Disclaimer: Characters and situations are all from my imagination.
Warnings: Sex and love between women
Feedback: Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2011 Geonn Cannon
The animal was large, but not unusually so for a dog. Technically, though, she was a wolf. Her coat was a deep chestnut brown and just a bit shaggy. Her tail swung in a contented pattern as she walked through the small office. She moved with surprising care and paused now and again to lift its head to look around the room before continuing on. She was carrying a small device in her mouth and, when she reached the far corner of the room, she stuck her snout between the wall and the planter to drop it. A quick jab of her forepaws tucked the device under the molding where it wouldn't be seen. That done, she padded back to the lobby area and began to pace in front of the glass doors waiting to be seen.
The security guard came by on his rounds and blinked at the sight of her. He fumbled with the keys on his belt and then opened the door. "Well, what the heck? How did you get in here all by yourself?"
The wolf barked. It was a friendly bark, almost a reply to the stout man's question. He knelt in front of her and touched her neck in search of a collar. The wolf dropped her head to the guard's pocket and sniffed loudly, poking him with one foot to let him know his stash had been found. He laughed and pulled out the beef jerky.
"You caught me. You want a bite to eat 'fore I call the animal control people?"
The wolf snatched the food from his hand, pulled away from him, and ran past him through the open door before he knew what was happening. "Hey... hey! Get back here." The wolf crossed the parking lot, breathing heavily as she crossed the street without looking. Her brain was focused entirely on the food in her mouth and escape, both concepts overriding the survival instinct that should have made her look both ways.
She was fortunate enough to reach the other side of the road unharmed. As expected, the guard had given up chasing her after a few feet, hands on his thighs as he chuckled at the sight of the little thief. The wolf didn't stop until she was on the other side of the impound lot, breathing heavily through her snout, each inhale tainted with the taste of the beef jerky held between her teeth like a bit.
The wolf looked around to make sure she was alone and then walked behind the lot. It shared a very narrow alley with the Parks Department, which faced the next street over. Out of sight, the wolf sniffed around until it found the pile of clothes and then it lay down on the ground and closed its eyes. The wolf whimpered suddenly, its entire body jerking with what appeared to be a seizure. The forepaws shot forward, nails extended to click against the pavement, and then the rear legs extended as well.
The body reformed, bones breaking to take a new shape. Ribs expanded, hips twisted, while the feet and hands became more articulated. Padded feet grew toes, nails flattened, and the dewclaw extended into a fully-formed thumb. The hair receded until only pale pink skin was visible. The only hair that remained was thick, hanging down over Ariadne Willow's face as she tried to catch her breath.
She lay on her stomach in the alley, naked and sweating from what she'd just gone through. Transforming was like getting hit by a car. A truck. A train. All three. When she finally felt capable of moving, she pushed herself up. She had bitten through the beef jerky while she transformed and she spit out the revolting meat byproduct and spit to try and clear her mouth of the taste. She didn't complain; she'd come back to this form with worse tastes in her mouth.
She pushed the thought out of her mind and grabbed her clothes. She dressed, gathered her hair into a ponytail, and fished her cell phone out of the duffel bag where she'd hidden it. She dialed Dale's number. "Hey, Dale, it's me. Package was successfully delivered." She grunted when she stood and hoped the sound didn't translate onto Dale's voicemail. Just in case it had, she added, "Don't worry about me. I'm fine. Just a little exhausted from all the running the wolf had me do tonight. I'll see you in the morning."
Ari hung up and tucked the phone into her back pocket. She slung the duffel over her shoulder and stepped out of the alley. She went back to the street and saw the security guard was still lingering in front of the city manager's office. She lifted her hand in greeting and he turned his flashlight toward her in suspicion.
"Hey there. Have you seen my dog?"
"What's its name?"
Why do I never anticipate that question? "It's, uh, Lassie. She's big and brown. Real friendly."
"Oh, yeah. She got into the building somehow and ran away before I could call someone. She yours? You should put a tag on her."
"Yeah, the tag was on her collar and it, uh, she tugged it off. She's wily, that one."
The guard hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "Must be, if she got into the building here. I'm still trying to figure out how she managed that."
Try the casement window on the east side of the building. "If I had a nickel for all the weird places I've seen her. Which way did she go?"
He pointed the way she had come from, naturally, and Ari waved to him in thanks. She walked away and cut through the Parks Department parking lot to come out on the next street over. She walked to the CVS Pharmacy and sat on the uncomfortable metal bench in front of the automatic doors, her bag on the ground between her feet, and waited. After twenty minutes, she called Dale again and got her voicemail.
After forty five minutes and two more unanswered calls, Ari slung the bag over her shoulder and started walking.
