fine under hairs of his pelt.
Okay. Good. Water–needed. Sleep–next on the agenda. He smelled game here–rabbits, fish, voles, moles–he’d catch something.
But first, shelter. He closed his eyes and followed a teasing smell of man-made something with his mind. Woodsmoke. Treated wood. Exhaust.
A man-made s substance. Vinyl. The heinous chemicals used to treat human waste.
And there– yes. Absolutely. Wood, dead fish, and glue.
A fishing shack–deserted. A quarter of a mile away.
He opened his eyes and looked at the ragged coastline of the lake, and thought he could see the crevice between the spar of land that ended this particular inlet. There. It would be there. At first he thought he was going to have to drag himself, but after a few minutes of that, he tested his backend and found he would walk. Exhausted and wobbling–but trotting like a wolf, he found the shed.
It had a porch.
Zeb crawled under the porch and flopped on his side. Then he did something that Adrian had begged him to do, Adrian’s lover, Green, had begged him to do, and Teague and Cory had looked at him reproachfully for not doing.
He trusted in fate– or the Goddess.
And then he slept.
* * * *
For the next installments in this serial story, please check the following links: