I was tired. Not physically, though there was that little aching sensation in my limbs and head that told me I was pushing too hard. No, this was mental. This last ParaNet case had not ended well. Not enough information, not enough time and it had turned bloody before everything was done.
I needed to relax. I needed not to think.
I dropped everything off at my apartment and fed Mister. Then I grabbed Mouse and an overnight bag I kept packed and ready and headed back out. The drive out to Marcone's place didn't take very long. It was past midnight in the middle of winter. No one was out who didn't have to be out.
The guard on duty at the front gate recognized my car, but he did the fully security check anyway. Marcone did not hire substandard goons. They were all very, very good at their jobs. Once I was cleared he retreated back to his little hut and opened the gates for me. He would also be calling up to the house to let them know I was coming. Routine.
Random Mafia Goon #34 was waiting at the top of the driveway by the time the Beetle sputtered up. By the looks of him he'd been waiting a little too long. He wasn't wearing a heavy enough coat and was shivering a little. Someone hadn't read their report on me thoroughly. I got myself and Mouse out of the car and we went up the steps and into the house, leaving Goon to park my car somewhere where it wouldn't be bringing down the property values. Hendricks was waiting in the front hall, toasty and warm. He might even have been glowing a little with radiated heat.
"Boss'll be out in a bit. He's on a call." I grunted and waved in acknowledgment. Mouse paused long enough to shake Hendricks' hand and then followed me to our little room at the back of the house. My dog had better manners than I did. Of course, my dog was also smarter than I was, so it wasn't that big of a shock.
The room wasn't meant to be a guest bedroom. It was spare and barely decorated. Someplace to stow someone if you really had to. A single bed, short enough that my legs dangled off at the knees if I tried to lay out on it, a nightstand and a closet. The feature I'd chosen it for was the door that led out onto Marcone's giant back porch. Portico. Whatever a porch is called when it's the size of half a football field and has levels. I closed the door from the house into the room but didn't lock it, dropped my bag onto the bed and then unlocked the door to the outside.
Mouse sat down by the door, jaws parted in a doggy grin as he watched me strip and toss the clothes onto the bed beside my bag. Nude, I took a few deep breaths and concentrated, focusing on the spell I needed. It was a fairly simple one, the same spell that Terra had taught to Billy and the other Alphas. The tricky part came in picturing the wolf I wanted to become. But having hung with the Alphas for so long and having been wolf-ish through the use of that hexenwulf belt, it took me less time to get the spell right than it had the kids when they were learning it.
I breathed in, muttered the spell, and in the next breath I was wolf. I shook myself out, fur fluffing up and then settling back down. Mouse padded around, inspecting and then wandered back over to the outside door. Standing on his back legs he pushed down on the handle and his weight bore the door open, wind catching it and flinging it back. I was still stretching everything out, testing limbs when he came back around and nosed me in the butt. I jumped and whirled, snaping at him in surprise. Mouse just bared his teeth, reminding me of who was alpha around here. I whined and rolled over, giving him my belly. He licked my chin and then nosed me again, rolling me back over.
I stood and let Mouse lead the way. We trotted over the expanse of the porch and then we were out from under the roof, crunching through the snow. Mouse glanced back at me, grinned and wagged his tail, and we were off.
They played for hours.
I watched from the kitchen, warm coffee at hand as they chased one another, chased poor hapless bunnies, chased the snow itself. They barked and rolled, tackling each other and nipping playfully at thick fur. It looked like fun. Like children playing - carefree and happy.
He is battered, tired and strained with too much pain and stress building up over and over again, pressing on cracks that had been inexpertly plastered over. Most people would either give up and have a break down or relieve their stress some other way. Sex is an ever popular choice. But Harry did none of that. Harry came to my home in the middle of the night and turned into a wolf.
I'd asked him once, the next morning over coffee why. He'd told me that he could let go when he was the wolf. He didn't have to think about anything except for what his senses were telling him and what instinct wanted to do if he didn't want to. Nothing else he had found gave him the option of just shutting down like that.
They came to the kitchen door near dawn. Giant, primal shadows against the white of the snow. Harry as a wolf was huge and dark furred, and yet still impossibly slender next to his own dog. Mouse knocked, thumping one huge paw against the door beside it's handle. I rose and opened it, letting them in.
There was a bowl of water waiting and they both lapped it up, Harry with joyful canine abandon, splashing water out onto the tile and Mouse with far more care. It was sad, really. His dog had better manners than he did.
Once done, Harry sat in the door leading back into the house and looked at me, then yawned rather pointedly I thought. I double-checked the locks on the outside door and then we headed into the house and up the stairs. My men had been briefed about my occasional canine visitors and none of the ones that we passed made any comment aside from a polite 'good night'.
In my room, by the time I finished my ablutions, Mouse was sprawled on the extra large dog bed I'd had installed near the heating vent. Harry was still up, sitting in the middle of my bed, staring at my bathroom door. Have you ever had a wolf stare intently at you? It's disturbing, even when you know the wolf in question. I climbed up into bed and Harry shifted, giving me room to get comfortable.
I reached up a clicked off the lights and Harry shifted on the bed, laying down so that his shaggy head was snugged up against my side. I settled my hand against the top of his head, fingers rubbing and scratching behind his ears as we both closed our eyes to sleep.