"You've reached Bitches Investigations. We're not in the office right now, but please leave your name and number and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks."
The recording was the only version of Dale's voice that Ari had heard in almost twelve hours. She hung up and leaned back in her seat. She could see Dale's empty desk through the open door of her office, a constant reminder that something was wrong. Dale never just forgot to show up for work. It didn't happen. She either called, or left a message, or anything but the silence Ari was getting now. And Dale would never have abandoned her after a transformation. Ari had gone wolf, and then gone back, and Dale wasn't there to make sure she was okay.
Something was definitely wrong.
Ari locked the office when she left, and she took the unreliable Rambler Marlin that she used when Dale's car wasn't available. The little red classic was notorious for leaving her by the side of the road, but she loved it too much to get rid of it. She whispered a prayer as she turned the key, patted the wheel when the ignition actually turned, and she drove to Dale's apartment. As she went upstairs, she started whispering to herself. "She's going to be half-naked with her new girlfriend, and it's going to be an awkward-as-hell introduction breakfast, and she's going to be pissed that I broke into her apartment because she was quiet for a few hours."
She knocked and waited with her hands on her hips. "Put on your pants, Dale." She looked down the hall and tried to ignore how quiet it sounded inside the apartment. She knocked again. "Dale, I'm not playing around. Come on, shake a leg."
Finally, she didn't have any other choice. She swept her hand over the top of the door frame, looked for a doormat which might have hidden the key, and then finally dropped to one knee. She worked quickly just in case any of Dale's neighbors were the nosy sort, and she was inside the apartment in less than thirty seconds. She shut the door behind her and turned to scan the living room.
Dale's apartment was small, with a combination living room, kitchen, and dining room. The bathroom and bedroom were along the opposite wall with a closet between them. She couldn't ignore how absolutely empty the apartment felt. Ari walked to the bedroom door and knocked. "Dale? You oversleep?" She pushed the door open and peeked inside. The bed was made. She checked the bathroom and found the shower was bone-dry.
She dialed Dale's number again. "Dale, it's me. I'm getting really worried now, so... come on, call me back." She did another search of the apartment, which took next to no time, and rested her hands on the counter between the living room and the kitchen. "Well, damn." She drummed her fingers on the countertop and then began undressing.
Ari folded her clothes on the couch and wrote Dale a note. "I'm going to try and stick to the neighborhood. Come find me if you get back before I do!" She left the note on top of her clothes and opened the door a crack. Her escape route set up, she went into the bedroom and crawled on top of the blankets. Trial and error had taught her that it was best to be somewhere soft when she became the wolf.
She wasn't looking forward to this transformation. She'd already switched twice without the benefit of a rub-down. Going back and forth now would mean four full transformations. Her muscles would be aching by mid-afternoon, and she'd be dead to the world by evening. She closed her eyes, curled into the fetal position, and focused. The first wave of pain hit her, and she folded in on herself.
Sometimes a transformation was slow, but other times she simply opened her eyes from a new perspective. She was partially color-blind as the wolf, but she had learned to adjust. She rose onto all fours and breathed deeply. The scent of sex and sweat filled her nostrils and she recoiled from it. She should have found somewhere else to transform, but the scent would have been strong wherever she went in the apartment. She usually ignored the overwhelming mélange of odors in the world, but today she was counting on it.
The bed smelled of Dale, with trace elements of other women. Ari sniffed the blankets and pillows, separating out her friend and partner's scent before she jumped off the bed. She went to the apartment's front door, nudged it open with her nose and stepped out. She brushed the door with her body as she moved, and it swung almost entirely shut behind her. There was a gap between the bottom of the door and the carpet, and Ari hooked her paw underneath it and pulled until the door closed.
She followed Dale's trail downstairs, pausing now and then so she could regain her bearings. The world was full of scents, and she had never been trained as an official tracking dog. Maybe that was something she could have Dale set up for a slow weekend.
Outside was even worse. Countless pedestrians, exhaust fumes, restaurants with their doors open to take advantage of the cool breezes... Dale Frye had just become a single thread in a tapestry, and trying to follow it was going to be tough. Especially as her hypersensitive nose was now picking up grilled meat from a steakhouse and fried chicken from down the street. And hot dogs with mustard and ketchup and relish and onions! She forced herself onward, leaving the savory bouquet behind her.
It was easier to follow Dale than it would have been a stranger because Ari could make certain assumptions. She knew Dale probably wouldn't have gone into the sporting goods store, so she didn't have to pause to see if the scent continued on or turned in. The scent leading into the grocery store parking lot was a few days old, so she ignored that and kept moving.
Ari managed to trace out a grid pattern of Dale's last week or so. Unfortunately, none of the usual haunts gave her any indication of where Dale might be now. She returned to the building and snuck into the parking garage. It was harder, nearly impossible, to track someone in their car, but she could at least try and pick up a scent.
Dale's car was parked in its spot.
Ari stood frozen, staring at the vehicle. If Dale was missing, then the car should be missing. The fact it was here when Dale wasn't was a very bad sign. She walked over and stood on her hind legs to look through the driver's side window. Familiar scents wafted through the glass. Her own, Dale's, a few of the girlfriends Ari had been introduced to, and a very faint tinge of fast food.
Dale's scent hadn't left the neighborhood. Her car was in the building. So if she wasn't somewhere nearby, then she had left in someone else's vehicle. She dropped back to the ground and began to pace, circling the car as she had no other ideas. She finally curled up in front of the driver's side door with her head on her paws. Her human side didn't have any viable options, so the canidae in her took over.
Like every dog that had been left at home while their owners went to work, Ari waited for someone to come back and get her.
When Ari eventually slept, she had dreams of Dale. They were memories of experiences she had as a person, filtered through the canidae mind, so they were disjointed, odd, surreal. She whimpered and kicked in her dreams until she shook herself awake. She was still on the floor of the garage, still curled up by Dale's car. She sat up on her haunches and blinked, staring up at the parking attendant who was standing over her. He was a few feet away, holding his hand out to indicate he wasn't a threat. "Are you okay, miss?"
Miss? Most people called her 'girl.' She liked the difference. She stared at him, trying to think of how she should respond. A dog wouldn't nod, or respond to the question. She tried baring her teeth. Everyone knew dogs couldn't smile, but they responded to the expression the same way.
The parking attendant was holding a radio. "They're here."
"Good. She just woke up. Send 'em on down."
They? That probably meant animal control. And without Dale to come rescue her... Ari tried to get up onto her feet and found it harder than she anticipated. She looked down and saw she was human, nude and, from the attendant's point of view, possibly crazy. She crossed one arm over her breasts, using the other to cover her crotch. "Oh. Oh, no, I just--"
"Take it easy."
Ari remembered that she had just bared her teeth at the man instead of responding to his question. Great. It didn't seem fair that her waking transformations were such torture when she could, on occasion, switch back and forth without waking up. Fortunately, none of her rare overnight guests had complained about spending half the night snuggling with a wolf.
A car came around the bend, but it was a squad car instead of the animal control truck she had expected until a moment ago.
"This is, this is all just a big misunderstanding..."
"Miss, were you hurt? Did someone take your clothes?"
"No, nothing like that." The car stopped and a female officer stepped out of the driver's side. "Everything's fine."
The officer moved closer. "Sorry, ma'am, but people don't usually fall asleep naked in parking garages when everything's fine. Do you have someone we can call?"
Ari looked at Dale's car. "Not at the moment..."
The parking attendant had lowered his voice. "She bared her teeth at me when I asked if she was all right."
Ari rolled her eyes. "No, that's not... I thought--"
"You thought what?"
I thought I was a wolf. "Nothing. I was confused. I'd fallen asleep and I'm naked and..." She sighed. "You're going to take me downtown, aren't you?"
The officer nodded. "I think it would be for the best."
Ari turned and ran. She ducked between two cars, bending forward so she wouldn't be as visible, but the cop was already in hot pursuit. Ari's feet slapped noisily on the concrete floor, and she heard tires squealing elsewhere in the structure. Gotta get away. Gotta find a place to transform. And to think of all the times I've dreamed of being naked with a woman in a full police uniform. "Wanna frisk me, Officer?" Focus, Ariadne!
Ari crossed the aisle, nearly got hit by a sedan, and hit the ground. She rolled and crawled underneath a van. She heard the cop coming and kept perfectly still until the cop passed. Then she closed her eyes and, knowing she had to be as quiet as possible, transformed. She arched her back and hit the bottom of the van, and she bit her bottom lip until her teeth turned into sharp, canine teeth. Her hands compressed until they were stubby paws, her fingernails dark and pointed now.
She slithered out from under the van, looked both ways, and then trotted innocently toward the front of the garage. The cop stepped out from between two cars and swung to face her, relaxing when she saw that she was just a dog. But then she did something odd. She stepped forward, eyes locked on Ari's, and knelt down. Her eyes were dark brown, and they seemed to be searching for something in her eyes.
"Canidae?" the cop said.
Ari was so surprised she barked in response.
The cop held out her hand, and Ari sniffed the palm. Her feral brain screamed, Cat! Cat!, but her rational mind thought, Felidae. She licked the palm and the cop smiled. "Aren't you supposed to be barking at me?" Ari looked up at her. "Go on. Get out of here. I'll keep the parking attendant busy."
She looked at the cop's name badge: B. Decker. Ari made a mental note to never be mean to cats again and hurried off. The cop watched her go and then jogged to meet up with the parking attendant. Ari went around the front of the building, through the open front door, and up the stairs to Dale's apartment. She had practiced opening doors while in her canidae form, but it was still a trial. Her paws slipped uselessly over the handle, about as useful as barbeque tongs used for the same task, but she finally got the door open by leaning against it.
She kicked the door shut and sniffed the air for a sign that Dale was back. She let out a long, pitiful whimper and hung her head as she walked through the house for her missing friend. She was despondent. Her wolf side was certain Dale was gone for good, and the pessimism was hard to overcome. After making several laps of the living room, she decided that she couldn't do anything else as a wolf.
It would be her sixth transformation in eighteen hours. The very thought made her joints hurt, almost made her change her mind. But if Dale was out there, then Ariadne Willow would be of more use than Ari-the-wolf. She went into the bathroom and lay on the floor next to the tub. She would change, then turn on the water as hot as she could stand it, and she would soak. It worked when she was a teenager, before she met Dale, and she hoped it would work now.
When her paws turned into hands, the bones cracked loud enough that it echoed off the porcelain of the tub. Ari howled in pain, her voice broken between human and wolf. Ari twisted on the floor, arching her back as she waited for the torture to end. She felt like she'd been hit in the face with a baseball bat, and whoever did it was proceeding to go down her body and pound her.
She was trembling when she realized she was fully human. Her arms were like rubber when she tried to pull herself into the tub, and she collapsed. She reached up for the faucet, a part of her mind warning her that she would drown if the tub filled with her in this position, but it was a moot point. Her hand dropped away as she fell unconscious before she managed to turn on the faucet.
When Ari came to, she pushed herself up and ran the hottest bath possible. She soaked until the water turned tepid, then she drained the tub and added some more hot water. It was probably a good thing Dale wasn't there to berate her. They'd had the argument about multiple transformations before, and how long it was starting to take for Ari to recover from them.
"After you turn back, you're moving like someone three times your age."
"But I always get better."
"For now. You're still young, you're resilient. What's going to happen when you become a senior citizen? Are you still going to be running around, changing back and forth, breaking your damn skeleton all the time?"
"I'll figure something out before then."
"You may not have a choice. What if one day you wake up and your bones just... hurt? Osteoporosis, joint pain... people get that all the time without being subjected to the trauma you're putting yourself through day in and day out."
"Are you saying I have to choose one form to be full-time?"
"I'm saying there might come a day when you won't be able to choose. One of these days, your bones just won't be able to mend themselves again. Then where will you be?"
Ari climbed from the tub when she could move without vocalizing. She dried off and wrapped a towel around her body before she left the bathroom. She'd spent far too much time naked already today. She went into the living room to retrieve her clothes.
Dale was standing by the couch reading her note. She looked up, frowned, and held up the note. "Why are you taking a bath in my apartment?"
Ari was speechless. She opened and closed her mouth a few times before she finally managed to speak, and then it was a shout. "Where the hell were you? What happened to you? I thought you were kidnapped or dead or--" She cut herself off and lowered her voice. "You dropped me off last night, and you just vanished. I didn't know where you were."
Dale put down the note and picked up Ari's neatly-folded clothes. She handed them over and Ari, who had spent too much time naked in Dale's presence to be modest, took off her towel to get dressed. Dale sat on the back of the couch.
"I'm sorry I worried you. Something came up. Something big."
Ari put on her jeans. "Is everything okay?"
"Last night after I dropped you off, I came home and waited for you to call me to come get you. I was only here for about half an hour before Lisa showed up."
Ari stopped in the middle of buttoning her blouse. "Lisa, dumped you twice before she decided to sleep with her boss and hightail it to Chicago Lisa?"
"Well, her driver's license just refers to her Lisa Davenport, but yeah. The very same."
"Huh. What did she want?"
Dale sighed. "Ari, I'm tired. Can we do this tomorrow, please?"
"Six times." Ari tucked her shirt into the waistband of her jeans. "I transformed six times today looking for you. I feel like I got hit by a steamroller. I think I deserve an explanation."
"Don't be a bitch, Ariadne."
Ari blinked. Dale didn't sound angry, just resigned. Still, it hurt. "Next time you go missing, don't expect me to come looking for you." She brushed past Dale on her way out. She had the door open when Dale's voice stopped her.
"Lisa is dying. She has cancer, and the doctors have done everything they can. She'll have another two months, at most. She wanted to tell me she was sorry, and that she loved me. We just talked. She apologized for everything she'd done to me, and I turned off my phone. I'm sorry, Ari, I didn't think about--"
"Sh." Ari had shut the door and came up behind Dale to hug her. Her anger was already forgotten, superseded by concern for Dale. "I know how you feel about her even after everything she did to you. You had to be head over the heels to keep going back to her time and... sorry. This isn't about that. Are you okay?"
"I don't know. I was okay when I was with her, but now, I don't know."
Ari guided Dale to the couch and they sat down together. Dale rested her head on Ari's shoulder. "I was all ready to hate her. To finally, finally tell her off for all the shit she put me through. I thought it was fate that she'd come back so I would have a chance. And then she dropped that bombshell on me." She sniffled and took off her glasses. "I should have left a note or something. I didn't mean to worry you."
"Don't worry about that now. Where's Lisa?"
"On a plane back to Chicago. She had a lot of stuff to do. Arrangements to make. Apologies to make." She chuckled, but there was no humor in it. "She said the reason she cheated on me so much was because she loved me so much she was afraid. She didn't want to settle down. I guess now that 'one person for the rest of her life' only boiled down to a couple of weeks, I didn't look so bad."
"Don't say that."
"It's true. She said if I wanted to come back to Chicago with her, we could spend a few days together. Getting reacquainted."
Ari phrased her question carefully. "You didn't want that?"
"Yeah. I did. But I had to be here. You need me here."
"I don't know whether that makes me feel loved or extremely guilty."
Dale sat up and wiped her cheeks. "I don't have to stay with you, Ari. I'm not a werewolf. I stay because... you and I are good together. You need me to help keep you grounded."
"Yeah, but why do you need me?" Ari looked into Dale's eyes so she'd know it wasn't a joke. "Seriously, because I'm drawing a blank. I spent my entire day looking for you, and I was so afraid I'd never see you again. It made me wonder if there might be a day when I look up and you're gone. Married, or just moved on. It scared me."
"I want to take care of you." She smiled. "I was working as a waitress, and a bookstore clerk, and a gas station attendant. Then I met you, and now I go on stakeouts and bail my boss out of jail at two in the morning. I have a Glock, and I've been to the shooting range to learn how to use it. You make my life a lot more interesting."
Ari smiled and leaned in. She kissed Dale's cheek and let her lips linger. Dale turned her head just a bit, their mouths brushing together before Ari completed the kiss. It was just a step up from the friendly kisses they had shared in the past, moved up a step by Ari's tongue gently parting Dale's lips before pulling back. Dale put her hand on Ari's shoulder, her fingers curling in the material before she kissed Ari's upper lip and leaned back.
"Emotions are running high today."
"Yeah." Ari leaned back and ran her thumb across her top lip. It was wet with Dale's saliva. "I was gonna say. We shouldn't, ah, do anything we might regret in the morning."
Dale nodded. "Thank you, though. It was really nice. I've been wanting to do that all day, so it was nice to satisfy the urge with someone who won't take advantage of me."
Ari smiled. "Never." She kissed Dale again, this time staying on the cheek. "I haven't had anything to eat all day."
"God, me neither. We ordered at the diner, but I just picked at the fries while the woman I loved told me why and how many times she had fucked around on me. We should go somewhere with hard liquor."
Ari grinned and stood up, offering her hand to help Dale up. "A woman after my own heart. How about Sancho's?"
"Sounds excellent." They walked to the door together. "Did you get the bug planted in the city manager's office?"
"Yeah. I haven't listened to anything yet, though. I had a more important case come up."
Dale smiled. "Well, our dinner can be a combined celebration. A case closed dinner, and an 'I'm happy you're in my life' dinner."
Ari stopped at the door. "I'd be lost without you, Dale. You know, that, right?"
Dale nodded. "Yeah, I know. Come on. I'm half-starved, and you're probably running on fumes after six transformations." She opened the apartment door and led Ari out. "Seriously, though. Six? What were you thinking about?"
"I was thinking that a little discomfort was a small price to pay for finding my best friend." She slipped an arm around Dale's waist and started downstairs. "Oh. We might have to take my car to dinner."
"The cops may be looking at yours. I don't know if they're still trying to find the naked woman who was sleeping next to it this afternoon."
Dale laughed and bumped her hip against Ari's. "And you wonder what I get out of our relationship. Come on, detective. We can walk to Sancho's."
They stepped out into the cool breeze and turned to the north, Ari's arm perhaps a little tighter than necessary on Dale's hip.
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